A Few Touring Tales...

Now then, as many of you fellow bikers know, if you ride motorcycles for long enough you get an excellent repertoire of outlandish stories. The crazy thing is, you don't have to exaggerate at all! Here's a few choice happenings from my biking life thus far...

Motorcycle jaunts away with the lads

The 2005 trip to the Stirling Ranges (complete with heaps of photos)? Click here.

The 2006 trip to Augusta? Click here.

The 2007 trip to Wave Rock? Click here.

The 2008 trip to Walpole? Click here.

The 2009 trip to Hamelin Bay? Click here.

The Jan. 2010 trip to Coalmine Beach? Click here.

The Oct. 2010 trip to Hamelin Bay? Click here.

The Apr/May 2011 trip to Coalmine Beach? Click here.

The Oct. 2011 trip to Peaceful Bay? Click here.

The Nov. 2012 trip to Windy Harbour? Click here.

The Feb. 2014 trip to Peaceful Bay? Click here.

The May/Jun 2015 trip to Hamelin Bay and Beyond? Click here.

Annuvva trip to Hamelin Bay (2016)? Click here.

Stuff we don't like to think about but probably should...

My spectacular prang certainly had a lesson or two for me in it.

My related musings on death, the universe and everything, here.

One more way to do the impossible

Well I was unsure just where on the site to put this little anecdote, so here will have do for now. Anyway, how many ways do you think there might be to break the perspex screen on a Katana? I mean, there are a number of respectable ways. You could hit a low-flying duck at highway speed, for example. Or you could leave the tarmac and crunch it into the shrubbery. Or perhaps even you could cop a spray of shotgun pellets from your local barbarian redneck. There are many, many respectable ways to break a Katana's screen.

But no, I have managed to avoid all these time-honoured methods. For there is a method pioneered by my very good self, which I share here in the interests of helping others avoid a similarly disrespectable disaster.

GSX1100EF-riding mate Paul, along with another scaly acquaintance, popped by one hot Saturday morning in Jan.2009 for a ride to wherever. "That's a nice-looking Katana," quoth aforementioned scaly acquaintance, as I am backing the thing out of the garage. Feeling mildly proud of my machine, I fail to notice a slight resistance as I continue paddling backwards, looking back over my shoulder to see where I'm going. Suddenly there is a loud SNAPPING SOUND and I whip my head around in a mixture of fright and surprise.

My eyes are greeted by the jagged remainder of the perspex screen. What the...? Then it all becomes clear. I'd hung some ocky straps off the wall a few days before, thinking "That's a good place to put them." Well of course, Murphy (that elusive but mischievous leprechaun) saw to it that one of the straps managed to hook the edge of the screen as I was backing the bike away. "Well, that was a nice-looking Katana," says the witty one. The rest is expensive history.

Out on the road

It was on a ride to Albany (south coast of Western Australia) from Australind (near Bunbury) that I started to feel peckish. Lunchtime was looming so I was looking forward to stopping at Kojonup for a steak sandwich or something like that. However, being a Saturday afternoon, you could have fired a shotgun up the main street and not roused a soul. So I just kept on riding.

About 1/2 an hour south of Kojonup, I came to the Tunney Roadhouse. Behold, it was open. I pulled the GPz over, and sauntered in. There was no menu on the wall, so alas the steak sandwich would have to wait. But in the corner behind the counter, sat the ubiquitous pie-oven.

Now being the seasoned traveller that I am, and having had more than my fair share of suspect foodstuffs teeming with all sorts of vicious bugs, I have learnt that a hot pie oven is a good pie oven.

So I asked the lady behind the counter, "Are the pies hot?"

Well OK, maybe I hadn't worded that as tactfully as I could have, but her reaction caught me entirely by surprise.

"OF COURSE THE PIES ARE B***** HOT!" she exploded.

Somewhat taken aback by this Vesuvius of a woman, I replied in a gentler tone, "OK, I'll take a sausage roll, thanks."

She thumped her way around behind the counter, slammed the hapless sausage roll into a bag, and took my money. The sausage roll and I quickly slipped out the door and made our escape.

Out in the carpark, I sank my teeth into the roll, only to realise at the first bite that it was not hot at all. It was lukewarm. The question was, how long had our Vesuvian Venus been incubating it? I had to decide whether to eat the thing, or throw it in the bin and let my stomach digest itself for the rest of the trip to Albany. But there was no way I was going back inside to ask the human volcano for a refund.

Hunger prevailed, I ate the roll, and my worst fears were realised: I spent the rest of the weekend parked over the porcelain megaphone. This gave me plenty of time to ponder the gastrointestinal vocabulary of our age. We have 'Delhi Belly', 'Montezuma's Revenge'... and now, Dear Reader, we have 'Tunney Tummy'. Remember where you heard it first.

[Postscript: it is with a great sense of sadness that, after a trip south in 2004, I have to report to all the world that the Tunney Roadhouse is now out of business and shut forever. Hardly surprising, actually.]

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Forgive me for indulging in another food-related tale, but roadhouse tucker and motorcycle touring are pretty-well joined at the hip.

After our wedding in August 1992, and as soon as the summer warmth began to thaw the Great Southern Land, we loaded up the GS1000S and did a 5-week trip over to NSW to visit my rellies and the old stomping-grounds.

We stopped for fuel and food in Wilcannia, a town on the Darling River in western NSW. What a joint. The windows of many of the shops were boarded up, covered with sheets of corrugated iron. Utes full of the unemployed were milling around through the township, stirring up the dust. Wouldn't want to be here at night, I thought.

The wife kept an eye on the bike (it had already attracted a crowd of inquisitive and perhaps opportunistic kids), while I went into the roadhouse to sus out the food situation.

As I walked up to the counter, I was taken aback by the appearance of the gentleman on the other side, for the simple reason that he had only one eye; on the other side of his nose there was nothing but a hollow socket.

Not allowing this to break my rhythm, I asked what was on the menu.

"The cook's sick," he croaked.

My rhythm faltered. "Err, how about two meat pies?" I ventured. He gave a nod and retreated into the bowells of the establishment.

I heard a microwave fire up, and 5 minutes later I was back out the door to see how the missus was going with the locals.

We unwrapped the pies, and took a bite. That was as far was we got; they tasted rotten. Foetid, in fact.

Right on cue, a red heeler dog hobbled over. He was hobbling because he had only three legs (and naturally, we may assume he belonged to the one-eyed pieman). His tongue was lolling out the side of his mouth, an expectant and eager look on his face. He knew the pies were his.

As the dog gratefuly gobbled up the pies, I did him a further service by pulling several huge ticks off his neck. By now we were really off the idea of lunch, so the excellent evening meal in the Cobar RSL went down very well indeed.

* * * * *

About a year earlier, I had left the Eastern States and headed West to tie the knot. My faithful Yamaha XJ550 was loaded up to the gunnels — a huge bag strapped over the tank, a GearSak stuffed with tools and bike gear, and soft panniers crammed full too.

Heading west towards Cobar, the dirt turns to an orange-red. So do the sheep, which means that they can be nigh-on impossible to see until they cross the black bitumen in front of you.

Well here in the narrative it's all very predictable, folks, but let me assure you that when 5 of these orange sheep suddenly appeared running across the road in front of me, my heart stopped beating.

I hauled on the front anchors, and aimed for a gap between the daft animals. Naturally by the time our paths crossed, my gap was gone, and the front tyre of the XJ slammed into the rear quarters of one unlucky mutton-bag.

Amazingly, the Yamaha's steering didn't even twitch — maybe because a bike all loaded up, and with the front suspension compressed to the limit under hard braking, has a set of vectors at work which take more than a sheep to overcome. Whatever: the front tyre simply knocked the sheep out of the way, and as I was pulling to a stop I could see the sheep tumbling over and over in the rear-view mirror behind me.

I put the side-stand down, my heart re-started, and I looked back up the road. The animal was lying on its back in the middle of the road, legs in the air.

My elation at being in one piece was now somewhat tempered by the fact that I was going to have to find a way to put the sheep out of its misery.

I reached into the GearSak for the trusty ball-pene hammer, and started walking back up the road, hammer in hand.

The sheep took one look at the leather-clad 'Mad Max' figure walking towards it, and suddenly decided that life wasn't so bad after all. It gave a kick, staggered upright, and cantered away into the scrub on three legs.

Sheep might have a genius for dying (as my father has observed), but even here there can be exceptions.

Life in the penal colony that is 'Straya...

Back in 1992, I was a newly-arrived Eastern-stater in the bustling metropolis of Perth, Western Australia. Being desperate for work, I ended up with a lot of other desperados working for that illustrious establishment, Mercury Couriers. (At least this was a step up from Bullet Couriers, a previous employer of mine back in Melbourne.)

What follows is the unedited draft of an article I submitted to Australia's own Two Wheels magazine, after an encounter with 'The Law' that left me particularly disgruntled. Read on, and discover the unbelievable crud that you can get dished-up in this recently liberated penal colony of ours...

[Note for our North-American cousins, to help you make sense of the following dialogue: here in Oz we drive on the left-hand side of the road.]

As a motorcycle courier in Perth, I recently came up against one of those prehistoric 'laws' which have escaped the extinction they so well deserve.

A few weeks ago I was casually tooling along through South Perth with a few deliveries on board, when to my surprise I was waved over by a group of radar-wielding policemen. They'd entrenched themselves there in the car park of a local golf club, one of their favourite haunts.

As I rolled into the car park, I was wondering what it was all about. All I could think of was an RBT or a road-worthiness check for my somewhat clapped out XJ550. But no, none of the above. A young, podgy, fresh looking officer (ie. raw) told me that I was going to be issued with a 'Caution' for not keeping to the left-hand side of the carriage way! I was stunned.

The street in question is an ordinary two way street — one lane each way, and a broken white line straight up the center. I looked the young guy straight in the eyes and replied, "What do you mean, I wasn't keeping to the LEFT of the carriage way? Any motorcyclist knows that, generally speaking, the RIGHT hand side of the road is the safest!" I was finding it hard to suppress the incredulity in my voice.

I was duly issued with my 'Caution'. As I got my fingers onto it, I knew they couldn't change their minds and issue me with a fine if I debated the point with them. So debate it I did! The dialogue which followed was most illuminating...

Incredulous Biker: Do you mean to tell me that the left hand side of the road — where hazards such as light poles, kerbs, opening car doors, cars pulling out of parking lots, pedestrians, gravel-shoulders and pot-holes lurk in abundance — is actually the safer side of the road?

Police Officer: The law says you have to keep to the left if you're on a motorcycle.

IB: Wait on! All the rider training courses back East tell us bikers to stick to the right hand side of the lane, except when moving to the left is safer (eg. on-coming semi).

PO: Well mate, we're not in the East, and HERE the law says that you've got to stay to the left-hand side of the carriage way.

IB: Hang on a sec! Generally speaking, a motorcycle is more visible to vehicles in front when travelling on the right, because the mirror drivers use most frequently (IF they use it) is the one on the door — the RIGHT HAND mirror.

PO [frustrated, beckons a radar-toting 'bike cop over]: Hey, will you come over here and talk to this guy?

The dialogue continues with the leaner, meaner bike cop. He walks over with a "I'm going to sort this bloke out" demeanour.

Leaner Meaner Bike Cop: Mate, the law says that a motorcycle has to travel as close to the left hand side of the carriage way as possible — and that means about 1 metre from the kerb.

IB: But why? Why on earth is the left-hand edge of the road supposed to be safer for a motorcycle?

LMBC: It's so that cars can pass motorcycles more conveniently.

IB: But if I was to travel on the left, it might be more CONVENIENT for the car, but it definitely wouldn't be SAFER for me. I mean, I can just see it happening: bike travelling on left hand side — car begins to pass bike — car then sees oncoming vehicle on the other side of the road — car then moves left to avoid oncoming vehicle — bike is forced off the road to directly encounter all manner of hazards, such as... (At this point the Incredulous Biker goes through his list of hazards associated with the left hand side of the road, and extols the virtues of the right hand side. He meets with the same brick wall.)

LMBC: Mate, the law says that you have to travel on the left!

IB: Well, this just might be one of those cases when the law is unsafe, don't you think?

The Incredulous Biker then cites a recent incident in which a car pulled out from a parking space on the left hand side of the road. Had the Biker been travelling on the left hand side of his lane, avoiding the errant cage would have been impossible; but as he was habitually sticking to the right, he managed to just miss the front corner of the car.

LMBC [getting impatient]: Look mate, I know what riding a bike is all about. I do heaps more kilometres than you and...

IB [butting in]: Excuse me, but I do about 200 kilometres a day.

LMBC [spluttering]: Err... well... OK then, maybe you do more kilometres than me, but I've been riding bikes since I was 16, and I'm telling you that day in and day out I never [sic] have problems with people pulling out in front of me.

Incredibly Incredulous Biker [looking aside to the huge white Harley with massive fairing festooned with pretty blue lights]: Well, if I was on a bike like that, I reckon I wouldn't have too many people pulling out in front of me, either. But all things aside, could you really have booked me for not travelling on the left?

LMBC: Yep! I get a couple of blokes a week on that one!

IIB: Well mate, if you'd booked me I would have seen you in court.

LMBC: But you would have lost, because the law says...

IIB: But I reckon I could put together a case which would have any judge nodding in agreement!

By this time things were getting less constructive, so I thanked the officers for so clearly explaining the law to an ignorant survivor like me, and went on my not-so-merry way.

So then, all you surviving bikers out there, judge for yourselves. To my mind, one thing is sure: if I was to rigorously adhere to the KEEP-TO-THE-LEFT law, I could well no longer be in the 'survivor' category.

The absolute irony of it all is the sentence at the bottom of the Caution Notice: "The Police Department seeks your co-operation in attempting to decrease the number of vehicle accidents in our State by obeying all traffic laws..."

So long as we have Neanderthal laws like this which some police feel obliged to enforce, 'survivors' will be marked out by their application of their own common sense, not their obedience to the letter of the law.

Now this article was printed (in an edited form) in Two Wheels sometime in 1992. I'm not sure if that insane law has been repealed yet, but as soon as I find out I'll update things here. In the meantime, RIDE SAFE — even though that might not necessarily be legal!

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