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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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DustyGrandpa

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….

2017 National Veteran Motorcycle rally- and other fun stuff

This event comes around every 2 years and it was the first time I got to ride a veteran (pre-1919) motorcycle. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, the 1914 Douglas has a clutch, 2 gears and brakes. We set off for the long drive to Nuriootpa, South Australia, across the Hay Plain and I had decided to break up the trip with a night camping out.

We have driven past Yanga National Park a few times, so this is where we set up camp by the muddy Murrumbidgee River for some peace and quiet.

I was looking forward to some nice fresh fruit and stocked up at a roadside stall near Mildura with mandarins and oranges. I knew about the fruit fly exclusion zone, so didn’t bring any fruit from home, but forgot about the rigid quarantine inspections at the SA border. Dammm. There goes my nice fresh fruit. So then I had to buy some more fruit and got walnuts too.

We arrived at the rally just as the earlier arrivals were setting off for a short warmup run before the rally proper on Monday. I hadn’t had time to have a practice run on the bike and wasn’t feeling too energetic so I was a bit apprehensive about jumping on with about 120 other old bikes and taking off. So I rested on Monday, then had a practice ride around the oval, run starting it, using the foot clutch, valve lifter and air and fuel levers. OK, I think I will be right for Tuesday. Negotiating STOP signs, traffic lights and other traffic is a bit nerve racking, so Grandpa did the short ride through town until the morning tea stop, then I hopped on and rode through the beautiful, green Barossa Valley to lunch and then Grandpa had the ride back into to town. That plan worked really well. Those 500cc’s might be more than one hundred years old, but they work really well, even accelerating uphill past other bikes.

Douglas

Our Douggie

Now a week is a long time to be looking at old bikes and listening to old blokes talk about old bikes and watching them work on old bikes, so of course I also had a plan to go for a walk. The Heysen Trail passes nearby, it is a 1000km walking track from the coast south of Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges. Paula and I were going to walk about 20-30km overnight. We started through farmland with sheep grazing on the green grass. There were numerous hills covered in bush and pine plantations and communication and fire towers. There was a stone wall hiding in the bush and so many wildflowers out in the spring.

We camped at the Rocky Paddock campsite with what looked like manicured lawns courtesy of the hundreds of kangaroos living in the forest. Along the trail are some lovely places to stay and we passed the ‘Old Schoolhouse’ set up with beds, a fireplace, a toilet and water tank. It was so beautiful I could live there.

Then it was back to the caravan park which had a creek and parks around it. There was a bush garden growing endangered plants and harvesting seed, and a bush chapel if you felt inclined.

The only thing left to do then was to drive 14 hours back home again, until next time.