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Adventures in Our Own ‘Backyard’ Magical Mystery Tours!

December 7, 2020 Headline News, Oceania News No Comments

Even During Covid-Cabin Fever… My Foot Is, Constantly Tapping

Like the rest of the planet, I have been suffering severe covid19 ‘cabin fever’ and even the mere suggestion of a spontaneous 2 hour drive to a roadside lunch-spot ‘in the bush’ looks almost, as appealing as an over-the-water bungalow in Tahiti*. Almost.  The notion to be lighting-out to, ANYWHERE-at-ALL, holds tremendous curb-appeal.

If we are currently hobbled by Covid19, and unable to enjoy any ‘long-haul’ travel, there is almost nothing that prohibits us from gallivanting right here, in our very own, Australian ‘backyard’.

Statistics seem to indicate a pent up travel Tsunami, suggesting we’re apparently not alone in the notion.

When I mentioned my travel frustrations to a new friend, his response was remarkable, and very refreshing. It appeared as if a lightbulb went on in his head saying, bugger it, let just Get Up & Go!

YES! I’m ‘all in’! Just show me where to sign on…

“We’re all in this together!”

That was less than two weeks ago now, when ‘Weste’ at Surfside Motorcycles in the Northern Beaches suggested I ride along on a ‘mystery tour’ atop the saddle of a vintage-1941, styled Royal Enfield motorcycle. I leapt at the offer and asked for a brochure with the details.

‘Sorry Mate, who needs paperwork? It’s a Mystery Tour!’

No Brochure, no booking forms, no terms and conditions, just a friendly ‘call to action’ with a notion to light out to nowhere in particular. I’ve been a tour operator for over four decades and I know when things are going to fall apart. Red Flags went up everywhere in my head, and I started asking the questions embedded in me. I saw monumental barriers, red tape and impossibilities for this tour ever eventuating, everywhere I looked. Where would we go? How many of us might sign-up on with such significantly-short notice?  No Brochure? No Flier? No Advertising? Never Gonna Happen.

“Learn the Way of Many Weapons…” – Samurai Battle Creed

I totally underestimated the power of people with passion for their pastime; in this case, straddling the saddle of a 1941 styled Royal Enfield motorcycle.

I drilled deeper asking as kind-heartedly as I could, how in hell, during the course of my new friend ‘Weste’s’ already-choked and time-challenged days, he intended to plan, never-mind-manage all this?

“Weste” simply rotated his chair, took a long-haul of his latte, and pointed a gun-barrel-finger to a blackboard behind his desk. Without bravado, he simply said … “I’ll have 15 Royal Enfield riders on that board by Friday. He’d been here before. ‘We’ll limit the group this time to just 15 riders…so it leaves us enough time to have the custom T-shirts for the tour silk-screened.”

I really thought he was kidding with me.

Birds of a Feather/Leather, Do Flock Together!

Six days later, there were 15 names on the board, mine at the bottom. And, 3 others on a ‘waiting list’, eager to go. T-shirts were silk-screened for every rider… all of them, Large & Extra Larges sizes, with ‘extras’ so riders could choose either Blue or Black!

When I asked about routing, and accommodations I was told everything was ‘under control’, a route was carved out on a single sheet of A4 paper, safely tucked into Westes’ top-pocket.

Tote Only a Toothbrush & Swimmers 

We’d be away one night.  I was reminded to pack only skivvies and a toothbrush. And, be prepared: that meant… Be breakfasted-up, a full tank of fuel in my borrowed Royal Enfield, and on the curb-side in front of Surfside Motorcycles at 7:30 Saturday morning. We’d have a quick briefing, kick-stands would go up and we’d roll away from the curb at 8! Make that 9. Nobody minded; we had an extra donut each while Andrea took pictures of our mounts for the next ‘newsletter’.

The fourteen other Royal Enfield riders were a melting pot of great guys. A United Nations on two wheels, who really didn’t care a-hoot where it was we were headed, they were just pleased to be going somewhere. The comradery and kindred spirits and the free-wheeling-notion of getting there, getting anywhere, by motorcycle was all they asked for. And more. For this writer, the Mystery Tour revealed an entire bucket-list of things I’d forgotten. The other riders, all of them strangers when we started the ride were from very diverse backgrounds yet they happily shared a singular common interest. The entire weekend was nothing short of Magical.

I Try to Learn Something New Each Day – Our Mystery Ride Gifted me a Month of Sundays

At every planned-for or impromptu stop along the way, I was gifted with another vignette or revelation about my fellow adventurers. The more I learned the better I like this mob. Our Tour Director focused on the notion that we had something wonderful in common, which cut thru all kinds of paperwork and red tape, and went straight to the roadway. He was happily adapting to Corona, and improvising as he went along.

Our ‘trail boss’ casually, oftentimes lead-footed in our greed and need for speed, led, the way. Unless someone else was keen to ride out front. Riders swapped mounts so they could compare. There was no pecking order, or place in the line-up. Motorcycles drifted to the front, or casually dropped-back at intersections. Very Democratic while an easy-going rider at our ‘back door’ made sure no one got left behind. We stretched out like a pearl necklace on the road to who-knew-where.

Our tail-gunner held the only other copy of Weste’s itinerary and having his headlamp in my rear-view mirror was like having a security blanket in my backpack.  His mission, was to leave no rider behind… a notion I understood fully when I fondly became the ‘empty-tank-Yank’: AKA, the lad who ‘ran out of fuel within 3 KMs of our fuelling stop. Our ‘Royals’- artworks on two wheels motorcade stretched out serpentine-like along the roadway, passing thru National Parks and the meandering Ocean Roadway to Wollongong…and beyond to our night-spot in Goulbourn. I belonged here.

I can’t recall a nicer bunch of people.


My Take-Away Was Monumental “Just Do It!”

Professionally, I discovered that I was equipped with the tools to improvise and adapt, even under Covid cloud-cover in future. I could take a page out of Westie’s top-pocket note-pad. I could create short mini-touring packages for kindred spirits. Weekend surfing and skate-boarding getaways, cooking, fishing or writing and reader’s retreats?  Antiquing and fossicking adventures. Road rallies for my mate with Rolls Royce’s?

Personally I learned heaps as well. In future I pledge to check the fuel tank one more time before lighting-out. I will, wear the leather, steel-toe boots I’d left inside my front door instead of deck shoes without socks. The engine bits get hot around your ankles when you’re flying for a few hours. Occasionally touching them along the way reminded me. I spent a lot of time remembering I was gifted with two ears, and only one mouth. I learned so much, simply by keeping my mouth shut. You can’t help but learn something when you’re on a motorcycle. You’re constantly on alert, which opens every mental pore. I discovered a totally new language without even speaking. I now know this hand-signal means…’you dumb-ass, you still have your turn indicator on from miles ago now!’ And the hand-gesture that shouts, ‘Slow down, you’re doing 65 in a 40 zone’. And, “Coffee’s just around the next bend in the roadway’. Or,  ‘So Sorry, I just took all of you thru a speed camera at 100!’   and finally, This one, from “Westie” means….’Only Joking with You Lads!”

The Magical Mystery Tour, Is coming to take you away…
That’s an invitation
To make a reservation
Roll up! The Magical Mystery Tour
Is coming to take you away
Take You… TODAY”   – The Beatles 1967

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Written by: Mark William Sheehan

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