It was looking to be a perfect day for it, 30 degrees, slight breeze, and so it turned out, in fact, apart from some mechanical hassles for two of the punters, everything else turned out perfectly too.
I had asked them to notify me if they were coming by midday the day before, so that I would not have to over-print trial materials, and with one exception they all did. And the last one I found out about at 5pm that day, when I had not finished printing.
And they all turned up on time, and they all parked where I had asked them to. Who said you can't herd Cats? It's possible!!!!!
I was manning the main controls, and Deaf John and his mate Willy Farnell were manning the others. I was in the MGTC Rocket and they were in Willy's ALFA, so there was no question about our ability to outrun the buggers. As an act of generousity, Deaf John had lent his Studebaker Ute to Stuey and his sister, because their Dodge Ute was ill.
Oz and his mate Barry were in the A Model Ford, and Barry had generously offered to provide tea, coffee and biscuits free to everyone before the start, (at Deaf John's place,) which was greatly appreciated, not least by Frazzle, a notorious biscuit hound.
His modus operandi is quite impressive to watch. First he selects the nark, then places himself directly in front and gives them the pleading "I'm a poor starving whippet look". If that doesn't work quickly enough, he starts pacing on the spot so as to attract their eyes to the movement. The next phase is a subtle whimper, followed by a discrete woof, and then, as a final resort, a louder, more emphatic woof! His strike rate is about 95%, and only those determined to resist get away. He ate an enormous number of biscuits that morning and was stuffed the rest of the day.
The Inaugural Wherethefuckarewe Trial was marred by me making too many assumptions. I readily admit this, and was determined to avoid a repeat, so the briefing was thorough. I explained the way a Tulip Trial works and how to recognise when you have gone astray, and addressed some of the other problems the punters had experienced.
All early conversation among the assembled was about one topic: would the Brickie front up?
A number said he had gone on another trip to the Murray, others said his cars were not going, yet others said he had told them he was not coming. Why did it matter? After his win in the first one, he had stirred the possum relentlessly with a series of emails extolling his superiority in these matters, and putting shit on everyone else.
He turned up, not late, but last, and in another instance of provocation did a little "close" parking of his Nash behind the Hobbit's Essex. All the stories had been disinformation designed to stir everyone up, and it had worked.
Signed them in, gave them their time out and their trial instructions, and sent them on their way. So far so good, but early days. So much could go wrong. Tulip Trials are fraught with danger. They are easy to run with no maps required, but they are tricky, in that it is so easy to miss a road, especially if you are operating in state forests. Even though we pre-ran the trial with a navigator who had not been part of the design stage, it is still so easy to stuff up. Thanks, Roger for your help.
We took them through the Fryers Range State Forest, just west of Taradale, then down through the Loddon State Forest to just near Glenlyon, then to a mineral spring called Woolnough's Spring where we gave them 20 minutes rest.
The roads up to that point had varied from tarmac(very little) to superior dirt, as can be seen on the right, to terrible, corrugated, rutted, forest tracks. That mixture pretty much replicates the roads of the 1920's.
I had lent my 46 Hudson Staff Car to my brother-in-law, John, and explained that I had not had time to replace a rear shocker that had been damaged on the High Country Tour. He, like me when we tested the track, experienced the sensation of the enormous car shimmying sideways around corrugated corners. Very exciting stuff!
Also coming to grief very early on was Brendan and Leyah in the Minerva Zeppelin (shown at far bottom of this report).
Brendan usually plays with the club I describe as that which is often mistaken for The Victorian Senior Citizens Club (unfairly as the Senior Cits are a much younger demographic).
That mob rarely go on dirt, and virtually never on the sort of goat tracks we choose for the Ferals. These tracks did it for Brendan. The corrugations loosened layers of ancient grot that had been undisturbed by the boulevards of Brighton, and floated them gently into his fuel pump, which unfortunately was placed before his fuel filter.
They made it to lunch after we had left, and caught up with us at the end. Being such a nice day, they didn't seem too put out by the breakdown.
The time at the spring was to be 20 minutes on top of the set average speed for the section, and I tried an innovation which worked well, and especially well for some later on.
I told them it was important for them to time themselves in and out of the stop, and make it exactly 20 minutes. This was important in that the scoring was by negative points: 1 point for every minute late, 2 points for every minute early.
While they were out at the springs enjoying themselves I was sweating it out on the verandah of the Old Hepburn Hotel, and not because of the heat. On the previous Trial all except 2 had come in over an hour late and from the wrong direction, and I did not want that again.
I was not a little pleased to see the appearance of the Crossley Snail piloted by Yandoit Andy with partner Katie and Boy George, and they were 3 minutes early. I had specifically advised him of the folly of having wife/partner/mistress as navigator as it could all end in tears, but they seemed to have come through it OK. "Early days yet!" I warned him.
Then bugger me if up the track comes Bro John in the Hudson, also 3 minutes early! He came up and said "I knew Andy was first out, and we were sixth, and we'd caught up with him, so I thought we'd wait around the corner for a bit."
I told him I did not need to know that, but I was a little concerned in the fast development of rat cunning in someone on his first car trial.
Then they all came in, and all from the right direction. Bendigo Bob in the Left Hand Drive Buick, Rex Walrus, who normally punts the feral SS1 around, in a very shiny Mark V Jaguar, (though a little less shiny after the forest).
I was processing them pretty quickly, as they were a little bunched, when Paul The Choir Boy who had navigated for Dr Spock in the 1964 EH Holden, and had been waiting said to me: "You're working to a system, and I've just worked out what it is!" He told me, and the bastard was right, but I said: "You can't rely on that system for Section 2. It's different." It was, but not by much. Rat Cunning was rampant!
We found out about the Minerva breakdown, and speculated a bit about what they could possibly be doing to while away the time in the bush. Then after lunch, it was time to send them off again. Here I made the mistake of sending them off with too little time between them. I reckon, in future, 2 clear minutes between cars is the minimum.
The second section was a total contrast from the first. This was the wide open country around Smeaton; rolling hills, extinct volcanoes, abandoned deep gold mines, great views.
The roads were half tarmac and half good dirt. The challenge for the punters was to keep the speed down, which virtually none did.
The first stop was at the Cumberland Pub in Smeaton where they had 30 minutes to have a beer and find out who the 9th owner was: Patrick Malachi Dooley, who may, or may not, have been Irish.
Most of them arrived in a bunch, and I hung around until they took themselves off, after their 30 minutes. I was very pleased that this system of self regulation was working because it certainly made the organisation easier.
As I was preparing to leave, up rocked Oz and Barry in the A Model. They told me that the Hobbit was having a bit of grief with the Essex, and they had stayed there to help, so they were a bit late.
I reminded Oz that he was to time himself on the stop, and that I was going. A look of satisfaction came over his face, "Off course I will." he said as I drove off.
The country around Smeaton is dotted with the remnants of deep mining; enormous slag heaps and very substantial, multi storey brick buildings that once housed crushing facilities. All very picturesque in that wild windswept country.
We had asked at the Smeaton Pub, on our planning run, about a famous bridge in the vacinity, but they knew nothing about it, which did not surprise us as locals often are ignorant about what is in their own backyards. It was by the purest chance that we turned down a road and found it.
The bridge, on the Creswick-Lawrence Road (a couple of miles from Smeaton), is a twin span Monier Arch bridge, opened in 1900, and designed by Monash Anderson Engineering.
That is indeed the same Sir John Monash who became Australia's greatest WWI general, and after whom the University is named.
The story of this bridge is a great saga of corruption, incompetence, and tight-arsed penny pinching, and you can read the whole story by clicking on the pic on the right.
The short version is this. Monash designed the bridge, but the Council wanted to save money by using local mine rubble, instead of expensive aggragate in the concrete. Monash was horrified at this and insisted that his subcontractors at least build the two arches and the piers, so as to be certain of their crucial integrity. Which is what they did.
The council then sub-contracted the roadway and the bridge sides out to a mob who not only used the mine tailings, with their weak clays and other impurities, but they also omitted steel reinforcement, and the whole upper structure is moving and cracking up as can be seen from the pics.
Went on to the pub and waited for them to arrive, which they all did within 5 minutes of each other. All except, that is, The Minerva, the Essex and Rex in the Jag who had stopped to help the Hobbit, and make sure that he got back OK, a commendable Good Samaritan act!
They all came in from the wrong direction, and thus had to be disqualified.
Each and everyone of them came in early, some more than others. The best of the lot on this stage was Oz and Barry in the A Model, who took full advantage of the stop at Smeaton and came in only 3 minutes early, and were mightily chuffed by their unexpected placing.
Final results for the Trial were:
1st: Yandoit's Crossley, 26 points.
2nd: Dr Spock's EH Holden, 27 points.
3rd: Bro John's Hudson, 28 points.
4th: Barry's A Model, 34 points.
5th: Brickie's Nash 36 points.
6th: Bob's Buick, 47 points.
7th: Stuey's Studebaker, 49 points.
All in all, a close result. Everyone made it to the finish, and all said they enjoyed it.
Winner of the Trophy was Yandoit, who will run next year's Trials, assisted by..... The Brickie, who was uncharacteristically quiet at the end. Dunno why.