Lois Haime


WE RECKONED ABOUT 8,000 kms….. By Lois Haime It was at the Christmas Lunch of the Western Australian Buick Club in 2016 that the idea came to me. Some of the blokes were talking about attending the 50th Anniversary of the Buick Club in Australia, to be held at Moama/Echuca in 2017. I had said to Marny Howe, what about it? We should drive across in the Riviera. Marny agreed so we did it. Because most of the blokes were talking about putting their cars on the train, we were more determined to drive. Sunday 1st October 2017 we met up with Steve and Jenny McLennan in their burnt orange ‘74 Century at Mundaring at 7 a.m. After lunch at Southern Cross we were breathalised on the way out of town. The young policeman said to me “does this car get any bigger?” I replied, “only when you try to park it”. The first day was a leisurely 600 km or so through to Boulder where we stayed overnight at the Albion Shamrock Motel, a well-known Buick stopping spot. We fuelled up at Norseman and headed east. During a late afternoon stop at Cocklebiddy we decided to push on to Madura Pass. Big mistake. We had forgotten about Central Time where we were going to come ahead 45 minutes. My fuel gauge had been flopping around as these old gauges do and it suddenly flopped down onto empty and decided to stay there. The sunlight went as quick as switching off the lights and there we were with about 60 km to go, both sides of the road lined with decaying corpses of kangaroos in various states of rottenness. I was the lead car, down to about 30 kmh trying to conserve fuel and keeping an eye on what seemed like dozens of live kangaroos perched on the edge of the road – both sides. My shoulders were tensed up and I’m sure my knuckles were white on the steering wheel, just waiting for one of these roos to cross the road. While keeping an eye on the gauntlet of kangaroos I hadn’t spotted a big dead one which I ran over. This lifted the front of the Riv up and the lights shone up into the trees. I was hoping no bits of the roo were stuck under the car. The lights of Madura were so welcome. The car must have been running on fumes but I wasn’t too concerned as I knew Steve was carrying fuel, however, I really didn’t want to stop and fuel up in this area. On checking in, we found out about the time difference and the fact that the kitchen wasn’t far off closing. Bags were tossed in our rooms and a very satisfying roast of the day was had with a few extremely welcome cold beers. Not bad for a spot which doesn’t have mobile coverage! We took a vow never to be on the road after 5 pm again! The next stop was Nullarbor and then Ceduna. The signpost at Ceduna informed us we were 2,000 km from Perth. We enjoyed a great meal at the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel / Motel which started with the fabulous Coffin Bay oysters. Some rain overnight just put spots on the dusty cars. Wuddina for breakfast and we reached Port Augusta late afternoon. The Buick favourite spot is the Courtyard Motel with the really good Western pub just across the road. Steve was having a spot of trouble with a tyre with a slow leak which he had pumped up in PA. Early morning saw the Buicks driving towards Renmark. South Australian roads seem to get lumpy and goat tracky once off the major roads. We saw some interesting dark green crops which we were later told were fava beans, obviously farmers diversifying here. We seemed to have made good time so we pushed onto Mildura. Steve was familiar with this neck of the woods and directed us to a great motel called the Commodore which was probably the best and cheapest we had stayed in. A young couple there came up and said they had seen my car at Ceduna and wondered where we were going. We had an excellent meal across the road at the hotel plus some really good SA wine. Saturday 7th October and we were in Two Buicks Tyre changing The Buick News Page 11 December 2017 Moama and checking in at the Resort. Great to be able to spot a few Eastern state Buicks already in. The other West Australians were in, only one car having trouble when it got off the train. These meets are a wonderful opportunity to spot familiar cars and faces from previous meets. I met up with a SA driver who recognised my car from 2014 when we had arranged a Meet and Greet in Tanunda for the eastern state cars prior to their heading across the Nullarbor. He had attended the dinner there together with about seven or eight SA Buicks so it was nice that he was in the Buick fold now. His 72 blue Boattail looked so different to the other Boaties because of its distinctive paintwork. The Victorian Club had done a great job of organising the next five days and the catering and touring couldn’t be faulted. I’m sure the everyday programme will be covered fully by other writers. Breathalysed again in Echuca after coming from the car wash. Friday was the Show-and-Shine which wasn’t really. Unfortunately, the area for the cars to park down near the historic Echuca wharf area was very cramped and the cars were either parallel parked or angle parked and were not in their decades as is usually the case. I was one of the last cars in and was directed to the public parking area. Alan had always said that the 11th Commandment was – “Thou shall not park the Riviera in a public parking area”. I whizzed around the corner and parked in a perfect spot in front of a No Parking sign near the ice cream shop. Despite dire predictions of getting fined, this didn’t happen. You have to live on the edge occasionally. The car was safe as patrons from the ice cream shop were busy taking their photos in front of the Buick. Although not a good area for Buicks it was brilliant for people with great pubs, restaurants and shops. Friday night was the Gala Dinner and the venue at the Moama Bowling Club was stunning. A great meal and excellent speeches. Saturday morning, 14 October saw the farewell breakfast well attended and goodbyes being sent. Marny and I considered it had been well worth the trip! Heading north-west we reached Port Augusta that night and Ceduna the next night. At the Quarantine Checkpoint coming out of South Australia, the officer asked were we doing a “Thelma and Louise”. I wouldn’t have minded a dollar for everytime I heard that remark. The sign at the border informs you that Perth is only 1,000 km away. A mere nothing. Coming out of South Australia and heading west we picked up 2 ½ hours as South Australia had gone onto summertime. Thank heavens WA and Queensland don’t get into such nonsense. As it was only early afternoon we pushed on. Thick smoke blanketed the road at Madura coming from a scrub fire to the south. We were concerned about possible closure of the road so put our collective feet down and reached Cocklebiddy. It turned out there had been a control burn which had got away from the firemen (this sounded familiar). While checking in at Cocklebiddy a voice said “I know that car! It used to belong to a brothel owner in Perth”. This was quite true as the original owner had been a lady of the night and had imported it in for her boyfriend in 1972. The bloke was a friend of the bloke who had bought it from her after a falling out with the above mentioned boyfriend. This has happened more than once that the car has been recognised and you can see people wondering about the connection. The next morning there was still a smell of smoke in the air but the sky was much clearer. We headed towards Norseman. Steve’s Century gave a few coughs before we reached there and he stopped to add some fuel to the tank. Taking advantage of being out from under his surveillance and with a sleeping passenger, I decided to give the 455 ci a bit of a go and floored it for a few kilometres. It made me realise that I could have probably done the trip in half the time with double the cost of fuel. Great fun though. The final night, after about 800 km driving that day, we arrived in Southern Cross and stayed at the old Palace Hotel. We had some wonderful meals everywhere we stayed and the Palace didn’t disappoint. The cars attracted attention everywhere we went and I thought afterwards, if I had charged everyone $5 for taking a photo of the car my fuel bill would have been much less. There was some initial apprehension on my part about driving such distances but my security blanket was Steve and Jenny coming along behind me in the Big Orange Buick. Steve filled up the Riviera whenever we stopped and Jenny actually washed it in Echuca. Good driveway service. I noticed Steve’s knees were painful getting down under the Riv’s bumper but felt that at the end of the trip, he had loosened up somewhat so I was glad to have helped him along! We totalled up the mileage and inclusive of tootling around the Echuca area on the day runs, the distance totted up to about 8,000 km. I haven’t add up the fuel bills. These long drives do have their boring bits but it’s great to have a yarn and a laugh when stopping for coffee and nothing beats that first cold beer after a long days driving. Would I do it again, you bet but not just yet.  (WA Buicks) Welcoming sign at Cocklebiddy