Posted On 08 May 2024
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This entry is part 28 of 29 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#30


I have had some gentle chiding (for a given value of gentle) about the subject matter of some of these columns. Apparently they focus a little too much on crashes and other experiences seen as negatives. “How are you even alive?” asked one friend. Well, okay. I don’t know the answer to that.

But I can only remember three, maybe four times when the message “you’re gone” fl ashed up on my mental screen like the destination in a suburban train; and obviously I was wrong each time. Unless this is the afterlife…

The trouble is that good news is not nearly as interesting as bad news. You doubt this?

Last November, a Russian news website called The City Reporter lost two-thirds of its readers after deciding to publish only good news for just one day. “Do you feel like you are surrounded by negative information?

You don’t want to read the news in the morning?” the website had asked its readers. “Do you think good news is a myth? We’ll try to prove the opposite tomorrow!” On 1 December, as promised, the website carried only positive headlines like “No disruption on the roads despite snow.” The good news stories sent readership numbers plummeting.

Of course wonderful and positive things have happened to me in my motorcycling life. Let me think here, err… right, just give me a sec…

One kind of good news that’s always available to me is reporting on good roads. I am deeply grateful, for example, that my work has allowed me to ride the likes of the Jebel Hafeet road in Abu Dhabi and the Col du Turini in France. And describing the ride over these and any number of other roads is enjoyable all by itself.

The trouble is you can really only do that once, while telling the story of a spectacular crash or even a near miss allows repeat performances (and inevitably slight exaggeration).

Likewise, I seem to run out of superlatives for roads I have enjoyed, while there’s never a shortage of another descriptive adjective to accompany sliding down the road or catapulting into “the tulies” as a Canadian mate used to say. In fact I learn new words at quite an impressive rate whenever I fall off.

But I’m going to try the good news route, just to see if I lose two thirds of my readers the way the Russians did.

Recently I rode from Perth to Darwin to complete a circumnavigation of Australia; I hadn’t travelled the stretch between the Over lander Roadhouse and the Purnululu turnoff. When the rain finally gave out, between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, I found myself in a magic land that seemed to go on forever. I wanted it to go on forever, too (well, you know what I mean) because the singing of the tyres on the blacktop and the ever changing sight of vividly yellow grass, smoothly rounded brown hills and more and more exotically shaped trees seemed to give me a strong feeling for what Aboriginal people call “country”. Quite unlike the equally impressive but much more forbidding deserts of the Centre, this Top End countryside seems to speak of fruitfulness and variety.

It’s hard to explain, actually. Maybe that’s why good news is less popular than bad? At any rate, if you have a chance to ride the Great Northern Highway up there, take it. And here’s a tip – ride it by yourself. The effect will be all the stronger, I think.

Another wonderful road, and one that I don’t think I’ve written about for a while, is the Swampy Plains Road which connects Kiandra and Khancoban. This can be a lot of fun with someone else, partly because it’s fascinating watching the panic braking – The Frog once arrived behind me at Tooma Dam with the brake pads on his Suzuki GR650 literally smoking – and partly because you’re riding through a scenic wonderland. Oh, and remember the wildlife. More than one of my friends has had an encounter of the Third Kind along here. How’s the leg now, Hamish?

And how’s this for good news? I haven’t had a mechanical breakdown or even a fl at tyre for longer than I can remember. Seeing that I’m still incompetent as a mechanic, the former has to be due to improved bike engineering. The second is clearly due to better tyres.

Well, maybe. These days I quite often go to the markets in Glebe, an inner Sydney suburb, on Saturday mornings.

Quite apart from the excellent coffee dispensed there, some of the stalls have unique and clever ware. To get there, I take a street that has mixed memories for me: a long-ago girlfriend lived there, but almost every time I visited her I got a fl at tyre. All right, all right, no ribald comments. The reason was simple: the gummint was refurbishing the run down terraces of The Glebe and used, bent nails were raining down on the road from the roof repairs. I still automatically worry about getting a fl at there.

So, how was that? Have I still got any readers despite the – mainly – good news above?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

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