A Bag, A Toothbrush, and A Comb: An Australian Motorcycle Adventure

Dave Peach and wife

Here is the story I wrote about reconnecting with my great mate Dave Peach when I went back to Australia in 2005 to visit him 17 years after we first met. I just learned he is battling very aggressive pancreatic cancer and isn’t doing so well.

Over the years since this story, he has visited me a number of times here in the States. He has ridden across South Africa with me, accompanied by his wife Victoria, and currently lives in Tasmania.

He is still a bike nut, owns a very tasty Yamaha TRX850 (heavily modified), and is a huge MotoGP and World Superbike fan. He worked for some time with the Black Dog charity, a motorcycling foundation that raises money for men’s mental health.

Father of two, dedicated son to his aging parents, and brother to two siblings, Peachy is one of the greatest mates a man could ever ask for. He has worked tirelessly for Wellspring, my foundation, over the years on IT and donations, and been a huge part of my life since 1987.

I want to dedicate this story about our ride together to him as a way of encouraging us to all think about being nicer, kinder and more adventurous, in the way Peachy has navigated this world. To reach in and help, support and give to others when there is no glory in these actions. Peachy has taken some licks. But he’s never faltered, never stopped being a great supporter of all my mad schemes, or being the greatest mate a man could ask for.

Peachy 2

During the course of our lives, there are certain people and places that make a permanent imprint on our soul, leaving us with pleasant, lasting memories that can be replayed at times of quiet reflection. As the years pass, these memories tend to grow rosier, provoking the question: “Is it prudent to go back, or are these memories better left alone?” With these thoughts competing with the 600 mph roar of the Australia-bound Boeing 747, I closed my eyes and drifted back to my first visit to the land down under.Neale Bayly



The year was 1987, and I was piloting a Yamaha XV1000 through the twisting suburbs of Sydney. Ahead, my buddy David Peach was riding his immaculately restored Ducati. We had met six months earlier in San Francisco while traveling around the world in different directions. Dave had been driving to New York to take a plane to Europe; I was booked on a flight to Japan. Now we were riding together in Sydney, and cresting the hill at Kurrajong on the Bell Line of Road Dave was hard on the gas, as I ducked down to give chase. In a few days I would leave to ride around Australia, and Dave would go to work on becoming a successful businessman. But that was a few days away, and with some serious curves to straighten out, it was time to drop a gear and get back on the throttle.

Yamaha R1 test

The squeal of stationary airplane tires hitting the moving runway jolted me back to the present, and within an hour the sun was burning its way into my bones as I waited for ground transport to Sydney. I was back in Australia to ride Yamaha’s new R1 at the Eastern Creek International Raceway with the world’s press, and had a two-day ride with Dave planned afterward. The day of the test, the weatherman was promising 115 degrees. No worries. The track was awesome, the bike out of this world, and around mid-morning Dave arrived.


He had lost some hair, which was now peppered with gray, and everything was closer to the floor, but the “G’day mate” smile and handshake were unchanged. Dave is a regular track rat at Eastern Creek, and trying to jam nearly two decades and the best way round the track into my 30-minute rest period, I knew immediately it was a good decision to go back. Both self-employed with kids, we are also both still fiercely passionate about motorcycles.

Peachy 1

Two days later at the Peach residence we were preparing for our trip. I had scored a new FZ1 from Yamaha Motor Australia, and we decided on a bag, a toothbrush, and a comb, with a set of fresh underwear, camera, notebook, and Dave’s cell phone thrown in for logistical support.

MV Agusta F4

“She’ll be right for a coupla days mate,” was the good word from Dave. Powering through the Sydney suburbs, me on a Yamaha 1000, Dave on his MV Agusta 750, history was repeating itself as he pointed out things I should remember. Not much was instantly recognizable, I’m afraid, although there was a pleasant familiarity to the landscape.

Exiting the city and roaring up the road in tandem the adventure had begun. We soon picked up the old Pacific Highway, affectionately known as the “Old Road”, where we were forced to a slow pace by fresh gravel.

Warrior Cafe and Yamaha FZ-1

About 25 kilometers later, we stopped at the famous Road Warriors Cafe for some refreshment. Here, sitting in the shade of the old Gum tree (sorry! couldn’t resist), Dave lamented the state of one of the city’s finer pieces of motorcycling real estate.


Back in the saddle, all sorts of delicious, weird-looking vegetation lined the road, and it would have been a delight if it weren’t for the gravel. Eventually smoothing out, Kulnura became Bucketty and then Wollombi as we pulled over at an old Convict Trail bridge for photos. Next town was Kurri Kurri, birthplace of Casey Stoner for you GP fans, and it was just so stinking hot the bikes automatically swerved into the oldest pub in town, the Kurri Kurri Hotel.

DaveAs we were parking, Nikka shuffled slowly out of the bar. Heavyset, with the de-rigueur Aussie singlet, shorts, and flip-flops, his mullet and tattoos spelled biker. “Oath mate, that’s a beautiful Ducati. I used to have a Hailwood Replica, but I gotta Harley now,” he proudly informed me. The condensation on the schooner welded to his right hand told me it was cold, and I tried to lick my parched lips to correct him. Not succeeding, and with the stream of sweat rolling down the inside of my jacket turning into a river, I motioned to carry on the conversation inside.

Pushing through the door, the smell of old wood and spilled beer hit a memory cord of cricket matches from childhood, where the women endlessly made sandwiches while the men swilled ale between innings. Inside, I found Dave receiving mouth to beer resuscitation at the bar. I opted for ice water, and for the next hour we desperately sucked cold air and fluids into our systems in an attempt to remove our body temperatures from the critical list.

Sydney 1“Now, did I ever tell you about the 1973 Isle of Man TT?” Probably not – cos I wasn’t there! Neither was Stevo, one of our new best friends, but that didn’t stop him from slinging a fair bit of bullshit about anyway. Just how an Englishman comes to be a dead ringer for your typical Aussie yobbo, sucking down beer like there was no tomorrow, bullshitting about how he marshaled at the Isle of Man (when, by my calculations he was 11!) is anybody’s guess. But, with 115-degree temperatures outside, I would have listened to just about anything – so long as it was inside.

Saying goodbye to our all our new friends, we mounted up for a couple of hours of fast riding in the open countryside through the Upper Hunter Valley towns of Dungog and Gloucester, via the Bucketts Way. Pulling into Tarree, home of Troy Bayliss for all you World Superbike fans, we parked at the first suitable pub and went in search of cold libation. Suitably refreshed, the beer had a two-fold effect of gluing our backsides to the seats and lubricating our laughing gear, as we relived a day of adventure on the roads of Australia. Beer number three was followed by dinner, which was followed by a short stumble to a room upstairs: Beer, bed, and grub under the one roof. Great choice, Peachy.Sunset Australia

At $18 per night US, it wasn’t the Holiday Inn, and ducking under my sheet to avoid the squadrons of mosquitoes, I started to laugh again. Having déjà vu, I was taken back to the youth hostel in San Francisco where Dave and I stayed out all night drinking and telling jokes before sneaking in through a broken window, laughing uncontrollably and waking half the hostel. It didn’t make it any cooler, but did remind me why we were there and I dutifully passed out.

The following morning we hit the street looking for a feed. Some passing locals pointed us to a street café, and as Dave worked the cell phone, I watched the world go by. Our server brought bacon, eggs, and beans, and since we were on a shady, tree-lined street, we took the option of more tea as we enjoyed the quiet morning.

Australia shoreThe brutal Aussie sun was already burning its way across the sky, and the heat oppressive, as we made our way north up Highway 1. The traffic was a nightmare, crawling past never-ending road works, and, thankfully, with 83 kilometers on the odometer, a cooling breeze from the Ocean signaled Port Macquarie. Peeling off our sweat soaked jackets, we lingered for a time on the high bluffs, watching sailboats glide across the sparkling ocean before heading into town to plot our next move. The plan had been to head for the National Motorcycle Museum at Nabiac, but time was evaporating into the oven-roasted air, so we decided to back track to Walcha along the Oxley Highway. “One of the great motorcycle Meccas of this country,” Dave informed me with a grin. No worries, mate, and a short time later, as we climbed up into the cooler rain forest, we were attacking some of the sweetest, twistiest tarmac imaginable.

Road trainThe road heads west across the Great Dividing Range as it passes through the timber town of Wauchope and on out to the Northern Tablelands. The conditions vary from beautiful roller coasters in the hinterland, to tight, technical stuff as it crosses the range, finally opening to a wide “throttle to the stops” drag-way as you pass through grazing country. The climate changes from humid and sub-tropical near the coast, to cool rainforest crossing the range, before moving on to semi-arid at Walcha. Two hundred clicks, three climates, and three distinct types of riding in a few hours – it was more like a motorcycle fun-park than a road.

At least that’s what it should have been! Dave sat sweating and cursing in the dirt. The top of his big toe was a bloody mess that probably didn’t look too good before the toenail got ripped off. Running up front on the big FZ1, I had found my groove, and, fresh from a full day on the racetrack was giving it loads. Dave was happily cruising along behind on the MV and we were having a blast. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a left-hand corner tightened up under a cliff, turned 120 degrees back on itself, before spitting me into a nasty right-hander. At close to 70 mph, I threw the bike on its side and prayed to the God of Tire Adhesion. Coming up hard behind me, Dave didn’t have my view, so opted to stand it up and run into the gravel area. He almost made it unscathed, except that hard on the brakes his boot slipped off the peg. Goodbye Mr. Toenail!Peachy and wife

The incident started a chain reaction of events that was going to test the Aussie’s mettle, as we flew across some wide-open grazing land at a steady 200 km/h. Approaching Walcha, my fuel light came on, so I backed off and enjoyed some solitude out in the Australian bush, as the rear end of the red MV Agusta disappeared into the distance.

Grass by the oceanRiding alone, I was surrounded by huge rolling expanses of green grass stretching toward the distant hills, interrupted only by the odd farmhouse. In town, I found Dave at a gas station sucking down water and trying to laugh at the attendant’s lame attempts at humor. He was actually pretty funny, but with the stifling heat and Dave noticeably suffering, we fueled quickly, dropping south on the Thunderbolt’s Way heading toward Gloucester.

MV Agusta F4 2Dave was showing no sign of trauma as the MV scorched across the undulating landscape though. Challenging corners kept us on our toes, excuse the pun, the countryside framed out by the Barrington Tops Mountains as we crossed into Gloucester County. Here the two-lane road turned rough, but we kept the hammer down knocking of 140 kilometers in less than an hour, as we blitzed through deserted farming country. Some time later, I noticed smoke coming from the MV, so we pulled over and stripped the bodywork to find oil in the bottom of the fairings. A seal had gone on top of the motor causing oil to drip onto the pipes. Thankfully, the oil level was ok, and there was plenty of coolant in the radiator. So, making a committee decision, we pressed on into Gloucester where we found a safe place to stash the bike.

Australia CreekIt was getting late in the day as we hopped on the Yamaha FZ1 and headed out along the 77 clicks of twisty country two-lane to the Pacific Highway. The big four-cylinder pulled like an Aussie road train, even with the two of us on board, and we made good time turning south as we lost the sun. A couple of hours of highway drone later, the lights of Sydney came up ahead as a softly falling rain turned to a downpour. Filthy dirty from the hot, dusty, ride through the bush, down to one bike, and soaked to the skin, I looked back at Peachy and we both started laughing.

Seventeen years had passed, but it could have been a day. Friends for life, we had just been on a quick adventure and the long hiatus hadn’t lessened our friendship a jot. Maybe it’s okay to go back, after all?

Photos by Neale Bayly and David Peach