Triumph Motorcycle Across the Nullarbor

“When I realised I’d made a wrong turn somewhere, it didn’t faze me because I was just on a ‘different’ road, that’s all,” said Ray.

FUNNY HOW things work out. Last year I had this funny turn. Well, not that funny really. It was the start of a year from Hell. In and out of hospitals, heaps of doctors and specialists, trying to work out what caused these painful episodes of the guts which would on occasion send the old ticker out of rhythm. Not good. Lost about 15 kg in the process. Anyway, it prioritised things for me, especially when the doctors bandied the C word about. After many tests, it turns out that it was some kind of intestinal tract infection. So armed with this info, I thought to myself, better make the best of things and start to do the things that I enjoy doing.

My best mate and his younger brother dropped in on their way back from their father’s funeral. After a few ales, the talk turned to our favourite topic, bikes. Boofa (best mate’s bro) said he had only put 3000 km on his Trumpy (2004 Bonny T100) in three years.

I don’t know why he wasn’t riding it. Maybe he had a scare on it. But when I think back to the ’70s when we were riding around, I couldn’t believe that Boofa would be scared of anything. Like the time I left my overtaking a bit late going past a semi with one coming the other way. Looking back in the mirrors and there’s Boofa still coming. I was on a Kawaka 900; he was on this Yammy 650. I got through okay. But when we stopped for a smoke further up the road, Boofa was still physically shaken. Seems both his mirrors clipped something on both semis and they had this swept back look to them. So, buggered if I know why he wasn’t riding anymore.

I’d been off bikes for a while. Last of many was the Suzuki 1100 that me best mate Johnno gave to me for doing a favour for him. That was when I was over in the Pilbara in Western Australia. It was in three boxes of bits with a frame which was blasted and painted. All the other bits, like wheels, tyres, tank, etc, were together. So I put it all together and rode it back to Victoria. What an awesome ride. Anyhow, that was a while ago. Had to sell her for money after a marriage break up.

So there we were talking bikes and rides. I asked Boofa what he was doing with the old Trumpy and would he consider selling her. Well, blow me over, he agreed to sell her to me.

I wasn’t sure what this illness of mine was gonna do so I jumped on a plane, feeling like absolute shit, and flew over to Perth. The plan was to go down to Denmark (2O min from Albany south of Western Australia) and then ride the bike back home to Queensland, a trip of 4800 km.

I got into Perth where Boofa’s wife and daughter were there to greet me and take me the 500 km to their place. We go way back to when we were all still single and partying hard, virtually living on the bikes.

I had a few things to do on the bike: a new battery was put in, oil changed, chain oiled and tensioned, tyres pumped up, rego paid for and transferred to my name.

Boofa says to go out and take her for a spin. So, gingerly, I rode up his dirt drive of the farm block. I was around the first bend and gave her the berries. Fantastic! This thing’s got some get up and go. Out on the bitumen and I let her rip. Those coupla years off bikes had vanished. It was like I’d never been off them. So down to the servo to fill her up in readiness for tomorrow and the journey home.

The next day couldn’t come around quick enough. That night I actually slept pretty good, but the mornings with this illness and I didn’t feel real flash. But, the road beckoned.

Hate saying goodbye to me mates. Especially this time ’cause I didn’t know if I was gonna see them again. I was sitting on the Trumpy warming her up. Boofa comes over and shakes my hand, then gives me this knowing look. Didn’t have to say anything. He knew what I was going through without saying a word. Mates are like that.

So with a click of the gear lever and a roar from the pipes, I was gone. 

I was heading to Perth to call in and see my daughter. The ride there was fantastic. Brilliant weather. Great roads. Trouble was I missed a turn somewhere, and instead of doing 450 km, it turned out to be more than 600 km. Wasn’t complaining though! I’d taken a road that followed this river and the bends were grouse; the road was good with next-to-bugger-all traffic.

Man, I was enjoying being on a bike again. It’s hard to describe to someone who doesn’t ride. Boofa had put Staintune stainless steel pipes on her; sounds great, especially under load. Really like this Trumpy. Never had one before. Love it. Handles real good. Brakes are better than the old bikes we used to ride.

When I realised I’d made a wrong turn somewhere, it didn’t faze me because I was just on a ‘different’ road, that’s all. What it did mean, though, was that I would get into Perth in peak-hour.

I hadn’t been to me daughter’s place before. I’d looked at the map and remembered all except the last coupla turnoffs. Still, I knew where I’d messed up, so after chucking a u-turn, I had it sussed.

Stayed with the daughter coupla days which gave me the chance to get an extra fuel container for the Nullarbor crossing and avoid some of those mongrel servo owners who were charging like a wounded bull. 

The day dawned, and after saying my goodbyes, I was off.

I’ve always hated riding in gloves and this morning was no exception. It was good around town till I got out on the open road. Damn, had to relent and put the damn gloves on. When you’re 50-something you’ll understand. The morning air was a bit brisk, just as well I had the DriRider gear on.

All thoughts of being crook vanished as I was humming down the road. Long distances never rattle me. Gives me time to think about all sorts of things. I’d settled into a steady pace. The more I rode the Trumpy, the better I liked it. Still felt bloody tight though. Well Boofa had only put 3000 km on her so that was to be expected.

I had to do a night stint to get to Caiguna, a bit over 1100 km for the day. People say you shouldn’t ride in the dark ’cause of the roos. Yeah, okay, I saw my fair share. And had brushes with them in the past. Had one knock the handlebars on the Suzuki 1100 once on a dirt track; a bit exciting. And a fox tried to commit suicide on me 650 Yammy. How I didn’t come off is beyond me. Hit the bugger with the left engine case going ’round this right hander. Anyhow, you ride when ya wanna ride, that’s my view. Otherwise, ya wouldn’t do nothing.

So I arrived in Caiguna for a bit of a feed then off to stack some zzzs.

Morning and the next stretch was to Ceduna, South Australia, crossing the famous Nullarbor. The wind was blowing hard going across; had to lay on the tank to try to maintain some sort of fuel economy. No fairing on the Trumpy. Had this real light drizzle as I climbed down from Majura Pass. It didn’t last long though. 

As I was doing that stretch, I could see some riders way out in the distance. Ever so slowly, I caught up to them, and when I pulled in for juice, got to see what they were riding. Those new KTM things. Not bad. The guys on them were well and truly kitted out, even to having cameras on their helmets. They’d had enough of the headwind across the Nullarbor so I left them and kept on for Ceduna.

The last fuel stop for that day was Nundroo Roadhouse. Late in the arvo, 140 something km to Ceduna. Love that open country back of South Australia, rolling hills when the sun starts to dip and turn everything that orange colour.

I pulled into a servo and asked the attendant where there might be a good motel for the night. She looked at me strangely and said right here. Just behind the servo was a motel. Okay, thanks, was my reply. Riding long distances does that to ya. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The receptionist was a German woman with a fair accent. Turns out her and her bloke are right into bikes. Well, it took ages before I finally hit the sack, re-living the many road tales on both sides, hers and mine.

The morning came around and I was up early to get some miles under me. The ride started with this thin cloud that stretched out for miles. Other than this one cloud, I could see the blue sky and sunshine. So I thought to myself, I’ll open her up and get out into that sunshine before I stop for morning smoko. It’s funny, ya think the cloud’s only a coupla km, but it was closer to 100 before I eventually broke out into the sunshine.

Bloody grouse how the simple things can give ya so much pleasure, like getting off the bike, grabbing a bikkie and a drink to have that warmth filter through to your bones. Magic!

I was heading for Broken Hill that day. The plan was to go through Port Augusta then out the back blocks to Broken Hill. It was a long haul from Ceduna, and once again, it would involve a bit of night riding. If you’ve ever ridden this stretch, you start to think how alone you are. Things like engine reliability, engine noises, the tyres, fuel, and would ya believe, just about everything pops into your head. It was like that when I ran out of juice on sundown in that semi desert country. Mind you, I wasn’t right out. Just had to fill her up from the container I brought along for just such times. Then there was the look-out for our furry friends for the last hour or more of darkness. 

I fuelled up ready for the morning. Pulled into a motel where there was this older dude on a Gold Wing out seeing a bit of this country. Great bloke. Good yarns on a common wavelength. Travel’s like that. There was also the cricket team that was having comps there the next day; what a beaut bunch. Pizza and bed was next.

So morning arrives and it’s the same routine: tying the gear on the bike, checking oil, chain, tyres. Get DriRider gear on and we’re away. 

I was heading for Coonabarrabran that arvo. It was a bit cool so when I saw this little servo-come-pub, I pulled up for a fuel top-up and a warm-up in front of the fire they had going. There was heaps of cars there and people camped around the place. Turns out there was a weekend piss-up on. People in the joint asked where I’d come from, and when I told them that the other day I was in Perth, they looked at me funny. If I get the chance, I’ll go back to that joint one day. I think it was Little Topar Roadhouse.

So reluctantly I headed off. The next thing that struck me was this weird looking animal out in the distance. Thought it was a big dog at first, but on getting closer, I figured out it was a goat. Well as the km went by, there was 100s of these bloody pests everywhere, and that’s only the ones that I could see from the road. They had turned the place into a dust bowl, stripping the vegetation. Would be a great way to make a few bucks shooting them and selling them off. Anyway, it gave me something to look out for a while.

When I was approaching Gilgandra in the afternoon, this bloke rounds me up on this Sporty. He must’ve just knocked off work and was clearing his head on his way home. He gave me a wave as he went past. Brought back memories of my own Sporty days. Bloody grouse times on a grouse bike. But that’s another story.

Just out of Coona, this car-full of young blokes comes flying out of this side-road, sliding into the highway. I’d caught up to them and passed them as you do on bike. Well, they wanted to play trying to keep up. They didn’t stay with me for long but it was just what I needed for the last bit of the day to lift the spirits before bedding down for the night.

Same routine again: fuel, feed and a bed for the night; oil the chain, untie the gear, check the bike over and ready for the last bit to Queensland. 

Only a short ride to home. Funny how you think it’s bugger-all when ya get change out of 1000 km. I often say to myself, ya can do it standing on ya head when the count gets below 1000. The old Cunningham’s Gap was a snap then it was only 40 something km home.

Man, what a trip. From not knowing whether I was gonna be able to do it at all to having done it. 4800 km in five days of glorious riding. 

The more I ride the Trumpy, the more I like it. She’s done more km in three days than Boofa put on in three years. She’s now done 16,000 km in a just under a year with trips down to Victoria and Canberra but they are other stories.

Boofa, I owe you one. Bikes have lifted me out of the dumps. I’ve got her fuelled up, and come to think of it, could do with a little head clearing. Catch you out on the road. 

Road Tale by Ray Jalkanen

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