Now, first up I should tell you that this is a story of a road-trip in a car, not on a bike. So what’s it doing here on a motorcycling web-site? Well, there was a bike involved – in fact it’s all about a bike – and it’s a good yarn too!
Phil Hall has previously told us about his restoration of the Shadowfax race bike. (If you haven’t read that, I suggest you read it first so you know more of what this is about. Just click here). The bike ended up in the Motorcycling Museum in Nabiac. But it transpired that he had to pick the bike up and take it to Canberra – quite a trip, but not meant to be done in one day; and it didn’t end there!
Phil runs a web-site called “Half Of My Life”, and you can read lots of interesting stuff there – I highly recommend it! This story comes from there; with just a slight edit for clarification for our readers.
Towards the end of last year (2013) I was approached by the organiser of the Australian Historic championships at Lakeside in September this year. He wanted to know if I was interested in riding the Shadowfax in some demonstration laps at the meeting. Of course, I said yes, even though I knew that the bike isn’t even in rideable condition at the moment. The internals of the engine are the original parts and though they have been cleaned up and put back together, I have never started it up and I am pretty sure that it would run but how reliably is an entirely different issue. I asked Dave and he said that it would need new pistons, rings and a head job. Plainly out of the question. I was disappointed because I have never actually ridden the bike at all. When the resto was done I was still on a walking stick and my right knee wouldn’t bend anywhere near enough to enable me to even reach the extreme rear-set footpeg, let alone rest my weight on it and use the brake. Leaning forward to the clip-ons was agony and I despaired of ever being able to be well enough to turn a wheel.
Nevertheless, the prospect of seeing the bike on the track at such a prestigious event still appealed so I left the idea with Dave with the brief that we should look for a solution but that it was unlikely we would be able to proceed.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I had an email from Dave with an intriguing content. “If you can give me a call, I have an idea that could work to your benefit and to mine.” I could see a myriad of ways that Dave could do something for me, but I couldn’t for the life of me think how there was anything I could do that would benefit him. So I called. It seems that Dave has been collecting parts (that’s what Dave does) and that he had accumulated enough parts for him to be able to reassemble my engine with new internals so that it could be a “runner”. That was very cool, and fulfilled one half of the equation. The other half was that, in return for doing this, he would like to be able to use the existing head that is on the bike (a quite expensive ported and polished race item – not originally on the bike but a replacement) and some other gubbins that are also on the bike but were not original fittings, to incorporate into the engine of the track bike he is building.
I didn’t answer him straight away but said I’d call him back. After he hung up I thought about it for a few days. As I described in my story of the restoration, the main aim was to make the bike as exactly like it was when it raced in 1981 and to use as many original parts as possible. In a few instances this was not possible and we settled for as-close-as replicas as we could. But the parts that Dave wanted were in the latter category so letting him use them in his bike would not detract from the originality of mine. Anyway, after careful consideration, I decided that I would go ahead. As well as getting the motor going reliably, Dave is also going to make it a “push the button and go” proposition so that I could use it any time I wanted to without having to have a roller starter. Win-win.
So, I had to get the bike to Dave’s in Canberra which meant picking it up from the National Motorcycle Museum in Nabiac (just south of Taree on the north coast of NSW) and delivering it there. It was planned to be a two-day trip as it involved some considerable distance.
We left home (in the Wollongong area) at around 11am on Monday morning and headed north. Skirting Sydney as much as using the M7 will let you, we made good time driving through constant patches of rain/sun/rain/sun for miles at a time. As a matter of observation, the $110 fine for not keeping left unless overtaking should be raised to $1000 and then, maybe, just maybe, the morons who don’t obey the law will get the message. Oh, and also as a matter of interest, towing an empty trailer is a pain! And also, towing a trailer, either full or loaded sure impacts on your fuel consumption.
When we got to the Museum late in the afternoon, Brian had generously brought the bike and associated display items to the front door so that it was easy to load and we were loaded up and out of there in pretty short order.
So, with the car pointed south, we headed into even heavier rain, pushing on towards what was supposed to be an overnight stopover. But I had always had a lingering doubt about this part of the plan. For all manner of practical and sensible reasons, this was the best thing to do. But …… stopping overnight meant parking the car, with my valuable bike in the trailer, outside some hotel or motel and sleeping till the morning not knowing if it was going to be there when I got up. To say that I am paranoid when towing this bike is the most massive of understatements and, given the number of race bike thefts that have happened recently, I couldn’t think of a way of resolving this one.
So, Paul took out his trusty computer, did some calculations with Google Maps and said, “You know, it’s only about 5 hours to Canberra from here, we could push straight through if you wanted to, we could probably get there around 10.” Mmm, not a bad solution. I rang Dave and asked him if he minded us getting in that late and he said it would be fine. So, pedal to the metal (rain, fuel consumption and speed limits notwithstanding) we set off in the direction of Canberra.
It rained pretty much constantly till Hornsby. In fact the rain was much worse on the return leg than it had been on the outward one. Throw in the gathering darkness and it was eyes out on stalks and look out for the crazies that inhabit the F3 anytime you happen to venture there. Another fuel stop, (damn, is this thing drinking the stuff!), a couple of stops to check the trailer and load was secure, plus a stop to nourish the body meant that the Google Maps time (which does not take into account such things) was considerably extended and we rolled in to Dave’s place at 11:30pm. Dave was still up, hard at work, and he came out to help us unload. Getting the bike under cover and exchanging pleasantries meant that it was after midnight by the time we left and went searching for some beds for the night.
You can see where this is heading, can’t you? No, there weren’t any vacancies in any motels on the north side of Canberra. Push on to Goulburn (an hour or so later), same story. Eyes getting sore, body getting weary, what to do? Only one answer, push on home. A stop for some more food, a hefty splash of water in the face and a strong coffee and it was Willy Nelson…
I delivered Paul to his place and eventually rolled into my driveway at 0300 Tuesday morning. 1,200kms in 16 hours. Would not have made it driving by myself but having two drivers made it doable – just. I thought my days of insane distances within a 24 hour period were well and truly behind me. Hopefully now, they are!
Road trips? They’re not all they are cracked up to be.

Thanks Phil, great story! 1,200km in one day; I’d want about a week to do that! I once drove from Wollongong to Newcastle via Ulladulla, but this trip pretty much doubles that distance! Good luck with the bike, I hope it gets to be out on the track showing its stuff when race-day comes.
Click here to go to the front page. Click your BACK button to return to the previous page.