Part 3. How Not To Park A Camper Van
I was designated driver #1.
“Do I get to drive?”, asked Shane.
I glared at Beccy.
“No”, she said, “just sit back and relax – Dash is an excellent driver”.
“Dash?”, he said.
I glared at her again.
“Um, we call her that because she moves so quickly”.
Beccy was supposedly navigating but Shane was cuddled up to her so reading the map wasn’t her first priority.
“Just follow the signs for Gawler”, she said, as I yanked the stick into fourth gear and headed for open country.
Well – a couple of yards of it, before factories reappeared – and it was down to third gear, then down to second with a crunch.
“Ow!”, said Shane loudly, and it obviously looked as if I was about to hit him, so Beccy jumped in with “It’s like the North of England isn’t it Ash? I thought Australia was open countryside”.
“It is”, said Pain, “once we’re past this junction, then there’ll be hundreds of miles of it”.
“With no bathrooms!”, said Beccy and immediately regretted it as Shane smirked.
Gawler was 40 kilometres (about 30 miles) north of Adelaide. It was an entrance point to the Barossa Valley, where some of Australia’s best wine is produced.
But before we could taste any (not that we were intending to anyway – we were good girls!), I had to stop. No, not for Beccy, not for the van, but for – guess who?
When he was out of earshot, Beccy jumped in with “I’m sorry!”, before Sara or I could say anything.
“Why d’you bring him, Bec?”, said Sara, and Beccy and I turned together to look at her. Sara was usually a happy-go-lucky “kid”, and putting Beccy on the spot was unexpected.
“Well he’s cute. I needed something in Sydney. He knows we’re not an item”.
She was interrupted by Sara exclaiming “wow”. I thought she’d at least seen Mel Gibson (yes I know he’s far too old for me, but I’d sat through “Ransom” with a stupid smile on my face).
“It’s just too easy for them, isn’t it?”, she continued, and I realised she was watching Shane spray a wooden sign. He wasn’t even looking at what he was doing.
“He had a lot of coffee on the plane”, said Beccy.
“Well I’m not stopping again for him – he can use a Coke bottle like your brother does!”.
Beccy smiled, remembering the trip we took to Southampton, where her older brother was at uni. He’d been drinking when we met him, and soon filled a half-litre bottle in the back seat. I was driving and, well, a girl’s got to look in the mirror from time to time!
Shane finally returned.
“Could have filled a bucket”, he said to Beccy, “but I’d rather fill you”.
Yes, I was so pleased that he’d be dropped off soon!
“OK Shane”, said Bec, “sit in the back now!”.
Ah, perhaps he’ll be dropped AND dumped!
The horizon seemed to stretch away forever – further than it does at home. And there was an orange haze between the light blue sky and the white distance.
I was travelling at a steady 45. It was tempting to go faster as the land seemed so open and uninhabitated, but there was no rush.
“I want to see kangaroos, koala bears and emus”, said Sara.
“Roos you’ll see later”, said Shane, “Koalas and emus are unlikely”.
Ten miles to Gawler and Beccy put words to the way I was feeling.
“It’ll be nice to stop at a petrol station”, she whispered to me so that Shane wouldn’t make a comment.
“Yes I think someone better take over – or I’ll have to cross my legs and I can’t reach the pedals then!”
But he heard that.
“What do you want to cross your legs for Ash? Oh I see what you mean”, and he smirked.
“Shall I take over then?”
I cleared my throat. Fortunately the VW wasn’t insured for him to drive, so I didn’t need to explain that I’d rather die than have him take the wheel.
“Sara – your turn!”
“Sure thing, sis!”, she said as if I’d just offered her a chocolate cake.
I slowed and pulled off the highway. I got out and Sara squeezed over. Now Shane was next to the driver, almost sitting on the gear lever (why does that thought send an excited ripple through my body?) . I wouldn’t have relished that but Sara could handle herself. She started it, revved up (“better get the fuel to all parts”, she shouted over the noise) and pushed it hard into first gear, Shane begrudgingly having moved his thigh.
It responded to the movement by letting out a low squeal like a bass trombone.
“Careful, dear” said Shane.
Two words that would have made me want to hit him, but Sara tried a different tack:
“I’m not your dear”, she said soberly, “and I need to be tough or I can’t be sure it’s gone into gear – and THAT (she emphasised and looked around) is dangerous!”
The way she said it implied “you criticise me again you dick and you’ll be toast”.
Once again I looked at her with admiration. I was learning something about my little sister on this journey.
Gawler was just your typical Aussie settlement. As soon as Sara stopped at a “roadhouse”, out Beccy and I got and limped to the women’s room.
She was undoing belts, buckles, zips, and buttons as she went.
When we’d finished our creditable impressions of Niagara Falls, Beccy moved into serious mode.
“Look, I was desperate for a man – no, that’s not right – but I know you wanted time away from men cos of your cyberstalker so I wasn’t going to stay with him, but then he said he wanted to come to Gawler anyway…”
“Why does anyone want to go to Gawler?”
“I dunno – but he’s going”
“OK”, I said with a sigh,”don’t worry – as pricks go he’s OK and he IS going now!”
But not before a final bit of sexism.
When we got back, we discovered that Sara had been given two possible parking slots to hide the van in while we eat and shopped. Either crammed into the end of a row of motorcycles or between two huge trucks!
The latter looked easier to escape from afterwards, so she’d tried reversing in, with Pain’s “help” of course.
When we arrived the idiot was screaming “clutch, girl, clutch” like some demented bag seller, as the stick shift was grinding again. Sara was womanfully ignoring him, carefully reversing between the lorries AND leaving just enough room to exit the vehicle.
I was impressed – again. BUT the trucks had double wheels at the back and not only was she just about to hit them (“Stop, Sara”, I yelled, noticing before Shane did), but they would clip the van if they tried to leave first.
So we decided that the motorbikes would be a safer bet. Shane positioned himself ready to direct her again, but Sara was having none of it.
“Shane!” she bellowed, “Do you have a reason to still be here?”.
Beccy moved between them, fearing an argument. She harshly kissed him and wished him well while I took Sara’s attention away from them and back to the situation in hand.
“Phew!”. I was relieved (in two senses now).
TO BE CONTINUED.