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AMSAG Bulahdelah Classic Rally
Saturday, March 18, 2017

The blue roads are spectator and media access routes.

In 1785, the Scottish poet Robert Burns published a poem called "To a Mouse", which contained the famous lines:

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy! 

My best laid scheme for the weekend was to do a bit of touristing as well as rally journalisting, so I decided to camp for a couple of nights at the picturesque Tattersalls campground in Karuah National Park. The National Parks and Wildlife web site made it look ideal for my needs, and the six kilometre dirt road in from the main bitumen is described as suitable for 2WD vehicles.

I arrived late in the day on the Friday, but allowing plenty of time to get to the camp site, put up the tent, get everything arranged and then drive back to Raymond Terrace for a meal. Then I experienced Hobarts Road! This is possibly the roughest road I have been on in the last five years, full of suspension bottoming potholes. As I would have to traverse the road five more times over the weekend I decided that I would get to the camp site, turn around and find somewhere else to camp.

At about five kilometres in the decision to abandon the site was made for me when I came to a huge gulley across the road which would challenge any vehicle not specially adapted for off-road bush bashing. A normal, out-of-the-showroom 4WD would have required winching out of the hole. As I could go no further I had to go back. Unfortunately, the road at that point was narrower than the length of a Falcon wagon, with banks and trees on both sides, so a multi-point turn was out of the question. I only had to reverse for about one kilometre before I was able to turn round, using some rather rusty skills from all those motorkhanas years ago. (I only bumped one tree, but no damage was done to car or tree - I wasn't going fast!)

Once I had the car pointed forwards again I still had four kilometres of potholes to traverse, and the light was fading. Unfortunately, I didn't see one crevasse until I was right on it and went in, bottoming both front shocks and scraping the bottom of the bumper bar on the way out. Again, I wasn't going fast. but even at slow speed a car has a lot of momentum.

Back on the bitumen I did a bit of hands-off driving to see if there had been any significant suspension damage, but everything seemed OK (it still needed a check on a hoist, but the alignment seemed to be right and the car was tracking true). Then the left hand windscreen wiper blade got caught by the wind and started to climb the screen. The thump in the hole had dislodged the linkage between the blade pivots. A bit of duct tape to keep it down, and off we went. I assumed that the right-hand wiper was unaffected, but when I hit a small shower a couple of days later it jammed half-way and refused to move any further. This is not as bad as it sounds because all the glass on the car is treated with water-repellant RainX compound (a habit from my rallying days), but I got a few strange looks from other motorists while driving into town in the rain. (On the day it was booked into the mechanic to have the wipers fixed there was a possibility of heavy snowfalls in the morning (it had snowed the night before). The mechanic's workshop and my house are at opposite extremes of the Oberon township, and I will let you think about the only accessory on a car which is essential for driving in falling snow.)

Which is how I ended up erecting my tent in the dark (using car headlights and a torch) and paying $29 to camp for the night instead of doing it for free. I was actually lucky, because I found the caravan park just as the man was closing the office for the night. Ten minutes later and I wouldn't have known where to go in the park to put my tent. The camping spot was about 100 metres from a straight stretch of the Pacific Highway where the three semi-trailers each minute are doing in excess of 100km/h all night.

After about two hours sleep and conscious of the fact that there might be damage to the bits and pieces under the car, I decided that the 200-300 kilometres of additional driving I would have to do to attend the rally might best be avoided. The original plan was for me to drop in on some relatives at Toukley on the way home on the Sunday, but a quick telephone call advising them them to put the kettle on in about 90 minutes let them know I'd be there earlier than expected. I could even sleep somewhere quiet once I got there.

No photos of rally cars this weekend, but here is a tent put up by torchlight.

There is always next year!

See the final results here.

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