A YEAR ago, Anthony Ford decided to take his 84-year-old father Ken on a trip. All he gave away was that they would need a month for the adventure.
Earlier this year it came to fruition, but it was only the night before they left Sydney that Ken, from Newcastle, found out they were travelling on a 500cc Royal Enfield motorbike with a sidecar.
Six months prior, 35-year-old Anthony secretly bought the bike and began getting it ready for the trip.
"Anthony loves motorbikes - I gave him my last motorbike when he was 17," Ken said. "He rode it to school and got the nickname Fonz. He's always been a bit of a larrikin."
The pair hit the road in March and there were more surprises to come. Ken spent part of his working life as an engineer based in Tasmania.
"We travelled to Melbourne to visit my sister and I didn't realise Tassie was on the itinerary until we headed out to Port Melbourne to catch the Spirit across Bass Strait," Ken said.
"It was an amazing trip - so many things just fell into place. We couldn't have planned it better, and we didn't plan much at all."
Ken was between cancer treatments during the road trip. "Twenty-six years ago I had three-quarters of my bowel removed," he said. "The cancer showed up in my prostate and radiotherapy was able to suppress that. Then it moved into my bladder. But I'm lucky - the treatment's painless and I have no real discomfort."
After touring Tasmania, the pair hit the Great Ocean Road, returning to Sydney via central Victoria and clocking up 5000km in all.
"Dad's the most inquisitive person I know: he has so much curiosity about the unknown, and he was the centre of attention everywhere we went," Anthony said.
"I felt quite emotional as we returned. I thought about how much had to be set in motion to make the trip a reality.
"Dad's an amazing man."
There were some anxious moments. Between Hobart and Queenstown, one of the customised bolts holding the sidecar in place broke.
"A very kind lady helped us," Ken said. "Her husband wasn't around but she rang him and he offered us full access to his workshop.
"We did a temporary fix with wire and it got us going, but I was watching that wire all the way down to Queenstown.
"A group of bikers adopted us at one stage and we shared a meal and some beers with them. There were a few sore heads the next day."
Each of Ken's three children have treated him to a trip away. "I've been very lucky and feel I've had a tremendous life."