Night Ride
by Hendrik Gout

Tuesday night, 11.00 pm. Temperature 18 degrees C (about 70 F). A full moon. It's one of those autumn nights where the air is sharp. I'm about to hit the hay when a mate rings and says he's hanging around like a chimp in the bananas. Would I like to go for a ride?

The plan HAD been to take Wednesday off, shoot through the Adelaide Hills to the town of Wellington on the banks of the Mighty Murray, and sit of the grass drinking Cooper's Stout watching the pelicans and the ferry.

But when a mate rings and wants to go for a ride... well, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Even if it's 12 hours earlier than the plan, it's almost midnight, and my nightcap is poured but still untouched.

So I pick up my mate from a suburb in Adelaide's north-west, scratch around collecting some change to fill up the V50's tank... and we're off!

We ride slowly up the escarpment which leads to Norton Summit. Here is the Scenic Hotel, built last century of locally-quarried bluestone, with big wide verandahs and always a few bikes parked outside, even at 11.30 pm on a weeknight. We have a beer and a yarn sitting on the verandah. It's warm, the moon now high and so bright. We talk bikes with strangers, argue whether the V50 is big enough to go touring two-up, because in May I'm planning to ride to the Moto Guzzi Club of Queensland's Ruptured Budgie rally. This is held near the border of Queensland and New South Wales, 4800 km round-trip from Adelaide. Three of us are going from South Australia. It will take us six days there and back, including two days at the rally.

At midnight the pub closes. We're still on the upstairs verandah overlooking the city lights, talking bikes, weather, tyres, and speed cameras. The publican locks up telling us to look after the place. He knows we've got a few cans in the tank-bag and that we'll stay until they're consumed.

Two more bikes go past. They're like us; just out for a moonlight ride. They see our bikes and stop. It's now almost one o'clock in the morning.

We climb back on the bikes. Two big Ducks, a BMW, two Guzzis, and a touring Honda. The Adelaide Hills roads are generally really tight stuff. It's as if they were designed specifically for the V50. I know the roads, and there's a temptation for fang and leave the big, long-legged bikes behind. But we stick together, really slow. The moon is so bright that we can see the vineyards, and the stone houses, and the steep valleys.

After an hour's ride we stop by the side of the road. We're on the eastern side of the Hills, and Adelaide is behind us. We haven't seen another vehicle at all. Somebody pulls out a hip flask, we sip whisky, and no-body talks. A huge owl swoops over us and gives us a startle. We have another sip of whisky!

We split up then, each finding their own road home. The moonlight was so bright it is possible to ride without lights. Slowly.

Home with two mates, coffee, and music. At 4.00 am I kick the last one out. We've just done 200 or so kms. while the rest of the world was asleep. In a month's time it will be winter here, wet, windy, and miserable in the hills, so we know there won't be too many nights like this for a while.

So now it's Thursday morning, and I'm in my inner-city office, with a view of the Adelaide Hills 10 kms to the east. Clouds are rolling in. Not nice weather for a ride. But Jim Eccles (BMW R11RS) has just rung. Would I like to have a quick pint at the Scenic Hotel after work, he wants to know. It's just a short ride...

Yes Jim. I'll see you there.

Hendrik Gout
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