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Posts Tagged ‘road trip’

All roads lead to Goulburn. At least that’s what the sign makers of New South Wales would have us think. Within a 100km radius of ‘Centre Of The Universe’ Goulburn, Sydney and Melbourne drop completely off all road signs and it’s All About Goulburn.

Is it little wonder that I naturally followed the signs to Goulburn on my way out of Canberra?

In doing so, of course, I added a tasty 70km to our journey that day – a journey that was already overwhelming enough as it was at 665 km.

“Whoops!” I said to my husband, after we discovered our mistake. He had taken over the driving by this point and had been concerned by the number of signs he saw pointing to Canberra two hours after we’d left the place.

“Ah, well,” I said philosophically, “It’s only added half an hour to our journey.”

“Sure. If you were doing 140km an hour…” my husband replied. Which I wasn’t – you know, in case anyone from the Roads and Traffic Authority happens to be reading this post.

“Well, you were the one in the Navigator’s Seat!” I replied. “And you’re the one who’s actually driven from Canberra to Melbourne before. You should have known!”

“I was asleep!” he cried. “Or drunk. Yeah, that’s it: blame the Drunk Guy. Again.”

(I should stress here for my Roads and Traffic Authority reader that he was joking about being drunk.)

“I was only going on the assumption that all roads lead to Goulburn,” I said, before adding “Stupid Goulburn!” for good measure.

(Again, just in case my Roads and Traffic Authority reader is based in Goulburn, I was only joking. Goulburn is a mighty fine town from what I can tell from its surrounding signage.)

We sat in stony silence for a while, until my husband realised we were dangerously close to running out of fuel and hostilities recommenced.

“You’re the one in the driver’s seat,” I was quick to accuse him. “That’s your responsibility! I can’t even see the fuel gauge from where I’m sitting!”

“You, as Navigator, should have asked me about the fuel level,” he replied, angrily. “Anyway, should we go head to the next town or turn back?”

“Let me check,” I replied, pulling out my iPhone.

I tried to download a petrol station finder app through iTunes only to have iTunes inform me that they had changed their terms and conditions and I had to read 58 pages of legal jibber-jabber and click ‘AGREE’.

Yes, 58 pages.

Uh, what part of ’emergency petrol station finder’ did iTunes fail to understand?

In the end, I just clicked AGREE. I mean, really, does anybody else ever read those things, even when they’re not on the verge of running out of petrol on the Hume Highway? We could all be pledging our internal organs or our first born children to Steve Jobs for all we know.

(And for the record, Roads And Traffic Authority person, I would do neither of those things willingly. Although, really, the pledging of organs or children to Steve Jobs doesn’t exactly fall within your remit at the RTA, now does it? Sheesh.)

Anyway, we made it to the next town before I could even download the stupid app, filled the car with petrol and made it to our destination (many, many hours later) without further navigational or mechanical mishap.

On the outskirts of Melbourne, I turned to my husband to remark (over the din of screaming children in the back of the car): “If you hadn’t been asleep-slash-drunk when we left Canberra and I hadn’t been so obsessed with Goulburn, we’d be home now.”

It was a bitter pill for us both to swallow. Not that we were actually popping pills while in charge of an automobi— Oh, never mind.

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Can’t get enough of reading about The NDM on the road? Feel free to read my guest post about ‘What My Children Have Taught Me About… Road Trips!’ over at ‘Maxabella Loves‘.

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“Road Trip” is one of those terms that once filled my head with images of bikini clad girls in a convertible jeep being mooned by a station wagon full of frat boys chugging beer.

Now, it just fills me with a sense of dread. Well, a different kind of dread, not being one to favour bikini tops or college boys’ arses.

Last Friday, I set off on a 900km trip to Sydney with my three kids, my husband and my mother. Since we couldn’t, in all good conscience, put everyone in NASA-issue diapers and drive the whole thing straight,we chose to do it over Two Big Days.

The road trip started optimistically enough. Every time we saw a sign mentioning our destination, my mother would shout “Woo hoo!” and my husband would shout “Spring Break!” and the kids would echo it. That was for the first hundred kilometres. After that the adults fell into a deep pit of depression. The distance felt so great that any sign reminding us of how far there was to go felt like an affront to our very persons.

That night in our stopover accommodation, the adults  turned to alcohol and the children threw mini-soaps at each other until they passed out asleep.

It wasn’t until the final 100km on the second day that the mood became hopeful again. The ‘Woo Hoos!’ and the ‘Spring Breaks’ returned. I was on my way to a two hour hair appointment in central Sydney without the children. Things were looking up.

But then I made two fateful errors.

Since my hair appointment was at 2PM, we only had time for a ‘drive thru’ lunch – yes, I’d become the kind of person to put my hair before my children’s nutritional needs. But then, if you had the kind of three-toned regrowth that I was sporting, you probably would have done the same.

At 11:30am, we approached a McDonalds.

“It’s too early for lunch. We’ll go through the next road services!” I said to my husband.

After all, I had read there were now more McDonald’s along the Hume Highway than there were towns. Why wouldn’t there be another McDonalds in 50km just when and where I needed it?

Mistake Number One.

And then I made my second mistake. I turned to my husband and whispered: “You know, the kids have been great on this trip!”

Look, I honestly don’t know what had gotten into me. I mean, we all know that, as parents, we’re allowed to think these things but that we should never – EVER – say them out loud. It only gives karma an excuse to bitch-slap us.

Turns out my casual remark to my husband was Tiddles McGee’s cue to kinghit his sister and for all hell to break loose in the back seat, shit itself and then rub my nose in it. You see, we went on to drive for almost an hour and a half (with the kids hysterically screaming) without a single Fast Food outlet in sight. An hour at a half. At 110km per hour. That’s over a 150km of food-free hell.

In desperation, we turned off the highway only to find ourselves driving through an industrial wasteland. Meanwhile, the air temperature outside suddenly rose ten degrees  and I started wishing I had worn a bikini top after all and, moreover, I started thinking that chucking a brown eye out the window might just be the best way of showing Sydney what I thought of it and its lack of roadside services.

But then, finally, after ten minutes of driving off the highway, there they were: the Golden Arches of Salvation. All I can say is trans fat has never tasted so sweet – but then, that may have something to do with the sugar they put in the burger buns…

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FOR THE RECORD:

  • I made my hairdressing appointment on time and got to sit around with foils on my head looking like a “Tin Rasta” for the first time in my life. My hair now looks fabulous (Thanks to my sister, Belle).
  • The McDonalds logo will forever more look like a big yellow bottom pointing at the sky and saying “Back in your face, Karma!”
  • We still have the 900km return journey home to look forward to.

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As the comedian Pat McGroin once said about the crew of the SS Minnow on Gilligan’s Island: “A three hour tour? It’s one and a half hours there and one and a half hours back. I mean, how lost can you get?”

I might have laughed at the time, but now I know how lost you can get. I know.

The other day, we set off on the one and half hour drive to my mother’s house in Blinkton after picking up the kids from school.

My husband, made edgy by the school traffic, suggested I take a different route down the freeway to avoid it. He then promptly fell asleep without really explaining what that route was except to say “Follow the signs to [Blahblah]”.

About twenty minutes of hurtling down the freeway, with not as single sign for [Blahblah] in sight, I woke him up.

“Um, I think I’ve missed the turn off.”

Turns out there was another turn off I should have taken before I started following the signs to [Blahblah]. Of course there was.

We decided to get off the freeway and find a road heading north to get us back on track. It didn’t help that we didn’t have the street directory in the car and that my husband was trying to work off a pocket-sized Roads of Australia map book.

“That’s the road!” my husband suddenly shouted. “Take that one!”

“What? West Road?” I said, somewhat doubtfully, as I turned into it. “Wouldn’t West Road, like, take us west instead of, say, north?”

“I know exactly where we are,” he said, pointing to the map book triumphantly. “This road is taking us exactly where we need to be!”

And he was correct – if, that is, you accept that “exactly where we need to be” happened to be a complete dead-end with nowt but the forbidding gates of a Cement Factory to see.

So we turned around and started heading east along stupid West Road. And eventually, we found a road heading north and were back on track. It was at this point my husband decided to put one of his Dire Straits tapes on the stereo.

“They like their guitar bits,” I commented, my teeth slightly gritted, after the fourth track in a row with an extended guitar solo.

“Okay, okay,” my husband muttered, rummaging around for another cassette. “Ah! Here’s one you’ll like!”

And he launched us straight into the middle of an Eric Clapton guitar solo. Lovely. I didn’t get a chance to comment, however, because it was right then that we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic heading into [Blahblah]. And the kids, like some kind of Greek Chorus in the back of the car, all chose this moment to break their silence by simultaneously shouting:

JUSTICE: “I’m starving!”
PIXIE: “Are we there yet?”
McGEE: “Need to do a weeeeeee!”

“Gee, I’m glad we missed three minutes worth of school traffic at the beginning of the trip so we could sit in peak hour traffic here with the kids at their finest,” I remarked to my husband, who merely grunted. After all, I was the one who had missed the all-important turn off in the first place.

In the end, a quick stop at a supermarket solved some of our troubles – and created some new ones. While I did the mercy dash up and down Aisle 5, my husband stayed in the car with the kids and let Tiddles McGee piss out of the sliding door of the Star Wagon in the crowded carpark. McGee then promptly stood in the puddle of his own creation, soaking his one and only pair of shoes for the weekend. Shortly after that, I returned with only two of the five essential items we had needed and a whole heap of other things we didn’t need, shouting “Don’t ask me what I forgot to get! DO NOT ASK ME!”. But of course my husband had to ask me what I’d forgotten, after which I went a little postal and shouted for a long, long time, pausing only to ask “Why does the car smell like urine?”.

Finally, almost three and a half hours after we’d set off, we arrived in the dark at my mother’s house, all of us cold, hungry and grumpy as fuck and Tiddles McGee screaming “I want to go hoooooommmmmme!”. And I found myself thinking how at least on Gilligan’s Island there were coconuts to make cocktails, bras and radios from and nobody ever had to clean piss out of someone else’s shoes. They didn’t know how good they had it, really.
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I’d like to take this opportunity to wish my mother a happy One Year Anniversary of living in Blinkton. May she have many more happy years in her little home there – and may we never make the mistake of taking West Road on our way to visit her again.

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Here’s some weird-arse shit: I’m writing this post the evening before my family and I set off on a week long road-trip but it is being published on the morning of the day we’re scheduled to return.

How’s that for a Terminator-style mind-fuck?

It isn’t entirely unlike the kids having an “Early Christmas” with their Nanna the weekend before Christmas. The Pixie, in particular, was interested to know why Christmas had come so early when her Advent Calendar clearly showed there were five more sleeps.

And then Mr Justice and I started arguing about which day “Actual Christmas” (as opposed to “Early Christmas”) fell on and he went to look at the calendar on my mother’s wall.

“That’s not this year’s calendar,” I reminded him, for it was a decorative calendar and not a functional one, being a gift from my late (and much beloved) Aunty M to my mother from the year 2000.

“Oh, I just want to see which day Christmas was on in the olden days,” Mr Justice replied. “Oooh, Wednesday! Ah, so Christmas used to be on a Wednesday, huh!”

I didn’t have the heart to point out he was looking at October. But technically, he was correct: Christmas had most certainly fallen on a Wednesday in the past.

He was quiet for a while, no doubt imagining the former glory of past Wednesdays that had been Christmas “in the olden days”. And then he piped up again:

“Remember the launch of Ben Ten Alien Swarm that was on Cartoon Network on Saturday the 16th?” he asked.

“The 16th of what?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter!” Mr Justice replied somewhat impatiently. “The point is that in the olden days it would have been on a Monday. That’s a school night!”

He seemed almost outraged at such poor planning on the part of the creators of Alien Swarm.

“Except it wouldn’t have been made yet because this year was the first year it was shown,” I pointed out. “Thus the ‘launch’ aspect…”

“Yeah, yeah,” was his dismissive reply. “But it *would have been* on a Monday. You know, in those old days.”

Okay, sure.

Anyway, the point of all this is that now I’m writing this future post in a present that is already the past. It’s enough to turn a Not Drowning Mother to drink. Except that I suspect the road-trip might already have done that. Just a guess. Or rather, just a past prediction about a future which is now the present. Sheesh!

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There must be something very calming about the final 50 metre stretch to my front door. As babies and toddlers, my children would remain stoically awake (i.e. screaming) for the entire journey – whether it be 3 minutes or 3 hours long – until those last 50 metres, when their eyelids would grow suddenly heavy and sleep would pull them in…

Of course, the minute I turned off the engine or (more daring still) kept the engine running and tried to do “The Transfer” into the house, their eyes would spring right open as if to say “Just forget about it! Let’s pretend the whole damn thing never happened!” And then their mood would be even less charming than before the micro-sleep (i.e. more screaming) and they would somehow use those 2 minutes of sleep as leverage to stay up at least one hour later than usual (still screaming). 

Tiddles McGee is the worst of them all. Even now, he can fall asleep in the car in the 1km between the school and home. I’ve tried repeatedly shouting “STAY AWAKE!”, singing show tunes at the top of my voice and getting the other children to poke him. When it’s just him and me, I’ve even taken to throwing balled-up tissues at him from the driver’s seat. He just shouts “I’m not sleeping. I’m RESTING!” and then somehow still manages to fall asleep.

It always reminds me of this game show I once saw in Japan where a group of people were strapped into a bus without sides or a roof and driven through walls of fire and swarms of wasps. And all the time they were expected to try to complete a complicated maths problem on these little blackboards. Oh, and the host was dressed up as a bottle of sake.

Now, obviously nobody is dressed up as a bottle of sake in Tiddles’ situation. Well, not yet anyway. My point is that Tiddles McGee could be a passenger on that Bus of Weird and still fall asleep.

So, inventive soul that I am, I came up with a game to play when I don’t want him to fall asleep in the car.

This is how you play it:

When you go around a corner, you go “Ooooooooooo!”
When you drive under a bridge, you shout “Wa-HEY!!”
When you go over a speed-bump, you say “Bee-Boh!”
When you see a truck, you shout “Trucky-ucky-uck!”
When you see a red car, you call out “Boom-boom-boom!”
When you have to stop at a traffic light, you go “Aw, mannnnnn!”
When you go ’round a roundabout, you sing “You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby, right round round round”. 

Just to give you a few examples.

TIddles loves it. He stays awake just to go “Ooooooo!” as we pull into our driveway. Result.

Of course, I hadn’t taken into account the long-haul car trip and my children’s staying power when I came up with this particular game. On a recent trip to my mother’s, we hadn’t even hit the outskirts of the city and my husband was beginning to twitch uncontrollably from the constant stream of “Boom-boom-booms!” and “Trucky-ucky-ucky-ucks!!”.

I just sat quietly in my seat, shrugging my shoulders and rolling my eyes slightly, as if to say “Kids! Who’d have ’em!”, like I had Nothing Whatsoever to do with all this hullabaloo. But when one of the kids asked me what they should say when they saw a bus and I let out a rapid-fire “Bussity-Bussity-Bussity-Bussiteeeeeeee!”, he turned to me with the kind of look that let me know in uncertain terms I had ruined his life.

Luckily for my marriage, the further you drive into the country, the less there is of everything and eventually the children fell silent. And Tiddles McGee? Well, he fell asleep about five kilometres from my mother’s door, which is the country-equivalent of 50 city metres, and then bounced off the walls until 10:30pm. Which, in my humble opinion, is far worse than a car-full of kids shouting “UTILLA THE HUN!” every time they see a ute. But then, that’s just me.

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I think we can all agree that there’s nothing like a Road Trip. Yep, nothing like it. Thank fuck. 

Especially when everyone in the car has started screaming – none more than you, the driver – before you even get to the end of your street. And then you still have two hours’ drive ahead of you with one child cheerfully announcing how many minutes are in each successive hour while another child complains about stomach cramps, and all you can think is “ Go Vomit On The Mountain” while still trying to show enthusiasm for the fact 16 hours equals 960 minutes. 

Still, as I’ve said before, getting there is half the fun. Which means that the other half of the fun is at your destination, right? 

Well, in this case, the destination – a beautiful holiday house my friends had rented – didn’t disappoint.

For one thing, there was a creek. My friend led us there on a pre-lunch walk with visions of us all gingerly dipping our toes in the water and maybe skimming stones along its glassy surface. But she didn’t factor in the instant effect any body of water has on my children – be it the size of the Pacific Ocean or a small puddle of unidentified liquid on the kitchen floor. Before we could say “sneaky little hobbitses”, Mr Justice had stripped off and was scrabbling around on the sharp rocks on all fours like Gollum with the others in close pursuit. And my friend also didn’t factor in the effect that my children’s water activities would have on my voice, making it all loud and very very shouty. Oh, happy days. 

But I always knew that bedtime was going to be the biggest challenge, for this was an overnight visit, you see. As night-time approached, I became a kind of Oracle and, in a somewhat trance-like state (i.e. slightly drunk), I predicted the following: “The youngest two children will run up and down the stairs until I grow angry and put the child-gate at the top. Then they will stand at the gate and shout. Maybe cry. Or do that shouting-cry that I love so very very much. And that will go on for a very long time indeed, maybe hours. After which, I will have to go up there and physically restrain them in their beds until they finally submit and accept Sleep as their Master.”

Which is pretty much what happened, although I skipped the child-gate/shouting-cry stage just to spare us all from permanent damage to our eardrums.

Anyway, I went on to spend the night flitting between beds: Tiddles McGee is a high-maintenance sleeper at the best of times and The Pixie got all restless and started running a fever. And then I remembered her stomach cramps complaint and began to worry she was going to vomit and tried to work out a Vomit Action Plan which identified the best vomit receptacle in the room, which items of furniture to avoid at all costs and whether I had brought enough change of clothes in the event of “splashage” (or worse). And then I started to worry about driving home the next day alone with vomiting kids (because already, I’d assumed that of course they’d all come down with it) and how I’d manage it after having no sleep. And then I started worrying that all this worrying about not getting any sleep was actually preventing me from getting any sleep and slowly, but surely, my mind got more knotted up than Tiddles McGee’s baby hair, all with a mosquito flying in and out of my ear and an angle-parking Tiddles McGee kicking me in the kidneys.

And after hours of this worry (or so it seemed), I somehow managed to remember that worrying about something before it happened was futile and how I should just roll with the punches and go with the flow (even if that flow ended up being a Type 3 Vomit). It was like so much of parenting – if I let myself be paralyzed by all the things that possibly could go wrong, then I’d never leave the house. Like ever. 

And after that illuminating thought, sleep finally came – albeit punctuated by the occasional kick to the kidneys. And the vomit that I was so worried about never arrived. And the morning brought us a happy breakfast with friends ’round a large sunny table and then other adventures too, including an incident involving the purchase of sugar-coated jam donuts on the drive home. But that, my friends, is a story for another day.

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