Tag Archives: driving

Drats! The Sunset Which Got Away!

Check out this breathtaking sunset!

It all but escaped my snap-happy finger, while we were driving down to Sydney. As much as we’re inclined to pull over to immediately capture that stunning sunset, we had the trailer on the back. Moreover, due to the an accident on the freeway, we’d opted for the “scenic route” along the rustic and rather windy Old Pacific Highway, and couldn’t stop. Out of sheer desperation, I managed to snatch this shot through the windscreen and you too can enjoy water droplets bouncing around like ping pong balls, wrecking what might have been a stunning shot.

Of course, I know I shouldn’t get upset about not being able to photograph a sunset. There are, after all, much more pressing issues in our world, and it wasn’t like I was trapped underground and couldn’t see it.

However, therein lies the problem. I could see that sunset in all its technicolour glory and felt the call of the wild. Such an incredible sunset isn’t something you just see through your eyes, but also through every part of your being…mind, body, spirit and it somehow becomes a part of your very being. So, to be able to capture that, it’s a bit like sticking your bubble gum to the bed post over night. You can come back and relive the experience later.

I also enjoy sharing a little taste of Australia with you. Through even this less than perfect photo, you can still appreciate an Australian bush sunset with those towering gum trees silhouetted against the setting sun. You can also sense the vibrant intensity of the colours…molten oranges and yellows slapped across the sky like generous coats of paint. It looks so good, I want to eat it! Yum!

However, as much as I’m disappointed about missing the sunset, I must admit that I think it’s good for me to just to stand back and appreciate the bigger picture now and then. Take in the vast enormity of an endless sky. Feel gobsmacked! Awe inspired! Instead of trying to work out how I’m going to frame it. Shove it inside a 6 x 4 box to contain it. By trying to constrain the heavens and stick boundaries around them, they lose some of their magic. Like wild animals caged at the zoo, they’re still great to look at, but it’s not the same as seeing them in the wild. Or, experiencing a sunset simply for its intrinsic beauty without trying to turn it into something it’s not…a photo!

These two opposing views, however, bring me into conflict with myself. How can someone whose love of photography could be described as a chronic twitch, ever happily let a brilliant sunset go and simply let it be?

I don’t know but every now and then it happens. I spot something and don’t have my SLR with or my phone and I have that experience, albeit reluctantly…a lesson in savouring the moment…!

Meanwhile, could you please pass me a Kleenex. I still have a bit of work ahead on acceptance! I’m still thinking about the sunset which got away!

What do you think about savouring the moment? Is it better with or without the camera?

xx Rowena

PS: By the way, if you like a good sunset photo, here’s one I prepared earlier.

sunset dove

Sunset Down the Road a few weeks ago.

 

 

Born To Crash.

Ȕber-pumped, Fangio’s poised in the driver’s seat. His foot’s on the accelerator ready for blast off! Mightn’t have a licence but this is the Dodge Em’s.

What a misnomer! Although the sign states: NO BUMPING, we’re all out to crash.

Caught up in “The Siblings’ Revenge!” my husband and I fight on opposing sides.

Disco lights flash. The hunt begins. Where are they? A hunter stalking his prey, he was born to crash!

Bang! Got them! Again! Again! Again!

“Yahoo!” We’re in the zone… until retaliation hit.

Ouch!

Siren rings!

Adventure over, we’re laughing like a bunch of crooks!

dodgems 2

March 23, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an adventure, experienced or witnessed. Explore your own ideas about what makes an adventurous spirit. Is it in the doing? Does standing witness count, and if so, how? Be adventurous!

Respond by March 29, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

…..

DSC_0363

Setting out on our big adventure…standing at the entrance to the show.

Yesterday, we went to the Royal Sydney Easter Show and had the best time ever. I will never forget our ride on the Dodge Ems where I teamed up with my son and my husband teamed up with Miss.

My son and I chased them round the track like a crazed stalker. He was driving and a couple of times, I actually grabbed the wheel and tried to get up out on the edge where he could actually drive. He wasn’t interested. Just wanted to crash…especially into Dad and his sister. She was just as bad. The looks on their faces were quite priceless…grinning from ear to ear with the most fiendish smiles. They just loved being legalised villains. All the other drivers were the same. We all just wanted to crash.

I laughed so much my face hurt. Much more fun than driving a stupid car and you don’t need a licence!

This is my second flash fiction this week. After writing about the personification of fear on the rollercoaster, I wanted to write about a happy adventure. Take the topic a different direction.

Hope you’ve had a Happy and Blessed Easter!

xx Rowena

 

Mum’s Taxi Takes A Dive.

When it’s comes to modifying Mum’s Taxi, I’d never considered attaching a snorkel before. A meter perhaps but never a snorkel.

That was until yesterday morning when I was driving our son to school in the rain after dropping Mademoiselle at the local swimming pool. Oops! I mean train station. I ended up driving through flood waters, clinging onto the steering wheel desperately hoping I’d make it out the other side. The “puddle” was considerably deeper and longer than I’d anticipated and I was dreading becoming a victim…a statistic of stupidity.

Even though the rain was bucketing down, the flood waters caught me off-guard. After all, I was simply driving our son to school a few streets away. When the car in front of me did a U-turn, I probably should’ve followed suit but my navigator goaded me to drive on: “C’mon Mum! Keep going!”

After all, what kid doesn’t love driving through puddles?!!

However, this wasn’t your garden variety puddle. It was more along the lines of an Olympic Swimming Pool. Well, Okay. I exaggerate. At the same time, this wasn’t the sort of puddle you should drive through, even though it wasn’t a raging torrent. Not dangerous but why take the risk?

Indeed! To impress your son. A son who goads you into driving through flood waters like a professional navigator when he’s only 12 years old and can’t even drive a car. Has no idea what happens when a car stalls in flood waters. Or, worse still, that cars can get swept away. Their occupants drowned.

Why did I listen? Why didn’t I trust my instincts? I blame a mother’s love. Or, was it really something less noble like wanting to be the hero? Fangio?

Well, I also blame inexperience. It’s the first time I’ve ever faced driving through such deep water. After all, I’m a city slicker. These days I might live in Greater Sydney by the beach but it’s hardly the Great Australian outback, which expects drought and flood. It’s civilization. Moreover, for the last few months it’s been scorchingly hot. Our front lawn has been cremated. Floods weren’t something I’d given a lot of thought!

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

Dorothea Mackellar: My Country

Yet, that’s Australia. I shouldn’t be surprised.On the other hand, as an urbanite, you feel perhaps somewhat naively, that you’re insulated from nature. That you can package nature up inside a pipe. Control and contain it. Make it behave. Yet, nature has her own ideas. Fights back. Humiliates and subdues mankind, bringing us to our knees. We can be prepared but there are no guarantees. Nature does what nature wants.

That includes making our morning school run considerably more challenging.

I often say that I never know where Mum’s taxi is going to take me next and through flood waters definitely wasn’t on the list.

xx Rowena

Are you sure we didn't miss the turn off?

Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off?

The dogs love being able to run around at low tide when we go to Pittwater, Palm Beach. the rippled sand is pocked with soldier crab holes and as the sun sets, the place is quite a moonscape.

Bilbo (right) is striding straight ahead and while I was flicking through possible Rumi quotes, my husband suggested:

“Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off?

I shouldn’t laugh.

My husband and I have had many explosive moments with me in the navigator’s seat. I don’t know why I always end up navigating because I get lost in the shower and even struggle to follow a map when I turn it the right way up (OK folks…I mean “upside down”.)

I know we probably should invest in one of those GPS thingies for the sake of our marriage but after experiencing the possibilities of neuroplasticity personally, I had hoped that with a bit of practice, that I’d miraculously find my way.

Moreover, I was also concerned that if I gave up, my sense of direction could even get worse. In that case, I might even need GPS to find my car parked in our own drive way.

I shouldn’t jest!!

Anyway, Bilbo looks hell bent on going straight ahead but Lady isn’t quite so sure: “Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off? I can just see Bilbo, who is a much more introverted, serious dog grumbling back to her:

“We’re fine. I checked the map before we left. I know exactly where we are.”

Then I can see Bilbo quoting Daniel Boone:

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”.

As much as I love John Lennon’s quote Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans,” sometimes, you just want to reach your destination!

Do you have any navigation dramas to share?

xx Rowena

Taking the Road Most Travelled… the Pacific Highway.

Being beyond the flow, I usually take the road less travelled. However, when January comes round each year, our family is usually on the road most travelled…the Pacific Highway.  Just like birds fly south for the Northern Winter, we head North for the Australian summer chasing the sun and often the surf.

The long summer holidays can be a bit difficult for us with the kids and so Geoff usually takes time off work and we go to visit family near Byron Bay, on the Gold Coast and onto Brisbane and Ipswich.

Before I push the pedal to the metal and get started on a series of holiday snapshots, here’s a bit of road-building history.

Location Pacific Hwy.svg

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Highway_%28Australia%29

The Pacific Highway is 960 kilometres long and connects Sydney and Brisbane and was completed in 1958. While the Pacific Highway has evolved from what seems like a one-lane goat track and now has stretches of freeway and numerous by-passes, there are still plenty of cracks in the bitumen. You see, the Pacific Highway might lead to paradise but it certainly isn’t the Yellow Brick Road. It still has hundreds of kilometres of single-lane road and it has a dreadful accident record.

Yet, the Pacific Highway is also a bit exciting. It has always meant holidays for me.

My earliest memories of the Pacific Highway were driving up to Newcastle in the old Morris Minor to visit my grandparents. I remember waiting and waiting and waiting as traffic stopped while they blasted through the Sydney Sandstone to build the toll road. I later remember stopping to pay the toll just North of Hornsby. Subsequent trips in the HR Holden were less eventful although my brother and I held some fierce battles in the back seat. This was long before the days of in-car DVD players or electronic games. We didn’t even have air-conditioning.  I’m not sure if we even had a radio but Dad used to sing We’re off to See the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz, Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma and the  Jamaican Farewell. I think all dads have their quirks.

Anyway, perhaps my favourite holiday of all time was when I drove solo from Sydney as far North as Maroochydore in my not so stylish Mitsubishi Colt… my first car. It took me at least a week to reach Brisbane as I stayed in Newcastle, Port Macquarie and Byron Bay.  I then stayed with my grandparents in Ipswich and visited friends in Maroochydore. I particularly loved staying at the Youth Hostel in Byron Bay and it was still in the day when Kombis with surfboards on top were still lined up around the beach and Byron Bay was still a hippy paradise. I made a new friend and we had our Thelma and Louise experience heading out to Nimbin and visiting my favourite and very inspirational primary school teacher. He showed us round the local Steiner school and I still remember all the butterflies out there. It was a magical place and I wasn’t quite the same when I went back to work in the Sydney CBD in my poky little office with no windows.

That was the life of a single Rowena…poet, writer, photographer and dreamer.

My husband has his own memories of travelling along the great Pacific Highway…especially in his first car the legendary Datsun 120Y. The 120Y might have been a fairly ordinary, small car at the budget end of the market but in our household it’s legendary. Geoff took the 120Y on an outback adventure covering 4500 KM in just two weeks and even made it out to Birdsville and back. That is truly in the outback or as we Aussies like to put it “out the back of whoop whoop”.

Anyway, Geoff was driving up North on the Pacific Highway in the legendary 120Y. He’d reached Macksville, which is just over halfway to Byron Bay, when he was turning a corner and felt the back end of the car steering all by itself. For those of you like me who aren’t mechanically minded, this was serious. Geoff pulled over and discovered that the wheel was only attached by one wheel nut, instead of four and was about to fall off. He was lucky not to have a serious accident. He had had the tyres replaced before the trip and the mechanic hadn’t tightened the wheel nuts properly.

Geoff and I in the Sprite.

Geoff and I in the Sprite.

My first trip up North with Geoff in the Austin-Healy Sprite was also memorable. Geoff was taking me up to meet his Mum for the first time. This isn’t so much a story of the Pacific Highway as we were diverted due to flood waters at the end of the freeway and had to take the New England Highway. We were driving over the Tenterfield Ranges after dark through pouring rain when the car kept getting caught in potholes ripping the exhaust pipe off. Reapplying the exhaust pipe in the dark and in the rain was great fun especially as it was very easy to get burnt. I remember a lot of stop start driving waiting for the car to cool down and plenty of frustration. I also remember wearing a raincoat in the car. For some strange reason, historic British cars aren’t that watertight. While I was discussing the romance or otherwise of our first long trip together in the Sprite, Geoff implied that I’d travelled in relative comfort. The previous trip up North, he had worn his wet weather motorbike gear because he didn’t actually own a roof for the Sprite. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds because you didn’t get wet driving over 80 KPH but there are a lot of 60 zones between here and Byron Bay.

There’s obviously a lot they don’t tell about these cute little sports’ cars.

Our trips up North have certainly changed since we had the kids. When they were babies, we seemed to stop for eternity breastfeeding at McDonalds, which was great for nappy changing as well. As the kids have grown bigger, there’s the attraction of the McDonalds playgrounds. We now try to break things up a bit and eat packed sandwiches or stop at some local food spots. We are very fond of a bakery in Bulladelah. They have the best cinnamon buns I’ve ever tasted.

These days, even I am starting to dream of an A to B drive straight to Byron Bay. Actually, I’d just like to click my fingers and magically be there. After all, it’s a ten hour drive from the Central Coast to Byron Bay and about 13 hours to Brisbane. That’s a lot of games of I Spy.

Stay tuned for a series of postcards from our trip starting out with a Postcard from Coffs Harbour.

Do you have any stories about travelling along the Pacific Highway or another road trip?

Driving Myself Crazy…Day trip to Morpeth, Australia – Part 1

Yesterday, I did something almost devilishly wicked. I booked the kids into after school care and went on a day trip to Morpeth in the Hunter Valley, almost 2hours drive each way from home. It was one of the best things I have ever done!! It felt like Alice’s journey into Wonderland. Morpeth is that kind of place.

I don’t usually do this sort of thing. The only time I ever run away from home, is to go to the Sydney Writer’s Festival once a year. That said, I do have a lot of medical appointments in Sydney and I have been known to get a little “lost” coming home but we’re only talking a minor deviation…not an epic adventure!

Mind you, I have to be honest and say that the main reason I don’t escape isn’t ideological. I have a bit of a thing about driving. I wouldn’t call it a phobia because to my way of thinking, a phobia involves an irrational fear. My fears, on the other hand, are perfectly logical… rational even! I get lost easily and the same kind of spatial issues which make it difficult for me to follow maps, also make it difficult for me to park my car. For some reason, I can’t work out where my car is in space and I usually leave room for an entire Olympic swimming pool both front and rear. I’m not great at reversing and I also get lost easily as well. On top of all of that, I get extreme fatigue which strikes at unpredictable moments. So while I can be full of beans and bouncing all over the place one minute, the next I could conk out completely and need to go to bed immediately…not great when you are driving long distance. You could say that it’s deadly even.

So as you can see, my fears are more than justified!

On the other hand, I want to explore and experience the world and not be stuck in such a small, minute part of it. In my early driving days, probably just after I got my P’s, when I had even greater driving anxiety, my Dad asked me: “Does your licence say you can’t drive anywhere? Well, no one’s stopping you. You can drive anywhere you like!” Dad’s words often come to me while I’m driving and somehow empower me! I can go anywhere! Do anything! I just need to convince myself!

But the local geography around here doesn’t help the situation. You see, we’re surrounded by water and there’s a steep hill with a bit of an annoying road between here and the freeway to Sydney. I broke down on that road once and subconsciously, that hill has become some kind of barrier, a boundary, a line in the sand I don’t cross. It’s even come to define me: “I don’t go up the hill”.

Of course, it’s only now that I’ve been up the hill and beyond that I’ve realised just what a mountain the hill had become… a complete blockage to growth and exploration.

After all, mountains are meant to be climbed not just left in the way! They should be stairways to heaven and the stars not roadblocks stunting our dreams.

I had already conquered the mountain recently and had almost driven to Newcastle. I was almost sure I could reach Morpeth.

Campbell’s Store, Morpeth. This is home to fudge tasting, coconut ice, peanut brittle as well as the MorpethTea Cosy Challenge.

I first visited Morpeth about a month ago. It wasn’t a planned trip and I met up with my cousin with husbands and kids in tow, which made it very difficult to explore Morpeth in any depth i.e. look at anything much or spend a lot of money. I did manage to buy a new dress and a shawl literally trying them on over my jeans on the run. We also managed to taste test the ginger beer and the fudge. We actually saw a lot but I also saw so many beautiful things in all those tantalising old shop windows that my eyes almost popped out of my head. I had to go back…alone!

Home to the famous Morpeth Sourdough

I also had another imperative…visiting the annual Morpeth Weird & Wonderful Novelty Teapot Exhibition and the Morpeth Tea Cosy Challenge, which is held in the last two weeks of August.

You see, I collect antique and vintage teacups and saucers, plates, table cloths. I love an authentic retro tea party. Not a high tea and not something stiff and starchy either. I just miss cups of tea with my grandmothers. More than cups of tea, I miss their love, their warmth, their smiles and almost getting lost inside their huge, warm hugs! There is nothing else in this universe quite like a grandmother’s love. I can almost feel their love when I surround myself with all this old world finery. Both of my grandmothers had collections of bone china tea cups and it was tradition to choose your own cup. My grandmother should have had her kettle wired into her doorbell because as soon as anyone walked in the door, the kettle went on and we all had tea. I bought a number of exquisite Shelley teacups with money from Mum’s parents. My grandma would have loved them but she would have put them safely away in her sideboard. She never ever used her special things.  I use some of mine but I do reserve the Shelley ones for rare, special occasions. Some of them are over 80 years old and have become fragile little old ladies. Of course, I don’t know if tea cups actually develop osteoporosis but they can’t take calcium supplements either so I just have to be careful.

With so much to look forward to, you can understand why I was so determined to overcome all my driving hurdles and just get to Morpeth.

But fear is a strong thing. If you have read my post about the bird flying into my house, you would already know that I have some huge issues with fear. I’m not just talking about anxiety but serious jelly-legged, hyperventilating, debilitating fear. It’s the sort of fear that leads to total avoidance and locking yourself up in an awfully restrictive cage…a cage you really need to break out of quick smart before it becomes your home, your comfort zone and you even forget how to fly.

But then I heard about brain plasticity. You are not set in stone. You can even re-invent yourself. The more you do something, the better you get at it. You might not get rid of your weaknesses altogether but with a bit of effort, you can certainly make them better. Now, if you didn’t have to live with your weaknesses, if there was any possible way of getting rid of them, if you could just somehow open the door of your cage and somehow spread your wings and fly free across the open sky, wouldn’t you just do it?!!  Wouldn’t you move both heaven and earth to experience the liberation of unfettered flight?!!

I would and I have.

I put my key in the ignition. Turned the key. Moved my foot off the brake and shifted it onto the accelerator. I was a little nervous but I wasn’t afraid because slowly but surely, I’ve been unconsciously building up to this moment by going on more and more driving excursions, building up what is referred to as “resilience”.

My main strategy for handling the long drive was to break it down into smaller, less daunting chunks…a series of small drives instead of one very long and winding road. There was the stretch up the hill. My next stop was Ourimbah. The end of the freeway represented another break in the journey and then there was the drive up the New England Highway into Maitland and then the turn off to Morpeth. It also felt good checking out the road signs and slowly but surely watching the kilometres count down.

When I left home yesterday, I had no idea whether I could actually make it to Morpeth but I was so determined to get there. At the same time, I was kind to myself. Said that I just needed to try. I didn’t have to get there. If I didn’t make it, it wasn’t the end of the world. There was always next year.

But all the positive thinking in the world can’t make something happen and I am also responsive to that. The night before, it was looking like my trip wasn’t going to happen. After a difficult afternoon with our son, I crashed in bed almost unable to move. Then the weather went haywire. The rain was pouring down. There were strong gusting winds and Geoff rang to say that a tree had even fallen across the railway tracks and he was going to be late home. It was really looking treacherous outside  and there was no way I was going to drive through that. I was starting to wonder whether I should just have a quiet day in bed and rest instead! That’s what any sensible “sick person” would do but not this little black duck.

But when I woke up yesterday, it was all sunshine, blue skies and I was out of here. All the doors opened up. All the obstacles disappeared. It was meant to be!

I pulled up in Morpeth quite chuffed. I wouldn’t say jubilant because the drive was that easy that it barely rated as a challenge in the end.

Stepping out of the car, that unmistakable smell of fresh cow manure hit me in the face like a fragrant rose. I was in the country. I felt like I’d climbed to the top of the Magic Faraway Tree. Walked through the back of an old wardrobe and found myself in mystical Narnia. I was Cinderella dancing at the ball.

That’s right. I was Cinderella. I might have driven kilometres away from home but I was still on a relatively short leash. I had to pick the kids up from after-school care by 6.30PM and had to allow for contingencies.

Carpe diem …seize the day. Today is my day and I am going to seize each and every single second and squeeze it til it’s dry.

Go Ro! The world is my oyster and I am its pearl!

Wish me luck!

xx Ro

PS: I will take you on a tour of Morpeth in my next post so please stay tuned.

PPS: I should point out that although I’m a wary driver, I’m no recluse. I do spend a fair amount of time “working from home” doing my writing and more recently painting but most of the time, I’m out and about. When it comes to going to Sydney, catching the train just makes good sense. Sydney traffic is just dreadful. The roads are so choked up that they’re little more than car parks. I honestly don’t know how anyone gets around without taking a packed lunch and a good supply of water just in case!