Posted to the Aigor mailing list 3.6.99 by Hendrik Gout
Andy Griffith had organised the weekend, the 660 km Three Passes run to the Southern Flinders Ranges, but he was wrong - it was two passes and one gorge. Two passes were made by a blonde to Murray at the Melrose Pub, and gorge was what we did in the dining room.
The Frats met at Gepps Cross in northern suburban Adelaide mid-morning on Saturday. I don't know who Gepps was or why he was cross: he wasn't there when I rolled up, but Andy was on his T3, little-boy excited. There was Murray on his newish Aprilia 650 single, Rob on his 1000S, Mark and Jo on Mark's Le Mans 1000, Jack and Norah on Jack's immaculately presented V50III, Melanie and I on the V50, and Mark from Terrigal on a LM 1000 identical to Mark and Jo's LM 1000, so to minimise confusion Mark from Terrigal was simply called Sydney Mark, and Mark and Jo's Mark was Mark-and-Jo's Mark.
It was raining on the way to the meeting spot, but it wasn't to rain all weekend. There were to be several breaks in the storms, and these usually coincided with our lunch stops while we were drip-drying inside a pub. God knows you don't waste rain on motorcyclists under a roof.
We set off north along the Port Wakefield Road, turned east through the country town of Mallala, and then north again. The wind was sucking very hard from behind us. A sheep blew across a paddock, birds flew backwards, electricity wires sang, and the Guzzi purred. We sat on 120 - 130 km/h, and because of the sucking wind this gave us a through-the-air speed of about 200 km/h.
The fearsome rush of wind from where we were going to where we had been meant, in meteorological terms, that we were riding from an area of low pressure to an area of high pressure. Lows on a weather map mean wind and rain, highs mean sunny days and light breezes. Unfortunately, the clouds where we were going had never seen a weather map, and didn't know what they were supposed to do. They massed up ahead of us, dark, brooding and sullen.
At Balaclava Norah made a call of nature, which is the savage cry of someone who discovers how many layers they have on. It's not a friendly call, nature. This gave the rest of us a chance to see the Balaclava hockey team which played over the road from the public dunny, and to admire the stone architecture of early pastoral life in South Australian mid-north. Balaclava, in the centre of a once-prosperous grain and sheep district, got its name from the Crimean town where a few Light Horses carked it. As Al Tennyson put it:
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made,
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.
And for that piece of drivel, Al got his Lordshipness title, and a nameless town on a windy plain in the South Australian Mid-North got to be called Balaclava. Could have been different, though; the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 was commanded by Lord Cardigan. Balaclava could have been called Cardigan.
The building boom stopped in the country half a century ago, but Balaclava's stone houses remain - bull-nosed verandahs, sashed windows, and smoking chimneys. The bulk handling depot flew the Australian flag, which was flapping to shreds in the sucking.
"At least it isn't raining," Jo shouted into the wind. A moment later it started to pour.
Still northwards, to Crystal Brook, where delicious steak sandwichees and coffee held the rain at bay, and north again, along the eastern edge of Spencer Gulf. Near Port Pirie, where Broken Hill's lead is smelted, we could see the Southern Flinders to our right. The Flinders have a range of colours to them unlike any other mountain range in Australia. They are red and ochre, russet and orange. Except in the rain, when they are coloured wet.
From Port Germaine, which once boasted the longest jetty in the Free World, up into the Flinders via Port Germaine Gorge. Someone had come along a little earlier and spread boulders and sand on the road, so we took it easy and admired the scenery, which was stunning, but not as stunning as the boulders and sand on the road, which were a real work of art.
We got to Melrose, destination for the night, and while Jo and Mark-and-Jo's Mark and Andy and Murray sloped off to the pub, Sydney Mark and Norah and Rob and Jack and Melanie and I went for a walk through the bush in the drizzle to a lookout and to Cathedral Rock, which was obviously a White Man sacred place, but which looks very much like a natural formation to me.
Then we walked back through the drizzle and into the pub, where Jack discovered the bar, and Melanie discovered the pool table, and Jack discovered the bar, and I discovered the juke box, and Andy discovered the dining room, and Jack discovered the bar, and Jo discovered the karaoke machine, and Jack discovered the bar, and a winsome blonde discovered Murray, who discovered he liked it.
There was a bit of sleep next, but not so much that it's worth talking about.
In the morning, Jo said, "At least it's not raining," and we set off into the direction of the rain.
There followed the usual things that Frats get up to on a run - a sedate fang. We went up and down the Flinders Ranges through Horrocks Pass and Pitchie Ritchie Pass, the wind ceased sucking, and God emptied his bath. "At least it isn't so windy," said a wet Jo.
Yacka is a small, desperate town north of Clare. It misses out on being in the prosperous Clare Valley by 50 kms, and it misses being in a tropical location by about 5000 kms, so it doesn't have a great deal to recommend it. The pub closed 18 years ago and by that time there was nobody left in the town to notice. It was here that my V50 made suddenly noises like a timpani, so I turned off the ignition and pulled off to the side of the road.
Everyone stopped. "At least," said Jo, "we should get out of the rain."
I hung on to the back of Jack's bike with one hand and he towed me to the windy verandah of an abandoned store, which offered the impression of shelter.
I knew my ride was over. This engine had terminal troubles. The general consensus was that it was crankshaft. "No worries," I said. "We'll redistribute the gear, and Melanie can ride with Rob, and I'll jump on the back of Sydney Mark's bike, and we'll get back to Adelaide." This, of course, meant leaving the V50 in Yacka, but from the look of the town, a lot of things had been abandoned here.
Then some bloke wandered over. Would we like to get out of the rain, he asked? He lived over the road. He pointed to a new brick home. Perhaps we would enjoy a warm cup of coffee? Would a large, waterproof shed be of any use? Perhaps we'd like to use his phone? He was still offering other things, but we'd left him. We were already on the way over to his house.
We left the V50 in his shed, used his phone, had his coffee, and I climbed onto the back of Sydney Mark's Le Mans for the long trip home. I wasn't too distressed. I quite like being a pillion. It gives you time to think.
Why would the engine suddenly go cactus? Some people may describe load-bearing surfaces, lubrication, and metallurgy. But it's not like that.
Inside an engine there are a lot of gnomes. Some work very hard at a dynamo, making electricity. Others are down in the sump, sloshing small buckets of oil over everything. The bravest of the brave of these gnomes work in the Incendiary Section, blowing flammable liquid into a bellows and setting it alight, while below other gnomes are pulling the piston down. Behind the engine, gnomes work in a metal room full of giant gears, and at a signal from the gnomes which work near your left foot, they move these giant gears along a shaft. At the back is where most gnomes work, pulling a huge rear wheel around.
Usually, all is harmony and order among the gnomes. But sometimes, for an inexplicable reason, chaos erupts. You can see this in the Other World, when a civilised people in a cultured country suddenly place a madman on their throne and start smashing their tanks against the houses of people in another country, and throwing those of a different religion or race into barbed wire compounds. There is no logic in it. It happens.
In the world of engine gnomes, it happens too. One gnome will take up a striking hammer and start smashing the nearest thing - a bearing or a valve. Others join in the frenzy. Soon they're all at it, breaking things that only minutes ago they were looking after. Chaos.
Over lunch at the Clare pub I realised this was going to be an expensive repair. An engine-out jobbie, back wheel off, exhausts off, timing gear, oil pump, heads off, pistons out, all new gaskets, new shell bearings, spilt the crankcase... bloody hell. I've got other things to do with my life. Like drinking Coopers. And other things to spend my money on. Like more Coopers.
The next day, I drove back in sparking sunshine to pick up the dead Guzzi. Gentle zephyrs played with the thistle balls. I was driving the van, and the weather was perfect. He has a sense of humour, does God.
So now the bike is in Jack's shed. I'm taking a day off work tomorrow and I'll start the engine-out process. Meanwhile, I've got wheels. My mate Phil has a V50 Monza, but, because of a minor administrative matter, has allowed his licence to lapse until the heat cools off. Also his registration. Which meant there was an unused V50 in Phil's garage. I was going to take my number plate and rego sticker off my V50 and out it on Phil's, but Jack said "Oh, are you sure that's legal?", so I decided against it. I certainly wouldn't want to do anything of dubious legality. Instead, I put Phil's engine in my bike, also his frame, and indicators, and speedo and electrical cables, and footpegs and gearbox and wheels and tyres and brakes and seat. And headlight and starter motor and swingarm.
The only thing, in fact, I left on my bike was the number plate and registration sticker. So now I'm riding around on my bike again, although with all those changes, it looks a lot like Phil's.
Today, at my typemachine, I look out the window to the blue waters of the Gulf St Vincent. There isn't a cloud in the sky. In a minute I'll make some calls and see if I can get my torque wrench and a few other tools sent down from Brisbane. I'm going to get to know Jack's shed pretty well over the next two weeks.
V50 - no need to exaggerate