Road Trip to Sydney the summer of 1979 – Episode 1
[Based on real events but some names have been changed. And some details of events may differ. After all, it was over 40-years ago.]
A conference on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I wonder what gifts God has for me? I pondered while dozing in the back seat of my brother Rick’s Chrysler Charger. And Dad…why was it that Dad had to go all on his own by car to the conference? Oh, well…much more fun travelling with my peers.
I sat up. Rubbed my eyes. ‘What happened?’
The car fishtailed. Rocking the carload of us back and forth.
‘Hey, mate!’ Rick, my brother yelled at the driver, ‘Jack! You trying to kill us?’
Without reply, Jack, bit his thin upper lip and swung the Charger to the right, and into oncoming traffic.
A truck bore down on us.
Jack, who reminded me of Abraham Lincoln, clenched his strong jaw and corrected back to the left. Keep left, that’s what you do when driving in Australia. Jack’s usually blonde curls appeared dark from perspiration.
The semitrailer gushed past us, sucking the air out of our open windows.
Rick held up his thumb and forefinger in pincer mode. ‘You missed them by that much.’
Rick’s navy-blue tank top was soaked with sweat around the neckline under his mouse-brown curls, and under his strong arms. Mid-January and the full car with only open windows for air-con, steamed with heat. And body odour.
To my right in the back seat, Mitch, taller and thinner than my brother but sporting dark brown curly hair, wiped his damp mauve polo shirt and then sighed, ‘That was close.’
Cordelia, in the briefest of shorts and tight-fitting t-shirt, showing off her classic beauty and assets, sat the other side of Mitch. She clutched her stomach. ‘I feel sick.’
Mitch leaned forward and tapped Rick on the arm. ‘How long till we reach the next town?’
‘I think I’m going to throw up,’ Cordelia said.
Rick nudged Jack. ‘I think you better stop.’
Jack rubbed one hand on his blue jeans, straightened his long white shirt, placed his hand again on the steering wheel and kept driving.
Cordelia cupped her hand under her chin and groaned.
I smoothed my white wrap-around skirt, and then brushed my light cream-coloured blouse patterned with blue roses. No way did I want Cordelia to mess up my most flattering-to-my-slim- figure clothes.
‘Stop!’ Rick shouted.
‘I can’t!’ Jack said and continued to speed down the highway. The golden expanse of the Hay Plains dried out by the fierce summer heat spanned the horizon. White posts flitted past. The red-brown line of bitumen of the highway stretched to its vanishing point on that horizon. A faded white sign flashed past. Dubbo, 265 miles. How long had Australia been metric? A few years at least; not that one would know travelling in outback Australia in early 1979. Still…
Another groan from Cordelia.
Rick screamed at Jack. ‘Stop!’
Jack slowed the car and rumbled onto the gravel beside the road.
Cordelia leapt out and hunched over a shrivelled wheat stalk. I looked away and covered my ears from the inevitable sound of chunder.
‘That was close,’ Mitch said.
‘Remember that drunk guy, your brother brought back to Grandma’s?’ Rick said. ‘Took me a week to get the smell out of her Toyota.’
‘Hmm,’ Mitch replied. ‘That was unfortunate.’
‘You mean, the guy who kept singing “Black Betty”?’ I asked. I remembered that fellow. He had messy blonde hair and a moustache. He lounged on the back seat of Grandma’s car while I sat all prim and proper in the front waiting for Mitch’s brother to drive us to Lighthouse Coffee Lounge. ‘He kept saying I was so innocent.’
‘Well,’ Mitch said, ‘you are.’
I guess I was at 15; but hated to admit it.
Cordelia stumbled back into the car. ‘That’s better.’
Rick and Jack arranged to swap places. So, after a brief stretch of legs and a nearby scraggly-looking bush receiving five visitors, we set off on our quest for Sydney. After all, we still had ages to go before arriving there for the Revival Conference. We hoped to arrive with enough spare time to see the sights Sydney had to offer.
[to be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023
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