Archive for September, 2010
I’ve been back home from the Black Dog Ride now for five days and I’m just now beginning to get back to ‘normal’ activities. I managed to unpack and wash everything, including the bike. I’ll be rewarding it with a service and new tyres soon. Hard to believe I went through a brand new set of tyres in under a month, but it was for a good cause.
I have no doubt that the Black Dog Ride has accomplished it’s goal to raise awareness of depression and anxiety in men. But what now? Well, the good news is that many people are continuing to ensure that those suffering from depression know that they are not alone, people do care and help is available.
Steve Andrews, founder of the Black Dog Ride, continues his work in raising awareness of depression. Keep up to date with him on Twitter or his website.
Riding4aCause has big plans for taking their message across the United States next year. All the details on their site.
I will continue spreading the word by publishing short videos on YouTube over the next two months. Search on the term blackdogride to find them or subscribe to my YouTube channel to receive automatic notifications of where they are posted.
Many riders have posted photos, videos and stories about the Black Dog Ride and issues related to depression and anxiety that continue to spread the message. Hopefully we can find a place to link those all together at some point.
The Black Dog Institute continues their important research and will benefit from donations collected via the Black Dog Ride.
7 October 2010 is R U OK? Day, a great way to make sure we all keep talking about mental health issues.
People often times comment to me that they don’t understand why mental health issues such as depression aren’t more openly discussed. Personally, I think there are very good reasons people may choose not to discuss such issues. I’m certainly not against increased awareness of mental health issues or I would not participate in events such as the Black Dog Ride in the first place. But I also have concerns regarding personal privacy in regards to health issues.
Many people simply do not understand, or are not willing to even consider, the difference between being depressed and the condition of depression. Those experiencing depression may be judged unfairly and even harshly, which most certainly will add to their difficulties. In my experience this can even lead to employment discrimination. While these are the exact reasons why awareness campaigns are so very important, it can be a double edged sword for those sharing their personal experiences as examples of how depression can effect any of us.
The experience of depression can include highly personal aspects such as financial problems, inappropriate behaviour, self harm, legal issues and medical/psychiatric treatment. There’s no reason to be ashamed of being ill however people may prefer privacy regarding health issues given prejudices that exist in our society. I’m sure that cultural differences would be an important consideration as well.
A true understanding of mental health issues brings with it the realisation that none of us are immune to these conditions. This can be very confronting and uncomfortable to discuss or accept. Just as none of us would like to believe that we will ever have to deal with any injury or disease, we all know this not to be true and many people prefer to not discuss such possibilities. No one wants to be confronted with their own mortality.
So where does this leave us? Is it truly possible to openly discuss sensitive mental health issues? You tell me.
Today I managed to drag myself out of bed for an early start to make the 750km trek to Sydney. It’s been raining for days and I’d like to get back home so I decided to give the lovely twistie roads a miss and just head down the highway.
With numerous 60km/hr sections going through towns and a thirty minute delay while clearing an accident it took me twelve hours, although I did take a few long breaks. As I said to my friend Chris, remind me never to do that again.
So the Black Dog Ride is over and tomorrow I’ll be home after a short 300km ride.
The ride home has given me time to reflect on the events of the past two weeks. I’ve been thinking a lot about Steve Andrew’s statements about why he organised the Black Dog Ride. He stated that he didn’t understand why people aren’t talking more about the effects of depression and anxiety given that it affects one in eight people. I’ll blog my thoughts about that once I return home as I think there are very good reasons why people avoid the topic.
ChrisMac and I have had some awesome adventures on our bikes together. He’s the rider in many of my videos because we have done a lot of riding together and he is a great guy. So today’s ride through some Queensland twisty hills was a great reunion of two Suzukis and two friends.
The weather didn’t cooperate today with steady rain slowing us down. Good thing I’m from Canberra and have warm gear as it was quite cold as well. In spite of this it was a lovely ride in a beautiful part of the country.
We only rode about 300kms to Astonville in NSW where I plan on finally taking a day off from riding before heading home. I’ve discovered that 14 days of riding is pretty much my limit. Given that it looks like rain for the next few days I may take a more direct route home than planned. Stay tuned.
Left hand in, left foot down, right foot up, twist of the right wrist, left hand release, knees gripping tank and it’s off I go on another day’s adventure. I love riding.
Today I ride alone having said my goodbyes to the wonderful new friends I’ve been riding with for the past fortnight. What a great group of guys. I just can’t remember ever having a better time. Now it’s time to split from the Sydney riders to meet up with a friend for a couple of days of riding and having fun. A nice cuppa at a local cafe, hugs all the way around and off I ride with my memories of joyous times.
Riding in a group is great fun but riding solo is much more flexible. So today I head where I want when I want and how I want. I also have to get used to things such as traffic, driving through towns and roads that have curves! Quite a difference from the last couple of weeks.
The clouds are dark and low but in spite of this no rain. Yesterday’s freezing rain was more than enough for me. I head from Mitchell to Warwick through lovely towns such as Roma. Good thing I was holding on and the bike had a fair amount of weight on it. I probably spent as much time in the air as I did on the seat given the condition of the roads. It was a fairly ordinary ride but I did enjoy all the sights. However, I never thought that I would have needed heated grips and a winter coat with a liner in it this far north. What happened to the old Queensland saying of ‘beautiful one day, perfect the next’?
I pulled in to Toowoomba not knowing where to find my friend who had driven up from Lismore to meet me so we could ride back together the next day. I thought to myself, now where would Chris look for me? Only one answer to that, so I pulled over to the first Maccas that I saw and guess who was standing right there in the car park? Great minds think alike.
After riding to the motel an unloading the bikes it was off to the local RSL club for a fantastic meal. Being the wild and crazy guys that we are, we decided the best thing to do on a Sat night is to get some rest. Chris has cooked up some an interesting ride for tomorrow as we head back to Astonville in NSW where I’ll stay before finally heading back to Canberra.
Over the last four days the six remaining riders and volunteer support car driver have been in ‘homeward bound’ mode. That means a lot of travelling on a fairly tight schedule. It’s been a whirlwind adventure and honestly I usually can’t remember what day it is let alone what town we are in.
There are so many wonderful things and sights at all the places we travel through that I couldn’t begin to write it all down. Each day we awake around 6.30am and hit the road a bit after 8.00am. We ride to about 4.00pm and even though we take quite a few breaks and aren’t doing huge distances, it’s very tiring. At the end of the day by the time you get your gear sorted out, take a shower and find some food it’s typically well past time for a sleep.
So here are a few snippets about the past four days. It’s already 11.30pm and tomorrow I’ll be leaving the ride to catch up with a friend which will be a whole new chapter in this adventure. More about that in future posts. At some point I’ll also post some links to blogs and web pages from other riders as there have been some fantastic photos and stories posted about this ride.
Tennant Creek to Mt Isa
Tuesday 14 September
What I remember about this is that it was HOT, the road was long and I probably could have taken a nap given how straight the road was. We did meet the nicest people at one of the rest stops. Diane and Barry who were travelling with a new truck, lovely caravan and their three pet birds. We had a great yarn with them and Diane brought out a cake for everyone which we devoured in about three seconds flat.
Mt Isa was very interesting and we stayed in a nice caravan park. The town has a fairly industrial feel to it being a mining town but lovely shops and nice people. While the others went for dinner at the pub I headed to the local McDonald’s for some much need free bandwidth given none of our wireless accounts were working at the caravan park.
Mt Isa to Winton
Wednesday 15 September
This was a fairly pleasant ride. Temperature was perfect and it was a sunny day. We cruised in to McKinlay for fuel and to check out the pub used in the movie Crocodile Dundee. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they used a pub all the way out here as there’s nothing special about it at all. Indeed, of all the pubs I’ve been in on this trip it was the most boring and uninspiring. We went across the street to the servo for lunch and found it much more interesting. The walls are lined with photos of road trains and drivers. Once section is dedicated to spectacular accidents involving road trains. Lots of interesting stories there.
Winton to Blackall
Thursday 16 September
What a day! The big event was a stop at the Qantas Museum in Longreach where we took an hour tour of a Boeing 747-200 plane. It was really fascinating as I’ve always wondered what all the litle things you see on a plane do. Did you know that the left wing can have a spare engine mounted on to it and that’s how they transport them? Even more interesting is that it’s mounted by two mounts that have only four screws each in them. The story of how they landed such a monster on a runway as small as the one at Longreach was amazing.
One thing I didn’t expect to see today would be the Police coming down the road in my lane. It’s not unusual to have to move over for a truck with a wide load but this time we had to stop and actualy move quite far off the road. A few minutes later a truck with an entire house drove by at about 60km/hr. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The house was actually wider than the entire road and it was really moving.
We came in to town quite late which was a real problem. I’ve never seen so much road kill in my entire life as I’ve seen on this one stretch of road. Several roos made appearances along with sheep, bulls and a mother Emu with her tiny chick which looked more like a round ball of fur with popsicle sticks for legs. We tried to avoid dusk but with delays we ended up riding at the worst possible time. So we stuck together and took it very slow.
Blackall to Mitchell
Friday 17 September
Oh boy it’s raining! Good chance to shoot a rain video so check out the video page if you want to see what it’s like to pass a road train with water flying in your face. In all honesty if I’ve passed one road train, I’ve passed a thousand on this trip. The novely wears off quickly.
Didn’t see much of Blackall other than a quick dinner at the local hotel. Took us quite a while to get here due to breakdowns and some other issues. Lovely towns on the way including Tambo where we stopped to purchase a few Tambo Teddy’s which are cute handmade Teddy Bears. I know a few kids who will be pleasantly surprised when Daddy finally gets home.
Arrived in Mitchell to discover the Water and Fire Festival was on so we were lucky to find rooms in a local pub. The others headed off to soak in a natural hot spring and visit the local art stores. I on the other hand was much more sensible and took a three hour granny nap. It was a shame to miss all the fun but at some point I need more than five hours sleep.
It’s a lovely place and we all enjoyed a nice meal here. Apparently there was a film festival on tonight that I would have loved to see but there just isn’t time to pack all the fun in. Such is the hardship of being an adventurer I guess.
I will try to add a bit more to this post later including some photos. In the meantime check out the slideshow link on the right hand side of this page as all the photos are there. I hope you enjoy them.
Today we decided to start our ride a bit later so we could do some shopping and errands in town. I ran over to Harvey Norman for a new external hard drive to store my videos and others did various thing like heading to the post office. We then met at a local cafe for a cuppa where Tony and I had a wonderful conversation with two local residents.
To top this off I asked a local busker if he would speak with my father in Denver Colorado thinking it would be nice for my father to meet a real Australian. Turns out he was from New Zealand. They had a nice chat anyway in spite of the buskers mobile phone ringing. He managed to have two conversations with a phone to each year and I stood there amazed at how the world has changed given that a person could be speaking to two parts of the world at the same time.
After all this we finally started on today’s adventure. On the way out of town we stopped at an outlook to take a few photos and then it was time to ride. The road was straight and virtually endless. It was hot. It was very hot. Did I say it was hot? Yes, it was hot!
I love the little pubs we have been stopping at. Today we had our lunch at Barrow Creek Pub. It’s a place with character to say the least. The walls are literally lined with money from all over the world. Not to be outdone, I wrote my name on a two dollar note for the United States I’ve been carrying around and added it to the wall of fame. Two dollar notes are rare in the US and many Americans may not realise they were ever printed so it may get some attention there. If you ever stop in there be sure to ask the publican where the DazzaB two dollar note is.
After watching a million termite nests go by I just couldn’t resist taking a few photos of them. Just after that I came upon the Devil’s Marbles which is the type of thing I would have spent days photographing back when I was a photographer.
After melting in the heat for hours I finally pulled in to Tennant Creek with no sign of the others. So I parked my bike on the main street and headed for the nearest diet coke and water. While sitting there I noticed how every shop had windows covered in bars. It didn’t strike me as the friendliest of places.
Later when the other rides finally arrived a women started to bum cigarettes from us before her partner came across the streek to start a yelling match with her. This continued to escalate until the Police came by and took him away. Sounded like they knew them well. So that’s my experience of Tenant Creek. I was pleased when the others decided to stay a bit further down the road.
We ended up at the Threeways roadhouse which was great. A bit rustic but with real character, clean rooms and decent food. The place has been there since before time itself apparently. We had a nice dinner and then headed off for much needed sleep. Another day of long roads and adventures in central Australia fresh in our minds.
With the Black Dog Ride now officially over I woke to find most riders packing up and putting on their wet gear. Our schedule called for an extra day at Glen Helen for rest and relaxation. I threw on some clothes and headed over for breakfast and a cuppa or two or three or four.
It seemed like a great time to find a quiet place to get all my videos sorted out and begin my last blog entry while the final day of the ride was still fresh in my mind. I found a back room with a power point and settled in for a few hours of getting organised and writing.
It was nice to just sit and relax rather than having to rush to get ready for a day of riding. Just as I was finishing the oraniser of the Black Dog Ride, Steven Andrews, came up and told me the other Sydney riders had been looking for me. Apparently they had been advised that the rains were increasing and that there was a major storm on the way that might flood the roads. They made the decision to head back to the Heavitree Lodge in Alice Springs before the weather closed in. I didn’t like the idea of sitting out the storm in my tent so I packed up and hit the road a couple of hours behind them.
The ride back to Alice Springs was mostly in the rain. The floodways were becoming deeper by the minute but nothing that the super Suziku couldn’t handle. But it was a good thing that I remembered my boot covers as my feet certainly did go through a lot of water. Too bad I didn’t remember to zip up the vents in my new jacket until I was reminded by cold water dripping down my shirt.
Normally I don’t find riding in the rain very pleasant because the road can become slippery and it’s hard to see if your helmet fogs up. This time I thoroughly enjoyed the ride because the scenery took on a total different character. The clouds were dripping down the mountain to the left of me and everything smelled fresh and clean.
Rain is so very important here that you just thank goodness that it’s happening. I loved watching the streams flowing across the road and noticing how different the clouds looked in different parts of the sky. It was quite a dramatic scene unfolding right before my eyes.
I came in to Alice Springs about four pm and was more than ready to get out of my damp gear and in to a warm shower. Having called ahead to find that only shared rooms were available it was a very nice surprise to be offered a free upgrade to a motel room due to a cancellation. The Lodge also kindly extended the discount they offered to Black Dog Ride participants which resulted in a $35 discount. Good on them.
After sorting out all the gear and cleaning my self up I walked down to the Tavern for a fantastic carvery meal at the bargain price of only $10 along with a free drink to boot for staying at the Lodge. What a deal. I had a huge plate of food and waddled back to my room to do a bit of writing. After finally figuring out how I could do some basic video editing on my low power netbook I was even able to upload a video of Angry Anderson having a chat with me a couple of days earlier at the casino.
Coming back to Alice Springs a day earlier worked out well as it meant 130km less of riding the next day which would give us some time to stop in town and do shopping and errands. Getting my blog updated and working on the video editing took some time so I actually didn’t get to sleep until about one in the morning. The meet time for the next day was 8.30am so I still managed a really nice and comfortable nights rest.
Finally, a chance to sleep in! And in the lap of luxury as well at the Heavitree Gap Outback Lodge in Alice Springs, Nothern Territory. The rooms here are large and comfortable although I did have to evict a gecko on arrival. Just a little baby who tried the ‘chase my tail instead’ trick when I grabbed him. Hope those tails grow back as he sure looked silly without it.
The only mechanical issue I’ve had on the trip was a missing bolt from the luggage rack and a very loose bolt that also had the camera mount on it. So off I went in search of the local Suzuki dealer which, thanks to a local taxi driver, was quite easy. They spent about half an hour finding the right bolt to do the job and tightening things up for me. All for $2.65, so a big thank you to Alice Springs Suzuki!
Today we are heading for Glen Helen resort 130k west of Alice Springs for the final leg of our trip. But before we leave town it’s off to the Lasserter’s Casino for a lovely picnic breakfast arranged by the Ulysses motorcycle club and the local Lion’s Club. It was a bright sunny day making it perfect for celebrations and riding.
As I pulled up to the casino I noticed Angry Anderson who has kindly donated his time as ride Ambassador in his horned helmet. I asked him to come over and say hi to my helmet cam. We had a little chat and as I got off the bike he started to tell a very personal and touching story of why he decided to come on the ride. He’s told the story many times but it just blows me away how he reels off the most horrendous descriptions of child abuse and having his self-esteem ripped away. What a gutsy man.
Having known homeless and at-risk youth for years I’ve heard these stories quite often but it never ceases to feel like a knife in the heart when listening to them. In this case all I could do was tell Angry how much I appreciated that he is a wonderful caring man and then give him a hug.
The ride out to Glen Helen became better and better each kilometre that we travelled. They considered changing the name of the ride from the ‘Ride to the Red Centre’ to the ‘Ride to the Green Centre’ given all the rain recently. We even had to slow for an overflowing floodway which is quite a rare site around here.
I spent the ride shooting a lot of video given that this part of the ride included all riders. I wouldd say there were about eighty bikes all up. I managed to save a bit of time for a nice solo ride and even to stop for some photos of the scenery. All in all, a top ride.
I arrived at the resort ahead of the group not knowing that they had pulled over for a break behind me. I had set up to get a nice shot of everyone zooming by but never saw the main group. Eventually I gave up waiting and went on my way.
A quick refreshing drink and it was time to set up camp. I opted for camping at Glen Helen and I’m glad I did. I don’t camp out that often so it’s a bit of a treat for me. I bought a larger tent just for this trip and that worked out well. After all this activity I really needed a shower, and I do mean really need a shower. But as I walked around to find the showers I noticed my fellow riders enjoying beer o’clock in a creek, as one does. So I jumed in and what a wondeful feeling it was. (OK, I eased in to the cold water like a scared little boy if you want to know the truth – it was cold after all).
I floated around the creek for over an hour just relaxing and laughing with the boys. On the opposite side of this creek was a canyon wall about eighty meters high which changed by the minute as the sunlight skimmed across it. A lovely red wall with a deep blue sky and fluffy white coulds floating by.
Lots of jokes were told. Many rocks were skipped across the creek and all my worries melted away into being totally relaxed. I really should float around in a Northern Territory Creek more often. I highly recommend it. We were assured that there were no crocs around here and I realised why when we were served crocodile for dinner. Oh well, better than the other way around huh?
After leaving the creek I did a quick beer run for the guys who couldn’t tear themselves away from eutopia and headed off to get ready for dinner. There was plenty of time to meet and chat with everyone over drinks and they we were treated to one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. They sure know how to put on a feast at the Glen Helen resort.
Dinner was followed by what I personally was dreading. I came on this ride essentially to ride, forgetting about the fact that one of the reasons I ride is to forget about the horrors of depression and anxiety. That very topic has been in my face most of the ride which has been a bit emotionally challenging for me. I’m not going to blog the details for what the founder of the Black Dog Ride had to say about his motivation for doing all this other than to say he was sick of people not talking about why so many people were suffering in silence. His talk was highly personal and as I looked around it was obviously having an effect on us all.
I wiped away my tears and Steve’s best friend took the mic to tell us how he lost the love of his life to suicide. Again, I don’t think the story he told needs to be documented here other than to say how brave I think he is for sharing at such a personal level. Next Angry Anderson came up to tell his story in a way that only Angry can. One second you are crying, the next you are laughing. What a guy. After all this I just had to leave. Yep, I ran away having reached my limit. I really wanted to stay for the fun that was next such as joke awards etc but I was just so very tired.
As I got ready to sleep in my tent I could hear the music, laughter and applause echoing from the canyon wall. I was so very happy that the ride was ending on such a tremendous high and that so much good had come out of our mutual adventures. I drifted in to a restless sleep with mixed emotions wondering how I would feel the next day. I woke in the middle of the night to hear the rain coming down as I zipped up my sleeping bag and rolled over totally content in my little piece of paradise.