So I went to work for Andy, and tried not to think about my motorbike.

I helped him install solar pumps and passed up pieces of windmill and learned how to pull a bore. I got a grand tour of western Queensland as we did jobs on properties hundreds of kilometres apart.


A lot of the time, my job consisted of driving these hundreds of kilometres between jobs, sometime in daylight and sometimes not.


I learnt that I’m not as bad a driver as I’d assumed and that even from a vehicle, the horizon is still a salve for the soul. I also learnt that my soul still needs a salve, that my veneer of strength and capability and optimism is still, in patches, very thin.

Essentially, my motorcycle is my escape plan. Back when I was a lawyer in Sydney, when I really hit my wall, I made myself a promise: I told myself that it would be okay, because if I couldn’t cope with a situation – if I couldn’t cope with what was happening to me and around me in a place – I could always get on my motorcycle and leave. And that’s what I did. I ditched my career as a global disputes lawyer, got on my motorcycle and left town.

So I’m a wanderer, an explorer, but I’m also looking for some peace. Looking for a place where I can be in the world. Proving to myself that I can feel better, and that feeling okay can become normal. Proving to myself that I’m not powerless in the face of crushing anxiety and depression.

Trying to outrun the black dog.

Which is all very well, until your motorbike breaks down and the black dog catches up to you.

* * *

Actually, it’s not the black dog that got me first: it was the galloping anxiety, the forward guard of doom. They got to me first, and paralysed me. After a lifetime of being told that I would never be able to fix my own bike, I was too scared to start pulling her apart beside the road or in a dusty, dirt-floored shed; not knowing how long it would take me, not knowing if I would eventually succeed, and not knowing how I would get more help if I didn’t. Not knowing if a willy-willy would come through and instantly fill my engine with dirt as I peered nervously at the valves.

So I took it to the workshop, I put her in someone else’s hands and hoped like hell that they’d figure out the problem quick and not send me a bill that would kill off my whole trip.

I went and I worked to make some money to pay for it all, and I did lots of new things that scared me. But you know what? I should have done the first thing that scared me. I should have stripped down my own bike.

Because three weeks later, when I went to pick up my bike, do you know what had been done?

The rocker arms. They’d changed the rocker arms – replaced them with the new ones I was already carrying around.


The bush on one of the rocker arms was stuffed, and obviously so: the roller goes click-click laterally, which it’s not supposed to do. And I know how to change my rocker arms. I know that the rollers are not supposed to wobble and go click-click like that. And it’s one of the first things I would have checked, because I know that the rocker arms are a noted weakness on the 690. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been carrying a spare set around.

So there’s a lesson learnt.

When I went to pick up the bike, I hit the start button and watched the voltage plummet again as the engine struggled to turn over. Just like before. I couldn’t believe it. Was I dreaming?

Don’t worry, they said, there’s still some kind of starting problem and we don’t know what it is, but when it does that – when it catches like that – just take your finger off the button and try again. The next time it will probably start fine.

But when I did that – and sure enough, this time the engine turned over and started normally – something else was amiss. When the starter motor was engaged, I could hear this loud scratchy sound. It was not a good sound. It was not a subtle sound. It had not been there before.

I got on the bike, and rode it around the freight yard in a big circle. Second gear, accelerating, and the engine stopped dead with a clunk. I started the bike again, rode around for another thirty seconds – clunk, the engine died again.

Well this was new.

I wasn’t taking the bike 220km out of town in this state. The workshop had already closed. I parked my it in a safe place in Longreach, and Andy I drove back to Navarra. Without my motorbike.

We would be back in town the following week. I have to take it back to the workshop and talk to them then.

Meanwhile, the bill came via email. Just a shade over $800.

I cried.

0 thoughts on “Rocker arms

  1. geoffkeys says:

    Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch. I feel for you Grace, I really do. I hope it isn’t too much more in the end.

  2. Peter says:

    Don’t pay them until you are happy. You have a long ride and don’t need to be settling for any kind of compromise.
    From the sound of it its not going to get any better until it’s fixed properly.

  3. i_wanna_moto says:

    Ugh that’s so disheartening. The shop never should have handed you back the bike in that condition. You’re a hell of a lot more capable than you give yourself credit for.

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