Finally!! The big day. We are going to pick up the caravan, fill it full of all the treasures we had bought, and start the long drive towards home. Every detail had been taken care of. We had a whole week to make sure we had insurance and all the necessary bits and pieces that add several thousands of dollars to your already hefty purchase. We now knew that we had to buy a even more stuff, and we had voted on which children we could sell for the best price.
We got lost on the way to the dealer. Mainly because we could not figure out how to work the new Hema meant to lead us through the wilderness of Australia and never get lost. Either we were incredibly dumb, really old, or crappy shoppers. All we knew was that we already sucked at being Nomads and we hadn’t even been allowed to hook up the caravan to our truck yet.
The phone rang. It was a 20 something receptionist asking where we were and telling us we were supposed to be there a half hour ago and people were waiting on us and had other things to do. We really liked her immediately. Then, when we tried to explain to her that we had not been given any time, she informed us that the people doing the hand over would have explained all of this to us. We told her they hadn’t because the show was closing down for the day and everyone was in a rush and no one had phoned us since then. She rolled her eyes. I could hear her over the phone. This whole “Grey Nomad,” “caravaning” thing was starting to get on my nerves. It is like once we signed on the dotted line we had entered this alternate reality where everyone was treating us like we were seniors in a Giant Nursing Home of a life where everyone wanted to pat our hands, scold us, and tell us that our perception of reality was not at all real. All that was missing was someone coming at us with a spoon of gruel making airplane noises.
We got to the dealer and she was just as pleasant in person. When I tried to address her accusations, she dismissed me with a wave of her hand saying “whatever, we don’t have time to argue this right now, I have papers for you to sign.” Derek talked. I was too busy giving her the stink eye and wondering what the heck had happened to my laser destruction beams and why she was still sitting there and not busy vaporizing.
The men in the back were much more pleasant. They stuffed a couple of folders in our hands and began what would be 6 hours of non-stop instructions on how everything worked and what else we absolutely had to have and did we want them to put it on now, they only had a little bit of time, but could do it right now if we wanted . . . $1500.00. Derek calmly sorted through all of that and I tried to make sense of 5,000 buttons, and sequences, and warnings, without much success because somewhere into hour 2 of non-stop instruction with terms that made no sense to me all I could hear was “whaw whaw whaw whaw whawddy whaw don’t ever touch whaw whaw.”
Where were the pictures for the instructions? I do colouring books. Colouring buttons would have probably helped me remember better and it is calming. I needed calm. I was not calm. I made a note to myself so I could provide feedback later on. I drew kittens around the reminder and coloured them in.
The man going through the interior of the van kept saying things like, “here is the stove, this will be your department Aria,” and I would answer, “nope, not mine.” He did the same for the fridge, the microwave, the washing machine . . . got to admire a mind as impenetrable as that. Derek does most of the cooking, but the main thing is that he is in control of all the appliances. I can’t tell you how hard I fought him on that, but he won! :)!! No point in my trying to learn any of those things because when it came time to use it and Derek would be swearing at it, I would offer ideas or suggestions. That was not the thing to do when a man is bonding with any type of equipment. Evidently, most kitchen appliances and electronics don’t work properly until the man has his “come to Jesus” talk with them.
Did I mention how ginormous the caravan looked compared to the other ones that were set up and ready to be picked up? It did. And while that seems awesome when you are inside, with the door closed, considering months on the road … that effect is not the same when you look at it in relation to the size of the truck and consider months on the road, pulling it, parking it, manoeuvring through lakes and over mountains and tight rush hour city traffic. I did take the opportunity to look in all the other caravans, just in case. I mean I would have hated to miss an opportunity to feel like we bought the wrong one and we should have asked for something different. If there was a chance for regret and worry, I was up for it. Luckily, nothing budged me. I was kind of falling in love a little bit with this big home on wheels.
I was back to worrying about the perfect name.
Finally, they handed us the keys, with a forklift. Yes, there were that many. We got in the truck and we pulled out of the garage and onto the road. Our first corner, our first traffic light . . . the reality of it all settled in on me and I felt like throwing up. There were other cars around us and even though I could not see their faces, I knew they hated us. We had to go slow. All I could think of was that we would have to get on the freeway and that it was just a bit before rush hour and that if there was anything major going on, rush hour might be happening now. What if the brakes did not hold when we needed to stop?
As we picked up speed, the caravan felt so heavy behind us, and even though we had all the best in stabilizers etc loaded on our unit, it felt like the caravan was swinging every which way. I could feel my fingers clawing through the leather on the door, to the metal. I am pretty sure I was not breathing because I passed out at one point. I think Derek was relieved . . . that I passed out. When I am tense, I can be as quiet as can be and still spread and share that tenseness all over the universe. I emote well.
I tried asking Derek things like, “how are you doing?”
“Is it driving well?”
“Are you still happy with what we bought?”
I struggled not to say,
“Oh My God, can we take it back? I can’t do this. What were we thinking?”
And then we were on the open road, and going to go just far enough to get by some of the larger towns before dark, except it started to get dark faster than our driving could keep up and we were soon both scanning the horizon for kangaroos that might jump out at any moment. Now we not only had to worry about one coming through the window and killing us, what if it lifted over the truck and hit the new caravan?? There was no way we were going to be able to swerve for anything. Blood would not go with the colour scheme. Why didn’t I take more pictures while it was still parked in the garage and there were no marks on it? We also had to look for a trailer park because we had decided that would be the easiest for the first night. We would be wild, carefree adventurers once we were no longer peeing our pants trying to get used pulling the caravan. Notice how when you don’t need something you see dozens of them everywhere and the moment that you need one, there are none to be found?
It applies to trailer parks as well.
Necessity chose for us and we pulled into a dark laneway and hoped for the best. I was scanning everything for green triangles to make sure we did not park next to any of them. Then I realized the spaces were set up in such a way that we were going to have to back into them. Forget wanting to pee my pants, I did. I knew Derek had lots of experience pulling all kinds and sizes of trailers in his years in the army but he had not been pulling much of anything for the past 20 years or so and he would need some time to hone his skills and get used to the weight and size of our caravan. I knew I would have to direct him and that I might not live through the experience.
We had already established the greatest difference between Australian English and Canadian English is found in the most tiny of words and directions, usually given when it matters most. What is “stop” to an Australian is heard as “go” to a Canadian.
Then Jesus took the Wheel and the 15-year-old running the caravan park indicated a huge unused part of the area that we could just pull over into. No backing up. He did not appreciate my need to pinch his cheeks.
We parked and tried to remember what to hook up, and unhook, and not to do, and to do. We forgot most of it. Derek asked me if I could remember what the guy said, whether we should turn this tap clockwise or anticlockwise. I repeated what I heard, verbatim, “whaw whaw whaw ….”
Let the swearing begin.
It was getting darker and darker and we realized the reason this park was probably so cheap, might have something to do with the 50 million corellas screaming overhead as they settled for the night. By the time we managed to figure out how to turn the lights on, and get the gas to the stove, we didn’t much care what we ate. I think I had paper towel with ketchup. Stuff was everywhere, we were in each other’s way constantly and I was pretty sure I was claustrophobic. I became convinced I would not live to make it home. This was the worst mistake of our lives, we would end up hating one another and one of us would be dead, maybe both, if the wounds inflicted in the final battle were life threatening and caused the victor to eventually bleed out.
We got into bed. We fell asleep. We woke up. We had coffee.
No-one was injured in the process.
We were on a roll.