If you know me you’ll already know that my sister Bronwyn got engaged this year! Which was super awesome, and created a whole heap of excitement in our family.
It got just a bit complicated when we started talking about getting to the actual wedding.
The thing is, we live in South East Qld (my parents, my sister Suzie and her family, and us). Bronwyn has been living in Ingham this year for work. Her then fiance (and now husband!!!!), Phillip, lived in Townsville. And they decided to get married in Charters Towers, where Phillip had grown up.
That meant that the 11 of us needed to travel to Charters Towers, including my Mum who suffered a major stroke almost a year ago, with 5 children between us, with 2 of us being self employed (no work, no income) and 1 just recovering from chemo and 5 weeks of unpaid leave.
And for a further bit of context, Dean and I and our children have never travelled any further together than about 3 hours together in a car. And to get to this wedding, we needed to travel just shy of 15 hours. Each way.
To say we were stretching our comfort zone, is quite the understatement.
Anyway, after a bit of angst and pushing through we were committed.
And then, fate stepped in. At about 11am on Tuesday, I took a phone call from one of my Aunts letting me know that Uncle Neil had passed away earlier that morning.
We were due to leave at 4am the following day.
I knew we had to go, but I didn’t know how I could stand smiling beside my sister, knowing that my Aunt and cousins were devastated. I was blessed when I received the most amazing gift from my Aunty Glenys, Neil’s wife. When we spoke by phone that afternoon, she tearfully told me to make sure that we kicked up our heels, for Neil, at the wedding. My cousin, his son Wade, told me to “rock it” as a bridesmaid. Small stuff, but it really helped.
And so, we carried on.
We left our house at 3.45am the following day, ready to meet Suzie and her family at their home at 4am. And that, my friends, looks like this …
And so, in the dark of the morning, we left the Sunshine Coast in convoy, bound for Charters Towers.
I had handed all of the logistics over to Suzie. She organised the accommodation, planned our trip, and took the lead with everything. Which I really needed, as my mind and my heart were still pretty hurt after the loss of Uncle Neil. Thanks Suz! You rock!!
And so, we drove. We followed Suzie and Rob, using the wonders of mobiles and texting to chat between the cars, organise when we needed wee stops, petrol refills, or kids who were antsy and needed to be unrestrained.
Suddenly, before we knew it, we had travelled well over 400 ks! Dean and I were feeling confident, and the kids were doing fine.
At our first real stop, we got the kids out of the car, and Dean organised a few quick “races” for the younger ones. Tyben entertained them with the mesmerising antics of his new jumbo slinky that he had bought in Canberra. It was tons of fun!
Dean rang his Mum, who was feeling really concerned about us doing the trip, to let her know we were doing just fine.
Then we piled back into the car, and so the day continued.
There were silly jokes, a few tussles between the kids, and a LOT of Chuck Norris jokes. Which were very funny! Ever googled “find Chuck Norris”? If you want a laugh – do it now! I promise, we’ll wait for you …..
Those moments were definitely the ones that I hope our children remember!
And, as the hours went on, it was amazing to be how much our perspective changed. Normally I would not be that impressed by a place that looks like this:
But they had REAL coffee, right when we needed it.
And, because we were creating memories, I forced the troupe into a few obligatory holiday style snaps.
What have we been doing all day ….. DRIVING !
After the fun of the Kalarka Roadhouse, we jumped back into the car, thinking we would just carry on. But we hit, the slump. It wasn’t long before Dean needed to swap with me, and I took over driving. The long long boring haul into Mackay.
Suddenly this trip had gone from a bunch of fun, to repeating thoughts of “we still have THAT many hours to go”. Oh man!
We arrived in Mackay, all the adults, tired, cranky and out of routine. The kids, quite frankly, seemed just fine! We grabbed some Subway, jumped back in the car, and forced ourselves onward.
We had OVER THREE FREAKING HOURS before we would hit Ayr, and our accommodation for the night. It’s fair to say, that we were all on autopilot.
Finally, we drove into Ayr, and practically fell into our unit. It was a place of magic and wonder. It wasn’t on wheels, and we each had a space to sleep …
Lucky we’d been trapped in a car together all day. By comparison, this felt like the Taj Mahal!
It was after 9 at night. We had spent 17 hours on the road. We literally changed into our pyjamas, and the kids got in bed. Dean and I sat quietly and shared a port in honour of Uncle Neil, before we did the same.
In the morning, we got up like the experienced travellers we now were, and laughed at how we “only” had 2 hours to go.
Bayley was stoked when he found a bullet in the McDonald’s drivethru at Ayr.
Clearly they do drivethru takeaway differently up there!
After checking with a local, and a quick family conference, we decided to give Townsville a miss, and head straight to Charters Towers. This gave us one on the prettiest parts of our trip. We just loved it along the Woodstock-Giru road. It was just such a different feel, and it certainly was the one place we could see ourselves living another life in.
Just look at the colour of that sky! Amazing.
Then finally, we were close enough to be on the countdown to Charters Towers! Where Bronwyn was. Where we wanted to be.
Thanks to the insider knowledge of Rob & Suze (they came up this way last year) they took us off the road to check out the flood marker on the road into Charters Towers.
Seriously .. check that out! I’m having a go at pointing to a 1974 flood marker. The 2009 marker is the second top one. Just imagine the reality of what that region went through so recently.
We headed down to the river bed to check it out. Suzie and I cracked up Presley and Sabrina, when we decided to copy them. We held hands (like they were) and started skipping along (like they were). They really lost it “Look, Mummy’s skipping!”.
And with that, we headed back to our car, and drove the last few ks to Charters Towers.
We had a quick catch up with Mum & Dad, went and checked into our Motel (thanks again to Suzie for organising it all) and pretty quickly we were off to a Meet The Parents style dinner.
As the Wakefields (and Hodges and Allens) all arrived to have their very first dinner with the Madsens.
Suddenly our road trip was over, and we were quickly shifting gears into pre-Wedding mode. As we wrote place cards, and got caught up on the reception pretties, sitting waiting for the work to be done the next day.
I was so very glad that we had taken the trip, and even more glad that we had travelling buddies to share the load, the stress and of course the fun.
What’s the biggest family road trip you’ve done?