Seeing the country

Journal: 088

At the end of May I was flat out for a week running backwards and forwards from Perth to mines north of Kalgoorlie – and then reading about them and the early days of WA’s Eastern Goldfields in KSP’s The Roaring Nineties.

A few days at home turned into 20 before I realised I risked not doing any work at all in June. Dragan had a load to Melbourne. He told me to come in Sat morning (18/06) to load, but then Friday night rang me back and asked me to do a load to Mt Isa instead. I didn’t mind, it would keep me occupied and, bonus, I would get to see (son) Lou in Tennant Creek.

Loading was straightforward, 26 x 2 tonne bulker bags of lead pellets already in Dragan’s depot. There was a small hold up because Sam, Dragan’s dad, who was going to take one of my trailers over the hill to the roadtrain assembly, wanted to spend Sat night at home, but Sunday morning, grey and wet, we were away.

Day/night followed day/night. Every now and then I would stop and put another $2,500 of fuel in the tanks – all my credit cards will be maxxed by the time I get home – Weds morning I had breakfast with Lou before he wandered off to monitor school sports; Weds afternoon I was in Mt Isa and soon unloaded.

Dragan of course had said he would have no worries loading me out of North Qld. I took an early 24 hour break, did some shopping, waited to hear back from him. “Head down to Biloela” (east of Rolleston on the map above). I got down to Emerald mid Friday. Sat. Waited. Biloela had fallen through. No worries, there was a load next week out of Mackay (on the coast a bit north). No I couldn’t have it, they’d have another truck in North Qld by then. Well, how about Brisbane? You’d sit for a week with no guarantee of a load. It was getting too late to phone around.

Ever reliable Homer, called from Melbourne. Come on down AND I’ll pay you an extra $1,000 (on top of the extra I got in April!). So I spent the weekend running empty to Melbourne. From north of Hillston, central NSW, I crossed Wilandra Creek, the Lachlan River, ran down through Hay to Echuca – Joseph Furphy country!

And now here I am. It’s Weds (29/06), I took all Mon as a 24 hour break – in the east I must have one at least once a week. In the West I can work up to 12 days.

I got my James Baldwin post done. Tues I loaded and ran two trailers up to Charlton, which is my road train assembly point over here. Today there is a hold up and so I am writing. Tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll be on my way. Just 4,000 kms – no, 3,500, I’ve already done the dog run – for a total of 12,000 for the fortnight. Might need another break.

I listened to Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence early in the trip. It’s well worth reading but too much time has passed for me to write it up. I don’t remember what dross filled in the time till Just Above My Head. Last night I had a Jodi Picault on, about a hostage situation in an abortion clinic, strangely chiming with all the (justified) end of Roe v Wade outrage on Twitter.

A week or so after I get home Milly is going up to Darwin to be with (daughter) Psyche, who needs some pretty intensive medical treatment. Milly’s work is accommodating about her ‘working from home’; her little dog has her airline ticket; she might be gone a while. I might have to find some more work ‘up north’.

[Friday morning: Port Augusta. I got in late last night. Breakfast, shower, fuel, on my way 6am WST, due home tomorrow evening.]


Recent audiobooks 

Caroline Linden (F, USA), Love and Other Scandals (2013) – Hist.Romance
Louise Erdrich (F, USA), The Sentence (2021) – Crime
Colm Tobin (M, Ire), The Magician (2021)
Jodi Picault (F, USA), A Spark of Light (2018) – Crime

Currently Reading 

Aaron Fa’Aoso with Michelle Scott Tucker (Aus), So Far, So Good (2022) – Memoir
Claire G Coleman (F, Aus/WA), Lies Damned Lies (2021) – Memoir
Yoko Ogawa (F, Jap), The Memory Police (1994) – SF

AWWC June 2022

Wed 01Elizabeth LhuedeHiding in Plain Sight: Mrs T C Cloud
Fri 03Stories FTALindsay Duncan, Mr Coulson’s Queer Client
Wed 08Book around the CornerCatherine Helen Spence, Mr Hogarth’s Will
Fri 10Stories FTACatherine Helen Spence, The Literary Calling
Wed 15Bill HollowayBrent of Bin Bin
Fri 17Stories FTA“H J”, Modern Heroes and Heroines: What Women Writers Think
Wed 22Jessica WhiteGeorgiana Molloy: Collector of Seeds and Words
Fri 24Stories FTAHannah Villiers Boyd, Letters on Education
Wed 29Whispering GumsMary Grant Bruce’s juvenilia

All the Friday posts are stories, or extracts from stories, written by the authors mentioned.


27 thoughts on “Seeing the country

  1. My goodness. You drive around the country like I drive around Hobart. The only book on your list I’ve read is the Sentence. I enjoyed it too but was ready to move on once it finished. Glad you’ll be safely home. Time to rest!


  2. So near and yet so far Bill! We drove back to Canberra via the Hume on Wednesday and Thursday. Overnightng in Albury. Don’t laugh! Coffee in Broadford, lunch at Benalla and a little look at an exhibition, dinner at Albury and a night walk through their Aurora light show. Then coffee at Jugiong and back in Canberra for a late lunch.

    Must get back to Mt Isa one day where I was living through the big 1960s Miners’ strike.

    Just can’t imagine all that driving but thought of you often as we were passing trucks on the Hume; what were THOSE drivers listening to!


    • Our last road trip to Brisbane and back, I also thought of you every time we passed a truck, trying to see if they had named their trucks. I wondered to Mr Books about what they were listening to as well. Normally I like to read books about where I travel & I had planned on reading Black Opal by KSP to coincide with our time in Lightning Ridge on the way back, but my copy didn’t turn up at work in time.

      The price you pay for fuel is eye-watering! I hope Dragan compensates appropriately. At least there are no tolls out that way! And I hope that things improve for Psyche soon. I’m sure having mum on hand will help 🙂


      • Quite a few drivers name their trucks, though more often the bonneted ones – on their bug deflectors. I’ve driven all round Lightning Ridge without ever going there. If you’ve read The Drums Go Bang you’ll remember that Ruth Park caught a taxi there while her husband (D’Arcy Niland) and brother in law were shearing around Moree.

        The price of fuel is a constant worry, but yes, freight rates have been rising to commensurately.

        It would probably be more accurate to say Psyche has a condition, rather than an illness, which may shorten her life and is certainly restricting her enjoyment of life. I am trying to work out, how much/how little I should/can say, so that there is at least some explanation for my actions over the coming years.


      • The Drums Go Bang is still on my tbr, but I imagine that that would have been one expensive taxi ride!

        I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude onto personal terrain, and I do recall now we have had a conversation previously as my father has the same condition as Psyche. It’s hard to know how much to reveal about our personal lives, let alone those of our extended family, via our blogs. It’s an odd environment where we build up some lovely relationships over a number of years, centred around a shared interest, but have often never met IRL.


      • From memory the taxi driver was on his way there and she jumped at the opportunity to go with him. Read it, it’s a lovely, lighthearted book, enormously evocative of a writer’s life (or more correctly, two writers’ lives).

        Don’t apologize, I was trying to say what you said, the difficulty of being friends in a public space while maintaining some privacy for our families.

        Liked by 1 person

    • You drive two-up and still you stop to sleep! Not that I would willingly drive on the Hume at night – it’s a sewer of non-stop trucks. I often look wistfully at the places I would like to stop, but pressing onwards is what I do. I was thinking about your childhood in Mt Isa, suburban housing always looks out of of place in those dusty, rocky mining towns.


      • I know … it must look absolutely ridiculous to you. Thing is we don’t LOVE driving and we do love exploring country Australia (country anywhere actually!)

        Yes I take your point … interestingly our home would not have been suburban location-wise as we were 2 blocks from the town centre. It looked suburban though! As it has turned out though, last I heard it no longer exists. The land we lived on is now (or was a couple of decades ago) a McDonald’s car park.


      • In Mt Isa on my break I dropped my trailers and ran into town to go shopping. Parked next to Bob Katter’s office (the cowbow hatted Independent local member) and walked across the street to Coles. Google says McDonalds is (now anyway) next door.


  3. You drive such long distances! I can’t imagine it – I dare say this is because I don’t like driving and because my brain will not process that amount of distance anyway – but I do like the idea of having that much time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

    I looked up The Memory Police, which sounds fascinating – I will be interested to hear what you think of it if you have the chance to post about it!


    • I was thinking about your comment as I drove. Without looking stuff up I would guess that in that 8,000 km Perth-Mt Isa-Melbourne I passed through maybe four towns with populations of 20-40,000. I checked Google Maps, Lisbon-Moscow-Istanbul is 1,000 km shorter.

      I’ll finish reading and review The Memory Police later this month (and I’m also halfway through Woman Out of Time which you recommended) but I have some ‘project’ reads to get out of the way first


  4. Seeing the map of the distance you covered was mind-boggling but the cost of the fuel even more so! (and here I am cringing when I fill my tiny car and it costs over $50!).


    • I often used to fuel Milly’s Colt for $20 or $30 so I know what you mean. I was hoping we’d share an electric car next but neither of our apartments has charging points – and our daughter now lives 400+ km south.


  5. I’m sorry to hear your daughter is not in a good place just yet. We’ve talked about her, and I was hopeful that something would change. Perhaps the part Milly is helping with IS the change that is coming.

    Your job sounds so tenuous. I’ve never heard of someone maxing out credit cards for work, but then I remind myself you are self-employed and would have to be getting that money back fairly quickly for any of it to be worth it. I know people talk a lot about how not paying off the balance on a credit card is how you quickly fall into debt in the U.S. There aren’t any protections I know of that prevent you from not paying off one time and eventually the interest (typically 25%) just bites you in the ass.

    When you visited with Lou, did the two of you talk about or exchange books?


    • Our next step with Psyche is to see how she responds to treatment and for Milly to help her organise her on-going work/life situation.

      The problem with fuel prices more than doubling over the last two years is that it has meant the doubling of the credit requirement for six weeks fuel. Doubling my credit card limit would mean providing the bank(s) with endless paperwork where once they would bombard you with ‘paperless’ offers (we had a Royal Commission into banking and that was the one thing they agreed to cease). Freight rates have risen surprisingly quickly so paying for the fuel 15 days after the end of each month is no problem (yet!), just juggling my cards so I don’t have to pay them early.

      Lou and I both say very little but I did give him an anthology of Australian Indigenous SF. He’s in Canada now on holidays so I’m hoping he’ll pass on any books he buys. Yesterday he sent us a photo of his perfect situation – a bar/bookshop in Toronto.


      • Toronto is a brilliant city. I love the people, the music, the streets, the shops, the food, the clubs. I love all of it. I have some great photos of me in Toronto when I was 18, looking so edgy. Back when I was “cool,” lol.


  6. That’s some journey, Bill! I am currently planning a media event for Clarke Creek wind farm in central Queensland. Wonder if you ever pass it in your travels… it’s two hours drive out of Rockhampton… and we are having to bus everything in (journos, portable toilets, marquee, food & drink, etc) because it’s so far from anywhere … think the nearest town is Marlborough, 50km away.


    • My very first long distance job – 50 years ago this month probably – was driving between Brisbane and Moranbah, west of Mackay. The ‘highway’ in those days from Rockhampton to Mackay was inland of its current route and so Marlborough which from memory had a pub but not a roadhouse was on our way. I last went down the old road, for old times sake, about 20 years ago.

      You must be enjoying your new job (and I’m glad I wasn’t the one to give you Covid).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, the new job is great. A bit of a culture shock dealing with intelligent people (!!) and doing everything in a collaborative way but the diversity of projects I’m working on is amazing, from renewable energy to nickel mining, property development to agri-food. It still tickles me that every press release I write gets printed verbatim in most outlets. I even made it to the Freo Shipping News this week 😆

        Liked by 1 person

  7. My jaw dropped when I saw the distance you travelled – that’s more than I’ve done in my car in the last 18 months. How often are you allowed to go before you are required to take a break (not sure if you have tachometers fitted to your wagon).

    Looking forward to reading what you thought of The Memory Police.


    • In the eastern states (the law is slightly more lenient in WA) I can drive up to six hours straight followed by a half hour break, and up to 14 hours in 24 with one break of at least seven hours. Typically, I start at 5am. drive for 14 of the next 17 hours and have an overnight break starting 10pm. I can drive up to 144 hours per fortnight but must have one 24 hour break within every 7 days.

      During the mining boom, say 2010-2015, in WA, we all drove 168 hours/fortnight month after month. But I’m a bit past that now, and generally take a week or two off after every long trip.

      The Memory Police started out a bit dry, and I had some projects to complete, so it has been pushed back a bit.


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