Rover Dream becomes reality for Greg Coone’s family

Jodie Thompson and Deidre Coone with the vintage Rover.

Jodie Thompson and Deidre Coone with the vintage Rover.

A TWO year dream will become reality this weekend when Deidre Coone and daughters Jodie Thompson and Amanda Mahncke set off with their vintage motor bike to ride the 3975 kilometres from Adelaide to Darwin.

The Rover Dream was just that in 2012: After Greg Coone returned from being a co-rider for a friend in the 2012 Adelaide to Darwin Veteran Rally, a rally for both motor bikes and cars that are pre 1918, he had a burning ambition to build his own Rover bike and take part in the 2014 rally.

Sadly, Greg passed away from a short battle with lung cancer in October 2012, having just started to gather together a few 'bits and pieces' before beginning the build of his own Rover.

His 'girls', Deidre, Jodie and Amanda, made a promise to him to fulfil his dream and complete the rally this year.

With many people helping the family get the 1912 Rover up to scratch, particularly good friends and fellow motor bike lovers the Sargent family, Ian, Jenny and Daniel, the Rover has been built and is ready to hit the long road to Darwin on Sunday.

Ian Sargent, Jodie Thompson and young Sam, Col Stoddard, Andrew Thompson, Jenny and Daniel Sargent and Deidre Coone.

Ian Sargent, Jodie Thompson and young Sam, Col Stoddard, Andrew Thompson, Jenny and Daniel Sargent and Deidre Coone.

As well as completing the ride, Deidre, Jodie and Amanda also wanted to leave a legacy in Greg's name and because of the support the family received from the Ararat hospital both throughout Greg's illness and after a serious motor bike accident a few years ago, the family decided to raise funds for East Grampians Health Service along the way.

The funds are being raised for the hospital through the Blue Ribbon Foundation and a fundraising farewell was held at Great Western last Sunday to give the team a good send off - bringing the total they have raised, before even leaving, to around $9000.

"Sunday was so much bigger than I expected and than the family expected, we thought maybe 30 or 40 would turn up but it was well over 100, and not just locals or dad's old mates, there was a good cross section of well wishers," Jodie said.

"When we first started we had hoped to raise $5000, but now we are planning on raising $10,000."

The family appreciated the work of the Blue Ribbon Foundation on Sunday, which presented the team with special reflective vests, as well as MC Colin Driscoll and local musician Bill Kilpatrick.

"He sang a song written about the Rover Dream, which certainly tugged at the heart strings," Jodie said.

"It was something we're never going to forget."

A customised helmet was also presented to Jodie by Stawell's Andrew Kennedy, who surprised her with a helmet which featured a full face portrait of Greg on it.

Dave McCartney and Tony Frankum with the trailer in the background.

Dave McCartney and Tony Frankum with the trailer in the background.

After months of preparations, the Rally begins on Sunday from Adelaide with around 50 entrants this year and Jodie said she is looking forward to getting that first day under their belts.

Jodie and Amanda will take it in turns to ride the Rover, with friends Daniel, Colin and Katrina Sargent each riding a bike and Deidre joining the rest of the team of 15 driving the bus.

"The first day will be the most difficult day as it is through quite a hilly part of Adelaide, but once we get out to Port Augusta it will be pretty flat from there on," Jodie said.

The shortest day will be the first day at just 164 km, with the longest being a tiring 276km but once the team gets to Coober Pedy they are hoping for a smooth trip.

While not training specifically for the ride, which isn't as comfortable as riding on modern motor bikes, Jodie said she did start riding bicycles early on just to regain awareness of roads from a bike's perspective.

They also have done many kilometres of riding on the Rover to get used to its quirks.

East Grampians Health Service CEO Nick Bush tries the Rover for size to the delight of Jodie Thompson and Deidre Coone. Pictures: PETER PICKERING

East Grampians Health Service CEO Nick Bush tries the Rover for size to the delight of Jodie Thompson and Deidre Coone. Pictures: PETER PICKERING

"The Rover is extremely rigid - its suspension - it feels like riding a plank round a corner!" Jodie said.

Another part of the trip the family is looking forward to is socialising each night and seeing the Australian outback.

"Amanda and I aren't seasoned travellers like some of the rest of the crew so it's going to be a real buzz," she said.

"We are really looking forward to chatting to people at the end of each day, which is what dad absolutely loved doing, all the socialising that comes with it."

The ride will finish at the Qantas Hangar in Darwin on August 24 and Jodie said they are excited about riding into Darwin, with the satisfaction that comes with knowing they have completed the ride and fulfilled their dad's dream.

"That's what we're all there for," she said.

"And I'm sure dad will be sitting on the handlebars or on top of the bus as we're riding along."

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