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Getting a cup of coffee in the outback

Camping tent coffee, Jason Barton

Getting a good coffee is one of the joys on the road for a rider, writes Jason Barton* and an outback coffee can be a very rare luxury, indeed!

Jason’s touring luxuriesCamping tent coffee, Jason Barton

Along with carrying tins of tuna flavoured with cracked black pepper and lemon, one of my simple luxuries on long-distance motorcycle journeys is enjoying a well-made, freshly ground cup of coffee. Ideally taken early morning, post breakfast, at my first fuel stop. It’s a kind of reward for getting up early, packing the camp and covering some miles before fully embarking on a big day in the saddle.

Throughout my recent three-day 1300 kilometre jaunt spanning Dunmarra to Julia Creek, the third-party weather app on my phone kept displaying an image of an irritated face; all squinty eyed and puffed-out cheeks blowing ferocious gusts of wind. In an area prone to high winds, heavily populated by swaying road trains, flimsy caravans and Juicy pop-top backpacker vans it was not an especially exciting forecast.

Camping tent coffee, Jason Barton

However, and for each of the three days once I began riding the forecast was proving to be somewhat mistaken; it would have been more precise to have four faces with reddened eyes blowing directly at each other, which in reality was making motorcycling on this particular route across the rudimentary raw, mostly treeless and endlessly flat country a brutal experience. There were constant head snaps, buffeting gusts whacking from one side and then, inexplicably, the other. It was exhausting, arm-aching, fuel-sapping riding conditions. The weather also proved to be a thorn in the side of my morning coffee consumption ritual.

Roadhouse coffeeCamping tent coffee, Jason Barton

Late morning, on day two, somewhere along Highway 66, I still hadn’t had my coffee and to quell the anti-Mother Nature profanities being spat out through my helmeted mouth, I was in dire need of a good strong flat white, maybe even two. I rolled into a roadhouse, of which can either be well-maintained or on the other side of being less than well-maintained. This one fell into the latter group.

Fuelled up, I walked in through the puffs of plastics and grit being kicked up to pay and order my gorgeous coffee. After struggling to close the door due to the wind, I turned with MasterCard at the ready.

“Fuel on number 4 and one coffee please … a strong flat white.”

Roadhouse Lady, behind the service counter, sporting a strained smile, highlighting a number of missing teeth and proudly wearing her day old bedhead or wind-strewn hair,

“Sorry luv the coffee machine is buggered. Do ya wanna Instant Nescafe?”

With wind noises still curdling my thinking clarity I replied,

“That’ll be fine.”

“Good on ya luv. I was raised on the stuff. Not sure why people want fancy coffees these days.”Camping tent coffee, Jason Barton

I reluctantly handed over $5.50 and having the luxury of making it myself, soon had a brew that I knew would only give me a headache and not truly subdue my nerves with my ongoing fight against the lashing winds. Back outside, now immune to unrestrained Mother Nature, I noticed my gloves had been blown down on to the ground. I sat the cup on the top case, bent down to pick up the gloves ready to resume my coffee and, to help mask its chemical bitterness typical of the instant brew, was thinking of chewing on a nice nutty honey-infused muesli bar I had packed.

I then realised my mistake.

Within a nanosecond, the wicked wind dislodged my cup, blowing it far away and detonating it down on to the ground, mixing the hot liquid into the existing fuel spills and scatters of safeguarding sand. Strangely, the spilt brew blended in and formed the very same rainbow of colours we see from these fuel slicks nearby the bowsers. Raising my head up to the swirling sky I yelled and swore some more. Feeling only slightly better I prepared to take off, mounted and while pulling away then realised the Roadhouse Lady trying to attract my attention from the slide-open window. She had another cup in her hand and was reaching out offering a replacement coffee to me. The wind had muffled her offers of help. Waving a thankful apology, I rode out and was immediately whacked by a neck-cracking burst of wind.

It was going to be a long day.

*About the authorCamping tent coffee, Jason Barton

Jason, 48, lives in Melbourne and rode his 1997 BMW R1100GS 18,000km around Australia in March and June this year. His bike now with 96,000km on the odometer.

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