You probably read that The Weekend Australian’s print readership continues to dominate with 551,000 punters like yourself going down to the newsagent of a Saturday morning to hand over $3.80 (can you believe how cheap that is?) for a copy, $21.60 for the Lotto (I didn’t win the $100 mill either), $38.39 for a pack of Benson & Hedges Smooth, then across Ellis Street to Zak Openstein and Marwin Shaw’s Bayano the Rebel (they also own the traditionally named Monk Bodhi Dharma and the Admiral Cheng Ho cafes — what happened to proper names for cafes like the Paragon, the Astoria, The Golden Star or just ‘‘the Greeks down the road’’? The denizens of South Yarra secretly want to turn the place into Byron Bay but with more genteel people) and finally into Dan Murphy’s for a traveller to get you back home. Talking of travellers, I find the 750ml Cooper’s Sparkling Ale ($8.19 a bottle) about right to last you at that time of the morning.
OK. You’d think this sensational domination of the Australian media environment would be met with delight, bonuses and free drinks all around in here.
But no. My editor pulled me in again for another 180 degree feedback session.
“Despite your worst efforts,” the motorbike loving despot began, “we increased readership. Your team is a disgrace to this multimedia platform, its 551,000 readers, its shareholders, Australia and your families.
“Having only six readers on a good day — and that includes you, your nude painting mate, the cardigan-wearing accountant, the plastic surgeon who dismally failed with your Botox injections, your youngest son who you embarrassed so much he moved to New York and one of the nude painter’s daughters — is not helping. I told you more lists and more motorbikes. That’s what our readers want.
“The last time you did a motorbike list you got nearly as many clicks as Oscar Cainer’s horoscopes in the Tele and the Hun. Yesterday he wrote about how the stars might affect relationships destined to be thwarted. You need to take that same evidence-based approach to your scribblings.”
Got it boss.
Today the world’s five best road trips. Full disclosure: these are roads I have personally driven in vehicles I unfortunately paid for myself. No correspondence will be entered into.
1. Anywhere in the real Australian outback: it took me a very long time to get over my inverse snobbery and realise the most wonderful drives in the world are right here.
Think the five-hour cruise from Adelaide to Wilpena Pound; the 690km Red Centre Way from Alice Springs; any part of the 660km Gibb River Road through the wild centre of the Kimberley or hire a car in Broken Hill and head out for a day or a week.
You can do these in a two-wheel drive but use small truck tyres and take a sat phone.
2. The Nurburgring: the kiddies will love this. For sensational views of Armco and German trees it’s hard to beat the world’s most infamous racecourse. Pack up the family (they don’t rent booster seats, so bring your own) and rent a car at what is also quaintly named the Green Hell. This is the 21km Nordschleife part of the track with 154 corners where if you don’t get any one of them right you end up in the safety barrier and have to pay $40 a metre to repair it and $1800 for every hour the track is closed because of your incompetence. The good news is it’s only $40 a lap on the public days. The bad news is there can be up to 10,000 other cars, buses, motorbikes and vans on the track with you. I’d pay $6500 to drive a Porker GT-3 for 10 laps or $1700 for a VW Up. A racing taxi is $449 a lap.
3. Las Vegas to the Napa Valley via Death Valley and Yosemite National Park: it should take you at least two days. The roads, particularly up and down the mountains, are serious fun. The scenery is even better and the temperature only hits 56.7C occasionally.
4. Stelvio Pass, Italy: the Nurburgring of roads. Not one if you easily vomit. On the Swiss/Italian border with 60 hairpin turns in 42km. Great views of the snow-clad eastern Alps, the cyclists, skateboarders, motorcyclists and the kids spewing out the windows.
5. Dog sledding in the Arctic Circle: five days of the best parent/ child bonding experience of all time. And at $5500 for two including all meals, six dogs each, accommodation, blizzards, frostbite and all the gherkins, beetroot and dried reindeer meat you can eat, it’s nearly as good a value as The Weekend Australian print edition. Basically, you get a one-hour driving lesson on a six-dog power sled and off you go into scenery and cold you can’t believe. The owner and guide is Finnish adventure legend Pasi Ikonen who skied unassisted to the South Pole for a bet. Thundering through the dark holding on for grim death to a light wooden sled has a lot of consequences, not the least of which is your inability to see the flying number twos coming from running huskies.
Next week we list the 112 most valuable cars to sell at the Scottsdale auctions and interview one of the few motorbike riders in Australia who is still alive.