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  • P.D.Jonson

Travelling North

Updated: May 1, 2020

(To be submitted to the Mildura Motoring News)

We left Melbourne knowing there was a problem with our ancient Ford Territory. The expert who had given it a once over, changing the oil and oil filter in the gearbox, was optimistic. 'It would cost $5000 for a new gearbox, and that is more than the old dear is worth. I reckon you'll get a few more months out of her, but after your trip you'll need to trade her in'.

We discussed getting a new (second hand) car before leaving but decided we had no time. 'We'll risk it' we agreed. We headed off toward Mildura cheerful as we looked forward to two weeks on the road including several days at our friends' goat farm near Eulo in central Queensland.

Getting there included brief visits to Mildura, Broken Hill and Wilpena Pound, all three places we regard with great affection, as well as a dash up the Birdsville Track. There were jokes about whether or not this trip could be classified as a second honeymoon.

To reach Mildura one ascends low hills and that was when a warning sounded. Instead of the happy purr when travelling at 100 K per hour with revs of 1.75 (in units I know not) the old dear was noisier as if struggling and the rev counter was now approaching 4.0. Also it became clear that petrol was disappearing at an uncomfortable rate.

Henry's hypothesis was that the old dear was stuck in 3rd gear. Mrs T was probably nearer the mark when she suggested the four wheel drive had engaged and would not disengage. When we restarted after stopping for petrol the highway was flat and Mrs T drove with greater care than Henry and the old dear was purring again, with rev counter at 1.75.

We were further cheered by a press report that RBA chief Dr Lowe has decreed that the Australian economy would soon be growing faster. And the newspaper told us that his Assistant Governor (Economic), Luci Ellis - she of the (ahem!) 'unfortunate' (gasp!) 'badly wrong' wage forecasts - had opined that record housing debt represented no great risk. 'Happy days are here again'.

(Note on overly optimistic forecasts: If Ms Luci was not Assistant Governor (Economic) when such unfortunate forecasts were made we unreservedly apologise, and respectfully request the name of the guilty man. But we cannot forgive Ms Luci's cheerful views about household debt. Already many overborrowed households are in deep trouble and if they keep borrowing they will be in deep dodo. And when interest rates begin to rise ... . I respectfully suggest you review events from 1986 to 1991.)

We arrived safely at Mildura feeling we'd solved our problem. Drive carefully and avoid hills. But after stopping at lights there was a new problem. A severe groaning noise emerged and the old dear began jumping about as the accelerator was pressed gently. (We felt like we would in the near future if hearing from Dr Lowe: 'Bugger, wrong again'.)

After 4 or five such episodes we'd had it. After discussing whether or not to continue our trip, and risk it, we'd almost decided to return home and leave goat viewing for another time. But then Henry had an inspiration. 'Mildura is a big town with lots of car yards. Let's see if there is any car we'd be happy to own, assuming the transaction can be done in one day'. Mrs T applied her mighty intellect to the matter and after relevant cogitation said that by missing Broken Hill we could make up one lost day and so it was mission agreed.

The first car yard we found was a Ford dealership. We arrived at 9 AM and a suprised Manager, Dave, asked if he could help. I should report that we fully explained the problem - stuffed gearbox - and said we understood that the old dear was not worth much. 'Would you consider a newer Territory?' Dave asked. 'If the price is right' was the answer. We were shown a 2013 model in tasteful black. List price approximately $23 K. Taken for a ride, invited to drive, clearly it was a greatly superior chariot. The haggling took 3 minutes and when terms were agreed we said the deal needed to be consummated that day. Dave said 'No worries, I'll be on the case all day'.

First step was visiting the local branch of our favourite Bank - not the one accepting Drug and Terror money - for a bank cheque. The windscreen had a chip that needed to be replaced, and while this was being done we called AAMI to change car on their insurance and RACV to replace the new car on their Roadside Assist program. At 1.30 PM Dave called to say the new car was ready.

We reached Morgan that evening, entering via a free ferry across the Mighty Murray River after a lovely drive by the river. It was such a cute hamlet that we stopped for the night, eating at one of the local pubs including steak served on a 'hot stone'. The motel was well above standard, only slightly costlier than the one we'd found in Mildura. We were greatly comforted by the two police cars parked in front next to our new black Territory. "We can go into the funeral business' was our final thought as we drifted off to sleep.

The next morning's news reported that a thug in Hobart tried to headbutt Tony Abbott. 'The nastiness is not coming from those who want to maintain the current situation', Tone pointed out on ABC TV.

We shall be in Wilpena near the Pound for the weekend. Mrs T being in a good mood, our schedule shall be arranged to allow me to watch both Preliminary Finals.

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