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Breakfast at Wilson's Tintaldra Hotel

Breakfast at Wilson's

(from the Travels with Guido series MT #239, Dec 2010, posted May 2020)

Owning old motorcycles is fraught with danger, but Guido reckons breakfast at Wilson’s can solve pretty much anything…

It was one of those situations where we just had to get out of town, away from the pre-Christmas madness. The approved retreat for the Lemmings Motorcycle Club (motto: Death before courtesy) is Wilson’s Tintaldra Hotel, up on the Murray River.

Normally we’d just jump on a couple of bikes and head north, but this time around the plan was to take Winston the 1947 Sunbeam S7 and Trevor the 1974 Triumph Trident along. While the Triumph just might make the 900km round journey with no serious problem, Winston is a whole other nest of vipers.

Up to now, I haven’t trusted it beyond the end of the street. We’ve had a heap of work done, and it’s running beautifully, but there are limits to what you can expect from a 73-year-old motorcycle whose idea of a fast gallop is having a steady 50mph (80km/h) on the Smith’s Chronometric speedo.

The cynical among you may notice I was just putting the two most crotchety objects from the shed in the one place, which hardly sounds like a recipe for a relaxing weekend.

To get them there, we borrowed the Motorcycle Trader mag trailer and hitched it up behind the long-suffering Holden Kingswood. Dunno if you’ve seen that trailer, but it’s about the size of your average block of flats, with the same aerodynamic qualities. Its main redeeming feature is that it’s large enough to live in – handy when spouse Ms M senior finally decides that I’m no longer welcome in the house.

My entire towing experience could be written on the back of a matchbox with room to spare. Something I hadn’t figured on was that while the lazy V-eight would happily do the work, it was going to guzzle petrol at an incomprehensible rate. By the time I’d worked out the fuel consumption, there was real concern that Greenpeace would set up a blockade to stop us, just before we used all the fuel in Victoria. Really, at 4km/litre, it would have been cheaper to hire a Lear jet.

This whole idea of towing your road motorcycles to a decent riding spot is new to me – up to now, if the bike wasn’t able to get there under its own power, it wasn’t going. However when it comes to these old things, the plot has merit. The Trident isn’t the ideal distance mount, while the Sunbeam, with its oddball controls and near-absence of a front brake, is guaranteed to give you heart palpitations every time you encounter traffic. And you could guarantee that a long run up the highway would see it blowing pretty much every seal within striking distance.

It’s enough to say that, other than the damage we did to the nation’s fuel stocks, the Friday night trip up there was uneventful.

So there we were in Tintaldra on a Saturday morning, luxuriating over a long and lazy breakfast, watching the swollen Murray River amble by. Having completed this ritual, over a pot of tea large enough to navigate by submarine, it was time to contemplate the day’s riding.

Tintaldra happens to be right on the edge of some of the best riding in the world, with a big range of roads to suit a variety of abilities and styles. Publican Alf Wilson grabbed his riding gear, and we selected the Tooma loop, a wonderful 50 or so kays over rollicking hills with a cooling ale at the halfway point.

Wilson used to own Winston and was initially worried I was back to return the monster and reclaim my money. He gently pointed out that the factory warranty ran out about midway last century…fair enough.

He needn’t have fretted. Winston and Trevor were on their best behavior and reveled in conditions that were perfect for these old things. It’s unquestionably the best ride I’ve had on either bike (I ended up doing it a couple of times over the weekend) – good enough to make any thoughts of repair bills and fuel consumption become distant and irrelevant memories.

Days later, there’s still a warm inner glow that comes as you relive the experience. Sometimes you need breakfast at Wilson’s to understand why you go through all the trouble.

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