Motafrenz Car Club

Australia's premier motoring club for the LGBTIQA+ community!

A Classic Drive

Words and Photos By Doug Charters
(Motafrenz member)

The idea started forming 8 months ago.  I was invited to a family reunion in Glen Innes in northern NSW.  (For the “confirmed” gays, that’s an hour south of Tenterfield where Peter Allen was born, and an hour north of Armidale where Peter Allen was raised).  Getting to Glen is no easy feat.  No planes fly there.  No trains either.  Flights into Armidale are expensive, and then there’s the added cost of a rental car to finish the journey.  So I started wondering whether I could, or should, drive my 1976 Beetle (“Herman”), and take my puppy (“Blondie”) along for the ride.

I discussed it with my mechanic at VW Performance Centre in Croydon South.  Mick said “Herman will get there no worries.  Just bring him in before you leave, and I’ll check him over.  Oh, you might want to take some spares with you.  Cables, hoses, belts, oil.  Stuff like that.  Any mechanic can fix a beetle, but they won’t have the parts.”   

So that’s what I did, and he was right, Herman made it no problems at all.  I didn’t need any of the spares I bought.  3000 km in 11 days, in a 46-year-old car.  Average fuel consumption was pretty good at 8.77 litres per 100 km (32 mpg), so the round trip only cost me $450 in fuel.

Herman purred along at 110 kmph.  He screamed at 120.  No need for cruise control when you’re nearly at top speed!  Just plant it and back off when it gets too noisy.  I tried to keep daily drives under 6 hours, not only for Herman, but Blondie too.  She needed to get out and run around.  We had a great stop at Hillview Farmstay near Gundagai where we had a cute little pet-friendly cabin.  The yurts were not for puppies.  We had a few walks in the paddocks where I discovered Blondie is scared of goats, terrified of horses, and quite fond of sheep.

Then into Sydney for a few days, then Coffs Harbour, and then up the range to Glen Innes.  Going up the range between Grafton and Glen Innes was a “rowing” experience.  Second gear too low, third too high.  Up-down-up-down.  It was a workout, but I’m happy to say we didn’t hold up traffic.  That job went to the oblivious pensioners in the Passat at the front of the queue, steering around hairpin curves at walking pace (push-pull-push-pull).

But we made it!  First stop in Glen Innes was for a pie at Smeaton’s Bakery.  I dream of pies from Smeaton’s Bakery!  They are delicious in a way only country-town pies can be.  It’s worth the stop if you are passing through.

The reunion was terrific.  My parents celebrated 60 years of marriage on 29 September! There were about 40-50 guests.  

The run home was incredible.  Western NSW is greener than I’ve ever seen it, with plenty of water in rivers and dams.  The roads were crap though.  All that rain has washed away plenty of tarmac.  There were many, many potholes.  Some could have swallowed poor little Herman whole if I hadn’t swerved to avoid them.  The windscreen didn’t stay clean for long either.  Thousands and thousands of bugs splattered my bug.  Still, the views of our great wide land were incredible. Very Brokeback Mountain or Thelma and Louise.  (No, I didn’t meet a cowboy or Brad Pitt)

A few have asked how I passed the time on the long drive.  One answer:  podcasts on Joy FM.  The Two Fat Lattes had me snorting with mirth up the Hume, giggling on the Pacific Highway, and laughing out loud down the Newell Highway.  The hours pass quickly when Benny and Frank are co-pilots.  They’ve been off the air for years, but we can still hear them!!

Disclaimer: all mobile photos were taken using “hey siri, take photo” while my phone was in the cradle stuck to the inside of my windscreen.  Otherwise, it would have been naughty.

Motafrenz Webmaster

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