Sunday, 30 January 2011

Most People Don't Suck

The summer  heat has become oppressive, and the whole of next week is going to be a scorcher – relentless heat in the mid to high 30s every day.  I thought yesterday was going to be my last chance to go for a decent ride in bearable weather for a little while, so headed out to lovely Wyangala Dam for a look at it in sunny weather. It was supposed to be an easy 450km round trip, just me and the Crow and the big wide world.
I had a fabulous ride, cutting a swathe through clouds of white butterflies. The Crow handled beautifully, hugging the road like a best friend and chewing up the kilometres. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, the sky was blue, the landscape beautiful through a bit of heat haze. Life doesn’t get much better. 

The dam was awesome at 92% full. I was surprised by the number of people who, just like me, travel out there just to look  at the water levels and shake their heads in delighted disbelief. 
 Then I stopped to refuel at Cowra on the way home. Put $12 of fuel in the Crow. Took everything out of my tail-bag three times before having to admit MY WALLET WAS NOT THERE!

My heart fell through the bottom of my Rossi boots. My entire life was in that bloody wallet – credit card, drivers licence, Medicare card, a little cash, and membership cards galore – Health fund, Ulysses Club, Garden Club… . My brain raced faster than the Crow on a straight road and gave me a memory of carefully placing the wallet on top of the loo paper dispenser in the ladies loo at – get this – the massive, ludicrously busy Service Centre just outside Yass.  2 or 3 hours earlier.  Senior moment? Rank stupidity? Bloody disaster!

Just when you’re at that point in your life when the daily news is so depressing, so hate- and crime-filled, that your faith in human nature is approaching rock bottom, something like this happens. 

Pete, the bloke behind the counter at the Mobil servo in Cowra, went through a long and involved process to find the phone number of the Yass service centre (the Cowra phone directory doesn’t extend to Yass), and paid for my petrol out of his own pocket while I spoke to the people at Yass.

Pete, you’re a star – thank you!

Also a star is the very honest stranger who found my wallet where I left it and handed it in at the counter in Yass. Thank you so much! My battered faith in human nature is now restored – it’s true that some people suck, but most people just don’t. Most people are lovely, and that is easily forgotten in the day-to-day bad news world we live in. Thank goodness for the occasional reminder, cunningly disguised as a disaster.

I made an unscheduled trip back to Cowra today to pay Pete back and to thank him again for having helped me out.  My mate, Mrs Humble, accompanied me as far as Boorowa, and we rode home together as well, in 35 degree heat, pouring huge volumes of cold water inside our jackets, only to have the home-made ‘evaporative cooling’ system evaporate within ten kilometres. Crikey, it was hot! It’s a sad fact of motorcycling that one simply cannot get cool, riding at the speed limit – so we arrived back at my house exhausted and dry-roasted in our bike gear.

What a day. I think I need a little nap.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Girly Road Trip

The girly road trip has been in the pipeline for a while, ever since my friend Lucy & I put our heads together to plot a day trip for her mum’s visit from the frozen UK.

We picked a stinking hot day to drive to a hot country town in NSW for our adventure, just to make sure Ann got an authentic Australian experience, and an opportunity to thaw out.

Here they are: three generations, ready for adventure. 
Only Lucy & I knew the destination (and even we weren’t 100% sure how to get there, although we knew the general direction!

Our first stop was the lovely town of Harden for coffee, then, inevitably, a wee at Wallendbeen.  Back in the car again, we headed through Cootamundra to Junee, with Jenna earbashing us all the way. I swear that girl could talk underwater!
At the Golden Grove licorice & chocolate factory at Junee, we signed up for the Freckle-making tour. A freckle is a chocolate disc coated with hundreds and thousands, and full of about a million calories. Yum.  They made us wear these incredibly glamorous hairnets in the freckle-making room, coz after all, nobody wants a hairy freckle. (I can’t believe I said that!)
 Jenna, multi-tasking: pouring chocolate, licking fingers AND talking!
Freckles duly made, and hardening in the coolroom, Jenna was quiet while we listened to the talk where they explain the history of the factory, and played a game called licorice bowling. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… This is how is works (in theory):

You chuck a big lump of hard licorice up into the top of a flour bag chute and see how many skittles it knocks over when it comes out the bottom, and you make a proper goose of yourself by trying to catch the skittles as they fly out the bottom. Perfectly sane grown-ups engage in this embarrassing pursuit, in the quest for a free bag of licorice. Ann had a lovely time chucking the licorice ball up in the air, again and again, over-arm, under-arm, sending it everywhere except where it was supposed to go. We did not win the bag of licorice.

Onwards and upwards, Jenna talked all the way to Junee’s other main tourist attraction – Monte Cristo, Australia’s most haunted homestead.   
 Even during daylight (I suppose ghosts don’t sleep) this beautifully restored home has spots that make the hairs on the back of your neck prickle. The temperature had nudged up past 30C by this time, proving that ghosts aren’t affected by the heat either.

Jenna was still talking, so we went back into town for lunch to find a sandwich. Opposite the RSL there’s an Historical Society cafĂ©/museum, which was air-conditioned and perfect.  The grown-ups finally got a word in while Jenna ate her toasted sandwich.

The whole trip was a big loop, nearly 500kms long, and the return drive took us along some picturesque country roads, through the tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Nangus and into Gundagai, where of course we had to visit that Aussie icon, the dog on the tuckerbox.
Jenna dozed off for about twenty silent seconds, then woke up and resumed her chatter. We had realised by this time that as long as she was awake, she would never stop talking, so we adopted the ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’ approach. The silliest game of ‘I Spy’ followed,  (Lucy – KNEES does not begin with an ‘N’!) and brought us almost all the way back to Canberra, laughing our heads off.

A glass of chilled white wine awaited us back at my house, then Ann and Lucy took chatterbox Jenna home, and I sat in my silent house, blinds down to keep out the baking evening sun. What a great day - thanks, ladies!

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Veteran Vintage & Classic Motorcycle Club of ACT - Annual Rally - what a blast!

Note: this is being written in a David Attenborough nature documentary semi-whisper, so you need to read it the same way.

1914 Monarch - yes, it goes! Magnificent!

In the genus  Motorcyclista there  exists a somewhat peculiar species of enthusiast known as the motorcyclo aficionado superretro.  Often (but not always) characterised by grey hair and an ingenious emergency toolkit, individuals of this species are solitary creatures, often spending months – even years - secreted in large backyard sheds and garages with their ancient machines, performing fascinating rituals with spanners and oxy-torches, paints and polishes,  and pistons, plugs and points, or scouring eBay for spare parts. 

Once a year, at the height of summer, the individuals heed a mysterious visceral Call to Assembly with others of the species, and Nature pulls them inexorably to a meeting place like the Carotel motel in Canberra. They come from all over, and in large numbers, in cars or vans, towing trailers loaded with precious cargo. A hardy few even risk riding their lovingly-restored motorcycles - if they don’t have to go too far.
Once there, they indulge in time-honoured rituals like beer-drinking and bike-judging, and they tell restoration sagas and breakdown stories in the lost and lyrical language of imperial measurement. Iconic names trip from their tongues - Rudge, BSA, Ariel, Indian, Vincent, AJS Matchless, Triumph, Harley Davidson, Ducati...
They go for short rides that culminate in magnificent morning teas. (A keen eye can identify their feeding places by the spots of engine oil that speckle the car parks where they have congregated).

They have a Presentation Dinner that honours the most perfect and noble among their number.

Individuals of the species trailerus breakdownii  exist in happy symbiosis with the aficionado superretros, and can often be seen retrieving those unfortunate superretros whose ancient machines have broken down in ways that will not be remedied easily by the roadside. Nobody sneers or scoffs. Instead, they applaud the pluckiness of the individual and the bike, and thank the Powers That Be that it wasn't them.

On our journey this weekend, one fortunate BSA devotee had his sidestand returned to him from whence it had fallen off on the Cotter Road, but the owner of the lost Triumph footpeg cover remained elusive, as Triumph devotees often do. 
1923 Rudge - the King of the Rally.

Yes, that is carpet on the footboards - carpet your great gran would be proud of!
Thank you to the VVCMCC for a lovely weekend. Great bunch of people, a great event. I had a lovely time tagging along on my brand new Suzuki SV650S,  and nobody made me feel like a fraud, ha ha! Here’s their website – enjoy!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Think about Ink: a cautionary tale

It isn’t true that we regret our tattoos – well, not all of them, anyway. I'm very fond of the tasteful one on my left arm, but the big one on my right arm was a mistake. I think I knew it several years ago - on the day I got it, in fact.

About 10cm long, a Celtic design in which a dog and a bird entwine, it was originally all in black, but the lines leached into each other after a couple of years, and it became an unsightly black blob. The solution? Oh, add some more ink to it, of course! Some glorious living colour! Silly cow, that was Mistake #2!** (see below)

And the result? A muddy, multi-coloured blob. Bugger. Even worse, a muddy, multi-coloured blob that I would carry with me forever.  I could kiss sleeveless shirts goodbye at work. Teaching is a fairly conservative profession, us being role models and all for the yoof of today. Young, hip, tattooed bloke teachers seem to get away with it. Middle-aged ex-Navy men get away with it. Middle-aged lady teachers - even 'big bad biker' ones - raise eyebrows, and, I suspect, sympathy levels. The fact that I wasn't middle-aged when I got it is now completely irrelevant.

Every trip to buy something nice to wear to a special occasion involves a certain amount of embarrassment as shop ladies, especially those under 25, look askance at my upper arm - sometimes horrified, sometimes curious, sometimes smugly superior. I can hear their thoughts:

What the hell is THAT supposed to be? 
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

I've tried to make myself feel better by telling myself no woman over 50 should wear sleeveless things anyway. I shouldn’t inflict my bingo wings, nanna flaps, tuckshop arms (and my personal favourite, although I couldn’t find its spelling anywhere- fladoobidas) – on anybody. 

And then I had an epiphany, and used my friend Google to find Laser X Tattoo Removals. They come down to Canberra every month –and there’s no shortage of people keen to remove bits of ink from their flesh.

My journey began yesterday. Realistically, with one treatment every 8 weeks, it could take a couple of years. I may be seriously old before it's gone. So, is it worth it? It remains to be seen, but I'll give it a go. If there's no appreciable difference in 6 months, I may abandon the idea.

It hurt my hip pocket - it's going to cost about 10 times what the original work did. It also hurt my arm more than the original tattooing. The laser makes a crackly noise, and stings like mad, but there's no smell of singed flesh or anything horrible like that, and it's really quick. One treatment took less than about 3 minutes. The swelling will take a few days to go down, and the area still feels hot, 18 hours later.

**On the downside - if you can possibly consider pain, swelling and potential bankruptcy an 'up'side, that is - there’s no guarantee that the blues and greens will actually come out. Red and black respond well to the laser, but blues and greens don't - something about colour wavelength. Anyway, watch this space… Perhaps they'll develop a new laser that can get those tricky blues and greens out one day. In the meantime, if the best I can hope for is something faded enough to cover easily with that make-up people use on birthmarks, well...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Invasion of the Martians

I'm not one for recipes, really. Apart from soup-making in winter, I'm a fairly utilitarian cook. I only do it when I have to, and I like to keep it simple. There's one recipe, though, that has been a family favourite since my kids were little – and which they still love to this day, despite being in their late 20s.

It was how I could get my kids to eat their greens. Dished up with a side-serve of drama -(alien voice) “Take me to your leader” - the kids loved it, and I didn't have to resort to plonking a vitamin C tablet next to their chicken nuggets in lieu of vegies, and telling them "eat your vegetable substitute pill, children, so Mummy won't have to worry about malnutrition and scurvy, and you will grow big and strong."

To make Martian Sausages, you need Martians, although they're kind of hard to get, out of season. And sausages. Or, more accurately, sausage skins. You squish the little Martians into them and tie off the ends. Then you boil them in oil, ignoring their little Martian screams. Muwahahahaha!

Ok, just kidding. No Martians are harmed in my recipe, which should, more correctly, be called 'Faux Martian Sausages' – but I didn't want to make my children appear pretentious by giving them the odd French word to throw into their kindergarten conversations. Also, the little fiends probably quite liked thinking they were eating Martians, and telling them they weren't would have been akin to telling them there was no Santa.

So – what are these faux Martian Sausages?

Make a giant pot of delicious, creamy, mashed potato (not too soft and creamy – the antennae need to stand in it). Stir into it some finely chopped cooked silverbeet - organic from your own garden if possible, like this stuff:

That will give it a lovely green Martian tinge.

Add a handful of grated cheese and some cracked black pepper, and stir it all up. Put a big blob of it in a bowl, and add sausage antennae and cherry tomato eyeballs.

"Take me to your leader".

Monday, 3 January 2011

Wyangala - Third Time Lucky!

NERD ALERT!!! Yes, it's true. Sometimes I am a big nerd. While other people are getting excited about overseas holidays, sunning themselves on faraway beaches, or shopping in Hong Kong, I am all excited about riding about 170kms to Wyangala Dam and taking photos of the current water levels. For fun.

Before you (a) get out the violins, or (b) laugh derisively – oh, forget it... Chortle away if you must – but check out these pics:

These were all taken from the same place, believe it or not. Now, as soon as I can figure out how to retrieve/copy MY photos that I uploaded to Facebook (yeah, good luck with that) I should have a few more to show you!

After 2 failed attempts in the last couple of weeks, I almost despaired of seeing the dam so full – I rode to Boorowa last week and found a sign on the way to Wyangala that said the road was closed somewhere or other, so I rode home. I googled. I rang the local copper.

“I'd like to ride to Wyangala Dam. Is the Frogmore Rd open?”

“God no! After the recent floods, there's a dirty big hole in the road. You need to go via Cowra. It's only about an extra 45 minutes.”

After the disgustingly hot and humid weather of the last few days, this morning dawned cool – chilly, even – and with some fairly threatening cloud cover. I thought I'd make a third attempt. I texted my mate Deb. Coincidentally, she was engaged in the completion of a jigsaw puzzle (a 1000-piece beach scene that sounds far harder than the 1000-piece Top Gear Vietnam puzzle that has been on MY kitchen table since New Years Eve) and reluctantly dragged herself away from it to come to see the dam with me. Heh heh, does this mean you're a nerd too, Deb?

Deb & I have Wyangala History – but haven't ridden together for ages now. We were part of the “Mud-Wrestling Biker Chicks” tour (an 'in-joke' – there was no mud-wrestling, honest!) that braved 42C heat to go to the dam – twice – and therefore have a personal interest in the place.

The comparative pics of the dam speak for themselves – here's what you don't get from the pics, though...

The Superb Bakery at Boorowa is just that.

Roadkill smells horrible.

There's a divine scent reminiscent of orange blossom hanging over the road in various spots where the roadkill isn't – I'm such a horticultural numpty that I have no idea where it came from, but it was beautiful.

Clouds of white butterflies rose from mauve roadside flowers in a bizarre sort of Mexican Wave as we rode past them. Some of the silly little buggers splattered themselves on my helmet. One even managed to get inside my visor – how the heck did that happen?

Just as we got to the dam, thunder rumbled, and we spied forked lightning as well. We spent enough time at the dam to take a couple of pics (thanks, by the way, to the elderly gent who took pics of us in the rain) and then, mission accomplished, we headed for home via a huge goss session at a lovely cafe in Boorowa (a cafe that makes potato scallops from REAL potato!)

Water water all around.... including coming from above!

It was almost 7.30pm when I got home. What a splendid, splendid day!