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If time is the most precious gift, time to think - and not to think - is probably our most valuable possession. The modern world is so cluttered with distractions clamouring for our attention - the 24-7 news cycle, social media, streaming, online shopping, family, friends, perhaps even this email - it's sometimes tempting to toss the smartphone, which binds us to it all, into a bin. To scream like Peter Finch's character Howard Beale in Network, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
When I get to that point, which is quite often, I take to the road. Weather permitting, it's on a motorcycle. A big sky above, an empty road ahead, sun on the back and no phone. Just the sound of the wind and the big V-twin. Disconnected in one sense but totally connected to the world around me. Living in the moment, which all those mindfulness marketeers say we ought to do more often (believe me, you don't need an app for that). An hour of this momentum generally stills the mind.
If the weather's dodgy, I head out in the car but the phone stays muted in the pocket. Otherwise, Siri reads out all those text and WhatsApp messages I'm trying to avoid. I did this just yesterday, needing a break from Putin's war drums and the awful allegations about Hawthorn. Disconnecting for just a short while did the power of good. Disconnecting for even longer is even better. Nothing beats the good old road trip for putting life into perspective.
Some of my fondest memories are of road trips. Canberra to Sydney, before the motorway was built. Hamburgers at Mittagong before the enormous roadhouses blighted the landscape. The climb up Razorback on the old Hume Highway (I recall a globe of some sort at the top - am I imagining this?), mother worrying the car would overheat. The lights and traffic of Sydney in the distance. Sydney to Byron Bay as a teenager, Perth to Sydney in my 20s, San Francisco to Eureka in northern California as someone the wrong side of 50. The mother of all road trips, though, was a recent 3500km loop through outback NSW in a ute with two colleagues. We traced the course of the Darling River from Wentworth to Bourke for a series of stories and podcasts and agreed at the end it was a career highlight.
Australians rediscovered the road trip when international and state borders closed during the pandemic. But the trip has changed a little from the days of hotel-motels, O-nite vans and blinking roadside neon shrouded in clouds of moths and noisy aircon systems. Motorists are taking the accommodation with them, according to the Caravan Industry Association of Australia. It reported in April that 23,931 recreational vehicles were manufactured in Australia in 2021, 42 per cent up from 2020 and 11.5 per cent up from 2019. Despite supply chain woes, imports of recreational vehicles also jumped by 79 per cent in 2021. Australia currently has around 820,000 registered caravans and RVs, according to the association - an increase of around 70,000 over the past 18-24 months.
With school holidays upon us, we can expect to see many of these vehicles on the road. At times, they will slow our progress - as will the potholes. Perhaps we shouldn't take that as a bad thing. In this fast-moving world, taking our time might just be what we need.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What is your favourite road trip? What road trip do you dream of doing? Does country driving give you thinking time? Or do other drivers annoy you too much to make the road trip enjoyable? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Australia has branded Russian president Vladimir Putin's threats to use nuclear weapons as unthinkable and irresponsible. Putin warned the West he was prepared to use Russia's vast nuclear arsenal to defend its territory, declaring: "It's not a bluff." Foreign Minister Penny Wong called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. "We saw Mr Putin making threats to use all means at his disposal," Senator Wong told reporters in New York on Thursday. "These threats are unthinkable and they are irresponsible. Claims of defending Russia's territorial integrity are untrue."
- Optus customers' private information could be compromised after a cyber attack hit the phone and internet provider. Millions of customers' names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses and addresses could have been accessed in the attack, Optus has confirmed. Payment details and account passwords have not been compromised. Optus says it is working with the Australian Cyber Security Centre to limit any risk to current and former customers.
- High winds and heavy rainfall led to hundreds of travellers being stranded at airports around the country as dozens of flights coming in and out of Sydney were cancelled in the lead-up to the AFL Grand Final. Up to 40 flights due to land or depart out of Sydney were cancelled on Thursday morning, leading to further cancellations in Melbourne, as severe weather warnings were issued by the Bureau of Meteorology for heavy falls and thunderstorms across NSW's east coast.
THEY SAID IT: "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." - Lewis Carroll
YOU SAID IT: Tradies, building grants and yet more on the Queen's funeral and the monarchy.
Arthur says, "I tried to get a water pump repaired. After several weeks the boss of the firm apologised but stated he could not get staff. I have had to wait three weeks for a booking to have a quad bike repaired. My question is, 'Where have all the tradesmen gone?' I doubt they are building or renovating houses.
Bob defends building industry stimulation during the pandemic. "Oh, ye of short memories. Which industry received the biggest Labor government stimulation during the GFC back in 2008-9? The building industry, of course. It is folly not to, as there are so many components of it which contribute to the economy - employers, tradies, workers, manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers, contractors, DIYs, etc."
S puts some historical perspective on the monarchy: "For me the most important part of the transfer of power was the Accession Council process, including the oath to preserve the unity of the Scottish and English churches. In 1714 the UK finally got to stop the brutal religious wars, curb the power of Rome and the 'divine right' of kings was firmly brought under the control of the parliament. All the other protocol, pomp and ceremony supports the separation of church and state and the rule of law."
Joan suggests one way the new King could firm up support: "As usual, there are two sides to the monarchy v republic discussion. At this point, the monarchy could bolster support, while helping struggling families in the UK, by announcing that King Charles III will pay for all expenses associated with his mother's funeral. This payment would come from the huge income he receives from the royal estates each year."
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