Thursday, 12 February 2015

The One Day Tour - Day 1

A last week of lists
Hiccups, setbacks, drawbacks, problem solving ... they're all part of being on the road but it is the inertia of home that makes starting a trip the most difficult. It’s as though that first 50kms seems racked with obstacles, road works and mobs of cattle and the troubles and difficulties that well up when you least expect them in the week before your departure, offer a reassurance that staying home, at least for a bit longer until things settle down, might be the better option. All the t's are crossed, all the i's dotted and yet the alphabet of home keeps sending up more, like some manic bag of narrow-banded scrabble tiles.

Having some bloke, tripped out on meth-amphetamine in a stolen car, rip a gash up all four panels of your car as he undertook on a single lane road at 100 kilometres per hour, constituted capital T’s and I’s we could never have expected. Having it happen three days before your scheduled departure was like your brother playing a Q with his last move and beating you by one point. Hardly seemed fair. Hardly seemed right.

Such was our last week.

Of course, one of the strongest negatives came from friends and almost anyone we told about our plans. Some rose their eyebrows, some shaded green with envy but most cursed us with through the simple act of nomenclature. "So, you are becoming grey nomads?"

We are not. An Avan is not technically a caravan, despite its appearance ... its a camper. We don't meet the age requirements. We don't vote conservative. We don't have an investment portfolio ... and we don't have grandchildren ... not yet. We are therefore, not grey nomads.

In our case, twelve months on the road took some organising. We decided to lease the house to supplement our income and although we didn't need the extra, it would certainly be handy, but our worries included where to empty our contents to and what state would the house be when we finally returned. Much of that was solved by offering the house to our son, his partner and her son, at a weekly rate well below the market but with the reassurance that we could be certain the walls would be intact next February! It was a significant load to shift from our minds.

To make all this possible, Sue had to retire, something she was happy to do. After an adult life totally absorbed by sheltering, guiding and nurturing children - either her own or those in loco parentis in her role as a teacher - the calling had not changed. She still burns with the desire that all children should have an equal opportunity to love, shelter, food and an education but has tired of the battle that confronts teachers every day to provide it. The numbing acts of normafying their every move into quantified check boxes so that annual reports can justify politicians kills, the best teachers and my wife was certainly one of those. Creativity still fails to excite much of a following in schools where Maths and English and Sport still predominate thinking when it comes to seeking productive output and provable outcomes. In the end, her own creativity and the company of a like-minded partner, whom she has spent her life running away with, proved too alluring.

She did more than retire her career. Signing that one last form – one of many that had so burdened her philosophy – also retired our debt. It’s a new experience for us. Since I sang my way into her heart in a seedy bar in Armidale, when I was a first year teacher trainee and she was a drunk Year 12 student, we have always been fighting a deficit.

So owning everything we needed and now everything we wanted, red wine nights beside rivers and mornings with birds singing accompaniment to a whistling, first cuppa kettle, have an overwhelming degree of satisfaction that we have not only made it, but have also, finally, run away with each other.

A long last day at home attending to the detailed minutia of humdrum so that it stayed behind us and didn’t tag along to narrow our wide eyes and then a final pack of laptops and cameras … and it was done.

Beside the McDonald River
The first step of our escape was a short one, to the delightful Bendemeer Showgrounds beside the McDonald River, hardly more than seven or eight songs on the iPod as we climbed onto the Northern Tablelands. Short but significant, because as we watched the sunset, home now had wheels and new neighbours: such as the couple heading to the central west via free camps; or the nurse from Tweed Heads on the way to Sydney to deliver her daughter for post graduate work; or the ex-teaching couple on a four day Kingscliff-Cobram-Kingscliff journey to pick up a rescue dog … they all have stories to share and I the mind to absorb.

The road no longer beckons us, it lies beneath our feet and damn if it doesn’t feel good.

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