Road trips ain’t what they used to be…

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SARA MILNE pines for the simpler life, the sepia-tinted days of the late 1980s… and maps, remember them?

BACK in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and navigation was by way of the stars, my husband and I went on a road trip around Australia and NZ. 

Sara Milne.

It was the sepia-tinted days of the late 1980s. Picture the scene. Our rented car puttering along deserted highways, my husband driving, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding a cigarette out the window. 

Me sitting with my feet up on the dashboard, eating a bag of crisps, bopping along to some Van Halen anthem blaring from the radio. The only point of contention was one of those enormous unwieldy pieces of paper called a map. Remember them? Remember trying to fold them back into their neat squares?

Let me now fast forward to 2021. Not a cigarette in sight, and the same couple, alas a little greyer around the temples, hanging on for dear life as we travel along the Pacific Highway to the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. 

In our naivety, we thought it would also be an amble along sylvan roads, waving to passing hay wagons and tractors and stopping to allow a flock of sheep pass by. Instead, welcome dear friends to Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell. Screaming traffic, roaring juggernauts closing in on all sides about to crush us. A seething mass of hot metal. Cars and lorries tailgating us, threatening to tip us over the edge. Sixty tonne monster trucks opening their maws to devour us and make our children orphans. Me screaming at my husband: “GODALMIGHTYSLOWDOWNDON’TTRYTOPASSSTAYINYOURLANEWATCHOUTFORTHATCARONTHERIGHT”, which, strangely enough, does nothing to help the situation. 

And as for when it was my turn, I’m afraid I held the steering wheel with the grip of a drowning man, shut my eyes, put my foot to the floor and repeated: “In God We Trust”, over and over again.  

I’m ashamed to say that as the trip progressed I traded my turn for everything I had in my possession, food, clothes, jewellery, money. I’m still waking up in a cold sweat at night. Last night’s dream was about me driving a Murray’s bus, like Sandra Bullock in “Speed” but for some reason, not looking as good.   

So much for the achingly pretty villages of the Blue Mountains, the stunning sea vistas of the Central Coast, the bucolic pastoral towns of the NSW hinterland. Don’t be fooled by names such as Roosters’ Rest, Oxen Crossing or Paddling Creek. These places can only be reached by highways to hell!

May I suggest Carnage Corner, Rabid Roundabout and Hades Highway instead. So unless I can be airdropped by helicopter, I’m not venturing out again. 

One unexpected bonus is that it has cured me of my fear of flying. Bring on your turbulence, your air pockets, your bird strikes. The pilot’s in charge! Let him deal with it! Let the dogfights rage outside my cabin window, I don’t care, just serve the chicken korma and leave me out of it.  

Sara Milne has come to Canberra from overseas with her husband and daughter. She has lived in Canberra for the past three years. 


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