Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Ulysses Odyssey 2011 - Wagin


The catering officer looked after us on our ride to the 2011 Odyssey in Wagin. Steve found the Pinjarra bakery for morning tea, and served a homemade sandwich, a crisp apple and a strong brew of coffee for lunch in Williams. By 1pm we were riding into the little outback town; early enough to select the best camp site at the Wagin Show grounds. Luckily there were no birds roosting in our tree and the tent remained clean all weekend!

Our little three man tent was pitched in one fluid motion, and when I went inside, to release the self inflating mattresses and pillows, the rustic smell took me straight back to my childhood, where I liked nothing more than to play inside a small tent during the school holidays. As soon as the tent was up, the billy was on and Steve and I kicked back, in our large camp chairs, entertained by each and every new arrival.

The focal point of the campsite was two wonderful camp fires, which were kept smouldering or blazing depending on the time of day. As soon as the sun was past the yard arm, we wandered down to the meeting place, with a beer and some biltong, and listened to a few yarns about the morning’s ride. At sunset we strolled into town for a steak and a pint. The dining room was full so we snuggled into the front bar, which was noisy, but the locals were friendly, and we had a great time. Our little tent was warm and dry and we slept like babies, for we had nothing to worry about and everything we needed; food, shelter and the bikes parked right outside!

On Friday morning Steve and I hung out at the town cafe. We sat on the pavement in the most comfortable chairs ever afforded to us at a street cafe. The food was good and cheap. Just goes to show, there is many a country town to be found on the road less travelled.

The Friday afternoon ride was fun and it is always enjoyable to watch a train of bikes meandering along a lonely country road. We were home in time for another camp fire happy hour, followed by the first communal dinner – the local swimming club did the town proud feeding us a roast dinner nearly as good as mum makes.

On Saturday we rode to Narrogin with the promise of morning tea laid on by the CWA. It made me smile when I noticed several riders checking their iPhones before stepping back in time for some good old country women’s hospitality. Then we browsed the wares at the local spring fair before riding home again.

The Saturday night dinner was accompanied by some entertaining conversation about aliens and nudist camps, most of us not believing in either! A predominately male Karaoke bar showcased some good singing and a lot of courage. I just couldn’t think of a cover song to sing!

The last night in our little tent was as sweet as the first. As I sipped my coffee and licked my wind burnt lips in the early morning light, I had a vision of me and Steve riding into the rising sun. We were on our way to Mildura for the 2012 AGM. Now that would be a good ride!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Indian Ocean Drive

At 4:30am Bob, our home phone, woke us up with a wrong number. “We will never get back to sleep now” said Steve all bleary eyed. So I made two cups of strong coffee and we sat in silence while the passing of time readied our minds for motorcycle riding. It wasn’t actually Bob’s fault, but it felt better to blame him anyway!


By 6:30am we were on the road, heading north towards Dongara about 450km away. “Navigating the 100km of freeway shouldn’t be an issue at this time of day,” said Steve as we pulled out of our driveway. Wrong! Only 20km from home there was a flurry of heavy breaking. I ducked into the outside lane to avoid the merging traffic; wrong again! Steve stayed in the inside lane and I watched his little black helmet disappear into the distance while I was left cursing and crawling along in 1st gear. Although we stayed in our respective lanes, it was over 30 minutes before we found each other. Not a word was spoken, we just waved in the sure knowledge that we were riding in company again. You don’t know how good a McDonald’s breakfast muffin can taste until you have been stuck in traffic for 90 minutes!

We soon forgot all about the city and the traffic as we rode along The Indian Ocean Drive. At one point, as we came over the crest of a hill, with the view stretching for miles all around, I felt like we were on the open road with many miles to go before we would be home again.

We stopped for lunch at The Pinnacles and the GS’s looked incredibly handsome against the desert sand. The 4km Pinnacles circuit seemed like going for a ride at The Royal Show, however it could turn out expensive if one of your panniers has an altercation with a Pinnacle or you tank-slap your beloved while not paying enough attention to the pockets of extra deep sand. For the record, neither of these events happened to us!

From The Pinnacles we surrendered ourselves to the landscape and the seascape. The empty road ahead seemed like heaven to me. Gliding along on my F650GS is the closest I have ever come to flying; awesome.

Our host, Mary, was dutifully waiting for us when we arrived at Sea Vista House Bed and Breakfast. We had made a good decision with our accommodation. The bikes were parked, on carpet, inside a locked garage. Our generous room had four beds, a lounge and views to die for. Breakfast was served in the al fresco dining area overlooking the stunning Indian Ocean. There was fruit and bottled water, and if you timed it right, homemade sausage rolls – ever likely we felt like we were on holiday!


The next day I slouched into the pillion seat on the R1150GSA and Steve took me to Geraldton. By the time we had seen some of the sights around town, I could barely get out of the saddle let alone walk. Pillion passengers – respect!

I think I could have stayed a week in that house on the hill in Dongara. All too quickly our time was up and we were back on the road, heading south again. We retraced our steps and enjoyed a different view of the shifting dunes and Wedge Island. How the residents of that squatters community must have wept into their home brew when they opened The Indian Ocean Drive and included an access road directly to their doorstep. We never saw anyone but I felt there were 100 eyes watching. There is a sign which says you are welcome to wander around the settlement. Steve was interested, but I couldn’t help think that somewhere there was a pack of savage dogs ready to be set free at a moment’s notice; no thanks!

Fuel management can become a challenge when the mother ship carries thirty litres and the little sister only sixteen. Add to that, reluctance to top up at “one pump” service stations and you probably get what you deserve. My fuel light had been blinding me for at least 50 kilometres. When I couldn’t bear to watch anymore, I switched off the display that was counting down the number of kilometres before I would run out of fuel. I preferred to ride on, with cautious optimism, paying particular attention to the kindness of the road verge! I needn’t have worried. Turns out the parallel twin will do at least 350km on her 16 litre tank. Nice work BMW!

The heavy afternoon traffic was waiting to carry us home once more. There is always a tinge of sadness when a ride is coming to an end; may the next one not be too far away!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Dave Mann - Fly by Night - 2nd April 2011

I was delighted when I found out Dave Mann was support act for Eric Bibb at the Fly by Night Musicians Club in Fremantle. I have been lucky enough to see Dave a few times, usually playing in his Dave Mann Collective outfit.

The full house was quiet and attentive while Dave entertained us with his blues/roots tunes. I love Dave’s guitar work, the sound was full bodied and clean and I found myself watching intently, and wondering, “How does he do that?” One of the things I have always enjoyed about Dave Mann: he doesn’t remind me of anyone else!
After a couple of songs, Dave was joined on stage by his wife. While Dave tuned, his wife introduced the tribute song he wrote for Alan and Pam Skuse. Alan and Pam found their lives changed, forever, when their 12 month volunteer assignment, at Mission Mexico, turned into a lifelong commitment and sacrifice to help and support displaced children in Mexico. I have thought about this story many times since Saturday. I have told others about it too. Thanks, Dave, for another great song and for giving us something to think about. It is a reminder of the wonderful achievements of the worlds many volunteers, and the sacrifices they have to make. Alan and Pam’s story has been captured in a movie titled Somewhere Near Tapachula; I must go and see this film!
When I left the venue, Dave was standing by the stage, talking to fans; I’m sorry I didn’t stop and say hello. If I lived in Margaret River, there is no doubt I’d be knocking on Dave’s door to ask, “Any chance of a few strumming lessons?”

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Eric Bibb - Fly by Night - 2nd April 2011


When Eric Bibb walked on stage, at the Fly by Night Musicians Club in Fremantle, wearing his Panama hat and a wide smile, I knew we were in for a treat. I forgave the guy, sitting in front of me, for being born with a big head, and as soon as the first note was played, I was drawn into the land of Eric, hanging onto every note he played; man, can that dude play finger style, blues guitar.
By the third song, Eric was joined on stage by Swedish guitarist, Staffan Astner. The synergy between Bibb and Astner was pure entertainment and there was no doubt that the boys on stage were enjoying themselves. Anster providing some wonderful, non intrusive, sounds and fills on his electric guitar; much to the delight of the audience.
The songs just kept on coming, from upbeat and bluesy to slow and sincere. I found myself smiling all the while I was watching Eric strut his stuff; those funky little moves really did it for me! I can’t think of any other entertainer with an easier delivery and a more engaging stage personality. My favourite song, on the night, was the last song Eric sang before the encore. It was a new song to me, and I don’t remember the name, but Eric wrote it for his fiancĂ©. I could have listened to that song all night long.
During the encore, when fans were suggesting the next song to sing, I nearly called out “She’s Still With Me,” but I remained silent and listened some more. Eric Bibb is so incredibly personable, friendly and sincere I couldn’t help musing, that if I met him in the street and said “G’day, mate, love your music,” Eric would probably say, “Great to meet you, Jane. Why don’t, you send me a friend request on face book!”

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jigerty-Jig

We celebrated Molly’s birthday on Saturday 12th March with pizza and homemade chocolate cake and beer and coca-cola. We played cards and laughed a lot. We talked of the Christchurch family visiting us in Western Australia, maybe in April one year when the summer has cooled but it is still warm enough to swim. Molly’s birthday bash at the ice skating rink will have to wait for a time somewhere in the future; now is a time for consolidation and saving money.

On Monday 14th March I packed my tiny suitcase and headed for home. Despite some 40 aftershocks during my two week visit, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world. We said our good-byes after breakfast and while I waited for my taxi driver to take me to the airport, I picked up Joe’s wonderful Vicente Carrillo guitar and started to write the chorus to a new song.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A Hug 4 Christchurch

I had the privilege of waiting inside the school grounds at the end of the first day back at school. I was spell bound by this little school of only 100 pupils. It took me back to a time, long ago, when I was going to River Cross Primary School in Luanshya, Zambia.  Molly rescued me from my reverie when she gave me a big hug and handed me a little card which read: “This hug comes from Room 5, Ouruhia School, Christchurch. Please let us know where it gets to and when.” I looked at the card and said “Molly, it will break my heart to give this card away.” “You have to, Aunty Janie. Please take it to Australia and find someone to take the card to London!”  With a tear in my eye, I placed the card in my wallet, in the sure knowledge that somewhere in Sydney Airport, I would find an international traveler to take the card on the next part of its journey.

Sam has settled in very well as a temporary student at Ouruhia Primary. Yesterday he came home and said “Mum, if I like Molly’s school, can I stay there?” Joe has only just paid Sam’s private school fees for the whole year! I have offered Annie the use of my favorite T-Shirt which reads “I am a Psych Patient, give me a refund - NOW!”

The aftershocks have become more frequent, and the rumblings have been louder and lasted longer. There is a sense of unease in the community incase there is another “big one.” I only wish Paul the Octopus was still alive to give us his prediction! I said to Annie, only last night, “even if I don’t make it home, I will still be glad I came to help out here in Christchurch.”

Breakfast Maker, Lunch Box Builder and Taxi Driver!

            * Boil eggs.
            * Wrap separately:
                        3 packs of crackers.
                        2 bread rolls.
                        1 cheese slices.
                        1 capsicum slices.
                        1 cucumber slices.
            * Cook 2 slices of toast and make egg and spring onion sandwich.
            * Make 2 hot chocolates:
                        1 with choc and strawberry Quick.
1 with Milo.   
* Cook 2 slices of hot buttered toast.
* Cook 2 slices of hot honey toast.
* Add chips and lolly pop to lunch boxes after Annie has left for work!
* Pick up neighbor’s daughter.
* Take kids to school.
* Come home:
 Do the dishes
 Sweep the floor.
 Lie down, exhausted!

It’s got me thinking, it’s easier to go to work!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Castles in the Liquefaction!


Today is the first day I have been out of bed before sunrise. It is 7am. I have drawn the curtains and a gentle mist is hovering above the fields. The sky is clear and the day looks like magic, enchanting, and I know the forest will be full of goblins, wizards and gnomes!

We have just heard there is one street in Christchurch where 50 houses are sharing one port-a-loo! Joe is laughing hysterically. I think it is because he is sitting on a flushing toilet! Actually, Joe has earned an extra point from his sister-in-law for always putting the lid down after using the loo!

As soon as the children have gone to school I go out for a walk, pleased to be free of the responsibility. When I am taking care of them I am always listening, watching, and wondering what they are up to.

I walk deep into the forest. I am looking for toad stools – the red ones with the white dots. I saw some a few days ago, but none this time. All of a sudden I look up at the wonderful trees towering above me and an uneasy feeling sets in. I know it is time to head back to the road. The forest is not the place to be caught out! 

The children are home from school now and I am watching them play outside in the sunshine. Oops, another aftershock! Even the cows stop grazing for a moment. The children take no notice at all, they continue to scream and shout and build castles in the liquefaction!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Kiwi road rules – Uh!

“Remember” said Annie as she handed me the car keys, “in Kiwiland you:
1) Give way to the right when turning left.

2) When turning right, off a busy road, you must pull over to the left, and wait for both lanes to clear, if you are unable to immediately turn right!

I had heard about number one, but number two was too much for this little black duck. What with my kangaroo braking, and the rain, and the road rules, by the time we muscled our way through the afternoon traffic, I handed over the keys to Annie and said “babe, you can drive us home!” The following day I was offered the use of a car but I declined!

Everything is closed, the beaches are closed, the parks are closed, birthday parties have been cancelled. Luckily the suburban shopping centres are open, and a little retail therapy is good at a time like this! In my hand luggage I will be bringing home a family of hedgehogs, for my garden, to remind me when I came to Christchurch in March 2011.

Only six more sleeps and I will be heading for home. The children start school tomorrow and I will miss them so much. I will always remember when they snuggled up while we watched TV, how they comforted me when I cried, and the number of times they said “I love you.”

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Aftershocks, more Aftershocks!

Just when we thought it was safe we are nudged by an aftershock measuring 4.8! It is 8pm on Saturday 5th March and we are resting in front of the TV, thinking our day is done. We all stand up in one fluid motion and move towards the “safe place.” I am holding onto Annie. The rumble lasts for five seconds then it is gone.  The house shrugs it off once more. We sit down again but it is hard to settle. The children are a breath of fresh air, unaware of the danger. Just as well. Joe said to me, “When Annie and I are at work, if you get an aftershock, the safest place is in the house!” “There are dangers outside,” Joe continued “you don’t want to get caught out in a mud pool - could bury you alive.” Comforting thought!

It is a strange feeling not to feel safe in you own home. I may have the early stages of quake-brain myself. I take very short showers now, feeling afraid that if the house moves I may be trapped inside – unable to open the shower door.

School has been postponed once more. Today we did some school work at home – reading and mathematics. Afterwards we made cup cakes and decorated them with pink and blue icing and jelly beans and marsh mellows. Then Molly and Sam played Lego. Sam said to me “no offense, Aunty Janie, but you are too old to play Lego.” Sam obviously didn’t appreciate my antics when I played the country cop on the only Lego motorcycle. Lucky me!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Kids and Quake Brain

We have had many aftershocks since I arrived in Christchurch. The first one, in the dead of night, had me out of bed and groveling in the dark to open my bedroom door. While I struggled to get back to sleep I kept telling myself “I must be brave for Annie and Joe’s sake.” I knew I had felt this sense of foreboding before and I traced it back to being stuck at Steep Point for 10 days, aboard our yacht Roma II, while waiting for the gale to abate so we could make safe passage to Geraldton.

By sun up, on my first day, I was ready to do what I had come for - take care of the children so my sister Annie and Joe could catch their breath. My niece, Molly, is 12 years old and Sammy is 9. Kids’ cooking was high on their agenda, so we made a shopping list and headed to the supermarket. While Sammy and I were wandering around the isles he looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said “hey Aunty Janie, people might think you are my mum.”

When we arrived home, we made chocolate “bugs” and gave them eyes and ears and ate them sparingly! Then we all lay down to rest, the kids were more exhausted than me!

I have learnt a new term since arriving in Christchurch - “quake brain” - hope I don’t catch it too. Although we are still pooping into plastic bags, the aftershocks are much less now but I still sleep with my bedroom door open!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Christchurch Bound

I survived the night flight from Perth to Sydney, dosing all the way. At first I had the middle row of seats all to myself, but as I was undoing my boot laces and retracting the arm rests, a hostess ushered a large dude to my row of seats and that was the end of that! The only question I have is why would Qantas serve stirfry chicken and rice at midnight? Otherwise the service was excellent! 

I Navigated the rows and corridors of Sydney Airport, leaving behind Bailey's Irish Cream (2 for $47 - expensive) and 1.2kg of Toblorone for $20 (cheap but Sammy can't eat nuts). I had a little haste in my step as the boarding time for my connecting flight to Christchurch was now only 10 minutes away, however when I arrived at the gate the plane was running 45 minutes late - no mention of this on any of the monitors! So I retraced my steps and topped up at the water fountain and slurped at a tasty flat white, accompanied with cheese and biscuits and a chocolate - all that was left from my midnight snack.

I was surprised how many people were traveling alone. Some sleep in air port lounges, some read, while others seem to look far into the distance as if contemplating what the future might hold.

At 1pm New Zealand Time, while the plane was flying high over the Tasman Sea, the crew held two minutes silence for the victims of the earth quake. As the cabin fell silent I wept into my cup of tea for all those who had fallen and for those who had lives to rebuild.

When I arrived in Christchurch, there they all were, Joe, Molly and Sam. We hugged each other as if we had waited along time to see each other again. It was such a shame that our meeting was under such tragic circumstances.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Midweek Down South

If I said it took three days to prepare two motorcycles for a camping trip, no one would believe me, right? After all the time spent buying stuff, and loading stuff we set off from home, on our BMW GS’s, to see if we could enjoy a camping trip, without the luxury of the trailer in tow. Apart from the kitchen sink, on our previous trips, the trailer contained our large camp chairs and an esky full of cold beers!

Perth, Western Australia, had fallen under the spell of the hottest summer on record so we were on the road by 7am to escape the heat and enjoy a morning ride. Our first stop was Bruswick Junction, for tea and a generous slice of date loaf. We sat quietly, admiring the bikes and mumbling things like “this is the life!”We were soon back on the road and riding through the Ferguson Valley. We didn’t stop at Gnomesville this time around, but I couldn’t help think about the movie Gnomeo and Juliet as we rode on by!
I insisted on hydrating at Balingup before taking the twisty and unpredictable Balingup to Nannup road. My dear little bike was champing at the bit to get going along that road, but her rider was reluctant to let go and I took it easy, forever reminding myself that “riders have died on this road!”
By the time we arrived in Nannup the cool morning was over and we sheltered under the tall trees in the forest before riding the final leg to Busselton.
It was quick and easy to set up camp in the town caravan park. Steve had pitched the tent before I had made a cup of tea – this is working out better that I thought!
The next day we enjoyed riding the curves of Caves Road before spending the night in Augusta. I found myself falling in love with that little town. Her charm was everywhere you looked and we both found ourselves checking out the price of real estate!
On Thursday 24th February we headed for home. We didn’t have to, but we had achieved our goal; to try out our “keep it simple” camping set up and ride some great roads. We took the Brockman Highway to Nannup and then the South Cundinup Road to Kirup. I found myself muttering things like “absolutely fantastic” and “amazing” as I glided along.
The weather turned hot and horrible by the time we stopped at Harvey. We filled our bellies with icy cold water, saddled up and started the final leg towards home. One of the ties, holding the tent to my pannier, flapped its way loose so I pulled over to the side of the road. While Steve tried to find a home for the unused length of webbing he said “I can’t remember the last time I felt this hot.” “I can” I said “remember that Nullarbor crossing in January 2008!”
When we finally arrived home it was a race to see who could tear off their Draggin Jeans first. That evening, while we sat around with a glass of wine and a smile, I said to Steve “You know, my F650GS is the most beautiful thing I ever laid eyes on.” Steve gave me a quizzical look before he said “that’s exactly what you said about your Vstar!” I paused for a moment and said “Do you think it’s ok to be in love with two motorcycles?” Steve replied “I guess so!” So I fell asleep easily that night in the sure knowledge that everything was ok.