Dusting off the cobwebs in the sea, I’m feeling like I’m on the up. I’ve had a confronting 5 days trying to keep up with 15 of my brother’s mates on his bucks party and departed for the bush with head and body both in tatters. The drive out of Melbourne was uneventful and the weather on arrival at Phillip Island pretty grim, but I’ve found myself an empty point that’s out of the wind, the sun’s coming out and the waves are good. It’s a slabby shelf wrapping around burnt-looking rocks that feel strange on such a cold and wet beach at the bottom of the world. Penguins roam and the water is clear. I’m on the up.
Brewing a coffee afterwards I’m plotting out the next few days. Wilson’s Promontory and then a couple of spots around Merimbula to nip into if the swell stays good during the drive home? Pretty keen to just get home now though. Booking it from Sydney to Torquay for a few big days of big waves, and then Melbourne for a five-day-long buck’s? I’m shagged, I’m in pieces. I’m gonna come home a couple of nights earlier than expected. That’ll give me a quiet weekend at home sorting my life out, and that’s gonna be good. Good plan Rols.
Cruising back towards town and the front wheel rub I’ve heard on the drive over begins escalating, whining like a constant nail on the chalkboard of my mechanical faith. Wonder if I’ve paid my NRMA. 30 seconds later the scratch becomes a kgrind, and then in something of a clatter I lose all the power in my brakes. Well then. Shit.
Engine-braking over to the curb I pull up and hope to high heaven it’s not serious. 5 days of reluctant morally-challenging hedonism hasn’t left me too flush with disposable income. Karma? Yep, probably.
Anyway I end up chatting to the local towie across 5 separate conversations trading advice on what NSW roadside assist covers in Vicco. It’s either a free tow back to his workshop where he can’t touch it for a week, or $110 to some other mechanic within 5kms who can look at it sooner. I mull, anxious that I need be on the road home before the week’s out. Turns out Big Suse rumbled to a stop literally less than a kilometre from 5 different workshops, but none of them can see her before Monday. I call Chris back.
“Hey Chris, it’s your new best mate Roland”
“What’d they say mate?”
“Everyone’s chockers until next week.”
“... ok. Tell you what mate, why don’t you take the free tow back here, and if there’s time we’ll try get it on a hoist this arvo to at least find out what the problem is, and then you ring round from there and figure it out.”
“Holy shit Chris. Legend! Glad one of us has a working brain.”
Chris reckons the truck should be here within the hour but my experience with tow trucks tells me not to get my hopes up. It’s extra-savage as Big Suse got towed in Melbourne 2 days ago, my bleary ass having turned up to the Monday morning clearway at 7:09. That was $425 and I didn’t even want it. The tow I badly need now is free, but who knows what the total bill’s gonna come to here. My wallet lets out a cry of agony in premonition. Ahh fuck it, what can you do but laugh!
60 minutes later and I’m singing a pretty jaunty tune indeed considering my current state of bodily, vehicular and financial affairs. How’s this for “Lucky Roland”:
The truck arrived not 20 minutes after getting off the phone with Chris. 5 minutes after that Big Suse was on the back. 3 minutes after that we pulled into the workshop (within spitting distance of the 4 others I tried, all of them literally 3 blocks from where I broke down).
15 minutes after that, Chris, Don and Greg are all poking around the front wheels and 10 minutes later we have a diagnosis. Loose wheel bearings to blame. Actually not a huge repair, and not the disaster I assumed had produced such a cacophony when I pulled over. I can only assume my general demeanour is so bloody dishevelled that Chris and the boys take pity on me: likely getaway time, miraculously, is Friday afternoon.
I stand in the driveway marvelling at the good fortune of it all. I drove all the way from Melbourne, poked around a bit, then had a great surf at a remote corner of the island, then made it 95% of the way to town before breaking down less than 1km from the centre of town, before the fastest tow+hoist turnaround in the history of mankind. Amazing. And I’ve got a tent and full camp equipment in the truck for accommodation at a holiday park that’s sure to be nearby.
Wait... nearby?? I look across the road. Islander Caravan Park. You’re kidding. Says ‘no vacancy’ but looks suspiciously empty, and it’s across the road from the mechanic fixing Big Suse. I wander over.
5 minutes later and my new best mate Marty has shown me a clean empty perch between deserted dusty caravans, and recommended I use any barbecue or verandah-furniture I’d like, no one’s booked to come out here for a few weeks yet. So much so that Marty prefers to run a no-vacancy sign so he and his family can have the off-season to themselves while he focuses on his other business. The park is mine and mine alone.
After a few trips back and forth over the road I’ve established an elaborate base camp. What a result! I wanted to get to know Phillip Island, and now I’ve got two days of exploration to do so. The weather for the next few days looks good, and I’m actually a bit relieved to have had some basic decisions made for me by whatever karmic gods have played this hand. Might even get a few good surfs in while I’m here - did I mention the mechanic also rents e-bikes? Who knows, might even get back to Sydney in time for half the weekend to sort myself out before getting back to work. Come on Lucky Roland, that’d have to be pushing it right?