Australian Summer Gold, getting to the Phillip Island Test
Another intense and amazing week Down Under! I met with some very special racefans, and continued the work necessary to put my team in the best position possible for the 2007 World Championship - namely, in first place! After three days on-track, we managed to post the fastest times on both the first and second days of the test, and on day three we were exactly where we needed to be, with Ducati's making up four of the top six places! In fact, on day two, Ducati's were top three and four of the top five. But then, this is only preseason, and I'm looking for results come raceday!
Immediately after landing in Melbourne, we grabbed our rentacars and proceeded to get some food. Most of the team ate pretty light on the plane, because they just don't mix well with Malaysian airline food. Come to think of it, I don't really mix well with it, either, haha. Anyway, just like the last time I was in Australia, the first place we stopped at was McDonald's! Argh!!! That makes twice in a year I've had to eat there, and both times were in Australia. But each Mickey D's is different, and the Down Under adventures were just beginning!
Nothing says Australia like a Holden! There's a big Holden (GM)/Ford rivalry here, but it's not at the point where you see those stupid "Calvin pee'ing" stickers on the back of everyone's cars like in the states. I caught up with the owner of this '57, and he told me it's been his daily driver for the past 9 years with no problems. Alledgely, I was conceived on a road trip my parents took between Perth and Melbourne. . . . . . in a Holden.
While I was at the Mickey D's with the guys, I shot off a call to Terri, a woman who had contacted me through the website to inquire about being a MotoGP Grid Girl. More than that, she explained that her whole family was made up of race enthusiasts and that if I was in town we should get together and have a "yak", which is a big talk in aussie-speak. I learned a ton on this trip about some of the more local terms. Here's one of my favorites:
Initally, I was headed directly to Phillip Island with the rest of the team, about two and a half hour's drive from the Melbourne airport, but Terri offered me a place to crash for the night and after checking with my boss, I decided to spend the night in Melbourne. The boys took off and I waited at the BP gas station for Terri's husband, Daggy, to swing by and pick me up. It was fun watching the local kids playng around with their suped-out cars and stereos in the parking lot, same as anywhere else. Dags picked me up, along with Terri and their niece, Vanessa, and after the introductions we headed off to Romsey, where the family was located. We joked about all kinds of things in the car, and I wolfed down an Australian Milky Way bar that Terri had brought for me (as you'll see later, candy is a great way to get on my good side). Once we got to the house, mind you, it's close to 11PM at this point, I was greeted by a veritable ton of people, all welcoming me and sitting down around the kitchen table to talk about life and bikes. All told, I think about 14 people were there, including me, comprised of seven adults and seven kids. Almost all of them knew a bit about the bikes and the racing, and it was really cool just to sit back, have a beer (apparently I drink them too slow), and talk. Vanessa's dad came over to Australia from Calabria, Italy, in the late 60's along with his brother, so between the families there was some good cross-breeding going on and everyone was multi-cultural. I don't care where they end up, once you're Italian and have lived through the Ago years, you end up knowing the bikes and some of that crazy european passion bleeds down into your kids. We spoke about all kinds of things, from bikes, to life in southern Europe, to life in Austalia (and it's magnitude of licenses and fees), the Abo's, and even managed to get into dirty jokes (yes, they really do all revolve around Kiwi's and sheep), so it was a pretty cool night for me. Just watching the kids asking questions, and the parents joking around together was great. Actually, I cannot express enough how nice it was for me to hang out with a real family for some downtime. I really miss my own family, because these days we're all living in different places and when we get together it's either one group or the other Besides, there's just not that many of us around, haha. After our Yak, I switched houses to visit with Terri's menagerie, which comprised of a massive, square-headed dog, a midget horse, some birds, and a couple freaky looking Mexican Walking Fish, (just kidding, Troy!). The horse, Turner, would wake up the household by kicking at the sliding door to beg for pieces of bread. Speaking of bread, the next day we had a huge breakfast of eggs and some serious bacon, all over fat slices of buttered toast with instant coffee. The coffee totally reminded me of how my Dad drinks his morning cup of joe, so that was another really cool flashback for me. Oustanding! Here's Turner, all three feet of him, by night, and to think, they only spent 50 Aussie dollars to get him. Used.
After breakfast, Dags gave me a lift up to Phillip Island, and we had some more time to share stories and adventures. We talked about all manner of things and it was really cool to get some of the background on that area and of Australia in general. Did you know Batman has a huge following in Australia? I found Batman Ln, Batman Avenue, all sorts of Batman places. Technically, this photo is a little out of sequence, but it's got Batman in it!
Anyway, Dags and I took off in their Holden station wagon, and we were making good time despite the horrible speedlimit in that huge country.
For the most part, Australia seems pretty flat, with some gentle, rolling hills breaking things up a little. The weather is notorious for changing rapidly (as evidenced by the race last year), and as Dags says, "If you don't like the weather, just hang around for ten minutes - it'll change!". It started raining on us a couple times as we made the journey to the circuit.
Here's a great shot of Melbourne as we sped by. I'm always really happy when a picture I've taken from a moving car turns out, because so many of mine are taken that way. The shot of the twin towers in Kuala Lumpur was taken from a taxi window late one night!
Here's yet another reason to remember 420!
Crossing the bridge to Phillip Island showed that the Roxy Women's Surfing Competition was going on. Would wonderful things never stop happening?
Right on schedule, tem minutes later, the weather changed again, and Phillip Island was a golden paradise. The weather changed that often, that drastically. Kind of like Hawaii. The lingo reminds me of home, too, because the culture is laid back, and people actually "hang out". It seems the surf culture runs deep out here. I'm all for it - Bring on the Endless Summer!
Although I spent hours in cars, I only saw one patrol car. This is what to watch out for Down Under. Pretty cool, huh? This guy turned out to be off-duty, with his wife in the car. I hear the Officers Club in downtown Melbourne is the place to go, but then, I haven't been there for myself so I really can't say.
Once we arrived to the main town of Cowes on Phillip Island, we stopped for some coffee and ran into my buddy Dave and his Australian family, originally from Galicia but having transferred over many years ago. We shared a hot cup in some cold, rainy weather, and then spied some classic bikes across the street. Apparently there was a vintage show/races going on at the track and some of that bled over into the town. That's Dags on the far right of the photo; take care of him if you ever meet him.
One British Small Arms 650? Check!
While over in the background there were a couple trumpets and this great cafe'd Guzzi. Look at that neat pipe set-up! Good stuff, and I was stoked to see these bikes up close because at the end of the day, I still spend a lot of time thinking about what kinds of bikes I'd like to build and own for myself one day.
All that aluminium shure is purty!
Also saw this neat old ride, which kind of reminded me of a little Datsun 510 wagon. The front end was ugly as heck, though, something that Holden should have done a lot better. Oh well, if they were all nice, then there'd be nothing special about certain rides, right?
I said goodbye to Dags and thanked him for a fantastic time spent with the family, and then it was time to get into team mode. Top of the agenda for the day was what we were going to be eating later that night! We all ended up at Dutchies Stone Grill, and although the food was great, the service was pretty curt and left a lot to be desired. I guess they just don't like people eating really late at night, like 9:30PM! We finished up and headed back to the house we were staying at, and for me it was a womderful day filled with new sights, good eats, and mostly, really good people. Big shout out to the Staggard and the Gara families, and to all the children, keep on doing what you're doing. Mitch, hope the knee gets better for some serious lawnballing, Vanessa, work on your projects, and Troy, don't worry about staying up too late at night. The rest of youse? Keep riding those minibikes and watch out for your collarbones! I went to sleep in a good mood, but I knew the next couple days were going to be a killer.
Oh, one last thing, the Phillip Island Preseason Test song!