Confucius said : "Every journey begins by first getting out of your driveway." And so it was on this particular frolic.
The Yandoit's Snail was still poorly after an unresolved argument between the crank and the bigends, and so the Lupino lent him the MGTC Rocket with the words: "Treat it as you will. There's nothing you can do to it that I've not done worse and more often." The "worse" and "more often" had, however taken their toll, and so it came to pass that the last of the 4 bolts holding the rear axle to the springs parted company, and the whole shebang, being an underslung chassis, settled down on the rear wheel, three quarters the way down the long potholed Lupino drive. The Lupino, to be sure, had noticed "a little softness" in the rear suspension recently when cornering at 120 Klicks, but figured it was just one of the car's little quirks which would fix itself with time. Which it did, after a hour or so of fettling.
We, and by this I mean, the Lupino and Quilly in the Huddo, Yandoit in the Rocket, and Deaf John in his newly acquired 1929 Studebaker ute, had arranged to meet the Terpsichorean Homunculus and Yak Fancier, aka the Mauler and Nursie Leigh at the Axedale Pub.
The little Mauler was not a happy scroat. Two fucking hours late! But hey... waiting at a superior pub like the Axedale aint all bad... couldabeen worse... could've arranged to meet at a church hall somewhere and had him filled with the pox of religion rather than beer and bile.
After the mandatory cooling off period, when the rest of us had a beer or three, the Mauler led us to a mate of his, The Mudbrick Hippo's joint.
The Hippo, who has asperations to join the select at the Ferals, has turned some several acres of prime, pristine grazing country into a wonderland of rust and crud. He has managed to cover the countryside with either cars, building materials, or extensions to his house... and all without a single permit. Bravo!
There were at least two A Fords that would cut the mustard in the Ferals...... but it's all a matter of getting them to the line. Given that, we wish him all the best, and await developments. We all hope he gets at least one of his 50 or so cars on the go soon.
After this, we followed the Campaspe down to Echuca. The river was, despite the drought, running a banker and must have been at least 18 inches deep. There must have been unseasonal urination by the upstream bovines in recent days, or maybe a Yak or three had let go(for they have prodigious bladders).
We decided to ford the river, rather than go over the bridge. The Dodge went first at a rather heady clip, then the Lupino charged in too. Unfortunately the bow-wave being higher than the Huddo's harmonic balancer, water was chucked up and over the dizzy which was shocked into stopping.
To the general amusement of all, the Lupino was stuck mid stream, and had to suffer the ignominy and shame of being hoicked out by the Dodge. Click here to see the video.
After drying the dizzy out, he, the Dodge, and the Studebaker all had another go, then proceeded on to Echuca and Bluey's boat, the PS Henry Charles.
It is often said that: "When you sup with the Devil, use a long spoon." The Ferals, by experience, have taken the same attitude to Bluey invitations, and though assured by him that, "the boat will bunk down eight", we nonetheless brought along full camping gear. This caution was uncharitable, and indeed the boat did bunk down eight, and in considerable style.
We were, in fact a bit overwhelmed, where was the catch?
The PS Henry Charles was a ridgy-didge steam driven paddle steamer. The steam unit was fucking enormous, with a 5 foot flywheel, and everything oiled and greasy, like it should be, and enough good firewood for at least two decent camp-fires.
Boarding the whole shebang was a tad perilous in that it was 5 feet down from the bank, and all ingress and egress was by a very worn cut-off Kennet ladder, which moved in and out from the bank depending on weight. Thus, when one was encumbered by a not-smiling Frazzle the Whippet, and one's thumb was the only thing stopping the boat from moving further off-shore, one had time to think that it would have been nice to have had steps. But this is a minor criticism.
The boat itself was splendid, with lots of polished wood, French doors to the back deck, and even a cedar table with lace table cloth and candles. There was a good LCD telly to play music videos, a good galley, with micro-wave, and all modcons.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Deaf John has an obsession with old bridges, rail, road or river, it doesn't matter, he'll go out of his way to visit them. And so, we visited Stewart's Bridge. The bridge had been closed a couple of years ago, and great mounds of earth placed at either end. But they did not reckon with feral determination. The short-wheel based Studebaker and Dodge were able to get up the steep sides, and thus achieve The Last Crossing.
We found other bridges as well on the way to the River at Barmah where we were going to have a barbecue, and these provided nice shade for the occasional beer break.
More interesting was the company. Bluey had brought along a lad of less than 20 summers, who had had a long, and too close association with Mr Vic Bitter, and was a tad more confused than was warranted by the number of Light Ales he was consuming.
While we were all yahooing and disporting our several selves upon the back deck, and generally having a good time, Bluey was busy either on shore, making phone-calls, or sweeping the top deck, or organising. You just can't keep the boy down.
We dined richly on microed lamb-shanks in wine sauce, and had a whiparound for some chips from the local, then got back to the main entertainment,which was yakking on the back deck in the balmy night, with the night birds all around us. Pure magic!
It was a pity that our host had to leave early, but he has a habit of doing that, so we were not surprised.
The morning saw the usual chaos and a few sore heads, but no-one had fallen overboard, which was a surprise.
We found our way to the river near to the place where, a couple of year's earlier the Mauler had his paranoid delusion that the Dodge was about to be swallowed by the Murray river during the night, and so tethered it to a sturdy tree. That was also the night a considerable amount of port was stolen.
After a good lunch and a few beers, the Mauler, Nursey and the Quilly had to return, in the Dodge, in order to get to work on the next day. The Yandoit, deaf John and the Lupino decided to spend another day driving the tracks, and camping on the river.
In order to work out where we were going, and to check out the crowd, we decided to visit the Barham Pub.
It has been said before, but bears repeating, an unrestored feral car is a powerful aphrodisiac for the post-menapausal chook. No sooner had we parked outside the pub than hordes of PMC's emerged, and surrounded the cars.
As is his want, the Frazzle was taking his ease in the passenger seat with his nose out of the open window, asleep. His slumber was rudely awakened by a particularly raucus PMC yelling: "Look! There's a seal in the car with Lizzie!" And they all trouped over to pat the whippet, much to his surprise.
We chatted to a few of them, then prepared to depart. As the Lupino was consulting his VicRoads, a buxom PMC shoved her bodice in the window of the Huddo, and piped:
"Where are we going?"
"I think I might just go along the River Road." replied the Lupino.
"I didn't mean 'you'. Where are 'we' going darling?" she said with a particular leer.
Various scenarios crossed the Lupino brain, but he just laughed, erred on the side of extreme caution, fired up the engine, and buggered off. He felt a little flattered until he realised she was the same PMC who mistook Frazzle for a seal, and was probably blind, blind drunk, or both.
Apart from being propositioned by buxom PMC's, another curious incident occured soon after. Travelling at a reasonable clip along the dirt tracks close to the river, the near-side rear tire blew out with a resounding bang.
"Fuck!" thought the Lupino, "There goes another 300 or so shekels for a new tyre!" and stopped the car instantly. Usually when this happens the immense weight of the Huddo (nigh on two tons) just carves through the sidewall of the crap they sell you these days.
This time, the Lupino and the Yandoit had enormous trouble getting the tyre, with its rim, off the car, until they realised what had happened.
Somewhere along the track, the front near-side wheel of the Huddo must have kicked up a star stake, or similar object, of about 18 inches in length, and this caught the inner rim of the spring steel rim, ripped it, and sharply bent it through the weight of the car. The tube then emerged through the slit and burst. The photo at right shows how sharp the object must have been, and this was after we had managed to bend it back a bit in order to get it off the wheel. The weirdest thing was that there was not a mark on the tyre! Fucking freaky!
After that little interlude, we were ready to find a camp. The Barmah forest is really superb, and we soon found a camp, right on the river, with plenty of firewood.
The next day we went in quest of the Yellow Submarine that the Lupino had seen on the epic Snow to Surf Frolic, where he, Arfer Long and the Mauler went down the entire length of the Murray, (though the Mauler's Dodge had to retire hurt half way).
Memory is a funny thing. It distorts reality. The Lupino in his mind had recalled a full-sized submarine in the front yard of a house on a back road, flanked by missiles. The reality was a bit smaller, but no less weird. After that we sort of drifted home, stopping at various pubs along the way as is our want.