Mingo Crossing. We Crossed it.

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The important thing for us, with the caravan, was to get used to her before we did our big trip. We did not want to buy anything unless we were sure we needed it, and we wanted to go as light as we could with what we bought. So, that meant lots of practice trips, first short and then longer.

Our first trip was going to be out to Mingo Crossing, north of us. We would purposefully travel over dirt roads and see how she held up. What would shake loose and how much dust would get in? Also to be tested was the oven. We had heard all the horror stories from people about “don’t use the ovens, they are a bugger to clean.” I was going to do bake some scones, admittedly not much potential for a big disaster but at least putting my toe in the heat (not the dough). Other than that, just general sleeping and using the thing was in order.

There it was … the dreaded dirt road.  We were taking our baby on its first real test, and like every good mom, I closed my eyes and let Derek drive.

We got to the crossing and Fluffy was caked in red dirt. Australian dust clings to things like nothing I have ever seen. I wanted to cry. I could only imagine how bad it would be inside but “ding, ding, ding,” she passed! Not a spick of dust anywhere. Good Fluffy!!

We had not yet mastered the “drive up, align it, back up, BAM” parking manoeuver but we were much closer. Again, no-one died, and I was learning how to lower my standards and expectations regarding life, and our abilities. Maybe this getting older thing was not going to be as bad as we thought.

I have to say, one of the big bonuses is that you escape and no-one knows where you are. It is totally up to us whether we turn on the internet access and “we had no phone coverage” is always a plausible excuse. Our kids couldn’t find us. We were free … along with about a half dozen other escaped seniors.

Reread that last sentence … it explains an awful lot about what goes on, on the road.

Of course the special “basic kit” that we had been sold upon purchase turned out to be full of cheap, useless crap and we had to borrow a hose attachment from a neighbour. The moment a slight frown creased Derek’s brow, the neighbour was by his side seeing what he needed. He opened up his tool kit and chose one from a whole gaggle of hose fittings. Evidently when caravanning, you carry party favours with you . . . And enough for everyone AND unexpected guests . . . just in case. He told us to keep it but Derek assured him we would return it when we left and buy one when we got home.

Once we were set up, the men gathered to compare sizes and horror stories. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear the splashing sound of men trying to outdo one another. Derek was pretty much silent. Smart move. We had no idea what we were doing yet, no need to rile up the natives or point to our vulnerable spots so people could make sure the bullets hit nerves. Be invisible, non- threatening . . . We might escape with our lives. Also it saves encouraging them from camping at our front door.

The horror stories of the guy that attaches himself to you and never goes away had been shared by almost every one we talked to. I did not want to turn around in the shower to find him there holding out a towel for me. Yes, someone told me that one.

I had an easy solution once we all became bonded friends … name tags. Not actual names . . . Just things like “the gossip,” “McGyver,” “Safe,” and “stalker coffee guy,” etc. Oh come on I am not so freaking cruel as to have them wear it on their chest so they can read it … I am thinking, make it a party game, people can wear it on their foreheads or their backs. They can just think they suck at the game and the rest of us will be safe. I am a really helpful person to have around to solve these pertinent social issues.

Over the next couple of days we noted that people were grouping together. There was one group down by the river, one doing the tent thing across from us, and then us caravanners. Neighbours on side one had 4 little aging dogs with them, one of whom decided Derek was his totem human and kept coming over to just stand beside him. I told him to tune down his Snow White, but Derek does not know how to do that anymore. I think either age takes away our ability to know how to control ourselves or the knob was broken and stuck in the “on” position. Neighbours on the other side were chatty and making the most of the campsite as their newly claimed home. Perhaps caravan parks were like the locker room at the gym and you scratch and adjust and wander with or without towels, at your leisure. I didn’t like locker rooms either so I was still averting my eyes. Side 1 neighbours occupied space together, with said dogs, and did not talk. The other side were soon over at their neighbours, drinking coffee and talking loudly. I learned everything about them. I didn’t want to know everything about them, but there is not much choice.

Derek went fishing. I went writing. It was lovely.

Later that day I walked around, took pictures, and checked out the facilities. Immaculate. I noted the neighbours were “shopping” for ice-cream bars at the little office and the afternoon had found the coffee cups traded in for wine glasses, the other neighbours replacing their neighbours with visitors from a farm down the road and storm clouds building. I didn’t know that we could do that, bring in our own friends. I thought that we had to make due with what was available in the park. I tried to ring a friend. No phone service. For real.

Is it wrong to covet other people’s friends? The farm people were interesting. I had an empty wine glass. I had a bottle of wine.

I sat outside the trailer and drank the wine by myself.

I don’t know how many times I have warned Derek about making eye contact with people but he does. If you walk by someone and you are looking down at the ground or off in the distance, in the opposite direction from where they are, it makes it tough for them to smile and say G’day. Well, they can smile all they want but the rule of peopling says if a person smiles in your life and you do not see it, it counts as a non viewed smile and everyone knows that means no smile can be considered received. Hence, there is no need to reciprocate and respond to a “G’day” thrown into the ether. Your lack of observance causes the ether to shut down and traps all efforts from other humans to become trapped in a nothingness of stuff never received. THIS was the premise for all things ignored I used throughout my life. It works. Even if someone calls you on it, by the time you explain it, most people give up and walk away … just like you did right now.

COME BACK WE ARE STILL TALKING CARAVANNING!

Derek has lost control of his eyes and he did the eye thing and looked at the guy and the guy saw him . . . from a mile away . . . without a telescope. The guy started lopping towards us. He stood between us and our caravan, in the middle of the road. Later Derek would try to defend himself by asking what did I expect him to do? We couldn’t turn around and go back. Neither could we walk through other people’s campsites to avoid him. He also said he couldn’t just walk by him or kick him out of the way. I asked the timeless question that should be asked more often, “why not?”

I would have.

Thanks to Derek,  we had no choice but to stop and “chat.”  “We” talked about the weather and the old Mingo Crossing and the pubs in Mount Perry that aren’t there anymore. Evidently there used to be a couple dozen pubs so it had to be a really happening place but now there is only 1, so not so much happening anymore. This is how Australians measure civilization. In Canada we say, “Hmmm, High River? What is the population? ”

“About 13,000.”

“Cool.”

In Australia they answer with, “they have about 8 pubs,” and people nod knowingly.

So they talked about the pubs that used to be in Mount Perry and I kicked at the dirt and looked off into the distance. I was trying to leave but Derek had a claw grip on my arm pinning me beside him. I smiled … Kind of … in that I think one corner of my mouth twitched in a somewhat upward motion. The man called out to his wife to come have a look at “Derek and Aria.” She was not buying any of it. I don’t think we passed inspection. I told Derek he should start dressing nicer.

I did manage to bake my scones.  The oven was not useless, nor was it a disaster after I finished.  We ate them with jam and cream, still hot from the oven.  Did I mention that I was really bonding with Fluffy and the moments like these, the two of us, sitting in the beauty that Australia constantly delivers every time you step outside, was the stuff dreams are fueled by.  It was good enough to make a commercial .. with music and gauze and everything.  I should have filmed it, put it on Facebook and made sure all the kids I went to school with saw it.  Why did I suck at capitalizing on all those social media “stick it in your face” moments???

Feel free to drool over my perfect scones.

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And then we had a storm and it bucketed rain and nothing leaked and we drank wine to celebrate the awesomeness that is our Fluffy. I took pictures of more rain coming because that is what you do when you are a grey “some-mad.” You also become very honest. I can’t type “no”mad with a straight face because you can’t hide the kind of insanity that inflicts me. I have to admit to “some”mad.

And then it stopped raining and we celebrated by drinking some wine. Stopped … celebrated….wine…started…celebrated…wine … on and on all night until everything became a blur and we loved everyone and everything.

The next morning we packed up and headed home. We stopped for gas once and for lunch. I noticed we were starting to have a bit of a swagger in our step as we walked the path of caravanners. We were no longer newbies but becoming nano-seasoned travelers, part of an ancient cult of people who feel the wind stirring in their soul and have to answer the call by pulling a playhouse kind of home around with them so they can sardine park next to complete strangers who have also answered the call. That’s right, not any of us have any idea where we are going, or why we are going … we are just lemmings . . . running for the cliff . . .

. . . really proud lemmings . . .

. . . an awesome breed to lemmings .. . .

. . . that annoy the hell out of everyone else on the road.

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