SPRITES ACROSS THE HIGH COUNTRY & MURRAY RIVER 2013
A few months ago the Sprite Club of South Australia was invited to send members overto Victoria to participate in the upcoming High Country run. This was being planned by John Fowler from the Victorian Sprite Drivers Club. Our Club responded by David & Dianne Low, Chris & Tina Brine, Garry & Molly Beaton, Russell & Judy Schmarr and not from our club, but from South Australia Peter & Rhonda Fietz.
The event was to be over 5 days touring the high country of Northern Victoria and Southern NSW. All good sealed winding roads, perfect for our Sprites. List of accommodation were sent out and we made our own bookings. Constant emails kept us informed and excited. Eventually we had 21 starters from VIC, NSW and SA. Three groups were formed, LIVELY, SMART PACE and SCENIC OR VERY FAST, FAST AND BRISK.
Back in SA, Russell & Judy Schmarr had decided to drive to Melbourne a few days before the start; Peter and Rhonda Feitz were driving to Bright, both in their Sprites. Gary Beaton and Chris Brine and I were going to trailer our Sprites to Melbourne. We would then start the run at the official start at Coldstream.
However before each of us started out, certain things needed to happen. Gary Beaton had decided to build a tilt car trailer from plans given to him by Neil Scott from Sydney. Neil was also entered on the run. Garry worked week in week out on this trailer, finally finishing it on midday the Monday prior to the start on Wednesday. Then he set for Melbourne arriving at mid night. He then had to find the Lilydale Caravan Park, with 35 year old street directory and without Sat Nav. Being a resourceful fellow, he and Molly found it, and were then able to relax. Chris Brine had decided to fit a new motor to his Bug-eye as the old 948ccc motor was quite tired, and not liking hills. As we would go up some very steep and long hills, fitting a fresh motor seemed a good idea. This was completed the week before and then tuned. After a quick road test the car was loaded on the trailer and he and Tina set off on the Sunday prior the start for Melbourne. Then it was my turn. I had arranged with Bug-eye Barn proprietor Tony Bennetto to supply and fit Mark 3 Sprite disc brakes to my Bug eye. Not only were going be climbing big long steep hills, we would be coming down long steep hills, so 7 inch drum brakes were seen as a liability. We set off for Melbourne on the Saturday prior to the start, planning to have car at Tony’s workshop on either Sunday afternoon or Monday Morning. As it turned out we dropped off on Sunday Afternoon. On Monday morning work commenced on removing the old drums. Progress was slow as Tony had customers calling and phoning in, but this was not a problem as we still had Tuesday. Again more interruptions, but that is how small business works, so eventually the job was finished late Tuesday PM. I was sort of helping out during the process, trying to save time where possible. So all three were now in Melbourne so we decided along with Tony and Kerry Bennetto go for a meal. Tony chose a pub a fair way out of town. By now we were all staying at the Lilydale Caravan Park. We booked a taxi and the ladies went in the taxi first, then it returned took us. When we arrived at the Hotel I asked the driver to collect us later. After the meal we rang the cab company and they explained a cab was on the way. Meanwhile Tony and Kerry dropped the ladies back at caravan Park. We had a beer and waited for a cab, but the barman said, he had never seen a cab come back at that time of night. So we rang Tony to come back and collect us
Next morning we awoke ready for the start, I got fuel and took a look at Garry Beaton’s trailer. What a great job he had done! Then it was off to the start, Chris and Tina we not quite ready, but would catch us up as he was running a little late. Next a phone call, Chris could not start his car. So Garry and I made a dash back to help Chris. At first we thought he had flooded it. After trying a few things I rang Tony Bennetto who gave us some more suggestions and we finally got it going, but it was not running very well.
At the start we were given a bag containing all manner of goodies including a windscreen sticker of the event, but most importantly our book showing our route instructions for each day, plus the allocated times for each stop. First reaction was that it was too organized, but as time went by it became obvious John had a well thought out plan, so we could do a lot each day, but still arrive at our destination between 4:00 and 4:30pm.
Next thing we were off in our groups. Lachlan Fowler was driving John Fowler’s car, our lead car, which is a quick car, so I had trouble keeping up, but they kept track of us all. The first section took us around Lake Eildon, on a newly sealed road. What a great road, as well as a great introduction to the run as a whole. At Eildon we had morning tea lasting 20 minutes, then on to Jamieson for lunch. Here we fuelled up, and John had a list of petrol stations along the route that had 98 octane fuels in our route book. From there we travelled through Mansfield, towards Benalla on to Milawa. Here we met up with Geoff and Eileen Graham, the real characters of the whole group. Then on to Bright. At Bright Graham and Margaret Hately, Neil and Lorina Scott, Peter and Rhonda Feitz joined us, along with Karen Postill and Rod Pratt who caught us at Mansfield. We walked up to the Alpine Hotel for a great meal. Then we retired to our cabins. We were sharing with Russell and Judy Schmarr in a family sized cabin. On checking our cars I found my horn and blinkers not working. A horn wire had come a drift and I needed a new blinker can and a top up of engine oil. Russell had needed a blinker bulb and an exhaust strap. All sorted by the next morning. That day we drove 365km. A fair way in a Sprite, but what great fun.
Geoff Graham’s unusual hardtop.
Day 2 was Anzac Day so several of us went to the dawn service in Bright. After that we grabbed some breakfast ready for the drivers meeting, which we had each morning prior to departing. At these meetings John explained the day’s activities, and pointed out things we should watch out for like rough patches of road. This morning he mentioned a landslide that had taken out the road, and was being re-built. So we off for Mount Hotham, but soon we were stopped at the landslide. Well it was about the size of a football ground. A bushfire followed by a storm had made the hill very unstable, so down it came. Eventually we got going and drove some very twisty Sprite roads, most cars had the tops down, and the wind factor must have been about -10-15 degrees. So you needed to be buying viagra from canada well rugged up. Snow on the roadside.
Mt Morning tea at Hotham.
From there we went to Omeo, re-fuelled and looked at the old Goal. Then continued on to Anglers Rest, which is a motel for trout fisherman, but is attached to an old hotel called the Blue Duck Inn. He we all had great lunches some had trout caught that morning from the adjacent stream.
A parrot tried to steal my bread from our table, knocking over glasses and cups in the process. After lunch we headed to Falls Creek, another great road. Here it was very windy and cold, and was about to start raining or snowing. One left hand corner went around almost 360 degrees. Then a treat awaited us at Mt Beauty, a fudge factory. A Police patrol stopped and asked about all the Sprites, and was quite interested in our run; however he was amazed that we had the tops down. From Mt Beauty we headed back to Bright. This day we travelled 245 km. Chris Brine’s car was misfiring and he was having trouble getting gears. So to the rescue came Graham Hately and Lachlan Fowler. Lockie bled the clutch, while Graham adjusted the pedal and re-tuned the weber carbie. Soon Chris was smiling and the car was near perfect. Dinner was out at Rae and Alby Turner’s property just out of town. So we went into Bright and bought meat to BBQ, wine and nibbles. I bought a long sleeve T-Shirt as I was not quite warm enough on the mountain runs. Out at the BBQ the Turners had prepared a campfire, BBQ, Pizza oven. They went to enormous trouble to make us all welcome.
Day 3 we travelled up to Mt Buffalo to see the old chalet. This has sadly been closed as it does not meet modern health and safety regulations. Great views from up here, at the top of a challenging drive up the mountain. Morning tea was at the historic Homestead Estate Winery at Happy Valley. A truly beautiful property, which is also a winery.
So scones and jam with cream, wine tasting, olive tasting and tour of the homestead. A group photo was taken on the front steps of all of us. Lunch was at Tallangatta. The baker shop sold out of pies, but they made great sandwiches. Then with a couple of stops we arrived at Corryong for our night’s stay. After a tour of the local museum we retired to the motel. We had completed 275km. out came the nibbles, wine, beer, etc. and very soon a group formed. Then a short walk up to the local for dinner. John had organized a discount special set menu. Geoff Graham entertained several of us at the bar. Sometime during the day I lost my reading glasses, but bought a pair at the hemist.
Day 4 the first destination was morning tea at Cabramurra, the highest town in Australia. Another great drive to get there. Here we bought fuel from a self-serve pump, took me a while to figure how it worked. Morning tea had been pre-arranged to save time-great idea. From here we headed back down the mountain to Southern Cloud Memorial lookout. From the lookout you see a huge mountain. Signboard here gave details of a plane crash into mountains in the 1930’s. Lunch was at the Walwa pub, which was again pre-arranged. $18 for a roast beef lunch. They were selling caps and stickers with ‘Where the F#*? Is WALWA PUB on them. In mid afternoon we stopped at the Wymah Ferry to cross the Murray River. After last year crossing the Murray 10 times in South Australia this was an extra crossing, but at the highest level of the Murray. Another stop was made at the site of the old Hume Weir Racing circuit. Tony Young told us about the track, re-calling an early Sprite Challenge. Soon we arrived at the Boathaven Holiday Park. After some confusion we all found our cabins, and out came the nibbles and drinks. Then we all assembled at the central Hall for dinner. The previous night John had taken our orders for Pizzas, and Harry the Seik Indian complete with Turban and Aussie ascent delivered 44 boxes with our names on each box. Pretty soon we were all eating and making a huge noise. A few thank you speeches were made, and the night concluded. That day we drove 294 km.
Day 5 The final day. A few good byes were done before we left as people were starting to go in various directions. Our first stop was Yackandandah, just for a look as this a very interesting town, with some quirky shops. Then on to the famous Beechworth Bakery. Here you can have and I did a ‘Ned Kelly’pie, which is a meat pie with bacon, egg and cheese on top, a complete breakfast. Here along with Garry and Molly, Chris and Tina we decided to head back to Melbourne, as Tony Bennetto would we waiting to let us into his factory to load our cars on to the trailers. So we said our good byes and headed off. This we did arriving at Tony’s only to find the trailers were hitched to the tow cars, all we had to was load them on. We then headed off stopping a clear of Melbourne. The rest of the group had a slower trip back to the Yarra Glen for a goodbye gathering, then on to Lilydale for the official finish.
In total we drove in 5 days, 1539 km. You may think that’s not far, but the roads were very technical, but such fun. In my group were three hot 1275 Sprites, a very hot 1098 Sprite and a 998 Sprite and my 948 Sprite. However I did find keeping up hard work, and long periods at high revs in second gear. Some hills were 70% third gear, 25% second gear and only 5% fourth gear. Everybody was enjoying themselves, and the size of the groups seemed to work very well, and John Fowler’s organization worked perfectly. Car problems were minimal, Garry Boyd needed at starter motor repaired and David King needed a re-placement generator , the auto-electrician in Bright fixed both of these problems very quickly. John is thinking about doing it all again in 2015, all things equal Di and I we will be there along with many others.
PS. Photos were from David King’s list of photos combined with some of mine.
Sprite Club of SA Inc.