The road most travelled

Our drive to Sydney was pretty uneventful. It’s almost a straight run now with only Holbrook remaining as the last little town to be bypassed. The Tarcutta bypass seems to have opened since last year and what was once considered the halfway point on a journey from Melbourne to Sydney is now a mere blip as you fly passed on a motorway.

Of course while we see these little towns, where we were often made to go from 110kph to 50kph, as annoying obstacles ā€” and often speed traps ā€” I do have to wonder what all the folks living in these towns are now doing for a living? As the “halfway point” I’m sure Tarcutta used to see a lot of folks stopping in town for a well needed rest. And now that respite is found at a service centre featuring a McDonalds, KFC or Hungry Jacks (AKA Burger King for American readers).

I was reminiscing on the drive, back to the days when; as a family; we’d take the drive to Coffs Harbour or Tamworth to visit family.

Back then mum would make sandwiches and bottle up some cordial for the trip. Rest stops would be made at designated town. There were no “service centres” along the way. Service was provided in a small township, petrol was put in the car by an attendant at the petrol station and our packed lunch was taken in a local park.

A lot of the majesty has been removed from the road trip. It really is now all about the destination and getting there as fast as we can. We no longer enjoy the journey, if we ever did.

I remember there was a lot of fighting on road trips. We were a family with four kids. There’d be a fight before we left over who was going to sit up front in between our parents on the car’s bench seat. There’d be fights as the three in the back, most often the three boys, would jostle for their space. Drawing non-existent lines with our fingers to designate “our spot” and chastising a brother should he even think of putting an ounce of flesh over that line. Of course there’d also be the deliberate fingertip placed over the line, just to get a reaction. These incidents would be met with the obligatory “If you don’t stop we’re turning the car around and going home!” and “Do I have to put you out here and make you walk the rest of the way?”

Back then, there’d be games of “I spy“, “punch bug” and constant animal imitations as we passed them in abundance.

Now we pass cars with kids in the back watching DVD players, wearing headphones. I think it’s a shame to see. I firmly believe the road trip isn’t just about going from one place to another. It really is about the experience of the trip and the experiences we gain as children through the interaction with our parents. I can’t recall a single conversation on these trips, not that they didn’t happen, in fact I’m sure they did, but I’m just getting older and those memories evade recall. I’m certain that interacting with our parents and our environment during these trips helped form us into the people we are today. I really don’t think staring at the back of our parents heads watching “Toy Story” for the 1,000th time would have seen us be the same people we are now.

I only have one firm memory of a road trip, for the most part they are a muddled bunch of snippets in my mind, but bear with me as I remember one particular trip to Tamworth to visit our Aunty Cheryl.

My sister, Jennifer, was just a toddler. It was near Christmas (I think just after) and just us kids and mum made the trip. I distinctly remember having to stop on the way home because we in the back had fed Jennifer a bunch of lollies and she had puked them up all over the place. I have this memory in my head of the smell and of us standing at the side of the road while mum used bottled water to clean the mess. And not only was there the puke, but we had been given plasticine by our Aunty, it was in a pack with instructions for making a Smurf figurine. One had been made and had obviously been held by Jennifer. In the heat of the summer it had melted in her carseat. I remember mum getting a little angry as we couldn’t say with absolute assuredness that Jennifer had not in fact eaten any of the plasticine and if that was a contributing cause for her being sick.

So yeah part of the trip yesterday was reminiscing. Feeling a little nostalgic and a little sad for the kids of this current generation who listen to iPods and watch screens, disconnected from their parents, their siblings and the world passing by their window. Another part was watching my partner, David, driving or sitting in the passenger seat. Thinking how lucky I have been these past 14 years to have someone beside me who still makes me smile just by being there.

I also played with my iPhone 4S, taking photos and testing time lapse apps. I’m thinking of making a time-lapse of the trip home. So here’s a few pics from the trip and the video at the end.

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On the road
Travelling food
Beetle
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I remember the days when this didn't exist and mums packed lunches for road trips. I must be getting old, or nostalgic. Maybe a little of both?
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3 thoughts on “The road most travelled”

  • you know, i think you’re absolutely right, Jamie.

    my parents & i made semi-regular trips from Sydney to the Gold Coast (or vice-versa after we moved up there during my high-school years), and now that you’ve provoked those memories, i’ve come to realise how formative and educative they were.

    there was not quite constant, but frequent conversation about what was speeding by the window – scenery, landmarks, people, place names, stories from the past, questions of the present, and plans for the future. it was conversation out of the ordinary, mundanity of normal daily life, it those conversations took our minds to ‘places’ we didn’t normally go. and when you do it more than a few times, you also notice and talk about what’s changed.

    i can’t begin to count what would be lost if i’d instead been watching re-runs of whatever on a tv on the headrest in front of me.

  • I am now reminiscing about our many family road trips.
    5 kids and 2 parents, I can’t recall a single conversation the only speaking I remember is mum telling us all that when we got into the city we weren’t allowed to make a noise.
    I’m sure mum would have loved it if we were glued quietly to a screen.
    Convenience isn’t necessarily a good thing though.

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