As some of you may have noticed, I was in Sin City over the weekend.
It came about with me wanting to go for a ride.
Simple enough plan, you say. That may be the case for you single, Life-Of-Reilly types.
But for little old me it means a bucketload of logistics and planning.
First was waiting for the ex to recover from whatever is ailing her this week so she could take the kids again.
Second was trying to arrange time off from work. I sorted that by writing off the Volvo and getting sacked. I take my rides seriously.
Third was getting it passed Sandy. This was, as most of you would know, tricky and went something like this;
"Hon, I'm going to fuck off to Sydney for a few days sometime"
"OK, have fun"
See? Hard work indeed.
The basic plan was to join Boris for Friday lunch.
Since he'd promised to catch up for a drink but didn't make it to the GP, I decided to take Mohammed to the mountain.
I also decided to make it a Black Op. Just 'cos.
Preparations needed to be made, so I fitted up the baffle to the Yoshi. That should quieten the bastard down. Yeah, right.
I also washed and detailed the bike to impress the yokels as I disturbed the peace in their towns.
When I say "I washed" I obviously mean "I got Sam to wash".
I needed a few accomplices, so the Baron, Scrambles and Some Jerk were roped in for recce work and behind the lines reporting.
That was Plan A, this is how it actually happened;
I set off at about 7am on Thursday morning heading for the hills, then the mountains, then Canberra.
In that order.
Of course there was sidetracking. That happens when you make a half-arsed "plan".
I had Googled a couple of worthwhile routes, chosen one, wrote down the major points and promptly ignored them.
I did go up over the Black spur and out to Alexandra then onto Yarck heading for Mansfield.
Yarck is famous for, um, nothing really except a small VicRoads weighbridge that is very active.
I forgot about that and blitzed through without change from $1.60.
A bit of intense scrutiny from the Nazi's, a bit of bum pucker from me and I was gone. Nobody followed. So far, so good, on to Benalla.
An easy transport up the Hume for a bit and off at the Oxley Highway. I reckon this is a more entertaining run that the Great Alpine Way at this part. A handful of small towns and no traffic.
The Myrtleford-Yackandandah Road is a small piece of perfection. The only thing to observe your passing by are a few cattle in the paddocks. This is a pick a speed, any speed type of road. Luvverly.
I stopped in at Yackandandah for a beer and to regroup my plan.
Just as well, really. Otherwise I would have missed seeing a twonk trying to reverse his Spyder into the massive open drain on the ege of the road.
The car wasn't there, the Spyder and the ditch were.
It's one of those lovely old bluestone ditches that little old towns love.
The car alarm he calls his wife was screeching directions at him from the road and he was trying to get this thing into the space where the car is in the photo.
I watched his first 5 attempts and set the phone camera. I just had a feeling, that's all.
As I stood in the shade of the pub with my beer and eager camera, he kept coming back and back.
The siren (literal use there) was distracted by an upset kid across the road and looked away.
He kept coming back until the rear wheel was mere inches from dropping in.
I raised the camera in readiness and she suddenly screamed at him to stop.
Shit! That's a golden moment slipped away.
Aah well, you can't win them all, I guess.
Righto, Murray Valley Highway..
A quick slip through town and out onto the Wodonga Road for a couple of kay's before switching onto the Murray Valley Highway at Kiewa.
This section is one of those wondrous stretches of road that are repeated across the country.
It's long, swerving, undulating and leaves you with clear view for a couple of kay's ahead in most parts.
Not many hiding spots for Plod either.
All these combine to be a terrible temptation for the many motorcyclists of low moral fibre that have travelled this road.
I didn't want to feel left out so I applied the crop to the Kwaka and blurred myself towards Corryong.
I didn't get too far before I hit Tangambalanga. A little town with a little pub and a General Store that once made me a hamburger so good it cured a 5 Bell Hangover in 20 minutes.
What stopped me though was the sign. Normally I don't stop for town signs I just ride on giggling at the slogans some towns decide on and the Tidy Town award from 20 years ago. Before the place went to shit.
Not this time.
As I rode passed, I glanced at the sign, hit the picks and went back for the shot.
It seems that Boon hasn't just made the Bigtime, he's made the Dreamtime!
Onward through Tallangatta and passed Lake Hume. There is something about this lake that spooks me. It's one of the eeriest places I've seen.
Spurred on by spooky water, hot sun and low morals, Corryong came up in what seemed very little time.
I pulled in to the servo to fill up and check the conditions ahead of me.
At least with country servos you can get useful information from the pump jockey. It seems the Paki's haven't made it out that far yet.
I had been filling at around 200k's and squeezing in 10 litres for the trouble. This time it was 140k and 12 litres. Interesting. Maybe country petrol isn't as economical as city petrol?
A quick break in the shade for a smoke and a Coke and I headed for the hills. Or mountains as they may be.
I had scribbled Khancoban and Tom Groggin on my "travel guide" as places I should be passing through if I hadn't completely fucked it up, so I was pleased to see the Khancoban sign at the turnoff to the Alpine Way.
It's quite an odd feeling to cross that shallow, gentle river at Bringenbrong and think of what it becomes further downstream.
Due to the heat of the day I had peeled the jacket at Glenrowan and had ridden in t-shirt and cutoff for the rest of the day so far. It felt bloody wonderful while I was on the move.
The tops of my arms are still reminding me about my bad decision.
A long sleeve t shirt has made it's way onto the Essential Touring Items list.
I had been keeping an eye on the clouds that were steadily thickening over the top of the mountains.
I'm no Sherpa but even I know what thick, doughy clouds over a high mountain mean.
What little mojo I may pretend to possess abandoned me completely from Bringenbrong to Tom Groggin. It must have decided to leave me and go fishing in the Murray at the border.
I rode like Numpty McWobble, Mayor of Virago Town.
A quick stop under the Tom Groggin sign for a smoke, a photo or two and a serious chat with myself about getting my shit together or I'd be leaving me here whilst I got on with riding. I apologised to myself and promised myself I would try harder.
It was still quite warm but the clouds were doing a fair impression of an angry mob. I had no idea if this was the norm or not so I donned the jacket and promptly buggered off.
The bloke at the servo had said it hadn't rained up there all week and the roads were dry and clean.
He was right.
But bugger me if there aren't some corners with sharp teeth awaiting the unwary.
Not to mention the Company 4WDs that barrel up there all over the road. I had to yell at a few of them that were on my side.
I hadn't been up through there before so I was caught out by the view from a few of the spots.
The sheer naked beauty of the range really is breathtaking. That could be taken literally if you let it grab your attention for more than a second.
On through Thredbo to Crackenback. Hehehe. Crackenback. Yeah, ok, I'm childish, but I still giggled.
Once I was out of the wiggly goat track and onto the obviously recently resealed section I got happy again.
I did a quick calculation of mileage done versus mileage to go and fuel left. I had litres to burn.
This part is obviously catering for the snow bunnies and their X5s and Cayennes. It's bloody perfect. Race track perfect.
Surgically smooth hotmix laid over a combination of sweepers designed by a roller coaster architect.
The valley to the left and a wall of rock to the right. The Yoshi is on my right. Coincidence? Fortunate? Whatever. I made use of it.
Kicking it back into third or second quite unnecessarily just to hear the gunshot rolloffs had me laughing until I had tears in my eyes. God this thing sings an aria of violence and aggression.
I filled up at the Shell at the bottom of the hill. The sign said I was in Kosciuszko. Google Maps says I wasn't. I should have told them they were wrong.
I checked in with Batso and Sandy.
She said "A quick trip to Cooma then a boring run up the Monaro. Heaps of cops there."
I kept that in mind.. and bolted again. I had a barbie to get to and I didn't want the bastards getting all the sausages.
That's what Sandy had said.
It might seem that way to some I guess.
I don't find any roads boring.
OK, so some aren't edge peeling twisties or velodrome cambered sweepers. That's fine by me.
It's a road and I'm on it. That makes it good.
By this stage the Kwaka was constantly reminding me that I was not 18 any more.
My knee would click each time I straightened a leg and then, of course, the hip would cramp when I put the foot back on the peg.
The wrists were throbbing like a teenage kid who had discovered his old man's stash when the folks were gone for a week.
But the worst was my poor battered arse. It felt like week 2 in a Turkish prison. Nothing was making that comfortable.
I pulled up in Cooma for a stretch and a few subtle clenches.
I thought about grabbing a quick beer while I was there but the front of the pub was filled with frightened chickens. At least it sounded like that from across the road. I thought better of it.
What I did think about though was tyre pressures. I realised I hadn't actually checked them since the new rear had been fitted. Slack, I know.
48 fucking pounds in there. No wonder it felt firm in the back end.
I dropped it down to 36 and it made absolutely no difference. Lucky, eh?
All right, enough dilly-dallying. There was a barbie waiting.
Here's where we get back to this 'boring' thing.
That part of the Monaro is wide open, reasonably flat and well surfaced.
That equals fun in my mind.
If you carry enough speed, any road becomes interesting.
So I made it interesting.
This is about the time that the second part of Sandy's comment went romping through my mind.
"... heaps of cops, too ..."
I swear every car that crested a rise was either a white Subaru wagon or a white late model Commodore. All of them had those slimline roof racks. The bastards do it on purpose I reckon.
The luck held and I kept up it all the way into civilisation, well, the ACT anyway.
The only cop I had seen was at Glenrowan on the Hume. Not a sign since then.
I puttered in through the outskirts toward Batso's joint with the taste of beer and sausages filling my helmet. Does anything taste better than anticipated booze and barbecue?
One more stop to see where I had fucked up the turn off and I rolled into his driveway at, erm, I don't know. I didn't look at the time.
I felt somewhat honoured and proud that the largest gathering of the Canberries was part due to me.
All four of them came out to greet me as I peeled the lid and gloves off.
PJMack, Monkey Toes, Scotocon and the glorious Batfastard.
I say glorious because he had shoved a stubbie in my hand before I was off the bike.
This was to be the norm for the rest of the evening.
It was quite an impressive sight. Two ZX9s, a Tiger, VFR, the Thunderarse and the King.
That's a lot of grunt for a small driveway.
Batso's two little kids stared in awe/wonderment/fear/confusion (pick one) and then promptly ran off as we settled in the back yard for an evening of quiet discourse. Another fine plan gone to wrack and ruin.
There was much reminiscing of earlier days on the site for the benefit of Scot, who, I am sure, was astounded at tales of bravery and derring-do. There was also the obligatory pisstaking and bench racing about the road I had taken.
Some Jerk messaged me about meeting up in the morning to make a run into Sydney. She suggested Robertson, I agreed without fuss, thereby sticking to my idiom of "no plan, no clue".
Robertson at 10.30 it would be.
A sensible bloke probably would have got himself an early night. Probably.
I have no idea how many stubbies Batso had pressed into my hand by the time the night wound down and the other three went not so softly into the night.
PJ's VFR sounds downright rebellious through the Tingate pipe. Monquito's 9 was offering it's high pitched opinion and Scot's borrowed Tiger tucked in with them and just pinched a bit of noise from both of them so it didn't feel left out.
Batso and I stood out the front until we couldn't hear them any more and then went back for another beer. It seemed the right thing to do.
And that's how Day 1 finished up. Not so much with a bang but a stagger.
I hadn't counted the miles. I hadn't really checked fuel consumption, or beer consumption either.
It wasn't important.
I had made fun and ended in the company of mates. The rest is irrelevant.
I rememeber the question being asked at some stage through the night;
"So why are you going to Sydney?"
"To have lunch with Boris"
This was apparently a suitable answer as all of them just nodded in that yeah-makes-sense-to-me kind of way.
They understood. They ride.
Ow! My fucking head!
I was reminded why I didn't drink beer in the way a Doc Marten reminds a Sharpie he's at the wrong train station.
I had a quick shower and light breakfast of Panadol and water while Batso got the kids up and ready to go.
A scan of Google showed me how to get the fuck out of Dodge and back to the Hume.
It seemed to involve going around in a lot of circles. Canberra, eh?
Five minutes on the bike with the visor up did what a handful of Panadol couldn't and I was feeling great.
The sky was cloudless and promising to be on it's Sunday best behaviour for me.
I spotted a cop on the side with a radar and was most amused at the funky paint scheme on the car.
It had a chequered flag painted down the side that looked like the Coke ribbon.
It could have been a Coke reps car except for the lights and the word POLICE written on it.
Since I don't know the hunting patterns of ACT police, I behaved myself along the Federal Highway. Mostly.
Sitting in with the traffic flow meant 130-140 all the way to Goulburn.
I was ahead of time. Well, I guessed I was anyway. No plan, no clue, remember?
I ducked into the roadhouse at Goulburn and parked under the Merino's balls. A lovely spot to have a bite to eat while I checked the phone for messages, recon dispatches and the like.
The other handy part about roadhouses is the trucks they attract.
I spoke to a couple of drivers about the highway ahead.
They told me it was clear all the way in. Apparently there was a blitz further south and most of the cops were stalking around down there somewhere.
That's what I wanted to hear.
The bike and I were fuelled up and away. Nothing much to report from here. It all went smoothly and rather quickly.
I started spotting landmarks that I used to use as markers when I was doing interstate work.
The names of hills that aren't really marked but are known to truck drivers; Conroys, Moonies, Skyline etc.
I switched off at the Illawarra Highway and headed for Robertson, still with time in hand.
I figured SJ would be at the Pie Shop so I did a lap of town and failed to find it. The next best idea was the servo so I went there and filled up and sent her a message.
No answer was forthcoming so I presumed she was still on the bike.
I was no longer ahead of time. But that was cool, I wasn't behind yet either.
I spoke to Sandy on the phone and asked her where the Pie Shop was.
Bloody typical! I had turned around about 500 metres before it.
I decided to scoot up there figuring if SJ went passed me I would be able to pick the Handsfree easily.
She was there, had sent me a message and was waiting.
That was when she told me it was a bit further than she had thought and we should probably get moving. Quickly.
Which she did with gusto. Bloody hell that 600 has got some punch to it.
We hit Mac Pass without delay and I found myself working bloody hard to stay with the Honda.
I'd blame it on my battered bum except that Batso had lent me a couple of sheepskins, so I'll just have to put it down to being old and slow.
To compound my feelings of inadequacy, we were both comprehensively done over by an old bloke on a Burgmann. Fuck he was quick down that hill.
Still, once we got to the bottom we caught him and put on a display of why bikes are better than scooters.
One thing I noticed was cars that actually pull aside to let you get through. Good stuff. You'd never see that on the Black Spur.
It seemed SJ was dead keen to get back into town.
Children were not only ignored, they were put in the direct line of danger.
Fluoro faded to beige and the red mist had descended.
A fanatical run along the freeway and then the climb up Mt Ousley.
Jeez, the last time I crawled up Ousley I was moving about 80kph slower than what we had just done.
Please note that none of these observations are, in any way, a complaint. Nosireee Bob.
We was movin'..
We got into town at, I think, 12.30ish and ploughed right into the betonce that Sydneysiders laughingly call traffic. Sweet Jesus what a shitfight it truly is.
The town planners in the day must have just given up after the first five square blocks in the city proper and just let the urban sprawl have it's way.
It is, as Boris said later, a completely different mind set and skill set to riding anywhere else.
The bike was starting to run hot and so was I.
All the stop-start bullshit was taking it's toll. We didn't get one fucking green light all the way in.
Suddenly, it seemed, we were there and backing in amongst bikes parked on the road.
On the road? What is wrong with your footpaths up there? Oh, that's right, nevermind.
Men in black t-shirts poured out of the restaurant across the road and I knew we had come to the right place.
Scrambles, Tim, Donkey, Gonzo, Baron, Boon.. Christ who else was there?.. all came over to admire the Handsfree for it is worthy of much admiring.
We wandered back to the restaurant and Bondi introduced himself at the doorway. I reckon I had him picked though. The "Lambretta" stitched into the shirt was a bit of a giveaway.
The look on Borrie's face and the grin that cracked it had made the run worthwhile.
That and seeing him in a white t-shirt with Moto Guzzi on it.
Again, I was asked why I was in Sydney and again I gave the same answer.
Again, it was accepted as reasonable and sensible.
A beer was passed to me from somewhere up the table and stickers were put in front of me. I was still kind of buzzing with input overload to be really sure where they came from.
As we were about an hour and a half late, the boys were just about done and on the move.
Bugger, I thought, all that for 15 minutes of g'day's and owyagoin's??
Never to fear.
"On the move" means walking down a couple of blocks to the pub.
Finally, I got hold of a bourbon. Aah, sweet Ambrosia. God, it tasted good.
Baron explained that he hadn't yet picked up the new Triple and Scrambles explained that he hadn't picked up his new mankini. Both of these concerned me, but in different ways.
Boris went off to collect the Fat Boy and we went back to the bikes.
The Triple was ready for collection and it was an excuse for everyone to go and see it.
Boris was going to drop Scrambles off on the way, possibly to some gayer part of Sydney than normal to get his mankini, so I followed them. Not because of the mankini.
The others went straight out to the bike shop.
Chasing a local through the streets of Sydney is a trick I haven't quite mastered. At all.
But I tried. At one stage, I lost Boris up front somewhere and kept going figuring I'd catch him at the next lights.
It was quite a surprise to see him come out of the street to my left with a casual "I thought I'd lost you for a minute"
Well, yeah, you had.
"Are you ok with splitting?" has asked.
I nodded with what I hoped was confidence.
That Harley has very wide running boards and I lost count of the number of times I thought he had touched a car.
The running boards are also quite low, it seems.
I heard an odd sound as we came off the lights and into a right hander under a bridge somewhere (Boris can tell you if you need to know). It wasn't until I saw the sparks that I realised what the sound was.
Borrie's Patented Harley-Davidson Weight Removal Plan had been swung into action.
Eventually we got to Procycles and met up with the others and laughed at Baron in the soundproof booth with Mr Slick, the salesman.
There was a bit of waiting around, pointing at shiny bikes and Donkey pondering why a 727 would be changing gears as it came into land.
Then out he came, all happy, buzzing and grinning like a loon. Jacket? check. Helmet? check. Gloves? check. Bike? what? Oh. Yeah you better bring that out with you.
After all the oohing and aahing over Baron's baby, we set off.
I managed not to hear where or how or anything actually.
I was last out the gate, looking to the right to pick a gap in the ceaseless flow of detritus that is Sydney traffic.
I got my gap and bolted.
Straight across to the right lane and away. That's about when I saw the others heading back the other way. No probs, I'll simply turn at the next gap in the stupid concrete lump that runs down the centre of the road.
What those with local knowledge had done was to come out into the left lane, u-turn in the side street and go back through the lights.
What those of us who don't know Sydney that well, i.e. me, had to do was go four fucking blocks down the road before a gap was found.
By then it was a bit late to try to keep them in sight.
I made a run back passed the bike shop and veered off left into another road. By the time I was a few blocks up and still hadn't seen anyone waiting for me I figured I had better pull up and make a call or two.
I turned down a side street, did the block and headed back to the bike shop. Just in case.
As I took the lid off, my phone rang. It was just Some Jerk on the other end.
She said she had just got home but would come back and collect me rather than leave me in that side street all night.
About half a smoke later the Handsfree turned up.
"She must live close or ride like a maniac". I pondered a quandary and found no result.
SJ explained the others had gone to the Uni for a drink and that we could either go there or back to her joint.
I was starting to feel a bit of lag setting in so decided that maybe pulling the pin on the arvo wasn't such a bad thing.
And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, we come to the Delicious Irony part of today's episode.
I followed the Handsfree up the same road that I had veered left onto.
"Cool", I grinned, "I wasn't far off the mark"
Then she turned down the same side street I had turned down to do the blockie.
It all came home with a thud when SJ turned into the parking bay of a set of flats and turned her bike off.
I must have ridden straight passed her place and not noticed her bike under the balcony.
I grabbed the bag off the bike and headed inside.
Upstairs unit, eh? Pretty flash.
Gear was dumped, boots kicked off eagerly, socks peeled and taken outside as a matter of courtesy. Safety too, probably.
Right then, what now?
I planted myself on the couch only too happy to have something softer than a fence paling wrapped in vinyl under my arse. SJ fussed about, apologising that the flat wasn't in pristine condition.
I laughed it off. I live with 3 boys.
What was left of the afternoon drifted by in lazy conversation about anything and everything.
The ride today, Baron's Triple, the Fat Boy, Scramble's mankini, badly dubbed fight movies.
The topic of the NSW Pissup came up and we ummed and aahed a bit about going or not.
I was mid-umm when Boon rang and played the guilt card.
He had taken extra time from work, he had made personal sacrifices, he had drunk beer and we were late anyway. Apparently that balanced out to us having to turn up at the Epping Club that night.
Since he had gone without so much just to be at lunch for me, I felt it only fair to go to the Pissup.
Little did I know what was in store for me.
According to Google it's 24k's away from SJ's place. According to SJ's navigation, it's nearly 40.
There was no point looking at me for directions. I was just a little out of my familiar territory.
But anyway with a bit of farting around and possibly a few more roads than we needed to cover, we made it.
Boris was just leaving as we turned up. Keld was seeing him off and gave the line of the night upon seeing SJ;
"You've lost weight"
We met Andrew SOE at the top of the stairs, he was on his way as well.
Unfortunate timing, unfortunately.
Some large men in suits took the gear for us and asked for licences.
This was all new to me.
You give them the licence and they give you a ticket. I'm not entirely sure what purpose it serves but I had a ticket. Cool.
It didn't take long to find the Bike Me table. Bluesy, XR, Daytona Man, Boon & Tim were gathered, with Keld keeping an eye on the pool table.
Bluesy & XR cornered me, trying to get me to go back to Jim's shed and listen to music. I had to decline saying that I needed to be back in Melbourne by Sunday night and if I got stuck in the shed I may not make it back until next week.
Keld dragged SJ off to the pool table to make use of her stubby ninja skills.
The rest of us remained at the table and commented on just how shabby young girls looked these days. Shameful.
I felt like a bourbon or 10 and ridiculous bar prices and an unknown path home were not the way to do it.
I gathered my little Sherpa guide and headed for the door.
I noticed a few guarded glances in our direction from some of the punters.
Odd, I thought.
Then I twigged. 43yo white male leaving with a 24yo Asian chick..
I told SJ to try to look more Phillipino.
I chuckled, she squinted. It might have been a glare.
Another mystery run, some of it possibly in the opposite direction to where we wanted to go, and "home" to the most comfortable couch in the world.
What followed was a rather late evening/morning of laughing drunkenly at badly dubbed Chinese fight movies interspersed with experiments in sociology from the Smoking Balcony.
We watched one poor bloke, who may have had 50 too many, stagger down the hill crossing from side to side.
Time to place the bets.
I bet he would hit the little white car on the right side and bounce across to the small truck on the left.
My judgement of drunken staggering was foolishly doubted.
Stagger, stagger, BANG!
Into the car he goes. That's one.
He bounced straight across the street but unfortunately missed the truck by inches.
Damnit, I missed the double.
I have no idea what time we wound up but the next thing I remembered was,
"Leigh! Leigh! It's 1.30!"
I opened an eye and noted that it was bloody bright for so early in the morning.
OK, it was still about 2 or 3 minutes before my brain was due to wake up.
Apparently, the Baron had rung earlier about heading out for a ride.
Our Baron is not one to be put off easily and he rang back with a new plan.
The Jerk was off to learn a few more ways to kill people, so Baron said he was coming around to drag me off to parts unknown or his place at least.
In the meantime, I decided to achieve legendary status.
Poor Jerk has been haunting a Korean internet cafe late at night because her PC didn't work.
I said I'd have a look for her.
I pulled the side cover off, unplugged the drive cable, looked at it and plugged it back in.
Voila! One working PC.
Me? Awesome? Fuck yeah!
Although that resulted in SJ singing the Spiderbait song for the rest of the afternoon.
Now that is a top looking stable..
The Baron had arrived. We heard him.
That single Arrow can does a good job with Triple's engine.
SJ went off to practice death and the Baron and I retired to Casa del Tiki to await the return of the Baroness and to be stared at by the squarest cat I have ever seen.
It had been decided that I was to be taken out.
I can't remember doing anything that offensive. OK, maybe I can.
The Union Hotel was chosen for proximity and meal quality.
I heartily endorse the food. Boody brilliant and very reasonably priced.
Phone calls were made to Boon, home alone and lonely.
Scrambles was off to Dream Theatre that night so Boon had tried to drown his sorrows since 10am.
He said he would come out but needed a few minutes to sober up first.
We never saw him again.
Regardless of the night being sans Lobster, it was most enjoyable.
Good food, great company.
Rich & Maria had me in tears talking about a young Italian bride dealing with a somewhat possessive Yorkshire mother in law.
"It were always rainin' on Denley Moor.."
Janice, my Phillipino Sherpa, was, as always, razor sharp and rapid fire.
Sadly, as is the habit of wonderful evenings, it ended too soon.
We bid our farewells and made our way home.
I headed straight for the Couch Of Bliss for tomorrow I paid the Piper.
I forgot Jetsons Boy.
Two young bucks about 15 or 16 on their BMXs were coasting past as we observed shit from the balcony, as became our wont.
We idly watched them go by without emptying the bucket or launching the half bricks. (SJ, you need a trebuchet)
The kid in front suddenly gives out a loud Jetsons saucer sound. You know the one.
We looked at each other and laughed, then I sent one back out as loud as I could.
I looked at SJ but she wasn't there.
She was curled up on the floor of the balcony hiding and laughing.
Oh, the plans I had for that balcony.
Every now and then, a victi..erm, person, would look up and spot us leaning over the edge.
I suggested that SJ spend some time with a malicious look on her face and a bucket on the edge.
People would think twice about nonchalantly wandering under balconies..
Sunday got up and staggered around the place a bit, scratched it's nuts and farted.
As is the way with most Sundays.
I, on the other hand, had somewhere else to be. I had done my scratching and farting previously.
The bag was packed, by that I mean shit was shoved in.
A final check to make sure I hadn't left any socks on the balcony and it was time.
The worst part about going away is the trip home. I found it doing interstate and I find it on rides.
Ah well, what can you do?
Part of the original almost-plan had been to head West and take two days coming home.
Not to worry. The best part about not having a plan is that you aren't disappointed if things don't go as you imagined.
It was time. Straight down the Hume to home.
I don't find the Hume particularly boring. It's just a bit trickier to make it interesting.
It has a good clean surface, wide lanes and plenty of forward vision for most of it's length.
It also has cops hunting trucks like wolves scenting a lumbering bison.
Obviously, the by-product of that is, they hunt the rabbits, too.
SJ offered to lead me out of town. Naively, I agreed.
We wound our way along and headed out of town until finally we pulled over and said our goodbyes.
"You have to turn left there", SJ pointed to a T junction just ahead of us, "that's the Hume, I think"
She turned and headed for home and I moved up looking at the sign.
Something wasn't right.
Sure enough it said Hume Highway with an arrow pointing left. I was just about to swing off when I realised the sign was for the side road but was on an angle to the road I was on.
We had been on the Hume all along.
Bloody Jerk! From Hell's heart and all that. She just had to have one more go at getting me lost.
It took me another half an hour of stop-start crap to get down to Crossroads. Familiar territory at last.
Down the hill past Uncle Leo's, the Caltex that was a focal point of my interstating days, and it was on for real.
Yet another crystal clear day, mild temperature and a clear road. This is going to be all right.
I was doing the sums in my head and figured I had enough to stretch to Pheasant's Nest to fill up.
That would work well for the next few stages.
When I had brought Sandy's bike down to Melbourne I had a bit more room to play with fuel stops.
Not so with the Kwaka.
I get about 250 from a tank if I behave myself but I like to fill around the 200 mark.
That can drop down to 140-160 if I play up.
But this would a be a well mannered ride, I told myself. That word, "naively", popped into my head.
Pheasant's Nest was reached without further ado. I could probably have said that for the rest of the trip. If I was so lucky.
The herd of caravans grazing in the parking bays was a bit of a worry. It meant there would be more ahead. There always is.
How, in the name of sanity, can these jury-rigged wandering road barges be allowed to exist?
No inspections, no licence, no training. Nothing.
Any numptie can buy a 'van out of the Trading Post, pay the rego and drag it across country leaving a trail of sparks and plywood in it's wake.
I left before they did.
Yass was in my sights. Stage 2.
Thommo and I spoke about this method at the GP. It's how he takes on his little jaunts and it was how I attacked the interstate work.
I would never look at Brisbane, for example, I would head to Forbes, then to Dubbo and on like that.
Breaking the trip down like that seems to make it more acceptable to the brain.
I discovered, purely by accident, that the earplugs I was using are good to about 160.
After that I could hear the exhaust starting to batter it's way through my helmet.
But with the extraneous noise muffled out, the note became clear and I could hear the individual pulses.
I investigated further. Naturally.
We, as riders, are nothing if not inquisitive.
At 250, the tune was sensational. I was grinning inside my little head cage at the cacophony underneath me.
I must find out what it sounded like to the outside world one day because it sounded like the End Of Days inside my lid.
I was getting closer to Marulan and up over the hill when, suddenly..
About 20 or so on the wobble.
They were set out in the prescribed format.
Staggered formation over both lanes as described by the Ride Chief Petty Officer Of The Watch, or whatever rank the Lead Twonk wished to bestow upon himself that day.
As I descended upon them, with Wagner starting to build in my head, their almost synchronised weaving had a hypnotic effect.
The two lines would drift together then apart like the breathing of some ponderous lizard.
There was a little throttle left to me. I used it.
I held a secret hope that most of them hadn't been looking in the mirrors as I blurred myself between the lines.
A glance in my own mirror confirmed it. The lines were no longer smooth and conforming to ride rules.
With a hearty guffaw, I was gone.
Goulburn fell to me as did Breadalbane and Gunning.
I was coming through Mundoonen when I spotted a 'roo on my side of the armco bounding along at a fair rate. What I didn't see at first was the other dozen or so blending in the bush.
I willed them to stay where they were as I rolled by as gently as I could.
Yeah, so much for my psychic powers.
As I got to the middle of the pack they turned out onto the road.
Aah shit! I threw it back and cracked it on laying a large lump of faith on the noise of the bike.
They split with some going back over the armco and the rest heading for the wide median strip.
I had been keeping an eye out for an old familiar landmark.
This is an old photo. I couldn't help but notice that it's now open 24 hours.
I rolled into Yass with a grin.
I fuelled up and parked amongst the Japanese tourists in the shade.
Time for a ciggie, a chuckle and to check the phone.
Some Jerk's brother and his girlfriend, who looked like Some Jerk, walked over and in a few words of Engrish told me he had the same model, but naked and turbo'd.
"Yes, mate. Mine"
"Aah, I have same. No..", he paused to tap the fairing, "..plastic."
"Ok" I said, in a fairly non-committal way.
"Turbo", he grinned as he delivered the punchline.
"Fast?" I asked, now grinning back.
This bought a laugh and "Yeah. Fast" from the girlfriend.
The day was shaping up to be a belter.
Unfortunately, Yass also harboured Pirates and Grey Nomads.
They make me nervous, so I bugged out pretty quickly.
About 150k to Tarcutta, the halfway mark. That'd do me.
Jugiong, Tumblong and Gundagai would bow before my relentless march South.
If only I had known about the "Where have you seen the Bike Me logo" thread, there would have been a sticker on the dog's arse at Gundagai.
Tarcutta was reached easily. Well, easily for the bike.
Some of the all to familiar aches were waking up and complaining that they had missed breakfast.
So, here we are in thriving downtown Tarcutta.
Picture, if you will, a pub, a servo, a transport museum and many large parking bays.
You don't have to picture anything else.
(If you're curious, the large parking bays are for the trucks that do the halfway changeover here)
By now I had my routine..
Fill up, park in shade, peel leather & lid, light smoke, drink coke, check phone.
I did the sums, calling rusty synapses to arms..
An hour and a half to the border..
An hour to Glenrowan for the next fuel stop..
An hour and a half to Seymour..
Almost 2 hours to home from there..
Home by 6.30. About 10 and a half hours all up with breaks.
I was pretty pleased with that. I had made good time so far.
There was a message from Sandy that she was off in Ballarat and would meet me in Benalla if I wanted.
Sounded bloody good to me. I sent one back suggesting Glenrowan.
I had to stop there anyway and it was only 25k's up the road from Benalla.
I saddled up and left Tarcutta to it's devices.
From here to the border is usually quite heavily populated with cop cars in the shade.
I behaved myself through the usual spots and cast a wary eye over the gaps in the median armco and the bays on the side of the road.
I have a theory that heat is as effective as rain on the cops.
I know I wouldn't want to be sitting in a car for a couple of hours in low 30 temperatures.
It's just a theory, though, so I still played it fairly safe.
That big blue sign over the river that welcomed me to Victoria was quite a sight. On the home straight now, Sunshine, not long to go.
I got to Glenrowan and rolled into the servo/roadhouse.
Pirates & caravans. No real surprise I guess.
Except this time as I sat in the shade, I was attacked by pirates.
Why is it that every time I want a few minutes to myself, someone feels the need to have a chat?
"How ya goin? Where ya off to?"
"Fremantle" I muttered with as much I-don't-want-to-talk-to-you in my tone as I could muster.
"Bit of a ride in front of you then"
"Yeah, which way you goin?
"Through the middle"
It must have twigged to him that one small tank bag, strapped to the tail, wasn't much gear to carry.
"Not much gear for a big trip?"
This witty, insightful banter continued for another 5 hours, it seemed.
Sandy still wasn't there so I sent another message. She was comfortably ensconced in the beer garden of a Benalla pub. Something got lost intranslation.
Not to matter. Benalla it was.
I left quietly, whilst the pirates were off broad-siding a merchant ship or something.
It was a quick stretch down passed Winton and into Benalla.
I found the pub with relative ease and spotted the 'Busa out the front.
I have no idea how long we were there for. Long enough for a tall bourbon and fish & chips anyway.
Time had slipped on. My 6.30 finish wasn't looking so good after all. Not to matter, I was still on the No Plan, No Clue mode of operations.
It all got fairly easy from there on in.
It's amazing how much difference riding with someone else can affect the flow of time.
What could have become a drawn out trudge became a short hop of leapfrogging and flybys.
It seemed to take about half an hour to Seymour for the next fuel stop. It was longer.
By this time, I was really starting to pay the price. Everything was hurting again.
We stretched out the break at Seymour longer than usual.
I am sitting here trying to come up with a paragraph to describe the home run as interesting.
There isn't any.
It's dull and soul-stealing.
It does have one redeeming feature;
When you come over the rise at Beveridge, and see Melbourne's skyline for the first time, it really does feel good to know you are almost home.
Finally, it came time to wave Sandy on and turn off into my street.
I parked in my carport and scraped myself off the bike.
It was just about 8.30 as I shuffled inside.
I dropped the gear and headed for the fridge.
"That wasn't bad" I grinned, as I took the first slug from a well earned can. "I must do it again"
One of the voices over the back said "Yeah, but you'll prepare better next time"
"Probably not" laughed another.
I had to agree with the second one as I headed for the shower.
It worked out to be just over 2300km for the four days.
I really have to thank the Canberries for turning out.
Particularly Batso for providing food and shelter. More importantly, beer.
Also to Scrambles, the Baron and That Jerk for keeping schtumm and going out of their way to help me make the weekend Teh Epic that it was.
It's the generosity of characters like these that make this whole motorcycling bizzo worthwhile.
I am putting this together piece by piece, much the same way my memory is returning to me. Bear with me, Dear Reader, for this may end up with the continuity of Pulp Fiction.
Through the week leading up to D Day there had been signs of the impending event.
VicRoads had replaced their usual Carnage On The Roads billboards with motorcycle related signage, including the rather spectacular "Motorcycle Gloves Can Save Your Fingers".
More and more bikes, heavy with gear, were seen heading South.
Then, suddenly, it was Friday. I got home from work and promptly set to finishing all the little jobs that need finishing before I could set off.
Thommo was waiting for me at Sandy's place as I first unwound from work and then set to rewinding for the weekend.
I figured a relaxed approach would be the way to enter into this and music would help.
I turned the volume up to rampage and loaded up Motorhead.
So with the dulcet tones of Lemmy & Co hammering through the skull I set to getting away.
A message from Sandy told me that Thommo couldn't wait and had buggered off.
I did the same thing and promptly rode straight into a nasty little squall that had me and the bike doing Torvill & Dean impressions.
Pah, says I, I've had worse.
It soon cleared up and the road dried out.
I made short work of home to the Shell at Lang Lang where I had to see to the tanks. Fill the bike's and empty mine.
From there it was a series of short squirts with an eye on the favourite parking spots of Plod.
Just an observation here, Wire Rope Barriers have a plus. Plod can't hide his car in the bushes where the WRBs are.
The leap frogging came more often after Grantville where the road goes to single lane and the roadworks have 60 signs just for the cars.
Motorhead was still on loop in my head, the 9 was screaming its hardly baffled fury to the cars we blitzed and all was good in my little world.
Until that Commodore.
It was plain white with extra aerials and a mesh shade in the back window.
I propped in behind him until I could tell if they were the tops of the headrests or boxes with little red & blue lights.
I sat behind him from just South of the Giant Worm until we were on the Island, trying to keep the bike quiet and cursing him all the way.
As he turned off for Rhyll I got a clear view of him that revealed he wasn't a cop.
I cursed him lots more.
I rolled into Cowes and spotted Mr Sparkle, with Resn8 on board, parked on the side of the road.
I had a quick chat with Res about his battle plans while we watched the constant stream of bikes heading into town. This lead to one of my favourite quotes of the weekend;
Having watched a handful of hardcore pirates burble by on V Stars and Shadows, Res was inspired to utter "looks like chicken, squawks like chicken but tastes like rabbit".
The U-Boat surfaced and Whale and I decided to head for Casa del Awesome while Res set to finding his motel.
The first few tents and bikes were already at Mick's when we pulled in. I had promised Sandy that I would have the tents up by the time she got there so, obviously, I opened a can and promptly lost track of time.
She arrived a bit later with my boys in tow and the tents were pitched. Small points for me though as I did at least have the basis for our tent set out and half up.
Others started to arrive and in no time at all Mick & Mel's yard looked normal again.
Tents & Bikes: The Complete Yard
The Concrete Pad Of Power
A few others started to wander in and the sound of arriving bikes grew to a regular tempo.
Quoll was happy and prepared
Whale and Cricky were eager to get into it
Jamie stayed true to his brand of motorcycle
Thommo was strangely excited by the whole thing
Once everything had settled, Sandy & I took the boys into Cowes for a bit of merchandising and a bite to eat.
Sandy caught up with Greg and set off for fish & chips, I took the boys over to the souvenir traps.
Sweet Bejeebus, they know how to up the prices for the fans. We saw beanies for $70, team shirts for $210.
We wandered back to the cafe and had a nice little feed with Greg & Sandy before heading back.
By the time we got there the crowd had grown considerably and the party, like Mick, was in full swing.
The rest of the Southerners and a fair smattering of the Northern Horde had gathered.
Shirt By Ramjet, Moobs By iMick
Scrambles, Ktulu, Ross, Baron To The Left.
Jamie & Bly Try To Convert Gromit
Pirate Discusses The Finer Things With Scrambles
Cricky Turns On "The Smooth"
A Rare Photo Of Wayne Not In A Tree
So it came time to crack things along a bit. Time for The Sound Off.
This year meant a change of format due to the return of The Neighbours. This meant mufflers on. Sadly.
It also meant a trophy. I had replaced the rear disc on the ZX9 earlier in the year and had wondered what I could do with the old one. Ideas formed quickly around a trophy of some sort for the GP.
I spoke to a mate, Pete, a wizard with wood, about turning up something appropriate. Designs were cobbled together and promptly thrown out until we settled on this;
Rear Brake Actually Serves A Purpose
Mick started proceedings with a quick twist of the Aprilia. Some people jumped as though they hadn't expected a large, free-flowing twin to be started up just behind them.
I backed the Kwaka up to the gap in the shed door and lit 'er up. The level of noise was only matched by the level of blue smoke. I really must get those carbies sorted soon.
This inspired a couple of others to step up to the plate, including RZ and the Speed Triple and Res with Mr Sparkle.
This was going to be close, there is only a poofteenth of restriction in those mufflers..
I left it to crowd choice to pick the winner. The Triple got the nod over the Hayabusa, just.
I think that because a) it's black and b) it made flames may have influenced some voter's decision.
RZ was presented with the trophy and, somehow, Mick accidentally got in the photo.
There Is No Caption To Explain This
Saturday dawned at an early hour. I was up at 6ish and realised that was a stupid time to get up and crawled back into bed.
I was woken up much later by Sam telling me the bacon and eggs had all gone. This was also a stupid time to get up.
I couldn't help but notice how people find different ways to deal with the aftermath of a Turn 13 party.
Snowy Relaxed With The Paper...
...Whilst Thommo Dealt With The 21st Century
I found myself propped in front of the telly inside watching a bit of the qualifying and waiting to go to the hall to help the setup. Others found me propped and watching the inside of my eyelids.
Mick surprised us once again with something special he had arranged just for us.
The Roulettes on show..
.. over Turn 13
A Mayoral Farewell
Unfortunately, Jess, my oldest, had to work that evening, so I piled him in the car and made the run back towards home. I had contemplated taking him up on the bike but the bucket of rain and the amassed police at the bridge checking every bike confirmed my decision.
The traffic was heavy with bikes and cars towards the Island.
I hadn't actually calculated that into my timing and started to panic a bit but it all came together quite well.
Back at Turn 13, Sandy had the boys prepped and was ready to go herself. She looked absolutely stunning and made me very proud.
I threw the suit on, checked the look and we left.
The arrival at the hall was nothing short of breathtaking.
Breaking from the treeline we saw a mass of black suited bodies on the verandah and in the surrounding area.
The boys and I had hoped for a few chuckles from our attire. We had aimed for a "Cognac at The Raffles after the tiger hunt" look. Judging from the cheers and laughter as we alighted we had come close to the mark. Or Undertakers, as was mentioned.
Pip, Pip, Eh What?
I Gots Me A Live One This Time
The crowd started to grow quickly from there on in. The marvellous Buckets and his delightful wife, Jude, joined us with an entourage of eloquently dressed (read part Versace, part Joe Rocket) guests.
Lord & Lady Colligan. 1st Earl of Bonang
Mick had made sure that his off-site mates had places too. These blokes are of the same ilk as Mick, Jonesy & Cricky. Instant mates without a judgmental bone in their bodies.
Pumpy & Benno
Mick Gets A Moment Of Peace
The night wore on, as nights sometimes do, and new and old faces swam into view. As usual, I regret not being able to cover more ground and meet/catch up with more people.
Janice, just Some Jerk y'know?, seemed to bounce up everywhere, defying even Wayne's ninja powers.
SJ Shares The Love.. Or Rates Wayne's Chances.
Cowboy.. What a bloody champion. Steps in to rescue Ems after she had been left stranded by so-called friends.
Ems, who stood by her claim of short skirt and heels, looked a treat even after having to walk most of the way to the hall thanks to those friends again.
The Baron had me laughing like a loon every time we spoke.
Baron, Scott & Stone
Stoney, Lisa and their top kids. Great to see all of you again.
From the always smiling Whale to the ever sublime Bly and all people in between.
Pete Hermans, Frog, Cletus, Owen, Stubbsy and a few more from the Island itself.
So many people to say G'day to and so little time to actually do it.
There was never a hint of trouble. Mick had made sure everyone knew who the replacement Head Of Security was and that he took his job seriously.
You Don't Want Trouble Now, Do Ya?
Highlights you say? Well. sifting through the fog that I use for memory these days, I would have to say seeing little Xavier for the first time, with Jonesy & Sab was very high on the list. What a champion kid. He took the whole thing in without a flinch.
Waddya Mean The Shirts Don't Come In XXXXS?
Watching The Earl Of Bonang deal with a personal dilemma;
Beer? Rum? Beer? Rum? Both..
Watching the same bloke later in the evening become disillusioned with the ineffectiveness of plastic knives as proper stabbing weapons. Still, you have to give a bloke points for trying.
There were, of course, the ladies.
Sandy & Dettie
If you were in the right position, at the right time, you could see the rising of the Aurora Zingiberis
Then there is Uncle. A man with the elan and finesse of a cavalry dress sabre and the morals of a sharpened toothbrush handle.
What? I Am Being Happy
I'd like to throw in a quick word about my boys.
They had been so excited about this since I had first told them of the plan.
We had a ball hunting through the second hand shops finding suitable jackets for the evening. Then to the costume hire shop for top hats and monocles.
Alterations were made and photos had to be taken.
This may have lead to a little sillliness..
I got the call from Jesse to say he had finished work so we all piled into the car to go and get him.
By the time we got back to the Island we decided just to head for home and get a bit of sleep.
For tomorrow was Race Day...
By the time we got back to the Island we decided just to head for home and get a bit of sleep.
For tomorrow was Race Day...