Club Visitors’ Day

Trip Leader: Michael Gilbert

Team Leaders:
John Holbrook (back) Peter Cole (blue) Martin Archer (green) Richard King (red )
Richard Kingston (yellow)

Tail End Charlies : Craig Perry , David Hearn.

When: 25th November 2012

Location: Seabird to Wilbinga

Participants: 24 Visitors Cars

Sunday morning, November 25th, dawned as a beautiful clear day, much to the pleasant surprise of the Visitors Day Trip and Team Leaders. After the fierce storms of the night before, and a weather forecast of possible similar weather for the Sunday morning, a planned drive from Seabird to Wilbinga with a group of prospective members was shaping up to be even more spectacular than planned. The weather however, showed some compassion and the fine conditions enhanced the most spectacular views of our glorious Western Australian coastline as we travelled south from Seabird.

Following the clubs appearance at the 4WD Show earlier in the month, a large number of interested people had registered for a special visitors day trip with the club. There were so many people wanting to come along that the club had to impose a limit to the number of vehicles that could participate and initiate a waiting list for the trip. The planned group consisted of 24 visitor vehicles (15 of which were actually Mitsubishi) and 8 member vehicles.

Following a brief welcome and trip briefing by the Clubs’ Trip Co-ordinator Michael Gilbert, Team Leaders “Black” John, “Blue” Peter, “Green” Martin, “Red” Richard K and “Yellow” Richard K’n, briefed their designated teams regarding convoy procedure, use of uhf radios, emergency procedures, and then the group set off from the start of the 10th Light Horse Memorial Trail to Seabird for the start of the trip proper.

The first “organised activity” for this trip was the reduction of tyre pressures before entering the sand track on the edge of town. A pre-trip assessment had been carried out on the previous Thursday to determine a route with some challenge and provide alternatives if they were required. This assessment determined how low the tyre pressures would have to go to in order to facilitate an easier trip for drivers and their vehicles and also provide as much protection as possible for the tracks with such a large group. For some of the visitors it was a new experience to actually let their tyres down at all let alone to the required 12-psi pressure. It certainly helped to calm a few visitor nerves to see more experienced drivers happily listening to the air chorus of tyres deflating.

Even at this early part of the trip, visitors were beginning to understand the benefit of going on such a trip in the company of an organised and experienced club. Conversations conducted over the cacophony of “tyre tunes” include handy tips about driving technique with lower tyre pressures, and how to minimise damage to the tracks by not powering on when momentum has been lost, switching off traction systems that impede sand driving, and also making sure that everyone had a shovel in a handy position!

Would you believe it, even before the first team of vehicles were all on the sand there was a call on the UHF to stop and back up. The very first vehicle we encountered travelling in the opposite direction was a very large tractor. No issue about the size of the convoy, he clearly had a much bigger vehicle!  This first section of the trip followed a scenic route along the dune area and for the most part was leisurely and undemanding. By the time the group arrived at the first area that might present a challenge for those with little 4WD experience everyone had settled into a disciplined convoy routine and an appreciation of the beautiful scenic views. This first ascent stage, with a level approach and a right hand turn to the base, allowed the whole convoy to observe each of the preceding vehicles’ progress up the hill. Most of the drivers managed this part on the first attempt, while just a few required a little coaching from team leaders. It was actually beneficial for most drivers to see one vehicle fail at the first attempt but succeed at the second one after receiving advice to get tyre pressures down even further. Some immediate track repairs were carried out during this stage, a clear demonstration that shovels are not solely for digging out a bogged vehicle.

With an increase in confidence among those with less experience, the convoy continued towards our planned lunch stop at Guilderton. At this time one should always remember the quote from Rabbie Burns “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men. Gang aft agley“.  Our second ascent proved to be much more of a challenge than originally planned. With a couple of the earlier vehicles requiring more than one attempt, and the need to occasionally carry out track improvements, and a vehicle in the middle of the convoy getting bogged, it became necessary to bring the rest of the vehicles through on an alternative track. By the time the bogged vehicle was extricated and holes filled in, the convoy had reformed on the other side of the hill and we all drove into Guilderton and managed to squeeze the whole group into a very pleasant area next to the river.

With the pleasant sunshine, kids having fun in the river, and conversations about the trip so far and what was ahead, lunch was a very social experience in the 4WD club environment for all on the trip. It was initially anticipated that some of the drivers new to this activity might have experienced enough of a challenge for the day and here was an opportunity to call an end to their trip and depart with pride and vehicle intact. It was a very pleasant surprise to find that everyone had had such a good time so far that they were eager to tackle the second stage.

After the later than planned lunch break, the convoy re-inflated tyres to road pressures as we were going to travel back down the bitumen to enter the Wilbinga area for some more sand driving.

Leaving the bitumen just south of Barragoon Rd, and entering the first area large enough to allow us all to form up, it was time to reduce tyre pressures again. This time there was no discussion or hesitation from anyone. The first 10kms into Wilbinga was an easy and scenic drive, and while it required a degree of concentration from the driver it did not cause any problems for anyone. Amazing how the confidence levels had increased after the morning drive.

The approach to the Wilbinga “Bowl” provided an interesting section of twists and turns with some softer sand bits. Once at the Bowl, MG assembled all the groups together, debussed the convoy, and John H’s “Black Ops Group” gave an impromptu demonstration of soft sand driving.  It was a very impressive display of vehicle and driver capability, and perhaps with a smaller convoy and more time available several other drivers would have been willing to give the “Bowl” a bit of a go. Certainly argues well for a full trip list on the next club outing to Wilbinga.

The convoy headed out of the Bowl and moved on southwards through the sandy tracks towards the Wilbinga Rd exit. With the afternoon almost over MG had one more special event to entertain the group, and it turned out to be a fitting “pièce de résistance” for the whole day out. One Tree Hill ! If there is one sand hill on the entire continent that MG has a passion for, this is it! As a 4WD challenge it is a beauty. With some skill and heaps of patience the whole convoy was shoehorned into the small clear area at the base of the hill. On the pre-trip the previous Thursday it was envisaged that the well travelled Gilbert Triton would head up and over One Tree Hill as a closing scene for the day. On this day however, Black Johns’ Special Ops group decided they were up for the challenge. With the Triton up and over first, followed by a couple of Landcruisers, and then the Patrols, Richard “Red Hat” K could not resist the challenge and up and over he went. The whole audience was well entertained, particularly by the resilience of those who did not quite make it the first time. The last vehicle to make it over was however, the clear winner of the “Crowd Favourite Award”, it was non other than MarkH in a very shiny, new looking Ford Ranger!!!! Well done Mark

From the spectacular One Tree Hill, it was a short drive out on the Wilbinga Rd exit towards the bitumen. At the designated Air-Up point, Club President, and Green Team Leader, Martin gathered the whole crowd together and after thanking the organising team for a splendid event, delivered a special invitation to all our visitors to come along to the next club meeting on Dec 5th. It was quite an extraordinary experience to see the visitors change from a group of almost complete strangers to a convoy of new friends and satisfied 4Wdrivers within the space of a single day. Only time will tell how much of a success this event, including the presence at the 4WD Show, will be for the club but the enthusiasm generated from this Visitor Day argues well for the future of the Club.

Peter Cole
Blue Team Leader

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