Subject: Re: Worlds Best Truck and Rest Stops
Hi Suzanne,

Last night I casually mentioned your question about Roadhouses with a difference to the dinner party group. It became THE topic of the evening. Among great hilarity, vestiges of xyenophobia and flights of fantasy we finally focused on two possibles and one definite. It should also be mentioned that I was labeled unfit to be part of such a travel group # someone completely lacking in imagination and showing few powers of observation. This came about when I had tried to defend myself by claiming that Suzanne was hardly likely to find fine dining, golf courses, let alone discothetiqes associated with Australian Roadhouses. How stupid of me. How unAustralian. How unimaginative can one be?

I still think that ##No! I#ll strike out bravely and pass on the sites chosen by this august group.

First of all we abandoned the idea of mentioning Roadhouses that have reported fish falling from the sky nor those who have seen red rain. These features happen too infrequently and haphazardly to identify them with a given establishment. (These events have occurred in recent years. Look at me. Would this face lie to you? A member of the Zine group?)

Terminology. Truck stops= Roadhouse. Truck driver = Truckie. Outback = Um! This needs a little explanation. Around the coastline of Australian is Highway 1. If you look at a map of this country and move from North Queensland, through Northern Territory, most of W.A. and across to Adelaide you could safely stand on this two laned strip of seal # with your back to the ocean you are now facing the Outback. Generally it is the area beyond the agricultural regions. Bush = countryside (this may seem a little strange but believe me over here in Western Australian all the non urban regions are called the Bush. Ask me not why, I#m am but an immigrant from across the Tasman Sea.)

Case study number one.

Driving north of Perth for about 15 hours (this should take you a second day. Travel between dusk and dawn is hazardous due to the high likelihood of hitting nocturnal animals or birds unexpectedly rushing in front of the vehicle. Most cars and utes travelling in the Bush have Roo bars on the front of their vehicle as a form of protection.) This far north of the city you will have been passing Roadhouses every 100 to 150 km. Our chosen one is unique. Now I#ve a slight problem here. Last evening the discussion became quite heated while we tried to settle on this particular structure. We could see it in our mind#s eye but even after studying the map we#ve only narrowed it down to three possibilities. It#s the one near the Fortesque River I think, but others suggested the Robe River or even the Ashburton. It is immediately recognisible because of the owners pretentious sign. #Minimum dress; singlet and thongs#.

Before you rush to sign up for next year#s pictoral calendar of #Truckie of the Month# I should like to add that this word thong refers to footwear rather than another item of clothing.

Fine dining? Well the health and safety fascists have got their teeth into Truckie#s welfare. They have demanded that these men of the highway should abandon their grease laden food intake and each Roadhouse should try to encourage the driver to eat fresh salads. (picture a Harley Davidson devotee demanding their brioche with café late. A truckie without pie and chips is a sad sight indeed). Fine dining is certainly a subjective case.

Ahh! but it is the golf course that got me agreeing with the assembled dinner guests of last night. We have personally inspected this sporting challenge. On one trip north Penelope and I had golf clubs in the car. We went to inspect the course. As mentioned before, it is close to a river. Not the usual image of a river but in this arid zone a series of water holes with gum trees lining the banks. The course has five difficult holes carved out among the scattered copices of dry land gum trees. We knew it was a golf course by the flags sticking out of holes. Hitting the ball from the tee required accuracy but little venom. The ball must travel low to avoid the overhanging branches but as the fairways have considerable #run# hitting the ball with venom is tantamount to golfing suicide. In fact this is a course where lost balls are a common occurrence. Perhaps if there was some grass to slow the ball or if their were less rocks on the fairway whereby the ball shot off at right angles to the river or, if it could even be guided in something like a straight line scores of 20 over par for each hole could be a possiblity. Having completed the first hole in 38 (P) and 47 (me) in temperatures around 45 degrees C. we chose to call it a day and removed ourselves to the airconditioned 19th (I#m not sure whether this usual description of the bar fits a five hole course).

Discotheque? I#m sure if we had stayed until late we could have organised a karioke evening but given the shape of most of the assembled Truckie#s I was not tempted to ask any to dance.

Case study two;

This time we move east of Perth. This Roadhouse can be reached half way through the second day. Because it is situated on the road leading onto the Nullabor it has far more passing traffic being the main route to the Eastern States. This can truly be described as Outback territory. As an indication of the type of country, a section of the highway nearby has a 90 mile straight. Imagine the excitement after an hour and a half being able to turn the steering wheel.

Fine dining? Actually, I think I recall a menu so the answer most definitely is yes. There are motels but no disco or golf course (I think)

This Balladonia Roadhouse did have its moment of fame. In 1979 pieces of junk from Skylab crashed close by. Reporters and film crews came from far and wide to capture this phenomena. Locals were photographed holding large sections of this space craft. I know all this because I visited the interactive museum attached to the Roadhouse. Copies of news headlines, film of the media circus, sections of metal # it#s all here. Two items struck my fancy. One was a headline #What will we get next? New York#s rubbish barges?#. The other was an overheard conversation from a reporter speaking to his editor in Washington while standing in a telephone booth out front (this before satellite phones or mobiles) ##.this is strictly Nothingsville#. How apt.

Case study three.

Eucla is on the border between W.A. and South Australia some two full days driving from Perth. (As I like reminding people, the state of W.A. is 3.5 times the size of Texas). Here is truly a unique Roadhouse. It is such an important site that a small village has grown up around it. Where else can you find a remote Outback Roadhouse that has it#s own time zone? It#s true. S.A. time is 1.5 hours ahead of Perth time. This community is so far from Perth and Adelaide that they keep a time zone half way between those two official ones. At the moment it is 10 pm in Perth so Eucla will be 10.45pm.

The Roadhouse has not only fine dining in the attached restaurant but a hotel, motel and camp ground.

Forget the discotheque # people are too tired from driving. I#ve looked up the government information on such tourist spots to find there is a golf course here. This we did not seek out but a word of warning. There are notices throughout the establishment asking people to conserve water so the chances of finding irrigated fairways are not great.

Two other unique aspects. Out front of the Roadhouse is a giant concrete whale. There is something about the psyche of people living in the Australian Bush that they must create a BIG image of their districts favourite icon. On the other side of the Nullabor is the Big Galah (a pink parot). In Victoria we#ve also seen the Big Lobster and the Big Orange. In the south west corner of W.A. is the Big Ram. This is exciting stuff. I#m talking really BIG. Some of these creations are so large they house tea rooms or the like. So Eucla is famous for the BIG WHALE. The Eucla Roadhouse over looks the Australian Bight; this is where southern right whales breed and there are viewing places above these dramatic cliffs.

Finally, Eucla Roadhouse has another claim to fame. From the windows you can look out on the sand buried, century old telegraph station. Where else has a small village been buried by rabbits. One again, I dare not lie. In the nineteenth century an English settler in Victoria introduced rabbits to Australia to provide he and his guests, shooting targets. Unfortunately, the rabbits had few enemies and rapidly spread across the country. At Eucla they ate the fragile flora that previously stabilized the sandy soils that this telegraph station had been built on. Within a few years of the rabbit invasion the station had to be abandoned to the encroaching sand.

As I said previously, a small community has developed around this Roadhouse. Included among these folk are the officers that man the border inspection stop. All vehicles travelling into W.A. have all fruit and vegetables confiscated to prevent diseases entering the state. Associated with this government operation is a state police station. Probably the most unusual members of the community is the contract shooter. This person is employed to shoot any flocks of exotic birds that have made it across the Nullabor plain. Western Australia is a large grain growing state. Unlike the east of this country there are no sparrows or starlings or other exotic, grain eating birds. Any that fly across this wide land or hitch hike a vehicle or freight train are destined to be #blown away# by this contract shooter. Oh, we#re a friendly bunch all right. At one with nature.

I see that I have barely mentioned the layout of the typical Roadhouse. Because those mentioned are in isolated arid areas, the buildings are usually surrounded in vast areas of gravel. After a long dry spell it is hard to describe the dust kicked up when a road train pulls in. If you can imagine the largest trucks that use the highways near you, imagine two equally long trailers hauled behind the prime mover. On one trip north when we had hired a diesel engined campervan I had to wait while such a vehicle topped up his fuel tanks. I became so mesmerised watching the dollar sign click remorselessly on. Beyond $500 I moved off for coffee only to notice the Truckie had moved to the fuel tanks on the other side of the vehicle.

In Australia you rarely come across the huge RV#s that you see in North America. Instead the rural roads of Australia are populated by the #Grey Nomads# as I#ve heard them described. Retired couples who have purchases a large four wheel drive vehicle that they use to pull a caravan. Out front of most Roadhouses these travellers, having fueled their vehicle are seen sitting in their caravan eating their meal while the jug boils for a cup of tea/coffee. Many Roadhouses provide power points for these caravaners so that they may break their journey. At any one time there are hundreds of such retirees navigating their way around areas of the country that are new to them.

We have driven across the country to our capital. It was interesting experience. Certainly unique. Seeing signs warning of camels, emus, wombats, kangaroos, flying doctor landing sections of the highway, - it makes you realize that here is a genuine occasion when you can turn to your companion and say #Toto, I don#t think we#re in Kansas any more#.

Regards, James