The Silo Art Trail and Australia Felix

We were in need of a long ride so set off to do the Silo Art Trail in western Victoria.  Initially we followed the Murray River north-west, surprised at the urban sprawls of Yarrawonga and Cobram.  We crossed the river at Barmah into NSW.  I wanted to avoid the shemozzle of Echuca so we came down into Moama and stayed the night at the River Park Motel – highly recommended and close to the flash Moama Bowling Club for tea.

Next morning we crawled through the Echuca crappola and onto the Murray Valley Highway for the run to Kerang.  From there we struck inland, away from the river, to Quambatook for lunch.  We diverted to Sea Lake for fuel – it was raining all around except on us.  So, for some time we avoided the showers.  But it couldn’t last and, as we approached Dumosa, it bucketed down.  But I spied a toilet block near the silos into which we zoomed.

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The handy toilet block at the Dumosa silos.

Of course, a truckie pulled up and needed to use the facilities, so we wandered over to talk to his dogs.  Then the storm really hit us.  It’s times like this that I wished I’d paid more attention to what Jane Bunn had said instead of just paying attention to Jane Bunn.

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Jane Bunn explaining the weather to me.

Our destination for the night was the Woomelang Hotel which I’d read some positive reviews from motorcyclists on Facebook.  It is slowly being restored by Graham and Lisa.  The room was comfortable and seafood basket tasty.  The hotel is closed on Monday and Tuesdays but open for travellers, mainly tourists visiting Lake Tyrell and the silos.  Ours were the only vehicles on the street.

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It is, as was Quambatook, just one of the many dying towns in north-western Victoria — empty shops, derelict and abandoned businesses, houses and sheds.  The mechanization of the large grain farms and the use of contractors for sowing and harvesting has expelled the jobs and youth from the towns.  Occasionally, a few people move in, attracted by the very cheap houses.  But they, of course, don’t have any money to spend or invest.  A whole way of life has gone and is evidenced in the forlorn deterioration of the towns.

Just up the road is Lascelles, the site of the first silo on our route.  The silos on the art trail have all been decommissioned.

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Lascelles: local farming couple Geoff and Merrilyn Horman, part of a family that has lived and farmed in the area for four generations.

Then on to Patchewollock where we had a very good coffee at the local store.  The chick who made our coffee lives on a nearby farm and rattled off the crops that she and her husband grew – some I’d never heard of.  Patchie was preparing for its music festival the following weekend and caravans were already rolling into town.  Thousands attend.

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Patchewollock: The rugged, lanky local, Nick “Noodle” Hulland, exemplifies the no-nonsense, hardworking spirit of the region. Perhaps more importantly though, Noodle had just the right height and leanness to neatly fit onto the narrow, 35-metre-high canvas of the twin 1939-built GrainCorp silos.

An issue now arising was fuel.  My Moto Guzzi EV 1100 and Jane’s Ducati GT1000 required 98 RON petrol.  We’d take 95 RON if we had to.  But these towns had only 91 RON and diesel.  Some town tourist signs had a fuel icon but the servos had closed down.  Some towns were names on the map.  Some had automated service stations — but only 91 and diesel.  We were covering quite big distances so we took on-board a couple of litres each of 91 to tide us over until Warracknabeal.  Out here, fuel up early and fuel up often.

Down the trail to Roseberry.  The rain had been replaced by wind.  A high pressure system was sitting in the Bight, directing strong easterlies over us as we motored south, and pushing us all over the road.

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Roseberry: The silo on the left captures the grit, tenacity and character of the region’s young female farmers, who regularly face drought, fires and other hardships living and working in the Mallee. In her work shirt, jeans and turned-down cowboy boots, the strong young female sheep farmer symbolises the future. The silo on the right portrays a quiet moment between dear friends. The contemporary horseman appears in Akubra hat, Bogs boots and oilskin vest – common attire for Mallee farmers. Both man and horse are relaxed and facing downward, indicating their mutual trust, love and genuine connection.

Through fields of grain, we sped on to Brim.

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The first silo artwork to appear in Victoria, it depicts an anonymous, multi-generational quartet of female and male farmers.

Finally at Warracknabeal we filled up with 98 and had lunch.  Then down the trail, battling the wind, to Sheep Hills where we ran into two other Guzzi club members, Tony and Karen.  Small world.  They were doing the trail in the reverse order to us and had been in continual rain since leaving Gippsland.  These were the most striking murals, to my mind, due to the colour.

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Jane, me and Tony at Sheep Hills.

This celebrates the richness of the area’s Indigenous culture. The night sky represents elements of local dreaming and the overall image signifies the important exchange of wisdom, knowledge and customs from Elders to the next generation.

The final silo of the run was Rupanyup.

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Rupanyup residents and local sporting team members, Ebony Baker and Jordan Weidemann. Fresh-faced and dressed in their sports attire (netball and Australian Rules football, respectively), Baker and Weidemann embody a youthful spirit of strength, hope and camaraderie.

Time was moving on and we were a bit worn out from the wind battering.  We headed off to Horsham for the night.  As usual, Horsham seemed booked out but the tourist bureau found us a room at the Horsham Mid-City Court, which was a stone’s throw from the city centre, and we had a very pleasant meal at the White Hart Hotel.

We left the silo trail for a run across Australia Felix to Edenhope, then into South Australia to Penola and Beachport.  We were now traversing richly pastured country where sheep, cattle, lakes and stands of eucalypts gave the area an iconic Australian feel.  Unlike the towns we’d seen in the Wimmera and Mallee, Edenhope felt prosperous.  It is where the first international cricket team was formed — all Aborigines — and they toured England in 1868.

We wound our way through very pleasant scenery, crossed the border into South Australia, and entered the Coonawarra wine region.  Miles of the most meticulously pruned vineyards and interesting wineries welcomed us into Penola.  A drink and a wuz, then another hour put us on the coast at Beachport where the Beachport Caravan Park upgraded us to a unit on the beachfront.

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Beachport on the Southern Ocean.

We had an excellent chowder and roast potato and bolognese for tea at the Water Front Cafe at THE Jetty, sitting in the evening sunshine with a beer and prosecco, overlooking the jetty and the bay.

After a rest day, we headed back to Victoria.  Battered by strong winds, we took the main highway from Mt Gambier through Mumbanner — “the town that they forgot to build” — which has 60km/hr speed signs but no buildings!  Heywood for a coffee, an historic timber town,  then back roads to Woolsthorpe and Mortlake, the one-time home of Clarke’s pies.  Stayed at Macs Hotel which has been refurbished and is very comfortable.  Very nice curry for dinner.

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I was impressed with the graffiti in the dyke at Woolsthorpe. Normally offering sexual advice, this not only had an apostrophe but it was in the right place! A credit to the local teachers in this small community.

The forecast had the high pressure cell moving away — it had hung around for a while — and dragging in wet weather behind it.  Time to head for home.  Took one of our favourite roads, the Streatham to Beaufort (officially the Eurambeen-Streatham Road).  After a false start, this opens up into a curvy romp across central Victoria, with wide-open views across to the Grampians, no roadside vegetation and smooth surface.  Fields of yellow canola stretched for miles.

Beaufort for a coffee and a leak and then through the goldfields and hills of the Great Dividing Range.  We knew this area well from a previous lifetime.  But the smegging wind was still with us!  Roast lamb and gravy bun in Dunolly.  Where to for the night?  Moama of course!  The roads from Serpentine to Mitiamo then Echuca have to be the straightest roads I’ve ever ridden in Victoria.  Into the rabbit warren of Echuca, where the sprawling housing estates are engulfing the hay paddocks, to cross the bridge into Moama in NSW.  Stayed at the Meninya Palms Motel — the wind keeping me awake half the night.

Choofed off via Barmah, back-tracking our route of a week before, continually being blown about.  Had a Caesar salad  and coffee at Watts in Bundalong Cafe — very pleasant — the owner, a trumpy rider, recognised our bikes.

After seven days and 2000km, we rolled into Bright to an enthusiastic welcome from Paddy and Mick.  It doesn’t matter if it’s been a week or an hour, they’re always glad to see us back home.

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New Tyres for the Cali EV

With 46,000 kays on the clock, the EV’s tyres have come up for renewal, with the rear tyre showing the cross-bars.  The front was OK, although some scalloping was evident –  a problem I’ve encountered before with Bridgestone BT45s on my Metal Stone and Jane’s Breva 750.

But I like them, so I ordered another set from Alpine Motorcycles in Myrtleford.  I didn’t know how old the tyres were so I replaced both.

Firstly, I had to remove the wheels.  The rear needs to be jacked up so that the rear wheel clears the mudguard; it has to lift quite a lot but I had a scissor jack with two supports which could lift at the swingarm.  Then it was lowered so that the front could be jacked up a tad, too, to pull the front wheel out.

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I took it slowly and methodically so that I didn’t knock the bike over.

Before I replaced the wheels, I gave the girl a bit of a spruce up, getting into places I normally couldn’t:  checked up under her skirts at the rear of the gearbox and swingarm.  I gave the rims a polish with a metal polish.  There’s some flaking chrome which is a known “feature” of these EV tubeless rims.

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All set for another run.

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On the trail of Breva 1100 fault

I went for a two-hour fang on the Breva 1100. About 10kms from home I detected a whistling sound through my ear plugs. Visor? Nope. Windscreen? Nope. I played with the throttle and clutch – the sound seemed to change with revs. To me it sounded like the whistling some car fan-belts make at idle.

By the time I reached home, it was loud enough to draw the Chief outside to see what it was. Maybe it was the alternator belt.

I popped the bike on the centre-stand and started her up. Nothing. I revved her. Nothing. Well, couldn’t be the belt, I reasoned. I clicked her into first and as I eased out the clutch lever, the sound started up. Leaning over the bike I reckoned that it came from the CARC.

There wasn’t any oil on the rear rim and it didn’t move when I gave it the 6 o’clock—12 o’clock wobble test. Maybe it’s the brake caliper. I removed the caliper and lay it on the floor. Nope, the sound was still there as I eased in the clutch. The next morning, I went through it all again but there wasn’t a sound from the cold bike. I took it for a short run and it was normal until the bike reached operating temperature…then it started again. I pulled the alternator cover off but the belt looked fine.

I removed the CARC and posted it up to Peter Roper at Moto Moda in Bungendore. He was dubious when I spoke to him. He looked it over and bolted it onto his Stelvio and gave it some curry over the weekend. A clean bill of health! He posted it back.

Wrangling the Breva 1100

Replacing the CARC after its test by Moto Moda in Bungendore. Mick and Paddy offering support.

But the noise was still there when I rode it!  I didn’t want to ride the bike anywhere, so I’ve freighted the whole bike up to Bungendore with Road Hog Transport for Moto Moda to check it out.

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There’ll be a bit of a delay because Pete’s touring the USA.  Fortunately, I also have the EV.

To be continued…

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On the Trail of Dan Morgan

Recently I read that the bushranger, Dan Morgan, was buried in the Wangaratta Cemetery, and that several memorials were around commemorating his reign of terror over southern NSW and northern Victoria.  Seemed like a good reason for a run on the Guzzi.

Involved in petty crime from an early age, Morgan – whose real name is uncertain – was eventually arrested for robbery at Castlemaine during the gold rush.  He was initially imprisoned aboard the hulk the “President”, in cells below the water line before being transferred to the ‘Success’ to work on the Williamstown breakwater.  The conditions on these vessels were nothing short of barbaric, even by the standards of the times, so rehabilitation seems to have failed.

Released in 1860, he failed to report to the Ovens police.  He commenced a series of violent robberies and murders between Whitfield and Benalla in the south, to Henty and Culcairn in the north, and Tumbarumba in the east.  He was probably insane and given to murderous rages.  He was known to torture his prisoners, but it was his beastly act, on the terrified wife of a suspected police informant, that frightened the surrounding population. She was forced to sit upon the flames of the kitchen stove, and it was only when she was well alight that he doused her with water.  There was a desperate shoot out with police in 1863 where Morgan only escaped by shooting his own mate, German Bill, as a distraction.

I thought I’d do a loop, so I fired up the Breva 1100 and wound my way through the hills, past Yackandandah, to Albury.  Hopped onto the freeway for a short run, then on to the Olympic Way to Culcairn – hardly any traffic.  I nearly had a heart-attack here as an oncoming semi suddenly snaked across the road ahead of me.  I thought he’d blown a tyre or lost his load.  A few seconds later I saw a dog in the middle of the semi’s lane.  That was skilful driving by the truckie – and fortunate for the dog that the traffic was light.

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In June 1864 Dan Morgan called at the Round Hill Station, just east of Culcairn, and rounded up all the station hands and their wives.  Here, he shot several people, including station hand John McLean who died.

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A few days later, he killed Sergeant David Maginnity near Tumbarumba.  In September he killed Sergeant Smyth near Henty.

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After a series of major robberies and shootings,  the New South Wales government introduced the Felons Apprehension Act in 1865, which made Morgan an outlaw with a £1000 price on his head.

I turned west and tracked out via Walla Walla, past Morgan’s Lookout, reputedly one of his hide-outs with a 180 degree view (on the hill to the right of the sign).  The roads out here were in good condition, some lovely sweepers, so I may have to ditch my Victorian-prejudices about our northern cousins.

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Eventually Morgan crossed the Murray River in April 1865.  Within two days he had held up and robbed three properties, burned down haystacks and out buildings, and held up coaches on the Benalla Road.  On April 8, Morgan held up his last property, Peechelba Station, near Wangaratta (pronounced peechle-bar, not peech-elba).  One of the maids slipped out and gave the alarm.  The station was surrounded and Morgan was shot by John Windlaw, one of the station hands.

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I rode through Peechelba but couldn’t find any reference to Morgan.  He died later and was beheaded, and doctors shaved his head and removed the skin from his face to make a death mask for phrenological analysis.  Great days!  He was buried at Wangaratta Cemetery.

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What sort of person would add flowers to his grave?

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2017 Spaghetti Rally

The Moto Guzzi Club of Victoria held its 37th annual Spaghetti Rally in October at Edi Cutting in the King Valley.  The cutting was formed when trains used to run from Whitfield to Wangaratta, carrying freight such as timber and farm produce.  The line closed in 1953.  The rally site is on the river flats below the old train line where it cuts through a spur.

My Cali EV loaded to go. The white tube is a map of Australia which I displayed at the rally.

Home for the next 3 nights.

We had a big crowd this year – about 250 – in perfect weather conditions.  There’s a bit of setting up to do, so I arrived on Thursday get everything sorted.

Toilets and a cool-room are hired for the weekend.

Firewood is supplied by the club for camp fires.

Cost for the rally is $30 which ensures a rally badge and a spaghetti feed on Saturday night.  The local scouts cook bacon and egg rolls on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so rally goers don’t have to bring much if they don’t want to.

Friday continues to grow in popularity.  We put on a spit-roast Friday night for $10 and there was enough to go around.  We sold out of beer, so had to do another run into Wangaratta on Saturday morning for supplies.

A lot of people shot through on Saturday to ride the local roads or visit wineries.  More bikes rolled up throughout the day, doubling numbers by nightfall.

Saturday night was spaghetti for tea.  The sauce had been cooked and frozen a month or so before, and Guzzi’s Pasta sponsored the fettucini. With another big influx of hungry and thirsty ralliests, we again sold out of beer and had to send out a rescue mission for more slabs.

It was “all hands on deck” to keep up with the registrations, T-shirt sales and beer sales.  I had sore feet after two days of full-on work.

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Breva fork oil change

The fork oil should be replaced every two years, so I was a year overdue.  Fortunately the Breva 1100 forks are quite simple to work on.  After a bit of a struggle getting them out – I had to use a screwdriver to lever open the handlebar pinch clamps – the old fork oil poured out as clean as a whistle.

Washed out the sliders with kerosene, let them drain, then poured in 450ml of the new Penrite Fork Oil 10.

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Reassembled the front end.  A couple of hours’ work.  Test run tomorrow.

 

 

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Another Bungendore run

When test riding my Breva 1100, Peter was unhappy with the clutch action when starting off from stationary.  There had been a recall of these early Brevas to insert a kit of washers to soak up the stress on the gearbox.  Apparently mine had missed out.  Pete needed to do some research, and a week later he rang to say he had the recall kit.  So I hit the road, again in cold conditions.

The gearbox had to come out and Mike said it was just easier to remove the whole engine.

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A few hours of work and the gearbox was on the bench.  Peter and Michael split the box, it was placed in the press, and five minutes later the kit was installed.  The box was then reassembled, after some fiddling with the pawl mechanism.

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In the meantime the new oil pressure sensor was installed, and the re-welded Hepco-Becker crash guards.  The clutch was in perfect condition.  Michael reassembled the bike.

A test run revealed a problem.  The idle revs were about 2400 instead of 1100 and further inspection showed that the headlight and battery charging was intermittent.  After some investigation, a 30 amp fuse blew.  Upon replacing the fuse, the bike ran like new!

Pete surmised that this had been a long-standing problem – a fuse with a fine, hairline crack – which had been causing me starting and battery issues for some years.  Disassembling the bike had brought it to the fore.  (Someone else on the Gussitech forum had had similar symptoms and it was caused by a dirty 30 amp fuse holder).

I didn’t mind spending the time and money on my 11 year-old Guzzi.  There’s no other bike on the market to replace it – it’s a big, comfortable, capable tourer – and none of the current Moto Guzzi offerings interest me.  I’ve spent nothing on her except for consumables, so she’s been a cheap bike to own.

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All set for another decade.

 

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Run to Roperville, Bungendore

Having piked out on removing the swing-arm and re-greasing the bearings of my Breva 1100,  I contacted Peter Roper at Moto Moda in Bungendore, NSW, about having some work done on the Guzzi.  The bike is now 11 years old and I’ve been doing all the routine servicing on her for nearly a decade.  It was time for a mid-life assessment by someone who knew what he was doing.  I’ve always preferred to deal with the bloke who was actually going to do the work, rather than an impersonal dealership.

A slow-moving high pressure system was sitting over south-eastern Australia as I set off in 5C, in and out of fog near Myrtleford.  I headed up the Hume Freeway in 15C, avoiding the cold and black-ice of the more interesting Corryong-Batlo route.  Crossing the Kosciuszko National Park was out due to snow and ice.  As highways go, the Hume isn’t too bad as it rolls over and around the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.  From Murrumbateman I cut across to Bungendore to stay at the Royal Hotel.

The swing-arm was removed and the bearings were found to be in good condition.  Mike repacked them.  “I guess they’re good for another 50,000kms”, I ventured.  Nope, said Peter, good for the life of the bike unless I do a lot of riding in the wet.  I don’t.

Mike noticed that, after re-greasing the needle bearings, I’d reassembled the rear shock-absorber linkage incorrectly – the “top-hat” spacer was on the wrong side.  Further investigation showed that a needle bearing was missing.  Maybe missed on assembly at the factory, Peter said, diplomatically.  Sheez!

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Peter and Michael working on my Breva 1100.

The oil pressure sensor had been playing up intermittently but a replacement hadn’t arrived in time.  Put back the original, sez I, which they did after washing it with contact cleaner.  (Works perfectly, now).  Mike removed the airbox to work on the oil pressure switch and noted that the throttle bodies were clean.  Peter reckoned that was because I didn’t ride hard enough and pressurise the crankcase!

The brake pads did not need replacing.  I’ve done 65,000km on the original pads and they’re still 90% okay.

Mike also found that both Hepco Becker engine guards had cracked at the top weld.  He would have welded them for me, but I didn’t have time to stay.

Mike balanced the throttle bodies.  “It runs like shit”, sez Peter.  It ran fine when I brought here, I protested.  “No it didn’t, so we’ve uploaded a Sport 1200 map” – (developed by “Beetle” in Wagga Wagga).   Mike said he could hear Peter yahooing for miles when he took it for a test run.  I took it for a run.  Geez, that’s a beautifully smooth, graduated map.  The torque rampages through each gear.

I waited until 11.00am for the fog to lift but it didn’t.  I was more afraid of the kangaroos.  It was 5C and I had to swipe my visor every few seconds.  I glanced at the instruments to see the fuel consumption was 7L/100kms!  Jaysus!  Then I remembered that the ECU had to “relearn” after a new map was installed.  It slowly improved to the usual 5.4L/100kms.

Cold, wet fog from Bungendore, through Murrumbateman, Yass to Conroys Gap.  Then into 8 OKTAS of blue sky and sunshine.  The temperature leapt to 10C then 15C.  I refueled at Gundagai and ran three hours straight through to home – the last hour in pain with sore hamstrings – I don’t ride enough!

 

 

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Cali EV electrical gremlin

After servicing my “new” Cali EV back to a known “ground zero”, I had some weeks of smooth running. I decided to come down to the big smoke for a club meeting. It would be easier if I overnighted somewhere so I hit on Noddy and Trish for overnight digs. No probs. Plan was to arrive at Yarck late afternoon for the run with the Treasurer down to and from Collingwood.

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My Cali EV on a run to the RAAF Wagga museum.

I loaded my toothbrush, razor and kimbies into the panniers and set off. I motored along; a beautiful day! I always feel like I’m going to a party when I’m on the Cali. I love the whole look and feel of her.

Occasionally, I sensed a slight hesitation. Imagination. Until I turned onto the Snow Road. There was definitely a hesitation in the EV’s engine. Things ran through my mind – plugs, leads, TPS, electric fuel petcock…? About the limit of my knowledge. The road was bit rough and one bump lifted me out of my seat and the engine paused momentarily. Ah ha!

I experimented by lifting off the seat and each time I did, the engine stopped. At Milawa, I chucked a U-ey. As I stood up waiting for traffic, the engine stopped. I pressed the starter. Nothing. I sat down and pressed the starter and she fired straight up. Well, at least I knew where to start looking!

At home, I lifted the seat and tool tray and examined the battery. There were several leads attached to each of the negative and positive battery posts. One of the positive leads had broken at the eyelet. I started the bike and could reproduce the symptoms by just touching the lead. I’d been fortunate that my weight on the seat had pressed the broken parts together and allowed me to get home. I followed the wire to the fuel pump which explained the hesitation I’d felt. My Cali is now 15 years old and the copper wires definitely have a “brittle” feel to them.

At my local “What-a-Load-of-Crap” auto store, I bought the requisite electrical gear and repaired the wire. I also adjusted the wire arrangement on the battery posts to reduce their contact with the tool tray when I was sitting down.

Moto Guzzi – making mechanics of riders since 1921. That’s often said in jest but it also implies that nimrods, like me, find Guzzis easy to problem-solve and work on.

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Mitta Mitta overnighter

The Guzzi club did a weekend run to Mitta Mitta and stayed overnight in the caravan park.  Roads were wet but I avoided the rain.  Fined up later and a perfectly clear, sunny autumn Sunday.  Had a barbie Saturday night and bacon and eggs in the morning, all cooked in the caravan park’s kitchen facilities.

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Brian’s bike did a clutch cable as he arrived but someone had a spare for another model!  A bit of work and it was made to fit and he was set for the return run to Melbourne.

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