Curiosity is a funny thing, being a curious person can take you to places you never imagined you'd end up, then you find yourself asking how you got there. I pondered this very thing while staring at lamb carcasses cooking over a fire. They hung from steel posts balancing in the air via a delicate construction of wire, gravity and hope. Through an eye stinging smoky haze, the meat dripped with hot rendered fat in the most prehistoric of ways, the smell of smoke and meat intoxicating. How did I get to this point, this moment, cooking in this ancient way, and at a vintage bike show?
Growing up with my bum warming the seat of a few Honda bikes on a farm was definitely a starting point, as was the show CHiPS. Bikes had a place in my childhood, then curiosity and desire brought them back in adult life. Curiosity for these machines, how they work and where they can take us got me back on two wheels. In the process, I've met and made many new friends, one of whom asked me to cook at their vintage bike event, The Machine Show in Braidwood NSW.
After years of doing commercial food related events I'd promised myself to put it all behind me and just focus on cooking food for my family and friends. I find when you commercialise something you're passionate about it, it often turns into a chore and you can lose the love for it. I almost reached that point with food a few years ago so I set myself rules avoiding doing anything with the combination of food, money and customers. Obviously, I broke my own rule.
I've written about how I love cooking in a peasant style, my favourite meals are often those cooked outside, or in tiny inadequate cabin kitchens where you have no choice but to return to the basics of cooking. Cooking with fire is something Steve and I are used to, we both get out bush where fire is the only practical option. When I was asked if I'd like to cook at the show by my mate Matt (event organiser) I said yes immediately. Cooking good food and vintage bikes, sounded like an adventure in food to me. So, I organised a bunch of local lambs, sourced Australian made corn tortillas, made a huge bunch of chipotle chili sauce, and my taco partner Steve made a heap of zingy, garlic slaw, we were set.
The ride up to Braidwood can be magnificent, that's if you take a few days to ride over the high-country wilderness, with superb winding roads, spectacular views and untouched nature, but we took the Hume, so we got dirty truck stops, shit stained dunnies, fried food, plenty of Highway Patrol and an awkward conversation with Kevin the truck driver that had a sweet spot for hairy bikers. Actually, I kind of like cruising up the Hume on the bike. It's well made, comfortable and its lack of vistas means your mind gets all zen and shit. One can process the things that one has put off. This vast emptiness of thought can also encourage huge unwanted 'anxiety in a helmet' panic attacks, no biggy, nothing to see here, I'm totally fine.
Steve took his beast, the ex-army Landrover with cute matching trailer. He's been stupid busy at his restaurant in the bay since before Christmas and was eager for down time. Eight hours on the Hume putting along alone in his beloved Landy was fairly appealing I imagine. I noticed he sparked up a celebratory Cuban as soon as we left the country roads and entered the Highway, clouds of cigar smoke would intermittently exit the driver's window with each puff and his truck subsequently stank like a big night with Castro, Che Guevara and the Buena Vista Social club. But he was happy and that's all that matters.
We spent the weekend cooking lambs, making tacos, making tacos and cooking more lambs. It was fun when it got busy and especially joyful when people came back for more, especially when a Mexican bloke came up to me after we closed one night and told how he'd momentarily re-visited home while eating our tacos. Pretty good vibes from that. That's a radical feature of food, it makes people happy, it can transport our minds to memories and feelings. That chipotle sauce of mine is powerful stuff.
It's the second year this event has existed and it was encouraging to see more bikes, more people and more love for bikes of all types. That's what attracts me to it, it's not just choppers, choppers, more fucking choppers. Look, I like choppers, I ride a chopper of sorts but man 'the scene' drives me batty. For something that was born out of breaking the rules, building machines on the cheap and being anti-establishment, it's now very steeped in rules and standards, it's expensive and has this dumb mucho behaviour that dictates what it means to be cool (mostly males…..no surprise there). The tough guy bullshit, it's so base level, it's not needed to have a good time, it's the domain of the shallow, the ones that can't think for themselves. And don't get offended if you're a bloke and like choppers, I'm not referring to everyone in this space. Take a breath, think bigger picture.
I like old choppers, I love to look at them, to admire them but I don't want to ride for days on end on one when I could take the Dyna Dad Glide and feel like I'm riding a rumbling sofa (which is also reliable). Hey, everyone has different vibes man, you ride your bike, I'll ride mine, let's get along with a shared love for riding no matter what the combination of frame, motor, front end is. When I see the sticker 'Ride Choppers or Fuck off" I'm the bloke that says "ok" then fucks off happily because my main bike is stock. Maybe I should make a sticker that says "Ride Stock and Bake Cookies, who cares? ". The oddities and intricacies of social sub-cultures. The irony of not understanding a culture that in some ways I partake in is not lost on me.
On top of my excessive over thinking about human behaviour, I was bummed out with the few drongos being actual drongos and messing up the venue with fire, destruction and all round dumb male behaviour, yes it was men again (sad truth, can't deny it, we have to acknowledge it). Just because it's a biker event doesn’t mean we have to take a step backwards in evolution and act like we're 1970's hard core bikers destroying and vandalising stuff after we've had a few too many brews. It's 2018, there are now gay, vegan, gluten free, feminist, leftist bikers, get over it. Let's move forward not backwards, this is why bikes don't have a reverse gear. But seriously, what attracts me to people that ride bikes, is people that ride bikes. Not drongos that destroy something that has taken so much work to put together for our pleasure and enjoyment. No wonder these events get pulled after a few years of dealing with the idiots. That’s no fun. Aren't we more than that? Is this the peak of a subculture desperate to hang onto the past or can we be innovative, challenging, as intelligent as the pioneers that engineered the bikes we love to ride today. I find this kind of behaviour so base, primitive and just dumb. It's not challenging anything, it's not clever, it's just base level stupidity. Humans again, letting down other humans. Observational opinion over.
Apart from the few turkeys, I had a blast catching up with friends old and new. Hanging with people from around the country that I usually only interact with via the small electronic device I'm permanently attached to. To see distant friends in real life is a real joy, to talk, to laugh and enjoy the machines we love is something that means a lot to me. It's not just the machines, it's about learning more about personalities and the uniqueness of human individualism. I learned some new things about my friends that I didn't know. Motorbikes brought us together, that’s fairly rad.
We packed up the taco stand on the Sunday with the wind howling down hampering the wind-up process (a killer hang-over didn't help much either). Our plan was to spend two days enjoying the trip over the high country and ending up at a mate's place for a sneaky deer hunt in some high-country bush. We hammered those mountains, only stopping to meet at fuel stops for a quick confirmation of the next stop. It was all going well until we got to Adaminaby where the weather turned fowl and I got drenched on the bike for a few hours. Meanwhile Steve had to turn down the heater in the Landrover because he was getting too hot and his lips were cracked from the dryness and overall warmth. Then just on the other side of the Jagungal Wilderness, after I'd passed the worst of the worst weather, shivering like a paint mixer at Bunnings, my clutch cable snapped and we had to unpack the trailer and lift the bike onto the high rise ex-army trailer. That was fun, we both really enjoyed the experience.
We got back on the road and drove for hours eventually reaching Rosco's long house for a late supper, of which we ravaged like hungry beasts. Over a glass or two of wine we agreed that a pre-dawn deer hunt was the go so we all buggered off for some shut eye in preparation for an early start. I didn't pack a high-powered deer rifle in the bike, it kind of encourages unwanted attention with the Highway Patrol. Knowing this Rosco kindly offered me a 30-06 which I refused because I'm an idiot and was being polite. Maybe too much riding over the weekend had effected my judgement. In any-case here we are on an amazing private property full of deer, Rosco has a shot at a dirty great big Sambar stag, misses, runs off into the bush looking for a blood trail to start tracking, meanwhile the dazed mega stag does a quick loop around the scrub then stands directly in front of me probably about 30 metres away, broadside, head to fucking tail, turns to look at me and gives me that 'fuck you idiot with no gun' look they sometimes give you then disappeared into the bush. All I could do was yell "Steve! Behind you!" which didn't fire any projectiles in the direction of the deer, because it was just loud noises I was making; one mammal screaming at another mammal in the middle of the high country bush like a true drongo.
As disappointing as the impromptu deer hunt was, we did have an awesome massive weekend. We started the drive home, with my broken bike behind us on the trailer, Steve smoking his stinky cigars, Freya the Vizsla dog behind me licking my ears from the backseat, overall it was a pleasant journey. I was pretty quiet, tired and emotional, my jeans still damp from the rain over the Jagungal wilderness ride. I could be heard quietly grumbling to myself "I said no to a gun"………"I said no…..who says no?". Never again.
Thanks for Matt and Soph for putting together the show. Steve for being an awesome Taco mate, EzyLee for being the best taco flipper north east of Canberra (and the pics) and Rosco for the usual Wombat welcoming hospitality that we love.