Back in July 2017 when I took delivery of my new Harley I was looking forward to clocking up thousands of HOG miles in the way I used to.
As fate would have it, that was not to be. Poor health and a few other issues, including the weather have kept me off the bike and I’ve only racked up 470 klms or about 292 miles. Just not good enough.
My new machine hasn’t been neglected though.
Seeing my mate’s Aladdin’s Cave made me think about creating my own Man’s Cave in which to store the Harley and the idea is finally becoming a reality.
There is a long way to go, with a wet bar , a couch, a TV, a stereo and sliding glass french doors leading to the outside with a covered patio and BBQ. Really, that’s a long, long, long way to go. Wishful thinking on my part really.
However, the FLSS fits nicely on its carpet square, adjacent to the compressor and a small cupboard containing cleaning gear and other Harley bits and pieces. I was able to fit in a book case too with a shelf reserved for Harley paraphernalia.
I was able to scrounge a coat rack too upon which I’ve hung my jackets and vests.
With the locking ring securely bolted to the floor and the space alarmed, I can securely leave the bike safely stored and out of harm’s way.
Now it’s widely acknowledged that there are many Harley detractors around the place here in The Land Down Under who crack the usual jokes about Harleys, Utes and Cattle Dogs. I don’t have a ute or a cattle dog but I do have a full set of Stanley sockets, spanners and the works stored away in their bright yellow carry case. I included it in the image so detractors will see I am prepared for any eventuality.
I couldn’t resist taking a photo of my baby safely snoozing in its new home.
I’ve just finished reading Hogrider Dookes’ latest blog where he outlines a dilemma facing his best mate, Mr G.
Mr. G is recovering from serious injuries received when he was hit by a moror vehicle whilst riding his beloved motorcycle.
During Mr G’s early recovery phase apparently he gave serious consideration to abandoning two wheel and turning to sports cars as an alternative. However, as his recovery accelerates his thoughts have returned positively to the world of two wheels. So much so that recently Dookes accompanied him to a local motorbike dealer where Mr G test sat bike after bike. His dilemma, what brand, size and style will suit him best when the time comes to venture back on the road astride a motor cycle.
Reading of Mr G’s dilemma reminded me that he is not alone in facing these decisions.
On my 6oth birthday down in the pub, I recall a much older mate saying to me,’ Getting old isn’t for sissies!’ Seemed a rather inane thing to say and we all laughed.
Seventeen years have passed since then and my old mate is now in motor cyclists’ heaven. However, I no longer think that his comment all those years ago was far from the mark.
This brings me Mr G’s dilemma. I’ve been down a similar path, not through injury.
Harley Davidsons have been part of my life for more years than I care to remember and I’ve enough Harley T Shirts to start my own retail clothing store, not to mention Harley boots, Harley caps, Harley helmets, Harley gloves, Harley spare parts, Harley oils and Harley cleaning gear etc. The list goes on and on.
Here is my current pride and joy, a 2014 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic.
The unfortunate part of my yarn is that this beautiful piece of modern motorcycle art spends almost all of its time in the shed attached to a battery charger and not out on the open road, attached to my bum.
The reason is quite simple.
In 2014 I was diagnosed with cancer. Underwent radical surgery, all went well and I’m now in remision. A cancer diagnosis brings you back to reality with a thud I can tell you.
Since then I’ve been through numerous minor surgical procedures, not life threatening but scary never the less.
The funny thing is that almost every medico I’ve seen in recent years has suggested, quite bluntly, that the place for the Harley is on the market, not on the road with me in the saddle.
As a result, my desire to ride waxes and wanes on a daly basis and I decline, politely of course, invitatiions to go riding with my mates. The desire seems to be discipating ever so gradually.
Now a month or so back I finally decided that the Harley had to go and its replacement was to be a Mazda MX5 sports car. Red of course. What a dream. Crashed to earth heavily when in the showroom SWMBO and I discovered to our horror that we couldn’t fit in the bloody thing.
Back to the drawing board. Two wheels are back in with a vengence.
Since that day I’ve been to every motor cycle dealer within cooee and I’ve kicked every tyre imaginable looking for a motor bike that weighs in under 327 kilos(732.48 lbs) unladen, fits my body shape and is kind to two bung knees.
The result has been in the negative without exception.
That brings me back to the dilemma I share with Mr G. Two wheels or not two wheels? That is the question. Apologies to The Bard of course.
Way back in the early 1961 when I first learned how to ride a motor bike, wearing of helmets was not compulsory and many riders took to the roads wearing leather caps or ex WWII pilots’ leather head gear.
As time passed, more and more motorcyclists began to wear a helmet of some description and eventually, helmet wearing became compulsory.
Full face helmets were recommended by the authorities on the basis of the extra protection they supposedly provided and became the predominant choice of the ‘fast set’ sports bike riders.
However, the cruiser brigade, dominated then by Harley Davidson riders opted generally for the open face style helmet.
Now wearing an open face helmet has significant advantages over the full face as they don’t fog up, are cooler in hot weather, provide greater peripheral vision and the rush of fresh air helps keep the rider alert.
Disadvantages do exist of course, full face is better in wet weather, keeps the bugs off the face and with a tinted screen reduces the effect of sunburn.
To combat the disadvantages, Harley Davidson riders in particular, often wear a bandanna to cover the face below the rim of their sun glasses, a most effective way of deflecting bugs, particularly beetles and bees.
A bandanna also adds to the macho image that many bikers like to promote.
Now as an open face helmet and regular bandanna wearer I’ve accumulated quite a range of colourful bandannas. It’s from my collection that the message,’ On a motorcycle, always expect the unexpected,’ was reinforced in a most unexpected way.
I was returning to my home in Sydney after a ride to Cairns in Tropical north Queensland, a 5,700 klms return ride( if you stick to the shortest direct route) when just out of Townsville in north Queensland my Harley suffered a rear wheel puncture. Fortunately there is an Harley Davidson dealer in Townsville and it wasn’t long before the bike and I had been collected and transported to the dealership for the necessary puncture repair to be carried out.
That day I was wearing my favourite bandanna and still had it on arriving at the dealership. This is an image of my bandanna.
Now here in the Land Down Under, members of Rebels Motorcycle Chapters proudly wore the 1%er badge and were recognised by Police as outlaws. Red and black are acknowledged as the Rebels’ colours.
I was aware that Townsville had two outlaw bikie chapters but I didn’t know that the Rebels were trying, by force, to patch over the other club. In fact there had been a gun battle between the two groups not long before I arrived in town. Nor did I expect to have a confrontation with members of the local Rebels Chapter.
On arrival at the dealership, as I was unloading the bike from their ute, I saw three members of the Rebels standing in the workshop watching me and looking quite menacing. I noticed that they weren’t fully patched up and I wasn’t really worried by them.
That’s when the fun started.
Of course they took immediate offence at my red and black bandanna, compounded by the words,’Rebels Beware,’ and the image of the cop on the Harley Davidson.
One bloke poked me in the chest so I poked him back. He gave me a shove and I shoved back. The other two were standing by to help him out if needs be and the language from the three of them would have made a wharfie blush.
Fortunately for me, before things got out of hand, the workshop boss sprang into action, brandishing a whopping great spanner and ordered them from the workshop with instructions to come back the next day to collect their bikes. After a lot of shuffling about and more colourful language directed at me, they slowly walked away towards town.
I thanked the workshop boss and he simply said,” It’s your f’ing fault for wearing that f’ing bandanna.”
With a new inner tube in the rear tyre, I left the dealership, minus the bandanna which I’d stowed in the saddle bag. Overall, it was a lesson well learned. I’ve retired that bandanna and it only gets an airing when I’m riding in company with ‘Boss Man’ and a few good mates.
Anyway, after all the fuss I thought it prudent to take a route out of Townsville other than the main highway to Brisbane, Queensland’s Capital city. That meant I had to take the Flinders Highway and travel west to Charters Towers, about 144 klms before turning south on the Gregory Highway towards New South Wales and home.
I stayed overnight in Charters Towers and SWMBO was quite amused when I phoned and told her of my adventure.
There were a couple of ‘Old Rebels’ in the mob I normally rode with and they thought it was hilarious when I related my tale. They reckoned that the blokes I struck in Townsville must have been ‘Nommies’, that is Nominees for membership, who were looking for every opportunity to prove their worth to the Rebels Chapter.
I’ve retired my matt black open face helmet too and brought a more modern, slightly colourful open face so that when I’m out on my own I look more like a woos than a threat. I reckon the colour scheme is a ripper.
One of my readers, Ry, sent a note in which he wondered whether whips were just an Australian phenomena as he had never come across such a thing in the United States.
From my reading and following various Harley Davidson sites in the States I share Ry’s position about whips and bikers in the States.
Many, many books have been written about so called ‘Outlaw Motor Cycle Gangs,’ not only in America but also here in Australia.
The two volumes I refer to mostly when it comes to the ‘Outlaws,’ are:
There is not a single mention of whips in either of the two volumes and personally I’ve never come across another group of motor cyclists, either here or in The States where carrying a whip was a part of the code.
Accordingly, I’m sure that our little group was/is the only group where whips were part of the scene.
If you have seen the photos of my two tiny whips, you could be forgiven for thinking that they are indicative of the general size handled by our group.
You would be right in part but the ‘Boss Man’ carried a real whip. Here he is wielding a genuine stock whip, one of a number specially made for him.
To preserve the ‘Boss Man’s’ anonymity I’ve hidden his face.
Hearing a stock whip crack out in the bush has a mystical sounds about it. It takes you back in time and space to when stockmen and drovers rode proud in the saddle, delivering cattle on the hoof to all parts of Australia.
These days, articulated monsters transport the stock and the days of the outback drover are, unfortunately coming to an end.
The other day I read a blog by fonzandcancer where he explained how a diagnosis of cancer not only impacts on the sufferer and family but also on friends and associates.
In short, he sets out that many ‘friends and associates’ simply fade out of the picture as they are at a loss how to inquire after the sufferer’s prognosis, treatment, and are unsure how to ask, ‘How are you going”. To be on the safe side, they conveniently disappear from the scene.
By coincidence, yesterday I attended a morning tea hosted by a young female friend who is in remission after successful surgery and chemotherapy arising from her diagnosis of cervical cancer.
My friend bravely, frankly and most competently addressed the thirty or so attendees with sometimes vivid descriptions of her journey.
Only once during her lengthy address did she falter momentarily, arising from reliving her life threatening experience. Swiftly recovering my friend outlined the support she received from her husband, two children, her in-laws, parents and friends.
Many members of the audience were her friends and I noticed that besides myself there was only one other of her male friends present.
We often read how men dislike talking about their health and it struck me that fonzandcancer’s experience is most probably an off shoot of our silence about our own health and translates into a reluctance to hear about other persons health outcomes.
I must be a strange one as when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2014 and underwent radical surgery to remove the cancerous prostate I couldn’t restrain myself from telling everyone who would listen how lucky I was.
I was only hospitalised for three days, suffered very little post operative discomfort and almost zero post operative leakage.
The major downside was that my surgeon insisted that I refrain from riding my Harley.
With one male exception, only my female friends inquire after my postoperative health. The male exception is a cancer sufferer himself and we regularly exchange notes and have a laugh about the way others relate to our circumstances.
Almost eighteen months have passed since my surgery and I saw my surgeon last Wednesday. Fortunately he does not need to see me again and no further medical interventions are required so far. And, yes, I can get back on the Harley.
He has written to my GP setting out the occasional monitoring I’ll require for the next wait for it, next seventeen years.
As that will take me past the age of 93 I’m more than happy with that outcome.
Now that gives me another reason to tell all and sundry about my experience. No need though to bother you except to say, when a friend tells you of their cancer diagnosis, don’t just fade away, stick around and give all the moral support you can. It does make a difference.
Last Saturday as I got ready to go out on the Harley I got out my super warm BMW Motorrad PCM ™ long johns to pull on and noticed what I assumed to be a long lost handkerchief bunched up in the lining over the right knee. Then I discovered a similar lump on the other leg. Then it occurred to me that there are no pockets in BMW long johns. Without cutting into the fabric there was no way I could remove the cause of the lumps. Therefor like any sensitive new age male would do, I left them in a heap on the floor to attend to when I got home.
And this is where the story really starts.
To paraphrase BMW’s promotional material, BMW Motorrad PCM ™ pants contain ‘Phase Change’ materials that regulate temperature fluctuations utilising the properties of Schoeller®PCM ™ space age technology.
Their space age fabric contains paraffin capsules of minute dimensions that absorb body heat in a controlled fashion and works best in outside temperatures of between 5 and 15 degrees celcius. Ideal for our winter climate in the Southern Highlands.
Now I’ve used my long john Schoeller undies for many years and I can vouch for their efficiency, comfort and durability. I should add the caveat, ‘before you realise the garment has reached its used by date.’
Oddly enough, none of the tags, labels or other bumpf mention use by dates.
On my return home I grabbed the long johns from the floor, sat down, scalpel in hand and attempted to unpick the stitches surrounding bump number one. The stitching was designed to last forever and as my unpicking was not proceeding at speed I resorted to a quick scalpel slash across the fabric. That was mistake number one because immediately following the cut, minute black sand like material spewed onto the carpet. I jumper up with the long john in hand and rushed into the kitchen where the floor is tiled. That was mistake number two because I left a trail of the black substance in my wake. What a surprise awaited me inside the fabric sack though. I pulled just under two handfuls of the black muck from the interior space. Some of it was rolled into golf ball sized hunks and was damp to the touch. The rest was granulated and in differing sizes. Fortunately it was odour free. I consigned it to a plastic bag and got rid of it.
Next, prior to the return home of my significant other I rushed around the trail of evidence with the vacuum cleaner and removed all traces of my misdemeanour. Of course, later that evening I made a full confession. A stupid admission as it turned out. There was no visible evidence. Even the vacuum cleaner bag had been changed. My confession was totally unnecessary. Fortunately the Judge, Jury and Executioner thought it was humorous and recorded no conviction against me. Not even a bond or a small fine, not even a reprimand.
Just goes to prove that confession can be good for the soul. Or something like that.
Lesson learned, I waited for today to continue my surgery on the other leg and for evidentiary purposes made a photographic record of the event.
If you look closely you will see there are a few bulges around the knee on the leg to your left as you look at the image and also a small incision around the knee on the other leg. Note that all of these photographs were taken on the outside of the house.
The bulges are more evident in the next image.
I’d just draped the long johns over the outside table and sliced into the fabric when my supervisor decided to get up close and personal.
Have a look at the next two images of the granulated, dried out Schoeller gunk.
It’s all turned out well though, I’ve Googled my nearest BMW dealer and yes, they have these marvels of technology in stock and with any luck, tomorrow, I’ll proudly possess a pair of newies, the purchase being fully approved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Then, as soon as the intermittent rain stops I’ll be out and about to try them out.
The beauty of BMW underwear is that other Harley riders have absolutely no idea that you have gone outside the fold in an effort to keep warm.
Yesterday as I began this five day exercise, I uploaded a photo of my Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic with some of the Flinders Ranges in the background.
The Flinders Ranges are a prized tourist destination in South Australia and Wilpena Pound, contained within the ranges is somewhat of a mecca for visitors.
‘The Pound’ as we call it is located about 430kms or 267 miles roughly north west of the State’s capital, Adelaide. It is accessible by sealed roads from Adelaide and is a perfect long distance destination for riders of cruiser style motor cycle like my Harley.
From where I live to the Pound, is about 1,600 kms or roughly 1,000 miles each way. That’s taking the shortest route via Broken Hill, a big mining town in the far west of New South Wales.
After leaving ‘The Hill’ you know when you are getting near ‘The Pound’ when you come to the South Ausie town of Hawker.
As you can see from the size of the town’s population, Hawker is not exactly large in size. However it makes up for that by its friendliness, facilities, great food and that important ingredient for combustion engines, fuel.
From Hawker it’s only about 30k’s let’s say 20 miles further on to ‘The Pound’.
At ‘The Pound’, visitors have multiple accommodation choices, ranging from luxury to tent sites. Or, you can pitch your tent in relative isolation yet remain in comfortable walking distance from the facilities. On this occasion, isolation suited me down to the ground and I pitched my little tent in a great spot.
I’d only just finished pitching my tent and covering the Harley when a massive camper van parked itself in nearby clearing and discharged an army of occupants who immediately set up camp tables chairs and that evil of all evils, a boom box of some sort. Paradise gained,Paradise lost.
It was early afternoon and I was too tired to pack up and find somewhere else so I decided to stay put. It was a wise move because just after 6am the next morning they were packed up and gone. My prayers had been answered.
The purple flowers you can see in the photograph are the signature of a noxious weed we call Patterson’s Curse. It is a genuine curse for graziers although in some parts of Australia it has a more benign name,’Riverina Bluebell’. It’s a tough little bugger, hard to kill and once it takes hold, words like bugger can’t adequately describe how we feel about it. One positive though, bees adore it.
As the monster camper van and it occupants were preparing to leave, I was getting ready for my walk up into the hills surrounding ‘The Pound’. Depending upon the route you take it can be extremely difficult or relative easy. I took the middle track, I refuse point blank to call it a trail. Although I’m reasonably fit, I still found the going hard in some spots. On reflection I know the reason why.
Once on the high ground though, the effort is rewarded by the splendid views. Here are a few of them:
In this photo you can see the extent of the purple coloured Patterson’s curse.
This walk took me about 7 hours from start to finish and I was pleased to get back to camp. I’d really loaded myself up for the day’s photographic activity, tripod, Nikon F5 film camera, Nikon D200 digital camera and of course, a range of lenses, not to mention various speed Kodak Tmax film, filters and all the other photographic paraphernalia we think we will need but never do.
Added to that were two water bottles, food, map, compass and park guide book. No wonder the few people I encountered during the day looked at me as if I was a madman.
As I sat in the Resort’s great restaurant, showered and relaxed, I reflected on my day’s activities, I concluded that the people I saw up in the hills were absolutely right, I was not only mad but stupid. I’ve been a bush walker and photographer for years and today I had broken one of my most important rules. Always travel light in the bush. This has always been my mantra. Today I’d loaded myself up like a pack horse. Stupid old goat I thought to myself. As I never use the word never, I can’t assure myself that I’ll never make the same mistake again.
Back in my tent, the air mattress felt like a bed of nails, my sleeping bag was too tight and the torch batteries had gone missing. I thanked my lucky stars that I only had another 10 days or so of camping on this trip. Another positive was no mobile phone signal.
The Flinders Ranges have much to offer visually and for the adventurous there are many more dimension to explore. My Harley and I don’t care much for travelling on the dirt unless it is absolutely necessary so I didn’t see everything the Flinders have to offer on this ride.
Next time I’ll come in the Landrover and bring every bit of gear I can get my hands on.