March 29, 2010
Finally, we were getting out of Sydney. It’s a great place, but hectic to get around, especially with three vehicles and not a clue where you are going. Glad to be out on the open road agauin, we headed north and climbed slowly up past the giant Hawkesbury river towards the fertile Hunter Valley region which produces some of the country’s finest wines. The river itself was like black glass with just a single speedboat skimming along to break the mirror-like surface.
A few miles on we crested Mt Alum at the northern end of the Great Dividing Range to be met with a stunning view for tens of miles. We were so high that the sky looked like the sea below us in an optical illusion as it disappeared below the curvature of the earth.After that is was all downhill towards Nabiac, a small town which despite its size, houses the National Motorcycle Museum where we had arranged to film the next day.
It was Sunday evening and everything was shut but the pub and the 24-hour garage on the highway.
We had booked a small house behind the museum for the night and when we arrived another group of bikers from the Easy Riders Club based in Ipswich outside Brisbane were there, also trying to find accommodation.
Their spokesman Cheffie, sporting a Bismarck beard met us with a roar, shouting, ‘Are you the Irish dudes?
‘We tried putting on Irish accents but they wouldn’t let us in.’
We soon realised that despite their fearsome appearance they weren’t hostile and had a yarn about what we were all up to
They were out on a four-day ride from home and had also been down to Sydney.
Cheffie gave us his club’s card – their motto ‘Adventure before Dementia’ and invited us to come stay with them when we got up.
“We’ve got three spare bedrooms now the kids have gone and we can sleep about 30.”
We laughed, but I wasn’t sure he was joking.
In return for his details, we gave him one of our newly-printed Adelaide Adventure cards and they all roared off to the pub for a couple of ‘medicinal’ beers and to plan their next move.
We retired to our house for the night, which was so much like a cabin out of the Beverley Hillbillies that we all started calling each other Jed and Zeke, while Matt cooked out on the verandah, the neighbourhood gone to hell in a matter of minutes.
It was a big hike to the museum next day – all of 100 feet, where we met Margaret Kelleher who runs it, along with her husband, former dirt racer Brian. Their son also races and the whole family are mad collectors of everything from motorcycles and vintage cars to Snoopy figurines, which the grandchildren give to Brian.
After informing Geoff that his Deus Ex Machina shirt was very popular among the gay fraternity in Sydney, she introduced us to Acme, the miniature pinscher, who has had very expensive eye cataract surgery, but who now suffers from arthritis and Margaret cheerfully reckoned she won’t last the winter.
She also admitted she ‘hung one on last night’ and was suffering a bit, but would take us on a tour of the 800-plus bikes in her collection, including some very rare models like a 1920s Indian and a Vincent Black Knight just to name two. They have been collecting for 38 years and moved the museum to the town from Canberra simply because the locals were nice to them when they traveled through on their bikes.
Margaret is fiercely patriotic and only buys Australian products unless she can’t avoid it, from ice cream to her Mighty-mite, as Vegemite has now been bought out by Kraft.
“Every bike here was in the country and we never sell a bike. People make us offers but we just say no.”
The collection is vast, with many examples of variations on the same models and includes at least four bikes I have owned and ridden.
There is even a small selection of home-made bikes just like the one that started me off when I was just 11.
There is even the remains of a Harley on display that was destroyed in the devastating bushfires of the previous summer that killed almost 200 people.
Another interesting exhibit is an Australian-built 47cc Yamaha-powered bike that broke land speed records for 50cc, 75cc and 100cc engines.
Margaret had us laughing with her tales of what certain motorcycle acronyms really stood for. KTM was ‘Kick The Mongrel’ as they first came with a left-hand kickstart, which made them difficult to get going. BSA was ‘Bloody Stopped Again’ while AJS was ‘Ah Jesus Start’.
Margaret finally let us go after around three hours of stories, just as Brian rolled up to crack more jokes with us. We’d loved to have stayed all day, but the road was calling and we were set for Coffs Harbour in the far north of NSW by nightfall.
As we left, they warned us to beware of mosquitoes and use plenty of repellent, as there was Ross River fever – a nasty little disease, and dengue fever further up the coast after all the recent rains, which of course cheered us up no end as we set off for what promised to be another spectacular ride.