Red Dirt Revival

Some person, we can’t remember who, brought this to our attention about 12 months ago. There was a re-enactment of an old race meeting that was held way back in the early 1900’s in a dry clay pan near Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Lake Perkolilli is really an out of the way place now, we can only imagine how it felt one hundred years ago! It’s called the “Red Dirt Revival” and red dirt and dust is what you get.

The event was limited to vehicles pre-1940, right up Grandpa’s alley. The only problem was that we didn’t have anything that would fit the criteria. There were going to be some race cars from the original event and others cars that were pretty special. Motorbikes were allowed too. What could we concoct that would be special enough to fit such an auspicious occasion. Grandpa scoured the ‘for sales’ and bits and pieces that friends had until he convinced his boss to sell him an unfinished project, a 1914 Model T speedster. This consisted of a chassis, motor, gearbox and not much else. No problem.


Because motorbikes were also part of the story, Grandpa’s twin brother got excited about bringing his old 1939 500cc BSA race bike which hadn’t gone for donkey’s years. Then there was also our friend’s Norton big wheel sidecar racer that we used to race even more donkey’s years ago, “How about we take that too”.  Fantastic! It is amazing what harebrained schemes come up after a few beers.

So, it began.

Lots of research was done so that the model T looked just like an old style speedster. The body was built, an exhaust was designed, lots and lots of parts were ordered and it became a monster in our lives.


I became a shed widow and everyman and his dog came around to see what was happening. There was plenty of help offered which was great, as some parts didn’t arrive in time so had to be borrowed. A radiator and wheels which had to be rebuilt were loaned until these parts would arrive from US.


Eventually the great day came when the Model T sprang into life. This was really exciting. Now we really are on our way. There were many laps around the front yard to tune it and give everyone a ride.


That only left the Norton outfit. Time was ticking away and the gearbox and motor needed rebuilding. The more they looked at it, the more work was needed. Maybe it would be best to wait for next time.

Now the vehicles were ready we needed to organise ourselves. Camping with minimal facilities was the order of the day, we needed to take everything for 4 or 5 days. At least there will be toilets. So we organised food, water, homebrew, tents, fuel and shade for all of us. Then we had to contemplate driving 3500km to get there.

We’ve been across the Nullabor before but this time we had a time limit to get there. Four days we had to get there and we made it in time easy. We stayed at Euston, Streaky Bay, Norseman and then Kalgoorlie. The hardest part was finding our way to the end destination. Their signs were cute but not terribly visible.

We turned off where the tar ended and then it was dust for the next five days. It reminded me of riding through the bulldust on our way to the Flinders last year.

When we got settled, we got to see who else was there.  There were ultra-lights, various planes flying in each day, land yacht sailors and lots of old car and motorbike racers. We camped next to a family that we had passed in our travels, where the two sons had rebuilt the 1928 Chev that their father was driving. Our pit neighbour was a fellow whose father and grandfather had both raced in the early days of Lake Perkolilli but he did not inherit much of their knowledge of mechanics. He was much more into poetry when he was growing up. Needless to say, by the time he had met Kevin and various other ‘experts’, he had a much better idea of how to start his Model T and how it should run.

Surprisingly, there were other people that we knew from previous car and motorbike rallies that we were not expecting to see there. They were from Darwin and South Australia and were also not expecting to see us. It just goes to prove that we were not the only crazy ones.


We all took the opportunity of having a run in the ‘T’ during the practice sessions on Wednesday and Rex took his BSA out for a run. All was going great. Thursday was the first day of timing and I went out for a spin just to get a feel for the track and saw just how much dust we were all going to be covered in.



Rex was out for another run on his bike and he was flying. I was worried that this was not tar racing. Next thing we knew, there was more dust and he was off. There was no ambulance in attendance but there were plenty of medics and nurses in attendance who were rushed out to check on him.

Kevin was eventually taken out to check on him and found the bike was in a very sad state. The Crank had given way which had spat him off and both he and the bike had done somersaults and landed very hard. We picked up the bike and Rex was taken to hospital to be checked over. They didn’t find anything broken or damaged but he was still quite bruised and shaken but OK.

The next day, the racing continued, which was not quite racing but a ‘re-enactment’ of the original race event. This was so there were not so many CAMS regulations to adhere to. The timing from Friday was to give handicap times for the events on the weekend. The model T was one of the slower cars, so got off earlier. In one respect, this was a good thing as it meant there was less dust to go through. The car kept going better and better which made Grandpa really happy.

The atmosphere was great and the dust and heat was phenomenal. Everyone was coated and there were some pretty eccentric hair colours which reminded me a bit of Trump on a bad hair day. When we finally left and had a wash, it was amazing, the amount of red dust washing off in the shower.

When the weekend was over, it felt like a bit of a letdown, especially for me as I had to fly home and return to work. Also, for the others, as they still had the 3500km to drive and Rex was still not feeling strong enough to sit in the car for hours and hours.

After months of no rain and Grandpa still driving our ute across the country, the only option for me to get to work was on the BMW. Damn. So with wet weather gear and catching the train I managed to survive the week and was pleasantly surprised to see him home on Saturday evening.

With this major episode out of the way, we can now look forward to our next momentous life changing event. That is the next story….

Tasmania and lots of other places along the way

Our plan had been in place to go to Tasmania for the National Veteran Motorcycle rally for 12 months or more but at the last minute I crashed the car on the way to work one week before leaving and it got written off. Bugger. How are we going to get ourselves and the old Douglas to Tasmania now?
At least we have some options. Our good friends had some space in their trailer to take the old bike and we could ride our BMWs or take the Ural outfit so we would still get some camping in. The Ural option won, so it was a quick rethink on the packing and we were ready to set off for Melbourne on Friday to catch the ferry on Saturday.
Conveniently, my big brother lives in Melbourne and was able to put us up for the night.
All went well though rather slow down the Hume highway until all of a sudden the rear tyre went flat. One good thing about Ural, they provide an enormous tool kit plus grandpa had purchased a jack for just such an occasion. It didn’t take too long and we were back on the road.
One or two wrong turns the next morning and we arrived early for the Spirit of Tasmania. It was running late and was still on its way in. We left 2.5 hours late so had plenty of time to chat to other motorcyclists and hear all their stories. A crazy guy from Western Australia, a Melbourne bloke who was just going to Tassie for a week ride and an Italian woman riding her bike all over the world. We did a lap of the boat and found a few good spots to pass the time but mostly at the stern deck just watching the water. The sea was so blue, inky blue.


We got into Ulverstone late and put up the tent we haven’t used for two years in the dark. The rally started on Sunday, out came the Douglas for the first days run and Paula and I went for a walk in Naw I want to poo National Park. I even saw a seal from up on the headland.
Monday I had a ride on the 1914 Douglas and tried to remember all the quirks like the foot clutch goes forward not down, the air lever is on top and the fuel lever below (no twist grip on this baby) and don’t stop with your foot on the clutch and the brake as you will fall over. Luckily I didn’t do that. It starts really easy, just push, push, push and let out the decompression lever and it fires and your away. I got plenty of starting practice because, even though I could put it back to neutral or low gear at intersections, it really requires a lot of time and forethought and mostly it was easier to just stop it and then get going again. By the end of the week I was getting the hang of it though.
46141047 (2)


We had another tourist day to the Tarkine forest and saw sinkholes, walked up hills and saw lots of beautiful greenery and trees. Surrounding all of this is forestry and plantations and I find it amazing that people have to fight so long and hard to protect these beautiful, small remnants of what once covered a huge area. Given half a chance, they would rip it all out.
After the rally we set off for some camping and exploring the north east. Up Jacobs ladder on Ben Lomond to a small ski field. What a road, lots of hair pins and gravel and a really steep grade. We took some dirt back roads then the highway to Scottsdale with many many corners. We stopped by a gorgeous little creek for a cuppa because Grandpa was a bit weary by then, but he was having fun just the same. A beer and a pub dinner revived him.
No trip to Tassie is complete without a trip to a cheese factory. We stopped at Pyeangana for some great cheddar and awesome blue cheese and watched the cows coming into the automated milking shed. Maybe we should buy some of these machines for the dairyfarmer in the family when we have a spare million or two.
There is lots of great camping on the coast from Bay of Fires heading north, so we thought we would cut across country via more forestry tracks. We had a map but the signs didn’t really match the numbers so we just followed our noses, ending up on the road slightly less travelled. No matter we only ended up about 20kms south of where we were aiming for but had a camping spot right on the beach and were lulled to sleep by the waves.
The next morning we rejoined the road and continued north to Mt William National Park, stopping at Eddystone lighthouse and checking out more red rocks. From here you can see Flinders Island in the distance and quite a few smaller islands closer, one with a lighthouse. The hills on Flinders look enticing.


You have to come prepared here as there isn’t any water shops or fires allowed but we survived on hot cross buns, beer and cheese plus some dehydrated meals which were nowhere near as good as mine. There was plenty more coastline to explore, a walk up Mt William and a wind farm to visit but it started raining so we decided to go back to the tent and hang out with the kangaroos. Now they know how to relax.
Then it was our last day in Tassie and headed back to the ferry along the longest straight road in tassie between Gladstone and Bridport. We had breakfast at the best bakery in Bridport, a short walk around Launceston, then Port Sorrel and an amazing Soul burger in Devenport. A full moon was rising as we set sail and we were lucky to get a cabin with a porthole for our one night cruise.
The holiday continued with a visit our son’s dairy farm, said hello to the cows and had a quick visit to Blue Pool up past Briagalong where there is another walking track that I could check out another time.
Finally we were on our way home and made another detour to visit our daughter and family. Then it was home. It felt like we had done a lot of holidaying in two weeks. Grandpa was due for a rest because he had been working hard to keep the Ural on track but I was fine as I had been having lots of naps in the sidecar. The Ural proved itself to be a good camping mobile and I’m sure we will get plenty more adventures in it.