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It may be the best place on earth...

It will only surprise a few of you that some of the best times of my life have been had on the side of the road.


Those of you who’ve done some miles and seen some stuff will know what I’m talking about.


I have actually lost count of the great and good times I have had, parked up on some nameless road, usually miles away from a town…and invariably laughing my head off. But I was never really counting them anyway.


Side-of-the-road episodes are one of those things motorcycling serves up to its adherents. It’s relatively unique to us, prodding our genetic memories of ancient days when groups of us ranged far in search of food or battle, or just a better water supply. The horse had been domesticated, the wheel invented, and women, children, and the infirm were in wagons, while you and your fellow men rode ahead. Our monkey brains remember those days, tucked away as they are in the dim, and rarely-accessed depths of our consciousness.


And there are people who commune with their monkey brains maybe more than others.


It’s maybe why only a very few choose to ride bikes, while the rest opt for the modern-day version of the mule-drawn cart.


I’m not sure I care too much about the latter. They are of no moment to me.


But what is weighted with meaning, and what has enriched my time upon this earth beyond measure, are those side-of-the-road incidents.


Obviously, I was not alone when these episodes took place. A lone man laughing maniacally in some table drain 140km west of Cobar is when people call the police.


So, side-of-the-road episodes are at their very best when there is more than one person involved.


Now, why are we even stopped on the side of the road?


It could be for no reason other than a bladder break or a durrie, or it could be because someone’s engine has fallen out of the frame.


It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the unique way motorcyclists deal with the vagaries riding throws at them. We really aren’t wired like the rest of humanity. It’s that monkey-brain thing.


Once the engines are turned off, and you’ve removed your gloves and lid, all you can hear is the world going about its business. There may be wind. There may be rain. There may be blazing sun and the roar of cicadas. Then there’s the crunch of the gravel under your boots as move around. Now and again a car or truck may go by, the whoosh of its passing counterpointing the wind-blast.


Is there a problem to be solved? Or is it just a random piss-stop? Either way, at some point you and your mates or mate, will be laughing like idiots. Because this motorcycle business is always funny unless someone gets hurt or is dead.


So, let’s assume the worst has not happened and you’ve just pulled over because it’s time to free the beer you had at the last pub.


If your mates are worthy of the name (and they should be or what’s the point of riding with them?), then they will immediately start taking the piss. Out of everything. And I do mean everything. If it’s a piss-stop, then the strength of your flow, the colour of your wee, the size of the delivery faucet, or the cute way you tense your proud manly arse when you’re squeezing out the drops, are all cause for comment and judgement.


Taking a shit on the side of the road is a whole other level of hilarity. That’s when some of the funniest and most brutal jibes are hurled. The person taking a crap is at his most vulnerable when he has a length of greasy turd hanging out of his bum, which is exactly the time to throw rocks at him, unhook his ocky straps and throw them into the scrub, or chuck one of his gloves on top of a passing semi. Like, what’s he gonna do? You cannot just stop mid-poo, can you?


And of course there’s the whole toilet paper thing, as well. If you don’t have it, that’s very funny. If you do have it, and your mate chucks it ten metres away from you then refuses to bring it closer because the noxious smell of your bowels is unbearable, that’s even funnier. If you’ve ever seen a man with a shit-smeared arse waddle through the lignum looking for toilet paper while his best friends are insane with laughter, you’ll know what true comedy is.


But say a problem has occurred, and you have pulled over to deal with it. Well, short of some kind of physical maiming that might have occurred which has caused someone’s leg to fall off, even the most catastrophic mechanical or electrical situation is a source of mirth.


Some things can be easily fixed, some things may take a while to be sorted, and some things cannot be dealt with on the side of the road, and a ute must be found.


It’s all hysterically funny. Every time, without fail, I will guarantee that regardless of the problem, everyone will be laughing like drains at some point.


And all this in splendid isolation. No-one sees this, there are no outside witnesses. You’re not in a pub. You’re in Bum-Fuck, Bastardville – where all things are possible, and anything may happen.


This has always been the especial magic of riding for me.


Those crazy, stupid, irreplaceable moments you share with your mates on the side of the road. You are never closer to them and they are never closer to you. Your shared predicament, or the communal ecstasy you all share after a very spirited and highly illegal “race” – a race with no clear winners, but always a glaring loser – you’ve just had, is the very stuff of life to me.


The road and the ride is what bonds us. We all ride alone, even in groups. There’s no talking until you pull up – unless you’re one of those weird intercom fucks who jibbers to other weird intercom fucks like you’re some special forces assault battalion of gravy SEALS – and then there’s lots of talking.


And name-calling. And savage heartless insults – insults which you’d kill a man over if that man wasn’t your dearest friend, in which case it’s very funny.


It’s like a tap that is opened full noise and the water gushes out, enriching the earth, then it’s turned off, helmets are back on, and it’s off to the next place the tap can be opened.


These side-of-the-road moments are the most precious of diamonds in our riding careers.


Make sure you have as many of them as you can. It will give you something to think about when they’re changing your diapers in the aged care home.

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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