Burgers And Two-Wheel Trekking
Sean Muir explains how a year-long quest to find the nation’s best burger-with-the-lot ended with an ulcer and free dental work.
Do you ever ask yourself, “Why do I have to work so much? What do I really need apart from my bike, food, shelter and root-canal treatment? So why then can’t I just pack a swag and ride around Australia, eating burgers-with-the-lot for a year? And why can’t I date a dentist so I don’t have to pay so much for crowns?”
Of course you ask yourself these questions. All serious people do at some point in their lives. At least, I know I did.
In 2010, I embarked on a year-long quest to find the country’s best burger-with-the-lot. I ate and reviewed more than 100 of Australia’s most recommended burgers, appeared on A Current Affair, Sunrise and Today, and found a dentist girlfriend to fix all my teeth.
In other words, I became a star of the rural takeaway set; a Z-list celebrity, right up there with that guy in Darwin who stuck a ‘cracker up his clacker’.
So how did I do it? Easy. I just followed these simple steps:
STEP ONE: LIVE AT THE SAME PUB AS TODD CARNEY
The first step in any journey is to be motivated. If you’re content with your life and you have family and loved ones around, then you need to take a good, hard look at yourself and find something to be unhappy about – or else you’ll probably never go looking for burgers.
When I decided to look for burgers, I was living at the same country-Queensland pub as rugby league player Todd Carney. Times were simple. Carney hadn’t yet started pissing in his own mouth, and I was still a local newspaper reporter. During the day I would interview people like Bob Katter (though he usually just talked about people he’d tried to fight in helicopters) and at night I would eat canned tuna for dinner. It was a good life – which is why I had to dig deep to feel unhappy. But, as is usually the case, persistence paid off and, before I knew it, my life began to depress me. Using free soap in the pub’s showers wasn’t as cool as I had thought and watching Carney put on sports bets at the bar lost its charm.
STEP TWO: MAKE A WEBSITE SO YOU CAN GET FREE BURGERS
This is one of the most important steps. If you do a really good job building a website, you’ll have credibility when you go to the media for exposure. With exposure and a credible website to use, takeaway joints will actually approach you to review their food and girls will fall in love with you.
My website is now decommissioned. The concept was simple: I would promote family takeaways that didn’t have the capital to run advertising campaigns up against the chain restaurants. I even developed rules: no eating at chain restaurants; no cutlery allowed; and “the lot” burgers had to be tried with the pineapple in place before it could be discarded.
Thanks to the website, thousands of people contacted me to tell me where they thought the best burgers were. This allowed me to build a database of the most recommended burgers and plan my route accordingly.
STEP THREE: INVITE YOUR DRUNKEST MATE
The last thing you want on any journey is for it to be boring. My solution was to invite a mate who drank every day and believed that humans did not really need toothpaste. But be warned, this step can backfire.
In Mt Isa, my mate went on a strip-club bender and lost our camera. In Broome he drove someone’s van into our caravan park’s bins at 3am. In Ku nunnara he ran around naked at our campsite after sleeping under a park table. In Karratha I almost strangled him. And those were the fun times. It was sad when he left the tour. And it was lonely riding without him. But if I hadn’t been so lost and exhausted after he split, I might never have moved in with a dentist – more on this in step six.
STEP FOUR: RIDE UNTIL YOUR LEFT ARM GOES NUMB
Any worthwhile romance is always foreshadowed by drama and struggle. So, if you really want to find a dentist to fix your teeth, you are going to have to earn it. One of the ways I did this was by putting a sidecar on my motorcycle. For those unfamiliar with sidecars, touring with them is fun for about two per cent of the time. The rest of the time it’s just painful, and constant sidecar adjustments are needed. There are two main adjustments you can make (as far as I know). The first is to adjust the lean of the bike, which is the angle that the bike leans out from the sidecar. The second is to adjust the tow-in, which is the angle of the sidecar wheel in relation to the wheels of the motorcycle.
Our sidecar mechanic, who had decades of experience fitting and riding sidecars, explicitly told us to leave the tow-in alone as he had set it perfectly. “If the bike is leaning too hard to the left on the highway (because of camber, wind etc), then adjust the lean,” he said.
“You’ll no doubt meet dickheads who’ll tell you to adjust the tow — don’t listen to them. Just leave it alone.” But, when my left arm went numb after just 30 minutes of trying to stop the rig from veering off the road, we decided to ignore the mechanic and stuff around with the tow-in anyway. I soon learnt, however, that it doesn’t matter how many adjustments you make: riding with a sidecar around Australia’s coastline is never going to be easy. It’s not like motorcycling at all – it’s like driving an oversized, unbalanced billycart.
STEP FIVE: WORK IN FURNITURE REMOVALS
Money makes the bike go round. It’s all very romantic to quit your job and hit the road but, when you’ve been showering under taps, your bike needs repairs and you only have $30 in the bank, nine-to-five starts to look pretty good.
I worked eight jobs while riding around the country reviewing burgers: from lime picking, meter-reading and junk-mail delivery to bar work and supervising seniors as they wrapped presents in a shopping centre.
Probably my favourite, though, was furniture removal.
It gave me a real appreciation of not having to spend the Christmas period in 40 degrees, moving two to three houses a day.
STEP SIX: MEET A DENTIST …and get your teeth fixed!
If everything has gone to plan so far, you’ll meet a dentist. It happens like this: she sees you on television and thinks you’re much better than you actually are. She then finds you on Facebook and asks you out for a burger. You meet her at the burger bar and offer to pay for her burger, but you’re bankcard declines. She feels sorry for you and offers to buy you drinks, even though you spent the whole burger date with sour-dough powder on your nose. Because she is beautiful and earns more in a month than you can in six, you’re too nervous to look her in the eyes. And that’s when she falls for you. Next thing you know, she’s given you 13 fillings and a crown for free.
STEP SEVEN: TELL KARL YOU’VE FOUND THE ONE
Even though you’ve now gained 16kg and have a stomach ulcer from eating so many burgers, you still have to get on television and tell Karl Stephanovic what the best one was. I told him it was the FJ Holden Super Burger in Hughenden, Qld, because it embodied what the tour set out to promote: good, home-grown Aussie tucker and a sense of humour.
But these days, if you ask me where the best is, I’ll tell you it’s at Andrew’s Hamburgers in Albert Park, Vic. Nothing fancy – just traditional with-the-lot burgers made by a great family crew.
STEP EIGHT: WRITE A BOOK DEDICATED TO THE DENTIST
Because you’re poor, the only way you can repay the dentist for the fillings is to write her an adventure book, Hamburger Highways, with all your favourite burger reviews in it. You spend years writing it and publish it on Amazon: www.amazon.com/Hamburger-Highways-Sean-Muir/dp/0646917161
This article by Sean Muir appears in Motorcycle Trader #299