Monday, March 14, 2016

BBB Reflections

The last two days have been very reflective as I say goodbye to our BBB ("Big Blue Bertha"). This is not just a motorcycle, a Nomad 1600 Kawasaki Tourer .... this is BBB, she represents our freedom, an escape from the pressures of life.

In 2003 my Mom passed away while we were in a battle to save our business (based in Toowoomba, Queensland) from a hostile takeover attempt by a huge multinational. This battle was draining not only of our resources but also on our energy, stamina and faith - the lengths that big business will go to in order to stamp out competition is quite astounding. We (Bonnie Ronnie and I) needed an escape and remembering the exhilaration that motorcycle riding had provided in our youth, we decided to save a deposit and purchase one. During our research, we both fell in love with the NomadVN Kawasaki so we put up a picture for motivation and in 2005 we were ready to purchase a brand new Nomad on HP (This had nothing to do with the business and I've alway been a stickler for keeping the financial aspects of our personal life and business separate).

BBB was assembled here in Australia in June 2005 and we took delivery in July. Our business had just survived the hostile takeover attempt. In addition, a twelve-month court battle to evict destructive none paying tenant's from our home in Petrie was successful (we were renting accommodation in Toowoomba). Our very first ride was to retake possession of our home and it was during this ride that we named BBB. What made the ride so memorable was the heartbreak and devastation felt when we entered our home in Petrie. There are no words to describe the stench and destruction which assailed us, causing us to dry-retch. 

There were many trips to Petrie over the following eight months as we repaired floors, walls and replaced all the fittings and the joy of riding BBB back and forth the only highlight during that period. We eventually sold the house in Petrie and bought one in Toowoomba. (Yay no more rent!).

We decided that we needed a purpose for our rides and so the search for the ultimate Aussie Hot Dog began. What a wonderful escape BBB provided, we rode around the countryside in all weather, went camping, rode through a pub at Aratula, attended Blues festivals and had many a glorious ride. 

Our quads grandchildren were born and I had my one and only accident on their (the surviving three) first birthday while on my way to work that morning. An old wooden railway bridge on a double 90 degree 'S' bend was covered in ice. The surface of the bridge was not visible until one was committed to the bend and whilst I was only travelling about 10kph BBB is close to 400kg so down we went as she lost her grip. Fortunately, I didn't break anything and only lost a small chunk of bark as my knee made contact with a protruding coach bolt. BBB wasn't as fortunate suffering a twisted frame, torn radiator, crushed muffler and pannier. The fun came when I went to lift her, it would have looked hilarious as my feet kept slipping out from under me and we would repeatedly become a tangled mess in the middle of the bridge. Finally, I managed to raise BBB and so there I was on the wrong side of BBB at her rear on this little wooden bridge with ice everywhere balancing myself and BBB by hanging on to her back rest.... the trick was to get around her ample rear end, mount her so that I can ride her off the bridge without breaking anything so I looked up to see if there was anyone I could call on for help. There just stepping onto the icy bridge from the opposite end is this tiny little old lady of at least 80 (if she was a day) - "hold on sony I'll help you", she says. Beyond her, I could see her little car with hazard lights flashing and there is not another soul around. "I don't think you should come any closer, you could slip and fall!" I said with a vision of the old girl breaking a hip. Undeterred she came up to me and insisted that I let her help. I had her stand behind BBB so that if the bike fell she would be out of harms way and just balance the bike under instruction to let go and remain still if it started to fall. I was able to get around and mount BBB and rode her off the bridge where I saw the little old lady on her way.

In 2009 our youngest grandchild was born to my son and daughter-in-law. I have thousands of photo's of BBB and our adventures, of our grandkids all dressed up in our gear, climbing all over a parked BBB as my daughter-in-law refused to allow them to ride with me. Our eldest grandchild by a year (my daughters, stepdaughter) on the other hand absolutely loves riding with her Poppy with the blessing of my daughter and son-in-law.

In 2010 after suffered a series of heart attacks, underwent surgery and had to stop riding for a while, by 2011 after further heart attacks and surgery I was advised to sell the business and get away for a while. Well, to cut a long story short we sold a portion of the business and went away for several months - see out travel blog "Ridgeback Ramblings".

On our return things had not gone as planned as far as the business and finances were concerned and we lost everything including our family home. Fortunately, a couple of customers/suppliers who had become dear friends allowed us the use of BBB on the proviso that we bore the responsibility for registration, insurance and traffic violation costs. My health had improved for quite some time and we enjoyed our rides but as with all good things, the tide turned and my heath took another backward step only now my beautiful Bonnie Ronnie lost confidence in my ability as a rider. Ronnie was apprehensive and tense when she climbed aboard BBB, even on short rides.... it was no longer an escape, exhilarating or enjoyable. The time had come to close the book on this chapter in our lives and so BBB has been returned with our gratitude to her owner.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Perth to Brisbane

There are many stories of many highs and lows in our Perth years but I'll leave those for other posts in the future and skip forward to September 2005.

We had a Holden HK Station wagon that we had purchased for $500 within the first week of our arrival, and it had broken down once again. It was a lovely two tone brown station wagon in need of much TLC when we first saw the station wagon with the red 186 motor - turns out it was just dirty and was in fact blue. Anyway, I had just been ripped off by my employer a South African migrant  and lost all of our savings (a long story for another day) when our real estate agent gave us seven days notice to vacate as the property had been sold. My neighbour, Mr Hannover had been offering me a full time job on the Canning Council for some time and I had knocked him back (Rejected the offer) several times as the catch was that I would pay graft of 25% to him for the job.  I didn't have a lot of options available so I went hat in hand and accepted Hannover's offer. I told him of my predicament and asked for a lift to the depot to which he agreed for an additional 25% - I simply couldn't afford to work for half a wage so opted to walk instead, it was less than three hours each way and I'd done a lot tougher than that.

Ronnie found a house a few blocks away, rent was only $5 a week more and the little old lady who owned it promised to clear out the double garage and two of the three bedrooms where she had been storing her things, within the week. The house hadn't been lived in for a while so we didn't even realise that the open drain at the rear was actually a French sewer (above ground trough that one needs to flush manually frequently). We applied for and received our first credit card, a Bankcard and were able to pay the bond and buy a lounge suite (All of our furniture to that point had been gifted to us by battlers, recovered from the tip or en-rout to the tip.) so things appeared to be improving. I was very negative and had developed a habit, of referring our luck to 'Lombard's Law', Murphy's Law says that if things can go wrong they will while 'Lombard's Law says that there is no such thing as 'if'. So naturally things went from bad to worse as we reap what we sow.

By November I had taken about as much as I could, the car had broken down again, our landlord had made no attempt to clear the rooms or the garage which were padlocked, I had discussed the graft issue with three of the six, six man crews that Hannover supervised and estimated that he was making an extra $1800 per week off our backs. It had been decided that we would confront him (Hannover) to put a stop to the graft with the threat of exposing him if he wouldn't listen to reason. I was elected spokesperson and we brought the matter to a head - Hannover was not at all interested and immediately sacked me and increased graft to everyone by a further 5%. I went to the office and reported Hannover and judging by my reception, there were many hands in that cookie jar. I was paid my severance with benefits which totalled about $350 so I headed home. On arrival at home Veronica, the Landlady and a Gentleman in a suit were having a heated discussion behind my car in the driveway. It turned out that the suited gent was a court Sheriff accompanying the landlady who was serving an eviction notice as she was going to move back into the house. We had 48 hours to vacate the premises and this was the proverbial straw that broke this camels back.

Ronnie and I discussed our options and decided to leave Perth which had not been good for us, we would head for Brisbane as our closest relatives lived there and we were sorely in need of a little empathy and motivation. Our resources were all but extinguished and we would have to start again  but would settle wherever the car broke down or we ran out of money, whichever came first. I had picked up a head for the motor from the tip which I was going to have skimmed but didn't have the time. I cleaned the head up as best I could and put the motor back together. The bankcard had become a maxed out problem that we had cut up weeks earlier so we had $300 to our name and 7000km to go in our old boong wagon 'Betsy'. What we couldn't fit on the trailer we simply left behind, we didn't have much anyway but I still had to chock the trailer (set blocks in place to prevent the suspension from breaking).

The kids thought that this was a great adventure as we set off. I was sorely tempted to deal with Hannover but the thought of my family trying to cope while I languished in jail kept me in control as we drove past his house.

Well of course we broke down, not once but many, many times. I carried spare water, oil and fuel, extra air in the spare and a compression pump which used one of the 6 cylinders to pump air. The motor was on the boil within a hundred kilometres and only quit when the oil became so thin that the motor heat seized. We would set up camp on the side of the road, people had advised us that Aussies were such a helpful bunch that if you stayed on the road, someone (usually a truckie) would stop to offer help.... well they did slow down, to about 120 kph as they went past. No-one ever stopped and there were no offers of help, no knight in shining armour I'm afraid. 

The first time things got a bit serious, was whilst crossing the Nullabor, we were in the treeless plain when there was what sounded like a shot, the oil temperature needle practically jumped into the red and a black trail appeared on the bitumen behind us. I pulled the car over, stopped and popped the bonnet, I could barely touch the bonnet even with a thick rag, it was so hot but I did manage to get it up and could see oil squirting from the block. The oil temp sensor had stripped and blown out of the block, ... great! I walked back down the road to the start of the oil trail and low and behold there it was smack bang in the middle of the road - unbelievable. I picked it up and headed back to the car which was way too hot to work on.  I was worried about the kids staying hydrated and told Ronnie that we would set-up camp. It was the middle of the day and as we finished putting the tent up we heard a popping hissing sound only to find that the thermostat we had purchased from KMart had just exploded, it seemed it couldn't handle anything over 55℃.

At 22h00 the car had cooled enough for me to work on it, I used some trinipon 2-part putty to cement the sensor back into the block and reattached the wire, replaced the oil and water and rejoined Ronnie at about midnight. We discussed our situation, broken down with little hope of reviving old 'Betsy', half a world away from our immediate family, two babies, very little food, about $150 to our name, a $1500 bankcard debt and bugger all left to lose. It was actually quite a relief to know that we were about as low as we could go. We had been fighting so hard for so long and steadily going backward, feeling trapped as we couldn't go back and we couldn't settle, we had cried crocodile tears of regret as we prayed to be woken from this nightmare. There we were gazing at the stars and realising that apart from our importance to one another (our children included) we were of very little significance in this most awesome universe, we were finally at peace - praise God. This was a significant turning point in our lives which we often reflect upon, a tranquillity like none other which was truly awesome.

When we awoke at daybreak we prepared a meal, had a coffee and I told Ronnie to sit tight as I tried to revive old 'Betsy'. I put the key into the ignition and said a little prayer as I turned it.... Vroommmm, first go - unbelievable! We packed up the camp and off we headed once again being very mindful of our oil temp, watching the water temp was a waste of time as it was in the red almost immediately. We made a couple of stops to look at the coastline but didn't want to wander too far from the beaten track as a remote breakdown would almost certainly mean death.

When we arrived at Ceduna, while refuelling the car at a service station I went to top up our drinking water only to find the taps locked, I found this curious so made enquiries at the teller. I was not prepared for the tirade of abuse I received - it seems that we bloody useless wogs (a common term for foreigners) are nothing but a drain on Australian society wasting what precious little fresh water finds it's way into their tanks and I was to piss-off. Bugger! I had been warned about water shortages on the Nullabor but was totally unprepared for the water shortage in South Australia. Our enquiries eventually found us receiving a little 'drinking' water assistance from the South Australian Police Service. I did a quick scout about for a little work to boost our rapidly dwindling finances with no luck and decided to push on to Port Augusta.

As we stopped at the little towns along the way I would make enquiries about employment opportunities with little success, now and again I could earn a few dollars cleaning, loading or unloading but barely enough to buy a loaf of bread and carton of milk. After crossing the salt flats of Lake Gilles which are truly spectacular in a desolate way, Port Augusta was a hive of activity but alas no real work there either. I looked at the Flinders Ranges with dread, I was not sure 'Betsy' could do it even without the loaded trailer but armed with my new positive attitude we would attack the climb with gusto. I told the kids that Betsy could use their help as we started the climb and when the old girl was giving her all and barely moving and I mean literally barely moving millimetres, the kids would be singing out "C'mon Betsy, you can do it!" over and over for hours but we did make it to the top where we all took a well earned break.