Amazingly, my wayward sportbike seems to be operating within acceptable parameters so far. So on the workbench will be dad’s ’77 Honda Express, to which I lamentably lost a tiny-but-key piece to two summers ago (carb float pin; paper-clip like object the size of a fly’s leg), and my newly acquired ’76 Schwinn lay waiting to revived.
After having the carburators on the GSXR rebuilt I was left with enough bits to get the Express’ tiny thumper pumping again, whether or not the rest of the machine is willing to cooperate remains to be realized… the rear wheel bearing is weak enough to shake with a slight pull of the rear brake and the (original) tires are literally molding.
The bicycle’s issues are more cosmetic, by nature of being significantly less complex.
Let the labor begin!
The northeastern USA officially had it’s first “favorable weather weekend” seven days ago, and summer vehicles wasted no time in making themselves known.
I spotted this tidy E30 on Franklin Avenue with some of my favorite modifications; french-style amber high beams and a blacked-out grille. I even like the color. Wheels are off an E46; much cleaner than many aftermarket options in my opinion.
Just down the street was this R/60… from the rounded edges and small fuel tank I’d estimate it’s an older one (1960′s). I’d liken my relationship with these bikes to that of Wayne Campbell and a ’64 Fender Stratocaster in classic white with triple single coil pickups and a whammy bar.
They’re so well executed and universally respected, it’s hard to go wrong with a classic Bimmer.
Along the lines of classic, I was keen to investigate these cafe’ed bikes as well. Not BMWs, but chopped to the minimalist “cafe racer” style that seems to be experiencing a resurgence. I’ll take these over a post-2000 sportbike any day, “there’s no school like old school”.
My father’s been taunting me with that adage all weekend as his ’81 commuter snapped to life days ago after winter’s hibernation. My airhead is still languishing on in the back corner of his garage until I can get back out to revive it.
Apartment hunting is the worst.
Just as car salesmen continue to perpetuate their less than favorable reputations, the realtors I’ve met don’t seem to be in any rush to improve their image either.
My requirements are pretty basic; I just want to live downtown, equidistant from a gym, bar, and coffee shop, with easy highway access, one of those sweet stainless-steel microwaves, and of course climate-controlled indoor storage for a car, 4×4, race car, and three… maybe five… motorcycles. I mean, I don’t even have any pets!
It’s not like I haven’t been trying. Every day I go on Craigslist, type “batcave” into the search bar of the Housing section, and hope for the best. Still nothing.
But recent developments in my domestic situation have taken my thought process to the next level (or perhaps, the next level down).
Our shower stopped working, so I effectively ceased usage of the apartment’s bathroom (having a much nicer one at work for poop-related ventures).
I’ve already long since abandon the kitchen, having found it’s highly preferable to outsource all cooking to the falafel guy in Davis Square, the near unlimited supply of bagels at my office, and Taco Loco.
Ergo, the question I had to ask became obvious: Could I live in a garage?
A big one, of course. At least three-car sized… my bed/home office would occupy about a car’s worth of space, my Acura would sleep on the far end and my motorcycles could rest in between. Obviously sacrifices will have to be made this summer if Project 2002 comes to fruition, but at that point it will be warm enough for me to sleep outside.
But if I’m already showering at the gym, eating every meal from food trucks, and taking my dumps with the ducks in Boston Common, why waste money on renting a bathroom and kitchen I don’t need?
The Criterion/Electronic Arts team typically kills it with their semi-live action-looking video game commercials. Their new ad for the latest exploitation of the “Need For Speed” franchise appeals to the hoon in all of us:
Nice blend of campy-overdrama and the lovely lines of some supercar favorites. Will probably be adding this game to my arsenal of procrastination tools… in two years when it’s $19.99.
I had forgotten just how imposing a Dodge Viper is in person, but a brand-new ARC Edition with a jet airliner sized GT wing is something spectacular to behold.
Spotted this monster coiled up near one of the car dealers I work with in Natick, and I have to say I’m really digging the black/red accent on white colorscheme.
Side-exit exhaust and engine bay you could land a helicopter on help this car make a bold statement indeed. And who could look upon that decidedly serpentinian face and not cower in fear?
Behind those menacing headlights lies a 8.4-liter V10 that belches out 600 horsepower- enough to buy this Viper a plate at the 200 MPH Club dinner. In around 14 seconds.
In case my pretentious diction just did a donut around your brain, that means this car can go from scratching its balls at a stoplight to charging foward at 200 MPH in less time than it took you to read those last three sentences.
Only 500 were made between 2008 and 2010, so keep your eyes open for this one if you’re in the New England area.
Found this gem parked outside of the ADESA Auto Auction in Framingham, MA.
It caught my eye from across the parking lot because, I mean, come on.
At first I thought it was the failed abortion of a GM concept (the Monte Carlo taillights) or maybe it was “bring your kid to work day” at the design studio and somebody hit “send” instead of “save” on this beauty.
But closer inspection revealed that this could not possibly have come from anywhere that was anything more advanced than what we in the industry call a “shade-tree” mechanic.
I’d venture a guess that this vehicle was literally constructed under a tree. And probably in the dark.
Remember that Simpsons episode where Homer works for a car company and builds a one-off called “The Homer”?
I mean, right?
Aside from the taillights the only thing that’s really identifiable are the wheels. They look a little early-911 to me, but I imagine they’re from something far less prestigious. What chassis, suspension and driveline setup this wildman is running is anybody’s guess. As badly as I wanted to meet the creator of this creature it was about 105 degrees outside and sadly I had to prioritize a Dunkin Donuts run.
Okay, as tempting as it is to just shit on this thing with its bumpy hand-fiberglassed body panels, mismatched gauge faces and what I’m pretty sure is hand-rolled paintjob, let’s take a step back and think about what this guy’s done.
He had an idea for his own car design, and he fucking went for it. Sure it probably didn’t come out as sleek as he had imagined, but if I had attempted this I guarantee it would look ten times worse. Fiberglass is really hard to work with, and custom-making an interior is no cakewalk either, even if it is rudimentary.
As goofy as it looks we can’t discount what he has accomplished- the body fits (pretty much), and presumably the car works. I mean, it was wearing license plates and sitting in a day-use parking lot. So hey, he’s not going to win a Concourse show anytime soon but for all intents and purposes; “Mission Accomplished” and bravo for giving a pretty insane project the old college try.
That said, the idiot who approved this car for an inspection sticker I’d like to have a few words with.
Well, not everyday. Can’t sit in front of the computer that long. But RoadRoving.com has officially spilled into the world of Tumblr and is making a habit of aggregating great images I didn’t create but reckon you’d enjoy over there.
Sticking primarily to artistic photos of vintage cars and motorcycles for now, but you might catch the occasional supercar or Suicide Girl if you visit often enough…
Give us a look at http://www.tumblr.com/blog/roadrovingadventures.
Just returned from seven weeks on tour that had my team and I crossing Australia east-to-west, playing the longest golf course in the world, spelunking, competing in the Australasian Safari Desert Race, riding the infamous John Holland Track solo, then finally bringing a team of bikers across the country again west-to-east.
Tour season’s over, but I’m going to try and squeeze one more Cape York in before the wet season sets in.
When I get back, I’ll publish the last two months worth of triumph and tragedy.
Can’t wait for more moto-madness? Here’s a preview of what I’ve been up to…
The ride out of Birdsville was less than ideal. The Birdsville Races (a major horseracing event) was taking place the following weekend, and traffic was steadily coming our way.
And when you have to pull over, cover your face, and absorb a barrage of rocks every time you pass an oncoming truck, travel can get a bit frustrating.
But we made it to the Windora pub safely, where Magnus made friends with the Swedish chick working the taps and I admired an old Daihatsu 4×4 that had been put out to pasture.
After fueling up with Merv, the blind servo manager, we left for Longreach where we picked up our trailer, bid adieu to our clients set a course for base camp at Airlie Beach.
Having depleted our provisions, dinner was a simple dish that I’m almost ashamed to admit I’m quite familiar with; “mix in your mouth” nachos.
Yep. That’s when you eat chips, cheese, and meat without a plate.
Coupla days off… then Safari.
The Simpson Desert. Vast, untamed expanse of sand in the middle of the world’s largest island. Taking three times as long to cross as the Sahara, the French Line across the Simpson is one of the most epic rides to be had in Australia.
It’s the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer of my season with OAT.
And with the floods subsided and my shoulder healed, I was finally getting my shot.
Each morning on the track felt like Christmas… I woke up with a giddy anticipation I hadn’t known since I was a rugrat tearing through wrapping paper. And with each day I got a little bit better at managing the sand, the dunes, the Simpson.
I was determined to finish the track with my body and bike in as good condition as they had been when I began, keen to prove Mags wrong that I could in fact return one of his vehicles in usable condition.
So what’s so great about riding a motorcycle across the desert?
Imagine skiing the best run of your life; lots of speed, deep powder, sweeping turns. Now imagine that never ending until you release the throttle.
Thanks to the miracle of the internal combustion engine, a motorcycle can ski up the hills as well. Each kilometers is more fun than the last and after an hour or two in the saddle the balance, engine control and focus just clicks.
When we pulled up for the night, I collapsed into my chair at the fire with the kind of spent-satisfaction you have after a six-hour shag session.
We passed a few other groups of interest along the way. A group of blokes on Suzuki DR650’s, a big pack of camels, and a team of journalists reviewing 4x4s… including a four wheel drive Mini and a Chinese Great Wall SUV. Our riders reckoned they were wasting their time and ruining the track, but I was glad to see someone try something different.
The west-to-east crossing (which we took) is easier than the other way because the dunes aren’t as steep. Shaped by the prevailing wind, heading eastbound allows you to enjoy a long run-up up the dune, then a steep drop into the next gully. The dunes also get bigger as you head east, giving a nice and linear progression of difficulty.
Right up to the boss: Big Red.
Whether you’re on a motorcycle, 4×4, camel, or unicycle, Big Red is one of those “boxes to tick” if you’re off roading in Australia. Just about thirty kilometers from Birdsville, it’s fairly easy to get to but a proper monolith to behold.
The last time I had seen it was from the passenger seat of the Isuzu, chocking back winces as pain shot through my recently-destroyed AC joint.
Now I was back. On a bike. And I wanted revenge.
By the time we reached Big Red the hour was late, shadows were long, and everyone was dying for a beer.
I sensed that Carl and Bruce, having already surmounted Big Red years before, would be content to bypass it and head straight to the pub. But I knew I’d only be back here once, and I’d be driving the truck. There was no way I was going to get this close without having a go.
I stabbed the throttle ceremonially.
But I resisted a sandy burnout, and walked up to speed.
I heard Magnus’ voice in my head, like Obi-Wan Kenobi guiding Luke Skywalker out of the Hoth;
“…Up straight, steady application of power…”
I was getting closer and Big Red was growing.
It looked far bigger from the saddle of this bike than the cockpit of our truck.
Hands were starting to sweat as I picked up speed.
I strangled the horn to scatter the desert pigeons out of my path, the dune was towering over me like a tidal wave and I was experiencing genuine fear.
The front wheel hit the dune and I powered-on all the way, yelling into my helmet and leaning as hard as I could against the force of acceleration.
“GIVE IT HELL!”
It was all over in seconds… I was standing on the top, heart still racing at full throttle, stomach still at the bottom of the hill, and the bike idling calmly as though nothing had happened.
I allowed myself a fist pump and shut the bike down to avoid overheating.
After some photos it was time to hit the bar. An easy descent and a fun 30 kilometers later we were riding out of the sunset and pulling up once again at the famous Birdsville Pub, where people with names like “Wizard” tell you about the time they crossed the Simpson in a nitrogen-powered rickshaw.
But no matter how tall the tales get in that bar, I knew I had made it across and that’s all I needed.
In a couple months time I’ll be back… on twice as many wheels, which will be ten times as hard. I can only hope for as much success as the desert allows.
At the gateway of the Simpson Desert (eastbound route) lies Purni Bore, the last water to be found until Eyre Creek three days on.
While enjoying morning tea there we had a visit from famous Australian Dick Smith. The corporate mogul/philanthropist who’s one of the most respected men in the country happened to be cruising the desert in his Bell 206 LongRanger.
He spotted our vehicle and reckoned it was a mobile espresso machine, so he came down in a whir of dust and noise to have a cuppa and spin a yarn.
Dick talked with us for some time, and I was quite glad I had resisted mooning the chopper on its way in.
By the time he left we were behind schedule, so we wrapped up the chain and sprocket swap we were working on and hit the track hard.
We were officially in the Simpson, and the sand waits for no man.
After Finke I got my second real taste of sand riding on the way into Lambert Center, a loamy and twisty ride of 12 kilometers to the geographic center of the world’s largest island.
Carl offered some good advice on negociating the blind corners;
“Imagine there’s a car coming around every corner. If you’re not in control going around the corner, there’s no point in going around the corner at all.”
Making it both in and out of the Center without coming off or colliding with another vehicle, I finished another day feeling satisfied.
Our next stop was Dalhousie Springs, a beautiful swimming spot kept at a toasty 30-something degrees Celsius by geothermal heat. But once again I found the parking lot more interesting than the point of interest, as I spotted a late-90′s Defender with French license plates and just about every accessory you can strap to a Landy.
The family of four traveling in it were indeed from France, having shipped the vehicle to Melbourne they had driven it to the Red Centre and were planning on driving home through Asia and the ‘Stans after a lap of Australia.
I had a hard enough time overlanding with my family to Prince Edward Island from Boston ten years ago… can’t imagine how these Frenchies will get on, but good luck to them.
Two roof tents, an awning, hood-mounted tire, and a quarter-panel jerry can mount… Magnus reckoned whoever built this did a Google search of everything cool you could stick on a Land Rover and bought whatever he saw. I could do without the stickers, but looks nice in white.
But despite having the entire catalog of off-road accoutrements, the only way you can be sure it’s a Land Rover is the fact that the hood is up.
The second half of the Darwin to Longreach expedition was to have a decidedly… different tone.
We would be picking up the ‘significant others’ of our riders, who would be crossing the Simpson with us in the truck.
That means no more potty mouth, sexist jokes or peeing in the middle of the road.
Now, I’m not licensed to drive a vehicle with paying passengers in this country. So it also means that I get to swap a steering wheel for handlebars, and my Billu Barber playlist for the the screech of a 400cc thumper.
Remember how we had to rebuild the guide bike in the woods?
When the boys put it back together, they had the good sense to ditch the stock piston for a high-compression Wiesco affair that eats fuel and shits power like an NFL player on a dialysis machine.
I masterfully backed the truck into its space at the caravan park we were staying and handed Magnus the keys… he was already shaking his head for any one of a million reasons.
The next day was go time.
Before we took off Magnus looked at the souped-up DR-Z, then to me; “It’s perfectly straight. No dents, no dings.”
“I aim to keep it that way, sir” I replied, folding my arms and straightening my back.
He looked bike at the bike, and with half a laugh; “You won’t.”
We powered out of town and headed toward Finke, following the route of the race we had spectated about two months prior. The race track is right next to the main road. I mean, right next to it. They criss-cross at a handful of points, and there’s not much more than a few scruffs of camel grass between road and rack for the rest of the time.
Carl and Bruce were into it straight away. Carl had completed the actual race years prior, and came into his element as soon as his wheels hit the bumps. I heard the crack of his exhaust, then barely had time to yield as a blur of blue riding gear and black plastic flew past me and into the horizon. There was no question he was on familiar territory.
With my pledge to keep the motorcycle intact at the front of my mind, I approached the course with a bit more caution.
Hunched over the bars going just fast enough to clear the whoops, I picked my way down the course at peewee pace.
Sweating and scrambling to stay straight, I heard a familiar voice come through the helmet comm.
buzzbuzz “How you goin’ mate? You don’t have to respond, but let me tell you something- straighten up and drop a gear. It’ll get a whole lot easier.”
It was Magnus- I was so wrapped up in staying upright I hadn’t even noticed the truck running parallel to me on the main road.
I heeded the tip and indeed, picked up another ten KPH easily.
buzz “That’s the way, you’ll catch Grabbo [2011 Finke Champion] in no time.”
Here I was, riding a superenduro bike on the Finke Desert Race track, getting tips in my helmet radio from a motorcycling guru in a support truck. Bloody. Brilliant.
The truck steamed ahead and crossed the track to head for a campsite near Finke river, the other riders and I following over a few deep dunes.
By the time we pulled up I had an all new level of respect for the Finke competitors… I had ridden a quarter of the track at a fifth of race speed and I was knackered. I can no longer deny the size of kahunas necessary to complete the race.
The river we camped near was bone dry; a wide stream of sand cutting through the desert gully.
We tried to tow some firewood out, but the power-to-weight ratio just wasn’t there.
But since the bike was already in the sand, Magnus took the opportunity to put on a clinic.
He had me hop on the bike in the middle of the river to see how far I could get. But after all the revving and pushing I could muster, the only movement I got out of the rear wheel was down into the sand.
The captain took the reigns and showed us how the pros do it.
“Start in second, and rev the piss out of it.”
Words that would ring true in my head for the rest of the trip.
He released the clutch and took off down the river, made an easy 180 and was next to me again facing the other way before I was finished shaking my head.
I mirrored the technique, and sure enough the tire bit and propelled me down the river. Using about four times the space Mags had to make the turn, I slowly gained steering control of the bike by shifting my weigh on the pegs rather than turning the bars.
“Aaand that’s sand riding.”
Returning to the camp site I felt like I was getting the hang of this… and was happy to have kept the bike intact as promised so far.
Some say a man’s mind can be the most menacing of prisons.
That being said, I would liken a trip down the Tanami Desert Road to a stint in solitary confinement at Saint-Lazare.
It is without question the most dreadfully boring stretch of overlanding I’ve ever completed. I thought I-70 across Kansas was bad, but at least that has the occasional porn shop and/or Jesus Loves You billboard to keep your spirits up.
There are no points of interest, no turns and no chance for sanity on the Tanami. But my suffering paled in comparison to that of the riders.
While I reckoned I was bored in the truck with A/C and Bollywood beats pumping, the boys on the bikes were enduring ass-numbing corrugations and mind-numbing monotony all the way to Alice Springs.
I pulled up at one point and all three of them were face-down in the dirt, broken men.
The fact of the matter is there are only so many motorcycle configurations, future trips, and women you can picture naked before you start going truly insane without sensory input. And the Tanami Road is about as close as you can get without being locked in a tower with an iron mask on.
But we persevered, and would be rewarded for our patience with the glorious Simpson Desert just a few days away.
Gregory River National Park, Northern Territory. Check out the photo album here.
The track through is described as “easy with some rough sections” by the guide… but I pity the fool who braves it in an X-Trail or Forrester.
Sure, some of the ride was fairly flat. But sharp rock gardens, a few slippery water crossings and one major hill climb would separate the boys from the men in short order.
The “road” all but disappeared a few times and the Isuzu had trees for breakfast. But we knew we were in the wildlands when we had to break out the axe to make room for our vehicles.
I caught up with a dingo further along down the track. I tried to get him to “fetch”, but he wasn’t having it:
It ain’t adventure riding without detours.
Such was the case on the second day of our trip, when a formidable river proved impassible. A re-route isn’t the end of the world, but unfortunately this one entailed hundreds of kilometers on paved bitumen roads… which nearly is the end of the world.
As a silver lining the detour brought us by Grove Hill, a charming pub that had come under new management just thirty short years ago. And based on the complete absence of carbonation in the beers we suffered through, I’d say it had been that long since they served a drink as well.
I had the misfortune of catching one of the latter in right-rear rubber, and got to learn the tire changing practice for the beastly Isuzu.
The tire and wheel sets weigh as much as I do, and removing them from the carrier on the tail of the truck is the biggest challenge of the affair.
Carl was kind enough to render assistance in this process, and ripped a spare off the rack with such ferocity that it bounced a foot in the air and broke our barbeque off its hinges… an incident that would inconvenience us for the next fourteen days, and poor Carl would be reminded of often.
Magnus’ guide bike had been running like a squirrel caught in a sewing machine since somebody took it for a bath in one of Cape York’s many bog holes.
But after just one day trying to stay ahead of Carl and Bruce, the clamor from the engine was so connotative of catastrophe that we had no choice but to pull the thing apart the first night of the tour.
So the tools came out, the lights came on, and the spanners started to swing.
The top end of the engine came apart piece by piece as Magnus and Bruce dived deeper into the project, and we all dived into a third bottle of Kahlua.
I was admittedly nervous from the get-go, but when the clutch was exposed and the cam chain was being held up with a string my sentiments were shared by the whole team. It was getting to the point where more of the motorcycle was on the table than on the frame, and BAC levels were creeping past the legal limit.
The boys had the bike nearly back together by midnight, but when nobody could remember which point the cam gears were meant to line up at we wrapped it up for the night and finished in the morning.
The next day the remaining ironmongery came together beautifully, and after a few tedious minutes of making sure the machine started we had officially transformed the poorest running bike in the fleet to a high-compression, power-pumping monster.
Share the elation of the moment in this clip of the first fireup:
Just a few hours south of Darwin lies the Reynolds River 4WD track, a tight track through the NT with lots of bumps, turns, and the two biggest water crossings of my career to date.
I’m pleased to report I’ve sharpened my truck-swimming skills since my blunderous Cape York experiences, and managed to make it through all the track’s rivers without incident.
Uh, …stalling doesn’t count.
We had lunch by the water but skedaddled when we saw the official government croc warning posted on a tree:
After sorting our gear and washing our clothes, Magnus and I met the riders at a bar on Darwin’s main drag.
We weren’t in town long, but liked what I saw- Mitchell Street was populated by ignorant-ass trucks, a Lamborghini and a fleet of pedicabs ridden by cute chicks from Europe.
I was particularly excited for this tour because I was finally getting the chance to see the Simpson Desert- and this time without my arm in a sling. I was also eager to meet our team, a pair of Australian riders named Carl and Bruce that had made it an annual tradition to take a sixteen day trip with Magnus for the last four years.
On our way home from the last Cape York tour, Magnus had briefed me on what to expect;
“Get some rest before we leave for Darwin, man,”
“Yeah. ‘Cause we’re going to be doing some hard, hard”
He paused and I raised an eyebrow at him, already feeling tired as I prepared to hear “work”.
We wedged the truck between some taxi-pedaling Estonian chicks and strode up to the bar. True to Magnus’ briefing, Bruce had a couple schooners under our noses before I could shake his hand. This crew was going to get on just fine.
Another tour, another transport stage.
Out late-August desert trip left from Darwin in the Northern Territory… putting about 2,700 kilometers between us and our rally point. Additionally we had to drop off a trailer where the tour would be ending (Longreach, QLD) so we could get our equipment home again once the tour was over.
That presented us with a dilemma; how were we going to leave the trailer in Longreach if we had to two motorcycles all the way to Darwin?
It took some creative cargo management and although we drove through Queensland looking like a Mad Max movie prop, we got all our gear where it needed to be:
The ride to Darwin was punctuated by the usual points of interest; the hospital I had been revived at after my kangaroo collision, a pub featured in Crocodile Dundee, and about ten McDonald’s stops.
With a few days off on my hands after returning from Cape York, I seized the opportunity to get away from the daily grind and load up a motorcycle for a ride.
I wouldn’t have thought there would be much off-roading to be had close to Airlie Beach, but I’m glad to say I was quite mistaken.
Magnus had been kind enough to map out a route for me, so after the arduous process of packing I was northbound on the Bruce Highway, heading for Collinsville.
In an effort to keep weight down, I had a most rudimentary loadout.; tools, tent, food, fuel and water.
I still struggled to comfortably mount cargo on the bike, and encountered my first obstacle at the Bowen petrol station.
Hungry but determined to save my beef jerky stash for later, I braved a sausage roll that looked like it had been tanning on the shelf since 1990.
Like a fine whiskey, meat gets better with age. Right?
Naturally the decision proved regrettable as soon I as I powered up and pushed off. The extra kilo now in my gullet had thrown off the precarious weight balance I was running, and as I tried to bring myself about I slooowly felt the fuel tank give in to gravity and head for the pavement.
I landed with a thud and the engine sputtered to a stop.
After inspecting my bike and ego for damage, I brought the machine back to life and sped off before anyone could comment.
The road toward Collinsville was all paved, but after passing a few dirt roads shooting off towards small mountains I found a premium camp spot and started working on dinner- plain rice mixed with beef jerky.
This would also be my breakfast and lunch for the weekend. At least I can make a decent fire these days.
The next day I passed through Collinsville and felt obligated to have a look in town.
I strode into the “Town & Country” and walked into a sea of Hi-Vis shirts- the apparel of choice for hard-working Australian miners.
Could this be the Town & Country that Slim Dusty sings about?
All eyes were on me before I could finish walking through the door… something I’m still trying to get used to.
I had the feeling I’d get my ass kicked if I ordered the wrong beer so I played it safe and asked to have my water bottle filled. The cute Irish chick behind the bar smiled and obliged me while I tried to think of something clever to say to her.
But when she came back I was still coming up empty on pickup lines. A trend I resolved to buck sooner rather than later.
So I sped off toward the Bowen River and started scanning for dirt roads.
The route Magnus had shown me ran all the way to the south side of the river on bitumen roads, but my impatience got the best of me when I saw a skinny dirt track disappearing into the savannah.
After ten or so kilometers the dirt road devolved into two wheel ruts, which soon became single-track, and finally a southbound cow path.
This was true adventure riding- no destination, no changes of clothes and enough fuel to spend all weekend in the bush. I thought.
The track finally led me to the Bowen river. Wide as four busses are long, surrounded by boggy sand and beastly sinkholes.
The water was flowing quickly but the bridge was miles away… I had to have a go at crossing.
I stripped down to my jocks and waded in. Two meters out the water was still shy of my bollocks and I was starting to feel confident that this crossing was possible. But another step and the river floor disappeared. Tripping on a rock I fell face-first into the water and 500 horsepower of river started carrying me away from my equipment. Clambering through the fallen trees and scrub and lifted myself out of the water and sauntered back to the bike.
Great, now I could go another week without a shower.
The river proving impassible, I had no choice but to follow it west toward the bridge.
The terrain options were deep sand, loamy dirt, or hard packed savannah based on how far I wanted to get from the river.
Naturally I reckoned I was man enough to ride the sand all the way, so I tightened my cargo straps and grabbed a fistful of throttle for a running charge into the grains.
Half an hour later I was knackered.
The sand was much deeper than I had anticipated, and I was much suckier at riding in it than I had hoped.
Worst of all, I could still see the point I had left from thirty minutes ago.
I reluctantly conceded and gave the dirt a shot. I labored to get the bike up to the next level, but after another hour’s work of lifting, pushing and digging I was heartbroken to discover the sinkholes in the dirt were so deep and numerous that I could barely walk between them, let alone ride.
At this point I was famished and there wasn’t much sunlight left. I had no choice but to make camp and give it another go in the morning.
Waking up early the next day to a clamoring of gossiping birds, I packed up quickly and slowly picked my way toward the savannah.
I finally reached it, only to have my hopes of escape sliced in two by a razor wire cattle fence between my objective and me.
I threw my head back and allowed myself a dramatic howl.
The task ahead of me now was getting back through the holes, the dirt, the sand, the spot I tried to cross the river, and back to the cow path so I could run on the savannah side of the fence.
It was lunchtime before I made it, but I was pleased to be making progress again. Now I was running fast and furious over the open savannah land, throwing dirt and cow shit all over the place with the closest thing to a powerslide that an overladen TTR will allow.
I blew past the spot I stopped yesterday within seconds and charged west like a man on a mission.
After a few kilometers I came to a fork in the path I was following- left back into the sandy riverbed or right into the open plains. Based on my poor effort the day before, I had no choice but to head away from the river into open country.
Now I was heading into wildlands with no sense of direction and no clue how far I was from the road.
The odometer on the bike was broken and when stopping to check my GPS for an idea of how much fuel I had left, I was disappointed to learn I had left it on last night and depleted the battery.
I nervously shook the fuel tank and was answered with a frighteningly faint slosh. All that open-throttle sand riding, backtracking and bushwacking had devoured most of the TTR’s diminutive eight-point-five liter petrol capacity. And of course I had used my five liter emergency tank yesterday when I was too cheap to fill the main tank in Collinsville.
I looked around at the vast expanse of nothingness I was square in the middle of and half expected a vulture to land on my shoulder.
I had to make Collinsville my next objective- it was the only option for a refuel I’d have a prayer of making it to. But as a silver lining, I’d have the entire ride over there to think of something to say to that bartender chick when I got my water filled again.
Now the only question was; do I head back the way I came on the path, or keep heading north through the bush?
I decided to roll the dice- I saw some power lines in the distance and I was confident I could follow them back toward the main road.
The telegraph track was tough, but negotiable. I passed through a few gates I reckoned the power company wouldn’t want me opening, but it was piss off Queensland Telecom or die of thirst.
It was late afternoon when I heard a sound I never thought I’d enjoy- the unmistakable drone of tires on a paved bitumen road. Safety was close.
In and out of one last gully had me back in civilization and spared from a lonely evening of asking cows for directions.
I rode northbound to Collinsville with just enough weight on the throttle to propel myself forward.
Very, very slowly.
After a long day of nerve-wracking bush bashing I was elated to roll into sleepy Collinsville. Forget fuel, I was parched of thirst and busting for a poop from wolfing three bags of beef jerky the night before.
I marched back into the Town & Country with water bottle in hand, ready to drop some game on the backpacker bartender.
But there was no way I could have anything resembling a conversation with this kind of dump on deck. I had to hit the bathroom and lose some weight immediately.
I kicked the stall door down like a SWAT officer and let loose, reverberating the walls with a 5 megaton fart.
Ah, sweet relief.
But when the dust settled I had a most awkward realization- I could hear the television and conversations from the bar. In fact, quite clearly.
I peered out of the Men’s and met the same greeting of astonishment from the other patrons that I had experienced walking through the front door the previous day.
Don’t think James Bond could have pulled after a performance like that… let alone my unshaved and unshowered self.
I with a double headshake I got the hell out of there, fueled up and headed back to base.
This is a big one, folks. The track to our rally point at Eliot Falls had ruts, bumps, climbs, and one big-ass water crossing.
After my historic boggings in May, I wasn’t taking any chances- I walked it a dozen times to check the bottom surface, and watched three utes wade across before I could muster the courage to go for it.
And just in case you forgot how muy bonita an oil-cooled gixxer is, here’s one of the last photos I took of mine in the 2010 riding season.
I think about it every day, sitting in dad’s garage collecting dust, longing to scare the hell out of me with a 3-second blast to the speed limit.
Someday I’ll return for it…
bring it back to life…
Then, probably die when I forget to ride on the right side of the road.
But until then, rest will mi amor.
I’ve been out of WiFi range for weeks and have racked up quite a few adventures since I was last able to post.
Now I have a few days off-duty before Magnus and I head south to play the longest golf course in the world (yep) and compete in the 2011 Australian Safari, so I have a chance to catch up.
But I made the mistake of checking in to a hostel with a bar opens at 10AM… so I wouldn’t get my hopes up regarding productivity this weekend.
So as a preview of what’s to come I whipped up a trailer of our last trip, an epic ride from Darwin to Longreach through some great terrain. Most notably, the Simpson Desert.