[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
Dad permitted me to drive from Orange Creek to Alice Springs. I sailed along at fifty-miles-per-hour (80 km/h) on the bleached bitumen road until we reached Heavitree Gap.
‘Slow down! Slow down!’ Dad screeched, his foot pumping the imaginary brake.
‘Yeah, okay, okay!’ I pressed my foot on the clutch and forced the gears down. Crunch!
‘No!’ Dad lurched for the gear stick. ‘Not like that! You have to double-de-clutch.’
‘Oh, yeah.’ I pumped the clutch twice and wiggled the gear stick. Scrunch!
Dad planted his hand on top of mine on the gear stick and jammed his foot on an imaginary pedal his side. ‘It’s all in the timing.’
‘All right! All right!’ I pulled my hand from under his and settled to crawl down the main street of Alice in third gear. Better than nothing, I guess.
‘Now, where are we?’ Dad kept possession of the gear stick while rubber-necking at the many new buildings that had mushroomed into existence since we last visited in 1977. Only four years, but fresh estates had sprawled closer to the gap and the journey to the mission house seemed to take longer. Or perhaps I just drove slower.
Dad lifted his glasses and perched them above his eyebrows as he scrutinised the map. ‘Turn right.’
I slowed down, foot on the clutch, and Dad shifted the gears into second. Crunch! I turned the corner and Dad moved the gear stick into third. Scrunch!
‘Push the pedal twice! Turn left!’
I pushed the pedal twice as we approached the corner.
‘Brake! Brake!’ Dad slammed his foot on the floor, and grabbed the dashboard with both hands. With lips tightened with dread and eyes bulging, Dad looked like he was about to meet his maker.
I grabbed the gear-stick while easing one foot on the brake and one pumping the clutch, and changed to second. No crunch, no scrunch, and no crash.
‘Oh, here we are,’ Dad said.
I heard the collective sigh from the back cabin as we slowed to a halt in the dusty front yard.
Dad pulled out a rumpled handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his forehead. ‘Just wait here while I go in and enquire.’ He pushed open the Rover’s door.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Feature Photo: The Rover in Quorn © C.D. Trudinger 1981