The Test Run

Next year we’re heading off around Australia – Mat, the Old Girl and me. There I’ve said it. Now it has to happen!

The thing is, until last week, we hadn’t camped in the Old Girl for more than a few nights. She hadn’t driven more than a day in one go. And frankly, she’s not been the most reliable old car on the road. (Don’t tell her I said that!)

We needed a test run. A long trip to work out her limits…and ours.

Fortunately, my little bro, Simon, lives in the middle of nowhere – aka Forbes, NSW. What better way to give the Old Girl a good run than to drop by and say hi to Si? (The rhyming was not intentional.)

Driving from Collingwood to Forbes is 668 kilometres. Add on a few side trips into wondrous coffee stops like Benalla and Wagga Wagga, and you have a solid 750km one way journey.

The plan was to drive up on a Friday, spend the weekend with Si, then take a week to drive back. This would give us plenty of time to run some new trails and let Mat do some art installations in fields.

With our goal set, we started planning our mid-winter week away to Forbes.

Here’s how the planning went:

  • Nicki packs as many blankets as humanly possible*
  • Mat packs his art stuff
  • Nicki packs lots of pots and pans, tins of food and cooking stuff
  • Mat grinds a month’s worth of coffee
  • Nicki freaks out about what will happen when the Old Girl breaks down in the middle of a snow storm in New South Wales
  • Mat suggests we pack more blankets
  • Nicki realises the sleeping bags still smell from the Europe camping trip and tries to wash them, realising that you really can’t wash a MacPac sleeping bag without completely buggering it up.

But we were avoiding the big issue.

The Old Girl. For some months now, she’d been suffering from what Mat called “a reluctance to go fast”. Mat was putting it down to cold weather/ rain/ tiredness / old age… But the penny finally dropped when another kombi, exactly the same as ours, went sailing past us on the freeway. Oh, and it had become customary to lean forward every time we approached a hill.

A visit to the mechanic was a must before The Test Run.

Mat took her to Mark at Imported Car Wreckers in Springvale. This guy really knows his stuff. He has the fastest VW Beetle land speed record. So if anyone could get the Old Girl running at top speed, he was our guy.

It didn’t take Mark long to see that the accelerator pedal was wonky. A bit of welding and she was good to go.

That’s the thing about the Old Girl: she’s always cheap and easy to fix!

So with the kombi ready and raring to run (and loaded to the roof with smelly blankets), it was time to head off.

* Okay, it snowed in Orange, the week before we left. That’s an hour from Forbes. I was taking no chances!

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