THE VETS TENTH poker run was their best ever with more than 500 bikes rolling up to the Kooyong pub at 1 pm to start the day off.
The Vets naturally used the RSL in Sarina as the first stop for cards and drinks but entrants found their way to other pubs like the Tandara, Grand Central and Sarina Hotel. Back in 2008, the Vets were staggered by the response with 420 bikes counted at Calen on their annual poker run. This year no one even tried to count the bikes accurately as they lined up both sides of the street at the RSL. In many ways, stopping at a place with four watering holes was a good idea. The huge number of bikes that rocked up at Calen in 2008 totally overwhelmed the bar staff. While not everyone got their first card at Sarina, no one went thirsty.
For 10 years the Vets have been staging one of the best poker runs in the region and everyone who has ever participated has had a terrific time. Even when it’s rained on their parade, or a bike has broken down, the Vets poker run has been a lot of fun. Their runs have always been well organised with military precision with outriders at intersections and a breakdown trailer. The other thing is, it’s the Vets big fund raiser for the year and no one minds reaching into their pocket to help the diggers out. You know that the money is going to a really worthwhile cause. Plus each year a local charity is selected for a sizeable donation and $2000 from this year’s run went to the CQ RACQ rescue chopper.
To capture the massive rolling procession of bikes on the highway, the Ozbike camera was set up on a 2 km long straight at Bakers Creek. Long before the first bike could be seen, there was a low frequency drone like a squadron of helicopters approaching. The sound then amplified into an approaching electrical storm. If you were sitting inside watching television it would sound like thunder rumbling in the distance. Then as the bikes came into view and rode past it was like a mini earth earthquake. Probably even more impressive was the fact that the line of bikes totally filled the 2 km straight and headlights trailed around the corner and seemed to take minutes to pass by. It really was an awesome sight and sound.
The instructions were clear that Eton was going to be the next stop. Whether people didn’t listen, were confused, or simply wanted to avoid the congestion at the Eton Pub, several riders pulled into the General Gordon pub on the way. Also a cane farmer got a bit of a surprise when two Japanese full fairinged ‘go fast’ bikes did a bit of moto-x across his paddock when they overshot a corner and left the road. They didn’t come off but would have needed a ‘settler’ at the Eton pub. Eventually most people found their way to the second pit stop.
Having a two cards-for-one stop at Eton was a brilliant idea and probably came about because the card stops during the previous year’s event took so long. People had plenty of time to talk, get a feed, and drink before the ride to the Retreat which was the final destination. The sausage sizzle at Eton Pub was the best ever. Dead set the barbecued snags would have won a prize in any national sausage making competition.
The day was T-shirt warm, probably hot to the southerners who came from NSW to attend. The beer, Bundy, Jack, Jim or Johnny just went down like water. Life doesn’t get much better.
The Retreat is a biker friendly pub off the Peak Downs Highway 60 km from Mackay. It’s run as a family affair that makes you feel right at home. One of the features is the large camping area, and for those who like their air conditioning and soft beds, there’re plenty of rooms that go for $80 a night. Normally they offer $10 steak meals but for the hundreds who turned up on the poker run, the staff had cooked up a lot of meals like curried chicken and spaghetti bol, and had them in the hot box ready to go for $8. Plus there were super fresh salty chips for $4 a cup. Not exactly a healthy diet but they tasted fantastic with a cold beer or rum and coke to wash them down. For the non-drinkers there was free tea and coffee.
Outside the bar is a large area with heaps of tables and bench seats that looks down on a big covered stage area. Remnants of the old road run down to a creek in front of the stage.
The last cards were drawn, hands checked and winners determined. After the toast to the flag and colours, Pedro announced over the microphone Sue had won the $1200 with a straight. It was definitely ladies luck as another lass picked up the $200 for the lowest hand.
Trophies were awarded for Best Presented Bike (won by Steve Hargreaves) and Most Travelled to the Poker Run (won by Ray Early and Deb who had came from Griffiths NSW). The Vets thanked their sponsors and gave out more prizes drawn from the card players tickets.
The two bands for the night were Grant Walmsley’s Agents Of Peace plus local group Razor. The Agents of Peace were first on stage but had some technical problems firing up. Apparently the truck carrying their equipment crashed through a house on the way up from Newcastle. Grant Walmsley is the ex Screaming Jets lead guitarist and performed many of his new compositions with his band the Agents Of Peace.
One of Mackay’s best rock and blues bands followed. Razor do cover versions of all the old biker favourites like Deep Purple, ZZ Top, Santana, Doors, Cream, AC/DC, etc. It’s great to see them back doing the pub circuit in Mackay again. Razor don’t know how to put on a bad show and are worth going to see anywhere they’re playing.
Nothing lasts forever — the night turned into day and people had to pack their tents and swags up and head for home.
words & pics by SS