The run back to the border was uneventful. Actually, it was a tad boring. I’d sang all my songs, Radio National was airing some crap so I turned it off, and the speed cameras were literally mounted up on eachother, so getting this ordeal over with at a reasonably safe (but slightly illegal) speed was unthinkable.
Which explains what happened when the group of cars I’d tagged onto made it to the Queensland border. Everyone picked up speed immediately! If the Qld Government wanted to make a killing in fines, then all they would have to do is drop a cop on the NSW / QLD border and in one afternoon they’d have more than enough $ to top up the pollie super annuation bucket for a year.
I hadn’t been this way over the border before, and stopped to take some snaps of the area before making my way north again. Passing through Stanthorpe I had a quick look around. The area is renowned for it’s apples, and for it’s freezing cold weather. They get snow out there on a regular basis. It looked a pretty little place.
The hills eventually gave way to the ‘Downs’ the Darling Downs, a stretch of flat, but tremendously fertile land perched on top of the Great Dividing Range. Farms stretched for miles in all directions, and the area looked a little dry. It’s a part of the world I got to know as a young bloke visiting my uncle and his family who used to live in the area. The locals are generally pretty friendly, but the temperature extremes would drive me mad. Stinking hot in Summer, and bloody cold in Winter. I mean, BLOODY COLD in Winter. I remember once driving up to the Downs one sunny July day in my first car, cursing the whole way up because my heater wasn’t working. When I got to the top, I popped the bonnet, leaped from the car to see what the problem was, and discovered to my horror, that the heater had been working just fine thank you very much. Slamming the bonnet shut, I lurched back into the car and grinned through frozen lips at my then girlfriend (later to become my wife) who was wrapped in every item of clothing she could put on. It was a fun weekend!
Toowoomba appeared in my windscreen and I pulled over to fuel up and ask for directions to Oakey. The bloke at the servo had no idea, he was from Victoria, so I wandered over to the nearby bottle shop. The girl there sort of knew, but wasn’t too sure, “Just look for some signs,” she advised me. Yeah, great. I bought a couple of bottles of plonk and made my way back to the car. Using signs to find your way around SE Qld, is not advisable. Actually, relying on signs to assist you on any back roads in Qld is not a good thing. I’ve visited some ‘interesting’ areas of this state, totally lost, because my maps haven’t got all the roads marked. That’s bitumen roads, dirt roads are another story. I once went touring with a mate on our bikes and on impulse took a trip down a dirt road to see where it went. We were stunned to discover that the dirt road shaved an hour of travelling time off to the next town! An hour! This was a road that I’d passed on numerous occasions and it would have been extremely handy to have known about that little shortcut. Would it be too much trouble for the local council to erect a f*&ing sign to assist any ‘non-locals’?! Apparently, yes it would. And this is why my old mate Rob is fond of saying, “Local Knowledge is Everything.” So, basically, if you’re travelling in Qld, and you leave the Bruce Highway (which happens a lot these days thanks to the SES diverting traffic away from accidents), then you’d better be carrying extra fuel, water, food and a good quality banjo because, if you’re not a local then you’re f&*^ed.
Tossing my stuff into the car, I slipped out onto the street, and right in front of me was a truck with a sign “Oakey Animal Transport” or something similar. All I can remember is that it had the word Oakey in it so I followed it. I shook my head in amazement at my good fortune, and was reminded instantly of a book by the late great Douglas Adams, ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’. Dirk would get a case, then walk out of his office and follow the first person or car he saw, and eventually that would lead him to the vital clues he needed. I had just done a Dirk!
It was dark when I pulled into the main street of Oakey. It looked clean, well lit and curiously very quite. There were no cars on the road, and no people out and about. I found my way to my mate’s new place and was welcomed like a returning hero, so I thought I’d milk their enthusiasm for at least a couple of nights 🙂 He showed me to my room, the clock was stuck at 1.20. Mm, 1.20 eh? Time for feed a drink, and a few laughs.