After than more than twenty years of driving, many of which have been spent driving trucks, and clocking in over a million kilometres across six states of Australia I have had many journeys. Some of them were shared with work colleagues, some were shared with friends and some were just shared with other road users, (although shared is often a loose fitting word for the way some use the road). However the most memorable and enjoyable journeys have always been the ones taken with family.
Of all of the journeys the most memorable was the one of over eight thousand kilometres, from our home in Eastern Victoria to Perth and back again. In previous trips to Perth we’d travelled through some of the strongest wind and dust storms imaginable, some of the heaviest rains I’ve seen in more than forty years on this planet and suffered through many a heatwave but that one trip in 2010 was memorable simply because of who was a part of that journey.
As with previous trips to Perth my wife was in the passenger seat, it’s only fair I take her since her family lives in Perth, and while she makes nearly any trip enjoyable on this particular trip we were also joined by our three year old daughter.
Many a person told us we were crazy taking a child that young on what was going to be a five day road journey anywhere but crossing the Nullarbor in a convoy of one was just mad. One of the most vocal opponents was my mother who had not only done the Nullarbor crossing multiple times herself but had done it once only a few years early with the three of us following behind.
On the first trip our daughter was still in nappies and but thanks to a very happy baby who enjoyed sleeping the trip was relatively easy and we had to stop more for the oldies in the front car than the baby in the rear car.
Although on the second trip we missed out on wonderful experiences like having to change nappies from the back seat of the car, changing nappies on the dinning tables of a quiet truck stop, cramped rooms with a porta cot and regular bottle feeds with my wife reaching into the back seat to hold the bottle, the trip in 2010 was made more enjoyable by the fact that a nearly four year old was able to enjoy so much more than a six month old.
The enjoyment started the minute we left home. Thinking we’d get an early start and make it out the other side of Melbourne before peak hour we left at four AM. We’d incorrectly guessed that having woken our daughter after such a short sleep she’d happily fall back to sleep in the car after we got going. Instead the first hour and a half of the trip was spent with a little voice from the back seat regularly saying.
“Look star” or “Look moon.”
We laughed each time it was said for the entire ninety minutes until we got close to the city and street lights and day light began to hide the brilliance of the night sky
Unlike our trip with a six month old where we were able to play our music and listen to whatever we wanted too in the front seat our passenger in 2010 was not only vocal but wanted to be involved with nearly every conversation. We had wonderful conversations about what we could see out the window, and we had wonderful sing alongs. My wife was extremely versed at singing Rainbow Connection which aided in putting both her and our daughter off for their afternoon nap while I drove on.
Even on the day we drove fourteen hours, thanks to a convenient time zone change and daylight savings in the eastern states, we had a pleasurable day. It was a long day and we were all tired by the time we pulled into the motel at dinner time but we’d managed to cut a full day of travelling off the trip west.
We found playgrounds in the unlikeliest of places thanks to our GPS and the need to stop and stretch our legs. Many of the play grounds in the smaller and more remote areas of South Australia and Western Australia left the playgrounds In our fairly populated country town to shame. We stopped to play on old steam trains, slides, swings, tractors and even a whale, our daughter loved all the new things she was getting too see.
Even staying in dingy roadhouses that hadn’t seen a lick of new paint in thirty years and probably hadn’t seen a maintenance man in half that time were a new and wonderful experience for a nearly four year old. She loved having a new bed every night.
Apart from spending nine days in a car and eight nights in often dingy roadhouses or motels with the ones I loved perhaps the most memorable part of the trip came from the most unlikely source. Even with the ever changing scenery of outback Australia, which I’d seen plenty of on previous journeys, the most memorable part came in an almost subliminal way from somewhere between the front and back seats.
Having installed a DVD screen on the rear of the roof console to entertain our daughter during the long hours on the road it was well used and the kids show, The Octonauts, was on high rotation. However it wasn’t until we’d been home several weeks and Octonauts was on a similar high rotation in the lounge room that I realised I hadn’t seen a single episode of the show, but thanks to those long road hours I knew every episode word for word.
I can’t wait for our next journey, where ever that may take us. Not only because I will get to learn the script from yet another new series of kids shows but because the next trip will not only involve my two previously wonderful travelling partners but it will include our second daughter as well.