The Alice Springs AGM of 1994 was my seventh AGM. Having previously traversed the Stuart Highway from the north, south to Adelaide, I decided to go for a long ride from Cairns down the Bruce Highway and onto Sydney, then across to Port Augusta. From then, it was head north out of South Australia and into ‘Not Today, Not Tomorrow, Nother Time’ country........The Northern Territory and ‘The Alice”. For those members who have never traversed the Stuart Highway, it is not for the faint hearted or ill prepared. I came across grown men weeping on the side of the road in the middle of no-where having run out of petrol. My old mate, the late Alby Bearman, saved their bacon [and pride] when he arrived with the extremely well prepared Broken Hill contingent who brought their own “Chuck Wagon” also carrying a 44 gallon drum of petrol. They had mapped out camping stops for their contingent for camp sites and cooked meals for their entire group with Alby in control. Quite a few inexperienced members travelling to that AGM were indebted to the Broken Hill contingent and Alby. It is not the country to get a “rush of blood to the head”, ignore the constant wind or let the right wrist go berserk. Both of the latter can play havoc with fuel consumption, leading in turn to dead stop panic on the side of the road in searing heat, many tens of kilometres from the nearest fuel point. If there is one thing that the Alice Springs AGM taught many, was how tyres melt away at an incredible rate when you travel the Stuart Highway at constant high speed.. After arriving at the AGM, that major fact created frenzy amongst members who suddenly realized they would not get back home on the same tyres. The inland is “Chook Chaser Country”, and high performance road tyres are not stocked in quantities as in the coastal cities. Something to bear in mind.
The AGM itself was incredibly well executed. The Friday night “Meet and Greet” was an excellent casual laid back event as they always were to those days. The Meet and Greet night was a splendid opportunity for members from different parts of the wide brown land to move around and meet each other.I vividly recall Ken Taylor [ex Natcom member] riding around on a bike meeting people that night. The Grand Parade was an eye opener to the local population who had never witnessed anything like it previously.
The Saturday afternoon AGM went like clockwork as every member attending was aware they had to be prepared for the incredible highlight that had been prepared for the Saturday dinner by the AGM organizers. An event that had never been executed previously or since for a Saturday night dinner.All members attending were transported by train in open wagons and some carriages into a desert location which had previously been prepared for a silver service dinner with tables and chairs under the stars, Champagne bar and an enormous bon fire. It was a truly memorable evening, with wonderful food beautifully prepared and served with champagne and music followed by speeches and presentation of Trophies. As the evening advanced, the temperature declined,and gradually the bon fire became a central gathering point. Many of the members had not taken into account [or were unaware] of night time desert temperatures and had not brought extra warm clothing for the trip home on the train. There was much hugging in the open wagons by members who had only just met on the return trip in an effort to keep warm. But all agreed, the night had been a real credit to all who had organized it, and it really capped off a great AGM. Those members not suffering cerebral atrophy and who had managed to replace their tyres started the trek back home down the Stuart early Sunday.One sad event involved a South Australian couple who stayed at the same motel as myself. They has set off home early Sunday with new tyres on their BMW Boxer, when some distance down the Stuart, the front tyre blew out, resulting in a major accident. The lady pillion was seriously injured and air lifted b the Flying Doctor to Hospital. She survived the accident, but I believe her recuperation from her serious injuries took many, many months. To my knowledge, that was the only major accident at the Alice Springs AGM of 1994. There was of course the usual minor “Dings’. Past National President Gary Vandersluis learnt to ignore the wind barrier in front of a road train travelling towards you at 150kph was to do so at one’s peril. A lady rider dropped a brand new Beemer on a test ride for instance. If there was one main subject discussed at the Alice AGM social events by many of the members attending, especially those from the Eastern States, it was how travelling to the event had been a real learning curve. Many lessons were learnt that are a given for the seasoned long distance traveller in that sparsely populated country. My return trip back to Cairns [yes by the long way] proved uneventful but thoroughly enjoyed as I knew ‘She who must be obeyed’ would throw away the keys for another year on my return. I had arranged at the AGM for old friends Ray and Judy Cook to be home on my return, so was able to show them something of Tropical Wonderland before they returned south to their Newcastle home.
Every AGM that I have attended has always left me with special memories. Apart from the effort and expense of travelling thousands of kilometres at times to attend, the delight of meeting new faces, many of whom have remained lasting friends, is reward in itself. As for that Alice Springs AGM of 20 years ago, I will always remember the incredible effort by the 1994 Alice Springs organizers that provided that wonderful Saturday night dinner in the desert under a star studded sky.