Well, I Don't Approve Of THAT!
Trip Start Sep 15, 2006
80Trip End ??? ??, 2007
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I awoke early and crept out of the room to find Richard and Greg in the sitting room, watching The Masters tournament live, halfway around the globe. Tiger wasn't doing too well and even tossed all his clubs over at one point. I thought he was supposed to be pretty even-tempered. The view out the window was a lot more appealing, the ocean and its dunes glistening at the bottom of a long hillside. Joyce and Jenny took us on a walk along the ocean, past giant rock ledges jutting out of the surf and creating tidal pools. The walk ended at the top of a steep sand slope, which we had to race down, of course. I beat Cierra by a long ways, while she scolded me for a flying leap over the finish line, a pile of clothes on the beach.
"You weren't supposed to walk on their clothes!"
"I went over them. That's what you do, go over the finish line."
Richard was quite a character, calling all the women "Darling" one moment, then complaining that they were all too bossy the next. He asked me what our plans were to head up the coast. "I thought we'd try hitching," I replied.
His face changed in an instant to a horrible scowl. "Well, I don't approve of THAT." Greg assured me that we'd be fine, while Richard painted pictures of an Australia full of killers and crazies. Later on, he copped to having done some hitching himself in his youth, so that made me feel a bit more safe.
That evening, on our way out of the house, Richard locked the keys inside and I got to practice my cat burglar skills, climbing in the kitchen window and across the sink, all without breaking any china. After all the excitement had passed, Richard and Joyce took everyone out to the RSL Club, a kind of ex-services club that has become the center of life in small-town Australia. One part community center, one part restaurant, a big dash of casino action and you've got the idea. They definitely had a very complex sign-in process. Sign and date this form, show us your passport. It was easier to get into Parliament House in Sydney! We had a delicious meal, then headed downstairs to watch everyone feed some money to the slots. Jenny gave us each two dollars with strict instructions to blow it for her. No problem - we had northing but bad luck, but she had just enough to get it back out of another machine.
Dawn again in Forster, and we had to hit the road early. Joyce drove us out to the highway out of town. The plan? Hitch to Coffs Harbor, four hours up the coast by car. Sounds good until I remember that it's about the same to my folks' place and that seems like a long way to hitchhike.
Joyce gave us a container of raisin biscuits and a hug, drove away and the adventure began. Cierra began making a sign, but before she even had it done, my thumb did the trick and a nice guy with a very messy car stopped for us. He was only going as far as Taree, thirty minutes up the road, and dispensed good advice on how to hitch in Australia. Coffs was a long way to try for, and he suggested that if we could make it to Port Macquarie for the night, we might want to stop there. He dropped us off near the on-ramp to the freeway, where we smiled big, waving our sign at passing cars and speculating on their likelihood of stopping. A granny in a station wagon... no way is this lady stopping. Teenage kid in Mom's car with girlfriend...he's not thinking about us. Flatbed truck... put the thumb away, we don't want this ride.
A half hour passed and I was just thinking of running to the bushes to answer nature's call, holding on line one if you get my drift, when a minivan packed with a small family came by. They won't stop. But they did, well down the ramp, and we ran up and piled in tight. Several of the kids had jumped in the luggage area to make room, and we introduced ourselves all around. They were going home, and told us the name of their town, which we immediately forgot. "Where's that? I asked."
"Oh, a fair bit up the road," he replied. Great, I thought. For people living out here, a fair bit is probably 3 or 4 hours' drive. I was a little disappointed when fifteen minutes later, they pulled over and let us out. But the father had thought about where to drop us, across from a gas station, where the speed limit was low and we had more chances to get people to stop.
We'd been at it for an hour with no encouragement other than a few thumbs up signs from the passing drivers. A greyhound bus passed us full of tourists, and we started to wonder if we'd even make Port Maquarie today. Wonder if the gas station will let us put a tent up in their back yard?
Right about then, a new-looking car pulled up, a young man with close-cropped hair at the wheel. He was in the Navy, and headed home to visit his fiancee and their young one. "Coffs Harbor? Yeah, I can take you there, I could use the company. I'm headed north of Brisbane."
Cierra and I had a brief conference when he went into a gas station. Should we change our destination to Brisbane, another 6 hours north? In the end, we decided to stick to the plan, and got off at the shopping mall our host lived close to. Or so we thought. A local informed me the mall we were looking for was a 30 minute walk down the road, then berated me about the state of US foreign policy for 10 minutes while Cierra went to the bathroom. She returned and we hefted our packs once more, anxious to meet our next host.