Author's note: This story is basically true. Some things distant in time have been compressed into one story, however. It contains sexual material so if you have a problem with that I'm not sure why you are in SOL.
The bike was just flowing into the sweepers. All that work I'd done on tyre pressures and suspension had set it up just right for me and it handled as if on rails.
I couldn't wait until the famous Takapau plains. That stretch of flat open road with its long straights that provide the perfect venue for the customary speed test. You come down a rise enabling a perfect view for kilometres ahead to check traffic, cops, road works and other hazards. Then it's power on and enjoy the ride.
I was on my way to the Hawkes Bay, on North Island New Zealand's East Coast for a month's work on a big show. It was 'Guys and Dolls', an American musical with a cast of around 40. I was hired to do the lighting and we would be doing about half a dozen venues.
I hated the idea of sitting in a bus with a whole lot of giggly chorus girls and temperamental singers and the thought of being crammed into the crew truck perched on a box of colour 'gels' didn't appeal. No! For me the freedom of the open road and a fast motorcycle was too hard to resist.
So I'd got the lecture about 'lack of team spirit' from the director and such like but I knew my job and I knew the show backwards. If they wanted a professional job done efficiently then those were my conditions. 'Give me the address of the Motel and I'll see you there'.
Coming down the hill the adrenaline began to pump in anticipation. This was the moment I'd been waiting for. I hadn't seen any apparent hazards from the top so it was 'all on'.
Around the last corner I snicked down a gear, straightened up then snapped on the throttle. The purr from the twin Conti Exhaust changed to an angry bark as the Tachometer hurried towards the 'red zone'. The front 16" Pirelli Phantom lifted momentarily as I felt a sudden surge of power. 160kmh flashed past on the Speedo, 170, 190, 200 'fast enough,' I thought to myself.
The rush of the wind was the only sound I heard as it tried to pluck me off the saddle. The buzz through the hand grips and foot pegs was quite tolerable thanks to the rubber mounts on the engine and the counter-balancing shaft, smoothing out the big V twin.
Dots in the distance quickly resolved them selves into a group of riders. Too fast, I suddenly caught up to them. The other lane was clear however so I went wide to pass them. Flashes of gang patches, black leather and coalscuttle helmets.
A milk-tanker pulled out of a farm gate, right in front of me. I squeezed on the big Brembo disks and pulled back into the other lane. Beside me I was looking into the face of a pot-belly, big hairy character stretched back by the high bars and extreme fork-rake of his big, customized Harley-Davidson. His face was the picture of surprise.
In front of me another rider sported 'Magogs, New Plymouth' on his back. I just avoided shunting his 'soft tail' in the rear.
A stream of cars now began to pass in the other lane, all caught behind a car towing a caravan. I was terrified, my skin was crawling and I could feel the beads of sweat forming under my helmet.
The two riders in front were about two metres apart. I made a snap decision, borne out of fear, and aimed the bike in the gap.
This time the front wheel came completely off the road for about half a metre, as I snapped on too much power. I was clear, however, and ahead, only the open road.
When I arrived at the next town I decided to gas up. Next to the gas station was a cafeteria and the thought of a bowl of latte and a sandwich suddenly appealed. I was sitting there in the sun for about 10 minutes, smoking a cigarette when the small Town Street suddenly vibrated with a low rumbling sound.
Riders began passing by like an angry herd of bulls, all snorting and grumbling. The rumbling noise began to resolve itself into individual sounds as each bike passed. Open exhausts, straight-through pipes, the big Harleys certainly created awe and apprehension among on-lookers. With 50 odd bikes together the sound is indescribable.
I had a certain awe and apprehension of my own, however. The big red Ducati sat outside the CafÈ pinging to itself in full view of the passing riders. 'How stupid of me to stop and let them catch up' I thought.
A few of the gang had stopped at the gas station. The clattering of their bikes bounced around the forecourt as they pulled up. 'They're just going for a day at the beach,' I told myself, 'and besides, there's sure to be a couple of patrol cars following them.'
Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief a big Harley chopper pulled up outside. 'Pot belly' dismounted and approached me. 'Oh shit,' I thought, ' maybe the bus wasn't such a bad idea'.
"Hey! You own that"? Man Mountain said, jerking a thumb towards my bike.
My red, white and green jacket had a 'Ducati' logo displayed on the left breast. It wasn't a question it was a statement.
"Yes," I answered. 'Maybe I'll get off with an apology,' I thought desperately. I couldn't see any cops, damn!
"You wanna swap"?
"Eh"? I answered in astonishment.
"Is it a Jaffa"? (Popular name for anything Japanese. A brand name of an NZ candy)
"Fast, eh"? By now I figured he wasn't going to beat me up so I grew in confidence.
"So, you wanna swap, That for my hog"?
"You couldn't handle it, mate. Too fast for you. Besides, there's no room for the Missus."
"You can have her too, eh"?
"And where would you put the beer"?
"Yeah, good point."
At that he roared out laughing and returned to his hog.
I pulled up outside the address I was given. 'New Life Christian Camp and Motel,' someone's made a mistake, I thought. I walked into the office and the little bespectacled man assured me that the cast was staying here.
"You're in room 5, over there," he said, pointing across the courtyard. "And I like to remind you there's no alcohol allowed."
"And no smoking."
"And lights out at eleven."
"And no parties."
"Enjoy your stay."
"And god Bless."
I found my room and dumped off my pack. The picture of Jesus on the wall came down, I took out a can of beer from my pack and rolled a cigarette. I pushed the bike around the back of the block and hauled it onto the centre-stand. A flicker of movement caught my eye and I quickly tossed the cigarette away.
"Have you been smoking"?
"I can smell it. About your bike, could you please ride it slowly into camp"?
"And keep the noise down."
I'd had enough. I decided to go into town and wait until the bus arrived. I was too conspicuous here. I rode down to the beach and spent the rest of the afternoon with the 'Magogs'.
They turned out to be a very hospitable bunch. I spent a pleasant afternoon talking bikes and drinking beer until dinner. Consequently I was a little 'happy' when I returned to the Motel. The 'wheelie' past the office may have caught 'snoopy's' attention or the donut outside the cabin. But it was the Show Director who came to see me.
"Tone it down a bit, we got a cheap deal here, don't get us thrown out."
I took another beer from my pack and rolled another cigarette. 'Fuck them' I thought.
I was the only person that the show couldn't do without. I had no understudy, I knew the show backwards and I could follow the lighting plot in the dark.
The next morning the crew and I were up at 5. We drove the truck to the theatre and were in setting up by 6 am. Breakfast was grabbed on the way. No one today believes me when I say we set up in one day and had everything rigged and ready by 8pm that evening, but we did it for every venue we played.
We first had to assess what equipment we could use in the theatre. Most places had some lighting equipment and three-phase power, which we had to have to run the board. For those that didn't, we carried a three-phase adapter, lighting batons, bolts, shackles, hoists and everything for every eventuality we could imagine.
.... There is more of this story ...