Reviving this thread because I have a story to tell. It is a tale that pitches a man against the elements. A narrative of adversity, persistence, some luck, some skill, and sheer balls-out stupidity.
This is a Long Story
Australian weather by and large isn’t all that bad compared to much of the world. We don’t get typhoons or hurricanes (unless you live in QLD, but they’re special). We don’t get earthquakes (much). We don’t get snow (except in the one mountain range we have). We just get really hot weather and fires. But today was not one of those days. Today, the meteorologists were flapping their arms around like it was the armageddon because we were going to have the most rain and winds crossing Victoria that we’d seen in a few decades. Probably you’d get more rain on a monsoon day in Malaysia, but thing is Australians can’t handle floods. Most of our towns especially in the outback are really flat and low. And the roads drain horribly. So when it rains more than 150mm in a single day down in Victoria, things are going to get submerged. And that was the kind of day we were having. Week, even.
Today was also the day my best friend had her wedding.
Now, the wedding was in the Yarra Valley, and I’m stationed in Albury. I was also designated musician for the event for personal and symbolic reasons. And as we say in the entertainment industry: the show must go on. Not attending this wedding because of a little storm warning was not an option.
After reviewing the emergency and hazards notices, and the weather pattern, I decided this would be my best bet:
So I figured, well, I’d like to get to the place at 10 to do soundcheck before ceremony at 11. So I’ll start at 6 and give myself a buffer. Turns out that the weather didn’t actually let up until 6 so a lot of the highway was shut before then so I couldn’t leave any earlier even if I wanted to.
At first the going was very wet (ok so nothing like, say, a Siberian snowstorm), but enough for some good stretches of aquaplaning, which, at 110km/h, isn’t pleasant. The view was something like this:
Yes, that’s my stability control light flashing because I’m aquaplaning while trying to pass a truck. Also 121 on the speedo clocks in at 114 on radar. And also I don’t condone using the phone while controlling a moving vehicle but that is hardly the dumbest thing I did today.
So at first it was just heavy rain. Then was winds so strong the trees were all leaning over 45 degrees and I was holding the steering wheel a good 90 degrees to counter it. Then the trees started falling down all over the freeway, sometimes necessitating dodging them by swerving onto the shoulder. Then the highway started closing and there was no warning on the Emergency system because they were falling faster than the SES could get to them.
After some minutes of waiting our faithful first responders had cut this one down to size
In this fashion I managed to get past Benalla and Violet Town. I decided to stop over in Euroa to check the situation as I really needed to get past Seymour before heading Eastward because I knew East of the M31 (the only freeway connecting Sydney and Melbourne, btw), was all valley (King -> Goulburn -> Yarra, going Southwards) and the last time I travelled through there in inclement weather everything just collects and sits there so it was definitely going to be flooded (as the warning system confirmed). Like many country Australian towns, Euroa is low and flat, so naturally half of it was underwater. I made a mental note of this but it’s not like I had any reasonable alternatives so I pressed on.
Coming out of Euroa, I’d seen an alert that the M31 was shut but in actual fact it had just been reopened. That was a very generous assessment, as it was still submerged:
Wherever that Mercedes was going, it wasn’t getting there. RIP.
20km out of Seymour my luck ran out. There stood a copper blocking the M31. “Road’s shut mate,” he said. “Too flooded.”
“How am I to get to Melbourne then?” I enquired.
“Head up to Benalla, turn left for Shepparton, then go from there.”
fml, 20km from Seymour and he wants me to take a 170km detour!? So now the route was looking like this:
uwot m8 r u fkn srs
It was about 830am. Excusing the slight error where I dropped the origin pin off the freeway, that was about to add almost 2 hours to my trip. My projected arrival time suddenly shot from 945am… to about 1145am. I would miss the entire ceremony. I would not play my best friend’s favourite and extremely symbolic songs at crucial points, like, walking up the aisle. Signing the registry. Walking out. The show would not go on.
This was now a matter of life and death. So I did the only thing I could think to do: since I could not literally move Heaven and Earth, I drove like a motherfucking madman.
I saw a lot of people trying to cut through Euroa. I say, good fucking luck to them, they’re probably still there floating somewhere in the newly formed Lake Euroa. I knew better. I knew that if I wanted to take a shortcut, it’d have to be through Violet Town, and then I would have to go through Shepparton. It was simply too dicey otherwise. But at least, the road from Violet Town towards Dookie (the C365, that goes through Upotipotpon) was uphill. It’d have better drainage. So I pointed peapod in that direction, and as soon as I got off the M31 and out of Violet Town, I put the foot down and engaged rally strop mode.
What followed was 2 and a half hours of white knuckle, terrifying driving. Visibility was still about the same as the first photo. Bits of tree were all over the road. Australian B roads are rough and bumpy and full of puddles. I had a wedding to get to, and the only extra means I had was speed, more speed, aquaplane drift and left foot braking. I discovered that peapod’s top speed is somewhere around 181km/h, at 5500rpm in 4th. If the surface and weather were better it might be a little higher but it really felt like it was hitting a power wall. On a good day the road to Dookie looks like this:
Much like forested country roads in Australia, they meander a bit up and down and there’s not much room for error. If I encountered any unexpected traffic or wildlife, or got a puddle wrong, or hit a pothole (lots of those), or caught air over a crest, I’d get to find out real quick if there was an afterlife and whether being an idiot of this magnitude would bar me from entry into Heaven. But I persisted. Well, at least, until I was blasting along the highway to Shepparton passing cars like they were standing still when I noticed there were flashing lights in my mirror.
In short I got busted doing (only) 36km/h over the posted limit, the cop was very nice about it considering he believed by (entirely truthful) story that I do not habitually speed and I was only doing this because I was desperate and the detour really put a dent in my plans. My record is pretty clean (just a couple of minimal range offences for really stupid things like “you forgot to turn your headlights on- well excuse me officer the street lights were so bright I couldn’t even tell my lights were off”). So he alleged I was doing 34km/h over the limit, thereby serving me a one month suspension (among other things), instead of six. I’m very thankful, frankly, I deserve to be dead or to have had the book thrown at me.
So I drove by the book until I got back past Seymour, off the M31, and past Broadford. I had earlier given up on making it at all, but I recalculated the time with the GPS and if I shaved off a few minutes, I could possibly make it at 11:10, which might be just enough to catch the ceremony.
So I put the foot down again.
The road from Broadford to the Yarra Valley can be thought of as a roller coaster. In actual fact part of this road is the segment featured in a certain story I’ve been trying to write for @titleguy1 for like 2 years. Well, today, I can say I’ve travelled that road at maximum attack in bad weather and it is fucking scary. Google Maps ain’t got shit on it, the thing is steep and has dips and crests and when you drive it doing 130-150km/h, it’s a gut wrencher. After that it’s a slow meandering descent into the depths of a foggy, eerie damp kind of hell through dense forest with 100% blind corners and oh hello there’s a landsliiiiiide…
At 11:10am, after 2.5 hours of nervous but normal driving and another 2.5 hours of death-wish driving, I arrive at the venue. I missed playing the opening song… but I managed to sneak in and do the rest. And, as promised, to the denizens of the Discord, I managed to sneak some Thomas the Tank Engine HipHop Edition on it.
So worth it.
Then, once the reception was over, I got up, got out, and drove directly back to Albury, because I have an all day shift tomorrow. So that was all up a 788km round trip.
TL;DR: I had to drive 330km for a wedding I was musician for. The entire route was affected by storms and floods the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades. The highway was strewn with puddles, fallen trees and in parts was submerged. I didn’t have any alternative routes. Then I got sent back and had to take a 170km detour which ruined my plans. So instead I decided to impersonate a rally driver. Car went really fast. I got pulled over for speeding. I copped a 1 month suspension on my license which was getting off lightly. I continued to drive like a maniac. I got there only 10 minutes late, missed playing the aisle song (which was my centrepiece), but still managed to play the rest.
Worth it for making the wedding, that was one of the most important personally and I genuinely thought it was close to a life or death matter to get there. But I don’t believe for a single minute that it was the right thing to do, or even a good thing to do.
“Why couldn’t you go down earlier?” I hear some ask. I finished work the previous day at 10pm. We don’t have a lot of flexibility in our shifts as if I’m off, who the hell covers me? Some of my colleagues already ditched early because of the weather but I didn’t have that luxury because I was the duty registrar and I had already pulled strings to get today off, so that was as much as I could manage.
The final kicker? My 1 month license suspension begins New Year’s Eve. It bars me from driving in the State of Victoria for a month. Meaning if I get caught driving in Victoria during that period (a.k.a. if I get pulled over by the cops and they check my license)… then I lose it straight away for 12 months and get to learn the court system.
I’m currently stationed in a border town. On the not Victorian side. In January, I’m going to be so busy I won’t even have time to drive anywhere in Victoria. And after that, it’s back to the not-speeding law abiding me.
On that note, I need new tyres now.