Shame I didn’t have the meter running yesterday. Mum’s Taxi clocked up some serious K’s (kilometers) driving to Newcastle for my daughter’s violin rehearsal, especially returning via the “scenic” route. However, being only ten years old, of course, she couldn’t pay the fare.Perhaps, she could find me a gold medal? I certainly deserved it!
Before I delve into our travels, I should clarify that I was driving to Newcastle, Australia and NOT Newcastle in the UK… or anywhere else for that matter. Although I can get catastrophically lost, the last time I checked, the car can’t fly or swim. So, no matter how badly we got lost, we were still confined to the Australian continent! Phew! That’s a relief. Wandering into another country can get dangerous, and I’d hate to cause an international incident in addition to the usual road rage.
Newcastle is 168km North of the Sydney CBD and 110 KM up the freeway from home. As we have family in Newcastle, I’ve been up there quite a few times, but usually as a passenger. We were actually on the outskirts of Newcastle on the weekend, but that didn’t prepare me for finding yesterday’s rehearsal at The Junction, near Newcastle’s CBD.
All went well until we took the Newcastle turn off from the freeway and we pulled over at a servo (petrol station) to consult the map. My daughter had been on her iPad so far, which of course, does nothing to hone your map reading or navigational skills. I wrote out a list of streets for her to find and walked her through the route on the map. For some reason, I’d assumed she’d inherited her father’s sensational spatial skills and not my Blindis Mappis, or map blindness.
Big mistake. We’re driving along in very unfamiliar territory when she tells me she can’t read maps. That she couldn’t find where we were, where we were going or the all important Crudace Street where we need to turn right.
Meanwhile, I was peering through the windscreen trying to read street signs needing a magnifying glass. Of course, I only picked up the street names too late. Don’t you hate that?!
Mind you, that’s why the U-Turn was invented. Indeed, my husband’s done quite a few U-turns over the years thanks to my navigation and I’m not mentioning a certain trip to Canberra, which nearly ended in divorce!
But, as I’m sure you can appreciate, the U-turn is a last resort. Missing your street can be incredibly stressful, especially when you’re on a main road. Moreover, although the sign should have been bigger, a miss always feels like a personal fail…a mistake. Nobody likes making mistakes, even when you’re used to it.
Abandoning the map, I get my daughter reading street signs. We never found Crudace Street but instead, she’s calling out names of streets further down our list. I don’t know what’s going on but Newcastle’s on the coast and we’re running out of road. Surely, we’re not going to drive into the sea looking for this !@#$% street??!!! Suddenly, I see our destination, Union Street, out the window. It wasn’t the route we’d planned, but we’re there.
I don’t know whether I was being too hard on Newcastle’s signage. However, despite The Junction’s popularity, I was surprised not to see one sign for the place. Isn’t that strange? Or, with my fixation on street signs, I might have missed them. Quite aside from the usual street signs and directions, I’d also been expecting a bit of a welcome. Wasn’t Newcastle expecting us? Hadn’t the Mayor stuck up a few extra signs for us, preferably in neon…such as: “Ro, turn here!..Left…right etc”
Not unsurprisingly, as soon as we pulled up outside the school, I parked the car and wasn’t driving anywhere. I had 3 hours up my sleeve and set out to find a cafe on foot where I could write, read and chill out without getting lost.
Hello Talulah. You wouldn’t believe I’d stumbled into Mum’s cousin’s restaurant. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there. Had lunch and wrote a short story and arrived back at the school in time to hear a full run through of their concert repertoire. It sounded heavenly en masse and I can’t wait…Sydney Opera House here we come! Thank goodness we know where that is! No navigation required.
Now that we’re back in the car, I can hear you pleading with me to drive straight home. Get out of there before we’re in a major accident, as our drive-by-feel tour of Newcastle continues. In that case, driving home would have been a no brainer. I just had to turn the car around, and drive out the way we came in. Simple Simon…even I could do that!
Except…(and as we know if there wasn’t an except, there wouldn’t be a story. I don’t need to write fiction to come up with plenty of complications!)
I wanted to buy myself a pair of ballet shoes and there was a Bloch’s store conveniently located in nearby Charlestown. We don’t have a local dance shop. So, you could say “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. However, this little excursion meant that we weren’t going back the way we came and trouble was looming. Just how lost could we get in one day?
You’d be surprised!
Spotting a huge Westfield Shoppingtown out the window, I didn’t even question whether we were at the right place and was very unimpressed to find out we were in the wrong suburb and Charlestown was still out there somewhere…lost.
Or, was it us?
By this stage, I was starting to wonder whether the ballet shoes were worth it. Somehow, I’d managed to live 36 years without a pair of ballet shoes. Yet, suddenly I had to get these shoes. There was such an urgency, a determination. I yearned to have my daughter with me when I bought them so we could do it together…the same way my mother came with me to try on my wedding dress. I wanted Miss to see me slip my huge clodhoppers into those dainty pink ballet shoes, pointing my toes and dancing away. Forget that I haven’t done ballet in 36 years. I had changed.
Finally found Charlestown Square shopping Centre.
Finally, we found Charlestown. Found Bloch’s and bought my shoes, satin ribbons, pink tights and some black dance pants. I was a real dancer and it was time to drive home.
Oh! If only I could slip into those same precious ballet shoes and tap my heels together saying: “there’s no place like home” and suddenly find us parked in the driveway at home.
Alas, no such luck! More caffeine required!
Worse still, we were on the slow road home, via the scenic route…the Old Pacific Highway. What with driving through 60kph zones, stop-start traffic lights and peak hour crawls, an hour’s journey stretched into two without even stopping to photograph the sunset over Lake Macquarie.
After all of this, I almost fell through the front door when we arrived home…a marathon driver falling over the finish line, dry retching and completely spent. While nobody would expect a marathoner to cook dinner straight away, I could forget that! Should’ve ordered takeaway. What with all these medals in Rio, surely they could spare a weenie gold medal for me?
I deserve it.
However, unfortunately driving Mum’s Taxi hasn’t become an Olympic sport.
Meanwhile, thanks to my daughter’s teacher, I at least had a thank you box of chocolates.
It was great to be appreciated!
Do you have any good getting lost stories? Of course, getting lost is an important part of travel and so many travel stories simply wouldn’t exist if we directly went from A to B!