Driving home the facts….Calais is not just in France.

Long weekends, those weekends where an extra day or two get tacked on for reasons like…..well, we need another public holiday so Monday gets picked on a lot, are regarded with a sense of both dread and weary anticipation here in Oz. They’re generally a time where housework is done, gardening duties performed, beer is absorbed……or we go away for the weekend.

We did the extended family run; the lower Blue Mountains to Bega via Australia’s hot air central, Canberra. Departure was Saturday morning, 9.am (shades of Elton John’s Rocket Man….). The chariot is a Holden Calais Sportwagon, equipped with the 3.6L SIDI V6 and six speed three mode auto. Heading south to Campbelltown via The Northern Road, traffic was light….onto the link road to the Hume Snorefest and yes, tools abound, including Mr Numbnuts in his Toyota HiLux, speeding, tailgating, not indicating and running red lights. Thankfully he turned off before the Hume….long weekend drives in NSW are traditionally crap, because: drivers can’t drive; there’s roadworks (!) or a combination of both…..thankfully the main drive to Goulbourn, the yardstick before the turnoff to Canberra only had too many idiots  travelling at 70 km/h….in a posted 100 zone. Now, here I need to point out that long weekends are also portents of doom, as far as our pollies and their lackies, the plod, are concerned. Mass death, speeding kills, day turns to midnight at 3pm, cats and dogs living together….police are out in force (semi pun…) waiting for people that exceed the limit whilst utterly, completely, totally forgetting that safety on the road comes in many forms.

Arrived in Canberra, safe, sound and wondering where the police were…ahh, there’s one, ONE. That’s right, only ONE police car seen since leaving home and this one was on the move, a GD car at that. Hmmmmm. But, on the way, we pass the empty Lake George, a vast expanse, whilst driving in sporadic rain…more later.

Left Canberra after an hour’s break; some would say five minutes in Canberra is an hour, heading south along the Monaro Highway, heading to Cooma and the wonderful Brown Mountain drive to the Bega Valley. Arrival shows 9.0L per 100 kilometres average consumption after 525 k’s. The ride has been comfortable, the engine willing and responsive, able to drop back one or two gears from the normal auto mode when required, enabling overtaking to be a stressfree and safe experience.

Nothing of major import until Brown Mountain http://www.exploroz.com/Places/24904/NSW/Brown_Mountain.aspx; it’s a sensational drive, a hillclimb competition’s wet dream. Ten kilometres of something Top Gear would fap over, there’s signposts aplenty stating 35 km/h turns….appropriate as the downhill run on the other side of the barrier is steep, to say the least.

Sunday comes and it’s time to return fire; plenty of nothing on the way back. Brown Mountain is our first duty and the Calais swallows the corners and shits them out without blinking. The supple ride, the grip of the Bridgestones, the front view obscured by the A pillar…..bearing in mind the car itself weights around 1800 plus kg plus petrol and humans and baggage, the torque of the engine is incredible in how it ignores all of this. Finally, the Monaro Hwy is re-reached and traffic is more than light. Coming into Cooma, a beautiful sight is presented; the Snowy Mountains with snow, including, probably, Australia’s highest point, 2228 metres above sea level, Mt Kosciuzko, just 1000 metres above our position.

Heading north back to Canberra; well, Queanbeyan, “home” to Mark Webber, Australia’s number one F1 driver and the roads are quiet but not as quiet as the journey down. The trip meter on the Calais’ dash reads 12.1L/100 average, thanks to the work climbing Brown Mountain. Suddenly the Hyundai in front slows, quickly, my thoughts are impolite…but only for a second as Australian history legs it in front of us. Sheep, a lamb or two, crossing the road, no human in sight but no fence. No fence, either, for the numerous wombats, kangaroos that litter the roadside; noticeable for the fact that there seemed more heading back than just two days before….

A brief stop at Queanbeyan, north to Goulbourn via a now water logged Lake George and yes, it can be called a lake this time round, with beautiful water covering a reasonable acreage, and a bite at Marulan, a few k’s closer to Sydney. An astonishing, disgraceful, disgusting, revenue heavy amount of drivers there and back , pass the place, secure in the knowledge that the police SIMPLY. DON’T. CARE. about about drivers failing lesson number one in safe driving: using indicators. We pass one highway patrol car, snugly ensconced behind trees in a small gap between the north and south bound Hume Snorefest lanes. Safety is not enforced by hiding behind trees. More non indicators; the Calais responded to prods when required and not so subtle signs to drivers ahead and behind that their driving is shite. Another cop car, this one with driver outside and holding a hairdryer facing oncoming traffic. Again, safety is not enforced. A blue Yaris looms, an angry looking blonde young lady ignores the fact that her driving is exactly why the highway patrol exists, rear window embazoned with her business (yes I checked) card, Archer Gorgeous (yes, seriously)….darl, get off the road. You are dangerous. Not gorgeous.

It’s astounding that Sydney, with its yearly checks on vehicles, has news reports daily on cars that break down. Our Calais arrives home with a second leg fuel average of 8.8L per 100 kilometres, so after 1047 k’s, 8.9L per 100 and just four police cars (the fourth was also a moving GD car), Holden delivers a pretty decent Sportwagon and the NSW government fails, abysmally, dismally, utterly, in delivering its bullshit and crap “speed kills” message. Speed doesn’t kill; the unbelieveable indifference to safety that governments in Australia has, does. Watching people pass you by a clear margin, an incredible failure to enforce the safety message insisting that the only reason people crash is because they exceed the posted speed limit whilst watching a car move from one lane to the other inside an eyeblink with the nose of their car just a few, too close, feet from the rear bumper whilst wondering where the hell the cops are (hiding in a culvert???) to nab these idiots?

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