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Just an Ordinary Trip

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Author Topic: Just an Ordinary Trip  (Read 196 times)
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« on: October 28, 2008, 10:59:21 am »


It was a freezing cold wet night, or to be exact 2 am Sunday morning, raining hard. I was cold and a little anxious, the headlights of my truck showing more rain than road ahead, gloomily matching my thoughts, "What am I doing here?"

Any car headlights I saw going either way put me on edge.

Could be police, or transport inspectors.

My Albion HD 53 with 30 ft. bogie axle trailer was well overweight with a full load of Potatoes from Thorpedale, east of Melbourne due into the Sydney markets at 5 am Monday morning, 500 miles away without fail or I would be docked a percentage from my freight money.

Nearly a 600 mile trip from Thorpedale, the most dangerous part was the first 200 miles across the state of Victoria.

Now the state of Victoria was no place to be, especially in a heavy truck on a Sunday.

I was still an hour away from the border with N.S.W

The problem was, commercial trucks were banned off the road from Saturday midnight to midnight Sunday night in the state of Victoria. No trucks allowed. Except livestock.

On top of that I was running hot, you know, some arrest warrants out to pick me up on sight.

Late returns for road tax etc. and a couple of minor traffic breaches like a rear light not working out of four that were working. The usual run of the mill harassment combined with our fight against unjust taxes.

I had left Melbourne about midnight Friday night with enough time and luck to reach the border in

darkness and then have all Saturday to get to Sydney with Sunday a day off for a change.

That’s when it had all gone wrong.

On the way out of the town of Benalla about 70 miles to the border my 'darling' started to suck air into the fuel line which caused me to loose power and speed and eventually shudder to a stop.

It was now about 3 am Saturday morning.

Diesel motors do not like air in the fuel system. Constant vibration over time tends to crack the copper fuel lines, and the smallest crack will gradually allow air bubbles to be sucked into the system starving the motor of fuel till it stops.

I had manually pumped the fuel up to the injectors to bleed the air out about four or five times so far and managed to get past the little town of Winton on the way to Glenrowan still in ‘Ned Kelly 'country, the famous Bushranger from the 1800’s.who was captured at Glenrowan.

Now the town of Wangaratta a little way up the road was a very tricky town for having many Country Roads Board Police hanging around there and I was wondering how my chances would be, sneaking through. Without thinking I took the left hand curve over the rail crossing on the main rail line from Melbourne just south of Glenrowan. Leaning forward I looked out the passenger window, a quick glance to the left, not being able to see very far and I was over. The road crossed at a slight angle like an S shape. To the right you could see for miles, to the left very limited. A vehicle was supposed to stop before crossing. With the way ‘my darling’ was splittering and spluttering I dreaded stopping in case she gave up the ghost or stopped on the rail line.

Imagine my horror as I swung right again to run parallel with the rail line, and into my side vision shot the "Spirit of Progress" the night express to Albury going a ‘million miles an hour’. Windows, brightly lit, one after the other, flashing past as if I was standing still. A couple of seconds slower and I would have been part of the ‘cow catcher’ All I could do was watch it recede into the distance and mutter a ‘Hmmmmmm.’ while drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.

The highway to-day keeps to one side of the rail track and this crossing is not used.

But back in those days the highway crossed where I had crossed then went up the hill to a little service station where a side dirt road went down to the Glenrowan station and then up the hill to the township. The highway then went down a slight hill and back across the rail line and straight up to the town of Wangaratta. It completely missed the township of Glenrowan altogether.

As I came up the hill towards the service station, I could see a glow of what looked like a fire.

As I came closer I could see the service station building was on fire with flames licking around two of the fuel pumps. The ‘old girl’ was still playing up and I just managed to get her up the hill. I eased off the throttle, looking at the fire and wondering how long it had been going and should I stop or keep going before it all blew up.

Suddenly from out of the darkness ahead a torch started to wave in my direction.

"Well somebody is awake" I thought.

As I rolled closer that somebody had a dark blue uniform. Police.

My heart started to beat faster, I stared at the policeman with the torch and sighed

"that’s all I need…coppers"

I rolled up and stopped beside him thinking don’t stutter, act calm, and smile.

"Anybody in there? I asked.


"How did it start?

"Don’t know" replied the policeman, "you’re the first one along. Better make a run past and warn anyone coming along .from Wangaratta."

I think he was also worried the tanks may explode.

"OK " I replied as quick as a wink letting the clutch out and spluttered off.

I was quite happy to vacate the scene. He was one of the local police not Country Roads Board police but you never know who might turn up

Once more the ’Moonlight Gambler’ as I called her, slipped away to continue the " Great Game" with me breathing a sigh of relief.

I staggered off and rattled down over the next rail crossing and onto the flat. A set of headlights up ahead told me a car was approaching so I flagged him down and told him the problem with the instructions from the police to stop everybody till he was advised when it was safe to continue.

My duty done I proceeded along the flat but the motor was getting less and less fuel and I was just crawling along in second gear and getting no where fast. The road will be soon swarming with the enemy. I’ll never make it through town, then I remembered a side road about here somewhere.

I decided to pull off and up the dirt road far enough not be seen from the highway and once and for all fix the damn fuel problem. Those copper fuel lines were always cracking.

As I pulled out the tool box I looked at the bush around me in the dark wondering had Ned Kelly the famous bushranger and his gang galloped along here.

That was only about 70 years earlier and here was I dodging the police like him.

Standing there in the dark It was so quiet.

I imagined I could hear the jingle of spurs and harness, the soft thud of hooves, the quiet muttering of riders. Somehow I felt safe. I smiled to myself and relaxed a little.

Anyway I set to the task in hand which entailed following the fuel line from the tank to the motor with a torch and a piece of rag trying to find the leak which wasn’t easy with everything being wet from the rain.

Well time got away on me and before you know it I realized its daybreak Saturday morning, too late to continue through the hornets nest up ahead.

So I had all day Saturday waiting for night fall to find and fix the fuel problem and any other odd job that needed doing, hidden from the highway and reasonable safe from the law.

The bloody crack in the pipe was tucked away, very hard to see under the turntable along

the chassis, after managing to cut the pipe and install a connector to it, I was happy that it was

repaired and no more trouble .It was now 11 am Saturday morning and that was the wrong

time for me to go trundling through Wangaratta, I can assure you.

I was unseen from the highway so best just be patient till Saturday night and sneak through to the border only an hour and a bit away and hope no one is around.

A bit of luck, about 5 pm it started to rain again and I did a war dance beside the truck hoping it would continue to rain all night. Sometimes in bad weather the "enemy "stayed home.

With a bit of luck they might this time as well.

If I get going about 10 pm that will give me two hours to make the border, before the curfew, plenty of time.

I decided to have a nap but you wouldn’t want to know it I overslept. I awoke in a panic 1.30 Sunday morning. I couldn’t believe it. The curfew was on. I was in big trouble.

"How do you get into all this trouble stupid" I shouted at myself.

Actually I was in double trouble. Anytime now the "enemy’ would be out patrolling the highway.

I was on the wanted list, I was overloaded, and the biggest no no of all driving on the forbidden highway during their curfew.

I had seen a farmer’s gate on the way in and managed to reverse in and creep back out to the highway.

I stopped lights out and studied the traffic. Seemed fairly light, still raining, no enemy to be seen. Deep breath, lights on and away. Up through the gears, heart in mouth, not wanting to hear any spluttering. No she felt ok. Pulled the window down, glanced back at the exhaust pipe and to my relief she was shooting a three foot flame, spot on.

Anyway here I was 3 am Sunday morning, through the town of Wangaratta, all dark no one around, out in the bush again on the way to freedom, lest than half an hour to go to the border.

"Come on old girl. Come on" I whispered to her.

Will I make it I wondered gloomily, its about time I had a little good luck instead of all the bad

so far on this trip.

No one on the road, good, no cars at all and the rain came down even heavier.

With a sense of relief I could see the lights of Albury ahead, all I had to do was sneak through

Wodonga the township on the Victorian side of the border over the Murray river bridge and I was home free in the state of New South Wales. No warrants.

It was then I noticed a set of headlights coming up from the rear at a fast pace, bloody hell

who is this I wondered.

My heart started to pump faster and I willed the "old Girl" to go faster but she was going as fast

as possible now, full throttle, sitting on the governor at the fantastic speed of 38mph .'.flat out like a lizard drinking'.

I felt I could get out, run faster and leave her behind.

I was definitely worried, the headlights were looming closer and closer ready to overtake me.

Well I nearly made it, I thought resignedly.

Damn and hell.

Anyway If it’s the enemy I tried my best.

It has to be them its coming too fast.

The next minute swoosh a car shot past me and through the spray of water it sent up I could

see It was a 1949 Standard Vanguard sedan which was not a police vehicle. The police used 1952 twin spinner Fords.

The heart slowly eased down and the tingle on the back of my neck came and went and then

before I knew it ‘You beauty’ I was rumbling over the border bridge into Albury N.S.W. The wooden planks beating in time to my shouting "Done it again.. Done it again"

I did another tap dance on the floor of the cabin, lit a cigarette and smiled that self satisfying smile when one beats the odds.

I arrived in Sydney late Sunday night, bright and early for the markets, with plenty of time to spare.

The produce agent was pleased I was on time. I received my full payment, folding the money to put in my pocket anticipating the look of surprise on the face of the bank manager when he saw me depositing money instead of trying to overdraw my account.

"How was the trip?" the agent asked?

"No problem ….just an ordinary trip" I replied.

1955 was a good year.
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