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1957 Trip Around Australia

Updated: May 21, 2020

Boxing Day 1957 Graham Felton & John Sinclair left Eastwood on our annual holidays (two weeks) for a trip around Australia, both of us were on a single 1942 Harley Davidson with a box sidecar. The "pillion" would sit on top of the gear that was stored in the sidecar box.

John at the dog on a tuckerbox in 1957 as they headed home from the trip

We were both in the last year of our respective trades with only a few weeks before becoming journeymen.

We called into Graham’s mother’s place at Avoca Beach on the NSW Central Coast and treated this as our starting point.

On saying our farewell to John’s parents, who didn’t put much hope into them completing the trip, as they were still putting the bike together the night before. They felt that we would be lucky to reach Avoca Beach let alone the top of Queensland.

When we pulled out we had about 750 lbs (340 Kg) loaded in the side box what with tools, extra fuel, water, food, two spare wheels, sleeping gear etc.

The bike ran well, north of Brisbane at Maryborough we broke down in the main street, as the sidecar frame broke away from the bike. The local Sergeant of police at the time was doing his rounds, he saw us, took one look at the bike and asked what we were up to, we told him we were doing a trip around Aussy and the reply was if you make further than Cairns, “I’ll drop my daks in the main street”

We never wrote back to follow that promise up.

Graham sitting on the side of the road fixing the bike with a hammer.

North of Rockhampton at a town called Marlborough we started to run into “the wet”, as the old road took off west from there, a loop of about 180 Km, and came back in at Sarina.

They were doing the road up and we were put on a sidetrack for the full 180 Km. Bikes- mud 200mm deep- 340Kgs in the side box is not the best combination for riding this stretch took nearly three days of heart breaking/gut busting effort.

Carried on north, till Mossman (Port Douglas) it was really starting to heat up by now over the old 100 F each day.

Back down to Hughenden, near Julia Creek we broke a sidecar spring and cut down the only sapling in the area to hold the box up. We went through the new mining town Mary Kathleen en route to Mt Isa. From then on it was really rough going, dirt tracks with lots of bull dust. The only way of defining the track was by the beer bottles and blown out tyres on the side of the road. Somewhere between Camooweal and Frewena the generator stopped working and ran off the battery until it ran flat. The day was well over 100 F, we waited all day for a vehicle to come along, tried throwing sticks over the power lines to short them out to no avail, got out the water we had carried all this way only to find out that the cans had been contaminated with linseed oil. A cattle truck came along the next day and towed us to Three Ways, this was bloody scary as it was a rough dirt track and with the dust the truck threw up made it hard to see.

A road train in Tennant Creek Northern Territory 

Three Ways to Darwin was a breeze as we were now on the black stuff, chopped out the back spokes for the second time on this run so we were now down to no spare wheels

The huts that Sassy and Graham stayed in at Alice Springs while conducting maintenance on the bike. 

At the Alice we had about three days with maintenance to get the bike ready for the long haul home. Marree, Leigh Creek, Port Augusta, Adelaide. At Bordertown trying to make up lost time we decided to ride at night without lights to conserve battery power. We were pulled over by a policeman who when told our predicament said if we could make it to the border with lights he would let us go. We continued on to Ballarat – Melbourne and back home. Our two weeks, turned out to be six weeks. Graham was worried as he knew he was due to attend a compulsory National Service Camp. Mine was a different story, I loved tool and die making and copped a mouth full from my supervisor, with a few “sorry sir” and a little boot licking all was forgiven. I carried on to start up my own engineering business later.

This monument for John Flynn (the flying Dr) is at the corner of Mitchel highway and Stuart Highway... Sassy reackons he has been past it more than a dozen times.

After the trip, we went our own separate ways and about eight years later caught up for a few drinks . Out of contact for another forty years until Graham called into home one day to ask me to join him in The Anniversary Ride

Sassy on "Elvie" a 1942 Harley-Davidson that he and Graham rode around Australia in 2004 reenacting the trip done by Jack Bowers 50 years earlier.  

The first trip was an experience that both of us will never forget and still talk and get a laugh or two between our selves.

John "Sassy" Sinclair.

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