My last experience of road tripping was, I believe, the summer of 1998 as Ma and Pa Godwin raced towards Cardiff with the unassailable aim of dumping their beloved offspring into the waiting arms of their Grandparents and, for three weeks, getting as far away as possible. My young mind was unable or simply unwilling to understand this odd arrangement. Why would my parents not wish to be around me and my brother 24/7, 12 months of the year? Surely we were the most entertaining little tots in the world and, after all, what on earth would Mater and Pater do if they weren’t looking after us? What else, after all, were they for? Goodness knew, but I remember those summers as a mixture of family reunions, trips to agricultural shows and endless afternoons trying with increasing frustration to reach then beat the final boss in Sonic Spinball, possibly the least well received of the Mega Drive Sonics.
This 15 year gap was ended not two weeks ago as I set out on not only another roadtrip, but perhaps the longest and most ambitious roadtrip in the history of roadtrips. That I’ve been a part of. Not ever. That sort of trip would probably involve mountains or ice and maybe Jeremy Clarkson making racist jokes and laughing at his own self perceived genius. It was a doozy though: we gave ourselves 7 whole days to get from the general Sydney area to Adelaide via Melbourne, a trip of some 3000km. Actually it may have been 1500 I wasn’t really paying attention to all that stuff, nor any actual navigation or the supply situation. I had people for that..
The seeds of this little endeavour were a hybrid concoction of two pipedreams I assumed would never come to pass. Firstly we were invited to a birthday in Adelaide. Naturally the idea of a roadtrip was discussed but more than a month lay between the festivities and the present day. Reassurances were made but I assumed, like all holiday plans, it was doomed to failure. The other dream was that me and Paul, a constant member of my little entourage for the preceding 6 weeks, wanted to get the hell out of dodge. We were planning on going alone when someone realised we were heading in the direction of the aforementioned birthday and suddenly we had more people joining us than we knew what to do with, especially as we didn’t have a car.
Ah yes, the car. Plans to grab a camper van in need of relocation were dashed early on and the extortionate prices put the kibosh on any legitimate renting. We were at an impasse. Luckily for us, a recently departed friend* had left his car and, after some hasty negotiating we were allowed use of the beast for the entire trip. So we were ready. We had our transport, our merry little band and our route. We did not have insurance and the question of whether or not the licenses we possessed were sufficient was fuzzy to say the least but who cares about that stuff anyway, when you really get down to it? Not us.
We commenced before the commencement with a last night to end last nights. The Flying Fox became as the last days of Rome with cask wine aplenty, various eclectic playlists wafting through the air and lots and lots of toothpaste. It was a good night. So it was we awoke the next day full of, if not vim then vigour, eager to clamber into our awaiting chariot and make headway.
Then the whole world caught fire.
Yes, the largest bushfires for 15 years engulfed the local area which was immediately separated from the rest of the world like a cholera ridden wench. They closed the roads basically. With no options left open to us save hitching a ride on a water dumping fire service cargo plane we returned to our beds and slept the day away, our dreams etched with images of burning cars and insurance brokers.
The next day brought with it our actual departure. Parting was such sweet sorrow as we were seen off by a veritable royal escort of the Who’s Who of Katoomba. I’d been worried about leaving the Fox for a while but this was a perfect farewell, equal parts sad and optimistic. It was definitely time to go but when you’ve spent so long somewhere and enjoyed your time there so thoroughly you dread leaving as, well, how can anything ahead compare? Leaving in the company of others in the same situation took the edge off what would otherwise have been an extremely difficult parting of ways akin to my departure from El Parque. Without the monkeys.
Anyway, that was the start. We left Katoomba music a-blaring and hearts a-soaring, ready for whatever lay before us on the great and grand roads of Australia. Except the Goon. No one was ready for the Goon.
To Be Continued…
Music for Road Tripping
This is the song we left the Fox to. I chose it because I was driving. No-one else had heard it before so I was the only one to filter any emotional significance from it. I didn’t give a shit.
*He’d gone to New Zealand rather than died, although apparently the difference is minimal.