Aussies were friendly. Fascinated by American accents–especially Southern dialects. My wife has a mild Southern accent. Victoria had a varied topographical mixture–flatland, rolling hills and valleys, mountains, seacoast. The Mornington Peninsula, where our daughter resides, reminded me of Southern California. Ballarat, a gold rush town, the Grampian mountains, reminded me of scenes from the American West.
Had the route from Melbourne airport memorized. Or so, I thought. The last freeway change threw me off course. I wanted the M11 Mornington Peninsular Freeway. I took the Frankston freeway instead, which soon ran out. Who knew, the proper exit was to a place called Portsea? My response, during the heat of battle, “I’m not going to any unfamiliar destination.” Those words came back to haunt me. In retrospect, those were a lot of letters to squeeze on one highway sign.
My spouse and co-pilot didn’t hesitate to remind of speed limits at every opportunity. “Speed limit’s 100 KPH, not 110.” “Yes Dear, I’m doing the best I can.” It was even more difficult to drive 80KPH. Australia used speed enforcement cameras. Highway tolls were automatically assigned from cameras on overpasses.
Before getting completely lost, I asked a friendly Australian chap shopping at a petrol station/convenience store for help with directions. He stayed just ahead of us as we departed, pointed out a right turn at the third roundabout–which led to the esplanade and our destination. My spouse amused, because my jacket, previously secured to my waist, dangled behind like a dragon’s tail. That day my entertainment skills exceeded my sense of direction.
As time went on, got lost a few more times–even with GPS. Misguided, looking for a winery, took the worst washboard dirt road I’ve ever experienced. Amazingly, the rental car remained intact. Aussies were always helpful–even a surfer dude visiting from Adelaide.
Directional signaling with the windshield wipers, as the controls were reversed and unfamiliar, happened several times. Somthing I had to unlearn upon my return stateside. A two-day drive along the beautiful Great Ocean Road, cemented left-side driving techniques. I learned to look right, then left at intersections.
Talking the talk: Aussies liked abbreviations–McDonalds fast-food restaurants christened, “Mackers.” The Aussie Woolworths giant food chain, shortened to “Woolies.” Trade workers were,”tradies.” Truck drivers, “truckies.” Special occasions/events, “speckies.” Heard G’Day and G’Day Mate frequently.
It began with the Qantas flight out, when I misheard the flight attendant announce breakfast choices. “Eggs are free,” instead of what she meant–“Eggs or fruit?” Of course, I opted for eggs, since they were free. Incidentally, Aussies shortened breakfast to “brekky” or “brekkers.”