January 10, 2005

The Wild West in the Tropics

Posted by DaveSmith

The pointy bit of Australia on the right side, Cape York, is the Wild West only without guns. If you're wanted by The Man for anything, that'd be a good place to hide. Everything up there is isolated once The Wet starts.

From November to June or July you're trapped. You can get in and out by plane or boat, but you can't drive in. Slowly this is changing but unless there's a gold discovery, it won't be in our lifetimes.

There's two roads into Cooktown. Both are unpaved and about 30 miles (50k) long. I can't remember exactly. The map I have is from 2003 and says 81K (50 miles) but more gets paved each year. There's an easy way and a hard way marked 4 wheel drive only that follows the coast. I took the hard way up. Developers are moving rapidly so Cooktown won't hold out for long and Australia will lose something special.

Sort of how the dotcom boom rippled out from San Francisco making real estate in California rocket. Frisco got too expensive so people moved to places like Sacramento driving up prices. People from Sacramento moved to the Sierra Mountains driving up prices there. Those people moved to Oregon driving up the prices. Oregon sure loves Californians moving up and overpaying for houses that they think they're underpaying on.

Imagine if Oregon and Washington were completely unpaved and undeveloped. Portland would be a small town reachable by two unpaved roads, but the roads are closing in. Everything north of there is The Wild West, but Cooktown is where'd you go to get supplies.

The population in Cooktown is 1,500 and Cairns would be overcrowded, overpriced, California where the population is gathering in mass and looking north.

At somepoint I'm going to return to Cooktown and make my way around Cape York. The road into Cooktown will probably be paved within 5 years which will take out the fun of getting there. Real estate prices are rising.

But roads north will be unpaved through my lifetime and I want to wander out there. Fuck off in the bush. It's like watching as California becomes a giant suburb from Oregon to Mexico. That will happen before Cape York gets paved thanks to Australia having a small population.

Fishing, pulling mangoes and coconuts from the trees, and of course, my diet of bread, pepperoni and cheese. Only when I go back I'll for sure have a cooler, an eski in OZ, so I can have cold beer. I'll need a dirt bike for that. I wonder if I can put an offroad sidecar on a Combat Wombat? Hodaka is the good American motorcycle company from the 1970s.

So I left Cooktown on the easy dirt road that takes you to Laketown. That's when I got back to Cairns and gave up on the tank that cost me 3 weeks. It would've been nice visiting Ayers Rock, but then I would've missed meeting Dimitri. I'm still waiting for an email from him so I can find out what he's been up to. The Wild West with a good internet connection.

I took Developmental 1 from Ravenshoe to Georgetown to Normanton, the spot where the world's larget croc was caught by a girl named Krystina in 1953. I went to Karumba for no reason. I'd been aiming for Normanton and somehow Karumba screamed "Hey Dave!" while staring at the map during the long ride to Normanton. Karumba's a small fishing town, population around 300, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. I didn't stop, just rode through town out by the docks and then back to Normanton. I was hoping to be able to see the beach but didn't find an easy way of getting there. I had to follow the same road out of Karumba back to Normanton. It's nice being isolated like that.

Northern Australia is beautiful, hot and the red iron dirt and dust covers all. The humidity dies away as and dry heat isn't bad.

Out here is where I spent days riding on the single lane roads. Pulling off for cars and road trains. I met a German couple on push bikes riding around Australia. They left Germany, rode across Southeast Asia and made their way into Darwin. I think they were heading to Tasmania, but I'm not sure. I was dumb and didn't get a picture of them. I need to take more pictures. I bought a camcorder before I left and there's about 30 seconds of drunk parrots on it. That's all I've filmed.

I saw a fiery red hot sun going down as a fiery red hot moon rose on the other side. I've never been anywhere flat like that where you could see them both. It was very close to a full moon.

Down to Cloncurry and west to Mt. Isa. It was outside of Isa where I met a cute blonde nurse from New York City. She'd been in Sydney, bought a Toyota Minivan (caravan in OZ) and was heading to Darwin to work ICU at a hospital. I was hoping to run into her at Darwin but didn't know how big Darwin is. No bludgeonings for me this time, so I didn't meet her at work.

I thought about her a lot on the way up there. Trying to figure out a way of making up for the poor first meeting. I was dirty, unshaved, oily and tired. I'm usually more entertaining when I meet someone but not this time. I knew I wouldn't see her again, but it's the same reason people buy lotto tickets. Just the hopes of what might happen.

I spent some time singing bits from the Ramones song "I don't want to be a pinhead no more, I just met a nurse that I could go for" in my high pitched squeely voice. I think my voice is higher pitched than a 12 year old girl, it's in the range that only dogs can hear. I didn't realize how gay I sounded until I saw myself in Trekkies 2. That's "gay" in the "homosexual" way, not "gay" in the pejorative sense. So yeah, no cute blonde nurse for me to hit on.

"Cute blonde nurse" sounds like my wife who've I've always been a gentleman with except for that time when I didn't talk to her for a couple states because I was mad that she wouldn't put jalapeno peppers on a veal pizza that Ashby, another one of my brothers in law, made. I don't know if you've ever ridden or driven long distances, but anyone who has knows what I'm talking about. Little things that you stew about. Mad at Donna, and mad at myself for being mad about something so insipid. It kept me quiet for a state or two though. They were those medium sized states like Alabama or Missouri. So yes, I've never hit on my wife. She's not crazy enough for me.

In case you just joined in, Donna, a friend of mine, married me before I left so I'd have health care. Health care in the US would cost me about $300/month (remember, that's in US dollars). My pre-existing condition, brain death and epilepsy which prompted this round the world trip, might push it to $350/month. Donna's a cute, blonde nurse. Our wedding wasnice. It was held at a Marshmallow Peep eating contest with Marletta, my girlfriend at the time, by my side and Josh, Donna's soon to be boyfriend was there. Josh has a tattoo of the state of Illinois with a corn cob on his leg. So obviously, Josh is the crazy one.

I refueled at Three Ways and gave up completely my thoughts about visiting Ayers Rock but since the exhaust threads that hold in my pipe had stripped, I went north. Bailing wire was keeping it in but I didn't want to risk it. I stopped at Renner Springs for a very much needed beer.

It's hot out there, you know. It'd been several days since I'd taken a shower, so I paid $2 for one. Then I figured, hell, I might as well pay the $4 to camp there. I bought a 6 pack which the waitress kept in the fridge for me. I had to drink it outside in the shade since somehow it's illegal if I could've enjoyed the air conditioning. Drinking inside cost an extra $2 a beer. I met a couple of Brits and read a good sized chunk of Catch 22.

North, I went. Looking at the lizards, the skinny cows that were trying to kill me, and pulling over to retighten the exhaust nut and figure out different ways to get bailing wire to hold in the pipe while being covered with flies. I kept seeing the Brits again. They slowed once when they passed as I was working on my bike, but I waved them on.

I made it to Katherine and was greeted with the traditional Aboriginal greeting of "got a ciggie?". It's like being at a punk rock show only Americans tend to say "smoke" instead of "ciggie".

I've heard from lots of warnings from Australians that the Aboriginals like sniffing fuel and how they'd steal it when the bike wasn't guarded. Along with descriptions about how the full blood Aboriginals are great people, but once they've been mixed with white, they turn into criminals.

Silly me, I've been talking to them whenever I'm in a small town. They're in all the shady parts and, just like the Aussies of European descent, have been really friendly.

All Aussies are super friendly at least for the brief length of time I'm around. I've heard the warnings, and usually from the same person, "Oh yeah, Aussies are a racist bunch" in a friendly way.

I've had a couple of weird comments about my "dark complexion". It went over my head the first time. I'm a slow learner but the second comment caught on.

I'm not pasty white but I'm not dark. I don't even look like I have a tan most of the time. I spent time trying to figure it out while riding in the outback but couldn't make sense of it. I'm half Portuguese -- Pot o' Grease -- and half hill-billy. My mom is Portuguese and my dad's from the Appalachian foothills of Kentucky. Just standard hillbilly -- German, English, Irish whatever is crawling around them there hills and hollers playing banjo and making moonshine.

Don't worry, it's no Deliverance -- the Ohio River running through Southshore, Kentucky isn't going to make anyone squeal like a pig. Hillbillies save the buggery for the Ozarks, I reckon. I've never thought about the skin complexion of the Portuguese being dark, but luckily it's been pointed out a couple times by friendly Aussies. That's a not sarcastic friendly Aussies. If they had the KKK here, I'm sure they'd take the Aborigine to dinner and say, "Sorry mate, hate to be a bother but I have to burn this cross on your lawn".

So all this, plus bailing wire, got me to Darwin.

Posted by DaveSmith at January 10, 2005 03:36 AM

what, no pictures? that's o.k.; you've got my mental camera working overtime. Bob

Posted by: bob b at January 10, 2005 04:12 AM

i've been giving this whole exhaust thing some thought, and you might wanna consider borrowing a technique used on 2 stroke engines, dirt bikes and race type exhausts, where the header pipe is held into the head by springs. it would require drilling several small holes in the cooling fins near the exhaust spigot to pass one curved end of the springs, and then either a heavy duty hose clamp or several small wire loops welded to the header pipe to hold the other curved end of the springs. i would suggest a minimum of 2 springs, pulling as close to parallel to the pipe as possible. this could all be fabricated without removing any major parts. i dunno, is it considered blasphemy to suggest drilling holes in a bike of ths vintage? your call. my '83 CR480, '84 Oddyssey and my '96 Husaberg all use this technology reliably in their exhaust systems. Bob

Posted by: bob b at January 10, 2005 12:53 PM

I got the exhaust fixed in Perth by Brook Henry at Vee Two. He put in a brass insert which is doing okay now that it's tightened and lockwired. Otherwise, I like your spring idea. I'm not the type of guy where the bike has to stay original, as long as it'll last.

I forgot to add that Cape York was where they filmed Thin Red Line. I don't know why I didn't mention that. I finished reading the book the same day I put this post up.

The pictures that would go with this have been posted previously. I wasn't good at posting on the road. Hopefully I'll get better at that.

Posted by: Dave at January 10, 2005 01:37 PM

nice road stories-cape york sounds cool."got a ciggies"--expect that in korea.If ya bring a pack with ya to pusan and hand em out--beer and soju will be your reward.also in korea don`t forget the 2 liter plastic jug of hite beer($2)--just try finishin it w/some soju($.80).as for bread and salami forget that when your japan.it`s gonna be rice w/curry or rice w/miso or rice w/gyoza sauce on it.i personally have become fan of fried rice mixing it yakiniku,gyoza or crochett sauce.i never thought that i would become a fan of rice but it happened...chikae and me gettin hitch either march or april and your invited!!!!

Posted by: jay at January 11, 2005 04:18 AM

It's about time she made an honest man out of you Jay! congrats!

Please be sure to feed lil Davey well when he gets there ... all that salami and cheese has me a bit worried.

Posted by: cary at January 12, 2005 07:12 PM


Posted by: Marletta at January 13, 2005 12:52 PM

I've actually been getting a lot of roast lamb dinners and Aussies eat a lot of veggies, so those are getting inside my belly too. My diet isn't as bad as it seems but that's not my fault. Aussies make sure I eat veggies at gunpoint.

Posted by: Dave at January 13, 2005 09:06 PM

can't they just throw some mushrooms and onions on top of a veal pizza for ya? Or can you only get pizza Marsala in Alabama?

Posted by: Kellye at January 16, 2005 01:13 PM

ur gay

Posted by: at February 23, 2005 07:33 PM