February 27, 2010
Adventures always begin at dawn.
Or, to be more precise, standing in the Belfast rain at four in the morning waiting for the bus to Dublin Airport with Colin and our enormous film crew of Matt and his mate Gareth McGrillan.
“Everybody got everything?” said Matt. “Passport, ticket, money, driving licence?”
“Driving licence?” I said, realising two things simultaneously: that I had left it on the hall table, and that I was just about to ride 15,000 miles around a country with no proof that I was capable of doing so.
Still, at least for the first time ever I had insurance, courtesy of Adelaide’s Sam Geddis, who met us at the airport with his wife Gloria.
Although it was six in the morning, Gloria, in a dazzling triumph of style over grim reality, was wearing an outfit which wouldn’t have looked out of place at Henley Regatta.
We took off, and for the first half hour I pressed every button on the entertainment system and kept coming back to a tone-deaf mullah chanting the Koran.
Just as I was about to become the world’s first Church of Ireland fundamentalist terrorist and attack the stewardess with the remote control, I gave up, read the instructions and found the Western classical channel.
I mean, no harm to Mohammed and all that, but Bach does far better tunes.
I watched Memoirs of a Geisha then listened to Eurythmics’ Greatest Hits, which made me feel a strange combination of Japanese and young again, then curled up as best I could and tried to get some sleep.
It seemed like I had hardly nodded off before we were landing at Melbourne.
“Good day, sir. What’s the purpose of your visit to Australia?” said the red-headed immigration official at the airport.
I knew he was bluffing, because I’d read enough guides to Oz and Twisting Throttle, Mike Hyde’s hilarious book about riding around the country, to know that Aussies didn’t talk like that. It was a test, like when the German officer said “Good luck” to Gordon Jackson just as he was getting on the bus in The Great Escape. And I was up to the occasion.
“G’Day, Blue. Hair gamay. Well, me and me mates here, we’re going to ride a couple of Triumphs from Adelaide through Crow Eater and Mexican country then up through Banana Bender land and beyond the black stump to the Never Never, then down through Sandgroper territory and home.
“And where are you planning to stay, sir?”
“We’re going to ride to the end of the arvo, mate, maybe having a few Vegemite snackies on the road, then stop by a billabong, roll out our swags, whip on the Speedos, go for a dip, keeping a good dekko for salties, shout each other a few stubbies of Fourex grog from the Esky in the back of the ute, then get a few snags and yabbies on the barbie, have a yabber and a last slash down the dunny, then get our heads down on the nearest gibber and nod off under the stars rapt with the warm fuzzies.”
“You coming the raw prawn with me, mate?” he said.
“Nah, it’s fair dinkum, mate. Ridgi Didge, straight up, cross me heart and hope to die.”
He thought for a moment, then reached into a drawer and passed a form across to me.
On the top were the words Australian Citizenship Test, and below the following questions:
1. Do you understand the meaning, but are unable to explain the origin of, the term “died in the arse”?
2. What is a “bloody little beauty”?
3. Are these terms related: chuck a sickie; chuck a spaz; chuck a U-ey?
4. Explain the following passage: “In the arvo last Chrissy the relos rocked up for a barbie, some bevvies and a few snags. After a bit of a Bex and a lie down we opened the pressies, scoffed all the chockies, biccies and lollies. Then we drained a few tinnies and Mum did her block after Dad and Steve had a barney and a bit of biffo.”
5. Macca, Chooka and Wanger are driving to Surfers in their Torana. If they are travelling at 100 km/h while listening to Barnsey, Farnsey and Acca Dacca, how many slabs will each person on average consume between flashing a brown eye and having a slash?
6. Complete the following sentences:
a) If this van’s rockin’, don’t bother ?…”
b) You’re going home in the back of a ?
c) Fair crack of the ?
7. I’ve had a gutful and I can’t be fagged. Discuss.
8. Have you ever been on the giving or receiving end of a wedgie?
9. Do you have a friend or relative who has a car in their front yard ‘up on blocks’? Is his name Bruce and does he have a wife called Cheryl?
10. Does your family regularly eat a dish involving mincemeat, cabbage, curry powder and a packet of chicken noodle soup called either chow mein, chop suey or kai see ming?
11. What are the ingredients in a rissole?
12. Demonstrate the correct procedure for eating a Tim-Tam.
13. Do you have an Aunty Irene who smokes 30 cigarettes a day and sounds like a bloke?
14. In any two-hour period have you ever eaten three-bean salad, a chop and two serves of pav washed down with someone else’s beer that has been flogged from a bath full of ice?
15. When you go to a bring-your-own-meat barbie can you eat other people’s meat or are you only allowed to eat your own?
16. What purple root vegetable beginning with the letter ‘b’ is required by law to be included in a hamburger with the lot?
17. Do you own or have you ever owned a lawnmower, a pair of thongs, an Esky or Ugg boots?
18. Is it possible to prang a car while doing circle work?
19. Who would you like to crack on to?
20. Who is the most Australian: Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson, John ‘True Blue’ Williamson, Kylie Minogue or Warnie?
I took it from him, sat in a corner for half an hour filling in the answers carefully, then brought it back. He studied it just as carefully, then nodded his head and put it back in the drawer.
“Good on ya, mate,” he said, reaching across and shaking my hand. “Sludder.”
“Sluddermay,” I said, picking up my bag and preparing to walk away.
“Oh, just one final thing…”
My heart froze. Was everything to fail, at this final hour?
“Do you have a criminal record?”
I sighed with relief, and reached into my bag.
“I didn’t think it was necessary any longer, mate, but I brought this just in case,” I said, handing him a CD of Daniel O’Donnell’s The Christmas Album.
He took it gingerly from me, then tossed it into the bin.
“That’s crim enough for me, mate. Hope she’ll be apples for ya.”
I shook his hand again for good measure, and was just walking towards the exit when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I froze, fearing I had been caught at the last minute for only pretending I liked Vegemite, only to hear the familiar voice of Colin, as if from a distance.
“Wake up mate. We’re landing in Melbourne in 10 minutes. You all right?” he said.
I looked groggily around, and realised we were still on the plane.
“Aye. I just had this mad dream that we’d already landed,” I said, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
In the end, the officials at the airport took a cursory glance at our passports, wished us a good stay in Oz, and sent us on our way.
Switching our water down the plughole setting to clockwise and the intonation at the end of our sentences to Up rather than Down, we stepped out of the terminal into the balmy heat of a Melbourne evening.
We found a hotel, checked in, and three things happened in quick succession. First of all we looked at a map and discovered that Australia was very big, and that the events we’d planned for the first few days, namely lawnmower racing and a big salt lake drag racing event, were so far away that it would take us most of the three months planned for the trip to get there.
And one of Matt’s brand new high-resolution cameras refused to work.
There. With nothing to do and no way to film it, we did the only thing possible: cracked open the bottle of Bundaberg rum Colin had bought at the airport, had a mug, and went to bed.
Whereupon I dreamt that Sam was sitting at a desk in the shallows of a Scottish lough interviewing a large white water rat while someone sailed by under a scarlet parachute.
I did try sanity once, but it didn’t agree with me.
By the time we got onto the plane for the short hop to Adelaide the next morning, I had become convinced that the Australian Government was putting Prozac in the water, since every single person we had met since we arrived had been unfailingly cheery, optimistic and helpful. Including the drug sniffer dog at the airport.
It was an impression confirmed by the fact that among the duty-free items for sale in the Qantas in-flight magazine was a guitar, presumably in case everyone on board fancied a good old sing-song.
However, that discovery was not the highlight of the day. It was not even stripping off and picking up the back-up vehicle which the chaps at Wicked Campers had painted up for us with an inspired combination of bike adventure graphics and rude quotations.
No, it was the moment when we collected the keys of two Tigers from the Triumph dealer in Adelaide, starting up the engine and hearing that sweet hum which had been all the way from Chile to Alaska on my previous adventure and was again in this moment the sound of freedom and the open road.
February 15, 2010
February 11, 2010
After weeks of sniggering over Geoff’s clanger at leaving his side stand down on our promo clip, my karma finally caught up with my dodgy dogma and savaged my ego.My fall from grace came as was trying out my new super-dooper Schuberth helmet for the first time, thinking it might be an idea to get used to it before head butting a wallaby.Pulling it out of the box, I was once again a little boy on Christmas morning.I fiddled with the air vents, I opened and shut the face and visor, and best of all, flipped the integral sun visor that makes you look like Robocop, up and down interminably.One minute I was a Storm Trooper from Star Wars ‘He’s your father Luke… aaarccch-hhhcccaaaww’, the next, Maverick in Top Gun, ‘He’s on my six Goose!’ plus countless other fantasies, which I won’t go into as this is a family website.Ah, the imagination is a great thing.Planning a little squirt up to the Adelaide Insurance offices to relieve Sam Geddis of some readies, I suited up and headed off.I had the visor up as I headed down the Antrim Road, sun visor down to look cool, so noticed nothing amiss apart from the fact that it was much quieter than normal under my lid and I could hear my engine a lot more clearly than usual because of the superior sound damping of the Schuberth.It was only when I hit the West link that I noticed something amiss.For the uninitiated, Schuberth helmets have a double visor set up which stops fogging. I’d noticed this feature, but trusting German engineering, hadn’t paid it too much attention. I’d also noticed that the inside visor had a kind of greenish tinge, but assumed that was part of the anti-fogging process.Blasting along the motorway in the bright sunshine I found the view a bit fuzzy.Hello, I thought, this isn’t great – what’s the point of an anti-fogging device that make the view permanently semi-fogged.Soon I found myself riding with my head at an angle so I could see through the clear bit of visor at the top where the second layer didn’t cover.It was like riding while looking through a letterbox at 60mph.Still clueless, but still keeping the faith with the notion that there must be a method in this Teutonic madness, I arrived at Adelaide to put the hard word on Sam.A cup of coffee and several anecdotes later, I set off again.Now the sun had gone back into hiding and the more familiar grey aspect of Belfast emerged and I was starting to get a little annoyed with the view from inside my new hi-tech lid.Riding the rest of the way with visor up, I arrived over at Geoff’s for our regular male-bonding session over a cup of finest Columbian gold and some French fancies from the little home bakery at Fortwilliam.I raised the issue of the double visor and asked what he thought.”How do you find it Geoff? Don’t you think vision is a bit poor? There’s not much point in having an an anti-fogging device if it makes you feel that you are permanently riding in a light mist.”Geoff looked at me perplexed and set off to hunt out his own Schuberth.He took it out of its bag. Looked at it, looked at mine and looked at me, an evil smile curling his top lip.”You haven’t taken the the protective plastic coating off, ya bloody Aussie drongo!”And verily it came to pass that Colin was brought low!No more schadenfreude for me – those bloody Germans have made a big enough fool out of me as it is.
February 10, 2010
Colin called around today wearing his shiny new Schuberth helmet for the first time.
“Here, is the visor meant to be this opaque?” he said. Then discovered he’d been riding around with the protective strip of plastic on the inside.
I may ride off with the sidestand down, but at least I can see where I’m going.
Naturally, it would be very ungentlemanly of me to embarrass Colin by mentioning any of this, so I won’t.
February 6, 2010
Great to hear from the legendary Ken Johnston on the site. Ken is not only the owner of the finest moustache in Christendom, but the owner of a motorbike that’s done the equivalent of four times around the planet.
Thanks to all of you who noticed that I rode off with the sidestand down in one of the film clips in the trip preview.
I can’t quite understand how I did it, since I thought Triumph had idiot-proof technology in place to cut out the engine if you put it into gear with the stand down. Obviously my idiocy was strong enough to beat the system.
I’d like to pretend that I did it deliberately just to check you were all paying attention, or that I leave the stand down as a handy prop for taking a rest if I get tired halfway around a left-hand bend.
But I won’t.
February 2, 2010
Stars of the racing world including GP legend Loris Capirossi turned out at the Ramada Hotel to celebrate the best in Irish road racing and the boys were there to show off their liveried Triumph and publicise their upcoming adventure.
The bike got its fair share of attention, with many of the racers joking about being jealous and wanting to know if they could come along for the ride.
It’s hoped Geoff and Colin will able to meet up with Irish riders Eugene Laverty and Johnathan Rea.
Eugene was named Adelaide Irish Motorcyclist of the Year for the first time at the Adelaide awards.
The top riders will be taking a break in Australia after racing at Phillip Island at the end of February, before they head off for the next round of the World Supersport Championship and may even join the boys for a few miles.
January 6, 2010
First the good news: after Matt Curry, the evil mastermind behind filming the Adelaide to Adelaide Adventure, woke me at the crack of nine this morning to suggest mailing all the sponsors to get giant stickers for the Wicked Campers back-up vehicle, I thought it would be even better if Etihad had a giant inflatable Airbus 380 we could stick on the roof.
The bad news is they don’t. Sob.
January 6, 2010
On the subject of bikes for the trip, Colin says –
“We have decided on Triumph 1050 Tigers, as they are very reliable and a great all-round machine, both fast and comfortable with a great load capacity. Geoff rode one from Chile to Alaska on his last adventure as recounted in his best-selling book, The Road to Gobblers Knob, and it proved virtually indestructible, despite his best efforts, including flinging it along a road in Columbia. Triumph have been fantastic and are supplying the bikes in Oz, and have also provided all our riding gear, bar helmets which Schuberth have kindly donated. We’re trying to keep other kit to a minimum and will only carry vital spares, water and fuel where necessary. We plan to pretty much live in our riding gear, with just shorts and t-shirts for relaxing in. The weather should be warm most of the way around so clothes are not that important. The toughest section is going to be the Northern Territory, with hundreds of miles between stops, heat, dust and flies, never mind no garages if something breaks.
We will also have a two-man camera crew, who will travel in a campervan, and the bikes and helmets will also have cameras aboard. We want to avoid the ‘cast of thousands’ syndrome and keep it simple and fun, for both bikers and non-bikers and of interest to everyone with a sense of adventure and curiosity about the ‘Great Southern Land’ and it’s cultures and peoples.
January 5, 2010
Our new mate John at Wicked Campers –www.wickedcampers.com.au is supplying a pimped up Camper to use as our film crew vehicle for the whole trip around Australia – how cool is that. We first spotted these four wheeled wonders last year – each of them is themed and painted up with inappropriate quotes written all over them. We had the pleassure of seeing the Wicked Camper dedicated to Chuck Norris with the immortal quote – ‘There is no theory of evolution – Just a list of creatures Chick Norris has allowed to live’ – parked outside Steve Irwin’s Zoo funny enough. John has promised to paint one up real special for us – we can’t wait to see what Wicked Campers comes up with. We hear you get your first days rental free if you turn up naked to collect the wagon. We may spare you that in the video updates from Oz.
January 5, 2010
Dring dring! It’s Nichola, the dazzling head of marketing at Adelaide Insurance, on the phone with the thrilling news that the helmets from Schuberth and the motorcycle clothing from Triumph have arrived at their office.Tell her to make sure Sam Geddis, the MD of Adelaide who’s joining us for the first two weeks of the trip, doesn’t wander around the office wearing his helmet and frightening the staff, and she says it’s too late.Half an hour later, Colin and I are in Sam’s office trying on all the gear and feeling like boys who’ve got a new Action Man outfit for Christmas.Except this time we’re the Action Men. I think.Anyway, it’s all superb, especially the helmets, which are incredibly comfortable and quiet. I said THEY’RE REALLY QUIET! What? Hello?