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Snow Bunnies

(From the Travels with Guido Series #235)

by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen

There are times when you really need to take a good hard look at yourself

Is it possible that motorcycling is a chronic condition? There’s a fair percentage of the population who just gives a thousand-meter stare when you try to describe its delights. Because what you say and what they hear are two completely different things.

You’re talking about the thrills, the fact you get supercar performance for Hyundai Excel prices and the camaraderie. What they’re picturing is the appalling danger, the hideous price (it costs you how much to hurt yourself?!) and the general alarm at meeting a lot of seemingly large and ugly loons.

The more dedicated among us are our own worst enemies when it comes to how ‘civilians’ perceive us. For example, I give you former Australian Motorcycle News Ed Ken Wootton (RIP), who sent an invitation to go for a three-day ride in the middle of the harshest winter for a decade. Reason enough to plead several important family engagements and hide under a doona.

But wait, there’s more. The ride (an annual event for 14 years) is called Dumb & Dumber, I was being asked to collect a scooter for the event (of course, what else would you take touring in crap weather?) and we were heading across the Snowy Mountains. Naturally I accepted.

The scooter turned out to be the only one in a fleet of half a dozen varied motorcycles.

If you want to sell something to motorcyclists, here’s a tip. Write DANGEROUS – DO NOT TOUCH in big red letters down the side – they’ll buy it by the container-load.

Can you imagine trying to sell this concept to any normal member of society? It’s like saying you’re going nude shark fishing, with a sack of burley. So you can imagine how enthusiastic my parents were when I told them of the adventure (after the event, of course). Even 1800km away down a phone line, you can hear the unspoken bitter disappointment that, after all these years, their son still hadn’t found a more dignified form of amusement, such as golf. (Although exactly what’s dignified about smacking a ball around a paddock is something I’ve yet to grasp – each to their own.)

Of course Wootton decided we have to meet on the other side of town at some ungodly hour. Why in hell do organisers of these things feel obliged to get everyone up before dawn? Make the most of the day, perchance? Hogwash. My idea of making the most of the day is getting up at the crack of 10 and heading down the road for a chilli beef noodle soup, to be consumed slowly over the morning paper. Believe me, the Snowy Mountains will still be there after lunch.

It’s Friday the 13th (no, I’m not bloody kidding…), it’s dark and the weather blokette on the radio says it’s about to rain cattlegrids. I seriously consider ringing Wootton with a fabricated broken leg. Then, when I finally muster the grit to head off, I discover the dingbat has given me the wrong address. And when I get the correct one, there’s not a chilli or a noodle in sight, but some dubious concoction called a McMuffin. The staff respond to my request for a large brandy as hugely amusing. I find their refusal to supply one far less so.

Because the ride has been going on so many years, and most of the other participants had done it several times, we were of course regaled with tales of how former victims had variously nearly skii-ed off the edge of a precipice in the company of a very large and expensive motorcycle, trowled a few hundred kilos of cruiser, been lost above the snowline in the dark, had threatened to sue, and or all of the above.

So there I am, sober, sleepless, chilli-less, wet and having waking nightmares about what’s to come. Ah yes, the rich rewards of being a motorcyclist.

At that time of morning, it does however have one huge compensation: you have a perfectly legitimate reason to put in earplugs, fit a helmet with a dark visor and neither speak nor listen to anyone.

The sun did eventually make an appearance, which lifted the mood and all became right with the world. We got to play in the snow, nobody died and we even got to sample the delights of some pretty decent roads, plus the hospitality of the Dalgety and Tintaldra pubs.

That still doesn’t really answer the bigger question of how playing snow bunnies on motorcycles becomes your idea of having a good time reflects on your mental state...

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