For Vietnam veteran, Rob Eade, his current Big Lap around Australia is about a lot more than enjoying sunsets and Happy Hours with fellow travellers … it is about honouring those how have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.
The 71-year-old will criss-cross the country laying more than 600 flags at Australian war memorials as a way of paying tribute to our fallen soldiers. He has researched the names of all service personnel who have died in conflict since the Vietnam War and written them on yellow tape which will be wrapped around an Australian flag and left at war memorials in the towns where they were born.
“I’m intending to ride my trike towing a small camper trailer around Australia and lay a small hand-held Australian flag with the detail of veterans who paid the supreme sacrifice from the Vietnam War through to the current conflicts,” he said. “I estimate it will take about three years.”
Rob, a cook who was in the defence force from 1965-1986, served in Vietnam from December 1969 until December 1970 with artillery units, the 101 Battery 1st Field Regiment and the 107 Battery 4th Field Regiment.
He will be kept company on his odyssey by best friend, his beloved Red Heeler, Ginge, who rides along in a custom “bitch’s box” on the back of the trike.
Rob first became a grey nomad back in 2008 and has nearly been around the country three times. He started out in a converted T3500 Mazda bus, changed to a Hino 4×4 9-tonne truck with slide-on camper and motorcycle in 2010, and then bought an old school bus in 2013 which he converted into a motorhome.
Then, a couple of months ago, he came up with the idea of the Remembrance Ride. He says his time riding his trike through the vastness of Australia satisfies his need to be by himself ‘to cope with the demons that all veterans have’.
He has, so far, laid flags in Collie, Bunbury, Busselton, Nannup, Pemberton, Albany, Norseman and Kalgoorlie and, having crossed the Nullarbor, at Whyalla in South Australia. His 40,000-kilometre route will now take him through South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and back to Western Australia where he will end his epic ride at Kings Park War Memorial in Perth.
Although he is self-contained and will be sleeping in the camper trailer he tows, Rob says he is always happy to get encouragement from grey nomads and others he meets on the road.
“I just had a cuppa and slab of fruit cake with two couples at Fraser Range rest stop,” he said. “It is great to get help from grey nomads just in the way of a cuppa, a chat, or both, and a wave of the hand.”
Nearly 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam. Some 521 died as a result of the war and more than 3,000 were wounded.