Cruising into Christmas
Work pressure off and with the open road and time for reflection ahead, PHIL LALOR’S two wheels took him all the way to Christmas in Melbourne.
CHRISTMAS – a time of year I’ve often struggled with for various reasons – work, family, fuss, commercial gain and crowds of people, among others.
It means different things to different people but for me, Christmas 2015 meant travel. It meant meeting new and interesting people, and more importantly for me, it meant my motorbike and the opportunity for reflection.
At noon on Christmas Eve, the boss announced: “Righto – the office is now closed – it’s time to go home.” It was pretty hard to argue with the boss on Christmas Eve, particularly when his direction was so appealing.
I’d made rudimentary plans to spend the Christmas period travelling, and had originally thought of riding to Melbourne on Christmas Day, embracing technology and the “sharing economy” by using Airbnb (think Uber, but for beds) to book four nights’ accommodation in St Kilda, near Melbourne.
With an early finish on Christmas Eve I was as restless as an insomniac on a hot summer’s night, and keen to hit the road. This restlessness was tempered by knowing I wouldn’t reach Melbourne that same day, so the search was on, just like in biblical times, for room at an inn. Technology can be a wonderful friend and, with the help of Google I found Tattersalls Hotel at West Wyalong, which seemed to be offering more than a crib in a stable filled with animals and hay.
As I punted my motorcycle south along the ribbon of bitumen called the Newell Highway, the Harley Davidson Boombox Stereo filled my head with tunes from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elvis, The Eagles, Cold Chisel, Noiseworks, Powderfinger and The Angels – almost the anthology of a lifetime; songs for reflection, for hope, for smiles and a few tears.
As the sun traversed the western sky and moved lower towards the horizon, I reflected on Christmas travels as a young child – piling into a station wagon, three kids across the back seat, one in the back (later to become two), Mum and Dad in the front, heading north to The Entrance, the AM radio stations cutting out as we passed through rock cuttings on the F3, stopping to pay a toll, throwing change into a plastic basket, or stopping for a chat with the toll attendant. Sitting on a sticky, sweaty brown vinyl seat, windows down for air-conditioning, a face full of freckles and a head full of hair all one colour. Not a care in the world. How times have changed.
Punting along the Newell Highway was hardly a chore. There was very little traffic, an open sky, great tunes filling my head above the delicious roar of 103 cubic inches of V Twin engine coupled with a sense of excitement and adventure. The kilometres passed without incident and I arrived at West Wyalong seeking a cool refreshing beverage and a hearty meal. There was very little traffic, an open sky, great tunes filling my head above the delicious roar of 103 cubic inches of V Twin engine…
The Christmas spirit was alive and well at The Tatts – as the locals call it. Les and the bar staff chatting openly and easily with the crowd at the bar, festive wishes spreading among those present. Festivities and cheer continued until late in the evening, or possibly early in the morning, the memory is a little clouded. No doubt about the hospitality in a genuine country pub.
Christmas Day was a little bright – a little too bright – and I was sure the Vance and Hines exhaust system wasn’t quite that loud the day before. Breakfast, at 10am mind you, consisted of a Pine Lime Splice, Red Bull, a Mars Bar and an Iced Coffee Dare – true road trip food.
By Narrandera, the earlier fare was well and truly forgotten and the noises coming from my belly suggested more sustenance was required. The roadhouse provided an oasis on an otherwise blank canvas of culinary options and I added a big breakfast, a few Panadol and some Powerade to the mix – fuel for the next leg of the journey. The south western sky was big and blue, the road open and empty – perfect Harley Davidson touring country.
As I crossed the visual and signposted border – the Murray River – into Victoria, I adjusted my riding to accommodate the new speed limit and the ever present enforcement methods favoured by the southern state’s government – unannounced cameras. It became even more apparent we live in a digital age.
The range of the 103 cubic inch Vtwin was enhanced with a reduced speed, however by Shepparton it was time to add more combustible 98octane liquid to the bike’s tank and cool, clear liquid to mine. I might have had another ice cream as well – it was Christmas after all.
South of Shepparton, the run into