Day 1-3 Sleep is not an option
The gathering in Missoula was small, as we only had 9 leaving together: Otto, Chad, Eat Me, Shannon, Papa, Mama, Jacki, BP and Dewey. But a table of Maggots in the airport bar was a welcome sight!
In Salt Lake we picked up seasoned Maggot tourists Dwight and Reggie from Pocy, and Adam from Jackson Hole. The plane had mechanical difficulties (surprise!) leaving Salt Lake, so we spent a little extra time in the bar watching the baseball division series and wondering what would happen if we didn't make it to LA in time, since Otto had all the Qantas tickets for everyone including the people waiting for us in LA. Not to worry though, we made it to LA just in time, and picked up Rory, his teammate from Peoria Jeff, Gabe, Grey from Portland, Hillbilly from WV, Blake, Nick and Alex.
Now let me take a moment to describe Rory as we met him in the airport: Grubby T-shirt, ripped rugby shorts, beard with the chin shaved out (he calls this the porn star cut), bald, cowboy hat (mandatory tour wear), sunglasses, old fat rugby ball in hand and brand new cowboy boots. Definitely setting the fashion pace.
We hopped on the "it ain't the Maggot Bus but it'll do" Qantas 747 (that's a big plane) and off to Oz we go. They stuck us in the pit, which was very thoughtful, and gave us beer for free, also thoughtful. We left LA at 11:40pm on Wed. The next time we saw daylight out the window, was a few hours from Melbourne on Friday morning; what a mind f***. The only land we saw before Oz were the islands of New Caledonia.
We touched down at 8:00am Friday and met up with Jake and our bus driver Dion. Now Dion ain't no ordinary bus driver; for starters, he wears a XXX jersey. But as we know, looks and driving ability are no measure of a Maggot bus driver; don't get me wrong, Dion's a damn good lookin' man, and a fine bus driver, but he was also a helluva guy in a Maggoty sort of way, and as we saw in England, uptight assholes don't mix well with the Maggots. So we discovered not long into the trip that we'd been blessed, so Prime Time was suggested for a nickname, but Big Time is what stuck!
We also discovered on Day 1, that while Big Time was a helluva Maggot Bus driver, he was a little navigationally challenged, especially in Melbourne where they don't seem to believe in road signs...... at all! First stop the National Motel with bar below, affectionately called The Nash by it's patrons; picture a cross between Jays Upstairs and a boarding school bunkhouse. Beer up and back to the city to get warmed up for the All Blacks vs Canada, via the airport to grab Shane and Jud. The Telstra Dome is conveniently located near lots of downtown pubs, so we all bounced around from pub to pub, crashed parties in skyscrapers, or drank wine with the locals we met at the park.
Friday is a rugby day..... in fact, most days are rugby days on this tour! The Telstra Dome is pretty cool; it's a real dome, with a retractable roof. Lots of beers later, NZ had beaten Canada about 50-10, but it was great to see our first RWC match on the first day in Oz and it's always great to see the ABs. And, fittingly, our old mate from NZ, Hodgey, arrived just in time for kickoff. Back to the bars for a few more, before we head back to The Nash. BP is the only one with enough staying power to head down to the Nash. The rest of us succumb to roughly 50 hours with just a few nods on the plane. Go BP!
Day 4 Saturday Bus Up to Eden
The day starts with the biggest and best breakfast you can imagine; the café down the street heaps on bacon in such huge piles even props were giving it away. Beer up and bus up. Melbourne is at the northern end of a very large harbor, about 30 miles across. The entrance has two tips of land only a few miles apart, and we take the ferry there. A very scenic route. Many of us figure out in the wind that chinstraps are going to be a necessary accessory to the cowboy hats. Eat Me is awarded the Leader Jersey for an outstanding performance the night before. We reach Lakes Entrance in the late afternoon, and folks spread out for lunch, beers, walks and tip on the beach.
We get to Eden in the SE corner of Oz about 8:00 and find our accommodations to be an immaculate older seaside motel. We catch up with our first Aussie Maggot, Mick, here and he's staked out a "good bar" to watch England vs South Africa. The Fisherman's Club does not take a liking to us, which was rare in Oz, and off we go to find a much more suitable low bagger bar. Our first RWC game on TV was a great success and the local colorful clientele were most entertaining, including an 4.5' tall old salt called Aunt Mary with a hand shake that made yer balls sweat!
Day 5 Sunday morning Eden and off to Canberra
The next morning we wandered the beaches, cliffs and docks of this very picturesque whaling port. We spent the morning walking up this beach in Eden all the way to the point at the far end of town. Mama's overlooking the sea to the East from this point at the harbor entrance. While Eden was a beautiful place, it definitely had a redneck flavor. They seemed to be wrestling with whether to remain inbred blue collar folks or cater to the tourists. Bus up to Canberra via a National Park.
Day 5 Sunday afternoon Welcome to Canberra
We arrive at our hotel in Canberra called the Jamison, but affectionately called the Jam-oh by the locals. This slightly seedy place with a bar attached was perfect for a 5 night stay. Tory, Bill, Smoothie and Kelly are waiting in the bar for us. The core of the tourists, all 28, is now complete. Off to see Wales vs. Tonga in the stadium where the Brumbies play. We bumped into a couple of the Hall players here, Jared and Neville. It rained hard for the first half and was a little chilly, but the game was excellent. Wales won by about 20-15. We discovered that the Wests Rugby Club clubhouse, home club of Stephen Larkam, was a block from the Jamo, so it became a frequent stop for us, and tonight we stayed there till late.
Day 6 Monday is a Rugby Day
We ran a late morning practice, with Hodgey coaching. No offense to the current and former Maggot coaches, but this guy is smooth; probably has more to do with the 3 years he spent coaching the Maggots than the 20 years he's spent coaching Otago. A bit of sightseeing during the day and off to play the Hall Bushrangers in the evening. Now this was country rugby; they went to the trouble of renting lights; the pitch was rough, but right across the road from the team bar. Maggots win first international road match in 20 years almost to the day, since the win in Weston Super Mare England in 1983, by defeating the Hall Bushrangers 28-17. Smoothie leads try scorers with 2 and one apiece from Chad, Rory and Mama Chuck. We were introduced to a custom in Oz social matches, where they substitute freely at any time, without the refs involvement and come back on after a breather, much like lines in hockey; we were a bit surprised at this, but found as the trip went on, that this was customary. Hall put on the traditional Maori feast called a Hungi, and a great drink up (Maggots lost the boat race!). These are a great bunch and would highly recommend visiting there. Watched a pathetic performance by the Eagles against an also pathetic Scotland, but Scotland prevailed. Leader Jersey to Shannon.
Day 7 Tuesday Our 3rd International Match
Canberra ACT (Australian Capital Territory) is the capital of Oz. It was constructed here because Sydney and Melbourne couldn't decide which one should be the capital, so it's half way between. The city was basically built from scratch starting in 1920, so it's pretty new looking, and has an interesting preplanned layout. Tourists spread out and visited the new and old Houses of Parliament, war museum, zoo, botanical gardens and much more.
In the evening, back to Canberra Stadium via the Jamo and Wests clubhouse to see Italy vs Canada. We welcome Brownie today; he came to the conclusion that the Maggot tour would be more fun than the Oxy tour; duh! Eat Me had been missing his hat since the night before, and we were amused to see Jared wandering the crowd with a Cowboy hat that said "Eat Me" on the back. Another very tight game, about 25-30, saw Italy come out on top. Back to Wests. Jake had the poor judgement (not Jake?!) to bring some of the Wests finer back to the Jamo to discuss the finer points of security, and one of them fell through the window. Much to our surprise, the owner didn't really seem to care; he was the most easy going guy you'd ever want to meet.
Day 8 Wednesday The Luge
Today we have a full day off in Canberra, so we head to the mountains in search of some sort of luge run the Hall guys had told us about. After a long drive through forests, most of which had burned 6 months ago, we found it, only to find that the sleds had been burned in the fire, and the track had been warped. This was a very interesting place, owned by a slightly eccentric chap named Merrek (this place is home of the Australian bobsled practice track, but it never gets below freezing.....remember what I said about eccentric?). The luge run was a long steel trough that wound down the hill through the trees; you lie on these sleds with wheels and head off down this thing at warp speed; great fun it sounds like. Instead we opted for a great hike up into the mountains.
We got pretty close to a couple of kangaroos while hiking today, one with a Joey in the pouch. We didn't see a lot of wildlife on this trip; we saw kangaroos about as often as you see deer in Montana. But the birds were spectacular: Cockatoos, white with a yellow crest, were everywhere, and Crimson Rosellas, brilliant blue and red were common; even saw some Kookaburas.
On the way back in we stopped briefly at a Tuggeranong lawn bowling clubhouse; more on that later.
The Jamo locals Tory, Bill and Smoothie had befriended, cooked the whole team a great BBQ that night. And downtown for a while; easy on the piss; tomorrows a game day.... Yeah, right! BP manages to find a punk who disagrees with his hat and threatens to cut him; BP glanced at his hands and didn't see a knife.... Yet.... and in that All-American way, decided to make a preemptive strike; well three actually; with the guy laying on his back, he was escorted out. But it gets weirder; Hillbilly finds himself surrounded in the John by 6 of the little punks who disagree with his hat; in his best southern accent he tells these fellas "you'd best not be messin' with me" and manages to talk his way out. Some of us decided this might be a good time to find a new bar. A "lovely young lady" decided to make the acquaintance of one of the Maggots, and it didn't seem to matter which one. She said she was a hooker, but she just wasn't very good at getting people to pay for her services. The rest of the story doesn't belong in print, but without telling names, lets just say that Shannon was surprised to wake up the next morning to giggling in the bed next to hers.
Day 9 Thursday Tuggers
More Canberra sightseeing during the day. By now we'd seen enough of the capital and were ready to move on, but we had a game with Tuggeranong first.
From the email exchanges we'd had, and Timmy's recommendation, we were anticipating a match against a similar side to Hall. We arrived at the spot where the grounds and clubhouse were supposed to be, and all we saw was a huge building with lots of glass overlooking a perfectly manicured 5000seat stadium. We figured we'd meet the guy here and he'd take us elsewhere. I walked in the large glass circular front door and asked the receptionist (yes, receptionist, complete with computer, phone system and security guards) and she put me in touch with our contact, who confirmed that yes, we are playing on the pitch we'd seen, and to take changing room 4. With our suspicions aroused a bit, I confirmed with the contact that we were playing a side of a caliber similar to ours. He informed us that the Calgary Rams, who they were also supposed to be playing tonight, had no showed, and could all of the players that had shown up get a run? I can't wait till I see the Rams next!
Warming up, the opponents looked ominous; slight flick of the wrist and the ball goes 20 yards in a perfect spiral. To give credit where credit's due, the Maggot pack matched up reasonably well against them, but their backs were truly remarkable; the crispness of the execution was exceeded only by the pure speed of the entire team. We lost this one 70-5, with Blake scoring our only try.
As it turns out we saw a mixture of first, seconds and some old boys. Unfortunately we lost #8, 9 and 10 (Rory, Tory and Adam) to injuries. Rory's knee kept him out for the remainder of tour, Tory's knee healed in time for the last game, and Adam's shoulder never really got to 100%, although he got some more game time in. These injuries were more bad luck than the tough opponent.
We got the mud on Tuggers later; They have 4 clubhouses like this one, which had several bars, several casinos, and several restaurants in the one building. Supposedly they cleared $7 Million last year. They have 70 sports, like lawn-bowling, croquet, cricket, tennis, swimming, etc, but rugby is the primary sport. They have a long list of former Wallabies and a short list of current ones. And the club is only 25 years old! They have been kicked out of both the Canberra and Brisbane union for winning too much, and are now playing in the Sydney union.
The party was a little odd, with not too many of them quite grasping Maggot Formal wear and associated antics. But we managed to rope in a few of their old boys, who lamented that they'd forgotten the social side of rugby. Maggots lost the boat race..... again! Chad sprinted for a while, then stumbled, and was awarded the leader jersey. We drug the Tuggers old boys down town with us, and a good time was had by all; Chad quickly relinquished the leader jersey to a well deserved Gabe.
Day 10 Friday Off to Sydney
We wake to find that Gabe has soiled the leader jersey and it has to be washed..... repeatedly throughout the day.
Friday is a Bundi day! Bundaberg Rum is a foul substance made in Oz, so we of course took a liking to it right away. Friday morning on the bus got messy real fast. Next thing ya know, we're in Sydney at the Woolbrokers hotel; a quaint little place; seedy, but great location, a block from Darling Harbor. Time for a bit of sightseeing and down to Kings Cross to meet up with Lach. Kings Cross is the red light district, and they don't hold back. But there's also a good mix of pubs, clubs and all night eateries all within a few blocks of each other. Drinkin' and debauchery ensued.
Day 11 Saturday 79,000 fans at Olympic Park
Sightseeing included the aquarium, maritime museum, harbor cruises, Power House and much more. Seven of us (Jake, Brown, Hillbilly, Ot, Adam, Eat Me and Grey) took a bus to Watson's Bay, the point on the east coast directly east of Sydney about 20 miles. Great view and had a good time hiking around out there. Then walked into Watsons Bay the town and met Lach at a bar overlooking the bay for beers and fish and chips and took the ferry back to Darling Harbor past the Opera House in a big time rainstorm.
Food in Oz was a bit of a mystery. The fish and chips at Watsons Bay was excellent. Anything from a pastry shop was good, including all kinds of meat pies. We did lots of grocery runs for fruit and deli stuff. Breakfasts were often large portions of bacon, eggs, toast and fried tomato, no hash browns, and coffee is not supposed to be drank black; it's thick as mud and they'd look at ya funny when you'd order it black. Kabobs are like gyros and almost always real good, especially late at night!
We walked about 10 blocks to the train that took us to Olympic park for Scotland vs France. Met Timmmmyyyy in a pub near the stadium and enjoyed a few beers before and after the match with him. The stadium was an incredible atmosphere; unfortunately, the Scots got their ass kicked by the Froggies, so it was a bit of a disappointment from that standpoint, but still an incredible event. Some of the boys put in a big one back at Kings Cross (see tomorrow morning).
Day 12 Sunday Port!
Tory is a thinking man. Knowing he didn't want to get left this morning, he decided to sleep in the lobby on his luggage fully clothed; these are the kinds of decisions a smart man makes when he gets in at 5:00am and bus-up is at 7:30am. Bill on the other hand opted for bed. Now Big Time, as we've previously stated, was a Maggot bus driver thru and thru, with one exception; he wouldn't leave anyone.... Some silliness about getting fired for it. At 7:45am, Bill is heard to be moaning "I don't wanna get up". Get up he finally did, and when he got on the bus, his skin was sweaty and gray; scary. Off to Port McQuarie. After being on the road a while, a chorus of groans was heard and we all whipped our heads to see Bill puking in his cowboy hat! Big Time pulls over quick and Bill staggers to his feet. Everyone in front of him scrambles out of the bus. Bill steps to the bottom step on the bus and proceeds to dump out his hat, splashing it on him and everything else in range. We all groan. He looks at us and sneers "You'd think you guys had never seen puke before". Bill stepped out of the bus and planted one Teva right in the puke. Otto tried to convince Bill to toss his hat in the bushes, but he'd have none of that and whipped the hat spraying Otto with puke. Someone gave him a water bottle and he half-assed washed his hat out, turned, pulled it down on his head, and with puke dripping down his forehead, stepped back on the bus and yelled "bus up". A little later he made it a double, but this time used Tupperware.... Duh! Bill gets the Leader Jersey.
We pulled into our seaside cabins in Port in the afternoon, discovered the rooms did not come with sheets or towels, and the beds were vinyl covered. No worries, the beach was 100 yards one way, and breakfast and pubs were 100 yards the other.
Off to the pitch. It was great to see Kaussie, Craig, Grievsey and Blanchy, but there was a game to play. It was a scrappy tough match, with a rain storm the second half; lots of scrums and knock ons. Sarafolean refed. Final 5-7 in favor of Port.
The Port boys put on a great host for us, with plenty of cold beer (Victoria Bitter, or VB, seemed to be the Pabst of Oz, so we drank a lot of that; also Thooeys New and in Queensland a beer called XXXX). The first boat race was literally a photo finish (Jeff had taped it, and we watched over and over until all agreed a rematch was needed); finally won one. The Fukenguilty barber chair was brought out for Billy. We watched more RWC on the tube (it averaged more than one a night while we were there). Then down to the bars and England Samoa on the tube, which was a great game, with England pulling ahead in the last few minutes. Then dancing and hat flipin' to the wee hours. Rory gets the Leader Jersey.
Day 13 Monday Beach
This was probably the best non-rugby day of the trip. Nine of the guys went deep sea fishing at 6:00am; Yikes! They got back about 1:00pm with 50lbs of fish (King, Sea Bass, and several others). We hit the beaches at the crack of 10:00, played tip on the beach (the east touch line is Chile, and if you're in water more than a foot deep it's tackle; hysterical!), topless babes sunbathing, walked to Flynn's beach about a mile down via tide pools and more beach where the Aussie Maggots BBQed up the fish and kept us in cold beer all day. We played in the surf with dolphins leaping about 30ft beyond us in the breakers; the water was about 80 and the air temp about 85. Humpback whales were breaching clean out of the water several miles out, and one of them spun in a circle while slapping the surface with it's flukes about 20 times. Once it got dark, it's back to the bars for more RWC. USA beat Japan; if they'd lost, Brownie could stay on, but if they won, he had to head home to produce the show for Fox, although he manages to scam a way to stay through Lismore.
Day 14 Tuesday Lismore
We say farewell to the Aussie Maggots and on to Lismore. We have a nice hotel here, and find Anne and Heather waiting for us, or more accurately, Jud and Jake; also Heather's kids who take well to the Maggot bus. A little time in the pool and off to the game. Lismore won 2 of the 3 Grand Finals a month ago, and lost the other 20-22. We played a mixture of 2nds and 1sts. They had remarkable team speed and capitalized on our mistakes, which we had more than our share of. Maggots lost about 25-60. BTW, we had 4 out of 5 very good refs on tour, including this one. We got a team photo of Maggots in Formal Wear and off to the party, which was lame. Nice bar, but we had to buy our own food and beer. Lost the boat race again. Some of us stayed late and made a few of the more socially minded Lismore players stay, but all in all a very mild night.
Day 15 Wednesday Byron Bay is Heaven
We stop at a resort town called Byron Bay, that seems to have an abundance of backpacker, younger set, topless sunbathing beauties; "Oh yeah, she's a reeaall beauuuty". More beach time, and lunch and beers on the deck of an open air bar overlooking the beach. This place is paradise. We need to come back here. Alas, we only have 1/2 a day to kill. On the way to Caloundra we had a good song sing, including a great solo of Bom-Bom-Badier by Shannon, which is similar to With My Hand On My Shoulder.
We arrive late to Caloundra to find our accommodations are a 14 story apartment complex a block from the beach, with balconies, kitchen, etc. Most of the tenants seem to be over 70, which seemed ominous at first, but they all seemed to titter a bit when they'd get stuffed in the elevator with a bunch of stinky rugby players, and none of them complained about us being loud and obnoxious, which we were. Met up with some of the Caloundra guys and had a low key night. It should be noted, that by now almost everyone had the Grunge, some real bad, and this seemed to put a little damper on the partying.
Day 16 Thursday Beach
Today we are disappointed to find that most of the beach goers are older than we are.... much older. It's a day to hang at the beach, surf, snorkel, boogie board. This evening we had a big ol' BBQ by the hotel pool, including lots of huge prawns; the locals had recommended them to us, so we bought a bunch at the local fish market and they were a good pick. Off to the bars for a while.
Day 17 Friday Our final game
More beach time. Papa went to see The Croc Hunter's zoo. Hillbilly, Shannon, Otto and Rory borrowed some sit on top surf boards and paddled over to Bribie island, which is a huge wildlife preserve. Saw a pair of some sort of Sea Eagles. Lots of other sea birds, great shells, and interesting plant life.
At game time the forecast was ominous, and the horizon was black. As the game began the thunder and lightning became quite close and intense, and the rain increased steadily. We'd been killed in previous games by not having enough speed in the centers to cover on defense, so Smoothie came up with the idea of moving himself to FH, Blake to Inside and BP to Outside, and playing mostly 10 man rugby. This proved to be a sound strategy. With Chad, Bill and Papa in the front row for the first time, this threesome (and the rest of the pack) destroyed their pack. With 60 minutes gone, and the score 5-5, and rain coming down so hard you could not see across the field, the lights got knocked out by the storm, and the game got called. This was a true monsoon the likes of which we'd never seen before. Another pretty lame host; they had an outdoor pavilion type of a clubhouse which was cool; it's so warm there, there's not much need for indoor anything. Dewey led the first Flaming Asshole of tour. Choir practice paid off and we really nailed All For Me Grog, that Adam taught us, and nailed Nancy Reagan on the way out.
We found an Irish pub with a couple of guys on guitars singin' Irish tunes and we joined in. Several more bars and hours later, they all closed up. On the way back from the bars, a bunch of us took a small detour to the beach to secure the area. We sat out there for a long time telling stories and arguing about which group of stars was the Southern Cross.
Day 18 Saturday Surfers Paradise
Bus up for Brisbane. We actually stayed this night in a nice little motel with a pool in Surfers Paradise, an hour south of Brisbane. Time to hit the beach for a while. Then off to Brisbane for our fifth and final RWC match in Sun Corp Stadium.
Kangaroo Court en route to the SA/Samoa game; many issues were presented to the court; as usual some did their penance and some fought the charges........ and then did their penance. One of the more humorous goes like this:
Otto: "I call Jake, Adam and Jeff to the Fukenguilty chair for 'Stupidity unbecoming of a Maggot' for leaving their RWC tickets at the hotel."
Jake chooses to argue the charge, on the grounds that, once he got to the park without a ticket, he got a free ticket at the gate by sweet-talking the gal at the ticket booth: "It was a miracle".
Chad: "So let me get this straight, you used a miracle to get a ticket for yourself, instead of say, 70 points against Tuggers?"
SA Samoa looked to be a great match, but the Boks dominated. Still a great atmosphere with about 40,000 fans. We found a good bar to watch Ireland play Australia for their last pool match; it was a great match. Back to Surfers. The Leader Jersey is retired and signed by all tourists.
Day 19 Sunday Home
At the airport we say goodbye to Big Time, and others. Jud, Anne, Jake, Heather and kids, Blake, Nick, Shane, Alex are all heading to Frasier Island for a week of camping. Some of them stay on longer. We also say goodbye to Hodgey; it was a true pleasure to spend time with him again; far too short. We leave Brisbane at noon Sunday, and arrive in LA 15 hours later at 11:00am Sunday.... the same day (go figure), via a stop in Aukland long enough for a beer and sandwich. Adam hops off here to meet his wife for 3 weeks in NZ. In LA and Salt Lake we say goodbye to many more. Home to Missoo by 8:00pm and it's sure nice to be home and see family. But as always, tour seemed to race by with never enough time to have all the fun you think you ought to have.
"Mommy, what does his hat say?" Spoken by a little kid sitting in the seat behind Eat Me, while looking at "Eat Me" written on the back of Eat Me's hat.
"You'd think you guys had never seen puke before" Bill the Bull
"Bundi is not a deterrent for me" spoken by Jake after several shots in Kangaroo Court for various offences.
"I woke up this morning ashamed by what I had done, and by what I was about to do again"; spoken by "you know who" after a night with a wannabe hooker.
"I try to charge for it, I'm just not very good at it"; spoken by the wannabe hooker.
Hillbilly: "What does a gay horse eat?" "Haaayyy"