Great Southern Roadtrip
Cast your mind back to a fond memory of your youth. And chances are, it’ll include a roadtrip. Because as teenagers, cars and roadtrips symbolised freedom and independence. And for most of us, they still do. Only in later life, you’ve generally got more two-wheeled toys in tow … and an epic dirt bike event waiting for you at the other end!
In this feature article, which was first published in Issue #33 of Transmoto Dirt Bike Magazine, those same timeless sentiments are expressed by Grant O’Brien – one of the four team Flyin’ Foreskins members who rode the Transmoto 12-Hour back in 2013.
Like any event worth travelling to, the Transmoto 12-Hour is just as much about the journey as the destination. Team Flyin’ Fourskins rider, Grant O’Brien, reckons this posse’s roadtrip down the NSW south coast was as fun as the event itself.
‘There are so many stories within these walls’, I think to myself as I sit on a chair inside one of my best mate’s garages in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. I look around and notice countless things I’ve seen before, and some unfamiliar items that have been collected since I was last here. Attached to the ceiling is a big Arai helmet flag that I pinched from the Assen GP 15 years ago. It holds its own against signed racing jerseys, a ridiculously large collection of stubby holders, magazine posters, racing photos, plastic containers full of bike parts, shelves of old helmets, endless piles of tools, a compressor, bar fridge, eskies, surfboards, BBQ, boat engine – there’s simply too much shit in this garage to list. And as I sip on a cold beer – my first since flying down from Queensland that afternoon – I can’t think of a better place to kick off a roadtrip. It’s one of many that have begun from this very garage, Goodtime Gazza’s Garage.
WHERE THE DEVIL’S JUICE FLOWS
Sitting opposite me this Thursday night is the guy who owns the garage that resembles a moto museum, Gary “Goodtimes” Blizzard – or Gazza, as I like to call him. We have a long history; from school to BMX to motocross to pubs to countless dirt bike events, to another one of many sessions sitting around with mates talking crap about all this stuff that happened in the past, and what the future might hold … if we survive.
Sharing these stories tonight with a few of their own is Andy “Bigdog” Wigan, or Wigs, and one of Australia’s finest sharp shooters, Jorden “Pixel Pig” Bethune, a dude with more camera gear and gadgets than he can safely carry.
There’s something special about catching up with old friends. I haven’t seen these guys for ages, but every time I do the conversation rolls off the tongue like butter off a hotplate. Hanging out in a garage that brings back so many good memories comforts me, and I turn to Gazza and ask him what it means to him. “Every man loves his shed and I just happen to love mine a lot,” he says with a grin. “It’s not a big garage, could be bigger, but it seems to have become a gathering point. For 15 years, my mates have been coming here mostly on a Thursday night to drink beer and catch up. There’s nothing special about it, a bit of memorabilia here and there, but it brings the boys together and that’s what I love about it most. All the blokes’ wives know about it too, and they’re happy we’re drinking here instead of the local pub and getting into more trouble. Although at times, it can turn into a bit of a nightclub,” he laughs.
In a good mood, we dive into discussion that focuses around all things moto, and a quick update on what’s up with each other’s missus, before talking about our plans for the three days ahead.
The hours tick away, the sound of tin caps twisting and releasing pressure from glass bottles slows down as the clock strikes midnight. Eyelids start drooping, yawns sneak in, then Pixel Pig turns to me with an insightful look in his eyes and says, “This place really is where the devil’s juice flows!”
I’ve never heard that saying before, but he’s dead right. Resisting the demonic temptation to kick on, Wigs makes the sign-off call to ensure we hit the road early and get this long-awaited roadtrip to the 2013 Transmoto 12-Hour underway. Yep, we’re not as young as we used to be, and no one argues against a bit of shut-eye.
I’m one quarter of the ‘Flyin’ Fourskins’. Gazza, sitting next to me, driving, is another quarter. The final two quarters fit into the picture sometime soon. ‘What’s a Flyin’ Fourskin?’, you might be thinking. Well, that’s the team name we came up with for the inaugural Transmoto 12-Hour in 2011, and when I catch up with Bushy (aka, Justin Bush) – another quarter – at the event, I’ll have to ask him how the hell we got that name. My memory’s not what it was.
Gazza usually drives the first half of the journey to any event so he can drink beer as I drive the second half, but today I notice the esky isn’t sitting where it usually is on the back seat. Maybe his memory is slipping too. Wigs and Pixel Pig are on our tail, and since I haven’t seen Gazza for a long time, there’s a heap to catch up and laugh about.
We pull in for a quick pitstop at Bulli Tops and there’s a swarm of police vehicles, camera crews, and important-looking people attending what appears to be a helicopter smashed into several scorched pieces. It adds a little excitement to the adventure, but we discover the crash claimed the lives of four blokes the previous day and the chopper came down right next to where a wedding reception was being staged.
Brad “Wonka” Williscroft – no, not a quarter, but he’s probably been called worse than a Fourskin – rolls into the Bulli Tops carpark not long behind us. The KTM Off-Road team manager off-loads his Quikshades on us so we can claim him a spot in the pit paddock; another good old mate who will join us tomorrow.
We venture off, leaving the wreck (the chopper, not Wonka) behind, and wind our way down Mt Ousley to the picturesque vista of the south coast.
It’s a view I never get tired of. Wollongong, Albion Park, Kiama, back-road to Gerringong for a quick stop at our favourite café and another spot of daydreaming at the beautiful beaches, and next stop Nowra to catch up with the third Fourskin, Mark ‘Browny’ Brown.
Before departing, Wigs tells us that Browny has insisted we drop by his new joint, which is on acreage. Apparently, his new pit bike track needs a bit of traffic to help cut it in. Being big kids at heart, who were we to refuse?
“What’s up, Browndog?,” I yell, as he greets us with a huge smile. After high-fives all round, Browny leads us on a tour of his man-shed, the place he custom-paints helmets for Australia’s top moto riders and anyone who likes to stand out from the crowd.
Perpetually busy, he dives back into finishing off the Transmoto 12-Hour trophies he’s been tasked with, but points us towards the Honda CRF50s in his horse-cum-moto stable and fingers directions to his sick new grasstrack.
Like kids in a candy store, we jump at the chance to cut some laps. But before we do, Wigan springs a surprise on us. “Hang on, fellas,” he blurts out. “To make this a little more fun, I swung by Vinnies yesterday to grab a few classy threads. Wait right there.” I looked at Gazza, thinking ‘Where’s this going?’
Wigs opens the back door of his ute, pulls out an old-school suit, a vinyl rocker jacket and a vest, and hands them over. “Help yourself, gayblades,” he says with demented look in his eye. “Ah, I get it,” I say. “Fresno Smooth style. Yeah, let’s suit up!”
Wigs goes the vest and looks like he’s just walked out of a gay bar in Sydney’s Oxford Street at 4am. Gazza slips into an off-white faux leather jacket and looks kinda Steve McQueen cool, and I throw on a sharp brown jacket and cut a pretty damn awesome figure, even if I say so myself!
Ten laps fly by and I’m reminded why I don’t ride these miniature motos often. My arse-crack starts to chafe, my knees loose skin from smashing into the brake and clutch perches, and my legs cop war wounds from countless footpeg jabs. I man up and the take-outs continue. Then Browndog joins us out of nowhere, wearing a full-blown Superman suit. A 65kg, wringing wet Superman. The kid’s got style!
We all start to crack a mean pace. Dust fills our vision, and we’re holding the 50s pinned and using each other as mobile berms. Screams of laughter and abuse fly from our helmets; all of us big stupid men reliving our childhoods.
After a maniacal hour and a quick photo session, we’re all toast, plus the thought of a cold beer lures us back to the shed.
“You know how Michael Jackson had Never Never Land?,” Browndog says with a grin. “Well, I’m calling this place Browny Browny Land, or maybe Electro Browny Land sounds better. But I’ll wear two gloves, not one!”
We all crack up. “No, seriously,” Browny fires back. “It’s been a 10-year dream for me to own a piece of land I can set up a mini-supercross and 50 track on, a freestyle set-up and a skate park for BMX and 50s. Plus, how do you like my horse stable? I’ve converted it from horses to horsepower.”
Browndog’s always been bloody good value, and driving off towards our destination after a great arvo session with the boys, I think to myself how lucky his kids, Ryder and Cody, are to have such a cool dad.
RIDING’S A BONUS
A loud grumbling sound wakes me from a deep, dreamy sleep at 5am on Sunday morning, and it takes me a bit to work out what’s going on. I unzip my tent and walk out into the dark and the cold dew hits me. And there, climbing out of his matt-black HiAce van with side exhausts and two decades of sticker abuse, is Bushy. Yep, part four of the Fourskins quartet.
He’s looking bug-eyed after a Red Bull-fuelled mission to make the start of the 12-Hour with an hour to spare. It’s not the best way to start a gruelling event, but Bushy never chooses the sensible option when it comes to preparation. I give him a big bear hug and ask how he manages to pack his van full of so much crap.
“I heard on the grapevine a few props were needed this weekend,” he says, “so I thought I’d throw the Fish Fingered Bar in. The thing pretty much goes everywhere with me nowadays. I also pulled the lounge out. And let me tell you, I’ve done some weird shit on that thing,” he adds with a wicked laugh.
“And I had to bring the team mascot; this penis suit has clocked up a fair few kays and is probably overdue for a service, but I figured we could turn a blind eye to the stains and get another 12 hours out of it!”
All this 5am commotion stirs the campsite we’d worked hard to put up on Saturday arvo. Browndog pokes his head out of his swag. Gazza yells out for us to shut the hell up. Wigs and Pixel Pig stumble in to join the action. Our Sunday officially kicks off.
With Bushy’s bar and lounge, our set-up is instantly elevated a couple of notches. I mean, it was already killer. Gazza brought his bike trailer that has everything a man needs and more for a weekend away, and he took things to an all-new level on the Saturday night when he rolled out a big screen and projector and played On Any Sunday to get the boys inspired. What drives a man to do this? They don’t call him ‘Goodtimes’ for nothing!
What, with the roadtrip and just hanging out with the boys, I already feel satisfied. And I’m yet to even swing my leg over a bike for my share of 12 hours. I get the feeling everyone around us is in the same boat, and that’s what I love most about this event; it brings like-minded people together, and the riding is a bonus.
Now all that’s left to do is to pull the Flyin’ Fourskins together, build team morale and, flip a coin to see who’s going to ride first. Or maybe we just send out the youngest to set the pace in the dim morning light. Either way, today is one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and I can’t go wrong if I live by Browndog’s motto: “The person who has the most fun at the end of the day is the real winner, lads”.