It's been two long years now
Since the top of the world came crashing down
And I'm getting it back on the road now
But I'm taking the long way . . .
Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way
In 2012 I was working at UWA, where I had been teaching for four years. The screensaver on my desktop was a slideshow of me and Larry camping — him painting and me writing. This daily reminder of my alternative life was essential for maintaining sanity. We were saving hard and hoping to find a successor to Sunshine.
Then came the big detour. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I lost my job. My mum died.
For the next two years I was surrounded by so much support, I consider myself the most fortunate of women. The lifts, the meals, the visits, the love. The many cards and gifts of all sorts. Especially the ones with little camper vans — thanks Christos and Michelle. It all helped keep my heart light.
On two indelibly blissful occasions Adventurous Jen (who is also a nurse) smuggled me out through my treatment haze and brought me to the ocean, the river, the bush. She knows her medicine. My starving soul was fed. Just enough to get by.
I bided my time. I dreamed. I read the entire set of Enid Blyton's Adventures of the Famous Five - last year's Christmas gift from my cousin Maureen. Perfect! It was all I could manage to concentrate on - and it was full of camping.
And now Christmas has come around again and Larry and I have given ourselves the longed-for gift . . .
Good morning, Starshine!
Larry and I have a tradition of singing themed songs (in my case loudly and tunelessly) when we travel. If you're old enough to remember Hair, you can sing along. It's a terribly silly song, but who cares?
Starshine already has a full soundtrack including Don Maclean's Vincent ("Starry, starry night"), Joni Mitchel's Woodstock ("We are stardust, we are golden/we are billion year old carbon/and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden"), the aforementioned Dixie Chick's Long Way Round ("I hit the highway/ in a pink Kombi/ with stars on the ceiling") Mama Cass' Dream a Little Dream of Me ("Stars shinning bright above you"). If you have any suggestions for additions, please feel free to add them in the comments below!
The Freeway Song is one of my very favourite songs by my brother, Erik Christensen ("Cold wheel in the cabin light/head off down the hippie trail/feel naked as a footprint in the early dawn/you drink from the holy well"). If it ever goes up on You Tube (Erik?) I'll link so you can listen.
Heading off down the hippie trail . . .
The Long Way
A True History of Sunshine
I remember the exact moment I fell in love. It was many years ago on a road trip with my good friend, Adventurous Jen (that's her to the left, when we were in Amsterdam, but that's another story). Now, I've loved Jenny since she was fifteen - but it wasn't her I fell in love with.
Jenny's chosen chariot was a 1978 Toyota Hiace campervan rejoicing in the name of "Sunshine". One of our many joint adventures was a trip to Tone River. After a couple of hours' driving, Jenny pulled up under a big tree in Balingup, cut the engine, popped the kettle on and made a cup of tea accompanied by shortbread biscuits. I was a goner. I fell deeply in love. This was the life for me.
A couple of years later Jenny went on a solo trip around Australia. Sunshine survived the Nullarbor; she survived going across the top. She was just cresting the Darling Scarp on the last leg of her long run when a vigilant policeman pulled the van over, because her number plates were not reflective.
Never mind that they weren't reflective because the painting of number plates had been outsourced to the prison, and the prisoners had not been supplied with the correct reflective paint. Sigh.
Well, you all know the story. An unhappy yellow sticker was slapped on that vehicle of happiness incarnate.
Jenny arrived at my place, in tears. She was about to head off again — sailing on the Leeuwin? whitewater raft guiding in Alaska? I can't remember the exact adventure that time. As Jenny lives on a budget of cents and luck, she couldn't afford to resuscitate her beloved campervan. But all was not lost.
Sunshine was gifted to me and Larry. We had our own piece of heaven for the price of getting her cleared over the pits. Thus began three or four years of hippie bliss. So many road trips. So many happy memories.
Sunshine was a grand old lady. She remained continent across the continent. But all things must pass. One day on the road back from New Norcia, her engine packed up. No new engine could be sourced. So her body was put out to pasture on a friend's property in Toodyay, where she does double duty as a cubby house and overflow guest accommodation. Still bringing Sunshine into people's lives.
And Adventurous Jen? Well she currently lives with her Honey on a catamaran in Thailand.
I am a writer, speaker and creative mentor.