The most unpredictable, intermittent ‘weekly’ column in the history of publishing has made a surprise – but hopefully welcome – return.
It’s been more than a few weeks since the ‘Mailbag Master’ (boooo hissss!) went AWOL and there’s been an awful lot been happening in the interim. Shall we try to catch up with the mountain of thought-provoking correspondence that we’ve missed … nahhh, impossible. Let’s start at the end.
Our story about the NT Government’s plans to completely abolish – on a trial basis – speed limits on the 200-kilometre stretch of the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Barrow Creek got pulses racing … even before it has got traffic doing the same.
“It is utterly ridiculous to increase the speed,” declared an outraged Allen H. “Speed kills!”
Bob Mc, who chose to take a more literal approach, begged to differ.
“Speed doesn’t kill,” he wrote. “Stopping suddenly does!”
Can’t argue with that logic, Bob.
“When the limit was there, people tried to do the limit, now it is gone their mindset also changes,” he continued. “Good move on the NT Government’s part.”
Bob reckons that higher speed limits with higher traffic volumes is inappropriate in the eastern states but says it can work in most of WA, NT, and west QLD.
The mysteriously named ‘rjD2013’ agreed with a hearty: “Well said, Bob.”
He then continued. “We have been touring in Italy and it has the differentiated speed limits on their autostrasses. The majority of drivers drove to their ability and frustration of imposed limits was minimised.”
Hang on! We’re going to take driving tips from the Italians!
Nonetheless, most correspondents agreed.
“People who feel the need for speed will go as fast as they like anyway,” said twocanz.
And Rick H thought it wouldn’t make much difference. “The cost of fuel is probably the major controlling factor after the speed novelty wears off,” he said.
Another Outback driving related story that has got your keyboards rattling over the past week has been our story about the possibility of electric vehicles one day making the ‘fuelless’ Big Lap dream a reality.
In North America, Sun Country Highway (SCH) has just opened an extension of its network of charging stations. Electric car drivers will have 17 stations to get them between Montréal in Canada and Detroit in the US state of Michigan, and they are set between 50km and 100km apart.
Rob seemed a mite sceptical that it was going to make much difference to vanners in Australia.
“Are they ever going to make 4WD’s electric?” he asked. “Will electricity be powerful enough to tow a three-tonne caravan?”
Dave was equally cynical.
“These little electric cars struggle to keep themselves going and look at what happened in the solar challenge when the failed to cope with a cross wind?” he said. “Don’t think we’ll get much relief from the high fuel costs in my lifetime.”
But Joe for one could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Electricity is already powerful enough to haul huge iron ore trains,” he said.
Pete was also ready to dream big.
“The answers are already here we just have to see them,” he said. “Or, to put it another way. ‘a man who shoots at nothing is sure to hit it.’
Mike thought it would take big dollars and cents, as well as a big dream to make it happen.
“All we need is the person with a fat wallet, and a big dream,” he said, before adding with a hint of disappointment. “I don’t see them here in Oz.”
One man who is not going to hang about to wait for the scientists to develop the technology to make the ‘fuelless’ road Big Lap a reality is Brian S, who thinks there’s more than one way to see Australia.
“I am going to sail around it,” he said. “Very cheaply.”
Hmmm! Ahoy there, Brian. Do you need a deckhand!
Talking of cheap travel, there has been a fair bit of grey nomad love recently for the Sunshine State and the way it has tried to embrace the needs of long-term travellers .
The news that the Queensland Government is to hold seven community consultation workshops in Cairns, Mount Isa, Emerald, Charleville, Townsville, Toowoomba, and the Fraser Coast as a way of trying to assess even better the needs of future campers has earned it yet more kudos.
“We spend where we are welcomed and when we get a decent “free” (anything under $12) camp,” said Marg H. “Much friendlier than the majority of caravan parks.”
However, not all were gushing about Queensland’s ‘we’re hear to listen’ message.
Trevor L said it was all very well asking for submissions but says it meant little if government then went on to shut low cost camping areas or missed opportunities to provide them.
He pointed to the realignment of the low level narrow Isis Bridge just south of Childers in Queensland a year or two ago as an example of the latter. Trevor reckons this offered an opportunity to create an ideal rest area for travelers, but instead Main Roads ripped up the tarmac and closed the access to the highway.
“If this lack of thinking is the norm,” Trevor said. “What hope have we that submissions no matter how good will be auctioned?”
Time will tell Trevor. Time will tell.
And finally to the porcine tale that transfixed the grey nomad ‘nation’. The legend of ‘Swino’ the feral pig who drank copious amounts of stolen beer, raided campsites, chased cows, swum rivers, and generally caused mayhem around the DeGrey River rest area in WA, brought curious (and brave) sightseers from across the land.
But Swino’s Robin Hood-like escapades were brought to an abrupt end recently when he came off decidedly worse in a collision with a passing vehicle.
Gypsy Girl was one of many who mourned the passing of a genuine Outback character.
“He was a beautiful pig, but sadly bound for an early demise,” she wrote. “When we camped opposite his island a month ago, one idiot was chasing him away from his place with a stick because he was “bothering” them when they wanted to fish … some people have no respect for the lives of the local wildlife.”
Tue true, Gypsy Girl. Too true. RIP Swino.
And on that sad and sobering note, Mailbaggers I bid you adieu once more. Farewell Mighty Mailbbagggggeerrrrrs. Keep those emails and comments coming.