WHETHER it’s on or off a bike, motor racing enthusiast Kirstie Brooks is no stranger to undertaking trials and tribulations to reach her destination.
She took a moment out of preparations for Australia’s greatest desert challenge, the Finke Desert Race, which she will do on her quad bike, to celebrate the nation’s support for her relationship.
Brooks was jumping for joy on the couch on Wednesday, after 61.6% of same-sex marriage survey voters returned a Yes.
“I had the television turned right up, and when they announced the result, I almost got tears in my eyes. It’s something that we’ve (Brooks and her partner) been hoping for and dreaming of.”
“My partner was at work, so I celebrated myself; I was jumping around the house and couldn’t wipe smile off my face.
“I called dad and texted my partner and her mum, I was getting a lot of texts to say congratulations.”
While the couple can now hopefully look forward to a “traditional wedding” and future they’ve dreamed of since falling in love following a chance online meeting, it’s first thing’s first for Brooks.
Accustomed to driving a dump truck, Brooks will swap the dusty surrounds of the Peak Downs Mine for the unforgiving, sandy expanses of the Northern Territory’s Finke Desert.
She’s no stranger to quad bikes, she has been riding a motorbike since she was six, and on the back of a quad, has ridden for Queensland in multiple State of Origin wins over New South Wales, and won a Queensland title in 2009.
But this is her first attempt at the Finke, and the gruelling challenge over 460km where, for most entrants, the main goal is just to finish.
But Brooks will be taking a “sentimental” approach.
“My dad did it in 2006 on the same quad that I’ll be riding,” Brooks said.
“His goal was to finish the race, but he bettered that and finished 12th.
“That quad is sentimental, so I’m taking it back to compete on.”
With the quad bike hours away in Clermont on her father’s property, Brooks doesn’t get the opportunity to train on four wheels, but more than makes up for it at home and at work.
Working a seven-on, seven-off roster, Brooks goes to the gym four days-a-week while on site, and five days when she’s at home.
It’s through the new found health and fitness regime that Brooks found the mental fortitude to take up the challenge after support from Mackay-based mass Nutrition and her personal trainer, Kahn Stephenson.
“I’ve always been a bit too scared to try it (Finke), and I didn’t have the confidence to think I’d finish, but I’ve got that support now,” she said.
“I’m on a meal plan, and eating four to six times a day, in smaller portions. I’m trying to gain mass and upper body strength as that’s what I’ll be needing for endurance.”
Assisting Brooks on a personal level is her partner, who is also a motorbike enthusiast and is intertwined in Australia’s greatest desert challenge with her family links to the race.
It was Brooks’ partner’s father, who played a major role in the 27-year-old’s decision to compete.
“My partner used to ride when she was in Darwin. She’s got a mud racing background and went undefeated one year in her class,” Brooks said.
“She’ll be driving with me up to Alice Springs, and her dad does Finke as well, and he’s won it a few times.
“I went up to Darwin with him last year and watched, and decided I wanted to do it (in 2018).”
Starting in 1976 as a challenge for a group of local motorbike riders to race from Alice Springs to the Finke River and back, the race has been held annually on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend ever since.
Encompassing about 229 km each way, the race travels through properties on its way to crossing the Finke River just north of Aputula.
“There’s about 70km of sand whoops, which are about as deep as the size of me,” said Brooks, who stands over five feet in height.
“But I’m not worried about rolling the quad, it’s more about having the fitness to get through it. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve only rolled the quad once, and that’s when dad owned it.”
With some 500 competitors, Brooks is under no illusion of what lies ahead, but is determined to finish what many can’t.
“I want to finish top 10, so it’s all about pushing myself,” she said.
“But that’s usually what I do, and when I set my mind to something, I don’t stop until I get it.”
Parallelled with her experiences in life, Brooks’ determination to seek happiness off the quad bike is a journey which now has a much clearer destination.
While she’s accepted in the motorbike fraternity, that hasn’t always been the case in wider society or at work for her or her partner, which they both hope will now change after Wednesday’s landmark vote.
“In the mines, there’s lots of people who voice their opinion of how wrong it is (her sexuality), and I’ve felt on the outer, like I couldn’t be myself,” Brooks said.
“With my partner’s university placements, she felt that she couldn’t say that she had a girlfriend, as she thought that it would affect her career.
“But my parents are really accepting. When I first came out, I was worried what dad would think, but apparently they knew all along.
“They’ve been fine about it, they treat my partner as a daughter, and I think of my partner’s parents as my own and I love them.”
While the couple have avoided a commitment ceremony, they have exchanged promise rings, but Brooks said the wedding dreams were now one step closer.
“We had a promise ring made for eachother and had our names engraved. but we discussed our ideas and thoughts on (marriage) and what we want for wedding.
“We want to be together forever.”