For the third time I found myself on Lucia at 7:30am in Castle Hill preparing to head into central NSW with another 250 motorbikers. It's the start of the annual Black Dog Ride. Raising awareness and funds for treating depression and suicide prevention.
This time was different though.
For one, Lucy came to see me off. This is much more significant than meets the eye. Y'see Lu has a Love/Hate relationship with me and the bike. She loves me and hates the bike. Still, after 3 years, riding and touring has become part of my life. Very much part of who I am, and I really appreciated Lu getting up early, and immersing herself amongst several hundred hateful motorbikes.
With Lucy there I felt valued and cared for, and when you're about to head off for 1200 kms across anywhere, that makes all the difference.
For another, my mate Justin is doing the night ride with me. Surprisingly, once you've left town amidst a stream of bikes, touring can be a very lonely exercise. Between traffic, weather, and riders of differing capabilities, you suddenly find yourself as the lone bike as far as the eye can see. Sometimes for hours. At this stage the mind starts playing games with you. Perhaps you've taken a wrong turn; perhaps it's the second coming and you've been left behind…
Of course, once you get to the next fuel or food stop, you invariably bump into another bunch of shell shocked motorcyclists. The most dangerous thing here though, is to follow bikers you come across. They could well be going a different way entirely.
So it's great when you ride with someone else. Even without the ability to talk to each other during the ride, having a familiar bike in front of you, or in your rearview mirror, is a godsend.
Justin has a new you-beaut Garmin GPS that he'd programmed with waypoints. Unfortunately, however, it kept coming up with spurious distances, and consistently wanted to direct us off of the route we knew to be correct.
It wasn't until Mudgee, where we stopped for lunch that Justin discovered the “avoid all highways and tolls” check box. Checked!
Turns out the last time he used this was for riding in the bush, where that's exactly what he wanted to do.
One of the characteristics of touring is preparing for any conditions. If you're riding for a week and it rains for four days (or blows, snows, melts) you can't exactly stop. So you need to make sure you're as comfortable as possible whatever happens.
For us the weather was mostly great. It dipped almost to 10C through the mountains (brrr), threatened to rain in the plains (no really) and blew a gale for much of the way. Compared to frozen showers, fog and ice, a walk in the park. If somewhat tiring muscling the bikes into the wind.
Ok. Touring on a motorbike allows you to discover places you've just never had an opportunity to experience before. Cheaply. In most places on the planet.
For us on this trip it's the central west of NSW. A town called Nyngan, where we actually discovered the Bogan Shire.
Go figure. It really exists.
What It's All About
One of the things that sets the Black Dog Ride apart from most other rides though, is the purpose. To that end a different rider shares a presentation about Depression and the support you can get. This is usually at a dinner put on by the local Lions club in the community.
This evening we learned about the Mental Health First Aid program. Here's an interesting thought:
- How many people have done a regular First Aid course? (heaps)
- How many people have actually come across someone needing first aid? (not so many)
- How many people know someone who's struggling or depressed? (most)
Makes you think doesn't it…
…and that's what the Black Dog Ride is all about.