The sound I woke to reminded me of Fairfield – I used to live by the river, in the richest wildlife corridor in Victoria. Being woken every day at 5am by the birds! was amazing.
I’d actually done 32,531km by the time I took my bike in. I was told in by 8, out by 10. It seemed optimistic but was very attractive, so I foolishly thought to believe and made an appointment for lunch in Byron for 12 or 1… It was after 3 when I finally left, and because of the one hour time change to NSW from QLD, almost 6 when I got there.
It all seemed pretty good at first. I got there early (better early than late), and they gave me a voucher for breakfast. Awesome! I’d been up for hours, hadn’t eaten yet and had already taken in peak hour traffic, so I set myself up in the Pit Stop cafe:
After an hour or so I called Bertie and Sir Humphrey got on the line (Bertie’s vociferous, rubber companion pig):
Everything was going well. After three hours I was starting to get bored though. I am quite resilient, can amuse myself by observing my surroundings or disappearing into thinking or reading or writing or imagining, and I have plenty I need to be doing at the moment, so it all should have been fine, but as I had optimistically chosen to believe their overly optimistic time projection I started getting antsy at time-and-a-half.
Moments later I missed a call that said my chain and sprockets needed replacing, and I could come back now if I wanted or just give them call. I wandered back and Ari, the guy in charge of servicing, looked all worried… Has something happened to your bike? he asked with the chain..? I told him I threw the chain in the Oodnadatta Track (sounds so cool, doesn’t it!?) and he said well, there are a whole lot of things wrong with the bike as a result. Liam, the lovely guy who did the service, explained with his lilting Irish brogue that he had documented everything and would write it all up on the service report and also send the photos through. then he showed me the chain – the master link had come undone. The only thing he could imagine was that it hadn’t been put on properly (omg. my life is in the hands of the people who service my bike, you know. please, please, please get me back in one piece to Melbourne where the BMW-owned shop is the one looking after me. I know they are human, and can make mistakes, but they should at least be the best BMW technicians in the country). Liam was extremely thorough and seemed to know his stuff inside out. As he said, the chain would probably last me to Melbourne, but you don’t want it in the back of your mind, worrying you…, and besides, it might not…
change it. I said. please, go ahead. little did I know that this simple task would take them two to three hours. I started to lose track of time pretty quickly, but enough hours had passed since breakfast for me to be getting hungry again.. and the smell of their lunch was filling the showroom: I don’t eat pizza as a rule – the wheat makes me sick if I have too much. I sometimes make exceptions, but this was not one of those times. I needed to be clear, I had some big riding coming up (or so I thought).
It was hours again until I could leave. They were thorough and they were slow. they washed my bike, which was nice, but by this time I just wanted to get the hell out of there. By the time I got to a fuel station it was almost 3, no time left for my lovely twisty ride through the back hills down to Byron :/ It would be highway and traffic jams the whole way, with me weaving in and out of the traffic, lane splitting like a goddess (which was pretty nice in it’s own way too).
Unsurprisingly, my riding has been transformed by this trip. I’ve done 20,000+km on all kinds of road in all kinds of weather. Mostly hot, hotter, unbearably hot, humid and sometimes crazy, gusty and gale-force windy. It only really seriously rained once, and it hasn’t really been too cold, but I’ve done rainy in Melbourne enough times and cold in the snow country, so I feel like I’ve covered most options in the almost-year I’ve been riding.
When I got to Byron I was confronted with even worse traffic, complete with young travellers in hire vans that they roam around the country, sleep and eat in. I’ve seen plenty of them on the road, but there were literally hundreds in the streets of Byron. Typically terrible drivers, unsure if they are coming or going. One van stopped in the middle of the street for what seemed like an eternity one time too many. Exasperated, I went to go around them on the left (the side of the parked cars). Bad move. Without indicating, they suddenly decided to park, swinging their van right into my path. I turned out if their way and dropped my bike and immediately started yelling at the poor sods, giving them a lecture about how they might be on holidays, but people’s lives were at stake, and they needed to look around them and also indicate. At the same time, people had run out of the cafés to check on me (nice, momentary hippies, whose rich parents or high paying jobs let them bum around in Byron for a bit paying probably $8 or more for a coffee, or drinking the newest green smoothie). One nice guy picked my bike up with no effort at all and stayed to listen to my rant. They were all horrified and shocked and worried I was ok.. and had no idea what to say, poor things. They were worried I was hurt and I was just furious, yelling I know I was in the wrong going around you, but you can’t drive like that! :) I wonder if they’ll drive a bit better for a bit now?
My aunt (who I was there to visit) said there was an article in the paper recently, people are swerving in to make it hard for bikers to lane split, and even opening doors on them (wtf!?). I saw a little ungrateful swerving on the highway, but in the official, glamorous capital if all that is happy and zen that’s pretty aggressive, dangerous behaviour… lane splitting isn’t always easy, and it does everyone a favour by relieving congestion. if they understood they may even be grateful… I so wish people understood.
From Byron I raced off to Lennox Head, 20minutes further South, to stay with the lovely Robbie and catch up with the three muskateers – the guys who gallantly came to my rescue in Exmouth. Robbie was R2. There was Rob, Robbie and Bill (or Ben). Fantastic people, lovely to see them. A whole lot of us went out for an amazing dinner, but not until after I dropped my bike (again!) going up Robbie’s super steep and unexpectedly angled driveway. It was the angle that got me. I couldn’t see it, coming up from below, and when I hesitated for a moment on the way up (bad move), I just went over. It was a great, clumsy, unexpected was to meet people. The drive was so steep it was impossible hold the bike stationary with the brakes alone and it took three guys and me to get it up the hill. Now I understand why it almost broke your foot when you dropped it at Ningaloo (I have dropped my bike a little too often – it comes with the territory of being a small person on a big bike, in sometimes tricky landscapes – though in Exmouth it was a bit of oil on the road that brought me undone)