Day One- “Is that auto free range?” “No it’s battery.”
On a typically hot Perth summer day, a handful of members of the Paradise Lost Scooter Club
(PLSC) were sitting in a café in the Western Australian country town of Dwellingup. We had just
completed a ride as the Deep South Breaky Club, a group of us that live an hour or more south of
Perth and who do local rides on weekends when the club has nothing planned. As it was such a hot
day we were discussing how much cooler it was as we had ridden through the hills and forests to the
east of Mandurah, the town where most of us live. I can’t remember who first had the idea but during
our conversation around the table it was mentioned how good it would be to do an old style, long
weekend, camping and riding tour on the scooters and take in some of the country further to our
south. We’d just throw sleeping bags on the scooters and go, stopping and sleeping where ever we
could find somewhere.
So a few nights later, after thinking a lot about the idea, I decided it was time to get the ball rolling. I
knew that there were about five of us who were keen to do the ride but I thought I’d mention it on the
club forum in case anyone else would be interested. I came up with a preliminary plan to ride over
four days and cover about 1200km. The ride would take in the South West corner of WA including the
Margaret River wine region, the great southern forests and the rugged south coast. Thinking that
there may be some interest amongst the rest of the club I started a thread on the club forum asking
for expressions of interest. The PLSC has a membership of around 80-100 people and I half expected
about four or five others to want to do the long journey. In the true PLSC fashion though of getting out
and about and actually riding scooters, another twenty-two riders said that they would be up for the
challenge. It was evident that this would need a bit more planning than just throwing a swag in a field
and so the Great South West Tour was born.
Over the coming days a few ideas were banded about and people came forward volunteering their
services as back up drivers etc. The date was set for Anzac weekend, the long weekend after Easter.
The route itself didn’t really take that much planning, Just follow the coast line south all the way down
to Albany and starting at the E Shed markets in Fremantle, the usual meeting and leaving point for
PLSC rides. Then it was just a case of deciding which route to take to get back to Perth. The initial
plan was to head north out of Albany to Mount Barker and then carry on North on the Albany Highway
straight in to Perth. Some of the guys with local knowledge pointed out that the Albany Highway is
long, featureless and boring so a new route was devised where we would turn west at Mount Barker
and take the Muirs Highway, a one hundred and sixty kilometre winding road into Bridgetown and
then North to Perth. Once it was announced that we would be going through Bridgetown a number of
the long serving club members pointed out that this was the resting place for Tommy Tanktop, a
PLSC member who was unfortunately killed in a car accident while driving home from Perth back in
2009. What a perfect excuse to be able to visit his grave side as a group and pay our respects.
The next thing to organise was accommodation for thirty plus people. There were a number of
considerations and obstacles. The first was trying to keep the distance between legs roughly equal so
that no day would be excessively long and to keep them short enough so as to arrive during day light
and avoid the suicidal kangaroos that come out at dusk. Then each camp site that was contacted
seemed to have a two night minimum stay policy due to it being a long weekend. The camp sites that
would let us stay for one night then seemed to be “Eco friendly” sites which in reality meant that they
tried to put us off by saying that they didn’t tolerate noise of any kind at any time. Eventually we
settled on a camp site at Yallingup which is just outside of Dunsborough and close to Margaret River,
The Denmark Hotel which does what it says on the tin (i.e. it’s a hotel in the town of Denmark) and
finally another camp site in Bridgetown.
So on with the planning and working out some prizes. Rather than the usual “best make of scooter”
etc. the prize categories would be a little bit more in keeping with the spirit of the tour. There would be
a prize for “The Most Breakdowns”, “The Most Spectacular Breakdown” and finally a Poker Run.
After what seemed like months waiting for the weekend to come around we met at Fremantle for the
off. The idea was to get away at about 8.00am as we would need to get more than twenty scooters
and a couple of back up vehicles through peak hour traffic and heading south towards Mandurah.
After handing out the first poker card to all the riders in attendance we mounted up and were off…well
nearly..As we pulled out of the car park and onto the road we noticed that there was a lonely looking
white series one Lambretta still in the car park. After about five minutes Woody came running from the
toilet looking a little sheepish and we were off at last.
Heading south out of Fremantle we did the obligatory and traditional ride along the Cappuccino strip,
which was already alive with breakfasters, and coffee lovers who looked on in astonishment as they
always do when a group of rattling scooters pass them. Hopefully we didn’t put them off their eggs
benny and frappa latte’s too much as we left them shrouded in a cloud of choking blue haze.
Further south we were making good time, out of Fremantle, along the coast through Coogee and the
industrial areas of Henderson and Kwinana. At this point Mince on his Silver PX200 overtook the main
pack and disappeared into the distance missing the turn off that the rest of us were taking. The last I
saw of him and his scooter was when Ange on the back turned around and gave us that look of “Shit,
we’re going the wrong way” Thankfully they found us again sixty km’s further on at our first stop south
Fighting our way through the morning traffic we had become separated by the time we reached
Macdonald’s and our first fuel stop in Falcon just south of Mandurah. The scooters arrived in dribs
and drabs until we were once again all reunited. It was then revealed that a couple of scooters had
run out of fuel a couple of km’s from the petrol station. The first being Max on his newly restored
yellow GP. I had anticipated a few scooters running out of fuel over the weekend but not this early.
Max was awarded with the Golden Petrol can for his misdemeanour, a small petrol can painted gold
and which was supposed to be carried at all times by the recipient in order for the rest of us to laugh
at his expense. Max managed to dodge taking ownership of the can until the second day and even
then he put it in the back up van for it to never be seen again. He won’t get away with it next year. As
it turned out, someone running out of fuel was to be the least of our fuel problems over the weekend
but more about that later.
I’d planned for a quick stop with just enough time to refuel all the scooters and refuel all the riders with
coffee but word soon spread that John Foden’s scooter wouldn’t start. PLSC is a classic only scooter
club and the ride was intended to be carried out on classic scooters, however John had been given
dispensation to ride his Gillera Nexus due to him suffering severe back pain and usually being dosed
up on pain medication. John actually owns and rides a beautiful TV series three Lambretta but there
was no way he would have managed to ride 1200 km on that without suffering excruciating pain for
months afterwards. So it was ironic that the first breakdown of the weekend was neither a Lambretta
or a Vespa but John’s auto. It turned out that the problem was a flat battery so John and Big Russ
went off together in search of a new one. I wasn’t aware that this is where they had gone until
someone told me about an hour after they had still not returned. I couldn’t believe it as being a local to
this area I pointed out a large auto parts shop right behind the petrol station we had just filled up at.
There in 10 foot letters was a sign outside the shop declaring “WE SELL BATTERYS”. Oh well, a
short time later they returned, the battery was fitted, the scooter started and we were off once
again…..until John fell off his scooter after travelling a distance of about five metres. John and his
scooter were picked up and dusted off and we were off yet again…..until Mince’s PX wouldn’t start.
So we had completed about 70 km’s of a 1200km journey and the two breakdowns so far had been
an auto and a PX. A bit of fiddling with Mince’s coil (Ooo ehh) and we were finally off.
Bunbury Wayne was expecting us all at his place in Bunbury (obviously) where he was putting lunch
on for us. So it should have been a quick blast down the Forrest Hwy to his house. As we had been
sorting out John and Mince, the slower scooters had gone ahead so I played catch up with Mark
Williamson on his GP TS1 230 Vodafone special and Simon Delaney on his Silver Special GT186.
Leading the three of us my scooter was humming along and cruising at about 100 km/h. I was
thoroughly enjoying the blast along the straight, flat stretch of dual carriageway until I turned around to
find I was by myself. Mark and Simon were nowhere to be seen. I had no idea how far I had ridden
without them so I decided to tuck in behind an over taking truck and streamline it into Bunbury to meet
the others. I knew that the back up vehicles were behind us all to pick up either Mark or Simon if they
had broken down.
I eventually caught up with the main pack just as we entered Bunbury and rode with them to the
service station where we filled up. Then Mark arrived by himself and shortly after Steve Funge arrived
with Simon and his scooter in the back up van. Simon had only completed rebuilding his top end the
night before after he discovered that his piston rings had cracked. Maybe a little more running in time
was needed before we had raced down the highway.
After a quick refill we all mounted up and rode the kilometre or so around the corner to Bunbury
Wayne’s house. Wayne, a member of PLSC, had put on lunch for everyone at his beautiful house.
Everyone filled up on chicken sandwiches and then had a mooch around his workshop. Wayne is a
well know glass artist and makes sculptures and bespoke items. It was interesting to have a look at
his tools of the trade and some of the projects that he has underway at the moment. Wayne became
invaluable over the weekend with his excellent knowledge of the roads that we would be riding. Due
to his pending holiday in Europe he was under strict orders not to risk any injury by riding over the
weekend, so he drove his ute and gave directions and positioned himself at various junctions to
ensure that stragglers didn’t miss the turn offs.
We were then off again. On to the Bussel Highway and continuing south towards Busselton. A few of
us decided to give our scooters some stick on this stretch of dual carriageway with Harry leading on
his Series Two West Ham themed TS1 and followed by Mick Bairstow on his RT 195, Mark
Williamson on Vodafone and myself on my RT 225. All the scooters seemed to be running beautifully
so we were a bit surprised when, after thirty kilometres after leaving Wayne’s house, Harry decided to
pull off into a petrol station. It turns out that his TS1 was guzzling fuel like a jet fighter on after burn
and he was paranoid that he wouldn’t make it to our next scheduled fuel stop.
A bit further down the road we entered the Busselton by pass. I love Busselton and would have loved
to have ridden through the town itself but time was of the essence and we wanted to make it to the
camp site with a couple of hours daylight to spare so that any work could be carried out on scooters if
need be. On the Busselton by pass we picked up another club member, Mick Finney on his Vespa
Sprint Veloce 177. Mick lives in Dunsborough, our next port of call, but had decided to ride the twenty
odd k’s or so out of town to meet up with us.
We all re grouped just outside Dunsborough where we refuelled for the third (fourth if you are Harry)
and final time for the day, then it was just a short ten minute ride into Yallingup on the Cave’s Road
and to the campsite for the night.
The site was quickly a hive of activity as incredulous holiday makers watched on as the group of
scooters found their various plots for the night. Utes and vans were unloaded, tents were erected and
scooters were worked on while Steve and Tom Funge handed out much welcomed cold beers from
their esky. Most people had packed light and two and three man tents popped up everywhere.
Meanwhile, Brian Tolley became Project Manager and he and his able assistant Mark “Shaggy” Ash
constructed the most enormous tent on the site. The rest of us needn’t have bothered bringing tents
or booking cabins because Brian’s tent had room for everyone to sleep in…and their scooters….and
the back up van and utes…..and the trailers.
Simon Delaney got down to the business of stripping his top end and over the next couple of hours he
had the engine stripped and rebuilt while I took my rear hub off to investigate why I’d lost all use of my
back brake. Simon worked away under the watchful eye of about three experts and twenty five piss
takers and I employed the services of Tom Funge’s muscle to hold the back end of my scooter up as I
cleaned my brake pads. Cheers Tom.
Scooters fixed and it was a quick wash and change of clothes for the walk to the stunning Yallingup
Hotel on the opposite side of the road. What a top night we had at the pub. We were entertained by a
bloke playing guitar on the outside stage. He soon read his new found audience well and played to
the crowd. The beer flowed nicely and we all stuffed our faces. At about 10PM I asked someone what
the time was as I was absolutely knackered. 7 O’clock came the reply!! No one goes to bed at seven
so we carried on drinking and partying for another four hours.
Day Two. Thrills, spills and arse aches.
Hands off cocks and on your socks! The day started by most people congregating around Brian’s
mansion and the impressive field kitchen that he’d set up. Mick Finney arrived with sausages and
after breakfast and coffee to help clear the head of the previous nights excess we all packed up and
headed down to Yallingup Beach for a photo opportunity. As we rode around a bend we were met
with the most spectacular sight, a perfect look out of the local bay surrounded by the beach and cliffs
and green hills falling away into the ocean. The scooters were duly lined up for the obligatory photo
shoot and a couple of locals were cajoled into taking our photo for us.
The first fuel stop for the day was to be at Karridale, a very small town towards the very southern end
of Caves Road. The idea was to follow the scenic Caves Road through all the Margaret River region
vineyards. While waiting to set off Mark Dearman and Russ Warner told me that they hadn’t filled up
the previous night as they had come down by themselves later in the day due to work commitments.
They were both running on fumes on their respective PX’s Mick Finney told me that the nearest petrol
station without doubling back would be at Witchcliffe, a small town about seventy Km’s south but
which would require a slight detour off of the Caves Road. No problem, we will all meet there. Eager
to get going, as this was to be our longest day at 370 KM, I neglected to tell my partner, Jools who
was driving a back up ute, of the change of plans. I assumed that as she was at the back of the
convoy that she would see us turn off and just keep following.
And so we all set off. I was looking forward to this leg of the journey as a work colleague had told me
that this is the most scenic road I would have ever been on. I can’t say I’d agree with him although the
road was pleasant as we rode past vineyards whose names I recognised from a few too many trips to
the bottle shop.
The road wound south and crossed some creeks and took in a few nice bends and hills. It was also
very bumpy in places and after riding for about twenty minutes my scooter let out a loud bang and
died. Shit! It’s blown up. I pulled over and quickly removed the right hand side panel to see that it was
nothing more than the HT cap had come free from the spark plug. This is what I call a halleluiah
moment in scootering, when you expect the absolute worse to find that it’s nothing. I put the cap back
on and we were off again.
By now we had all split up a bit and I was now riding at the back with Mark Williamson and Mick
Bairstow. About ten kilometres further down the road the scooter did the same thing, BANG-dead.
Again I pulled over to see the cap had come free again. Mark offered me a new cap and off we went
yet again. This time the scooter started to chug along, missing a beat every 50 metres or so. I found a
nice big parking area and the three of us pulled in followed by Brian and Mark in their ute and Jools,
Carol, Steph and Jools’ twelve year old son Charlie in their ute. This time it was just a case of putting
a nipple on top of the spark plug to keep the new cap on.
With the confidence that the problem was finally solved I shot off in the lead, determined to catch
everyone else up. After a short time though I realised that no one was behind me and so I pulled over
and waited. Brian pulled up in his ute and told me that there was a problem with Mick’s scooter. We
waited on the side of the road where we passed the time demolishing a packet of snakes. After about
half an hour Mark and Mick came around the bend. It turned out that as we were leaving the parking
area Micks rear tyre had gone flat and a wheel change was required.
The three of us pressed on trying to make up time and about half an hour later we shot past a sign for
Witchcliffe, the town we had arranged to meet at for petrol. We all stopped on the side of the road and
Jools drove past us. She pulled up further down the road. We then turned around and headed
towards Witchcliffe. Unfortunately, Jools didn’t see us turn around and not knowing about the detour
she waited on the side of the road.
We entered Witchcliffe where we found Simon Delaney on the side of the road by himself. He was
riding at 80 km/h due to his scooter seizing yesterday and rebuilding the top end. He told us that the
petrol station was shut and that everyone else had pressed on towards the original planned stop at
Karridale. No problem, we all had plenty of fuel so we got onto the Bussel Highway and rode the
twenty kilometres or so into Karridale where we met the main group filling up. Then Jools arrived
about half an hour later. She wasn’t happy and gave me an absolute bollocking for leaving them
behind and not telling them where we were going..Ooops. Lesson one, always tell the Mrs where you
are going and never assume she knows.
The group was soon off again after refuelling and a few “Lips and arsehole” petrol station pies. Mark
and I decided to hang back as we hadn’t had much time off the saddle all morning. We let the main
group get ahead of us by about fifteen minutes and then chased after them closely followed by the
back up vehicles.
This was to be the longest non-stop section of the whole ride, 130 Km to the next stop at Pemberton.
This was to be a real test of not only the scooters but also the event planning. We had thrown forty
litres of petrol in jerry cans in anticipation of scooters running out of fuel but would this be enough if all
of the scooters ran out before the next petrol stop? I was confident that I could make it as I had
recently fitted a twelve-litre long-range tank but I wasn’t sure about the scooters with standard sized
Mark and I rode at a good pace and after a while of riding straight roads through new plantation forest
we saw Bunbury Wayne in the distance waiting at a turn off. He was making sure that everyone
turned right and didn’t end up riding back towards Margaret River. We pulled over and he told us that
we were only a couple of minutes behind the main group. We carried on, the road was fantastic, nice
and smooth with nice bends and long straights. After a short while I spotted the first scooter in the
distance. I could see from about a kilometre behind that the scooters were stretched out over about
five kilometres. The challenge was on. Could we catch them up and be the first to Pemberton?
One by one Mark and I over took everyone. The road was perfect for it as you could see far into the
distance and apart from the scooters; there was very little traffic on this stretch. As childish as it was I
was loving it. My scooter was almost purring as it pulled me along at about 110 km/h. We made it to
the front of the group where we found Mick and Harry at the junction of the Stewart Road and Vasse
Highway. They had pulled over as Harry had run out of fuel. They gave us a quick thumbs up
indicating that they were okay and knowing that the back up vehicles were behind with spare fuel we
shot off again.
We were now onto the Vasse Highway that would take us straight into Pemberton. What a road this
was and what a ride. Although it’s called a highway it was actually a beautiful winding road that took
us through some spectacular temperate forests. I had never seen forests like this. This area of
Western Australia is world famous for its giant trees. The road wound through the forest with the trees
growing right at the edge. The temperature dropped considerably as the sun was blocked out. Mark
and I snaked along and the scooters were lapping up the cold, clear air. My scooter seemed to find an
extra couple of horses and pulled out of the corners with ease. I had a massive grin on my face as I
lined up one race line after another, leaning into the corners and gliding out of one and into another.
Every now and then I glance back and could see Marks headlight flickering behind me. As corny as it
may sound this was the most “at one” I’d ever felt with a scooter and I was loving it.
All too soon we arrived in Pemberton. As we rode slowly through the main street hunting for petrol I
noticed that my scooter had picked up quite a discernable rattle. I’d check it out when we stopped.
Having found a small BP petrol station we filled up. A couple of minutes later the first of the group
started to arrive and soon the forecourt of the tiny servo was chaos as nozzles were passed around,
bottles of oil were swapped and visors cleaned.
I took the opportunity to investigate my rattle and found that the head cowling was totally loose. I
decided that I’d leave it until our final stop of the day where I’d have the time to fix it properly. This
was a decision I’d later regret.
Mark and I agreed that we’d had so much fun on the last leg that we’d do the same again. We’d let
everyone get a ten minute head start and then catch them up.
Off we went again, this time 120 kilometres to Walpole and lunch. We were soon behind the back up
vehicles. This time the road was very tight and bumpy. It took quite some time for me to find a safe
spot to overtake the utes. As I overtook Jools I found myself behind “Tall” Steve Newborough on his
Casa 186 Series One Lambretta. I rode with him for a minute or two and then opened it up again.
Once again I found myself over taking scooters one at a time and at about one minute intervals.
As scenic as this road was, it was extremely bumpy. As I rounded a corner at about 80 or 90 Km/h I
saw a small railway crossing right in front of me. The track didn’t seem to protrude too far from the
road so without braking I rode over it in as straight a line as I could. FARRRRK! As I hit the track I felt
an almighty thump as the scooter bottomed out. The shock wave went straight through the scooter
and into my spine which felt like it had been compressed like an accordion. I was lifted out of my seat
by what I swear was a couple of feet and then came back down hard again. I carried on with a
renewed respect for railway tracks.
At this stage I realised I was by myself. I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind. Then I pulled into
Northcliffe. This had been our scheduled lunch stop but we had decided to give it a miss as it was
only thirty or so kilometres from our last stop at Pemberton. As I rode through the town at 50 km/h I
was glad that we’d decided to give it a miss. The whole place seemed to be shut. None of the shops
were open and there was no one out in the streets. The town itself looked fairly large in comparison to
some places we had been through but this only added to the eeriness of what seemed like a ghost
I found Adam Marchant on his GP TS1 and Mel Butcher on her black PX200. I couldn’t help thinking
how well Mel had done. She has only recently started riding a scooter and is riding on her learners
licence. She’s taken to it like a duck to water and this ride was seriously testing everyone’s riding
skills regardless of their experience. Mel was riding with the best of them and seemed to be
thoroughly enjoying herself. At least I think she was.
I left Adam and Mel and went on the hunt for everyone else. Coming out of Northcliffe and it was a
right turn onto Middleton Road, a very long and straight stretch of bitumen with a topcoat of pig shit. I
passed numerous farms and shacks. This is how I imagined banjo country, remote “houses” mostly
leaning at perilous angles with dirty and torn net curtains at the windows. Each place had numerous
vehicles in various states of disrepair outside of them. All that was missing was the toothless local
plucking a one stringed banjo on the porch. I hoped to god that I didn’t break down here. Although I
knew there were people behind me I had images of being dragged away, Wolf Creek style, to never
be seen again.
As I carried on I caught sight of the guys ahead. Thank god! Catching up with them I had lunch on my
mind. I’d missed breakfast and was starving. I was looking forward to whatever Walpole had to offer in
the way of culinary delights.
Again I overtook everyone as my stomach was screaming at me and I turned onto the South West
Highway towards Walpole.
In Australia there are distance markers every five kilometres on the side of the road. They are little
green signs and have the initial of the next town and then the distance. When you first see them they
provide a bit of useful information. So as I rode along I saw the first one “WL 70”. Either someone
from the roads department is playing a trick or it’s an optical illusion but the more I rode the more
these five kilometre markers seemed to get further apart. Eventually I felt like I was in one of those
surreal Hammer Horror films where the guy is running towards a door at the end of a corridor. The
faster he runs the further the door seems to get away. I was half expecting some atmospheric violin
music as Walpole seemed to get further away but all I could hear was the increasingly louder rattle of
my loose head cowling.
Of the whole weekend this stretch to Walpole seemed to be the longest. According to Google Maps it
was 10 km’s shorter than the stretch from Karridale to Pemberton but I wasn’t convinced. By now I
was cursing my Scooter Republic racing seat as my arse was as flat as a pancake. And no matter
what position I tried to ride in my whole body ached. At least this stretch of the road wasn’t as bumpy
as it had previously been.
The little green signs at last indicated twenty kilometres to go and I was sure I could smell lunch. I
came around a sweeping left hand corner and through the trees I spotted the water of the Nornalup
Inlet. I knew from studying the map of the route that I wasn’t far away now. To my right was national
park and to my left was the Keystone State Forest. Eventually the speed limit signs appeared. “80
KM/H”, “60 KM/H”, “50 KM/H” I was in Walpole. I pulled into the local petrol station and met with the
stares of locals eating outside the café next door. Admittedly my scooter was making one hell of a
racket now. “There’s another twenty four on the way.” I told them as I started the routine of petrol, oil,
The next person to pull in was Mark Williamson. He told me that he’d tried to catch me but had got
stuck behind the back up utes on the winding roads. Then everyone else began to trickle in and soon
we had taken over yet another petrol station forecourt.
After filling up I went into the bakery next door and bought a meat pie while Mick Bairstow bought half
the bakery and I then went back outside to eat my lips and arsehole surprise. The pie was just what
the doctor ordered which is ironic really as I very nearly needed the doctor the next day when I went
down with a dose of Delhi belly, or is that Walpole belly?
Jools arrived with the girls and Charlie in the ute and she handed out another round of cards to those
that had completed the section. Woody was a bit peeved as he had broken down at the start of the
day and missed out on two hands of cards as he had to put his scooter in the van. Them’s the breaks.
Before we set off on the final stretch of the day, a comparatively short sixty kilometres into Denmark, I
took the opportunity to present Max with the Golden Petrol Can. He’d managed to dodge it for two
days but it was his now.
Everyone was keen to get off as we were booked into a hotel and that meant hot showers, cold beer,
good food and comfy beds. (At least we hoped it did). So this time we set off as one group. Riding out
of Walpole we were soon back into the winding forested roads. We passed the Valley Of The Giants
tree top walk which the area is famous for and then the South West Highway got the better of those of
us on the faster scooters again. A group of about five of us pulled ahead, I’m not saying it became a
race but maybe there was some competitive spirited riding.
This time Harry led followed by myself and Steve Funge on his GP Rapido behind us was Simon
Delaney and Mark Williamson. The ride was fantastic as we leant into tight corners through the
towering trees that lined each side of the road. Harry had the edge and began pulling away from us. I
lost sight of him for a short time as he disappeared around a sweeping right hand bend.
I was probably about twenty seconds behind Harry at this stage and as I came around the same bend
I saw what I thought was smoke drifting across the road in front of me. Then I realised it was dust.
What I then saw made my heart jump to my mouth and my stomach sink. On the right hand side of
the road Harry was lying beside his scooter, which was pointing in the wrong direction and lying in a
shallow ditch. It was obvious that he had crashed and as I pulled up a motorist going in the opposite
direction also stopped. I pulled my scooter on to its stand and then Simon and Steve pulled in too. By
the time I had put my scooter on its stand Harry was standing up. We went over to him and he
explained that he had had a front tyre blow out and that he had tried to control it but realising he was
going to come off he had pointed as best he could towards the soft sandy verge.
Harry’s scooter didn’t look good with multiple dents, the right hand side leg shield was bent back and
the headset was completely smashed. Harry said that his shoulder hurt but apart from that he looked
remarkably well considering the condition of his scooter. Something to be said for kevlar jeans and
armoured jackets maybe?
Simon, Steve and I pushed Harry’s scooter across the road, which was no mean feat as it was stuck
in gear. Harry was still saying that his shoulder hurt as a couple of others pulled up. As he pulled his
jacket off we could see that he had obviously broken his collar bone due to the lump that was now
We waved the rest of the scooters on as we felt that all the scooters parked on the bend would create
even more of a safety issue. Jools pulled over and arrived with the first aid kit and soon had Harry
bandaged up. We decided that the best course of action would be to load Harry’s scooter onto the
trailer and for Harry to jump into Brian’s ute and dispatch him to Denmark Hospital.
The rest of the short trip into Denmark was a very sober one with Mark and I riding together at a very
sedate pace. Harry’s crash had been due to a front wheel blow out on tubeless rims. We both
remarked how, out of all of the journey so far with the roads we had been on edged with huge trees,
Harry had come off in the best possible place, landing in fairly soft sand.
Mark, Mick and myself pulled into Denmark and we stopped to consult the map and find out where
our digs for the night were. Mark then pointed out that my scooter was leaking oil. Looking down I
expected to see a couple of drips, instead I saw a very large puddle of gear box oil that was rapidly
spreading! Tall Steve then pulled up and having family living locally he knew where the hotel was. We
were only about a hundred metres away so I decided to ride there with the emptying gear box.
Being absolutely knackered I decided that I’d park the scooter up for the night, check in to our room
and get a shower. A short while later Harry arrived from the hospital. The diagnosis was that he had
indeed broken his collarbone but there was nothing that could be done for him and that he was to
attend Perth hospital once he got home.
The rest of the night was spent having dinner and drinks. Slightly more subdued than the previous
evening but still enjoyable chatting over a few beers, I think the majority of us were asleep by eleven.
Day Three- “We can’t find any petrol pumps, but diesel do.”
I woke up fairly early the next morning and decided to go and check my scooter out before everyone
else woke up. There was obviously something seriously wrong as not only was there oil on the ground
from the gear box but also a large pool of petrol too, which seemed to have come from the carb.
As I pulled off the side panels everyone started to appear from their rooms and soon the hotel car
park was alive with scooter maintenance and people heading off to find coffee and breakfast. I looked
to see if I could discover where the petrol was coming from and found that the inlet manifold had
become loose. The scooter had run fine like this and as I checked the spark plug I was surprised to
see that it hadn’t appeared to have been running lean. I retightened the manifold having replaced the
manifold gasket thanks to Mick but this didn’t answer why the pool of petrol had appeared. Then I
stripped the carb and discovered that the lose head cowling had worn a tiny hairline hole into the carb
float bowl, now I regretted not taking the time to tighten the head cowling back in Pemberton when I’d
first noticed it was rattling.
Looking at the chain case I discovered a large crack in it at the bottom. It started at the stud that holds
the exhaust tail pipe on and stretched about an inch. This is where the gear box oil had made a bid for
freedom and looked fairly terminal to me. I’m pretty certain that the crack in the chain case cover was
a result of hitting the train track the previous day. With us all due to depart Denmark at 9.AM there
was no time for me to get it welded somewhere so what with that and the hole in the float bowl I
decided to throw the scooter in Steve’s van. I was gutted that I wouldn’t be able to complete the ride
but I must admit that I also relished the idea of a comfy and warm journey in the van.
Simon’s scooter had seized just after Harry had crashed and so his scooter was consigned to the
trailer and he was consigned to Brian’s ute. John Senior had had issues with his lovely Li series 3
Mugello 186. It was discovered that the fan had parted company with the rest of his flywheel and so
that needed fixing before he could go any further. One good point was that Woody had fixed his
scooter and he was now back on the road.
The forecast for today was for rain but as we looked to the sky all we could see was perfectly clear
blue skies. Hopefully the forecasters had got it wrong. Man U Jim had organised a photo shoot at the
local bakery. I’m sure he said the local paper was going to be there but I didn’t see anyone. All the
scooters lined up and photo’s taken then it was a quick dash into the bakery to stock up on pies and
iced coffee for the first part of the journey to Albany.
We all hit the road once again and Steve and I sat behind the scooters, which gave me the
opportunity to get some video of them all riding. I was enjoying Steve’s company and the comfort of
the van but I still couldn’t help feeling disappointed that I wouldn’t get to ride the whole route.
As we pulled into Albany we managed to lose the scooters due to the traffic. A quick phone call and
we were soon reunited at a petrol station. Charlie had become ill and had been throwing up in the ute
while my arse resembled the Japanese flag. We’d both eaten the same pie the day before in Walpole
and it had come back to haunt us. Steve’s van needed a new battery and luckily we had pulled up
directly outside Battery World (A shop that sells batteries - not an exciting battery themed fun park) so
while everyone on the scooters went off to a look-out to take in the Albany Harbour and King George
Sound vista and take more group photo’s, I used the time to…..ahem….powder my nose for the fourth
time that morning.
The group of us in the three back up vehicles waited on the side of the road for the scooters to return.
The sun was still shining which, I was told by our resident erudite Steph Howley, was very uncommon
for Albany at this time of year. In fact, it was uncommon at all as Albany experiences the cold winds
and rain that come from the Southern Ocean. Apparently Steph had been keeping everyone in the ute
entertained with her knowledge and commentary of the areas that we had been passing through.
She’d also been playing nurse to Charlie. At this point we also said goodbye to Grant Megan and his
PX200 as he was meeting up with family in the region for a short holiday.
The scooters came past us in a long procession and we pulled out to follow them for the hour ride
north to Mount Barker. This was a relatively straight road with the odd bit of dual carriageway. The
road was signposted as having a 110 km/h speed limit, which obviously some of the scooters couldn’t
do. At the back of the pack were Tall Steve on his Series one and Tim Howley on his 1966 Li Silver
Special. Both were managing about 80 km/h and occasionally dropping down to about 70 on the hills.
This was starting create quite a hazard as impatient motorists tried to overtake. At one point Steve
and I in the van were nearly taken out as another van attempted to overtake us narrowly missing
oncoming traffic. Steve braked hard and hit the horn and we were met with the van drivers middle
finger. Charming. The same van then continued to cut up the scooters as he attempted to over take
Tall Steve and Tim. Steve and I both commented on how it would be safer in future to stagger the set
off times for the scooters so as not to create a repeat of this situation.
We all pulled into Mount Barker Petrol Station and the scooters refilled again. This was to also be our
lunch stop for the day and we used the time to top up all the spare petrol cans. The next leg of the
journey was to navigate the Muirs Highway, A one hundred and sixty kilometre stretch of road
between Mount Barker and Manjimup. Phil Synnott had already called ahead to the one and only
petrol station on the highway, which was about halfway across in a one-horse town called Rocky
Gully. They had confirmed that they were open until five o’clock so in an attempt to ensure that we got
there on time, Phil hatched a plan to tell everyone that they actually closed at three. It was the worst
kept secret all afternoon as word spread that “They shut at five but Phil’s telling everyone they shut at
At this stage we farewelled Harry who was going to travel back to Perth with Lorraine Williamson and
kids who had been shadowing us all weekend as they explored the tourist attractions that we had
been past. Harry’s shoulder had started to swell now and he said that his fingers tingled. He’d be
better off getting home and checked out properly rather than spend another night on the tour. It was a
real shame to see a stalwart of the Perth scooter scene have to leave and I know that Harry was
disappointed at not completing the ride. Next year mate.
This time the scooters all set off at intervals with Mick Bairstow and Woody going first. Everyone was
under strict instructions to stop at Rocky Gully to refuel. Steve and I were the last to leave and
followed the tail enders. After about forty minutes of driving Steve’s phone rang. It was Mick and
Woody who were lost. Rather than turning left out of Mount Barker and joining the Muirs Highway they
had carried on north and ridden about a hundred kilometres the wrong way up the Albany Highway
towards Perth. The only thing they could do was to turn around and come back adding about two
hundred kilometres to their journey!
Rocky Gully soon arrived and everyone was already filling up with fuel. This was a real one horse,
country town. It looked like it consisted of a handful of fibro houses and the petrol station. The petrol
station itself only had two pumps and everyone was putting both of them to use. The fact that one of
them was a diesel pump didn’t seem to worry Mark “Bogwoppit” Dearman or “Big” Russ Warner at all
and they both happily filled their PX scooters to the brim. Then Mark realised and informed Russ.
Mark had been the first to fill up and had handed the nozzle to Russ. The look of death on Russ’s face
was enough to turn a man to stone. The two of them sheepishly wheeled their scooters to the edge of
the gravel forecourt and proceeded to remove the fuel hoses to drain the petrol tanks. Obviously,
everyone felt sorry for them and relayed their sympathy with comments like “It could have happened
to anyone” and “It’s an easy mistake to make”. Actually that’s a total lie. Everyone got stuck into Mark
and Russ and mercilessly took the piss out of them in the fine scooterist tradition.
Draining two scooters of eight litres of diesel each wasn’t going to be a quick operation and knowing
that Mick and Woody were still someway behind it was decided that everyone would press on to
Manjimup and Bridgetown while Steve Funge would wait with the van. Mark Williamson asked me if
I’d like to ride his Vodafone TS1 into Bridgetown and I made my best attempt to feign politeness and
say “No, it’s okay Mark you ride it” but when Mark asked again I couldn’t resist. I’ve borrowed his
scooter before and I know what a beast it is and how nice it is to ride so I was pretty excited to have
the opportunity to ride it on the tour.
The scooters had all set off in groups of three or four and I rode the rest of the way to Manjimup with
Max. This was actually quite a nice bit of road with some good scenery. By now though the weather
looked like it was closing in. The sky had become very overcast and heavy looking. Some of the
riders had changed into waterproofs at Rocky Gully and I was cursing myself for not bringing any. As
we rode on at a nice steady ninetyish Km/h the sky ahead seemed to be particularly dark, then I
realised it was smoke. The forest that we were passing through was alight and although it was a
deliberately lit controlled burn off, it was still quite eerie to be passing through the trees that were
burning either side of us.
One thing that had been ever present on the ride was the dead animals on the sides of the road. The
Muirs Highway seemed to have an above average amount of road kill with kangaroos in various
states of decay every few hundred metres. We even passed a decapitated emu and a snake in the
middle of the road. The smell of the dead animals is quite over powering and you quite often smell
them before you see them. This was obviously a road that we didn’t want to be on in the dark.
Arriving in Manjimup, Max and I made our way to the Caltex petrol station where we met Phil Synnott,
Tom Funge, Man U Jim, Mel Butcher, Sid Barton on his PX 200, Mince and Ange on their PX 200 and
Adam Marchant. Jools, Carol, Steph and Charlie soon joined us in the ute. Everyone looked a bit cold
and slightly weary since leaving Rocky Gully and it was decided we’d press on and complete the last
thirty kilometres into Bridgetown.
The journey to Bridgetown took no time at all and the campsite that the majority of us were booked
into was pretty much the first place we came to as we entered the town. As Jools and I began to
unpack our tent, Mince and Ange offered us a spare room in their cabin. They had three spare beds
so we eagerly accepted the offer with the thought of a hot shower and a comfy bed for the night.
Everyone else soon arrived and, as it turned out, there were enough spare beds to go around so that
no one had to camp for the night. Jools and Mince headed into town and came back with a most
welcomed case of beer and we all spent the next hour or so sinking a couple of cold ones, watching
Simon as he tried to fix his scooter and taking the piss out of the Diesel Brothers as Mark and Russ
had now become known.
After hot showers and a change of clothes Jools began to ferry us all into town where we were
booked into the Denmark Hotel for dinner. We met up with Al and Deb Taylor and Oxo and Jackie
who had travelled to Bridgetown to join us for the evening and to visit Tommy Tank Tops grave the
The hotel had reserved us a table of forty seats and it was great to see everyone enjoying themselves
all together down the length of the table. After dinner Jackie started a very moving rendition of the
Frankie Valli song “Can’t take my eyes off you” which has become the official PLSC song. Everyone
joined in loudly in honour of Tommy Tank Top and it was great to see some of the couples sitting at
neighbouring tables in the restaurant joining in. Brilliant!
Then it was onto handing out the prizes. The first prize was a fantastic painting that Keith “Sham”
Guest of The InCrowd Scooter Club in Perth had completed for the occasion. This was to be awarded
for the best poker hand. Mark Dearman took out the honours with a very dubious hand of two Aces
and three Kings. With the true generosity that scooterists are known for though, Mark announced that
as much as he would love to keep the painting for himself, he was going to auction it at the up coming
PLSC Kids Are Alright annual fundraiser and the proceeds would go to the Parkerville Children’s
home. It’s this kind of generosity and thoughtfulness that make me proud to be a scooterist.
The next prize of a one hundred dollar voucher to spend at Carters Classic Scooters, a Great South
West Tour mug, and a tool kit was for “The Most Spectacular Breakdown”. This was awarded to Harry
in his absence. Although not technically a break down, his crash had most certainly been spectacular
and Jools and I figured that he could do with the voucher to go towards fixing his scooter.
Then it was time to award the prize for “The Most Breakdowns”. Again, the prize was a voucher, mug
and tool set. This was awarded to Simon Delaney not only for the most breakdowns but also for
showing the most persistence and tenacity over the weekend to try and get his scooter back on the
With all the prizes awarded we carried on partying into the night. An indicator of a good night partying
with the PLSC is the level of undress that Man U Jim manages to accomplish and tonight Jim’s arse
made it’s customary appearance. Say no more.
Day Four- “How do you like those Apples?” “I dunno but I’ve bought a Collie”
The following morning and with a few delicate heads, we all met up in the centre of Bridgetown for the
short ride to the cemetery to visit Tom. I was riding Marks TS1 again as he was getting a lift back to
Perth with Oxo and Jackie as he had a flight to Dubai to catch the next day. The ride up to the
cemetery was fairly solemn with everyone respectfully riding slowly between the plots until we
reached Toms resting place. The scooters were all parked up near his grave and everyone gathered
around as Oxo played some of Tom’s favourite songs from his car. Phil Synnott parked his (or is it
Carol’s) PX200 up next to the grave as he had put a side panel on it featuring a picture of Tom
especially for the weekend.
I’d never met Tom, although I had known him from the Scooterboy World internet forum, but it was
moving to see how much he had meant to everyone. A few of the guys left a few mementos on the
grave. A CD, some club patches and other memorabilia. As respectful as everyone was a few jokes
were still cracked and having heard some of the stories about Tom I think he would have appreciated
It was now time to start heading home. We still had two hundred and sixty kilometres to go to get to
the official finishing point and then everyone still had to get home from there, it was by no means over
Heading out of Bridgetown we pointed the scooters towards Boyup Brook. I decided to make the most
of the TS1’s speed and rode ahead so that I could stop and get some video footage of everyone
riding past. As the scooters passed me one by one followed by the people in the back up vehicles as I
stood at the side of the road I had an overwhelming feeling of pride to be associated with everyone of
the people on the tour. Every single person had contributed to the weekend and made it a huge
success. I’d like to think that we had all grown closer as friends and even forged new friendships.
Back on the road I caught up with everyone easily on Marks rocket and headed into Boyup Brook to
get some more footage of everyone riding through town. A few people filled up at the local petrol
station and some carried on through town and towards our next stop at the mining town of Collie.
The seventy kilometres between Boyup Brook and Collie passed without event, well, so I thought. I
rode with Phil Synnott and Tom Funge. It was evident from the wet road that we had narrowly missed
a downpour and once again I wished I’d brought waterproofs with me. Arriving in Collie we filled up
again and waited for everyone else. After we had all filled up we realised that Si Thackery was
missing on his GP Mugello 186. Tim made a quick phone call and discovered that Si hadn’t turned off
about twenty kilometres back and had carried on a further twenty k’s or so straight into Donnybrook,
home of Western Australia’s apple industry.
We all filled up on servo pies and drinks as we waited for Si to turn around and come back. At least
his mistake was going to take some of the heat off of the Diesel Brothers…..not much though.
All that was left now was the final ride to Harvey and then Pinjarra where we would all go our separate
ways to get home. The ride along the Coalfields Highway out of Collie was quite spectacular. The
road climbs to quite some height up steep hills. The TS1 made short work of the incline but I did
wonder how some of the other scooters were managing. As we reached the top of the Coalfields
Highway we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Bunbury region and could even see the
ocean some thirty-five kilometres in the distance.
At the end of the Coalfields Highway we turned north onto the South Western Highway and headed to
Harvey, home of Western Australia’s citrus growing region. The road was flat, straight and fairly
boring and we all made it into Harvey together and in good time. A quick refuel here and this was it,
the last stretch as a complete group into Pinjarra about fifty kilometres away. I asked John Foden how
he was feeling with his back and he told me that he was happy but at the end of his tether. I hope he
still does the trip again next year. In contrast Jools asked a few of us how we were all feeling after
four days away from home riding. Mick replied “horny”. I’m not sure if that’s because he had missed
his wife or an indication as to how much he enjoys riding Lambrettas.
For such a short hop between Harvey and Pinjarra it was possibly the worst section that we rode all
weekend. The roads were drenched from heavy rain and there was a strong side wind blowing from
the west. At one point I dropped into one of the ruts that are worn into this busy road by the heavy
trucks that travel up and down it. The scooter began to fish tail as it aquaplaned in the water. I
managed to steer it out and back onto the higher section in the middle of the lane but from that point I
dropped the speed down to about 80.
Reaching the tiny town of Waroona I decided to pull over and get one last shot of everyone riding
past. I pulled out the camera and pointed it at Mick Bairstow as he came into site. Then the battery
died. Bollocks. Never mind, I’ll use the camera on my phone. I pulled that out and again pointed it at
Mick and the battery died. Arse. I wasn’t going to get my final shot of everyone.
As we all arrived in Pinjarra we made our way to the famous Pinjarra Bakery where we stuffed our
faces and warmed up with hot coffee. Then that was it. After riding more than one thousand two
hundred kilometres it was all over apart from the individual journeys home. We all said our farewells
with handshakes and man hugs and promises of all doing it again next year. With the journeys to get
to the start point of Fremantle and the journeys home from Pinjarra, most riders would have
completed closer to fifteen hundred K’s
I only had a short half an hour ride to get home and it was the most boring part of the ride. It wasn’t
the same riding alone knowing that it was all over but I was grinning from ear to ear having just had
the time of my life.
Here’s to an even better Great South West Tour 2015.
Mark Carter at Carter’s Classic Scooters for rounding up the prize vouchers from $75 to $100 out of
his own pocket.
SHAM for the painting
Mick Bairstow for arranging the spares and the cuddle in Yallingup
Jools, Steve and Tom Funge and Brian Tolley for following the scooters and your invaluable help as
back up drivers
Carol, Steph, Mark Ash and Charlie for keeping Jools and Brian sane as they drove for four days at
Bunbury Wayne for your hospitality and help keeping us all going in the right direction
Mick Finney for your local knowledge (Yes Albany is local to Dunsborough) and for organising
breakfast at Yallingup
The Minge’s for your kind hospitality in Bridgetown
Mark Williamson for trusting me with Vodafone again
Simon Delaney and Jim for the generous use of the ute and trailer
Everyone who attended at some stage over the four days for the memories, laugh’s, camaraderie and
general good times.
Who’s up for next year?