L Is For Adventure
Veronica’s First Motorcycle Adventure
If you're going to take the plunge, you may as well throw yourself in at the deep end. That's the approach taken by 24-year-old Veronica Cuiuri when she decided to obtain her motorcycle licence and join the two-wheeled community.
Not content with slowly easing her way into life on two wheels, Veronica attended the pre licence school, then went straight out and purchased a Yamaha MT-03 before heading off with boyfriend, Jackson Wood, on a multi-day road trip from the New South Wales Illawarra region to the mecca of Australian motorcycling, the MotoGP at Victoria's Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.
Reliving the wild ride from absolute beginner to tackling a multi-day ride to the MotoGP in just under 12 months, Veronica said she was driven by envy every time her boyfriend returned from a ride with a smile from ear to ear. "Jackson had already been riding for a few years when I met him, and I was keen for him to teach me," she said. "I wasn't interested in being a pillion, I wanted to be the one riding, so I started on a dirt bike at my parent's farm. One of my friends was also keen to get her licence so we did the learners course together which made it a lot of fun."
As soon as Veronica had a freshly minted license in the palm of her hand, she was off to purchase her first dream bike. "I decided on a Yamaha MT-03 and couldn't be happier with the choice," she explained. “It's got light handling, easy to manoeuvre, has a punchy engine with plenty of torque, and it can cruise at freeway speeds or just trundle around town. It's also very forgiving for someone still mastering the art of motorcycle riding, not throwing up any surprises."
As soon as Veronica took delivery of her new bike, she and Jackson began to hatch a plan to ride to the MotoGP. "I started riding as often as weather permitted," she explained. "I was doing a few rides with Jackson each month, but the weather was rarely kind to us. I knew a two-hour ride through the Southern Highlands, or the Royal National Park was not comparable to a multi-day interstate ride, but we pressed on with the plan."
Despite the rain-interrupted preparation, Veronica never considered a 12-month postponement. "Being trackside at the Phillip Island MotoGP has been on my bucket list for years, long before I decided to become a rider," she said. "When I met Jackson, I discovered it was something he also wanted to do, but with the added excitement of riding to the race. From there we decided that if we were going to ride to the MotoGP, we might as well add a few more hundred kilometres and ride the Great Ocean Road to see the Twelve Apostles. I mean, it would be rude not to."
As the big day loomed, and the big east coast wet continued, Veronica realised that the total amount of kilometres she had managed to chalk up on the MT-03 didn't even match the length of the trip she was about to undertake. "I was a little nervous and hesitant about my lack of experience," she revealed. "I'd be lying if I said the idea of cancelling the whole thing didn't enter my mind more than once, but I wanted to challenge myself and live my adventurer dream."
With just 2000km on the odometer of her MT-03, Jackson and Veronica set off to do what some motorcyclists spend a lifetime claiming they will do one day, and what others do religiously each year - a two-wheeled pilgrimage to The Island.
The pair decided the coast road would be the best introduction to a big ride. "We had to do a bit of service station hopping to get petrol. Of course, we were forced to tuck into the usual servo offerings of chips, lollies, and meat pies," laughed Veronica. "But Jackson made it up to me when we reached Eden at the end of day one, with accommodation in a cliff-front apartment. The views were spectacular. I was even given a break from service station food on one of the days, enjoying breakfast at Caldermeade Farm before we hit the road for the final leg to our destination."
With 12 hours of riding disappearing beneath their wheels, the pair finally crossed the famous San Remo bridge on Phillip Island and headed for the circuit. "Riding in a massive pack of motorcycles as we made our way to the track was an amazing feeling," revealed Veronica. "That was the first time I'd experienced the thrill of having bikes all around me. Hearing the noise and feeling the vibrations from the scores of rumbling engines was wild. Usually, it's only Jackson and I riding together."
If the ride down to the event wasn't enough of an eye-opener for Veronica, seeing MotoGP bikes in full flight on one of the world's greatest circuits cemented her decision to make motorcycle riding a major part of her life. "It's not until you see the bikes in the flesh that you realise how fast they are going, how far the riders have their bikes leaned over, and how skilled they are," she said. "We had a rider crash right in front of us, and it scared the life out of me. You just don't get the same level of sensory overload when watching it on the television."
With the first motorcycle destination ticked off their bucket list, Veronica and Jackson set their sights on two more great southern motorcycle destinations, the Great Ocean Road, and the Twelve Apostles. "If the MotoGP bikes had taken my breath away, the amazing Great Ocean Road and Twelve Apostles left me speechless," revealed Veronica. "We attempted to stop at every lookout along the way to take in the views, and we discovered one just past Anglesea that is a must-do for everyone driving or riding that amazing stretch of road. We also stopped for lunch at the beautiful beachside town of Lorne, but it was the Twelve Apostles that were the jewel in the crown of the entire trip.
Reliving the first time she set eyes on the famous rock formations, Veronica said the enormity of the rock formations and surrounding landscape are not truly revealed until you see them with your own eyes. “We also enjoyed an amazing sunset as we rode away, you can't ask for much more than that,” she said. “Maybe Seeing a guy and a massive Kangaroo hanging out on the beach together comes close."
Running short of time the pair took the direct route back to the Illawarra, but even 11 hours of droning freeway riding over two days failed to curb Veronica's enthusiasm.
"Maybe the few hours of cold, wet, night riding we had to endure to make it to Albury tested me a bit," she laughed. "But once I'd had a night's sleep in a warm bed, I was ready to roll again."
Rolling back into her driveway, Veronica and the little MT-03 had clocked up almost 3000km in just six days, not bad for someone who had no idea how to ride a motorcycle 12 months earlier.
"I pushed myself well beyond what I thought I could do," she revealed. "It’s a satisfying achievement for me, and I feel like I’ve bonded with my bike now and love it even more. I also discovered that you see and experienced so much more on a motorcycle, I didn’t realise how much I was missing out on when travelling by car."
Despite the big wet, that had spent months saturating the east coast of Australia, the weather gods were kind to Veronica and Jackson. "We only got torrential rain for about 45 minutes during the entire ride," She revealed. "The wet weather jacket and pants came in very handy, and I learned that having the correct gear can mean the difference between an enjoyable ride and a miserable one. The heated grips I received for my birthday were a blessing - more than once."
Veronica and Jackson are already planning their next two-wheeled adventure. "It will be somewhere a bit warmer, somewhere like Cairns feels like the perfect choice."