Chapter 1 - And Gott Created the Motorcycle
We were riding our Moto Guzzi 750 with a group along the Pacific Highway almost half way between Sydney and Brisbane near the small coastal town of Urunga when we pulled over for a fuel stop. I didn’t actually need fuel but I did wander into the service station and asked the attendant if he had any WD40 or other spray on lubricant. One of the guys from our group who was standing in the queue behind me asked “what do you need that for?. I told him that I had this bloody annoying squeak coming from the back end. A slow smile spread across his face, then a tentative glance over his shoulder to check the coast was clear and he replied “well you brought her along, you silly bastard”.
So I thought, if she can call me ‘Windbreaker’ (see Pillion Point of View) then I can call her ‘Squeak’.
You see I had to bring her because she owns the back half of the bike but I will explain that later. The WD40 did the trick with the squeak but it brought with it a cold chill of fear, a memory of an earlier Italian affair.
I don’t know why I love Italian stuff so much. I was born in Scotland, well after the war so unlikely that any Italian POW could have had it in for my father. But for some reason I do love Italian things. I love Italian food, I even had a restaurant once and used to cook pasta and pizza and pollo and pesto, all with great gusto. My first car was a 1959 Fiat Millicento and my first registered bike was a brand new 1973 Benelli 125Cross.
I had learned the basics of motor cycling on old BSA Bantams or my brother's Bridgestone 90 and his Honda 175. However the new Benelli stood in the showroom red and gleaming, taunting me to climb aboard and so my torrid Italian affair began. I owned it for about 2 years and we rode, sometimes together, on trails all over the eastern coast of NSW. On one occasion we leapt of a cliff together – or should I say the Benelli leapt off and I simply forget to let it do so solo. On another occasion we attempted to climb the second highest slate slag heap in Australia and in our failure to not quite make it to the top, set the world down hill speed record – in reverse. We also set several underwater endurance records but unfortunately we never set any reliability records.
The motor was a gem, unstoppable and capable of revs that many of today’s modern two-strokes can only now attain. Then again not many bikes of its era would be silly enough to get its frame wedged between two rocks with the back wheel air-born and the throttle cable snagged full-on in wattle a tree.
The Benelli's forte was to lose things. It started with little things, a nut here or there. The front number plate fell off (good riddance) then the mudguard and then the kick start. Have you ever tried clutch starting a stalled trail bike when you are on a rock strewn creek bed standing in 1 metre of water.
Then came the day that the gear lever fell off and disappeared over the edge of an 80 foot precipice – initially I wasn’t too upset because it was better than the time the whole bike (with me attached) fell over an 80 foot precipice. Then it occurred to me that I was on a bush fire trail some 90 kilometres inland from the coast and that I still had to ride about 40 kilometres back to the ute, in second gear.
Eventually we found a treatment for the Benelli's bulimic behavior . One of my mates who worked at Qantas as an aircraft engineer supplied me with aircraft nuts and bolts. Once these things are bolted up – you had to cut them off. Unfortunately by this stage the splines on the kick start and gear levers were so worn that we just welded the bloody things on and soon I after I sold heap of #%%&.
You would think that this experience would put anyone off but no, I continued to have this longing for another Mediterranean love machine.
Now well you might ask, what has all this got to do with the ‘Squeak’ on the back. Well I married her you see, for better or for worse and as I said, she owns the back half of the bike. But first some background......
It was on a weekend camping trip – June long weekend 1975 that I took her for her first ride – bike ride I mean (you dirty minded buggers). And it was that very weekend that she proposed to me...that's what I said "she proposed to me".
I had off-loaded the Benelli and we were camping at Frazer Park just south of Newcastle with a group of friends. One of my mates suggested that I take Squeak for a ride on his Suzuki TS185 so off we went. No helmets, no boots, no gloves, it was a beach camping weekend and safety be buggered, I knew what I was doing....!
I took her up over the headland and then down the steep sides and onto the next beach for a run along the sand (something I would never do on my own bike) and then I headed along the dirt track back towards the camping area.
Just as we arrived at a turn off – one of my non-biking mates – a complete 'hoon' in a HG Holden came screaming up behind us. The feel of an HG’s bumper bar on your back has an instant motivational effect and so we tore down this narrow bush track like a pig on a date with pit-bull, doing two wheel drifts round the corners, mono's over the creek and a full lock up stop at the bottom.
It took me some time to release my grip of the handle bars but then I raised my eyes to the sky and thanked 'Gott the Creator' for delivering us in one piece. I turned around to look at Squeak and tentatively asked ‘how are you”?
"I am fine" she said, "I really enjoyed that, especially the race down the track".
Well, I thought to myself – "she's pretty easy on the eye, who needs brains".
But that wasn’t why she proposed to me. It was later that day we went rock fishing and you guessed it. Squeak was busy telling me about how unstylish modern fishing gear was when a well aimed wave swept her off her feet and into a surging hole of foam, rocks and certain death. Meanwhile I had managed to hold on limpet like to the barnacle covered rocks when the eerie silence alerted me to the fact the she was gone. When I realised where she was I stood there for a second praying to Gott to bring her back, because I didn’t want to have to jump into that foaming, boiling, surging hole to Hades.
Suddenly her head appeared bobbing in the water like an old adrift mooring buoy, but as she wasn’t talking, I wasn’t absolutely sure if it was her. You see her head appeared Medusa like with tangled flowing strands of sea-weed and old fishing line, while her face set in a pale grimace and her eyes bulging (funny I hadn’t noticed the resemblance to her mother before that). So I steeled myself for action and I threw caution to the wind and bravely yelled at her to get the hell out of there.
We spent the next hour carefully removing old rusty fish hooks from her body. Years of fisherman’s snagged lines had found a home in her soft young silken skin. Her lovely young body was bruised and grazed and when she said to me “do you want to get married? I kissed her gently on her torn and bloody lips and said "yes darling". Wasn't till later I realised that she had lost my bloody fishing gear!
I was sworn to secrecy by Squeak, about the near death experience at Frazer Park. Although we immediately told her parents about our decision to marry and that went over surprisingly well. Squeak’s Dad locked himself in his workshop and her mother went absolutely silly, but none of that was unusual.
At that time we used to water ski with Squeak's family on Lake Munmorrah just south of Newcastle and on an occasion about a week or so after the rock fishing episode I was sitting on the bank of the lake with Squeak’s mother. Then like gust of rank wind and in a rare fit of coherence she looked me straight in face and said “listen hear, you black eyed gypsy bastard, don’t you ever take my daughter off on a bloody motor bike ever again”.
‘Black eyed gypsy bastard’….welcome to the family, I thought. I set my jaw and looked seriously at medusa-in-law-to-be and said “ok no motor bikes, but is it ok to take her rock fishing?” She gazed at me as if I was as mad as her own father and replied “yeah, that’s all right, but NO motor bikes, d'ya understand- ya bastard".
I remember when I told my mother about the black eyed gypsy bastard she looked horrified and then in her most indignant Scots accent said “son, you are not a bastard - I remember your father well - and his name will come to me in a minute".
Now Squeak’s mother is predictably unpredictable – a couple of years after threatening me with painful loss of my manhood if I took her daughter on a motor bike, she bought herself a Honda 90 step-thru. This is a woman who only weeks before had fallen off her exercise bike, probably leaning into a left hander. Anyway the Honda 90 sat unused in their driveway for months and then she decided to give it to me. Vindictive old b..tch.
Over the years that followed I had a selection of road and trail bikes but true to my word Squeak never – well rarely ever touched the pillion seat.
Squeak’s father – Gott bless his big beer belly, was a kind, generous and loveable man, which explains why we had so little in common. After all be honest, you would need to be a bloody saint to get on with the young bloek who is having it off with your baby daughter, she was only 18.
But gradually we found a mutual interest in beer and footy. We also spent many an hour tinkering under the bonnet of one of the many cars or boat engines that he had owned over the years.
One of these was real family heirloom, a 1966 Hillman Hunter sedan originally owned by Grandfather Stan then willed to Great Uncle Fred, on whose demise in 1991 it passed to Squeak’s mother. Ever thoughtful of my well being she got her revenge by giving it to me.
So I drove this bloody Hillman Hunter up the Oxley Highway from Forster to our old Kentucky home. Kentucky is a village near Walcha in the NSW New England Tablelands. Then I drove the bloody Hillman Hunter back and forward from Kentucky to Walcha (70kms round trip) every day to work. It was a heap of shit and I hated it.
By this stage our kids had grown to the age where they think they know everything ie: around 10 years old. Later, around 18 they grow to an age where their mates emphatically do know everything. – Gott, can't boys can be pains in the arse. Anyway we had had several bikes over the years, mainly trail bikes and at this stage I had an old Yamaha XT 250 which I used to bash around the back paddocks and dirt roads far and wide. But I hankered for something better, faster, boder... and the bloody Hillman wasn’t any of those things.
I should explain about Kentucky, the area comprises of mainly small WW1 era soldier settlement blocks typically 60 acres surrounded by large old squatter's holdings from 2000 to 30,000 plus acres. At an altitude of around 1000 metres the temperature is alpine with winter minimums often below minus 10 or even minus 15 degrees Celsius.
I was 40 years old and driving a shit heap Hillman so I put my foot down and demanded that I be allowed to buy a road bike. And about two weeks later Squeak agreed that since I had been good, I could. I could sell the Hillman and buy a roadie. I off-loaded the Hillman like a mouldy pie to some poor innocent uni student and headed off straight to the bike shop.
My real desire was a Honda CB900 Bol'Dor – but my modest means denied me this and I settled for a 1977 Kawasaki Z650B – these were just like a small version of the Z900, but they handled.
The Z650's were brought out to Australia mainly to flog the Honda Fours in the 750 class of the once classic production bike race the Castrol Six Hour, and they did so with alacrity. World 500cc GP Champion Wayne Gardner even rode one in the 1979 Castrol.
My Zed was great fun and for the next six years I rode it virtually every day to Walcha and back – literally rain, hail, shine and snow. Then one winter morning I hit a fog bank just north of Walcha – the air temperature was –14C (minus fourteen or 26 below Fahrenheit) . The fog set on my visor and froze and then more set and froze and within 100 metres I had about 1 cm of ice and no visibility. Only option, open the visor. I still have very little feeling in my cheeks.
My work changed and required the use of four wheels and the cost of motor cycle registration being what it is in this country ( a bloody rip-off ) the Zed eventually was parked in the shed with a large plastic bag over it.
NEXT CHAPTER The resurrection and the conversion of Squeak from boy’s mother to biker moll and how she came to own the back half of our bike.