DAY 234: Dwelling in the gutter

22 Apr


I’M dubious about driving this ute; I’m sure it’s all fairly roadworthy and everything, but it’s like steering a sodden mattress that only wants to go left.

Despite his years on the road, I notice the bush pirate is gripping the handhold above the passenger window just as futilely as I gripped the map pocket in the glider yesterday. He’s already skulled a can of Monster so that there’s absolutely no danger of him falling asleep while I’m at the wheel.

My task today is to practise driving with the left wheels in the gutter, partly to stop my habit of hugging the white centre line, and partly so I will know not to overcorrect if I have to steer off-road in an emergency.

Inching into a gravelly trench at speed is as uncomfortable a feeling as deliberately punching yourself in the face, but after a few kays I stop thinking about it. In fact, I notice a couple of dead kangaroos on the other side of the road and automatically veer over to take a look.

“It’s time to pull over,” the bush pirate says tightly, “so let’s go through the stopping… process.” I’m not actually trained to drive manuals, so the stopping process pains us both.

“I’ll assume you indicated and checked your mirror there,” he says, voice deepening an octave in displeasure.

With the bush pirate back at the wheel, we reach the desert in double time and the rain stops abruptly. You could score a line where it starts; wheat fields and earth suddenly giving away to witchy black trees and white sand.

The sight of a sidetrack fills the bush pirate with unadulterated glee, and he gets me back behind the wheel for some four wheel driving. At first I’m hammering along, but I’m thrown when a Land Rover approaches and I veer up a verge sideways, burning rubber on sand. I’m as rattled as the suspension, and suddenly can’t find neutral or work the park brake, and have to do the humiliating slide along the bench seat to let the bush pirate take over in front of our new audience. It takes all his skill to hoik us out of both the sand and my gathering storm clouds, but of course he manages it.


Keeper? It’s really tempting to idle, dribbling and glaze-eyed, in passenger mode forever when you’re in the company of a shit-hot driver. I blame VicRoads and their lack of encouragement.

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