Located in the Berri/Renmark area of South Australia, the National Scooter Rally is an Australian “All Inclusive” event run by scooterists, for scooterists. It’s also a not-for-profit organization. By “All Inclusive”, they mean all scooters are welcome, whether it’s a Honda Spacey, Vespa GT, Lambretta Li, or Aprilia Scarabeo. They even don’t mind the odd motorbike. This year’s event ran from April 1 through was organized by Sharon Heritage of the Hobart Motor Scooter Club, with sponsorship and swag such as cool gear and Vespa seat covers provided by Cosmic Breed.
Due to the distance from Queensland (and that I have already planned another use of my annual leave for the year) the only practical way to attend the rally was to find a rental scooter close to the rally location. Fortunately, this was made possible by Show and Go Motorcyles in Sommerton Park, Adelaide. Paul confirmed they had a a white SYM Firenze 300i available, so a deposit was paid and flights were booked. I arrived late in the evening on Wednesday the 30th of March and booked into a hotel nearby the Norfolk Motor Inn. It is clean and well serviced with a cafe opposite.
Day One: Thursday March 31
The South Australian Scooter Club welcomes machines of many makes and models. They promote the benefits of motor scooters and are all riding enthusiasts who love to be on two wheels (sometimes three). When I arrived at the shop two of the SAS ride co-ordinators, Eric Clapham and Skoota Hamilton were already there waiting for me.
Skoota unfortunately had other commitments, but Eric was able to help guide me out of town safely. I had done a bit of research prior to arriving and hoped to travel via Gorge road, which was acceptable to Eric who also recommended a stop at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood. We did this after a very nice brekkie at Cudlee Creek.
From there we continued together to the Murray River crossing at Walker Flat. After coffee and farwell, Eric made his way home and I continued on taking the ferry across the river and then travelling via Loxton, and Berri to Renmark.
Day Two: Friday April 1:
Rally pack pickup was available from 9:00 AM at the holiday park. At 11:)) AM, we met at the holiday park gates for a ride out at the Bella Lavender Farm, Winkie. After lunch, we continued on to the historic tourist town of Loxton and “The Village” tourist attraction – a recreation of an old style main street.
It was very interesting display with motion sensors to activate commentary for some of the displays and a range of antique equipment with “day in the life” style displays in some buildings. After a quick look through the Village I continued to explore Loxton, before returning via Berri and it’s waterfront precinct and scenic water tower to get a better sense of the town and it’s surrounds.
There was enough time and daylight remaining for a walk around Renmark before heading to the function room for dinner and entertainment provided by DJ Mitchell.
Day Three: Saturday APRIL 2:
We met at the holiday park gates at 10:30 AM for the Lake Bonney loop ride out, with lunch at the Blue Bird Cafe in Barmera. This was formerly a boatshed which housed Donald Campbell’s boat “Blue Bird” while it waited for perfect weather to try for the speed record on the lake.
After lunch, there was a divergence of groups and destinations. The group I rode back with stopped off in Monash, and the adventure playground. After some encouragement from Jock all rediscovered the inner child on the play equipment before returning to the holiday park in Renmark, and the Show and Shine in the park’s grounds, that began at 3:00 PM. This was a great setting on the grass under the trees.
I was invited to be one of the scrutineers for the Auto and Maxi scooter judging which was interesting to relook at the scooters through a different lense. After completion of the show and shine returned to the Renmark hotel for more music from DJ Mitchell and the later in the evening the awards presentation.
The winners were:
- Best Automatic Scooter (not including maxis) – Philip Spencer’s Vespa GTS250 – sponsored by Armadillo Scooterwear
- Best Geared Scooter – David Atkinson’s Vespa 150 Super – sponsored by Vespa House
- Best Maxi Scooter – Ben Kramer’s 1980s Honda Helix – sponsored by Suzuki.
- Best Custom/Modified Scooter – Martin Lindley’s Lambretta TV175 – sponsored by Scooter Style.
- Best Vintage Scooter (Pre 1977) – Trish Cameron’s 1959 Iso – sponsored by Vespa Club of Melbourne
- Best Unrestored/Rat Scooter – Mikey Erdelyi’s Vespa SS180 – trophy provided and prize sponsored by Southsiders Scooter Club, Adelaide
- Best in Show – Bob Reid’s Vespa VBA – sponsored by SS Scooter Engineering
- Best Vespa – Bob Reid’s Vespa VBA – sponsored by Vespa House
- Furthest Ridden – Gavin Rogers rode 1688kms from Armidale on his Vespa GTS300 – sponsored by GPS Imports
Day Four: Sunday April 3:
In theory Sunday held a chance to sleep in, but whether it was the end of daylight savings clock movements or something else, I found myself on the river bank watching the sunrise before breakfast and a 10:00 AM meet at the holiday park for the short ride to the Riverland Field Days site on the way to Barmera.
The the gymkhana wasn’t competitive — just a bit of messing around in a field with our scooters and a few old tyres etc. The grass was a bit long and wet for the maxi scooters, but there were a few who took to the track for slalom, slow race and small timed circuit which ran until 12.30 PM. Participants were required to sign a form releasing Riverland Field Days management from legal liability in case someone injured themselves, but there was no need. Other than a small incident with the teter totter plank no one or machine was injured during the event.
After the gymkhana, some continued on home and others returned to the Monash Adventure park. I went and had a look at the Rose Garden and Motor Museum as the garden is the largest rose garden in Australia and it’s founder is recognized for his knowledge. There were some interesting vehicles in their collection, including a South Australian-built Lightburn Zeta sports car and a Skoota Mota scooter.
Rolf and Beth offered to host a last meal at their cabin later that evening, so a quick trip to the supermarket and opportunity to watch the sun set for the last time in Renmark from the balcony of their cabin. I had not finalized the way home beyond knowing I wanted to travel via Murray Bridge as the German Villages, and I’d received some local advice to travel via Sedan. Later at the hotel I Goggle-mapped the route another couple planned to take via the Baroosa Valley and then Walker Flat before crossing into Victoria at Pinnaroo on route to Ouyen. While looking at their route I saw my new travel plan of following the Murray river to Bowhill and then crossing at Mannum to continue to Murray Bridge.
Day Five: Monday April 4
To be confident of getting the scooter back to Show and Go Motorcycles and my flight, I was up early again setting off before the sun. With hindsight I should have put on some layers or at least stuffed some newspaper down my jacket. Though the SYM Firenze has a windshield, it was not enough to prevent wind chill on my arms and chest before I reached Loxton. I had a better look around Wunkar on the way through to Nildottie, which is a small town on the Murray river with magnificent views over the river and cliffs.
After a ride/look around Bowhill I asked some local advice from some tradesmen who were standing near the road. Their advise was to travel via a town called Younghusband, which I had not even noticed when planning my ride.
“Turn right and then follow that road till you see house remains near the road then turn into the road opposite that and follow it and it will take you out near Mannum – do not know the name of the road.” they told me.
It was great advice, and the ruins were found and that E Front road followed the Murray River with some great vantage points before arriving at the Younghusband General Store and Cafe The scooter was refuelled, followed by a “big brekky” – get some blood back into my fingers and enjoy the scenery watching houseboats go by.
The Murray river crossing was made at Cowirra arriving in Mannum and after a look around town road along River Lane through the Mary Anne reserve before taking Mannum road to Murray Bridge. A quick look through town before going to the river front to take a picture of the bridge and lucked onto the Captain Proud Paddle boat departing its wharf. All this before continuing through Sturt reserve to find the Old Princess Highway. Hard to imagine this was once the primary road for travel between South Australia and Victoria. I have a lot of respect for any truck drivers who travelled it when it was the only road. Fortunately for me it is bypassed by most travellers who prefer the express way, making it a great ride through some scenic country and small towns en route to the German Village of Hahndorf.
Being Autumn in Australia the deciduous trees that line the street through the village were all in the process of changing colour which added to the charm.
This was then followed up by a visit to the Mount Lofty Botanical gardens via Bridgewater after finding that Grumpy’s Brewhaus does not open on Mondays.
From here I took Greenhill road which included some great views over the valleys and Adelaide city
before arriving back at Show and Go Motorcycles who checked the scooter over before booking a taxi to take me to the airport.
A huge thank you to Sharon Heritage for organizing this event, to Skoota and Eric from SA Scooters for their hospitality, and to all the other participants at the rally for making it such an enjoyable and memorable weekend.
The location of the 2017 Australian National Scooter Rally has already been revealed. It will be held in Griffith, New South Wales. Planning is underway for this city rich in Italian culture and history. Attactions will include the Festa delle Salsicce (Festival of the Sausage) and Griffith is home to some well known wine makers in the Riverina region, among other attractions.