Convoy attracts a crowd while crawlin’ the Hume
5am: Rita shakes me awake with a cup of coffee. She has been up since 3.30. I silently thank the gods that I wasn't born a woman, and don't have to worry about make-up, fashion sense and other female necessities. Having belted down rain the previous day and overnight, the second Crawlin' the Hume event (from Melbourne to Albury) is shaping up to be a wet and bedraggled affair. Somewhere in my still befuddled brain, I hear Rita tell me that the rain has stopped.
5.30am: As we drive through Yarra Glen and Kangaroo Ground on the way to the starting point, we spy a single star in the sky. We hope this is a promising sign that the bleakness of the past week is lifting.
6.30am: We arrive at the old Ford assembly plant at Broadmeadows on the Hume Hwy. The sun has not yet risen but already there would be more than 150 trucks of all shapes, sizes and ages lined up and ready to traverse the old Hume Hwy to Albury.
Time for a coffee and a chat with the organisers.
Roger (Slasha) Marchetti and Rob French organised the first Melbourne run two years ago after attending the Sydney event, run by Bruce Gunter in 2011.
"Frenchy and I were sitting at Yass having dinner one night and he suggested that we should do one out of Melbourne," Slasha said.
"We promoted it through Big Rigs, The ATHS mag and via the website and got 130 trucks that year. This year we have 218 registrations, plus tagalongs. ATHS back the event, but it's run by Rob and I."
It takes a lot of time to organise the run.
"This time around it took 13 months. To organise all the permits, liaising with Vic Roads, the police, the councils, the shires ... Everybody needs to be involved to co-ordinate it.
"A lot of the roads going through the towns now are no longer Vic Roads - they've been handed back to the local councils - so we need their permission to run 200-plus trucks through their towns. It all takes time - and money."
Frenchy cuts in: "Two years ago, when we first wanted to do this, I went looking, cap in hand for a sponsor.
"I went to Coburg Trucks, expecting to be thrown out, but instead they welcomed me with open arms. They've come to the party again this year, having donated over $1000 worth of prizes for the raffle as well as all the commemorative cups, caps, monogrammed high vis vests and showbags. We couldn't have done this without them."
Now that the day has finally arrived, the boys are feeling, "Bloody relieved!"
"Now all we want is for the rain to stay away," they say.
Bruce Gunter, organiser of the original bash out of Sydney, had driven his 1957 Commer Knocker down for the run.
"I thought I'd come down and support the boys here. I'm not alone; I reckon there'd be 40 of us that have made the trek south.
"It all started when my old man said that he'd like to do a run down the old Hume before he died. That was on the way to Alice in 2010 and, on the way there, he keeled over.
"When he recovered I thought I'd better do something about it before he missed out, and that's how it began. We thought we might get 30 or 40 trucks and we ended up with 143 on that first run.
"The second event pulled 260 trucks. Rob and Roger came to the first event, were blown away and said, 'we're going to do this out of Melbourne'; 40 other people said that too, but they were blokes who went with it - and here we are for the second Melbourne run."
Bruce owns a 1957 Commer Knocker.
"It was originally from Western Australia where a guy had it from new until 2000. A bloke in Melbourne bought it from him and started to restore it and then lost interest in it.
"I had one that I was doing up, but this one was a goer. It's since had the cab off, new motor - basically everything, back to original in my dad's colours.
"He was 19 when he had his first one, similar to this. That's what prompted me into buying one, even though everyone said I was nuts.
"Unfortunately the motor has let go on the trip down and I've got a sump full of water. We'll really be 'Crawlin' on the way back north! That's the joy of the old gear."
7.12am: The sun has come out. Is this a promise of things to come?
8.45am: Broadford and a few of the old boys have pulled up for their first break of the day. The excuse was that 'the missus' needed a toilet break.
9.30am: Seymour, and we are looking at a beautiful old 1934 Fargo van, owned by Graham Pollard for the past six years. Could this be the first breakdown of the run?
"She's got a vibration at about 30mph and I can't work out what's causing it. Don't know whether to keep going or turn around."
Could you do 60 and it goes away? "Sixty in this? You've gotta be joking!"
We spied Graham again at Winton, so he made it that far at least.
9.50am: Avenel, and there's not a cloud in the sky.
11.15am: Benalla, and the locals are lining the street to wave the straggly procession through.
Noon: Lunch break and showtime at Winton raceway. Folk have lined the old highway both in the towns we have passed through and also in the middle of nowhere, cameras in hand and, more often than not with kids in tow.
Many times we saw grandpa intently telling little Johnny what the passing trucks were.
Winton is a chance to catch up with the owner of a magic Ford Mercury that had impressed us on the road. Owned by John and Julie Kerr, the '64 M700 packs a 361FT with a Paxton supercharger. John did the restoration from a bare chassis up in his backyard.
Everything John owns is from the year 1964. His daily drive is a '64 Fairlane and there are two '64 Comets sitting in his Sydney garage as well.
John was born in 1970 and we didn't quite get to the bottom of his attraction to vehicles six years older than he is, but it's great to see the young fellas keeping the history alive.
2pm: Glenrowan and Kelly country. The trucks keep rolling.
2.40pm: On the Hume, north of Wangaratta and the overtaking manoeuvre of the day occurs when David 'Foggy' Horn, in his 1934 British Bedford WX, passes Trevor Davis in the 1927 International Speed truck. We reckon it took a full three minutes!
3.30pm: The convoy rolls over the railway crossing just north of Barnawartha. There's a fair bit of politically incorrect smoke coming from many of the rigs as their owners can almost taste that icy cold beer waiting for them just up the road.
4pm: We've made it! Albury Racetrack is the final destination and drinks await.
Over the next hour (or two) the stragglers arrive, just in time for a bang-up dinner and lively conversation well into the evening.
What makes this different to the many static truck shows around the country is hard to describe.
The appreciative acknowledgement from the folk lining the highway for hundreds of miles. The camaraderie is maybe closer than normal. It's certainly an adventure - especially for those in the older vehicles.
Whatever, it's a heck of a lot of fun. Frenchie and Slasha, against all instinct, are already organising the next Melbourne run in 2016.
For those of you who can't wait, the Sydney Crawlin' the Hume will be on April 12 next year. Put it in your diaries.