My Kingdom for a Picnic Table

 

After returning from the races, I change back into my farm clothes and Vernon, Jeanette and I head out to do some feeding of the animals. Terri (the baby sheep) is whining loudly for her bottle and I gladly pick her up and let her snarf it down. Switch (the dog) licks the milk from Terri’s face and Lampshade (the other dog) runs around looking for attention too. It’s a beautiful evening and I take in every breath.

In the morning, I have my coffee with Vernon and Jeanette before heading out to feed and play with the animals. Vernon takes the sheep-herding dogs out into the field for a run and Jeanette and I watch as they take turns pooping. It starts with one and, like a yawn spreads through a crowd, so does the pooping. We watch as four pups, one after another, enjoy their morning poop, and we give one extra- credit for multi-tasking as he poops and walks at the same time, copping a squat in between steps.

Sadly, it’s time for me to leave as I hope to make it to Rainbow Beach today. It’s a five-and-a-half-hour drive and, since the last five-and-a-half-hour drive took me seven hours, I hit the road by 10:15. I drive what’s known as the “coastal highway” which is, by no means, on the coast. In fact, I don’t see a drop of water except for the occasional  raindrops which fall on my windshield. It’s a bit of a dreary day and doesn’t help my dreary mood at having to leave my farm of refuge.

After about three hours, I’m feeling sleepy and see a sign for a Stop, Revive and Survive station up ahead. These are places, or rest sops, which, when open, serve free coffee to drivers in attempt to reduce accidents due to fatigue. The problem is that they never seem to be open. Still, I pull off the highway and into the rest stop to check it out. Sure enough, the station is closed. Still, this is a rest area which provides free camping. These are also scattered around Australia and, as I’m tired and have not yet tried one, it seems like a good time. While those are some of the reasons I choose to stop here, the real one is that, after the stress relief of the farm, I’m just not ready to get back to anything close to resembling a town.

The rest area is set up in an area of trees with picnic tables, some covered, some not, scattered throughout. There are basic restrooms with flush toilets, yet no hot water, mirrors, or anything to dry your hands with. As it has very basic facilities, it’s probably best that there are no mirrors. I’m thrilled when I pull up directly next to a covered picnic table. It took a free camping area to provide me with the first picnic table in my campsite.

Picnic

After getting settled, I look over towards the freeway and I see, sitting on the side of the road, an orange van with a yellow umbrella saying “coffee.” While this isn’t the free Stop, Revive and Survive station, it’s a wonderful surprise. I walk over and Michael is tcoffeehere, selling latte, cappuccino and more. I order up a Hazelnut Latte and sit at my picnic table writing.

I soon get to chatting with Jan and Neal, my “next-door” neighbors. They’ve got a sweet camper which they plan to travel for a year in next year. I offer to give them my already watched DVD’s and they invite me to dinner. A great trade as I’d bought some bread and cheese which would have been fine for this unplanned stop, but a hot dinner is much more appealing. Neal cooks up some steak and sausages, along with potatoes and broccoli and we enjoy a nice meal inside their camper while also catching up with the TV news. It’s very civilized as we then step outside and I bring over my bottle of single malt scotch for us to enjoy while sitting on their “porch.” Yup, free camping might just be the best way to go in Australia.

In the morning, Jan and Neal leave at about 8:30 as I’m just rolling out of bed. I freshen up and, as I notice Michael is back in position on the side of the road, I walk on over and order “the regular.”

I enjoy my latte, yogurt and Muesli at my picnic table (see, I’m easy to please; I just want my own picnic table) before hopping back in Van Morrison and driving the two-and-a-half hours to Rainbow Beach.

Rainbow Bach is a tiny beach town on the Sunshine Coast. I check out the two campgrounds and, while neither have picnic tables in the sites, Rainbow Beach Holiday Village is actually in town and on the water. I pay for a night and will check out the place before I decide if I’ll stay here or head back to Noosa. I’ve already called to extend my camper van rental for another two nights as I’m simply not ready to head back to civilization.

Campground

A view from my campground

After getting settled in the holiday park, I walk over to town – there are maybe fifteen shops and restaurants in the village area – and stop in the skydive center. Rainbow Beach is all about adventure activities – skydiving, hang-gliding, horseback riding, sand dune tours, whale watching tours, and tours to Fraser Island. Unfortunately, they’re all quite expensive and I’m quite poor. I chat with the guy at the skydive place for a while and he gives me some pointers on the area, as well as telling me where I can get some free WiFi.

Next, I walk down to the beach, being careful to look both ways before crossing the sand as, like some other beaches around the world, you can drive on this one, but only if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle as cars often wind up sinking in the sand and having to be towed. I head down towards the no car area on the left and enjoy the peaceful evening. There are no crowds here; it’s just me and five other people scattered around the beach. Rainbow Beach

I head over to the Rainbow Beach Hotel for some spaghetti Bolognese (or as they call it here, spag-bol) and a beer. The staff is friendly and I’m looking forward to enjoying a day at the beach tomorrow.

 

Speaking of tomorrow – yup, a day at the beach and, should I stay or should I go?

 

 
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