Near Woodburn. Tuesday, 3.30pm
It’s amazing what a bottle of Seal-Tite can do.
My van Morrison is purring like a kitten. Sure, this metal kitten has ginger spots of rust, but that’s just age. I recycle old cars. Keeping old wrecks going is my protest against a culture that is consuming itself to death.
I’m cruising from Evans Head to Woodburn, a salty smile on my lips and the temperature gauge steady. A red Camry fills the rearview.
Lately, I’ve had to keep an eye on the gauge. Over the last couple of months, Morrison has been guzzling more water than petrol – and that’s saying a lot.
So, I’ve been carrying a lot of water with me. That’s the beauty of a van; not only is there a bed under that thick blanket of dust, there’s plenty of room for carrying stuff.
I carry water, engine and olive oils, folding chairs, a Burmese beach ball, two wine glasses, a bottle of French red (for emergencies), a book of Chinese poetry, maps (paper ones; remember them?), a cheese board and a Vietnamese umbrella. And that’s just one cupboard.
It means that when Morrison overheats, a frequent occurrence lately, I pull over and phone the NRMA. Using the map I can give my exact location. They say they’ll be there before the Great Barrier Reef dissolves. I’m impressed. That’s soon.
Then I flip up the seat to allow air to cool the motor, put some funky Motown tunes on the stereo to cover the tortured sound of overheated metal, break out a folding chair, pour myself an emergency wine and read Chinese poetry.
After 20 minutes, I safely remove the radiator cap, add water, drop the seat down, and ring the NRMA to tell them it’s too late, the reef is nearly dead and no-one cares. Then I resume my journey, knowing I have about 40 kilometres before the next overheat.
It’s a slow way to get around, but pleasant.
It did mean I was having to leave home before dawn to get to work by 9am, but is there a better way to enjoy a sunrise than with a glass of vin rouge and a few lines of Shu Ting beside a pothole with rising mist?
However, Morrison’s water habit got worse. By last week, it was using more water than a rich man’s coal fantasy.
So I took Morrison to have its radiator checked. I sat nervously in the waiting room reading magazines about proper cars until the radiologist came in. He gently told me that Morrison had a cracked head and, at Morrison’s age and mileage, its days were numbered. Low numbers. Like the reef.
I was devastated. Despite its annoying ability to suck in tonnes of dust through the back door, even on rainy days, I love that van. I love the reef.
Oh dear, what a month. Firstly, corporations win the election dooming all life to hell, and now this.
That was yesterday.
Today, Morrison is happily motoring and hasn’t used a drop of water in 28 hours. I pat its dash. Good van. The red Camry passes us at warp 4. A green P-plate breaks off and flips about in the turbulence.
Yesterday, on our way to the wreckers – what was to be Morrison’s final journey – I stopped at an auto joint. I don’t know why. I guess I was looking for a miracle. Gibbo handed me a bottle of Seal-Tite and said, ‘You’re supposed to do a radiator flush and all that, but…’
Hardly daring to hope, I ran out to Morrison and poured the goop straight into its radiator. And…
Seal-Tite fixed the cracked head. A miracle!
I should put some in Parliament’s water… Couldn’t hurt.