Living in the ’70s: Lucky Bastards

Road Tales by Kelly Ashton

AROUND ABOUT the time Australia—or more specifically, New South Wales—got a conscience about drink driving, tough drink driving laws were introduced, as was the dreaded booze bus. It had to happen after the mechanized mayhem of the 1950s and 1960s where drunks were involved in 30 percent of all serious motor vehicle accidents (of course they ignored the fact that sober drivers caused 70 percent of accidents). By the time the doomsday clock ticked around to the 1970s, the police and courts were getting serious about keeping drunk drivers off the road and onto the footpaths (sounds more dangerous).

Me and me mates even did our bit to try and keep drunks off the road utilising a variety of methods, none of which involved catching buses or taxis. Few of us could afford cars but should one of us have access to a four-wheeled vehicle, that particular Buggalugs would be elected the designated driver, who would then roll around and pick up five or six bikers and deposit them at the drinking hole, then proceed to get just as drunk as the rest of the freeloading bastards who never even offered the poor driver petrol money.

We might’ve been fooling ourselves that we were being all good and ’oly, but with hindsight, the car sharing arrangement only ever happened on a Sunday night when the designated drinking hole was the RSL club. In truth, drinking at a pub was a much more relaxed affair as you could always drink your beer within arm’s length of your beloved motorcycle, keeping thieves and other fuckwits away. But drinking at the RSL always involved parking your bike well away and out of easy sight. Besides, by closing time on Sunday night, the designated driver’s vehicle became merely a conveyance for drunken bikers to return to their bikes and go for a ride.

And that’s how Rocky and me got involved in one of the greatest drink-driving fiascos of all times.

We’d been to the Harbord Diggers RSL, and after getting turfed out at closing time, we all piled into an old Valiant, Naturally, someone said, “Nice night for a ride…” which precipitated another desperate shuttle service, first to Rocky’s to pick up his bike. The 1951 AJS single (which he still owns) was being painted and chromed again so it was off the road, but that didn’t faze him—he worked in the local bike shop so it was simply a case of taking whatever machine took his fancy; he could turn up on a Kwakka 9, Honda 4, Triumph Trident, Yammie 650 Twin, or even a bloody Suzuki RE5 Rotary!

Then it was onto Mit Skraps place so he could pick up his 750 Trumpy (which he still owns); then down to Demon’s place so he could get his GS750 Suzuki with the tank mural featuring a monster beast ravishing the nekkid lady in a swamp.

All that was left was to grab my 1950 AJS single cylinder dream machine (which I still own) and the four of us were ready for a ride.

“Where we goin?” Mit Skraps asked.

“Dunno…” offered Demon.

“I’ve got a rolled joint,” offered Rocky

“Let’s ride out to Palmie and smoke it,” was my input, even thought I couldn’t stand the shit and only toked on marryoowarnah cigarettes because of peer group pressure.

The four of us roared away, destination Palm Beach. We’d lost two wooses, who won’t get a mention, as they thought the very idea of beginning an adventure at around midnight on Sunday was a friggin’ stupid idea.

Being mostly young and completely stupid, there were only two speeds we travelled at—one was above the posted speed limit; the other ludicrously above the posted limit.

As we sped north to Sydney’s northernmost beaches, Rocky alerted us to a possible problem: We were already way past any shop or service station that might be open on a Sunday night, and while he had a reefer cigarette of whacky tobackky, he had nothing to light it. We all pulled over at the bottom of the Newport hill and pondered the problem.

“I know a chicky-babe who lives just around the corner,” I offered. “I think she loves me so she won’t mind us dropping in after midnight on a Sunday and borrowing three matchsticks and half a matchbox flint.”

“I’m in!” declared Rocky.

“You go for it,” muttered Skraps. “I’m heading home.”

“I’m with him,” sided Demon. “I’m up for work in five hours.”

So Rocky and I rocked around the corner to Lucky Jane’s place while Demon and Skraps hooked a big ‘U’ey at the traffic lights and ploughed off south.

As the four of us blasted off in two different directions, we were all blissfully unaware that our humble little group was the focus of rage for a pair of policemen in a police car. We learned a little later that the cop car was chasing all of us but we lost them. When they caught up at the bottom of the Newport hill, they must’ve said: “Ahah! Gotcha!” But on our rapid and totally innocent dispersal, they elected to hook a ‘U’ey to hare off after Skraps and Demon. Although they had no idea they were being chased by the cops (turns out the siren on that particular car was broken), our heroes were chased for about 4 or 5 miles at a speed not really worth mentioning here—until the cops had given up and turned their attention to us.

Apparently, we were spotted on numerous occasions, but due to my fascination with short cuts and winding back roads, they never caught us. In fact, it was while hanging off the bikes and scraping footpegs around the big, downhill sweeper around the Avalon golf course, that we first became aware the police—even then, they were travelling in the opposite direction, and all they could muster was a feeble toot of the horn and stern flashing of the high beam. I remember thinking: “Hmmm, cop car…”

Rocky and me finally smoked the joint while reclining on our bikes at Palm Beach, then it was time to head home at eight hundred miles an hour.

After racing through the Bilgola bends, we were flying down the hill into Newport again when we both realised that something was very wrong just ahead on the tight left-hander. “Hmmm,” we thought (or at least, I thought, as Rocky was a lot more pissededer than me and he may have missed the full import of the scene before our eyes.)

They were cop cars, about four in total, sprayed willy-nilly across the road, “Hmmm,” I thought. “There must be a bad accident for there to be this many badly-parked police cars.” And then I tumbled to the harsh reality. This isn’t an accident—it’s… it’s a roadblock!

One copper had raced over to Rocky’s bike and ripped the keys from the ignition. Another was hassling me, yelling: “Where’s your friggin’ keys, dickhead?”

“No keys—magneto,” was all I could say.

“Turn the friggin’ thing off!” the copper yelled, as I yanked the decompressor lever and stopped the motor.

“Now give us your friggin’ keys,” he yelled at me.

“No keys—magneto!” I insisted.

“Well… just get off the friggin’ bike then.”

We were both marched over to the Sergeant who glared at us for rather a long time before he actually spoke. He was mightily pissed off, and we had no idea why. I’m fairly sure this scene was played out some months before the movie Monty Python’s Life of Brian was released, but somehow, we were given the Roman Centurion treatment and ‘thrown roughly to the ground’, on numerous occasions. When the Sergeant finally spoke, it wasn’t so much speech, more a quiet, forceful seethe. We were called eight different types of dickhead and further four types of arsehole. We were asked why we had the unmitigated temerity to try to run from him.

Now, I don’t do ‘Tough Guy’ real well, and I also know that sometimes it’s best not to do ‘Smart Arse’, but one thing I know I’m good at, and that’s sincerity. I can be so sincere whenever it’s needed, and it was sure needed now. Somehow, I convinced the Sergeant that we had no idea we were being chased.

“You shoulda put the lights and sirens on,” I added. “That would’ve done it.”

Around about now came the frank admission that the siren and lights were inoperative.

“This copper’s all right!” I thought quietly to myself.

“Why didn’t you pull over when I flashed the lights and tooted the horn at Avalon golf course?” he asked.

“Oh, was that you?” I asked incredulously.

I don’t know whether it worked but I was starting to believe that we’d be riding away from the scene, rather than loaded into a bullwagon.

“And so how much have you idiots had to drink?” he asked.

Rocky piped up at this point. “Well, Sergeant, we had two schooners of beer in the first hour, then another one per hour after that…” he parroted the advice from the anti drink-driving advert of the time.

The nodding head and the smirk told me Sarge wasn’t buying it. “Shuddup Rocky, he knows we’re Elephant’s Trunk,” I said.

The Sarge spoke. “You pricks may well have not seen us up until now, we may not have even got an accurate reading on your speed; I know if I ask you about your two mates, the other peanuts we couldn’t catch at Newport, you’ll just tell me you’ve never seen them before and don’t know their names, but here’s the deal: I go on holidays tomorrow and the last thing I want to do is turn up at court to throw a very large book at you both. So I am going to book you for exceeding the speed limit by an amount just a few kilometres below ‘Speed Dangerous’. The fine will be the biggest one you can be issued with and still ride away with your licence intact. I will then escort you both south to the Narrabeen bridge, whereupon you will leave my command and not return until I have calmed down or you have found some sense. Does that sound fair?”

“Gee, Sarge, that sounds very fair,” I answered, adding hopefully. “Just one thing—could we go to the next level down on the fine, the no-so-expensive one?”

“Would you like to try your luck on the breathalyser machine?” he sneered.

“Naw, big fine is good.” I shot back.

So Rocky and I got a police escort all the way to the Narrabeen bridge. When the Sarge’s car did a U-turn and headed back north, he even tooted his horn and waved.

He was even good to his word and didn’t call ahead to the next cops to be on the look-out for two very lucky dudes with licences still in their back pockets.

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