I’ve ridden the 130-odd kays from Melbourne to the Phillip Island circuit on countless occasions – six times so far this year – since the days when the San Remo bridge was a wobbly old wooden-plank affair.
Given the nature of the highway – hardly a bend to speak of – and the obsessive attitudes of our authorities to speed-limit enforcement, there’s not a lot to be said for the ride. A highlight of the trip can be as basic as not copping a red light at Grantville or, less likely, not suffering a 40km/h-crawl through the seemingly never-ending roadworks near Bass.
Now don’t get me wrong. In my world even an ordinary ride on a motorcycle beats many of life’s highly-rated pleasures. Nevertheless a ride to ‘The Island’ can become just a bit ho-hum, with the constant need to check your speedo for fear that, God forbid, you’ve strayed 10 kays over the highway limit. Little wonder then that after an acquiescent hour and a quarter on the road, it’s always a magic moment for me when the road starts to climb from the flat coastal farmland near Bass, signalling that I’m approaching the roundabout at Anderson.
Here there’s the promise of a brief taste of pleasure, some real riding. Cresting the rise you move over into the right lane to disengage from the folk heading on to Wonthaggi, and dive into the roundabout. Clicking down a couple of cogs you’re set to swing right through the roundabout, ready to gun the bike uphill into the sweeping left-hander. Exiting that one you flick the bike to its other side, setting up for the sweeping uphill right-hander and then it’s over the top and down into a dip before cutting a smooth arc into another right-hander. Heeled over to the left one moment, then to the right for the next, you and your bike are finally doing your thing. The physics is working. Tyres hook into the texture of the road. Rushing air surges around your helmet. The engine sings. The music of your mind responds, filling your head with sweet harmonies. Your motorcycling god is in his heaven and all’s right with your world.
And then after a couple of sweet minutes it’s over as you sweep through a final left-hander, this time downhill, and the road becomes open and straight once more. You sit up as you roll off the throttle and cruise toward the 60km/h sign announcing that the San Remo police station and the lovely fishing village itself lie just ahead.
Soon these few words, honouring Anderson’s bunch of bends, will be a document of record, of pleasures past, pleasures lost. Like the wooden bridge from San Remo to Newhaven, the roundabout at Anderson will soon be missing from the ride to Phillip Island. VicRoads’ killjoy engineers, whose motto seems to be "Bland is beautiful", will soon divert the Phillip-Island-bound traffic toward San Remo before the roundabout. There will be no more dash up the hill – the bypass is being cut deep through the ridge to minimise the rise and fall. There will be no more flick to the left, then the right – the bypass will curve smoothly and minimally.
According to the VicRoads website, the "project benefits" include: "bypassing a winding section of Phillip Island Road".
Your taxes at work.