Posted On 15 May 2024
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This entry is part 24 of 25 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#31


Can’t be sure about this – a lot of alcohol has swished around the old axons since then – but I think I had just been appointed editor of Two Wheels magazine when this happened. Either that or I was still Associate Editor – a wise man had once told me never to be an “assistant” anything – and about to be elevated. Not that it mattered, I was doing all the work anyway. But at this particular time I had managed to get away for a few days, and was on my way to visit friends in Cobar.

The bike I was riding was a brand new Yamaha XS850, the considerably more porky replacement for the slim and somewhat unreliable XS750 triple. Whatever the problem was, it had not transferred to the 850 – which appeared to be more or less an XS1100 with one pot lopped off but was in fact the 750 engine with bigger barrels and pistons, a beefier crankshaft, a wider primary chain and better oil ways. I was expecting a smooth run.

It was getting dark as I passed Lithgow, and I remember singing the Ballad of Sammy Hall as I crested the Continental Divide on my way to Rylstone, where a friend had a pub and I intended to spend the night.

“Oh me name is Sammy Hall, And I hate yers one and all, Damn yer eyes and blast yer souls…”

No, I do not know why I was singing that at the top of my voice inside my helmet, but it seems to have put off at least one kangaroo which sped out in front of me and then threw a hook turn and disappeared in the bush again.

“Damn yer eyes and blast yer soul!” I warbled after the confused marsupial.

I was beginning to feel quite cheery for some reason, and when the lights of the Cullen Bullen pub hove into view I decided I’d stop to lubricate my throat. Who knew – perhaps my singing would improve. It could definitely not get worse.

I knew the pub fairly well; back in the day (and no, I don’t know when this was) I had attended a Back To Cullen Bullen weekend which had been so much fun that nobody remembered any of it afterwards.

My friends and I had been invited because we were sort-of regulars at the pub. Some of us used to go up there for what was euphemistically called “weekends off”.

One time they had arranged for the publican to get some champagne in for a champagne breakfast. When they came downstairs, the cook looked them over with a jaundiced eye. “Do yers want yer champagne with yer cornflakes or on yer cornflakes?” she asked.

The pub also had a neat response to 10 o’clock closing. The publican had some Masonite sheets cut to match the inside of the windows, and come 10 he slipped them into place and locked the front door. The pub was “shut”; if you (like the local policeman) wanted a drink, you had to come in the kitchen door at the back.

By the time this story takes place, Cullen Bullen had to all appearances become a law-abiding pub, and I had just the one before carrying on to Rylstone.

The rest of the ride west was uneventful. I had a good time in Cobar, where I discovered why the kitchen at the golf club was renowned for its seafood. It seems that the chef would call a mate at the Sydney Fish Markets, some 700km away, to find out what was good and to place an order. The mate would then bung the fish or prawns or whatever into an esky and take that down to the driver of the Adelaide long-distance bus.

Eight or nine hours later, the esky was in Cobar and the lucky locals were eating fresh seafood that night – a damn sight fresher than the stuff that was served up in many Sydney restaurants.

On the way back, I was congratulating myself on once again slipping past the Highway Patrol officer in Hermidale – who had a ferocious reputation – as I rolled through Nyngan. Less than 10km further down the Mitchell Highway, the fuel warning light came on. I thought, ah, it’s 50km to Nevertire – I’ll make it easily. About another 15km further along the bike stopped.

I refused to believe it at first – a 15km reserve! But the tank was empty all right. Seeing that I was almost halfway between Nyngan and Never tire, and the bike was hardly light, I dismissed the idea of pushing it. I left it in a farm driveway, hoping that the farmer would not consider possession nine points of the law, and hitched on to Never tire. That way, I reasoned, I’d be able to borrow a fuel container at the servo and return it on my way past. That, at least, worked.

The hassle did slow me down a bit, so by the time I reached Cullen Bullen again the pub was dark. I really wanted a drink, so I took a chance and tapped on the bar doors.

“If yers want a drink,” came the response, “yers’ll have ter come around ter th’ kitchen door…”

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

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