THE last time I found myself on the back of a motorbike was about a decade ago, my arms wrapped clumsily around a very pleasant, overweight biker as we whizzed through the ranges surrounding Alice Springs. No, I was not on a date, but pushing my comfort zone for a story. I’m pretty sure I scarred the biker for life as I screamed in his ear while clawing at his nipples, possibly providing inspiration for the movie Wolf Creek. Fast forward to last Monday and I’m again on the back of a bike, but this is not just any bike. I’m on a Brisbane Trike Tour with owner Chrissy McDonnell who has banned me from both clawing her nipples and screaming any profanities. After all, we’re all ladies here, including this shiny, black three-wheeler she’s christened The Bling Queen, worth some $65,000.
I’m also with my good mate Shaun who has witnessed me at my worst, so the two of us clutch onto the metal pole at the back and prepare for the ride of our lives, me taking deep yoga breaths and hoping no one can hear me through the intercom in our helmets. We cruise through my suburb on to Coronation Drive and past the Brisbane River, which sparkles like a diamond on this glorious winter day. Through the city we buzz, turning heads at every corner. We pause at one set of traffic lights and look up at the towering Suncorp Building, in the city centre.
“See that, that used to be my office,” says Chrissy, who used to write product disclosure statements for the insurance giant.
“I reached a stage last December where I realised life was short and I wanted to do things I enjoyed while I still had enough health and youth to do it.
“There was a motor bike tour franchise for sale on the internet and it just got me thinking ‘why don’t I buy my own trike?’ I didn’t see anyone else doing that in Brisbane.
“I thought ‘I’m not the girl I think I am if I can’t do it’.”
At 59, with a 41-year-old partner and four grandchildren who call her “Biker Nana”, Chrissy is quite the girl.
“Part of it is inherent. I come from a long line of women that always were a tiny bit different. I was born in 1956 during the Hungarian Uprising. My parents had to escape and went across the border into Austria and were repatriated into the UK. I was three months old and they lost everything. We eventually came to Australia as 10 Pound Poms.
“In my life I’ve seen my parents reinvent their lives. Anyone can do this, you just don’t give yourself permission to do it. I saw from my parents that it’s not a bad thing to re-start your life.”
We whizz over the Story Bridge and onto the M1 southbound towards the Gold Coast. Our ride is fast and furious and around Beenleigh we take an exit and onto more quiet country roads, which leave little doubt you’re in Australia. There’s Swamp Valley and Boomerang Roads before we hit the tiny town of Wonglepong and finally Canungra where we stop at a regular biker haunt: The Outpost Café. I practically swagger into the coffee shop like a true-blue bikie and total wanker that I can be when someone dresses me up in costume. Chrissy politely interrupts my fantasies about joining a bikie gang, by continuing her story.
“I was 31 and I had four kids when I got my motorbike licence. Sometimes you’ve got to get something out of your system. I scandalised my first husband but I just loved it. I used to get up at four in the morning and watch the sun come up over the creek and the dolphins come in. It really set me up for the day,” she says.
“People didn’t recognise me in the Tarago with four kids as the woman on the motor bike. I had this whole other identity.
“That was another incarnation of many. We’ve all got them.”
Chrissy can see that I’m a bit apprehensive on the back of her trike, particularly when I ask where the seat belts are: “There aren’t any. You don’t need them on a motorbike. Sometimes you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone and be a little bit frightened.”
And she’s right. Frankly, I’ve been on scarier dates. Chrissy is the ultimate safe driver and says there’s lots of misconceptions about motor bike riders.
“I’m not a biker chick. There are a lot of women out there that ride. We are bikers in our own rights. People have this tendency to put women in a filing cabinet and attach a label to them,” she says.
“There is not particular reason I do it, I just enjoy it. I’ve had people get very angry and aggressive and ask ‘what do you think you are doing?’
“For me, life is excellent. I haven’t been able to wipe the smile since I left the office.”
We ride on towards O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards for lunch, where we perch by the creek with a picnic lunch. So fresh is this creek which runs through this picturesque property, you could drink the water, which runs down from the rainforest. And on a good day, you can even spot platypus here. Before we depart, I ask Chrissy what her life mantra is: “Remember to buy hyacinth. There is that old saying that if a man is hungry and has two coins, he should buy bread with one coin and hyacinth with another simply to enjoy it. We need to remember to buy hyacinth.”
The Global Goddess was a guest of Brisbane Trike Tours – http://www.brisbanetriketours.com.au; and O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards – http://www.canungravineyards.com.au