IT is what motorcycling dreams are made of - the chance to sit in the saddle for 700 kilometres a day over 10 days checking out some of the most picturesque country in Australia, all while raising awareness for a great cause.
Stockinbingal’s John Harper will do just this, setting off on a 7600 kilometre round trip from Canberra to Alice Springs and back, later this week.
John is taking part in the Black Dog Ride, which raises awareness of depression and suicide prevention.
The ride was founded by one man, Steve Armstrong, in 2009 as his personal pledge to spread the word about depression. Over the years thousands of Black Dog riders have joined Steve on the road.
This year more than 300 riders will leave from all capital cities on Saturday, August 17 to make their way to Alice Springs.
The various routes travel through regional, and sometimes remote communities which help raise awareness in these isolated communities.
John is riding with seven other motorcyclists from Canberra through Boorowa to Narromine where they will meet up with 170 riders from Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
After camping overnight at Coober Pedy the convoy will join with another 60 riders from Queensland and the Northern Territory in the final destination of Alice Springs, creating a lively group of 240 riders.
A keen motorcyclist, John said he has always wanted to complete an “epic ride”.
“The other benefit is that my partners in the ride will be peers, who in regards to mental health, have been where I have been and are doing something positive,” John said.
As someone who has been diagnosed with depression and dug himself out of the hole it creates, the Black Dog Ride is tailor made for John.
John pioneered the Mate Helping Mate concept following his battle with depression, based on the simple concept of mates looking after those around them.
“I am confident that I will get energy and motivation from the riders and the communities we will interact with to continue my work with Mate Helping Mate,” John said.
“I am excited to be doing the ride,” he added.
There is no doubting tackling thousands of kilometres on the bike over a week and a half will be a tough call physically and to prepare himself John has been taking his 650cc BMW motorbike on a number of cruising rides.
Recently he was invited to open the new Men’s Shed in Braidwood, a trip of about 500 kilometres and took his bike in order to get some
miles under his belt acclimatising himself to the seat.
John said some of the challenges he expects to face are the cold mornings and headwinds. With some of the roads they will be riding on also the second home of roadtrains, John said he is aware of the instability these can create when passing.
While the main aim of the ride is in the arena of promoting awareness, the Black Dog Ride also serves as a fundraiser.
Lifeline Australia is one of the beneficiaries of the ride. With a vision for an Australia free of suicide, Lifeline works hand in hand with the end goals John works towards with Mate Helping Mate.
He has had some interaction with Lifeline over several years of being involved in presenting workshops for training the volunteers in manning the phones.
John said all of the Lifeline people he has dealt with are motivated in not letting isolation and lack of support determine the worst outcome from a crisis in mental health.
Another beneficiary of the ride is Mental Health First Aid, which aims to empower community members to provide support to one another in times of mental health problems.
A national non-profit health promotion charity focussed on mental health training and research, John has assisted Mental Health First Aid for many years by presenting rural and remote communities with the aim of motivating members to attend Mental Health First Aid Training.
While John said fundraising is definitely secondary to him he does appreciate greatly the sponsorship of $450 from the blokes involved in the Men’s Movie and Beer Appreciation group in Temora.
“Thank you, mainly on behalf of whoever they may save,” John said.
If you want to help with sponsorship check out the Black Dog Ride website where there is a ‘donate online’ tab at the top of the page.