It’s maybe 1500km from Navarra to Brisbane. I watched the open spaces of the outback being replaced by manufactured landscapes and confinement as we approached the coast with Beastie strapped down in the back of the ute. I hadn’t been away from the city for long enough to be glad to see it again. I was anxious about Beastie, and the traffic and the self-absorption of the urban life weighed on me. By the time we got into Toowoomba, the endless vista of fast food restaurants made me want to cry.
Andy was going to Mary in Gatton, and I dropped him off there as the light faded. He generously waved me off as I disappared towards Brisbane with his vehicle and a vague promise to be back in a week. I was so grateful; there was no way I could have afforded to transport Beastie back to the coast without this help.
Beastie was heading to Sam’s workshop on the Gold Coast, but that would have to be the following day. I was exhausted and not feeling very well, and I was also being a total sook: I wanted a hug from my boyfriend. I wanted him put his arms around me and park the ute for me and help me unpack. I wanted him to cook me dinner and kiss me on the forehead and take me to bed.
So I went straight to Shane’s and that’s exactly what he did. What a sweetheart.
Except that by the time he’d cooked me a steak, I was too sick to taste it. I belately realised that I had the flu. My sinuses were killing me and I needed to lay down except that I couldn’t breathe properly when I did that. Poor Shane: instead of a romantic reunion, he got to listen to me drowning in my own snot for four days. It was not a high point of my life; nor, probably, of his.
The next morning I skolled cold & flu medication and we took Beastie down to Sam, to see our very own Queensland Motorcycle Doctor. I told him all about the strange scratchy noise and the not-starting-properly and the random cutting out, and then had another little cry. Sam made me a cup of tea and I sat on his front lawn in a slightly-drugged daze thinking about the pain in my sinuses.
Eventually Shane took me home and I don’t remember much about the next few days, except that the drugs didn’t work and the coffee didn’t work and gravity was very, very heavy all the time. It was such a luxury to be safe and cared for while I was feeling pathetic and crook.
Sam came through for us like a hero too. Remember that loud scratchy noise that I’d complained about when the bike came back to me from the mechanic’s in Longreach? The loud scratchy noise that only happened when the starter motor was engaged, and which definitely wasn’t there before? The one they said was my starter clutch?
Well, starter clutch my arse. Sam sent me a photo: here’s your problem.
And indeed, there it was. See that washer? It seemed that the guys in Longreach had failed to properly seat it when reassembling the starter motor; it was catching on the rotating shaft and turning the inside of my starter motor to metal shavings.
Sam cleaned up the starter motor, cleaned out the metal shavings and reseated the washer propery. He tested it and told me that it was performing fine. There was no need to replace it yet.
He also pulled apart my starter clutch and cleaned it up, and gave me more good news: the starter clutch was fine. No need to be dropping $1200 on parts: these ones would get me a long way further.
I was so glad that I’d taken Sam’s advice a few weeks earlier. All in a hurry, I’d been ready to order a new starter clutch and starter motor on the advice I’d been given in Longreach, but Sam said no – don’t – that he’d like to look at the bike himself before I ordered parts.
He was so right.
So Sam gave Beastie a good going over, and told me he’d found nothing in the engine that was evidently amiss or seriously deteriorating. Whatever was causing the intermittant starting fault was a well-concealed gremlin; he reckoned that proceeding with the work-around (take your finger off the button if she sounds sick) was unlikely to end in disaster.
I hadn’t been willing to accept this from the guys in Longreach – and perhaps just as well too, given the standard of care that had nearly killed off my starter motor altogether. But I was finally willing to accept it from Sam. As much as I’d like my bike to be perfect before I set off into Asia, I had to accept that this is not always possible – or necessary. Chances were that a lot of bits would wear out and break before this particular gremlin gave me any more grief.
And I was a little bit at the end of my tether too. I just needed to go.
Back in the planning stages, I’d asked for advice on preparing the bike for the trip, and I’d let anonymous men on the internet put the fear of failure in me. I’d internalised their message: that if you dare to do this (as a woman, on a your own, with no mechanical experience) you deserve to fail. I became paranoid, crushed by the obligation to defend my desire to have a go. My preparations had to be bullet-proof, I thought.
As my friend Tess put it the other day: if you challenge stereotypes, you are given no room for error.
But you know what? Fuck it. I might fail. My motorbike might break down in north Queensland or central Pakistan or southern Sulawesi or any other place, and so what? I’ll do what I can now, with the help of my friends; and if something bad happens down the track, I’ll do what I can then as well. And if I can’t fix it? If I do fail? Well who cares: I will have gotten as far as I got.
So thank you Sam for your work and your reassurance and your good advice.
Thank you Shane for picking up all my pieces and putting them back together with Codral and hugs.
The show will go on.