celebrating 40+ years of motorcycling

On being a Good Samaritan.

I guess I’ve always felt that a good deed never goes unrewarded. Followers of the Eastern religions call it “karma” and it’s the same thing.

In 1994 I was driving up to Sydney from Canberra in a mate’s ute, loaded with some furniture. As I neared Liverpool on the Hume Highway, I saw a lady standing beside an obviously broken-down Honda CBX550F. I have to say that the identity of the bike was more of a reason for me to slow down, stop and back up than anything else. I figured that, knowing the bike as well as I did, I’d be in a better position than anyone else to diagnose a problem.

I introduced myself and asked what was the problem, and she said that the bike had just stopped. Once I examined the bike a little more closely, it began to appear obvious why it had broken down. I began to wonder why it had ever RUN. The bike was a tip. It was in by far the worst condition of any bike that I had actually seen running on the road. There was no ignition lock, and, therefore, no key. There was the stub of a key taped into the lock on the petrol tank and the bodywork looked appallingly bad.

Nevertheless, the condition of the bike was not the issue, getting it started was. I asked the obvious questions, and, after a few minutes, I decided that the bike had probably run out of petrol.

The owner, a studious looking lady who I judged to be in her 30’s, was very well-spoken and she also appeared to be very knowledgeable about things pertaining to motorcycling. She was on the last leg, she told me, of a trip from Melbourne, to visit friends in Sydney. I refrained from any comment as to her state of ultra-optimism at thinking that this wreck of a bike should even be taken out of the driveway, let alone ridden 1000kms up the Hume Highway on her own without some sort of back-up crew.

The bike was well loaded with luggage and, when moved from side to side, petrol “sloshed” in the tank. Nevertheless, I still suspected it was out of petrol as I knew that the bike’s fuel gauge was totally unreliable and there was no manual fuel switch fitted to that model. A reserve switch would have allowed the owner to switch over to the last bit of fuel in the tank when the fuel level became very low. Honda evidently felt that a fuel gauge would be sufficient for this model.

To cover all the bases, however, I checked everything else and became convinced that it was a fuelling issue. Margie insisted that she was used to getting many more kilometres out of a tank than what she seemed to have gotten in this instance, and I countered by noting that the bike WAS heavily loaded and that there was a strong wind out on the highway, factors that could have affected her overall fuel consumption.

I resolved to go into town and purchase some fuel and start the troubleshooting process once I had been able to eliminate “out of petrol” as a possible cause.

Bearing in mind that she didn’t know me, and with memories of the Ivan Milat case fresh in both of our minds, Margie politely declined my offer of  the warm cab of the ute, preferring to wait with the bike until I returned. After I got going I realised that that was the only sensible course of action anyway, as leaving her bike unattended by the side of the road would have been stupid, even though it was nearly nightfall.

I hurried in to Liverpool, bought a can and some petrol and hustled back. Fuel in the tank, choke on and, after a couple of desultory coughs, the 16-valves began to open and close properly and the engine roared into life, making a far-from-melodious sound from its obviously home-made muffler.

Problem solved. Margie thanked me, asked me for my name and address and I shadowed her the rest of the distance back into Liverpool just to ensure that we had, indeed, solved the problem and that all was well, which it was.

I went on my way, happy that I had saved a fellow rider, and a lady, from being stranded alongside the Hume in the dark.

Imagine my surprise when, a couple of weeks later, a parcel arrived for me in the mail. I opened it up and found a lovely “Thank you” note and a “Fred Gassit” sweatshirt of the kind still being sold in AMCN.

You see, good deeds do not go unrewarded. I wasn’t thinking of the possibility of reward when I stopped to help. I was just doing what motorcyclists do; looking out for one another.

Postscript: It turns out that Margie was the partner of a very prominent Melbourne-based motorcycle journalist. From that time we maintained a contact due to our common interest in CBX’s and, some years later, when it became known to me that she was desparately looking for parts to keep her 550 on the road (though how it had lasted that long is anyone’s guess; they must be even more robust than even I had given them credit for), I was able to help out, not with parts, but with a whole bike.

Yes, Margie is the lady to whom I sold my last CBX550F2 and she is still riding it, still loves it and still emails me from time to time with pictures of it at the various places around the country to which she has ridden it.