MONDAY SEPTEMBER 16 YASS TO SUTTON 68kms
As soon as it was business hours, John phoned the RACV, who passed him onto the NRMA, for advice about tyre repair. He wanted to find a place that had the equipment and knowledge to deal with a vehicle like ours. Yass, being by the Hume Highway main route from Sydney to Melbourne, was much more likely to have same than a smaller town. John was told of a tyre place, which he then phoned, and was told to drive around there when we were ready.
Having two wheels on each side at the back, meant we could drive Bus – very slowly – without changing the flat tyre. It was only about a km and we were there at 9am. Had to disconnect the Terios, to fit into the yard, and also because Bus would have to be backed out and one is not supposed to reverse when flat towing.
Of course, it was raining.
The tyre man was an old-style expert – it is getting harder to find this sort of expertise these days, with the growing dominance of big chains and franchises in so many fields. His company did a lot of truck and bus tyres, which was really reassuring. This was new ground for us, after all. He found the seam on the tube had split, which he said was old age and not related to my driving mishap. Not sure I totally believed him, but it did make me feel a bit better.
We bought a new, heavy-duty tube, plus two spare tubes suitable for the front and back wheels, that we would carry packed away in Bus, “in case”. He also sold us flexible valve extensions which would make checking tyre pressures on the inside rear wheels much easier. He said our tyres should be inflated to 75 on the front and 65 on the back. They had been well under that. We had never questioned the pressures Bus came with when we bought it – assumed that the dealer’s service centre had been correct.
The lovely man even crawled under Bus to check the pressure of the spare wheel, and he checked the age of all the tyres. They were 2012 vintage, which was good to know.
So we were mightily impressed with the service and found his charges most reasonable. We each slipped him an extra $10 to buy himself some liquid refreshment of his choice.
Once Bus was under control, John phoned daughter and they sorted out visit arrangements, so it was with lighter spirits that we drove on to Canberra. John said Bus handled differently – and better – with the changed tyre pressures.
Again, faith in the GPS, rather than this human navigator, let the driver down. We were heading for a caravan park at Sutton, to the NE of the city. “She” had him turn off the highway and take suburban streets, with lots of tight roundabouts and much Monday morning traffic, through Gunghalin. We eventually reached the Federal Highway near Sutton. It might have been the most direct way, but it sure as hell wasn’t the easiest.
The way into the Eaglehawk Holiday Park, where we hadn’t been before, was not the easiest, either, with a confusing slip road to navigate.
I had only been able to book a powered site – no ensuites available. It was a long, narrow site, terraced from the next one. It cost $32 per night. We had to unhitch the car so John could back onto our site, because of the position of the cement annexe slab.
The park was huge, with only a few van sites of any sort. The couple of ensuite site buildings were at one end of the large grassed oval, away from where we were. There was a section for permanent residents, up the hill, then many rows of cabins and bunkhouses. The establishment was very geared to tour and school groups, with a dining hall as well. It was all very modern, well laid out and clean. The oval would have been great for dog exercise, had it not rained the whole time we were there.
John had made arrangements to meet the grandsons and their father at a pool in the centre of Canberra, at 4pm. We found our way there alright – the GPS was a help!
We watched the ten year old train for a couple of hours. He did 4.3kms in that time! We were greatly impressed. John got some quality Grandad time with the eight year old, who wasn’t swimming, due to an ear infection. He helped with some homework. The boys attended a school that ran the International Baccalureate Program; it was very obvious from the nature of the homework the Grade 2 boy had to do, how much more rigorous this curriculum is, and how much children attending “ordinary” schools are not challenged to reach their capabilities. Even the fact that the boy had about an hour of homework to do at all…. This issue of low expectation and hence reducing standards is a long-time hobby horse of mine.
By the time we left the pool, to follow SIL and the kids on their way to pick up John’s daughter from work, it was dark as well as teeming with rain. There was peak hour traffic, rain, lights coming from all directions, the roads were unfamiliar, and we were trying to follow a “local” who didn’t adjust his driving to wait for us. Canberra drivers are not friendly people! Rain made the side mirrors on the Terios useless – a flaw we had not had occasion to discover before. John ran over a traffic island barrier thing he didn’t see, at the government building – some very loud clunks.
By the time we’d followed the family to their apartment building, we just wanted to keep on going, back to the safety of Bus, rather than make the planned brief stop for drinks amidst their tea time preparations.
And that was a horror drive too. GPS took us via the Madura Road, which was the logical route – except we hadn’t come in that way. There were lots of roadworks, flashing lights, confusing signs, last minute lane changes in the still-heavy traffic – and the heavy rain. It was really scary, and John did well to get us back to Bus without an accident.
We were supposed to go to the family, for tea, tomorrow night. I told John there was no way he was doing that drive again, in these conditions. He should go alone and get a taxi back. He actually agreed with me – a sign that the drive had indeed been horrendous.
Our – late – tea was pasta and bottled pesto.