Planes, Trains And Automobiles, Part Three – Automobiles

Another first for Miss1. Tracey and I looking putting on a good show for the camera phone.

Despite the weekend being about catching up with family and celebrating Daz’s 40th, transport seemed to be the recurring theme. The planes had, much to my surprise, both taken off and landed safely. We’d slept in the most beautifully converted train carriages. There’s only one chapter left to tell of our Bridget Jones style (plus toddler) ‘mini-break’ – that of the automobile. Buckle up.

To save my sister the hassle of a four hour round trip to pick us up from Cairns airport (the delayed flight would have added a further hour and a half) Tracey and I decided to hire a car at the airport and make our way to Pinnacle Village Holiday Park by ourselves.

“Easy,” said the lady at the counter of Avis car rental when we enquired for directions. “I stayed at Pinnacle with my family over the Easter long weekend. You’ve only got to make two turns. One at the end of the road leading away from the airport, which will put you on the highway, and another one an hour and a half up the road when you turn into the park.”

I managed to get them both wrong.

Miss1 was perched behind us in the car seat. So far the day had held a couple of big firsts for her: her first time in a plane and her first time in a really, really clean car.

“I love it,” Tracey kept saying as she ran her hands over the interior of the Hyundai. “It still has that new car smell.” As opposed to our cars, which have a smell which can only come from 20 years of farts and fries circulating continually through the air-cons.

The differences between the hire car and ours were even more obvious when we arrived back in Brisbane and, after three days in the Hyundai, had to drive the Pajero again. The hire car was small: our car is a truck. The hire car was neat and clean: ours was full of family flotsam and jetsam. We made our way to our car, intending on spending the next two hours, while we waiting for my father and my son and his girlfriend to arrive on a later flight and then driving them all to their homes, at the DFO, ostensibly to have a coffee, but more accurately to do some shopping. Oh, there was one other way the hire car was different to ours – the hire car was reliable and our car chugged and spluttered its way to a halt as we drove away from the airport.

“You’re joking, right?” Tracey asked me hopefully as I pulled over and the engine died.

I wasn’t. I tried the engine. It started, it spluttered, it shuddered, it died with all the finality of a death rattle.

We called up our good friends at RACQ and told them we were in a bind. Again. I wonder if they might black list us one day because we can’t be doing their bottom line any favours.

“A tow truck will be out there shortly,” the nice lady on the phone told me.

“Aren’t you at least going to try and get it started first?” I wanted to know.

Turns out we were on a main road and they wouldn’t even pop the bonnet until we’d been moved somewhere safe.

So the firsts for Miss1 just kept adding up this weekend and she got a ride in her first tow truck. Yay!

There was a glimmer of good news though.

“I’ll tow you to the DFO,” the truck driver said. “It’s the closest safe point.”

Tracey’s eyes lit up, until she realized we had to save our money in case we needed, oh I don’t know, a rental car. Not to mention a new engine.

A while later the RACQ breakdown guy arrived. Our hero. After we explained the problem he turned the key and the engine purred into life.

“There you go,” he said.

“Wha…” I said. I played over our break down again in my head. Yep, the car was definitely shuddering and stopping.

“Dirty fuel, I reckon,” he said.

“Bu…” I said. At this point I was thinking about the run down from G-town on Friday. No issues there.

“You’re just about on empty. Just fill it up with some good unleaded and you should be fine.”

“Okay,” I said. “Thank you.” I meant it. I really, really meant it. I wanted to hug him.

I also thanked my ancestors as I looked at my watch – the DFO was shutting in fifteen minutes and the others were due to land any minute. We had to get moving.

“So close,” Tracey said wistfully as we drove out of the DFO car park. She meant so close to being able to go discount clothes shopping, not so close to being destitute.

When my sister heard, she was worried this would ruin the weekend for us. She should know us better by now.

“Are you kidding?” I told her. “When our car broke down we thought we’d finally have to scrap it and buy a new one. We thought we were going to be stuck two hours from home with a toddler and have to spend the rest of our money hiring a car to get back to G-town so we could round up the other kids. Instead, the car started after wasting just enough time to stop Tracey from maxing out our credit cards.” I say Tracey, I meant me. “This was the best end to a weekend, ever!”

And it really was. Thank you to everyone who made it possible – my sister for flying us up and putting us up, and my in-laws for looking after the bulk of our children. To RACQ-Man for his superb key turning abilities. To our pilots for not showing up drunk for work. And to my wife, for agreeing to be separated from most her children for a couple of nights. Great fun all round. x


Here’s a link to my sister’s holiday park, which is an hour and a half north of Cairns (half an hour north of Port Douglas) – Pinnacle Village Holiday Park.

When not typing away over here and checking his stats every two minutes Bruce Devereaux hangs out at his ‘BIG FAMILY little income’  Facebook Page.

 ’raising a family on little more than laughs’

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