26 September 2010

Tim vs Amy, Cooee vs Tim

In the cloudy morning, I grunted a goodbye to Sal, who was diligently and quietly leaving for work in the rain. Her enthusiasm for work that day was as low as mine for getting up, though she chose to rise to the challenge instead of turning towards the wall and continuing to drool and snore for another hour. (Not saying that's what Sal typically does; that's what I did.)

Shortly after, a pile of pyjamas resembling Amy rolled into the lounge like a flannel tumbleweed, so I quickly concealed my drool patch and feigned alertness. We had a date with the Stuarts in Ipswich that night, so we spent our first ounces of consciousness arranging our transport and accommodation accordingly. Amy ended up with a booking on the afternoon train and I would race her there on the Reverend. Cooee had kindly offered to share his bedroom for a couple of nights so I planned to descend upon him after dinner with the Stuarts.

The sun came out for a while before lunch, giving Amy and me the perfect chance for some high-octane shopping in downtown Nambour. The place really has it all: Vinnies and the Salvos.  We picked our way around the place, ingesting coffees, sandwiches and pastry things here and there. Something that grabbed our attention was how polite the locals seemed to be. Every time we threatened to blunder into the path of an oncoming car, they would stop gently and motion for us to cross - quite unlike other parts of southeast QLD, where a wrong move might leave you with a radiator shroud where your lungs should be. Later on, when Amy was rushing to the train with her heavy suitcase, one of the oddly non-violent residents gave her a lift to the station! Perhaps all the physio Sal had done on the local population had made them feel so good they had transcended petty aggression and spent their days offering rides to strangers. Maybe everyone was high on drugs. We will never know.

By the time I left, the heavens had opened again and the Rev and I became hopelessly lost in a tangle of hilly backroads. Visibility was atrocious.  It took half a frustrating hour to find my way back to the familiar freeway, making me late to dinner in Ipswich. Amy had won this round of train vs motorbike and her smugness knew no bounds (at least, not in the confines of my neurotic head).

Dinner was a Thai feast that quickly set everything right again for this sore loser. After we ate, we spent some time in the lounge, marvelling at Bear Grylls' willingness to drink his own urine and sleep inside zebra carcasses for fun. Clay kept us entertained with magic tricks out of a book he'd found, some of which were even successful. Though I could have happily lounged on and stayed the night, I had to see Cooee, so I said a quick goodbye and left. Robyn, Rod and Clay would leave for Thailand soon. I rode through the cool dark and wondered when I would next see them.

I knocked on Cooee's door and he punched me in the balls. At first I wasn't sure if it was his usual affectionate greeting or he was upset that I'd taken so long to arrive, so I tried to smile while I coughed to clear my Vas Deferens from the back of my throat. A glass of red wine later, we were in his bedroom jiggling our wrists, sweating with the intensity of a properly shredding Guitar Hero face-off. We thrashed our plastic guitars through Tool, Metallica and other testostereophonic anthems to badassery, until it was very late.

Next day, I rode a luggage-free Reverend down to 99 Bikes in Fortitude Valley, where Cooee works. There, he was an assembler, wrench monkey and sometime sales consultant to the many Brisbanians who'd rather push pedals than accelerators. We both wanted Vietnamese food from the restaurant at the other end of the Valley, so he ducked through a door somewhere and re-appeared with the Shop Bikes so we could pedal our way there.

I don't know which of them was worse: the decrepit single-speed men's racer without any brakes, or the garishly decorated and slightly bent child's BMX bike. After a brief pause, he deigned that I should ride the BMX; at least it had brakes. Cooee's braking solution comprised a hastily fitted caliper stolen from the parts bin, with his feet for backup.

My 'Shop Bike' would have looked like this if it were new. It wasn't.

The insanity that followed was some of the finest cycling I have enjoyed in a long time. I bunnyhopped up the footpath; Cooee's brakes totally failed; we careened against the human tide on the footpath on our pathetic machines. It was unexpectedly and totally freaking awesome. Arriving at the Vietnamese place, we simply dumped our bikes around the corner and left them. No Valley drug fiend would make anything selling them to Cash Converters, so they were safe to rust in the laneway while we ate.

My stay was to be brief, so the next morning I rose with Cooee, saddled up the Rev and made my way back to Maryborough. Cooee was preparing to leave for Italy - taking some time to explore, ride and live differently - so it was a slightly sombre departure for me. We might only have been lucky to see each other once a year, but his insane creativity was always a delight to have in my life. I hope to hang out with him again, whether it's at home, in Italia or somewhere beyond. Save a broken bike and some vino rosso for me, dude.

Update: Cooee kindly sent me this pic of the very bike I rode (albeit with race bars fitted for extra speed). Here Mr Khoo models the Malvern Star RadMax which is, in no uncertain terms, RAD TO THE MAX.

12 July 2010


I arrive in Nambour soaked to the skin and dyed slightly black from my leather jacket. I should really have put my wet gear on, but the downpour hit so quickly that I couldn't find a safe place to stop. Hang on, what am I whining for? This is motorcycling - the sport of masochists!

Before I even found Sally's place, I bumped into Simon, her sister Katy's husband. He lead me there and Sal gave us all a warm welcome. The combined party included Sally, Katy and Amy (all sisters), Simon and me. We all got stuck into the lunch that Sal has generously provided for the horde of relatives. Burping and satisfied, Katy and Simon made the trip back to Brisbane, Amy had a nap and I went under the house to try and sort out the Reverend's running problem again.

Although I was still cold and didn't feel like taking the bike apart again, I had an idea that occurred to me as I was trying to get the Rev to idle when I left that morning. The choke lever had been feeling a little stiff near one end of its travel, so I decided to investigate if something was wrong with the cable. With the seat, side panels, left instrument assembly and fuel tank off, Eureka! There it was.

Because the choke lever uses one cable to actuate two choke plungers (one for each carb), there is a splitter halfway down the cable. One of the legs of the splitter had cracked, allowing the rear cylinder choke cable to stay taut even when the choke lever was off. That meant the rear cylinder's mixture was always too rich, ruining the idle and causing the engine to stall when hot. Woohoo! I'd worked the sucker out!

I still had to fix the thing, though. A phone call to Honda Australia brought the depressing news that choke cables were $80 and there wasn't a single one in the land. I told them that waiting eight weeks for it to be shipped from Japan was not an option and hung up. I needed another solution.

Everyone knows that you can fix absolutely any mechanical problem with gaffa tape (if you can't, it's an electrical problem). I wasn't carrying any, so I went to ask Sal for some. She looked high and low, but couldn't turn up any of the sticky black stuff. She thought for a moment.

"Would strapping tape work?"


"You know, the stuff I use on people." (She's a physiotherapist, helping all sorts of people at Nambour Hospital).

"Give us a look at it."

It was flexible; it was super sticky and: IT WORKED! With his guts taped up, the Rev started instantly and settled into a smooth and sonorous idle. Thanks to Sally, a little physio on his choke cable splitter had made him good as new again.

All three of us wanted an easy dinner, so Sal took me on a tour of the fast food restaurants of Nambour. Her little, green Daihatsu Sirion is an amazing beastie, despite its advancing years. Most of the family has bets on when it will explode during one of its daily Nambour hill starts, but the little jigger just keeps cheating us out of our money.

Back at the ranch, with pizza, KFC and a salvaged bottle of wine, we all chatted happily for a couple of hours. It's been a long time since I'd talked with Sal for more than a couple of minutes, so it was a relief to find her beautiful sense of humour had survived years of study. All talked out, three happy cousins went to bed.

04 July 2010

We apologise for this break in transmission

As many of you have commented, the pace of of new posts has slowed to a crawl. The most recent posts are well over a month behind - I'm writing this from a garden in Katherine, NT, on power I'm stealing from a nearby caravan site. It's the first internet access I've had in 5 days and 2000km.

Writing about what I'm doing and reading your comments is a major part of this trip for me. It helps me make sense of this little mission and keep my motivation up. It gives me a huge thrill when you tell me you've enjoyed my latest post!

The reality of my travel - right now, at least - is that I spend the bulk of my time simply covering ground and trying not to die. When I'm not riding, refuelling or resting, I'm talking to people and trying to plan my next move. Two hours of every day is chewed up simply by making and breaking camp. Maybe I really suck at camping.

Anyway, the point of this whine is that when I do have time to write, I usually don't have A) power, B) internet, C) a functioning nervous system or D) all of the above. The best I can do is take notes every day (and I'm doing really well with that), for fleshing out into diary entries later. Then I sort of pass out.

Dear readers, if there are any of you left, I WILL continue to write this blog until its natural conclusion. Even if I have to write half the story from home when I'm done, I'll do it.

That is a promise.

What I can't guarantee is the quality or frequency of my updates until I get to somewhere around Perth, which is a bleeding long way away. I'll do as much as I can. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this :-)

Lots of love,

Timmy P

PS You can find out where I am at any time by clicking the "Find Me" link in the top right-hand corner.

PPS Please find attached some photos of stuff you haven't read about yet.

Riding out west with Johnny.

A very special visitor.

Friendly locals.

Wide open spaces.

Friends (and relatives) for life.

26 June 2010

Lauren's cancer journey pt 3

My trip away to Queensland, before LT started treatment, gave me lots of happy times for the memory tank. I jotted some of them down over a beer on the way back to Hobart.

1829, Wed 6 January 2010.  Melbourne Airport.

The last couple of days have been a mixed bag, feelings-wise, which is pretty normal for me approaching any sort of 'change event' (Don Watson would be proud of my management speak).  I've had a few moments of despair that tend to lead to antisocial outbursts at family members, but they've passed quickly.  I'm a bit scared of what my role as a carer for Lauren might entail, and it's pushing my fear of commitment button pretty hard.  I need to remember that I'm still somewhat on holiday and that I need to look after myself if I'm going to be worth having around at all.  I wish our travel plans were still locked in; it would give me at least one thing to structure the immediate future around.

Phew.  Maybe no wild night tonight, going by my beer breath.  Gotta do something to fight the boredom though.
So LT has had her three first radiation blasts, with only minor side effects so far.  Poor girl was very uptight with that sort of whole-body nervousness before her first dose, but luckily things went reassuringly well. The mystery at this point is which other side effects might show up, how bad they'll be and how long before we're thoroughly fed up with the daily rigmarole of treatment.  You'll here about it here first, dear diary.

This tiny screen gives me fierce eyestrain.  I look up every now and then and can't pick the gender of anyone further than 5m away.  I guess it doubles my perving potential, if I really get desperate for a bright side.

Maybe I'll finish by jotting some holiday highlights to jog the memory, since I was slack as a lazy dog with the camera this time.  In no particular order, they are:

  • Playing at least 15 rounds of yard golf with Alex and, in between the long periods of sucking, actually nailing a few shots;
  • Trying twice, for several hours at a time, to tune A's nitro buggy to a useable state and failing;
  • Spending at least a working week setting up, fixing or otherwise fiddling with Dad, Mum and Alex's computers,  rendering the household somewhat more likely to harness the computing mumbo at their disposal.  I came close to frustration, but the happiness of success (and payment to the tune of $200) kept me going like a crack-addicted ferret with an IT degree;
  • Spending about 4 hours with Alex, chosing a remote control car with his Christmas funds, only to have the one he bought fail after 30 minutes.  Cue another 45 minute trip down the coast to swap it for another (blessedly functional) one;
  • Heading down to Kawana and spending half a day getting my camp cooking kit seriously sorted out. I am so damn chuffed with the compact cleverness of the setup I ended up with.  YEEESSSS!!!;
  • Seeing Mum burst into tears when Nick presented her with a Tahitian black pearl to thank her for supporting him through uni.  While I was completely upstaged on the gift front (the top I got her didn't fit), it was a beautiful moment;
  • Being a small part of the new car purchase that Mum and Dad made to kick off their Season of Spending.  It's a nice new Forester with lots of legroom in the back.  Lovely;
  • Getting myself and Paul some wicked new shirts from Ed Harry.  I love the look of my “Argentina” one, but the Terminator 2 quoting one is the funniest ever.  Paul loved his :-).  I also hooked the big man up with wireless in his house, which he reckons is the best thing since sliced bread;
  • Spending hours with Paul and Alison, vegging out, playing PS3, watching Zombieland, Sin City, Avatar and stupid Youtube clips.  Good clean manly fun;
  • Camping in the back yard in my new tent.  I made it through the night without the fly.  I am mother-effin hardcore;
  • Seeing mum's face when she saw me on Skype video chat for the first time;
  • Having a seriously beautiful time with LT in QLD.  I love just being us, hanging out.
  • Seeing Amy, Sally and the other Prideauxs yesterday.  Amy is looking great, but her lymphocytic colitis is back.  I hope to hell the steroids she's on do the trick, otherwise she's looking at another two years of being wrecked by chemo.  Please God, she's had enough;

I'll think of more, I'm sure, but I'm done for now.  Only half an hour til I can get on the plane. See you in Hobart.

22 June 2010

Home at last

Today's map.

It was a funny feeling to roll into the backyard of Mum and Dad's on a motorcycle. For the first time in the trip, I'd reached somewhere I really identified with from the past, so it was a bit surreal to turn up astride a part of my new life in Tassie. (I didn't get into bikes until I moved from the mainland three years ago.)

Little bro Alex, some twelve years younger than me, was excited to say hello until Nick and Eb arrived and he went totally ballistic. Having left home when he was only five, I guess I fit better into the 'grumpy uncle' category better than 'brother'. We see each other a couple of times a year and that's it. When all the family are together, though, it's loud, chaotic (by our standards) and a boatload of fun.

Visiting the folks isn't visiting the folks without one of my favourite things: sitting on the deck at dusk, drinking wine and solving life's problems. The house looks over the river and the canefields beyond, with Mum's meticulously-kept gardens and Dad's sprawling vege plantation filling out the foreground. Fruit bats whoosh overhead in small groups, the occasional jumping mullet makes a lonely 'ploonk' in the river and we are united in quiet conversation for half an hour. At least, that's how it would have been if Alex had sat still and stopped using long exposures and a torch to create photos of Nick with a giant phallus erupting from his middle. I loved it anyway.

In the morning, the real men - that is, everyone but me and Mum - went off for a round of golf at the local links (is that what you call them?). Golf, to me, is somewhere between having herpes and being mauled by dogs in terms of enjoyment, but Nick and Alex are both pretty good at it. Worried by the Rev's recent misbehaviour, I raided Supercheap Auto and the local bike shop for everything necessary to give him a full service. Assuming the poor running was an overheating problem, I made sure I had everything handy to flush out the cooling system and make sure it was healthy.

We played copious rounds of Modern Warfare on Alex's PS3. The usual characters were in play: Alex, merciless and happy to sing about shooting you in the face; Nick, almost as good, but more polite when celebrating his headshots; and me, morose and frustrated, constantly being shot in the head. I'm glad I never joined the army.

Next morning, we met up with our very Dutch grandmother for breakfast at a portside cafe. The service was terrible - "D'youse wanna sit inside or ert?" - but the bacon more than made up for it. I feel there would be far fewer broken relationships these days if only people would turn to bacon in times of need.

It was a short stay, because there were still more people to visit in the great southeast, so I prepared to head south to Nambour and visit cousin Sally. My departure was in front of the whole family and did irreparable damage to my ego when the Rev once again refused to start and idle. Alex even had time to get the camera and record my increasingly frustrated attempts to leave. Alex, if that turns up on Youtube, you're a dead man, ok?

Without time to unload the bike and take it apart again, I chose to go anyway, once I worked out how to keep it alive. I made my exit eventually, tense and frustrated, riding in the rain for an hour on the way to Nambour.