My mother’s friend’s son’s wife (confused?) thinks there’s nothing better to do during the school holidays than pack up the people-
mover, throw in four young children and drive from Melbourne to Cairns – and then a few days later, back again. That’s about 7,000kms all up equating to around 70-100 hours on the road. She wants to do this because when growing up, her family went on road trips. She has a ‘nostalgia issue’.
As the school holidays are rapidly approaching and as in Australia, most of our airports are currently closed due to ash from a Chilean volcano, I’ve been wondering how many of us might end up being forced to take on a ‘nostalgia’ style of vacation.
I’ll say it right here, right now, not all families are cut out for road trips and there should be no sense of failure in your family unit if you believe your family would not survive this kind of an experience. In our family we UNDERSTAND we are not suited to the road trip style of holiday.
But sometimes we forget.
Recently forgetting again, we put the pod on the roof and drove from Sydney to Gunnedah. ‘You’ll do it in around five hours’, enthused our hosts. But no, we didn’t. We managed to turn the trip into a seven and a half hour ordeal arriving in the pitch of blackness to a meal that had been in the slow cooker for so long it had practically disintegrated.
In case you’re wondering how journeys can end up taking so much longer than necessary, it’s all to do with STOPPING. Here’s my Sydney-to-Gunnedah list of STOPS:
1. Alfie (6 yrs) climbed into the car while it was still being packed and started to watch a movie on his portable DVD player that was powered by the car’s battery. It’s just it took so much longer to pack the car and lock the house and scream at slothful, idle and unhelpful teenagers than anticipated. By the time we were all seatbelted in, Carl went to turn on the car and voila, flat battery. We all piled out of the car and had to sweet-talk the workers on a construction site nearby for a loan of some jumper leads and a bit of a hand.
2. Before even leaving our suburb, Arabella (16 yrs) remembers she’s left her I-pod charger at a friend’s house and she just has to have it because she won’t be able to survive a few days away without her awful selection of music.
3. Archie (18 yrs), who’d only done one thing to help the entire morning and that was to pack his guitar into the pod, informs us one of the strings on the guitar is broken and could we just stop by Turramurra Music, ‘because it’s so close to the F3 anyway’, (the gateway for all road trips heading north) and he’d ‘quickly’ run in and pick up a new set of strings.
4. Somewhere just before Newcastle on an isolated stretch of freeway Alfie says he needs to do a wee. We have to pull over to the side of the road and let him go on the grass verge while trucks fly past nearly knocking us from our feet.
5. Fast food stop for by now, a very late lunch. Over the ‘meal’ everyone’s at each other’s throats about whose fault it is we’re running so late, how small Big Macs are now compared with when we were growing up, who keeps kicking the back of whose seat, who won’t stop whistling, ‘it’s someone else’s turn to be allowed to play their music’, ‘mum, can I sit in the front because my legs are longer’ and ‘can I drive because I need to get my hours up’. Dining out for some families can be right up there with a road trip.
6. Archie let’s us all know he has a bad case of ‘scrot-rot’ also known as ‘jock-itch’ and we’ll have to buy him some cream because otherwise ‘by the time we get back there’ll be nothing left of my balls’. Now I’m trying to navigate but also looking out for pharmacies open on public holidays plus tempers are flying about why did he let it get that bad before mentioning it and didn’t he see the pharmacy right next door to Turramurra Music.
7. Now Arabella needs to go to the bathroom. ‘Why didn’t you go at McDonalds?’ I scream. But always ever-so-quick with a reply she retorts, ‘you know I can’t hold on mum, I’ve inherited your weak bladder.’ So we find a town with an information centre where Arabella can use the bathroom and she walks from the car in a casual stroll like it’s not glaringly obvious the sun is setting and we’re trying to avoid driving in the dark because that’s when you’re more likely to run over a kangaroo but not before it totals the front of your car.
8. Carl notices we need more petrol and isn’t sure how much further we have to drive so ‘we’d better fill up now’.
9. I’m now weary, stressed and tired. I’m watching out for giant kangaroos that are going to dart out of the bushes at any moment so keenly that I miss the tiny sign that is barely illuminated on this dark, moonless night. We drive in the wrong direction for 20 minutes before I realise then wonder how I’m going to break the news to Carl. That was the final straw.
That was when we remembered we’re a family that doesn’t qualify for road trips. It is not the bonding experience other families find it to be, it’s an exercise in restraining yourself and each other from a potential homicide.
Let us all pray that the volcanic ash moves on swiftly so we can all fly to our holiday destinations seated in separate sections of the plane, as required.
If you are feeling nostalgic, here’s a recipe of my mother’s called ‘Crunchy Coconut Slice’. She used to make this for my sisters and me almost weekly and it was plated up for our afternoon tea – she was not a believer in store-bought biscuits! Perhaps your children could make this simple but delicious recipe over the holidays.
Degree of Difficulty: 1/5
Makes: 24 squares
Cost: Very inexpensive and the ingredients are what you would find in most pantries.
1 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup rolled oats
3 tbspns golden syrup
Preheat oven to 150°C.
Grease a 20x30cm slice tin.
In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the golden syrup. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into slice tin, press down firmly. Place in oven for 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cut into squares while still warm. The slice will be crunchy and chewy but for a more jaw-breaking experience, leave in oven for an additional 5 minutes.