Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Recently, I and my mostly-faithful 1965 Panther M120 Penelope completed a circumambulation of Australia ... or as the Aussies say "A full lap". This was done over a period of four years, usually in either the spring or winter.
It has been a wonderful peregrination … a proper wandering. I don’t assert that the ride was unsupported … the whole of the Panther world followed and helped me with advice, accommodation and mechanical assistance on occasion. All I had to do was sit there and be resilient.
A lot of people say to me how great it must be to do such a ride. I temper their enthusiasm with the caution that of the 24,000 kms ridden, probably less than 2,000 would be on the roads that most riders enjoy. There is a lot of tedium out there, when day after day you relentlessly follow a grey ribbon of tarmac stretching off to the horizon, with just a hypnotising dashed-white-line bifurcating the way ahead.
During these dull times I taught myself to ride with my left-hand operating the throttle. It took me three days to master this pointless skill. Australia is such a vast country, ultimately one of amazing contrasts where you can traverse the red, dusty outback, yet also experience wonderful swervery through lush, green, undulating hills in parts of the East Coast.
Penelope and I have ridden 50 countries or so and done many wonderful roads, yet can’t put up anything better than Yacandandah to Whitfield and on to Mansfield. This has something for everyone. Such a contrast to the numerous days where I sat crouched like Rodin’s Thinker for hours on end. In fact, I have been calling the adventure The Big Sit.
Three times I have been able to co-ordinate my ride with attending the Australian Panther Register’s annual rally and enjoy the camaraderie of the marque’s cognoscenti. The most recent being held near Orangeville in NSW, where I launched a book of previous travels. No One Said It Would Be Easy (www.kahukupublishing.com) records the earliest of Penelope and my adventures together … a youthful ride from New Orleans to Buenos Aires. It is the second in what will be a trilogy of books. The Last Hurrah, published in 2006 recorded our Beijing to Arnhem ride. Currently out of print, I hope to have another edition available soon. The Big Sit will follow next year. Penelope is worn out and needs a rest … but there is still Tasmania to be conquered. Like Washington’s axe, she will be re-fettled and one day will thud through that verdant land.