This morning was an early rise for both of us; we had another shaky night in the van as neither of us slept very well. I decided to get an early start on word press and I told Scott we’d have an easy day. About half an hour into our day Scott went for a walk, something I was a little concerned about, not because of Scott, but there’s nobody in these communities who knows him like he has at home and I do worry what may go wrong. He quickly returned looking for his wallet and off he shot. Ha, Ha!! I thought he’d found the caravan store and he was going to get himself a snack, time passed and I started to worry about how long he was taking, fortunately he had his phone, a tool that has given Scott tremendous independence and freedom, I called and asked where he was with great excitement he said “I’m in town buying our dinner for tonight, some fresh veggie’s and curry I’m going to cook a healthy meal.” This is a common outcome after we have had a discussion, sorry argument, in the moment he is defensive and irritated but he usually follows up some time later with an action of approval and agreement, on his terms.
He had walked about 15 minutes into the township to an IGA supermarket and did his shopping, at this stage I must tell you Scott is a very good cook, especially Asian and really spicy, tasty foods, most nights he puts his own meal together and we often share it with him.
I didn’t even know where the IGA was; I bet they wondered what hit them. I was to find out later he had also visited the Caltex service station to buy a drink on the way back and I’m sure a little walking home snack. When we pulled in to top up the tanks, both ladies were delighted to tell me he called in and how gorgeous he was.
Its Scott’s job to fill up the car with diesel when I pull into a service station. Before we left, Geoff gave Scott some guide lines to re-fuelling the car and endorsed it was very important that he only filled up with diesel. I had wondered how much Scott would be able to do, how much would he understand and get pleasure from. When Geoff showed Scott about the fuel, you would have thought that it was never going to happen, Scott was irritable and seemed to be looking everywhere but at the task in hand.
Scott has taken this job on with gusto, elated to go through the rituals of finding the diesel pump and giving me instructions as to where to go, then to jumping out and with all the confidence of a motor mechanic completing the re-fuelling.
Appreciating no matter how much I explained what we were about to do, Scott couldn’t grasp the concept of travelling, especially in a caravan, unpacking, packing, living life as we moved along. The best motivation was to empower him, allow him time to experience the different situations and give him the opportunity to participate. It takes a lot of patience, we all want to grab the job and get it done, but the student doesn’t learn anything if he never completes the task, especially when things go wrong and we disempower the individual by steeping in. If they don’t get to complete the task, no matter how long it takes after a while they give up and accept defeat also knowing that you’ll end up doing it anyway. The satisfaction and learning curve is in the outcome, that doesn’t mean you can’t assist, but you can never take over.
Watching Scott take on these responsibilities you can see there is a great sense of pride and achievement when any task is finished and so many things are learnt along the way, even the mistakes create some if the best lessons, I don’t think mistakes are failures, I think mistakes are the first steps to growth and success. We should praise mistakes because they’re not usually repeated twice.
After filling the tanks we spent the day trying to find ‘arty’ things to inspire us, but didn’t have much luck, there’s only so many vineyards you can draw and they all start to look the same after a while, there was not much that we could find around Robinvale, so time to move onto Mildura.
Geoff is going to meet us in Mildura in a few days, so getting there a day before was a good idea. But there was a task that has to be done before we could pack up, empty the tank from the toilet! I thought, another task for Scott. I showed him the procedure including finding the caravan official disposal area and cleaning out the tank after emptying. He did it really well with no complaints and seemed reasonably interested, job done, excuse the pun.
Once again time to pack the caravan up, to my surprise Scott was really on top of this one and needed very little prompting to go through all the motions, but as usual we had a problem, when we put the jockey wheel on we couldn’t get it up high enough to get the tow-bar under the coupling, once again we were rescued by a lovely man who had chatted to us about our art the day before, and he had some wooden chocks we could use. He put these in place to hold the van while we removed the jockey wheel and placed it back in a better position so it could lift the van a little higher. All fixed and there was an air of pride as we overcame yet another challenge to his comment of how satisfying it is to set up the caravan and pack it up to get moving, I suggested I would rather knit a jumper or something similar than the stress of loading and unloading a caravan, he was gorgeous and gave me a smile and nodded, “it must be a man thing?” I agree. We were then joined by his lovely partner and had a great discussion on what Scott and I were doing and they were excited to join us on face book to follow our journey. Thank you guys, we were very grateful you were there and appreciated your comments on what a team we made while getting ready to leave.
Once we are all packed up the van is no trouble to tow, as we get underway and on the open road I have to remind myself it’s on the back. It’s a seventeen foot Jayco expander van and probably a good combination of under canvas and hard top all at the same time. I have observed that these vans must be designed by Gadget Man, there is an obsessive desire to design every nook and cranny with small useless cupboards and little locks, minimal spaces with luxury comforts and a wardrobe that wouldn’t hold my under wear let alone a couple of jackets, but there is a doll house or cubby house satisfaction, a need to satisfy some deep childhood down-size and huddle in a small place, that’s not necessarily a bad thing it’s just fascinating how many gadgets are incorporated in one small unit. I think these people will be delighted when quantum science is proven to be correct and we just add water.
It took a few days to get used to the confined space but now we enjoy it. In fact there is something really satisfying about being so close especially at night when I work on my projects, Scott plays some video games and we chat and muck around. That never happens at home because there’s always something else to do beside care about each other and share the moments.
Although we have a toilet and shower in the van, it’s far more comfortable to use the amenities at the parks, in fact Scott prefers going to the showers etc. at the park. It must be funny for other people in the block, because Scott will burst into song in the shower, mostly very bad Ray Charles and continually chat about nothing to himself, I have seen a few guys coming out when he’s in there shaking their heads and smiling.
We headed for Mildura, about 80 kilometres away through the great Mallee Scrub area on the Sturt Highway. It was a beautiful trip, if only in the eye of an artist. The scrub is unique in its dull, flat, green colours of sage, khaki and olive-green, striped with spindly, black, shrubby tree trunks, distorted by the lack of water, and appearing to struggle in the orange-red dusty soil.
For every piece of Mallee scrub, huge areas of land have been cleared for grape vines, orange groves and a variety of fruit trees. It’s hard to believe some body looked at this hard country and could see how fertile it was.
Most of the vines are just in their last stages of losing their autumn leaves, but we have been lucky enough to still catch them in their glory of gold’s and yellows, often mingling with reds and burgundy’s as the leaves drop and lay on the ground. Scott slept most of the way, but I was inspired to try to create some semblance of the beauty in the area and I hope I can give it justice later when I try to interpret it on paper…
Arriving in Mildura was a little daunting, it was bigger and busier than I expected and the GPS had spat the dummy, so I was a little lost and pulling the van through town made it a little more stressful. By default we ended up in a really good caravan park on the Murray River in the historical settlement area. An interesting caravan park, but well worth staying. Admittedly I didn’t care by the time I got there, I would have settled for a paddock and a hole in the ground, luckily the facilities were great and we were just a walk away from a pristine little white beach with the deep water Murray River gently lapping up at the edge. Only surpassed by the variety of birds and the magnificent flocks of pelicans, gilding down in long runways onto the water, then aimlessly floating around like black and white sculptures for our pleasure, this was a really pretty spot.
I had to reverse the van in again, something I am becoming quite good at, but even better was Scott at unloading and preparing the van, we got everything up and in order in record time. Scott knows exactly what it’s all about and confidently goes through all the procedures, like it’s his profession. In fact one of the campers near us mentioned what a great team we were and he was very impressed.
Time for lunch, we were both pretty irritable, with all the delays getting around Mildura it was closer to 3.00pm and we were starving. Thanks, to yet another fantastic bakery we gained our strength and headed off shopping for more supplies and a little getting to know the town. We trialled the trip to the airport and where we were staying, to make sure we would be on time to pick Geoff up the next day as he was flying in. Back to the van and the late comers were arriving at the park, our van was surrounded by others, sort of like a wagon train, but instead of a circle we were backed up to each other facing outwards like a herd that was protecting themselves from predators.
I’m not sure what men would do without women to tell them how to back up the van, there appears to be a regular routine, on arrival the woman jumps out and takes her position at the back of the trailer, and like a well-trained lorry driver the man delivers the van to its place of rest for the night to a barrage of left, left, right, no move out and start again, back, back, stop, left… and on it goes until the van is in a perfect parallel to the other vans and a parking space is adequate between the van and the ever important canopy that pops up alongside. I love it in the evening, there is a constant humming of instructions and then silence as each working partner retires to discuss how much better that reverse parking was and a cup of tea.