Image for Around Australia by Schooner: Light speed in the Australian outback

Senior Constable Cassidy was unhappy.

I knew this because he was shouting at me. Droplets of spittle were hitting the drivers’ side window. Also, he was sweating profusely, rivers of perspiration running down his face and mingling with the froth spilling out of his mouth.

I hadn’t wound the window down when he pulled me over because the electrics in the Mercedes were shot. The windows, air conditioning and cruise control had all died somewhere between Seymour and Grong Grong (great name, crap town).

Actually, the trip had gone badly from the start.

My travelling companion was two minutes late checking in to his Jetstar flight from Tasmania, and of course they showed no mercy. All our beer money went on a full-fare replacement ticket

Then the Mercedes (affectionately known as the Land Yacht) broke down in the industrial badlands west of Footscray; no place to be stranded without heavy firearms. It took hours to coax it back to life.

The plan was simple. Leave Melbourne around 11am, overnight in Parkes, then drive to Brisbane on Sunday.

Except by the time we eventually got the Land Yacht going it was after 2pm and precious miles needed to be made up.

Which brings me back to Senior Constable Cassidy. According to the owners’ manual in the glovebox of the Land Yacht, top speed was 243 km/h.

That might have been the case when the Land Yacht left the factory in 1995, but just prior to Senior Constable Cassidy’s intervention, I doubt we were going anywhere near that fast.  Possibly not even 200.

We were about a couple of hours south of Dubbo. The Newell Highway was dead straight; not a car in sight. I should have known this was the perfect hunting ground for coppers looking to fill their monthly quota.

I hadn’t seen the police car approach, probably because the back seat was loaded to the roofline so I couldn’t see behind us. More on that in a moment.

There was another problem. It wasn’t drugs, because it was still too early in the day for that. I just didn’t have a driver licence. A current one at least.

I opened the door and tried to strike up a friendly conversation. Senior Constable Cassidy didn’t seem keen for a chat. He kept shouting something about carnage and speed limits, foaming at the mouth and fingering the pepper spray canister on his belt.

Eventually I gave him my address (Queensland), told him who owned the car (registered in Victoria) and handed him a Tasmanian driver licence (expired).

He seemed confused, which was good because it would distract him from reading the expiry date.

He started walking around the Land Yacht, peering in the windows, which were filthy from road grime.

In the back seat was an ironing board, two amplifiers, three guitars and a medium-sized stuffed fox. Just the usual stuff really.

It was enough to make Senior Constable Cassidy soften his approach.

“Are you guys musicians?” he asked.

I nearly fired back with “no, bass players” but in a rare moment of wisdom, thought this was my chance to shut the fuck up.

Disappointingly, he didn’t ask about the fox or the ironing board. Instead, he started telling us about the band he was in back in the old days – the Dubbo Cow Molesters or something like that.

I could have offered him some of the drugs in the glove box to help him reminisce but we were already running low.

Instead, I stood quietly and copped a half-hearted lecture from Senior Constable Cassidy.

The Newell Highway’s a dangerous place, he reckoned.

That wasn’t news. We’d stopped at a pub in some nondescript Riverina town for second breakfast (schooners of Carlton pale ale $6.00) and the locals looked like extras from The Shining.

I agreed with everything he said, he handed back my licence, and he got back in his police car, probably keen to rush off and tell Mrs Senior Constable Cassidy about the musicians he’d just met.

I’ll be writing a more comprehensive review about the Melbourne to Brisbane trip in a few days, including a review of that Australian icon – a Chinese restaurant that serves both Chinese and Australian meals.

Tom Ellison is a writer, editor, financial analyst, and sometime cook. He’s interested in whatever’s happening in the world around him, with the possible exception of football, greyhound racing, and property market obsessives. If you’d like to talk about how he can make a difference to your publication, whether it’s a magazine, book or blog, then you know what to do.