Sidecar Racing in Stanthorpe

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Classic Sidecar Racing in the Netherlands

Just mention the word “sidecar” and I immediately think of the “Two Fat Ladies“- that iconic cooking show from the 90’s. So when Paul suggested last year that we go to see some sidecar racing, I couldn’t think of anything I would like less. One of Paul’s farmer mates from out west is a sidecar racer and he was going to be competing at the Carnell Classic in Stanthorpe. After being bribed with the promise of wine tasting I agreed to give it a go.

Stanthorpe is located in south east Queensland, about 237km south of Toowoomba, in a region known as the Granite Belt. It is a very beautiful area, known for its biennial Apple and Grape Festival and as a producer of some very fine wines. There are over 50 wineries in the Stanthorpe area and it has quickly become my favourite wine region in Queensland.

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Storm King Dam, Stanthorpe, QLD

We first visited Stanthorpe in September 2010 when we camped at Storm King Dam on the outskirts of Stanthorpe for about a week. September is usually a good time to go camping. It’s Spring – not too cold, but not too hot. But this was Stanthorpe. Possibly one of the coldest places in Queensland and it was absolutely freezing. Despite the weather, we did have a good time. At least I did. I love wine tasting. It’s fun to taste new wines and chat to the winemakers. Sadly, Bec doesn’t agree. She thinks it’s very boring, but we did do a few fun things for Dan and Bec as well.

The Granite Belt Maze is a great place for kids, big and small. There are a number of different maze adventures which involve collecting clues to solve a puzzle. They also have a mini golf course and a child size chess game. When we were there in 2010, the maze was a traditional hedge maze, but unfortunately in the Queensland floods of 2011, the maze was flooded and the trees died. A traditional tree maze takes a long time to grow, so they were forced to replace it with a timber maze. It’s still fun to do but not quite as challenging as the old one.

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The Granite Belt Maze before and after the QLD floods

Granite Belt Maze – Version 2

Well,  the sidecar racing turned out to be far more interesting than I expected. The side car was not much more than a platform on the left side of the bike. The passenger sat on the platform, leaning out over the back of the bike or over the sidecar as the bike went round the corners. Definitely not for the faint hearted! I couldn’t quite believe it at first when I saw them hanging out over the sidecar, almost touching the track. It was actually quite exciting.

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Sidecar Racing at Carnell Raceway, Stanthorpe, QLD

The sidecar racing was part of a motor bike competition called the Carnell Classic which features classic bikes, some as old as 70-80 years. It was amazing that they were still going and some of the riders seemed to be almost as old! It is a relaxed, semi-competitive event which gives bike lovers a chance to have some fun out on the track in a safe environment. Well, reasonably safe. The ambulance was on hand for any spills.

I ended up enjoying the racing so much that I told Paul I’d be happy to go again. In an amazing coincidence, just after our first experience of sidecar racing there was an interesting article about sidecar racing on the ABC which you can read about here. This year, when Paul suggested going to Stanthorpe again for the sidecar racing I was rearing to go.  So just a few weeks ago we headed down to Stanthorpe for some more sidecar racing and wine tasting (of course!).

Dan really enjoyed the racing. He loves anything with wheels. Sometimes when we’re driving around town you’ll see his head do a quick turn as he has noticed something interesting – a sports car, a Harley Davidson or just a shiny new truck. At the races Dan sat in his folding chair with his arm up in the air, just like the flag man, shouting out “GO GO GO” as the bikes zoomed off of the starting grid.

Who knows, maybe sidecar racing might become a regular event for us. Apparently later in the year, there is a sidecar event for those who are serious racers. Paul’s mate says those guys are really mad racers which just sounds like another reason to visit Stanthorpe again.

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Bowling for Cancer

 

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Sporting achievement is not something that I am known for. When the sporting genes were being dished out, I was at the back of the line and by the time I finally got to the front, well… there was nothing left. I don’t mind watching it, but years of compulsory PE lessons taught me that it was best to keep my lack of coordination and general all-round lack of anything even approaching sporting ability…to myself. So when I was invited to be part of a lawn bowls team for a social fundraising day, I was a bit dubious to begin with.  I had never played lawn bowls in my life and I didn’t know a whole lot about it, except that my grandfather used to play and it involved rolling some balls down a green.  But it was a social event and a fundraiser for cancer research, so hey, why not give it a go!

My husband Paul was our team captain and the only player in our team with any real bowls experience. He even has his own set. A couple of friends, who had played an occasional game before, made up the rest of the team.  So essentially, we were a team of hacks, which didn’t really matter as the first team we played against were also mostly a team of hacks. One of the girls was a complete novice – like me, and the two guys reckoned they had a practice session about five years ago. So it was a very entertaining and sociable round. 

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Throughout the afternoon the club was running a competition for touches. A touch occurs when your ball hits the little white ball, called the kitty. I was using Paul’s set of bowls, which were quite biased so I had to aim for the kitty on the green next to us so that the ball would swing in and actually stay on our green, rather than wandering off somewhere else. As it was my first time, I was just concentrating on keeping my ball on the green without going outside the lines or falling into the gutter, and then … I got a touch! And the prize for getting a touch?  

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  XXXX – an Aussie icon! You can’t get better than that! Considering I am not a beer drinker, this is actually quite funny. Paul later accused me of getting rather possessive about my bottle of beer, but considering it was the first time I had ever won anything for a sporting activity, I thought I was quite entitled to be a little possessive about it.

Our second round was against a team who had a little more bowling experience, however we managed to come out on top. And again, it was another enjoyable and sociable round. I was really impressed by the friendliness of everyone. Experienced bowlers were only too happy to give a few pointers and encouragement to those of us who had no idea what we were doing. This is one of the great things about a social day. Anybody can come along, learn a little bit about lawn bowls, have some fun and be part of a community project that is focused on supporting others in need.

After the two rounds we gathered in the club house for the prizes. Being a hack team we didn’t really expect to win anything, but, surprise, surprise  – we won second prize! I’m not quite sure how that happened. It looked like they were just drawing names out of a hat. I certainly don’t think it was on merit, but the fruit platters looked delicious and were very gratefully received.

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The social bowls day turned out to be so popular, they actually had to turn people away, which is a little sad in one way, but quite encouraging in another. Sometimes we can feel quite overwhelmed by all the bad news that flashes across our tv screens, but it is good to have our faith in humanity restored when we see ordinary people leading by example, coming together to have fun, to make connections and to show their support for others.

And as for lawn bowls? Who knows. Perhaps one day I’ll follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and take it up for real. I might even be lucky enough to win another bottle of beer. Cheers!