Racing south to Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park. Performed live by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I had to go.

Fly? Too expensive for the three of us for such a short trip.

Train? Schedules don’t work.

Bus? Too horrible for that distance.

That leaves driving.

Back when B and I were first dating and she was in Albury and I in Canberra we used to drive between the cities on a whim. Unfortunately that’s no longer possible. Just to reschedule one Friday night activity for Alex meant reorganising the entire week.

On Friday afternoon I picked Alex up from school then drove directly to the station to collect B. Then we set off down the M5 and along the Hume Highway off on our hasty adventure.

The weather was miserable, as it had been all week, though it did improve as we got further south. Our plan was to get as far south as possible tonight, leaving us as much time to enjoy Melbourne the next day.

The late afternoon and evening is a gorgeous time of day to travel, though it is also the time when you have to be especially cautious of mobs of kangaroos crossing the road. Thankfully none were encountered, though I did spot some grazing in the grassy hills.

We reached Gundagai as dusk fell, stopping at Hungry Jacks for dinner. It might be terribly unhealthy but it tasted so good to our hungry stomachs. Adjacent to the restaurant was a games room with some old fashioned arcade machines which Alex was immediately attracted to. It’s a good idea, something to distract the kids after a long drive.

I love the glow of the restaurant and petrol station signs in the dusk light.

B wanted to get to Albury, so off we set again into the darkness. I searched for accommodation in Albury on my phone, arranged for the Elm Court motel to leave a key in the door for us as we would arrive after they closed. There are still some things you shouldn’t do entirely online.

As the clouds broke above us Alex was amazed to see the Milky Way in the country skies. Then, with perfect timing, a meteor, his first, blazed across the eastern sky leaving a long trail before the bright white object shattered into pieces. It was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

We arrived safely, but exhausted, into Albury, heading straight for bed.

The next morning we checked out early and drove off in search of petrol and a quick breakfast at McDonalds. It is unfortunate that we did it in that order, because the McDonalds was at the end of the same street as our motel and it took a lot longer to drive around after filling up the petrol!

The sunny skies over Victoria were a welcome sight after days of Sydney rain. Less than three hours later we had navigated the motorways of Melbourne and arrived at the Southbank Travelodge. Then we had to wait for another ten minutes before we could enter the parking, the daily period running from twelve midday to twelve the next day!

The Travelodge was extremely convenient for the concert hall, just a couple of hundred metres away, and the restaurants of Southbank. After lunch we walked across the Princes Bridge over the Yarra to catch a tram to St Kilda.

Only there was a delay. Now I can’t stand Donald Trump, but I couldn’t see the point of protesting about it in the Melbourne CBD. But that’s what some group was doing and the trams couldn’t reach us along Swanston Street.

Eventually the protest cleared and we caught an older tram, dating back to my childhood, down to the beach. As soon as we arrived Alex insisted we go to Luna Park.

Thanks to a few growth spurts he is now tall enough to go on most of the rides by himself, so we bought him a ticket and watched him on the carousel, the ferris wheel (the loading and unloading process is so tedious), going psycho on the dodgem cars and repeatedly riding the serpent rollercoaster.

It was quite late when we managed to escape to buy some cakes and gelato from Ackland Street and catch the Number 96 tram back to the city. On the way the tram collected drunks from a beer festival. I think holding pens would be more suitable.

By the time we returned to the hotel and had a short rest there was barely enough time for dinner. We weren’t hungry so we headed straight to Hamer Hall.

You can read my review of the concert for more details. I certainly felt that it was worth the long drive down and Alex applauded wildly by the end of it, after whinging for much of the first hour.

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel, though there were still many restaurants and bars open at the late hour. I did get Alex some free popcorn from the hotel desk. The convenience was appreciated. The long ride home after a night at the Sydney Opera House is never fun, but the hotels around there are far too expensive.

We normally schedule a couple of days to drive between Melbourne and Sydney, but this time we had to be back by Monday. That meant an early morning departure, but we acceded again to Alex who asked for the buffet breakfast at the hotel, better value after skipping dinner the night before.

Satisfied, we returned to the car, were pleasantly surprised that the parking only cost $12, and headed off. The route to the Hume Freeway was amazingly easy, considering we were so close to the city centre, and we were soon out into the yellow grasslands around Melbourne under overcast skies.

Approaching Tallarook I noticed an emergency helicopter circling. The reason soon became apparent as we were diverted into the rest area by police. The northbound lanes were closed by an accident, apparently fatal according to the petrol station staff when we stopped to fill up.

As we drove out we saw an overturned car at the side of the road. A sobering warning to drive safely.

We continued on, across the Victorian border and beyond Holbrook until eventually we needed to rest and eat. Fast becoming a favourite stop is the Horse and Jockey at Tarcutta, a small country pub with reasonably priced and decently sized meals.

They had a draw full of activites for kids and we taught Alex how to play checkers (draughts) while waiting for our meals to be served. Steaks and sausages.

Much refreshed, it was time to continue our drive northwards. Near Gundagai a dark storm cloud to the west flashed lightning, but the weather mostly held up.

The traffic got worse the closer we got to Sydney. I hate that last hour. The countryside is boring and the drivers more aggressively insane. All you want to do is get home.

And we did, arriving a little after 6 pm, after stopping for petrol and groceries. A totally irrational adventure, but fun nonetheless. A trip back in time.