Published on November 18th, 2014 | by Boris
This was certainly Bombala.
The sign said so and I had been here, or through here, many times before.
But it was not the Bombala I knew. The Bombala I knew was invariably cold – the temperature has always been in the single digits whenever I have stopped there for fuel or food.
I was there a month ago as I passed through on my way to the MotoGP and it was the expected five degrees.
It was now 39 degrees.
Go Global Warming, you great and good thing.
I had had an excellent ride from Sydney – all things considered, one of which was being booked for speeding. But the Road Gods were full of benevolence in that regard.
I had been whirring along on the Moto Guzzi California at what one might term a “heady pace” since leaving Sydney early that morning. It was Friday, traffic was sparse, and I was rolling the dice.
The Guzzi hummed along with surprising vigour and smoothness. Sure, it was more Milan than California with its two-tone seat, masses of convoluted chrome, vast Perspex screen and swoopy panniers, but it certainly had the goods on the road. It is one of the smoothest V-twins I have ever ridden. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s up there with the silky Goldwing at speed. It is responsive and lopes along north of 140km/h with supreme effortlessness. It does tend to run out of steam as you approach the 190-mark, but by this stage it has left all the other cruiser twins (bar the Indian Chieftain) far behind. Stylistically, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I far prefer the un-screened, unlight-fittinged and unbagged version in terms of aesthetics – but when you’re doing the miles, the screen, lights and panniers sure do come in handy.
So where was I? Oh yeah – whirring along at a heady pace.
I whirred through to Goulburn, chucked a left and whirred along to Tarago, where I encountered a road crew. I stopped before the Lollipop Man, who looked at my bike, hauled out his wallet and showed me an image of his old Moto Guzzi Le Mans.
“That’s a real Guzzi!” he chortled.
“And where’s it broken down?” I asked.
His face fell.
“In my shed,” he muttered.
I rode off, turned right and went through Bungendore and Queanbeyan, before settling myself onto the California’s wonderful seat to enjoy the blessings of the Monaro Highway. And they are many and they are perfectly suited to the Guzzi. They are also perfectly suited to 200bhp sportsbikes ridden by insane speed-fiends; giant stroked, rigid Shovelheads ridden by beer-addled hate-freaks, and just about everything in-between. It’s a very nice bit of road. Seems a damn shame to be bobbling along it at an altogether stupid 100km/h.
So I wasn’t.
The oncoming Highway Patrol car that I encountered as I crested a hill probably was, but.
He lit himself up, and I pulled over in the shade of a solitary tree to wait while he performed a U-turn. I didn’t wait long.
Good morning,” the policeman said as he came up to me.
“Good morning, officer,” I replied.
“I am Sergeant So-and-So from So-and-So Highway Patrol and I need to inform you that our conversation is being recorded and videoed. Have you anything to drink today?”
“No, I have not.”
“Please count to ten,” he said holding an orange breathalyser under my nose.
“Got your licence?” he asked.
I produced my licence.
“I recognise that name,” he smiled. “I’ve read your stuff.”
I remained silent. No questions were being asked, and I was still unsure how this was gonna play out. I knew how fast I had been going when I came over that rise. And I was pretty sure he also had an idea about how fast I was going. We wouldn’t be here otherwise. Him knowing who I was, was either good, bad or irrelevant. Only time would tell.
“I clocked you at 149km/h coming over that crest,” he said. “Is there any reason why you were traveling at that speed?”
He and I both knew that since a ravening Tyrannosaurus had not yet appeared along the road, my answer was going to be very prosaic.
“It’s hot,” I said flatly. I do hate to disappoint when it comes to being prosaic.
He grinned at me. “Yes, it is,” he agreed, then asked me to wait until he performed some checks on his radio and left me kicking stones and staring at the hills for a few minutes.
He emerged from the police car in short order, traffic infringement in hand.
“You’ve been pretty good since 2011,” he said cheerily.
“I haven’t been caught since 2011,” I thought to myself.
“You’d do a lot of miles in your job. It must be pretty hard to keep a licence.”
“It sure is,” I agreed, wondering how long I’d be sitting it out for after this little escapade.
“You have 21 days to either pay this or have it dealt with by a court,” he said, handing me the infringement notice. “Any questions?”
“No,” I said, looking at what he’d written on the ticket.
“I’ve got a Guzzi, you know,” he said chattily. “An older one than this. Good thing, is it?”
“Yes, it’s great,” I replied. “Where’s yours broken down?”
“In my garage,” he sighed.
We both enjoyed a companionable silence while he considered his broken Moto Guzzi and I considered my traffic infringement.
“Have a nice day,” he said, and walked back to his car.
I looked at my infringement notice again, and said: “You too, officer.” And I meant it.
He had booked me for 10km/h over the limit.
He had not booked me for 49km/h over the limit.
I genuinely hoped he pulled over a car full of coked-up supermodels and had himself a fat old porno-time on the side of the road that afternoon.
I had a calming and somewhat celebratory beer in Bredbo and made it into Bombala around lunchtime.
Having examined the accommodation that had been reserved for me in the caravan park, and deciding that there was no real need for me to sleep in a musty tent that had been erected for my sleeping pleasure by a polite and toothless custodian named Dale, I went to seek alternate lodgings.
My brother Whitey lives in Bombala and while I would always find a warm welcome under his roof, my bizarre comings and goings over the course of the bike show weekend might not dovetail with his young family’s needs. I required a motel room, and once again, my bizarre luck provided me with one.
“We’ve just had a cancellation,” young Viv in the Maneroo Motel informed me and gave the keys to a small, but very clean room. It had all I needed – a hot shower, a small fridge, a working power-point and a clean bed. The tent Dale had erected for me had none of those things.
I dropped off my stuff and went to meet the organisers of the Bombala Bike Show at the town’s showground. I could have walked there, since Bombala is not very big, but I rode because it was very hot, and walking is for tramps.
At the venue, I was greeted by Sam, who was one of the local organisers of the show and Terry, the lady who does all the marketing stuff for Australian Motorcyclist magazine.
Sam appeared harried, but in control and very organised, and Terry was concerned with the whereabouts of Thoeming and Woodbury – the Publisher and Editor of Australian Motorcyclist magazine, who was one of the show’s main sponsors.
“Are they not with you?” she asked.
“I have texted Peter (Thoeming) several times but there’s been no reply.”
“They could be in jail,” I told her. “They don’t let you take your phones into the cells.”
I’m pretty sure she knew I was joking.
Having shared my sense of humour with important people, I went to the pub and found Brother Gromit, Brother False Boris and Brother Partymore (who is a woman).
We bought beers, adjourned to a large wooden table out the back of the Globe Hotel, and proceeded to get drunk.
We seemed to be in good company. There were maybe 20 other motorcycle riders out there all getting drunk too. Partymore accelerated our damnation by winning the meat raffle, and somehow talking the publican into letting her convert the dead beast-flesh into a beer tab. She is good like that.
Woodbury and Thoeming showed up later in the afternoon, along with a barrister named Rob, and made a half-hearted effort to get drunk as well, but they stood little chance of catching up. Whitey and Monkey Toe, on the other hand, also wandered in and set to with a will.
Three police in flak vests made regular appearances in the beer garden, and it was probably to see if anyone made any serious attempts at murdering the band. The band had so far murdered Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, so it was a fair bet someone might perform a revenge killing.
Being armed with top-end legal representation (Brother Gromit is also a lawyer), I felt that we should spearhead the assault upon the band. The devil would take the hindmost and rock’n’roll would be all the richer for it.
It was not to be, sadly. Toohey’s Old – a noted and eldritch poison – had done for me. I made a flanking sortie upon the guitarist, intending to go all Keith Moon on his axe, and instead found myself out in the street where some local fellows were trying to climb onto the shop awnings across the road. Their efforts were being enjoyed by the police, but apart from some yelling on both sides, it all looked pretty benign.
I had a few words the next day with the local police sergeant and he told me that in the 23 years the Bombala Bike Show had been running, they had never had any trouble of note.
“There’s been a few accos (bike accidents), but that always happens,” he shrugged. “And a few years ago some bloke from Sydney kicked ten shades of shit out of one of the locals, but a thousand witnesses said the local deserved it.”
That’s a pretty good record, I felt. And probably due in no small part to the fact that the show is not run by bikers. It’s run by a committee of enthusiastic locals. Raises lots of money for the town and for charity and the local police hope it gets bigger and better. Which will probably result in the non-local police swooping in and fucking everything up for everyone, but such is the way of the world. Twenty-three years in, and so far it’s all good.
And it is good, as I saw the next morning.
The showground is a natural amphitheater. People camp around the fringes of the oval and on the tiers overlooking it, and the show itself takes place in the middle of it all.
It was a good deal cooler this morning, so Bombala felt familiar again and all the locals looked more at ease now that the air temperature was just above freezing.
The bike show itself proved to be more eclectic than I thought it might be. There was everything from some top-line custom Harleys to concourse vintage stuff, and everything in between. The oval was full of bikes arrayed in seven categories, which Thoeming and I were meant to judge in the fullness of time. To one side, the Flair trials team had set up its trials show and the riders certainly pulled no punches. I felt a bit sorry for the emcee, who was no doubt more used to working a less laconic crowd, who largely ignored his imprecations to “Give it up for the guys! The more noise you make, the wilder they get!”
Island Mick, Jonesy, Pete, Ross and the Assassin turned up during the day, erected a tarpaulin, availed themselves of the free firewood and proceeded to get fried Old School style.
Which is pretty much how I absorbed the Bombala Bike Show. It’s Old School in every way. Friendly, well-run, with lots to see, hear and do. Kids are catered for with giant slides and inflatable death balls; adults can drink booze, hear the loudest bike in a killer sound-off, and shop for trinkets, baubles and beads from the gypsies who attend these events. There’s tonnes of good coffee, the food is fresh, hot and well-priced, and it was refreshing to pay five bucks for schooner in a town that wasn’t out to empty your wallet as quickly as possible.
Angry Anderson was the headline act that evening, and by all accounts gave a good account of himself, encouraged as he was by bearded mountain men howling at him to “Shut-up and sing a fucken song, ya cunt!” from the terraces.
The next morning, I rode out of Bombala in the rain.
But I was smiling with satisfaction.