Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Stolen days - Roadtrip

As I mentioned a few posts back, sometimes my work situation can be very stressful. Other thing being, I only get 4 weekends off a year. There is an upside to the position though...

I can take days off during the week.

With our kids on 2 weeks school holidays and me having had a big few months, it seemed a perfect opportunity to grab my 2 boys and take them off for two days. Initially the plan was to take them camping, but the last time we did that it was a bit of a disaster so I went looking for another alternative. Glad I did now.

[Warning; long post, pic heavy.]

So on monday, after lunch, we loaded up the car and headed off...

NOTE: Loading up the car really means "filling up the oil and checking the petrol". I put nearly a litre of oil in the car before we left as well as topping up the Marvel Mystery Oiler. Then we topped up the fuel and put 34psi in all 4 tyres.

Off down the freeway and then up Lapstone hill... making sure it didn't ping and ending up in 3rd gear, just... almost 2nd. Up through the mountains to Katoomba and to Mt Victoria.

I ended up booking this place on Friday night and very glad I did now. The Victoria and Albert was built in 1914 and is an awesome place to stay. Full of so many cool things...

Old school getaways have been happening in the blue mountains for many years. This recent long weekend was the busiest for some time apparently. Not a great surprise because the weather has been sensational.

Not long after arriving I also discovered the Chef (Roman) was a total guitar tragic. He and I got on like a house on fire. If you're even partly interested in guitars, you'll love the restaurant. However, I had two small boys still full of energy after a long car drive, so we went in search an ATM and some snacks.

Along the way there was of course, some glorious amateur photography thanks to my sons. 

Mt Vic is a beautiful place. So many cool things to see, lots of long streets. A good place to walk off energy and we did just that. After a fantastic dinner at the guest house, the boys went down hard and slept like stones, only waking up after me the next morning around 7:30am. 

Having had a walk and a quick breakfast, we hopped in the car and headed off for Katoomba looking for a phone charger. Basically, whenever it gets too cold, my phone battery goes flat. Topping up the fuel in Katoomba, this car rolled up next to us. A 72' with a few details designed to make it look old. Like mine, it's a daily driver. The owner is part of a web forum I belong to.

In fact this beetle was the second cool VW we'd seen in Katoomba. We passed a nice green ghia on a round about as we came in. It seems as though the mountains are still a place where old aircoolers are liked. No great surprise as I was told later of a community in the mountains who live 1950's style. Weird, but different.

At this point I got totally conned by the two boys. The Edge cinema is at Katoomba and they harrassed me (ok, not very hard) to take them to a movie. I'm glad I did now. The Edge has $8.50 tickets for everyone before 5pm on a tuesday. That's about half the price of anything in Sydney. We saw the Muppets and had a great time.

By the time we got out and got going it was lunch time. We had lunch at Browns Siding Cafe. A great little place just across the railway line from the old Hydro Majestic Hotel. The food is not cheap, but it is very, very nice and the feel of the place is great too.

As we came out from lunch, there was a family with tiny, twin babies eating lunch outside. I decided they'd prefer lunch and babies without a cloud of white smoke, so I rolled down the hill and clutch started the car well past the cafe.

At this point the boys were keen to get out and have an 'inventure' (as my youngest says). We drove back to Blackheath and out to Shipley Plateau to the look out. Most of it was tarmac, but the last 5 Km or so were dirt... and not very good road at that.

The boys loved the corregations, which sort of surprised me. In fact, the as soon as we hit the dirt, the youngest one told me, "now, we're on a real inventure!". The drive was worth it.

The views of Megalong were amazing. 

Coming out was another story. About 200 metres from the lookout, we had to climb a really steep hill the dirt road. I got the car up to about 40mph to make it up. When we hit (I say hit) the hill I realized the road was full of soccerball sized potholes. Great.

Most of my CD cases started falling out of the cargo webbing in the roof and hit me in the head. The car was bouncing all over the place and the boys were laughing hysterically. We got to the end, but I did wonder if anything had fallen of in the process. Thankfully it hadn't.

On the way back from the lookout we stopped at this shed. I though it would make an ace spot for a few pics with the beetle. There is a bit of a story with the shed though. On the road outside the shed stood a real estate sign for the property in which the shed stands.

The shed is the most developed bit of 13 acres that are for sale. Later on we looked at the ad for the land in a real estate agent in Blackheath. The current owner is looking for near on a half million dollars just for a falling down shed and a whole bunch of wild bush. Hmmm.... crazy thing is he'll probably get it.

With that done we headed down to Megalong valley and ended up a Old Ford reserve. A lot of rocks were thrown in the river before we realized the good bushwalks were further back up the road.

I took the boys on a short (15min) bush walk that took 10 minutes. Yes, you read that right. Lots of running away and having to be asked to stop, but no one died so all good. I couldn't help taking this pic with two other modern VWs. How Volkswagen has changed over the years.

I should say at this point, the road down into Megalong is a lot of fun, even in an underpowered car like the beetle. The road itself is in pretty good condition and very windy. It's actually much better suited to a small car like the beetle than the larger cars that most people were driving.

We headed back up to Blackheath and grabbed some afternoon tea then, after looking at a lookout, back to Mt Vic again. My youngest told me, "I'm tired". This is a miracle in itself.  It was still too early for dinner, so we checked out the Imperial hotel for a bit.

Drinks before dinner... yes, they were a little crazy after all that sugar.

The boys didn't last long on Tuesday night. Roman served up a great roast pork dinner and after some desert they hit the sack with very little mucking around. I read a bit and then went to sleep early-ish.

Wednesday morning started with a little breakfast, checking out and then filling up. The previous day we'd used just 5 litres of fuel. Again, I was accosted by an ex-VW owner drooling over the car. He was so keen his wife drove off before he noticed. lol. Across the last few days, lots of lot of people have pointed, waved, smiled at and talked to me about the car. It a bit of celebrity all on it's own.

As we left the service station we spotted another nice VW. A late type 3 notch back on classic alloys.

I'd decided to come home via Bell's Line of road. I was a little concerned the road would be too fast and steep for the car, but we did fine. In fact, it was heaps of fun. The road is now 80kmh in most places. I know some sportsbike guys hate this, but it's ideal for the beetle. There were some sections where I had to floor it down a hill to make it up the slope on the other side. A few slopes resulted in 3rd gear, but mostly it was really nice and the car seemed to cope well enough.

We were in Kurrajong much sooner than I expected. I will say though, this is the right way for the beetle to go. If we'd had to the climb the steep sections coming the other way, it would have been too much for the car. As it was the car smelt pretty oily.

After a short bit of sightseeing (you know what I mean) at Nth Richmond, we headed home and arrived by 10:30. The boys were so comfy that they sat in the car playing DSi's for 10minutes.

I consider the trip a complete success. Some quick (approx) stats...
35ltr of fuel
2 ltr of oil
A few hundred bucks
No breakdowns
Fun roads
2 happy boys

The last of those, the 2 boys is probably the biggest success. They're 5 & 7 years old as I write. I know that I'll blink and they'll be teenagers. Blink again, and they'll be men. Time is precious, if I don't steal times like this to spend with them, I'll miss their childhood. I don't want to make that mistake. As Ferris Bueller once said...

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

I've probably said this before, but the car is largely flogged out mechanically. Motor, trans, front end, etc, are all not at their best. The brakes, thank goodness, are ok. I've come to the conclusion that buying something old usually means replacing these things, no matter what the previous owner said about they're condition.

Even still, the car is a lot of fun to drive. Really the mountains are ideally suited to car for this reason. 80kmh are about as fast as you can go most places with only one 100kmh section on the Bell's Line.

I was watching Chris Harris on Youtube talk about his old Citroen. He made the point that finding a road to really drive a new sports car fast is nearly impossible now. Where as, driving an old car fast is more involved, easier to do at lower speeds and more fun. This is definitely the case with my car.

I was pondering this as I took in Bell's Line today and wondering what the new upgrades would do to the car. Would they ruin the feel? Would they make it faster past the point of low speed fun? Am I making a mistake?

I've decided the answer is "No". This is because, at the heart of what I'm aiming to do is make the car safer and more reliable. More efficient. The chassis won't be significantly changed. It will just mean I can make up hills without having to down change all the time and hold up traffic. I realized today, mid 90kmh sweeper corner, that the camber compensator I've already added was cheap insurance.

I reckon the same will be said for; disc brakes, a superdiff, more CCs and EFI. They don't change what the car is, they just make it more fun and more safe to drive.

And that's what it's all about. Drivin'

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