As the hot South Australian summer moved towards autumn, as the days grew shorter and the nights longer, preparations for our bike trip gained momentum.
We bought a new tent.
The tent was a dome tent, small and light so it that it could be easily carried on the back of our bikes. It represented a break with the past. For the last 30 years, we have used small tunnel tents – strapped on to the back of my rucksack and used during the years we trekked in the Indian Himalaya and went bush walking in South Australia (including the 1200 kilometre long Heysen Trail).
Next, the bikes.
After visiting various bike shops and checking everything on the net, we bought two hybrid bikes: bikes half way between a normal street bike and mountain bike: well suited for the aim of our intended wanderings: to ride over back roads in remote areas of Australia and spend time in some of the few remaining areas of the world where it is possible to be alone: where there is space, nothingness, silence, solitude.
And finally, the car.
Our plan is to drive a car with our bikes to caravan parks in small towns, leave the car behind and ride out into remote areas with tent, insulation mats, sleeping bags, etc, on the back of our bikes.
My brother Dave offered us the use of an old car he has parked in his large double garage.
: an old car owned by my brother Dave. It is a 14-year-old Mitsubishi sedan called a ‘Magna’.
Last Sunday we travelled out to the other side of town, to pick up the Magna which Dave was servicing and fixing. We are in the far south – at Sellicks’s beach – and Dave lives in the north, at Greenwith. It took us 3 hours to get there; a bus, and two trains and another bus.
As far as appearances go, the Magna is not an impressive vehicle. Many people would not deign to be seen in it. The blue paint on the boot and the roof is scarred by large whitish areas, like dried salt.
Appearances though can be deceptive; mechanically the Magna is in excellent condition. It has 200, 000 kilometres on the clock. It is good for at least another 200, 000. Running on LPG gas makes a difference. But the main reason the Magna is in such good mechanical condition is because of Dave. He’s the opposite of me, in fact, he’s so opposite to me it’s hard to believe that we are in any way related. Dave is a high achiever – senior accountant at British Aerospace, swims in the morning before work and is a member of a club, and above all – he is practical!
Dave and Me
He loves all things mechanical. He is a certified mechanic and has a passion for motor bikes. He has 3 of them; a racing bike (Kawasaki 1000), which he takes to race tracks; a street bike (a Kawasaki 1000 but very different to the racing bike); and a touring bike (a top range BMW). Besides racing and riding motor bikes, he loves working on them – pulling them apart and rebuilding them – as well as replacing the wiring and computer systems.
The Magna is in such great condition because during the 14 years he owned it, he worked on it, no task too small and certainly none too big, and every task tackled with seriousness and passion. The man comes alive when he’s dismantling and building, finding out how stuff works.
Where did he get this nerdish mechanical aptitude from?
I’ve asked myself that a few times. There’s no one I can think of on either side of the family that ever showed any kind of mechanical/technical aptitude. My yawning lack of mechanical aptitude fits in with a genetically well- established pattern.
During the years of studying it, fixing it and rebuilding it, Dave built up a kind of relationship with that Magna. It is an illusion to think, as I did, that ‘mechanics’ and ’emotions’ were two different things. A mechanic can be driven by his or her emotions – something I realised after I began driving Dave’s Magna.
For years, he kept driving the Magna long after it became distinctly unfashionable – what’s a senior accountant at British Aerospace doing driving that old bomb? – he ignored what people said and was always quick to point out that the money he spent on new parts for the Magna was nothing in comparison with what he would have spent buying a new car. The Magna became a statement of his philosophy of life and, his determination to resist the siren call of the latest automotive fashions. He drove the Magna for thousands of kilometres when he went to motor bike races in Victoria and New South Wales (with the Magna pulling a very heavy trailer with a motor bike on top).
Two years ago he bought a new SUV and I’m pretty sure he did this because he was infatuated with a very materialistic woman who considered the Magna to be below her level. So Dave bought a new SUV to impress his new love but that relationship came to an end because of the way she constantly sought to get Dave to pay for her and her latest demands – even though she had a high paying job herself. In the aftermath of the break-up, I think he felt as if he had betrayed the Magna and betrayed his philosophy of life. And in a way, of course, he had.
Dave and Me and our mother who is in a high care home
Anyway, the materialist predator departed his life and Dave was left with a brand new SUV – and an old Magna which he loved, loved in a way he could never love the SUV. When I talked about buying a car and putting bikes on the back and doing some travelling in Australia, he was quick to offer me the use of the Magna. Fine by me; saved me the hassle of buying a car and I knew too, that this Magna was in great mechanical condition.
But driving it home in the evening, from one end of Adelaide to the other, I was very much aware of a heavy responsibility resting on my shoulders.
I was driving no ordinary car, but rather, a car which meant something to my brother; which was an old friend, an old love.
Dave polishing up his beloved Magna
journey ahead…..bike riding Australia!