Locked down in Winter, I find myself longing for the road and the places it has taken me. The Cann River Hotel is one destination I remember vividly, but not always for good reasons…
There’s a sleepy little town in East Victoria that is well known by travelling motorcyclists. I think most serious Aussie tourers would know it, or a place much like it. It has a petrol station, a motel, a bakery and a pub, all of which lie within a 100 metre radius. It’s almost as if the town planner had just busted his hamstring.
There’s nothing particularly exceptional about it, but there’s little more than tall trees and farmland surrounding it, for miles. It’s only natural that you end up staying there… again.
I’ve drunk heavily at the Cann River Hotel a half dozen times. It attracts hardened truck drivers and lost souls, and it shows. The staff are all too happy to tell you about the time that Mark ‘Chopper’ Read drank their whiskey one long and loud night. You can see his photos and autographs plastered along the walls. It intrigued me the way that Chopper would sign each poster a number of times with a different pleasantry, as if to maximise the gesture. Chop loved more than anything to talk about himself.
One night, having dinner, a big hairy truck driver sat down next to me and ate a big lump of meat with his hands, hunched over his plate and loudly licking his fingers. For a second I dreamt he was ripping apart a deer with a pack of animals. I actually think that he may have been one step back on the human evolution chart.
He didn’t speak. At least I didn’t witness him speak. It’s possible he hadn’t had a significant human interaction in years, but he nodded to the waitress with politeness in his eyes.
I was so enamoured by him. How could he have gone so long without anyone pulling him up on his manners? Was he ever taught to use a knife and fork? I had many questions, but he wasn’t about to answer them.
The cheery bartender-waitress came to take my plate and I apologised for not finishing my meal – a reheated chicken parmigiana.
“Oh don’t worry matey, I’ll give it to the chooks,” she said.
“Well, I hope not,” I replied lightly.
She looked at me with a vacant expression.
“Can you feed a chicken parmigiana to chicken? Isn’t that a bit weird?” I asked to cut the silence.
She didn’t get it, so I thanked her and she retreated to the kitchen.
The pub can get a little rough at times. I learned this early on when I ran into an unfortunate winning streak on the 8 Ball table. The lip-curling taunts called from the locals at the bar like “done this before have ya city boy?” had me picking my words wisely then on.
I garnered a little more respect with my touring rock-and-roll band a few years later, likely out of intrigue. I learned to not ask for a pint glass there. “Yous can ‘ave a scooner, no pints ‘ere,” I was taught.
On a later adventure I was welcomed much more warmly. I dragged myself into the bar following a seven-straight-hour ride mid-Winter. Tired, tough, and immune to cautionary stares. I was looking for nothing else but a cold and tall (scooner sized) Carlton Draught, followed by another, and another. They knew I had no time for games or provoking where-ya-froms. I wore it on my face and on my soaked DriRider.
See, you can kinda take on a new personality on the road. The long days give you a temporary identity. You spend much of your waking hours at speed, just moderating your right-wrist enough to not lose your license. Because, of course, you’ve calculated just how much throttle you can get away with, and only push harder when ‘there couldn’t possibly be a camera there’.
Mentally, you’re fixed within the four walls of your helmet, but physically, you’re as free as a bird man. It’s an odd combination, that frankly, I live for. I bet many of you do too.
It’s in these times that you get a chance to find yourself and we all like to tell ourselves that we are on to something special. We see non-riders the same way Mark Renton sees salarymen, or the way Tyler Durden sees consumers.
Because of course the others, the rest, have but promises of hope, Yoga lessons, premium leather furnishings, whatever it may be. It’s first-year philosophy at best, but it’s ours.
Me, I like the road. I like the cold and the broken motel television remotes. I like the warming of my motorcycle at sunrise whilst drinking strong instant coffee. I like no clear destinations and ibuprofen. I like the loneliness. The beautiful loneliness.
We’re in odd times, and many of us are stuck at home. I’ve done a lot of thinking lately, but my thoughts don’t seem to make as much sense as they did in my helmet, on a long winding road, en route, accidentally, to the Cann River Hotel.
Let’s see this damn virus through already… I miss the road.
This article was originally published on August 12, 2020.
Spencer has a keen eye for hard news, and does some of his best living on deadline day. He loves more than anything to travel on his motorcycle, and is adamant that Melbourne Bitter is a world-class lager. He also knows how to operate the big computery thing in the office. By night, Spencer plays guitar with Melbourne punk outfit LOUTS.