My good friend Philip met me at Brisbane Airport and kindly gave me a lift down to the Gold Coast. He had just bought a GPS for his car but the machine didn’t seem to be programmed right and wasn’t even talking to us as it should. As we drove down the Pacific Highway and swapped notes about this and that I played with the GPS to see if I could get it going properly. Australian HighwayI needed some understanding of its workings for my own GPS gadget.   After playing with it for a while I came across a menu that allowed certain presets to be programmed. For instance you can define whether you want the shortest route distance-wise or shortest route time-wise. I think Philip’s was set up to take the shortest distance as it continually told us to “take next left” turn off the motorway far too early.  I found out later, once I got onto programming the bike’s GPS, that you can also set a level as to how much time you want to spend on main highways as opposed to secondary routes. Once we had taken the next left or “take next left” as the GPS kept on announcing, the machine came into its own and led us to the hotel I’d pre-booked. Being able to play with Philip’s GPS was a good learning curve. The bike’s GPS would eventually become a familiar friend as we rode together over the next 3,000 kms or so.

The bike

I dumped my bags in the hotel room and put a call through to Rick the BMW dealer in South Port. I’d visited him for the first time a couple of months back whilst on a conference in Kingscliff. I’d explained to him that the last bike I’d ridden was a 50cc step-through and that was 25 years back commuting around Wellington, New Zealand my home town. I hadn’t ridden since. I’d ordered a BMW R1200RT. Yes, very flashy but safe (if there is such a thing on a motorbike), reliable and comfortable. I think Rick probably thought I was a bit of a nutter, but I did explain that I’d just turned 50 and was losing my marbles at a greater rate than in previous years.
It was probably about this stage that the nerves really kicked in. In fact the day before my first ride I didn’t eat anything apart from a drink of “Booster-Juice” from a health juice bar.

Licence to Ride.

The first task after seeing Rick was to get my Queensland motorcycle licence. I thought the bureaucrats in New Zealand were bad.
Bureaucrats, the great leeches on the backs of society’s entrepreneurs.
But the Queensland bureaucrats had obviously been trained at the Harvard training academy for Bureaucrats. Further, those at the Queensland Transport Department all had PHDs in bureaucracy I reckon. Doctor Ms or Mister Bureaucrat. Thing is, I’d dotted all the “i’s” and crossed all the “t’s” well and truly prior to visiting the great orifice of the Queensland Transport Department. I had all the required Category “A” and Category “B” identification etc. Trouble was, they had changed the rules seven days before I entered their great bureaucratic hall. Lorrie and Bike A hall of customer numbers, racks of forms, racks of booths with bureaucrats sitting in them. They had big rimmed glasses on, all held on by chains going back behind their necks. They all sat on stools at about the same height. All staring out through openings with parallel wire running between the booth gaps. A whole rack of them, about 12 all in a row. In front of this rack of bureaucrats was row after row of seats like pews in a church building. I got my number from a woman with her arm in a sling. All the while she served me she was yelling at some relation down the telephone line. “No Jossey” she said “Brian hasn’t got the dog” pause “The dog’s at the vet. Has been all day” pause “YES! He’s getting DONE” pause “YES TODAY!” she yelled. I wondered what had been “done” and whether it was “done” to the dog or Brian.  I then sat down and awaited my number to be called.
My number was called and I went to booth number six. I presented what I had been instructed to supply seven days back. Passport, New Zealand Drivers Licence and a Credit Card with my name on it.
Guess what? Yes, they had changed the rules.

No licence to ride

The New Zealand Driver License was no good even though it also had my photo on it. What Dr. Bureaucrat wanted was to sight another credit card. Who the heck has two credit cards? I have enough trouble with one Credit Card, just imagine having two?
The advice provided by Dr. Bureaucrat was to go to the Immigration Department to get some sort of letter. What sort of letter I was unsure but it was described by a number. Either that or open a bank account and get another credit card.
Off into the heat of the Queensland sun I went.
First call was the Immigration Department and was met by a queue 10 deep. I normally don’t do queues. After 15 minutes in the queue I got to another bureaucrat, this one was behind a glass window with a microphone and speaker system. I carefully began talking through my predicament and was half way through my explanation when the fire alarm went off. I must say that I’ve never seen a bureaucrat move so fast. As he rose from his seat he shouted through his microphone “it will take six weeks to process the letter”. He then bolted for the side door leaving it swinging, sprinted past me and straight outside arms pumping wildly and his “comb-back” hair unravelling fast as a jet slip-stream.
So much for security! Glass widows and all!
I must say, it did cross my mind to whip around through the door now hanging by one hinge and type my own letter out and simply shoot through. I was the only one left as I’ve always ignored fire alarms even in my own office back home. Looking back I reckon I could have whipped that letter out as I would have had full access to the Australian Immigration computer system, authentic letterheads, the lot. Instead, since there was no one left in the building to help me I strolled back out into the heat. I was 50 meters down the road before the first fire engine came screaming by. Real shame the firemen didn’t sprint in there with the same speed as the bureaucrat had sprinted out. With fire-hoses set at full-bore. The place needed a clean out!
Having failed at the Immigration Department the next step was to try and obtain a bank credit card. I decided to support the Bank of Queensland. I must say it was a nice air-conditioned bank chamber and a pleasant bank officer did attend to me. She took a copy of my Passport and began taking down the detail to open a bank account. I asked whether I could perhaps put an urgent request in for the credit card. Evidently I could have a credit card that same day but without my name on it. A credit card with my name on it would take six weeks. I cancelled the account and returned to the Queensland heat.
Things don’t add up here.  I can’t get a driver’s licence even though I have three forms of identification, two with a photo, but I can immediately get a credit card without my name on it. I wondered what sort of limit they would have given me.

Across the border

Bike on back of uteThe door was well and truly closed in Queensland. – How’ bout I take the bike over the border to New South Wales I thought.
Good idea. The Motorbike shop manager, Chris, had the bike loaded on the back of his ute and off we went to Tweed Heads. The round trip took about three hours but it was worth it. I got the necessary plate for the bike after obtaining the bike certificate of fitness etc. Good stuff and a big thank you to Chris for taking the time out to transport me and the bike over the border.