Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Ich bin ein Berliner.

The story of MAX Two Point Zero's emigration to Australia.

So around 55 years ago, JFK uttered those immortal words. 

June 26, 1963 actually. 

And these days, most tourists to Berlin want to see where the wall was and Checkpoint Charlie and all of those other terrible reminders from the past. 

A past where the Nanny State meant a life lived in miserable oppression.

I remember in our German class back in 1966, Miss Dunbar (not Ms Dunbar... it was 52 years ago) telling our class all about "the wall" and how some had successfully crossed over.. and survived. The one that sticks in my mind was the low slung sports car, with windscreen removed and doors filled with cement. This car was able to drive under the barricade with the driver leaning right over.. while the cement "additions" kept the lead poisoning away.

But these days in a brave new world, the thing of interest for me in Berlin, is the factory of BMW Motorrad. This is where the BMW GS and GSA motorcycle models are made. I have been looking at these bikes for a few years now. And have really started to look closely at the design, the thoughts behind the design and the amazing technology built into each bike.

In a world of automation, they are basically hand assembled by these highly skilled German craftsmen. As an example the tolerance on the bore for the pistons is 0.001MM. That is simply amazing. All CAD design and CNC machining no doubt. And on some models the pin striping is applied with a fine brush held by a very steady Germamic hand

Check out these videos....

The engine factory here.

And the bike assembly here.

And the finished product looks like this.....

Until I examined these bikes closely, I thought they were ugly.

So after nearly 6 years aboard MAX-11 (Fat Max) a Yamaha Super Tenere... the attraction for this finely crafted German machine finally overcame my senses.

Like the Lorelei on the rocks singing to call the the sailors, seeing these bikes everywhere, with their Germanic principle of form follows function design... well they called me in too, and caught me.

I weakened, I gave in, I put my money down.

So these fine craftsmen (or craftspeople if you're a PC sensitive type) have been building my new Motorrad in Berlin and now he's finished and is emigrating by boat to Australia as I type this.

Actually to Brisbane.

And in the long tradition of MAX number plates since 1980, this one will be MAX20.

(MAX Instruments was a big part of my life and I like to be reminded of it by these plates)

Spending money on an expensive new motorcycle can be daunting...  but by pouring over spreadsheets, a purchase decision was made including accessories.

Now that all of that is locked in firmly and in the past, the maps are out.. the long trips are being planned.

With sweet anticipation I look forward to welcoming this fine upstanding German immigrant to Australia.... and my garage!

And to help with parking another BMW in a compact garage, Dynamoto.

Ich bin ein Berliner.. yes, at the moment Max, but soon you will say I'm an Aussie mate.. lets go explore this wide brown land together.

He's a bloody beauty!


Monday, 4 June 2018

Hendra Motors.... a trip back in time.

“It's astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes it's toll...”

Any baby boomer would recognise the opening lines to Time Warp.  And there truly is a time warp in an old service station in the inner northern suburbs of Brisbane. Hendra Motors is a jump to the past for any casual observer or customer. This small suburban petrol station is a snapshot of what the Australian automotive service industry was like 50 years ago. 

A real workshop! A rarity these days at service stations.

Drive into Hendra Motors and as your car crosses the airlines, the bell beeps inside announcing your arrival. From the depths of this establishment, a smiling face comes to greet you. You wonder in amazement as your car is filled with fuel while your oil, water and tyres are checked. Next it’s your windscreen being cleaned. And you think to yourself.. when was the last time I experienced this?

An excellent way to file suppliers business cards.

A welcome site when your gauge reads low fuel!

And it gets better; when you go into the office to pay for your fuel, you notice supplier’s business cards glued to the walls & lubrication guides for cars long turned to rust on the walls of the lubratorium. Long empty glass jam jars now holding nuts, bolts and small fittings. Endless dusty shelves hold myriads of spare parts for the cars they service here.  And they do service a lot of cars here. In this time of economic uncertainty, the Hendra locals know good service when they see it. Just look at their cars parked everywhere.

Abboud and son Ray in the office!

Mark.. we don't fix bikes... get that bike out of here!

But the amazing thing about Hendra Motors is the staff who make the place tick! An incredible collection of dedicated and clever people who know their cars.

Ray and Alex at the console... personalised service to the max!

Spare parts everywhere.. very old school!

Born in Syria and growing up in Sudan, motor mechanic Abboud Saggal arrived in Brisbane with his family from London in late 1988 looking for a better life for his family.  Soon after he arrived he started as a mechanic at Hendra Motors. He came to love life in Australia and purchased the garage from the retiring owner in 1995.   His son Ray says of their immigration to Australia, “I was just ten years old when we arrived here. I don’t have much memory of London except that we lived in the North and I still remember the post code. I just love the outdoors here and cannot imagine living anywhere else.”

The crew: Abboud in front and son Ray second from left.

Ray, a married father of two, who is now the business manager, started at Hendra Motors in 1994 as part time driveway attendant while studying a business degree.  He took on the roll as business manager in 1996   Like his dad, he too loves the outdoors and the Australian bush. He built the FJ40 Land Cruiser which features in the business logo. As his father says, I am so glad my son Ray came on board. The customers love him and he is a real driver of this business now. I can trust him to do the right thing and also it gives me the chance to take some time off now and then too. Having him as manager is the best business decision I have ever made.”

Always a car on the hoist, always busy.

Keen runner Peter Miller ran Millers Mechanical at Hendra for 20 years before retiring. He soon missed being on the tools and so he came out of retirement in 2015 and joined the team at Hendra Motors.  “Well it gets me out of the house and I still like working on cars. So why not come back to work?”

Peter.. retirement is not for him!

Former architect, Alex Sinibaldi is the shop & driveway manager and originally from El Salvador. As Ray and his dad say, “His good looks are not wasted on the local ladies and he is always smiling! The customers love him.”  He joined the team in 2012 and just happens to be Ray’s father in law.

Alex.. keeps that petrol pumping!

And final word goes to local business woman Debra Taylor, “At last a place that will fill my car with fuel so I stay clean. For me, loving Hendra Motors is as simple as that.”

Thursday, 19 April 2018

So farewell Fat Max.. but he could be yours!

After a few years together....  it's time!

It's time for Fat Max to find a new home... care to adopt him?

Max could be yours.... bring cash!

This bike is set to go as a long distance tourer. Just add your clothes, tent and fuel!
Just the facts folks:

Sold new to me by Dalby Moto September 2012

Travelled approx 44,000 km.

Serviced by dealer/mechanic every 10K with oil changes by me every 5K in between.

40K service which was valve check etc had the cam chain tensioner changed to the later type.

New Bridgestone Battlaxe A41 tyres fitted at approx 40,000. 

Options fitted:

Altrider crash bars.

Altrider sump guard.

Altrider side stand foot extender.

Altrider rear rack.

Touratech ABS sensor protector front and back.

Touratech rear mastercylinder protector.

Touratech rear axle nut cover.

Touratech locking GPS mount mounted to generic S10 GPS mount I picked up in Germany.

Garmin GPS with life time maps. (This will bluetooth to your phone and helmet)

Yamaha OEM panniers.

Yamaha OEM headlight guard.

Yamaha OEM heated grips. 

Staintune stainless exhaust. (Awesome note!)

DS Protection (Spanish) locking toolbox mounted in behind RS pannier.
(Standard tools now stored in tool roll in this box)

Merit 12VDC outlet on dash.

LED driving lights. Outer ones mounted on Touratech mounts. (Can be switched to run as DLRL)

Bags Connection tank bag on mounting ring affixed to fuel filler.

In really good condition as I like my bike to look new!

Registered in QLD till September and is at Brisbane north side.

Every trip, even to the corner store has been recorded in my log book.. happy to show to prospective buyer.

So show me the money and she is yours!

Contact me for details.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Fat Max's farewell tour, a violinist called Tor, the amazing Cheryl and the Man from Snowy River

So around this time last year, I decided to take Fat Max to Melbourne and home via the Snowy Mountains. But it rained, and rained and rained.. so no Snowy Mountains.

You can read about it here!

Anyhow.. time passed, the weather Gods promised better weather so I saddled up Fat Max for his farewell tour. You see Fat Max is for sale and is looking for a new owner. For nearly six years we have had adventures together and it is time I moved on..... all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

So the plan is simple, ride the big Yamaha to Cooma in the Snowy Mountains and base myself there for a few nights. This would allow me to have a couple of day trips around the area. And in sunshine if the forecasters had it right too!

The end of day 1 finds me in Armidale at a motel.

I can recommend this place... excellent service and good room!

And right next door.. was dinner and breakfast!

An early start on day two and eventually we pull up in Dubbo for the night. What can you say about Dubbo.. except I spent a week there one night.

But along the way I decided to visit the Sidings Springs Observatory. In my teenage years, school mate Rob Fysh and I would sit out all night on the front lawn at Clayfield and gander at the stars with my telescope. And I still am fascinated by all of this.... so off to the observatory we go. And while sitting outside their tourist centre, an old car pulls up and a young lady hops out with a tray of cakes that she takes inside. I looked at the old bloke next to me.. "Now that could be a scene from The Dish."

An imposing sight as you come up the hill.

Now that's a telescope. Took 2 years to get the wave right on the mirror.

Their second smaller observatory!

The views up here are good too!

Now if you have read other episodes in my blog, you would know about my years spent at Hendra High School. It really was staffed by demented people.. and I hated the place. But I did make some good friends there. One of whom is Tor Fromhyr who is now a lecturer at the ANU School of Music. A very talented concert violinist, Tor has worked with Frank Sinatra, The Bee Gees, John Denver, Cat Stevens etc etc. We both had the same violin teacher 50 years ago.... sadly I lost interest.

Anyhow.. I haven't seen Tor for over 50 years, so as he lives in the country outside Yass... well it was a time for a catch up and to discuss what the past 50 years had been like for both of us.

After 50 years it was though we had only been apart a week!

Tor lives on this amazing block of land. He and Leanne and their 3 children made me feel so very welcome. They have built their own home, planted a thousand trees, built a barn with a granny flat.. for granny and have the most eclectic mix of things to see.

The amazing home with yard space for Rosie the pooch.

Rosie with Max and Tor's amazing Mercedes!

The Friday night I arrived, Tor took me into Canberra to collect his son Gabriel from high school and drop him off at the ANU for his cello lessons. Like his dad he is a gifted player. The ANU music school is amazing right down to the piano stools in the lift!

Saturday dawned really foggy... but I enjoyed it all.

Poor old Max lost in the fog!

Such a magic spot to live!

On Saturdays young Gabe makes coffees in Yass at the amazing little cafe. But the Chinese cafe next door tickles my fancy.

Well.. Fook Me!

The Court Hose in Yass is impressive. Like a Masonic Lodge!

Saturday afternoon finds me punching out ZZZZeds and relaxing totally. Right on dusk I wake up so go out to have look at Gabe's home-made bike. Take one bicycle, add a $90 Ebay petrol engine and away you go. Just fabulous.. would have loved one when I was a kid.

What a talented young man!

All too soon it was Sunday morning and time to head into Canberra to see the War Museum and the incredible Cheryl.

G for George. What an aeroplane. If only it could talk.

G for George after the last mission with air and ground crew at Binbrook Lincolnshire

The Lancaster "G for George" was the main thing that attracted me to the museum. I have always been interested in war birds, but this particular aeroplane is something else. With nearly 90 missions over occupied Europe, that is a record in itself. Over 220 men crewed George with 70 of them later being killed in action.  Hard to imagine the odds of surviving as air crew in WW2. My late friend Allan Gay who Captained Halifax heavy bombers out of Pocklington in Yorkshire in WW2, told me that when he finished his tour of duty, he was the only one left from his multi engine conversion course in Canada prior to serving in the RAF. He like the men who crewed G for George were heroes in every sense of the word. Talk about the right stuff!

The other thing I like is the view back to Capitol Hill and Parliament House from here.

One of the great views in Oz!

After a quick brunch at the Museum, it was time to catch up with Cheryl. Now Cheryl and Debra were childhood buddies and they lost contact over the years. But by an absolutely amazing chance, they were able to reconnect about 10 years ago. A diary left in our studio contained a photograph of Cheryl and the diary's owner. Amazing stuff and so it was all sorted there and then. Cheryl has worked in all media; print, radio and TV and also as chief of staff in Political offices.  What a talented lady. She took me to Old Parliament House in her Mustang and gave me a tour. The stories are amazing. Cheryl has a Mustang GT for an every day drive and and HSV for her Sunday muscle car drive experience. After a tour we went to the local sports club to see her football team win. And had a magic dinner later. Many thanks for putting me up Cheryl.. or perhaps I should say putting up with me?

Cheryl standing where her desk was when this was Malcom Fraser's office.

Monday Morning dawns fine and clear... so off to Cooma go Max and me to see the Snowy Mountains.. again.

Sans rain thank you!

Arriving at Cooma I rent an apartment as the motel rooms are all booked for bus loads of pensioners.... awesome!

Max in the car park. Waiting.......

I decided today is a day to explore Cooma in detail so Max is locked down and shank's pony takes me around town. They have an amazing bakery here.. but I am good and only visit once. Otherwise I wouldn't fit in my bike pants and jacket. Cooma is a lovely town and a special place to visit.

So the next day finds me up early and away on Max to discover Lake Eucumbene. This lake can hold 9 times the volume of water as Sydney Harbour. That is a lot! At 1160 metres elevation, it certainly is an alpine lake. I rode around and across the dam wall past a coach load of pensioners who alighted from the coach.. and then blocked the road. They just strung out like cattle on the long paddock and watched as I approached. Like rabbits blinded by the lights! Except it was daylight. Don't know if they thought I was some sort of sideshow.. but eventually the driver had to point out to them they were standing in the middle of a road. If I get like that in another 20 years.. please shoot me.

Max on the dam wall at Eucumbene.

Drive across the dam wall... or not if the pensioners are there!

On the way along one of the many roads of the high plains, I came across this old church literally in the middle of nowhere. Just had to stop for a gander. Located on a rise, the view from the front door must be amazing when the snow is falling in winter.

Just so beautiful in the middle of nowhere.

Part of the Uniting Church flock.

The road going past the church!

The road going past has this amazing right hand sweeping bend.. just the place to give the big Yamaha the berries.. until an errant wombat wandered out onto the road. Ended up with one surviving wombat, one undamaged bike and the rider left over. Bonus!

So along the road I go until I come to a Snowy Mountains History Museum. First time in my life I have used my Senior's Card. Saved $1 off the $6 admission cost. Awesome! Lots of interesting stuff in there. The men and women who built this entire thing must have been amazing people. Cannot see it being done again. For a start Sarah Hyhpen-Young and her crew would object to blasting tunnels through mountains. Upset the spirit or similar I reckon.

Think it stopped here when it broke an axle.

This EK ute was restored. Part of the original motor pool.

All wheel drive fire engine!

Learnt tech drawing using stuff like these from Mr Miller in 1966

Remember overhauling a CA45 starter from one of these back in 72.

So after this wander around it was back to Cooma, a fill up on fuel for tomorrow for a big day out. A Chinese meal for dinner and and early night.

This shows my next trip, a loop from Cooma to Khancoban and then back.

Thursday morning and I am awake very early. A quick breakfast at McDonalds (try their BLT McMuffin with an egg) and away we go. Riding in the mornings is cold, so I bought a long sleeved top the day before at Target to wear over my T shirt under my jacket. Seemed to help a lot. Now the destination for today is Murray 2 hydro station. It is the only one open to visitors. Murray 1 is normally open, but the individual turbines are being overhauled. And the figures.. $10,000,000 per unit to overhaul and one year in time. And.. there are 10 units at Murray 1. Murray one feeds its water post power generation down to Murray 2 after which the water goes into the Murray River.

The road to Jindabyne is easy going but as I leave Jindabyne,  the GPS goes nuts and turns me towards the coast. Then it gives me an error message. Pull over, reboot the stupid thing and away we go. The ride goes through the National Park and there is an admittance charge, $7 per day for bikes. But if you are going through as I was.. no charge. The country here is stunning. Really beautiful alpine scenery and once past the turn off to Thredbo does the road become "interesting".

Lots of steep climbs, steep descents and very tight corners. I think I am riding sensibly but a lot of corners have light up "Slow Down" signs that I manage to activate as Max powers up and down those alpine roads. I need to be at Murray 2 by 11:00 for the tour. GPS says ETA is 10:30 but all the signs I see say I have more time needed and will arrive just after 11:00. There are no cars going in my direction but less than 10 pass me coming the other way.. including a Winibago... climbing  the hills like a slug!

Eventually I am down out of the hills and there is the turn off to Murray 2.

This place s amazing. The facts that were spelled out during the tour are as follows:

1. Snowy was designed as an inland irrigation project. The power generation part was to raise money to pay for it all.

2. Snowy 2.0 is not a new idea. Has been kicking around for years.. not viable before, perhaps now with final figures to be released later this year. Snowy 2 will require electricity to pump the water back up.. and they have to buy it from the grid, just like us. So if it happens.. only when power is cheap.

3. Lake Eucumbene is around only 30% full. Never been this low. Snowy Hydro was built to supply power when needed at peak times. A hot summer combined with the closure of Hazelwood power station led to high demands on the Hydro over XMAS. Once the water has passed through the turbines.. it's gone. It might be renewable but until the next winter and the following snow melt... water is low.

These pipe walls are 15mm thick at the top and 35mm at the bottom.

Temporary Visitor Centre while Murray 1 is closed.

Where the water exits post power generation.

Like a scene from Dr No. The unit nearest the camera has been upgraded.

This water is Murray bound.

Tour over and the next stop is Cabrumurra.. the highest town in Australia. A Snowy Hydro town, there is no visitor accomodation but it does have a nice cafe... apparently. I pointed Max at the hills again and twisted the throttle. Always love the power of a 1200. Light blue touch paper and stand well back. I wanted to get up there and then back down and across to Cooma before the light started to fade. Too many wallabies and roos out and about. I just missed two very small scrub wallabies the day before coming back from the lake.

Highest town in Australia gets a visit from Fat Max!

Lots of dead bugs on the screen now!

Talk about a well laid out town... or village perhaps!

Possibly the highest helipad in Oz too!

So after visiting this wonderful world of alpine intrigue... it was off back to Cooma. Refuelled Max and then worked out my homeward journey for the next day. Debra was having internet dramas at the boutique and as the account is in my name, I had to get to an Optus shop and sort the mess out. The next morning I left Cooma at 07:00 hours and headed into Canberra just in time to join the peak hour traffic. From there to Sydney and the M7 crawl to Pennant Hills I was so hot that I stopped in an emergency lane and took my long sleeved top off. Pacific Motorway was next and finally Newcastle appears on the GPS map. Refuel here and push on to Port Macquarie for the night. By the time I arrived I could hardly walk.

Checked into a motel, had an Italian meal and hit the sack early. Friday early I am on the road again and on towards Hendra. I needed two refuelling stops to get home.. but around 13:45 I pulled up in the drive at Grant Street.

I was stuffed, Max was filthy.. but ready to do it all again! Shame I couldn't! What a bike.

Final trip details.

Hi lights of the trip were spending time with old school mate Tor and meeting his family. And also chatting with Cheryl and learning more of her time in the media when based in the Old Parliament House. Thank you to both.

And.. the Snowy Mountains. What a place. Just something magical about those alpine areas and the magic of that scheme. Blasting tunnels through rock to divert rivers. No pipes in there... water just flows through the rock tunnels.

At primary school we were taught a lot about the Snowy Scheme... to actually see it all working is something else. I just wish Australia could be that great again instead of all of our politicians getting caught up in every day rubbish that doesn't do anything to advance our great country.

And Fat Max....

At home.. post trip and covered in bugs and crap.

Considering he is just a machine (and a better one according to Yamaha) I am really attached to this motorcycle. I will be sad to see him go but I have plans for Max 2.0 in July.  In the meantime I have to catch up on paper work at the shop and the studio and then give Max a rub and tub and prepare him for his new owner.

And what a deal he/she will get. All set up for touring with GPS, factory panniers, Staintune exhaust, crash bars and sump guard, LED driving lamps plus a whole mess of extra farkles I have fitted over the years to make touring a pleasure on this bike.

Bitumen or dirt.. Max doesn't care... he just goes... and quickly too.

Stay tuned for another instalment on my blog when I get myself back together after this amazing trip.