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.

Dubbo Photo News - - Business. - PHO­TOS BY PHIL LALOR

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

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