Once again, Scooterfile’s Australian correspondent, Bill Van Kesteren takes us along on his journey to the Australian National Scooter Rally, as ours are still seemingly being postponed. This is the story of the on-again, off-again nature of a rally that they actually got done: The National Scooter Rally of 2020 – 2021 – Postponed Due to the Covid-19 situation.
The National Scooter Rally or NSR is all about inclusion, as in Australia (and elsewhere) there are many clubs that exclude some types of scooters. The NSR is an opportunity for people of all interests (and scooters) to get together somewhere nice and have some rides and fun. A group from Sydney volunteered to take on planning the rally in 2019, and were all set to go for a March 20th, 21st, and 22nd rally in 2020… But then a global virus started to circulate around the world and Australia was no exception.
On the 18th of March 2020 an announcement was made that the rally would need to be postponed as the news of banning indoor gatherings of more than 100 and the general feeling of many that it would be better to postpone the rally. Some people had started making their way from around Australia, they very quickly found themselves in a sprint to the borders as the states and territories start imposing restrictions and quarantine requirements.
This was a disappointment to many, but probably most felt by the organisers who had multiple problems on their hands in addition to the deadly pandemic. Quite a lot of the rally merchandise and associated rally pack material had been printed, there was a band to cancel and the PA equipment for the band to cancel (and deposit forfeited), cancellations with the NRMA park, etc. There were so many things to do, only to have them undo it continue with the rally at a future date that a rescheduling was the only way to go. A new reschedule date of 11th, 12th, & 13th September 2020 was set, and at that stage there was reason to believe the situation would be under control. I had flights from Brisbane to Sydney, accommodation and a scooter to cancel, but as it was early in the Covid experience the hotel and Qantas gave full refunds.
But it wasn’t, on the 22nd of July the Rally Collective [Roger Philp, Stevio Bee, Darren Latham, Mick Hamill, Martin Fane from the Lionhearts S.C., Aaron Michie from Vespa Club Sydney and Brad Lewis from the Oily Vapors had to make a call (again), with the continued COVID situation in Victoria and the high probability of increased restrictions in some other states, the Rally Collective had decided was best to write off 2020. A new date of 5-7th March 2021 was set, followed by more bargaining with venues that had been booked, a band to cancel, bookings to reschedule, confirmations of cancellations policies, etc… (again). Border restrictions and quarantine requirements were with us for all of 2020 and into 2021, but undeterred on the 1st of February 2021, things were looking better for border crossings and easing of restrictions, confirmed it would be possible to have a safe and enjoyable rally.
There were necessary changes to the content of the rally from the original plans, as NSW even though things had improved still had restrictions on venue capacities, dance moves would have to wait for another rally and the requirement for “progressive drinking”, as stand-up drinking was still not on, as a way to enforce physical distancing you could walk up and get a beer, but had to be sitting at a table to drink it. The outdoor parts, like the Show-n-Shine and the ride-outs, etc. remained the same.
The ride-outs planned to stop at outdoor cafés offering a mainly take-away service, as it is easy to keep our distances in a large car-park area. The live band however was no longer possible as the Sydney based 8-Piece Ska and 2-Tone Band – Monkey Spanner, became unavailable on the new date, and although the Rally Collective did have a new band lined up and ready to go, (thanks The Setting Sons for offering to play at short notice), the problem now was the venue was not allowing bookings anymore. They did try booking other venues, but a large crowd was expected and safety issues with the current Covid situation, plus risks of fines for organisers and venues if guidelines are not followed, that did not progress.
The National Scooter Rally 2020/1 did not change, it would still be at Umina Beach, NSW, – which is about a 1½-hour ride North of Sydney.
I rode from Queensland to Victoria and back at Christmas time, as once the borders opened all the flights sold very quickly, and then as I changed to riding there was a small window to book accommodation as it also was filling fast.
By the time I left the situation had changed again and many of the hotels and motels had lost their bookings and I had to have border passes to enter Victoria and to re-enter Queensland.
Having experienced how dynamic the situation can be, I elected to ride to the rally, as I knew if the border situation changed, I could ride back to the Gold Coast from the rally, in the typical notice period if the situation changed.
The ride down was covering some roads I have ridden before, so not as many distractions to detour “off piste” to. Which is just as well as it seems there that every local government jurisdiction has some COVID stimulus funding being spent on road works. Lots of traffic control, flagmen and traffic lights that I did not really factor into my travel time. A variety of road works, some with very long delays, others with very long speed restricted zones and also traffic lights… anyone being generous with their right hand would not have been rewarded as you would see every car that passed you, or maybe you past them at the next traffic control point.
I was totally not expecting to see a car wash style pink elephant on the roof of a shed in the middle of a rural area and the shed it was attached to looks like it has never been a car wash or a business remotely related to the somewhat tired looking “patina” elephant on it’s roof…
The grounds around it were quite over grown with some Land Rovers returning to nature visible through the grass.
One place I had not previously stopped at was Pete’s Hot Rod and Resto Shop. They host the Moonshine run event which is very popular, but their core business is building hot rods and street cars. When I arrived, someone greeted me and then arranged for one of the guys to give me a tour of the workshop which was something I was not expecting at all, but it was so interesting finding out just how much fabrication they do quite apart from the body making and panel work.
They make their own chassis with all the mod cons (power brake boosters, engine and transmission crossmembers and bracing – boxing out the original frame rails) or new ones imported to Australia to their standard. They have their own fiberglass bodies, which they then steel out for safety, include seatbelt mounts, and have all the tooling to make new floors, louvres, well arches etc. Needless to say, the stop lasted much longer than I thought it would, but how welcoming they were was and is much appreciated.
I followed the service road to my next planned stop which was Vincenzo’s Big Apple.
The big apple was there, but it became apparent Vincenzo and his staff are not, as it was closed and for lease signs were up. So not a problem, continued on to Stanthorpe to have another look at the now completed big thermometer.
The area is known for it’s cold temps, which I guess helps set some of the fruit grown in the area. The café in the tourist information centre was making toasties so that was an easy choice for an early lunch with coffee before continuing on into more roadwork traffic control.
The road side changes from flat cleared pastural land, to native bush areas and then either with rocky out crops of varying size, I stopped to take a picture of one of the more impressive ones, before entering the
“Land of the Beardies”. Two stockmen and former convicts, John Duval & William Chandler, were the first known white men to see the expanse of ‘unexplored’ grazing country to the north of Armidale. They wore long beards and gentlemen from elsewhere looking for suitable land for stock were recommended to apply to ‘the Beardies’.
The traditional owners of Glen Innes and surrounding areas are the Ngoorabul/Ngarabal people. The indigenous name of the area of Glen Innes town is Gindaaydjin, meaning “plenty of big round stones on clear plains”.
I stopped in at the Australian Standing Stones hold a significant connection with Celtic people past and present. Erected in 1992 to acknowledge the contributions to Australia made by settlers and descendants from the Celtic homelands. The site also houses Crofters Cottage, a replica ‘taigh dubh’ (black house). The location hosts the only Celtic themed festival in Australia to recognise different Celtic Nations each year
A bit further down from the Australian Standing stones, there was “Stonehenge” tagged in goggle maps. Archibald Boyd registered the first property as Boyd’s Plains – later renamed Stonehenge. I went to have a look, but where it appears to be is behind fences in a weed and seed controlled area, so the best I could do was take a picture from the road with as much zoom as the camera had before continuing on.
I am sure if it was possible to visit the stones it would be as close to their namesake as nature could make them.
Something I was not expecting was the roughly spherical monolith about 2.5 metres in diameter known as the Balancing Rock which was pretty self-explanatory; one I circled back for a better look.
Could not go past a picture opportunity with the Big Sheep and Potato statue in Guyra, which hosts the annual Lamb and Potato festival.
The Guyra area has an indigenous heritage with a number of significant sites scattered around the area. Having a freshwater lake which is about 14km around (the Mother of Ducks Lagoon which is a silted volcanic crater) the Guyra area was a meeting place for Anaiwan and Banbai travel through the region, camping beside the wetland and hunting. when travelling from the east and west.
I had a look around for it and found a viewing platform that was sure to locate it, which it did, once I was there, I found the road sign I would have seen if I had stayed on the highway, ohh well mystery solved, so back on the scooter and off to see what was there. My mind’s eye has something quite different to a building with an RV chemical toilet dump next to it… The signage confirmed this is/was the council’s intention for the site, but did not provide much reason to hang around, particularly as there was someone emptying their RV waste cassette at the time.
Onward to the next fuel stop which was quite close to the next deviation off the highway to visit Captain Thunderbolt’s cave, at the top of “The Pinch”
This was one of his hideouts that give him shelter and a vantage point to anyone approaching the cave is at the end of an unsealed road, which is OK, then there is a sign from council saying this is the end of our care, and it becomes ungazetted 4WD only (and game scooter) track till you arrive at the end and there is a 200m walk to the cave down a decent grade hill. The cave itself is behind almost a courtyard in front of it which would have further obscured it from prying eyes, inside the cave there was what I imagine would have been a flue for a fire inside to keep it warm and a decent height cavity behind the smaller entrance.
This was the last stop before arriving in Uralla, which would be my overnight stop at Thunderbolt Inn (the bottom pub), which is next to the Bushranger motel, with its timber thatch roof.
It was not hard to find Thunderbolt’s statue, it is on the corner a road intersecting with the highway at the bottom of the main street, in the light of the setting sun it was not as clear the memorial stone and plaques a few metres behind Thunderbolt on his horse for the Policeman that shot him.
Constable Alexander Binning Walker before being transferred to Victoria to help with the more famous bush ranger to anyone outside Australia, the Kelly gang and Ned Kelly. Towards the end of his career, he was promoted to Acting Inspector-General of Police.
I saw a café with a scooter in the front window, so knew where breakfast would be the next day once he opened.
A walk up the street to see what the dining options would be – soon revealed that we are still in the world that COVID has changed, meaning a few take away options, but fewer choices for dine in. There is a heritage walk through the town, which includes the street lighting when it was illuminated by burning Kerosene, then further up the street some samples of the gas lights that superseded them, and all along the street and later I was to discover in home owner’s gardens little doors and windows etc in the gardens and on the trees.
Brought a smile to a now weary traveller, so it was an easy decision to return to the hotel and eat in their bistro.
The following morning, I returned to Captain Thunderbolt to get a better picture of Constable Walker memorial
before continuing up the hill to John street and the Pioneer cemetery which contains Captain Thunderbolt’s grave. Aside from it being surrounded by a white picket fence it was easy to locate as there is a plaque near the entrance that has the name of the person at each headstone or memorial cross or other marking. After finding the primary reason for walking there I had a walk around and was reminded how high infant mortality was in the days of bushrangers and thieves making life even more miserable for the early settlers that I am sure had no idea what their new life in the new country would be like.
On the way back to the hotel to begin loading up the scooter and checking out I saw a laneway with a mural going down it which looked interesting with handprints and a big echidna – but then I spotted a brick with some graffiti very different from the normal tagging or who to call for a good time.
Once checked out I continued with visiting Captain Thunderbolt’s rock, it was named split rock before this,
but it provided him a good vantage point from a protected location. There was a group there for morning tea and a catch up, from here I went down the highway a bit further before turning to travel through the village of Kentucky before joining Thunderbolt’s way, which by this point of my story you will be familiar with why…..
However just outside Walcha, there is directional signs to Nat Buchanan’s grave site. I admit I was totally unaware of this droving pioneer until visiting his memorial. Nat Buchanan was a pioneer pastoralist, drover and explorer. The first European to cross the Barkly Tablelands from east to west, and first to take a large herd of breeding cattle from Queensland to the Top End of the Northern Territory. Nat created a droving record when he supervised the movement of 20,000 head of cattle over this route. He established the first station in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory. – Wave Hill. Other firsts – cattle to the East Kimberley in West Australia, to stock Ord River Downs; to cross the Murranji country with men and stock; to take cattle overland for the East Kimberley District to the Murchison River in WA; European to cross the Tanami Desert from Tennant Creek in the NT to Sturt Creek in WA.
It is claimed, in The Bulletin Magazine, that his exploration and droving feats earned him the title of the person that helped to settle more new country than any other man in Australia.
Funny what history decides to immortalise and name highway’s rocks and hotels/motels after. Nat in spite of the amount of land he settled, he died 23rd September 1901 with almost none in his possession.
Speaking of people who played a significant part in history, but not as well-known is Captain Thunderbolt’s wife. She was the daughter of James and Charlotte Bugg, and educated at Parramatta Orphan School in Sydney. At age fourteen, she married Edmund Baker and a short time later moved to Cooyal station where she med Fredrick Ward. Later to be know as Captain Thunderbolt.
Mary Ann was the one that enabled a lot of what her partner got up to covering for where he and his men were when people came calling looking for them using her knowledge of the land to help him and also leaving supplies and provisions for them at the various places they hide out. With all the awareness of first nation people I am a little surprised that this has not become more widely documented.
As I was running a bit later than initially planned after my morning walk I went through Walcha (pronounced ‘Wolka’), only stopping at the John Oxley Cairn, which is a memorial cairn to John Oxley who camped near here en route to the coast in 1818.
The sign reads: “John Oxley Surveyor General on his journey of exploration to the coast camped approximately 1 mile S.E. of here 8th September, 1818.”
As you leave town, there is a totem pole looking sculpture, with what looked from a distance to be a rubber chicken with outreached wings. It’s real name is “Black Cockatoo”,
created by local artist and farmer, Ross Laurie in tallowwood (1999), as part of the Walcha open air gallery
Gloucester was similarly by passed with only a stop at one of the viewing areas before continuing on Buckett’s way
(not named or related with the character Hyacinth Bucket in a British TV series “Keeping up Appearances” who insisted that Bucket was pronounced “bouquet”)
I probably could have saved some time to confirm I was heading in the correct direction – as I went toward Taree, not Stroud from Gloucester. Though the road name is the same, the direction is quite different – no harm done, it allowed me some time in opening hours to visit the Nabiac Motorcycle Museum to see what new things have been added since my last visit.
To my knowledge the Triumph Tina is a new exhibit,
but there are so many bikes, scooters, trail bikes, cars, micro cars and all sorts of associated memorabilia in the building you would probably have to compare pictures from your previous visit to current to be able to say with any certainty there is just so much stuff to see and take in there.
Down the motorway from there to get back a little time on the way to the next planned stop. Redhead beach Surf Life Saving Club. It is a beautiful beach, the water conditions were not something I would even consider, but the weathered life saver chair on a rocky outcrop with the cliff face behind it is an impress sight to see. Well worth the deviation for a look.
The next stop was to have a look at some caves that have coloured algae in them near Catherine Hill. The village is named after the Catherine Hill, a schooner that wrecked there in 1867. From the beach side carpark the most distinguishing feature being the Catherine Hill Bay Pier which is old decommissioned coal loading jetty that they are trying to save.
The old company town shacks are close to the road as you go up the hill from the beach, once you get to Montefiore Street which is the one I had in the GPS as it was closest to “Deep cave bay” and the The Moonee Beach Trail. You can see the new estate and the land between this and the jetty and coast line currently all fenced off with construction signs with banners attached of the new development being undertaken. The Eraring power station at Lake Macquarie is also in this area and inline for a 700MW battery which is the largest battery project currently under consideration in Australia. It will support the transition out of coal-fired generation by 2032, so some of the concerns about coal ash in the area will be addressed as the transition to renewables occurs.
Back onto the Pacific Motorway to the next stop off which was Terrigal beach. It had a real summer vibe with the beach side boardwalk with all the retailers then a staircase down to the beach with surf life saving stations and parks.
Would have liked to stay longer, but the day had run away from me again and unfortunately now in heavy traffic which was not going anywhere fast… on to Kincumber, I passed an impressive ramp looking road from the one I was on down to water side land.
A bit more weaving around, as edged closer to my destination I saw a boat on the side of the road I was half expecting to find a sign saying for sale – ran when parked.
It was good to finally put the stand down and check into the hotel, and get the scooter unloaded.
After a little down time, and a short reccy around the hotel, decided to eat in before walking along the beach to meet up with the rally goers at the Umina Beach Surf Life Saving club, it was dark now and seemed the most assured way of finding it, as there would be beach access and seemed better than navigating the roads in the hope of stumbling on the right place. Caught up with some people and got my QR code scanned and wrist band fitted, all that was left was to drink some beer till last drinks called and people started to disperse, the ones in the caravan park I assumed did not have far to go, but over the weekend I changed my mind on that as there was a good walk from the SLSC to the boom gate in the park and dependent where your cabin, glamping “Safari” tent, or site was located, I think some ended up with as many steps as I had in the opposite direction returning to the hotel.
Next day I set the alarm, but I had not synced my Fitbit, so it was lying to me as not on daylight saving time, my iPad I did not connect to Wi-Fi, so it was agreeing with my watch… the only thing that new the NSW time was my phone which unfortunately is not the device I set the alarm on… so I ended up being an hour later than planned and as there is no such thing as a little bit late, had some breakfast at the hotel and then went to first collect my eco-friendly riding bag with ‘Rally Pack’ goodies inside, sponsored by Cyclecraft Motorcycles Bondi.
Aside from missing the breakfast ingredients provided by Motorcycle Council of NSW that was prepared by the Woy Woy Lions club, who were funded by Your Right to Ride, I also missed the chat from about various safety and highway matters and the fun quiz by Your Right to Ride team.
The meeting point for the ride, was the car park near club Umina, which already had a diverse group of scooters and riders was gathering and walking around waiting for the ride brief. It was then that I got a sense of the fantastic rally feeling, seeing that the barriers were down to all scooter types, makes, and models getting together to socialise and enjoy the day, with more arriving by the minute.
This ride was being lead by the Aaron and Rory from the Vespa Club of Sydney. The pre-ride brief made it sound simple,
i.e., “once we get out of town and up the hill it is following the road to our destination”.
In practice it was a little more difficult as there was a lot of traffic that broke the group up into small chunks of people who did not know the route. As we got went along the road with the “stay on the road unless you see a corner marker instructing you to turn” became a bit more of a risk, I dropped back to just in front of the tail end rider, which was handy when we got to the Central Coast Highway at the end of Woy Woy road. The group turned left, then pulled over immediately after turning the corner. He was able to explain that we need to be in the right-hand lane to be able to turn into the Kangoo road – toward the Australian Reptile Park. Stopping made things a little harder, but once the traffic got a red light it was possible to get going and across before the turning traffic arrived.
The most prominent thing we could see as approached Jerry’s café was the two full marked police cars. Once parked, one could survey a mix of motorcycles with the newly arrived scooters. It was a good stop though, as was already well attended by motorcycle riders who were a little amused and bemused at the sudden arrival of a swarm of scooters. Full points to Jerry’s staff, they would have no problem getting their daily step count up wandering the carpark with coffee or food orders trying to locate the owners which seemed to have forgotten ordering seeing how long it took to locate some of them.
I had not opened my rally pack at this point, so was a little uncertain if this was intermission or the destination, so had not ordered anything when I saw Kim and Cam from the The Splitters Scooter Club Sydney getting ready to ride, so I asked if I could tag along. We went back in the direction we came a short distance to another not as well attended café at the intersection of the road we turned into, which was a treat, great road surface and some nice twisties on Bumble Hill road to ride down. I looked in my mirrors and saw a familiar red T-Max; who sat behind for a while – then decided the road had more potential than our current ride leader, so went around at the next opportunity and waited at the bottom for us to pass.
I believe the guys riding the Hunted Scooters liked it enough to turn around at the bottom, ride back up to the Kulnura General Store intersection to ride down the road again. It was probably a wise move as got to the Pacific Highway intersection, it was a decent wait to get out of the street and on our way. The four of us did manage to stay together, but I do not recall much of the ride back as it was in traffic and residential/commercial areas for a good portion of the ride…. It may have been different to the official route, but was ready to get back to the rally HQ for the show and shine.
There was no award for the type of scooter I was riding so there was no real reason to park the scooter in the show other than to fill out the park, the other riders of larger scooters also parked in the show and shine, with the owner of the BMW CX400 actually taking the time and effort to give it an extra wipe over and polish before the scrutineering commenced. There was some pretty good prizes and trophies on offer and some of the scooters that did not make the ride out to Jerry’s started to appear.
It was a good mix of old and new, large and small with the addition of some quirky and unique scooters on show. A late arrival and eventual trophy winner was the Lambretta three wheeler, though at the opposite end of the park it was hard not to be impressed by the gold Lambretta cutdown complete with engraved cases, owned by the same person as it turned out.
The scooter rally had an official T-shirt which could be pre-ordered before the rally, but as I looked around it seemed there was a few rally T-shirts that had been printed, most notable was the Scooterettes.
Not only did they have a rally T-shirt, they had variations of their scooter shirts. The Scooterettes was formed by five good friends from the Hunter Valley NSW craving a bit of fun during Covid! Just a funny drunk conversation that became a serious “Thing” and they made it happen!!
The original five has grown to nine members all good friends supporting each other in everything they do. They ride a range of brand scooters, many of which have their own names.
The Scooterettes ride as often as they can and organise an overnight trip almost every month. Their next will be travelling to Mudgee in just a few weeks. As their Slogan says “it’s all about the ride”
The Newcastle scooters one was pretty good, inspired by a beer label and including the “No, I don’t want a Harley” at the bottom,
but there were a few others I might have missed and of course the very stylish Scooter Meccanica (Sandy’s Speed Shop) Ed Roth style T-shirts.
It was a pretty relaxed atmosphere and more scooters added to the show as time passed. The people’s choice judging was done on the back of some coasters with pens from of Your Right to Ride – who helped out all weekend, it was a pretty easy decision for me. I had already made my mind up which I would vote for before the coasters came around, so quickly completed it and popped it in the box then thought about heading back to the room for a break before the evening’s event and trophy awards.
After catching up on a few things I went for a walk around town to have a better look, and see what meal options were available. I was recommended to go to “Sounds On West” which is an American style bar & barbeque which having a look at the menu near the entry would have been my choice, but seems it is not a well-kept secret as they were booked out, so on to check out the next option of Chinese, at the Silver Dragon.
I met a local at the door and had a chat with her. She was waiting for a take away order as this was her Nan’s favourite restaurant the family was very familiar with their menu and recommended the food. I did go in and look at the menu, but ended up deciding it was a bit early for dinner, so went back up the street for an ice cream from Sundae Sesh opposite the hotel, then walked down to the beach. I had dinner in the hotel before walking over to Club Umina, the venue for the night
As noted, the plans the organisers had changed as the event reschedule and also the Covid-19 restrictions still in place in NSW which meant no band if you cannot dance, or drink standing up, etc.
Caught up with some people I enjoy the company of as we waited to see who the winners would be:
1. ‘Best Vespa’ Sponsored by Vespa Club Sydney – Blue/Green GT – Tony Shirley/Previous Owner
2. ‘Best Lambretta’ Sponsored by Lambretta Club of Australia – FD150 3 wheeler – Luca Bartolomei
3. ‘Best Custom’ Sponsored by Scooter Meccanica – Gold Lambretta – Luca Bartolomei
4. ‘Best Classic Vespa’ Sponsored by Vespa Club of Australia – Red SS90 Vespa – Paul Constantine
5. ‘Wackiest Scooter’ Sponsored by Hunted Scooters – Gold Lambretta – Luca Bartolomei
6. ‘Best Modern’ Sponsored by CycleCraft Motorcycles Bondi – Silver RA180 – Joff Lett
7. ‘Furthest Ridden Scooter’ Sponsored by Pro-Racer Motorcycles and Scooters – Awarded to Sharon Heritage by the Rally Collective (a.k.a. The Lionhearts s.c.), and accepted on behalf of the group that rode to the rally from Tasmania, comprising Peter Jones, Keith Bingham and Sharon Heritage
8. ‘Best Mod Style Scooter’ Sponsored by Classic Scooters Sydney – Black PX200 – Sharon Heritage
9. ‘Shabbiest Scooter That Made It’ Sponsored by Lionhearts SC Sydney – Red PX200 – David Atkinson
10. ‘People’s Choice Award’ from Scooter Meccanica – Green PX200 – Lee Sutch
Sharon was invited up to talk about the next rally, as most years people have already approached her to offer to run the next event before the current one, which means on the last night you know where you will be traveling to next. But as COVID has danced this one around, all she could do was encourage people to talk to her and accordingly we will have to wait and see.
Some of the rumours were the Hobart Motor Scooter club members banding together to take the rally to the Apple Isle, there was some other talk of a Queensland host, but who knows. South Australia might stick their hand up to host the rally, as it was not quite the same without the Southsiders and Dynamos in attendance.
All of the formalities out of the way it was time to draw the door prizes that had been donated by Classic Scooters Sydney, Scooter Meccanica and Hunted Scooters. The scooter collective had been given the boxes but didn’t look in them until the night. As previously noted they were unable to book a band, but that probably would have been a waste of money, as the venue became a bit of of a bingo hall, with numbers being called out over the P.A. to award the door prizes, which due to the generous nature of the sponsors, took what seemed like three times longer than the trophy presentations…
Some great loot, I won a Scomadi T-shirt (bonus it was a size that fits me), but there was also handle bar phone holders,
Hunted branded leather wallets and a variety of other good loot that kept people checking their tickets.
The following morning there was the sponsored breakfast, this time the food was sponsored by Shannons Insurance and Your Right to Ride again funding the Lions Club of Woy Woy to cook; who were a bit surprised at the low attendance, but there would have been a few sleeping in before packing to check out and load their gear on scooters or leaving it at the NRMA desk to be retrieved later in the day. All the food bar one sausage roll was consumed, so the rally goers must have emerged and eaten before the Lions cleaned up and packed their BBQ trailer for a final time.
We had a little time to kill before grouping up at the Club Umina carpark for the Sunday ride out. The expectation was that the numbers would be down a little, as there was some who had seen the weather forecast and decided to make a run for it before the storms that were forecast, so that dropped quite a few people South of the NSW border and also the group that rode up from Tasmania. However, there was still a great turn out for the ride that today would be led by Brad, from the Oily Vapours scooter club.
Maybe there was an after-action review of the Saturday ride out as in this morning’s pre-ride brief a bit more emphasis on who the lead and tail end riders were and what they would be riding, and clarification that if you are corner marking that you stay there until you see the tail end rider then re-join in front of him.
The ride went well, there was a person on all the corners we need some guidance on, the group even managed to ride past someone with some mechanical gremlins, and leave the tail end to see if he could help or if they needed to call the support number. (there had also been some clarification on what an acceptable reason to call was – and “I have run out of petrol” was one of the specific examples of things not to call the number for. A fair call as you should know to arrive with enough fuel.)
We rode a different route to the previous, this time passing through Kincumber, then along the coast to The Entrance before crossing over to The Entrance North and our destination. The organisers had arranged with the North Entrance Surf Living Saving Club permission to park the scooters on the grass in front of the club, to give some good photo opportunities with the beach behind, and later to go into the club to take photos from the balcony to get a different perspective on the line up of scooters.
The sun had a bit of bite to it, so after initially being seated in the sun, it did not take long till people gravitated to the shade near the café that was doing a great job keeping up with the orders. As the destination was on the way home, I had all my stuff packed and strapped to the scooter, which meant I did not have to leave at any particular time, when I had enough dodging the sun, it was easy to get the helmet and gloves back on and followed the Central Coast highway and Wilfred Barrett drive to get on my way North and on to the Pacific Highway till my exit to Nabiac.
I arrived earlier than anticipated due to the decision not to return to Umina from North Entrance, and could have fitted in a visit to the museum, but after some full days of riding and scooter rally I settled for a walk around town. A number of patina or restored houses, including a renovator delight that seems to have lost its way a little, a couple of bric-a-brac shops and a really nice café that I managed to get into before closing time.
This was followed by some time enjoying the air con in the bar, and later an excellent meal. The Nabiac motel part of the complex is a low cost and clean option, the bistro is more fitting to a five star, with some great choices on offer. Don’t wait too long to order though as the items were selling out. I ordered the last Lemon Peppered Barramundi and it was perfection, both the cooking and presentation.
There was storms predicted for the next six days, but fortunately they take some heat to cook them up to being a problem, so they fire up mid afternoon (about the time mum’s are trying to do the school run). So I was up early getting packed and on my way, so that I could get off the road before they were active.
Easy ride up the highway to my exit at Bago road, near Herons Creek. The road is well worth riding, and it has received some “Black Spot Funding” to improve and upgrade it. So the road surface is new, some of the Armco is new, though still has sections of wire rope barrier, but the improvement that seemed to me to have the most potential to hurt someone is that they have sprayed rough finish concrete in the swales next to the road.
The rough finish and exposed aggregate would turn it into a course side of a cheese grater if someone were to ride beyond their ability and did not have PPE to save them from the abrasive finish. It is about 15km of windy road that takes you in to Wauchope and the reason for being out this way, The Oxley highway.
Just out of Wauchope is a location that was known as the big log water hole from which the town’s folk of Wauchope gained fresh water and was a congregating point for bullock teams and travellers to rest and graze stock before continuing the trip to Port Macquarie. The stream is still there, but now the location is a heritage display and experience with steam sawmill, train and other attractions.
From here the road takes a few twists and turns before some straighter sections through grazing land, punctuated with “New Work, No Lines Marked” on roads that look like they will due to be maintained and sprayed with asphalt again before the lines are there. Could not see too much, as the valley had a fog settled in it, which was nice and cool. It was not long though before the road started to climb and become more interesting to ride. I stopped at Mount Seaview to take a picture of the fog in the valley
before continuing on to Ginger’s Creek Roadhouse, which unfortunately was closed.
Got to feel for the owners, as they would have barely recovered from when the bushfires went through the area in 2019 and closed the Oxley Highway for two months between Long Flat and Walcha on October 15th 2019 due to fire damage to infrastructure. Gingers Creek lost one of its cabins to the fire, but was able to save most of it when the owner stayed to defend his property.
On the 12th October 2020 – more or less a year later they had a visit from the police which resulted in fines due to COVID-19 rules they had unintentionally breached. Local council is no longer accepting underground fuel storage and as it is the only fuel stop between Walcha and Ellenborough, 50 kilometers west of the coastal town, it’s a problem. The answer is that they are redeveloping their fuel storage to an above ground solution while also replacing the lost cabin and making good other fire damage.
From a selfish point of view, I really could have done with them being open, as the gauge was on it’s way down to “E”.
I saw the sign to Tia Falls and under normal circumstances would have gone for a look. Other people’s pictures of Tia Falls and Tiara walk on the internet made it a worthy side trip, but with the fuel situation, kept going on to Walcha.
I saw the signage for Aspley Falls, which included a distance and having been strong at the Tia Falls turn decided to chance it and go in to look at the falls and Lions Lookout. There is a gorge rim walking track loop with a suspension bridge to cross the river, but I settled for a trip to the Apsley falls lookout, which was a short walk from the carpark. The falls were discovered by John Oxley in 1818 who wrote of being “lost in astonishment at the sight of this wonderful sublimity”.
The lower falls lookout platform access was taped off due to structural concerns, but the view I had was impressive enough, and descending a 52-meter steel stairway may have been a good idea at the top, I may have regretted it coming back up.
The area is thought to have been occupied by the Dunghutti/Dunggadi Indigenous tribes prior to white settlement, and the sign at Lion’s lookout goes some way to explaining why the history may be a little unclear, as there is some evidence that early settlers chased local Indigenous people to the edge of the gorge and forced them to jump to their death off the cliffs.
My current destination was Walcha (pronounced ‘Wolka’, which is thought to mean “sun” in the language of the local Nganyaywana and Dyangadi people) and hopefully a fuel stop without having to push it, so elected to back the speed off to below the posted limit to improve my chances, as the needle was now at the very bottom of the red zone. I took a slightly different path through town to that on the way to the rally, as now instead of wanting to get to the other side as quickly as possible I wanted to maximise my chances of refueling the scooter.
Very happy to have made it without pushing and while filling I noticed that the Lambretta that was rising back to the Sunshine coast and his support rider were already parked up at at the Walcha café. They had stopped at Glouster overnight. His scooter had initially been drinking fuel, to the point they were carrying some to keep up with it’s thirst, but after dropping the carb needle it was better and bogging down less… so they were pretty happy with that and on the way to their next stop in Tenterfield.
The café has a great collection of things in and outside the building and in the garden, with sculptures, antiques and oddities scattered around to catch your eye.
I departed before then, but saw them again when I was stopped outside the iron and lace works on the edge of town, when I could hear before I could see the Lambretta and seeing it pass from a distance reminded me that his ride was going to be more of an achievement, not only for being longer, it has none of the luxuries of the Burgman.
McCrossin’s mill museum has a number of displays, James Rainey “Sunny Jim” Mackay, born near Uralla on September 9, 1880, who went on to be “best batsman in the world” (Don Bradman was 25 years later). Mackay was selected in the NSW team, and was opening batsman for New South Wales when he made his debut in 1902-03. He moved to South Africa where he dominated again for Transvaal but his eyesight was damaged when a motorbike knocked him down and his brief, but dazzling career, was cut short.
Mackay moved back to Sydney and tried to regain his place in the New South Wales side but his injury was too debilitating and he was forced to retire.
On the next level an extensive gallery to Chinese immigrants and why they were here and some of the challenges that they faced, as people came chasing the “New Gold Mountain”. Many Chinese joined the rush to the “Gold Mountain” (California) from 1849. When gold was discovered in Ballarat in 1851, then Bendigo, thousands of Chinese headed for the “New Gold Mountain” (Australia). To try and stem the flow the Victorian Government applied a poll tax of ten pounds per head. To avoid this tax, British merchant ships put the Chinese ashore in nearby South Australia.
The Chinese simply walked to the Victorian Goldfields, from the beginning of 1856, some trekked to Rocky River Gold Fields. Late in 1856 Rocky River had its greatest population with some 5,000 inhabitants. Armidale’s population at that time numbered about 860.
The NSW Government passed the Chinese Immigration Regulation and Restriction Act in 1861. (repealed in 1867 when it was thought the Gold Rush was over).
As interesting as the display was, the main reason for my visit was the next level, the Captain Thunderbolt display.
It is well worth a visit if you are in the area, as has a rich collection of local indigenous artifacts presenting the pre-contact existence of the traditional Anaiwan people.
A very recently commissioned display after finding a a tin trunk inside a boarded-up fireplace of a building which was threatened with demolition. Inside this trunk was another in pristine condition containing a treasure trove of artifacts relating to the Stoker family.
After finishing in the museum and apparently missing some rain as the scooter was very wet when I returned to it, I continued on my way on ThunderBolts Way through Rocky River and on to Inverell to visit the National Transport Museum.
I had been calling messaging and e-mailing the place I thought I had booked for the night, as the clouds were now very imposing and my next priority was to find shelter. The people at the desk of the museum were very concerned and even prepared to use their own cell phone to try the place I had been calling and getting a busy tone. He was able to get straight through and the person that answered said I did not have a reservation, so after thanking them for their assistance and offers of help I went off to see where I could get a room. I called in at Cousins Motor Inn and they were able to assist and get me checked in and out of the weather which had already started with lightning, but now the wind and rain had joined the party. Much better to be unpacked and sipping tea, than riding across open plans through pastural land with little or no shelter.
I had planned to drop my stuff off and ride out to the Myall Creek Memorial. On the afternoon of Sunday 10 June 1838, a group of eleven convicts and ex-convict stockmen led by a squatter brutally slaughtered a group of twenty-eight Wirrayaraay people – men, women and children who were camped peacefully at the station of Myall Creek in the New England region.
Although many other massacres of indigenous people occurred during the Frontier Wars across Australia, this one had special significance because it was the only time when white men were arrested, charged and seven of the murderers hung for their part in the massacre of First Nation Peoples following a police investigation.
An early knock, but the rain was there till around sunset which allowed a quick scout around before settling in for the night with the tele remote.
The next day would be my last on the road, with a stop in Ashford before continuing on to the Kwiambal ( Kigh-am-bal ) National Park to visit the Macintyre Falls and The Dungeon lookout.
As I was leaving Inverell it seems I had a sound night’s sleep as there must have been more rain after I turned the light out. The motorcycle park was looking like you would not get many laps in before mud would cake the tyres till they touch the mudguards.
All the crossings of creeks and water ways had vegetation pushed over quite a bit higher than the current water levels.
The next town after Inverell is Ashford, which seemed like a nice little village, has a very well equipped Caltex, great facilities at the park which I used on may way to the town centre, which as it turned out does not have as much life as what I had seen to date, most of the buildings are no longer trading and the Commercial Hotel closed in 2012 (there is a large protest sign in the street noting this and how sad it is.
This sums it up…..written but a former Ashfordian – Kim Van Scherpenseel (nee Sharp)
It’s a sad day when the “pub has no beer” but it’s a much sadder day when the “town has no pub”.
Nearby is the equally closed Strand theatre – opposite the closed Bakery.
I turned into the side road to Kwiambal National Park, which was sealed, but then at a stock grate it turned to dirt, which is generally not a problem, however there was some soft patches and eroded sections that slowed the pace right down, as the ruts were deep enough to be a problem for Burgman sized wheels, a couple more stock grids then a floodway with some quite quick moving water going over it. The depth was not as much a concern, but with the flow of the water and the chances this would not be the only crossing affected by the recent rains.
I made the decision to turn around and save the visit for another time, as though the waterfalls would have been made a little more spectacular, it was a bit hard on me and the scooter if the road conditions stayed the same as what I had seen to this point.
The next township I noticed after joining the Bruxner highway was Bonshaw, but it seemed to be a place best seen in the rearview mirrors as I continued on my way to Texas.
A couple of photo stops with entering Qld and Texas signage before arriving in the main street of Texas.
Texas sits on Bigambul land, the Indigenous people of the region prior to colonisation in the 1840s.
The land in the area was first settled by the McDougall brothers in 1840 and named it Cullybullan. In 1843, returning from the goldfields, the brothers found squatters. Once their legal right to the land was recognised, they re-named their property Texas in honour of the rather more famous dispute between the United States and Mexico over territory in Texas, USA. The town took its name from the Texas pastoral station which was the largest landholding in the area.
Up until about 1986, tobacco farming was an important industry in the area and many Italian families settled the area to run and work the tobacco farms. Historically it has suffered from natural disasters including floods in 1890, 1921 and 2011 as well as a serious rabbit plague in the 1920s.
The towns historic rabbit works was the primary reason for coming home this route, so after a ride through I had a look at my watch which said it was after 10, so off I went to the Rabbit works to find people there, but they were behind a locked door and looking confused that I thought it was open.
The Fitbit strikes again, as once I looked at my phone I could see that not only had I crossed the border I had also changed from daylight savings time, so it was now nine something AM. They were there to start an engine, so I returned to town to find a coffee and have a bit more of a look around after refilling the tank of the scooter.
The Texas Memorial Hall, was the immediate pick for a photo opportunity, but opposite is the Spirit of Texas sculpture commissioned in response to the devastating 2011 flood of a water bird, that echoes the image of a phoenix- a symbol of the Texas community’s ability to overcome adversity.
After a coffee and confirming it was after 10am Queensland time I returned to the Rabbit Works
Pre-1790 Governor Phillip brings five ‘silver greys’ to Australia, followed by 45 ‘domesticated’ rabbits arrive in Sydney from South Africa. During the following years the rabbit population spread quickly across Australia and down into Tasmania.
1865 – ‘Rabbit Shooter’ becomes acknowledged as financially viable trade, during the 1930’s when Australia was in the grip of the Great Depression, rabbit trappers were among the highest income earners in Texas.
Built in 1928 the Texas Rabbit Works is the last rabbit processing works remaining in Australia. The business ceased operation in 1992 but during the period between 1930 and 1960 this was a thriving industry when rabbits were in plague proportions throughout the district. Employing 33 people and processing 6,000 rabbits a day the rabbit works was a major business in the district.
It wasn’t uncommon for kids to make 10 pounds (almost $500 in today’s money) for a weekends of work trapping rabbits then selling them to the Rabbit Works for export to America and England.
One enterprising young lady was able to earn enough money selling rabbit skins to purchase a baby Triumph car in 1930, paying 250 pounds.
The rabbit industry was so significant to Australia, that for over 30 years (1929-1960) the value of rabbits to Australia’s economy was more lucrative than coal. The industry was almost wiped out within a few short years when the Myxomatosis virus was introduced during the early 1950’s having a significant impact on the town of Texas.
Once I was finished at the museum it basically became a run home, via Oman Ama, and Karara, with a refuel stop in Allora (no the name is not from Italian origin, though it is a word you will hear as you travel Italy), Its name is believed to derive from an Indigenous Githabul tribe word “gnarrallah”, meaning waterhole or swampy place).
A photo stop outside the Mary Poppins house, where Helen Goff, the daughter of bank manager Travers Robert Goff., aka TL Travers, writer of Mary Poppins. The house built in 1879 was a bank premises and manager’s house for the Australian Joint Stock Bank. The family Goff family lived here for two years from 1905 till his death two year’s later after being ill for three days at the age of 43.
I left via Allora drive over the Dairymple creek, before continuing on the New England Highway, then via Pilton on the Gatton Clifton road which is a road I enjoy riding. Particularly the section between West Haldon and Fordsdale, though today looked like it may be a bit of a challenge as there was rain clouds over the roads I was about to ride.
As gloomy as it looks in the photo, by the time I was there the rain had passed and all that was left was some wet roads, which was the best outcome I could hope for, no stop to put on rain gear, just a lunch stop at the Ma Ma Creek Store.
The burger was great the weather was getting better, so once I had a full tummy, rode on.. Could see where the rain had been in Gatton, but from here it was a run up the Warego highway to home.