Author Topic: El Freddo's Epic WA Road Trip:  (Read 1363 times)

Offline el_freddo

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El Freddo's Epic WA Road Trip:
« on: February 20, 2016, 02:00:17 PM »
So this was in the wind for some time, only those directly involved knew about it until I knew it was a green light – including my parents who were not impressed when they learnt we were off for a period of time after we stuffed Christmas (but that's another whole story).

Vehicle prep was key for a beach run.  The week and a bit before xmas I spent cleaning up and treating some surface rust that was appearing in the wheel wells/guards from previous activities.  All went relatively well.

We delayed our departure a day on the account of being totally wrecked from the run around of xmas and boxing day.  So on the 28th we set off, and legged it to Morgan, and with typical Bennie tradition arrived late.  This was the moon rising late night:

Super glad I gave Ruby Scoo her first proper wash in about 2 years – we hit a patch of white dirt road that was about 40km long.  Not much fun at night.

Wikicamps (highly recommend this app!) said there was a dodgy camp in town at Morgan, we didn't like it so kept driving toward Burra where we met a roadside stop for the night.  Was pretty good for a late night stop:

Tyre pic, because I can (and I love this tread pattern offroad, not too noisy onroad either)

Ruby Scoo, Day two of the drive:

We detoured through the town of Laura to stir my sister up:

And beware of your GPS settings – we had a couple of little detours that had us playing “leap frog” with some other travellers, nice scenery anyhow but it slowed us down:

Our little detour to Laura had us drive this beautiful stretch of road through the range just SE-ish of Port Augusta:

With this view on the western side:

Lunch and fuel up in Port Augusta before things start to take a step up on the road trip, this was between Port Augusta and Iron Knob where the engine temp started to climb and our AC didn't seem to be doing much:

Things got hot, so after some searching on the road side we found something to bush mechanic up to try and get more air through the radiator.  Then we hit Kimba – apparently half way across Australia – our halfway mark was more like Penong.  Here's the marker anyway, and a giant bird:

At the general store near the big Galah we got some nice ICY COLD drinks – well worth the money!  Also, I don't remember this section of the drive being so up, down and generally boring...  At Ceduna we fuelled up as the sun went down.  We also booked into the Nullarbor Road House as we knew our mobile reception would be patchy from here on until Norseman in WA.  Basically from Penong there's no reception.

So they accepted our late night arrival time by leaving the key out for us.  Winning. Except for this:

Dusk/twilight driving is not fun mainly due to the possibility of wildlife strike which could render the vehicle useless or worse.

On our way over we passed a ute on the side of the road, half on half off.  I thought they were trying to change a tyre in the dark.  Turned out they were sleeping in swags beside their ute.  Fools!  Shortly after that we hit the edge of the Nullarbor Plain – dark night time pic:

We arrived at the road house at about 11:30 “local time”, so midnight on the east coast.  I managed to wake early enough for a pre sunrise pic of Ruby Scoo looking mighty fine!

In this pic you can see the mad max air scoop I rigged up the day before – I think it's a commodore air dam from behind the bumper.  I thought about it over night and ended up changing the setup so that it sat against the bash plate to hopefully create a low pressure pocket behind the radiator.  Talk more about this later.

Unusual things you see – spotto'd this at the road house, thought it worth sharing:

Now “the usual” Nullarbor pics:  Road Sign:

Spewing that the SA government has setup all these fences, the spot I really wanted to be was on that patch of dirt you can see above the bonnet:

^ Awesome, I'd love to spend some time just hanging out here looking at it all day.  The colour of the water near the limestone cliffs was simply amazing!

Classic sign at the above photo spot:

Sure sign it's hot when the locals are hanging out in the little bit of shade they can find!

Another Ruby Scoo pic just before we hit the WA/SA boarder:

Love these trucks – the three trailer road trains are so much more impressive, mainly because we never see them over here, these are still impressive enough for me:

At the WA SA boarder there's a major customs check for anything plant based, honey etc.  So due to a miss communication and Mrs El Freddo thinking we were at least two days away from the boarder we had to gorge ourselves on our fruit we got in Port Augusta.  We missed two Avocardos, not happy about that.  Everything gets wasted.

From here we decided to see how far we could make it into WA.  Our ultimate aim was Preston Beach to meet some good friends of ours for New Years Eve.  After Eucla the temperature rose up to the 40*C mark.  I caught it peaking at 44.3*C before Madura, we were stuck without AC running and at a speed of 100km/h as this kept the engine temp steady just above 93*C:

From this point in the images I had the camera on the wrong setting, so quite a bit of photo editing occurred to get the darkness etc right.  You'll see when I work it out...

Every few hundred kms you come across these markings on the road – and they're not pedestrian crossings!  These are the marks of the Royal Flying Doctors' emergency runways.  Some are cleared to the side, others just mowed.  Pretty cool and would be awesome to see one land, just not under the typical circumstances:

Before we left Ceduna we contacted our friends who told us we would meet a cold front once we were near them in the next couple of days.  Well, lucky for us it came early but with a ghastly head wind.  Engine was working harder but the temp dropped down to the normal operating temp of 82*C and stayed there solid.  On our last trip I got a pic at the Madura Pass.  So I got another one, but couldn't get it the same:

Back then:

Shortly after this we made it to Cocklebiddy to refuel.  Tanker at the servo:

And a bloody good sign that every Australian should pay attention to:

If you're curious about the Nullarbor Straight, it looks a lot like this most of the time:

The Western End sign is a little worse for wear from my memory of the last time I saw it in person:

Norseman was looking pretty good from here.  Near Balladonia the sun was setting and we got a bluey shot of it going down, and the long straight road ahead:

As last light was disappearing I decided we needed to use a jerry can to make the distance to Norseman where the next fuel station was.  Through the trees on the road side stop I could see a salt lake, on the return trip we saw loads of them...

After fuelling up at Norseman we headed off towards Hyden along the dirt highway.  With the amount of driving we've done on the third day concentrating on the surface of an unknown dirt road and passing a side tipper road train took it out of me and we pulled over for the night – we happened to find one of the campsites on the map and camped up there for the night:

The road trains continued every few hours through the night, but we were far enough off the road that they didn't bother us.  Day Four on the road had more dirt highway in store for us.  It was awesome:

All up we did over 300km of dirt and passed a few of these:

When you do roadworks out here you don't need to worry too much about detour arrangements – just bulldoze one around the work area:

I took a few Ruby Scoo photos again:

On the way to Hyden on a single lane sealed road half way around a bend we passed an oncoming car and got showered in glass.  Gave Mrs El Freddo the fright of her life but I knew what it was:

One of our destinations for the trip was Wave Rock, Ruby Scoo made a friend while we were at the Kiosk:

Wave Rock itself was much smaller than I envisaged from the pics I've seen, still pretty awesome if you overlook the man made wall across the top of it to save stupid:

On our way out I caught sight of another brumby, this time a targa top.

From here we had some drama with roadworks and a shot radiator about 50km from our destination.  This last 50km made the previous 3500km easy.  The planned route had a bridge out so we tried to get around it but all the GPS could find was easements across people's paddocks.  Then at a stop the engine got super hot – 120ish on the temp gauge.  Found out the top radiator channels 4, 5 and 6 had cracked at their joint with the hot side tank. 

With the water we were carrying Ruby Scoo could manage about 5 minutes of driving before getting hot again.  I carry copper seal with me and after some umming and arring I shoved it in and we drove the rest of the way to Preston Beach without an issue – and made it in time to relax and celebrate the new year.  Here's the sunset after our arrival:

While at Preston Beach what do you do?  Well, hit the beach of course!  Air down first – 18psi was my choice of lower pressure, this is how well the Kumho Road Venturer Mts bag out:

Down the beach:

The water was an awesome colour:

After a few days at Preston Beach we headed back to Perth to sort out the radiator issue.  I love how they have their passenger rail in the middle of the freeway, bus station above rail station on the overpass:

On the way I had to get a pic in the same place as I did last time I was here in 2007.  The only problem is that I can't find the original and imageshack has “dropped” the image (frustrating!).  I do have this thumbnail from google images though:

And now:

I would have liked to get back here without the gear on the roof or the roof rack, just my usual set of two roof bars, but time didn't allow.

So it was onto sorting out this radiator – ebay special is what I had to make sure it would fit to begin with – but this radiator had 28mm outlets and the only ones we could get were 42mm and the drain was in the bottom outlet which put that pipe straight into the cam cover.  Not ideal.

After hunting around we got onto a Vietnamese fella who was passionate about radiators to say the least.  He spent a day at his distributor looking for the end tanks I required but came up with nothing.  He ended up ordering a dual core copper radiator with plastic end tanks (38 or 35mm outlets) with the idea to use my existing end tanks.  But they didn't fit either so I was left with a dual core radiator that I couldn't return.  Good thing was that “Mr Myagi” charged me $15 more than the off the shelf “oval core” alloy radiator.

So we took it back to Ruby Scoo, pondered a bit, dropped it in place to see what could be done and we decided to move the whole radiator about 2 inches to the passenger's side as I had room to do that.  A couple of new holes:

Dual core N13 goodness:

Lower outlet clearance to the cam cover in the new position:

Due to the new outlet size I needed to match it to the larger EJ sized hoses.  I used my old adaptors that I made for the last setup with a Camry hose:

This hose made up the top and bottom hoses in combination with the factory EJ hoses cut down to suit too.

A new thermo fan to replace one that wasn't working so well, fitted up with the dual core I was happy with the clearance between the fans and the front of the engine:

So with the radiator sorted we headed off north to Jurien Bay.  We had a few stops along the way:

The one of the good roads:

The next day we headed towards Jurien Bay via the dunes and tried on a beach; I've been watching footage and looking at images of these tracks from the WA boys on the forums for ages, so to be cruising a very small section of them it was awesome:

Jurien Bay around the bay area, we hit the beach to try and make it through:

After some messing around it was obvious that I wasn't going to do it – tyres too skinny, car too heavy (needed a supercharger and second radiator to keep it cool!), so we decided to turn around once I was off the embankment.  Not much of a fun exercise:

Once we found one of the lost maxtrax we headed to Jurien Bay for some lunch.  I was here a few years ago on a trip with work.  The Salt and Pepper Squid was just as good as it was back then.  We made “camp” in the carpark for lunch:

While we were there this neat number rocked up, sounded awesome too:

After lunch and some rain we aired up and headed to the Pinnacles for a self guided drive tour (and loads of pics!):

Great place to visit with many spots for photos that really highlight the vehicle in the right light and angle!

After leaving the Pinnacles we headed out to find a camp site for the night, we had to head inland to find a free camp as that was our preference.  After checking out one place that looked ideal we found it had loads of ants so decided to continue on.  We found another place and used it as a back up, no less than 5 minutes later we were back there and the spot we preferred was taken by a motor home.  After a short hello they happily moved for us to pitch our tents.

The next day we headed south towards Lancelin.  We decided to see if we could hit up Wedge Island beach area but every time we tried to get to the beach it wasn't to happen.  One placy was pretty interesting with a pile of white dunes that buried anything that got in their way:

On the way out I spotted one of the locals:

On a side trip I found another off-shoot road in the scrub, we followed it for ages until it petered out to nothing, so we were forced to turn around and do it all again in the other direction.  When we hit up the main highway again it turned out that we pulled out in front of another old forum mate.  Couldn't have timed it better!  We lunched at a park in Lancelin before heading to the dunes and airing down:

This is what Lancelin has to offer – and it looks a pot load steeper from the driver's seat!

Ruby Scoo up her first dune in the area, Subarino was disappointed he couldn't do it...

Loved this area, I climbed the highest dune I could find – twice!  I didn't get in the position I wanted the first time so I “was forced” to do it again.  The aim of these pics are to give a rough 360 degree view:

Great time had even in this little space of time.  So with the crew playing host, they left it up to me to see what I wanted to do.  I pretty much said “lets cut through the guts and head north to that scrub on the dune near the beach”.  Yep, I was hitting the mark for what I wanted to do here!  This was one of my last pics of the vehicle on the dune until...:

Until I got stuck in some soft sand and stuffed my gearbox.  I was hoping it was shot driveshaft but it turned out I'd broken my precious AWD locking centre diff gearbox.  Locked I had read wheel drive, unlocked I went nowhere.

So the Ranger came in handy and got me most of the way out until I was under my own steam again, then I unlocked the centre diff and found the truth of the matter.  The decision was made to run back to Perth in rear wheel drive only.  All went well for the ~70km.

That night with Taza's help on the gearbox and Subarino in other support areas we got the box out, on the bench and in pieces to find the broken part – a snapped pinion shaft.
The next day we got on to a mate and one of his mates who did some massive MASSIVE! Favours for me and sorted out my issue.

A few days later the gearbox was back together when RSR555 and Toonga dropped over.  RSR basically took control of the rebuild in the morning, by about 6pm there was a Subaru convention at Subarino's place:

That night we had it driving again with all working well.  Hanging out with Toonga's EJ'd vortex:

The next day we headed down to Rockingham to RSR's workshop to drop the gearbox oil for the proper stuff as I was running a lightweight oil to flush out any crap that was still in the box.  First mechanic any of my vehicles have visited for work to be done:

I just missed out on a “up on the hoist” shot... anyway.

While I was there the infamous Hatchie was present, I couldn't help myself with some pics of course:

And with RSR's twin turbo converted auto Outback:

All three lined up:

On the way back to the north of Perth we stumbled across this wicked build:

And along the way Ruby Scoo achieved this little milestone:

And a location reference as to where it happened – not as glamourous as I'd hoped, but a good marker none the less:

Last night in Perth and we tidied a few things up and tried to pack some gear.  The next day we continued packing and sorting things, we got off later than we'd wanted to but still cut a lap in the middle of Perth where I got a greasy look from a bus driver when we were at a set of traffic lights beside some road works – not realising that we were in the bus section of the only lane open and the rest of the traffic was a good 15 metres behind us...  No pics of Perth as we were too busy taking it all in – such a light filled city that feels like a good version of Bendigo on steroids.

That night we decided to stop off at a Hotel/Motel and ended up in a quiet one in Southern Cross.  Before we booked in I grabbed a shot of us out the front of the Palace Hotel on the main road:

And back in 2007:

The next day we headed over to Kalgoorlie to check out the super pit.  On the way over I thought I should get a pic of one of the road train warning signs.  This one was the three trailer one, probably the first I'd seen on this trip that I can remember:

The old buildings in the main street of town were pretty awesome too and gave the place a real historic vibe.  Here's Ruby Scoo with some of the old mining equipment on display:

And the superpit itself:

There wasn't any planned blasting for the day, which was probably a good thing as I'd be inclined to hang around for it...  From here we headed to Bunnings – to grab some sausages in bread.  Gotta love Sundays and the Bunnings BBQ.  This was ideal as it made for a quick stop, quick food with no mess to clean up and only paper towels to throw out at the end.  It was a real time saver for us and highly recommend it for others too!

After leaving Kalgoorlie outside temp rose and our engine temp followed.  We did the usual trick of looking for something on the side of the road.  Mrs El_Freddo found a dodgy looking piece of air dam off some vehicle, it looked pretty floppy.  After umming and arrghing we turned around to check it out.  I went for a walk a bit up the road behind us to see if there was anything else worthwhile up there – then came back on the other side of the road where I struck gold.  Scored a hard rectangular plastic grill from a MAN truck in good condition.  That was hooked on the bash plate under the front of the subi with three cable ties and off we went.  Engine temps returned to normal even with the AC on.

Heading down to Norseman we came across some roadworks – radio channels used are posted as you approach the road works, it's pretty interesting listening in and we heard a convoy of trucks carting oversized loads requesting a smooth run through the roadworks without having to stop.

Once back on the main drag we passed a number of road trains from one or more of the mines around here.  I wouldn't mind driving something like this for a short period of time just for the fun of it, better yet would be an outback tanker roadtrain!

We also got a chance to watch a freight train roll by, sounds dull but was pretty interesting – we didn't count the carriages but there were LOTS, probably well over 100 as there were two locomotives in the middle or 2/3rds mark:

Once in Norseman (mid afternoon now) we fuelled up, grabbed a sticker or two and headed off aiming for the WA/SA border and beyond to an old historic homestead, with picture stops along the way:

On the way out of Norseman we'd barely hit the 110km/h speed zone when a road escort convoy moved us off the road to let them through:

Pretty cool to see – I got these pics and the blokes forgot that anyone with a CB can listen in as they referred to us as a couple of brown eyes.  When I mentioned this to them they went silent pretty quick.

Next stop was Balladonia for fuel as this was most likely our last fuel stop before Border Village.  This place was also near where the sky lab crashed down:

From here it was drive and photos...  At the western end of the Nullarbor Straight:

Same spot with some interesting light settings provided by Mother Nature herself – no editing:

Eastern End:

Eucla 2007:

and in 2016 (midnightish) trying to remember how the pic in 2007 was...

The spare jerry can went in to get us to Border Village at this point.  We'd hoped we'd make it in time to Madura for fuel but they were closed.  Fuelled up, grabbed some pics with Roey II:

After driving further than expected, we finally found the turn off to the Koonalda Homestead, then aired down due to the insanely bumpy road, travelled carefully at 30km/h we finally made it to the old homestead.  Once the tent etc was sorted I got my chance at some night photos which was something I had been looking forward to.  We arrived here at 1:30am WA time, 4am SA time.  The WA arrival time was much more respectable.  Got some good night shots:

Early morning sunrise:

Later that morning (I was going to say next morning) the heat got us up about an hour, maybe two after sunrise.  We moved the car into a patch of shade, packed up, had breakfast and met a fella from Geraldton called Grant.  He was wondering if we were headed out to the Koonalda Cave.  Our plan was to have a poke around, then hit the road and get some better pics on the Bight.  Since we had a second vehicle we decided we'd go and check it out.  Before we left a second vehicle rocked up – a forester.  They weren't going to head out to the cave but they caught us up on the way out there.

One of the many tracks out there:

Every homestead and road house on the old Eyre Highway apparently had a graveyard of vehicles that didn't make it.  I could spend hours poking around in this area:

“Fill 'er up mate”

^  When we were here last time there were two pumps and they both looked in much better condition that the one's that left is in now.

We drove to our next photo opp with the Bight where we aired up and took a pile of pics:

I can't get over how amazing these cliffs are and the colour of the ocean as you look from the cliffs southwards.  I also don't have the right lens, angle or desired location for Ruby Scoo to get the pic I'm really after.

After leaving here outside temps hit 44 degrees, Ruby Scoo ran like a dream with AC on full tilt at 110km/h.  Mrs El Freddo complained that she was too cold at one point in the direct airstream.  We stopped off at the Nullarbor Roadhouse for fuel before jetting off again towards Ceduna.  Near the eastern end of the cliffs we came across the remnants of what was previously a tyre expoded all over the road.  I even made comment to Mrs El Freddo about there being an unhappy truckie at his next fuel stop.  A couple of hundred metres up the road was the lines of the rim running on the bitumen.  Coming over the crest of the hill we saw a caravan stopped before the crest of the next hill – oddly enough the lines followed them off the side of the road.

So we pulled over to help them out.  Single axle caravan, range rover bottle jack (mine) and the jack was hard work.  Turned out they'd been to Margret River and had a dozen cases of wine in the caravan headed back to Sydney.  They were an older couple and there was no way they were able to change the tyre.  So I did it for them.  The rim was destroyed as you could imagine.

Once we were done they left and I repacked our car with our tools etc.  They wanted to leave us with a case of wine for our efforts which we declined – they insisted so I pointed at my car and asked where would I put it?

Before we left there was an old cassette tape on the side of the road which I thought looked cool – I had unfortunately disturbed it a little with moving around between the vehicles, it still looks good though:

Thinking that the grey nomads would be doing about 80km/h with their huge load and now no spare for the van I was sure we'd catch them up before long.  About 250km later we caught them up probably due to a couple of big loads that held some vehicles up until they could pass.  These guys were still hoofing along happily just under 110km/h.  I couldn't believe it.

Anyway, we had a late lunch/early dinner in Penong, then fuelled up in Ceduna.  We were hoping to make it to the eastern side of Port Augusta – but where to camp had not been decided.  On this return trip it seemed that most of what we travelled at night we did during the day and vise versa with exception to the Nullarbor Plain area from the WA/SA border which was good for us.  Back in Kimba:

We ended up camping less than 30km west of Iron Knob on a secluded roadside rest stop, again late at night but not as late as the night before.  Back on the road the next day we came across another escorted oversized load convoy:

At around this time I'd made contact with another forum and facebook friend that I was yet to meet in person – Brumby Boy.  We made a small detour after fuelling up in Port Augusta, back through that awesome road through the range out to where he was working on one of his boss's properties:

It was a good meet/catch up/check out each other's rides we've read so much about.  Then back to the drive – I decided to head back to the main highway, via that same road again through the ranges, it was much better not having to watch engine temp like a hawk this time!  Then it was south to Adelaide hoping to catch up with some family – turned out everyone was away.  So we got straight to business cutting a lap in the Adelaide CBD and promptly getting stuck in their peak hour.  One the way out we grabbed a couple of pizzas and fuelled up. 

One of our last pics of the trip was our shadow cast by the setting sun as we approached a town near Keith.  Also around this area we saw the aftermath of a crash where a family managed to put a hired winnebago into some of the safety cameras at Kiki.  I don't know how they did it but they got it up on the other side of the armco railing with the front wheels in the air on the road side of the railing where the whole vehicle should have been.  It didn't look like they'd rolled it either.

Next we fuelled up in Boarder Town before trying for “home” in Bendigo.  We swapped drivers regularly and pulled over for a few hours to sleep at one point.  Mrs El Freddo finished off the drive and we arrived at 7am in Benders.

Awesome trip, I kind of wish we were still cutting a lap around this big country of ours, with a few trips darting inland... Maybe one day but unfortunately I doubt it'll be in Ruby Scoo.

A huge thanks goes to Subarino and Mrs Subarino for putting us up during our visit, and we're forever grateful for the extra time and patience from you while Ruby Scoo was “in for repairs”.
Vidler for his welding skills and his links to mates (Rob) who also helped out (read dug me out of a hole); RSR555 for his time, contacts, building/directing and the final check over Ruby Scoo.  Toonga for hanging out with RSR555 and I for the day – and being our wheels.
Taza for towing me out of Lancelin, lending me jacks, stands etc and for your help with the gearbox removal.

I'm sure there are others that I've forgotten to mention – everyone's efforts are greatly appreciated!

And I enjoyed catching up with old mates and meeting new ones too.

Good times!



Offline Phizinza

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Re: El Freddo's Epic WA Road Trip:
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2016, 11:35:15 PM »
Wow,  that's an epic trip report for an epic trip.  Very jealous. 

Offline el_freddo

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Re: El Freddo's Epic WA Road Trip:
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2016, 01:01:14 PM »
Yeah Phiz I'd loved to have spent more time there and head further north, do a "western central" lap by heading west, then north up to the NT, do a couple of side trips in the process, returning home via Alice Springs and maybe the Simpson Desert or something like that.

For now I have to work out why my rear tyres are scrubbing out on the extreme inner edge. I also need to do some wiring changes to reduce my charge voltage and work out why my EJ idles so high - probably a faulty or worn out iacv I reckon.

Things to do...



PS I've got some images to swap too looking over the pics as the page loaded. I'll do this next time I'm on the computer ;)

Offline Phizinza

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Re: El Freddo's Epic WA Road Trip:
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2016, 05:59:10 PM »
A trip like that would be great. Life and mortgage/rent always gets in the way!

Do you know what the current toe is like of on the rear?

Offline el_freddo

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Re: El Freddo's Epic WA Road Trip:
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2016, 05:29:39 PM »
No idea Phiz, but it looks like my rear bushes are shot.  Got a new set to put in this weekend.