AN ODE TO ALVIN

We spent four days traveling from Perth to Sydney with the aim of making it in time for Christmas. Here’s the story of our roadtrip…

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Meet Alvin.

Now readers, we’ve taken a different approach with this post,
To try make the story more readable of how we journeyed from coast to coast.
Its a strange kind of love poem, as the journey was by no means romantic,
And in fact was littered with incredulous antics,
However Alvin you see, is our trusted campervan,
And he took us 4000km regardless he’s an 80s Nissan.
We bought him from a man called Fred down in South Perth,
Who quick to sell passed him on for less than his worth.
There were some teething problems initially, and getting him into 3rd gear took a while,
But for $800 we weren’t expecting agile.
He has quite a turning circle and a 3-point-turn is exercise
(In fact, just driving round the block again is probably wise).
He’s heard before he’s seen and he makes quite an impression,
And that was before we’d even started renovation.

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Alvin the shell

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We used bedside tables as the foundation for our benches/bed, sawing the legs to the correct height and working around the wheel arches

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Cutting the fabric to fit the foam for our sofas. 4am.

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Project bunting

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Using fume-ridden extra-sticky glue to create our custom fit mattresses.

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Vinyl wooden floor

We painted his innards and built furniture to fit,
When someone said, “it’s just a van” they soon regretted it.
We drilled, we sewed, late into the night,
With just three weeks until take off we’d cut things quite tight.
We were in need of cheap wood and a storage idea,
Where else would we go, of course – Ikea!
Friday 20th December our friend Will was arriving,
Giving us 4 days to do 50 hours of driving.
Will was joining us for Christmas on our voyage east,
And under the impression we’d rented a modern van, not bought an 80’s beast.
“Be open-minded, Will, upon meeting Alvin, don’t judge by his cover”
(But learning Will knew about cars was a relief to discover).
We unveiled him to the crowd, our project finally complete,
And introduced Will to his special middle seat.

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Made for three

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A handy map wall

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The bed

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Daytime look

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Lifestyle shot

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Homemade stockings. We don’t care if it’s 40 degrees, we WILL be Christmassy!

Alvin has a fancy vinyl floor and comfy custom seats,
And as his radio doesn’t work a boombox for outback beats.
And when it comes to sleeping, simply convert the benches to a bed at night,
It fits 2 comfortably, but 3 was slightly tight…
We’d painted him with bunting which hadn’t gone quite to plan,
It had turned out more playschool bus than vintage campervan.
The neighbours passed by and now Al was a laughing stock,
As if he didn’t have enough to deal with with 300 thousand Ks on his clock.
Alvin had a final check by the mechanic who tended to his needs,
Luckily he was just wanting some upgraded spark leads.
“Do you think we’ll make it to Sydney?” wanting to see what he thought,
“No, I seriously doubt it” was the mechanic’s unwelcome retort.
Well Alvin heard him and wasn’t impressed one iota,
“I’m going to drive my smoothest and beat this 4 day quota!”
So Saturday morning, Will waiting by the van unimpressed,
We began to start packing our things and quickly get dressed,
Noon was not an ideal take off time and in hindsight we should have hurried,
But whilst Will was talking about miles per hour and added weight, we weren’t all that worried.
We should also mention we had a stuffed monkey in tow,
Who Will would turn to when feeling low.

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Will waiting patiently by the wreath

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Hmm. East. Definitely east.

We were waved off with advice to “take lots of water and a massive jerrycan,
And don’t be surprised when things go wrong with the van,
While breaking down is a hassle and pretty disconcerting,
Just flag down a roadtrain and do your best flirting.”
We drove for 10 hours and spent the night at Esperance,
Lovely to visit but we hadn’t covered nearly enough distance.
Sleeping in a carpark on night one wasn’t the picturesque scene,
And neither was acting as each other’s toilet screen,
But we laughed a lot and though it didn’t look like a postcard,
We had a decent night’s sleep with Will as our guard.
We woke up Will with the Lion King’s ‘Circle of Life’,
At which point it proved lucky we’d hidden the pen knife.
An early morning walk on the beach was nice and refreshing,
And our surprise at Alvin’s strength we were soon confessing.
We drove him to the view point high above the town,
But whoops, it was 10am by the time we got down.

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Esperance beach

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Esperance viewpoint

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You want to stop for chocolate? Again??

Will explained how “we’ll have to drive until late tonight”,
“Hakuna Matata, it’s Christmas, we’ll be alright!”
So onwards and eastwards towards the infamous Nullarbor,
Along the longest straight road in the country did Alvin roar,
It was extremely sparse and tough to steer,
Your eyes play tricks and you can’t tell if oncoming vehicles are near.
We’d been warned not to steer onto the gravel as we’d lose control,
And possibly cause poor Alvin to roll,
It was tough to concentrate and so we drove on rotate,
To release the driver from their trance-like state.
Our minds began to wander, who could blame us?
And then we remembered something for which the Nullarbor’s famous…
Rumour has it that in the Nullarbor streakers run freely,
And we wanted to persuade Will and drive off with his clothes ideally!
But Charlotte went first, seated on top of Al, naked as birth
(She seemed to have lost it since we’d left Perth).
With absolutely nothing save the keys to Alvin in her hand,
Will locked in the van below on her demand,
Posed naked on the roof, it was unlucky when cars were so few,
That one came past at this precise point, and got a full view.
Charlotte tried to get dressed, her embarrassment extortionate,
The whole situation was rather unfortunate!
Back in the van laughing we could hardly speak,
But she didn’t regret her Nullarbor streak.

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Pure joy!

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Nullarbor animals – actually very scary in the dark

Sarah went next, Alvin saw the lot,
And poised on his roof, we got a great holiday shot.
Onwards we went, through nothing and more,
The straight roads and emptiness were starting to bore.
We wish we could paint a picture or maybe elaborate,
But we could safely say ‘we’re in the middle of nowhere’ without having to exaggerate.
But then night came, we felt we’d driven so far,
And it all became worth it, you could see each and every star,
We stopped the engine and turned off the lights,
But we could still see clearly the planets shining so bright.
Will needed a nap, and so we drove for what was a pretty tough hour,
It turned out there had been some kind of kangaroo shower.
Now when we saw our first roo, we were excited not wary,
“Skippy!” We yelled, unaware they could be scary.
Hit them at speed and Alvin would suffer,
He’s our old vintage van, not some kangaroo buffer.
Charlotte driving with the aid of Sarah kangaroo hunting,
They ran to the edge to see Alvin’s bunting.
They would sit in the middle of the road, regardless of Alvin’s charging,
And lazily jump away just prior to barging.

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Driving in shifts

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The never ending road…

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Where are we going again?

We were drained and weary, it was starting to show,
So to liven up we played ‘ask Will whatever we want to know’.
‘Question time with Will’ was very entertaining,
And brought us back to life when our attention was waning.
We heard tales of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam,
And Will from then on acquired the nickname ‘Jam’.
We got plenty of dirt on him playing this game,
But sorry, the Nullarbor’s where these stories remain.
At 1am we pulled into a layby, and called it a day,
Awake again by 7, we were off on our way.
Sarah took the early shift, Will not a morning person,
In fact the earlier the start the more he would worsen.
On reflection we think Will started to wish we were boys,
He started wearing earphones, ignoring our noise.
We took to driving off with him still sleeping in the bed,
“Don’t worry poppet, you just rest your weary head,
We’re running away with you but you’ll wake up in a happy place”,
This proved very effective for avoiding his grumpy morning face.
Now driving with him in the back was his own decision,
Alvin alone on the road, very low risk of collision.
But we wouldn’t advise it, it’s not a good plan,
Please don’t try this at home in your own campervan.

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He’s alive. Honest.

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Happy!

We reached Port Augusta in time for some dinner,
We’d been living on mints and were feeling much thinner.
So we stopped for some food at a local bar,
“Please can you feed us, we’ve come from afar!”
“Sorry we cant serve you, the kitchen closed at 8”,
“But it’s only 6.30, we aren’t that late?!
It’s dinner time, we’re starving, please take our order!”
Oblivious that at some point we’d crossed a time border.
We looked down at our watches completely confused,
“Sorry, try around the corner”, she advised amused.
We ate and rested, then feeling revived,
Once again exclaimed that Alvin had survived.
We’d grown over-confident, the journey so smooth and Sydney in sight,
Well we landed with a thud in the outback that night.
We’d decided to drive all night on rotate,
The only way to make it without being late.

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Port Agusta: Destination food!

Will had driven for hours and into a deep sleep he sank,
Oblivious to Sarah putting diesel in the petrol tank.
“Charlotte, something’s not right, let’s wake up Will”,
“Jam, wake up, we think Alvin’s ill!”
Still half asleep and not welcoming this news,
“You’ve just filled up? Which pump did you use?”
Sarah’s face said it all, teary and manic,
In the outback at 3am, we needed a mechanic!
“I’ve ruined Christmas, Charlotte, we won’t make it to Sydney,
Call the mechanic, pay him whatever, sell him my kidney!”
We ran back to the gas station, the outlook bleak,
It felt like the start of that movie, Wolf Creek.
“Hi, we’ve used the wrong pump, we aren’t good with these matters,
I know it’s Christmas Eve but poor Alvin’s in tatters,
He started up okay but now he’s gone jerky,
We need to get to Sydney in time for our turkey!”

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Monkey

“Let’s tell Will the petrol station had signed the pump wrong,
And that it had read ‘unleaded’ all along”.
“I think, Sarah, we’ll just have to tell him the truth,
He won’t swallow that story without any proof”.
But we all took it well and didn’t respond too badly,
Even waiting a few hours before teasing her gladly.
Sam was our man, our hero, our saviour,
He was there within the hour and did us quite a favour.
Draining poor Alvin, who was a little bit miffed,
Sam was a character and our true Christmas gift.
He refused all payment and sent us off in the sunrise,
So we smuggled presents into his van as a thank you surprise.
Hyper with relief and newfound glory,
The ‘diesel incident’ adding depth to our story,
And the sunrise we saw right after this slip,
Was probably the highlight of our Christmas roadtrip.
Singing together, Christmas songs on loud,
Getting closer to Sydney, Alvin doing us proud.

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Sunrise over a lake

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Back on the road again after ‘the diesel incident’

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Sunrise

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I can’t hear them lalala

However, at 10am it was warm in the middle seat,
After 27 hours of driving, Alvin was starting to overheat.
We clambered out and lifted up the bonnet,
The engine was toasty, you could fry an egg on it.
We turned to Will, under Alvin he was peaking,
“Bad news I’m afraid, Alvin is leaking!”
We made it to a petrol station where Alvin formed a puddle,
We said a prayer, crossed our fingers and gave Alvin a cuddle.
We asked at the station, “who can help Alvin’s state?”
“Sorry not on Christmas Eve, but g’day to you mate”.
“I can fix it,” said Will, “I just need the part”,
Then came a Christmas angel who made steel art.
In the middle of nowhere we’d found an artist and his son,
Who had the hose we needed and helped Will get the job done.
This man made steel sculptures and had had quite a career,
Charlie Boorman even purchased his work when near.
Another 2 hours later but with Alvin on the mend,
We’d broken down in the outback and come across a legend.

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Not far Alvie!

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New bed

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Will inspecting Alvin’s puddle!

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Our steel art saviour

Sydney was only about 9 hours away,
But the heat was just too much for Alvin that day.
The only thing we could do to keep Alvin sweet,
Was to open up the bonnet and lose the middle seat.
Will got in the back as he’d done before,
His seat was missing, just open floor,
As the sun was setting Alvin cooled with time,
And over the mountains to Sydney he began to climb.
With the time difference against us and such a delay,
It seemed impossible to make it before Christmas day.
But Charlotte downed an energy drink that was somewhat strong,
And though constantly talking helped speed things along.
Will took over at 11pm, Sydney in sight,
Were we going to make it? Think we just might!
Then we saw it before us, the ‘Welcome to Sydney’ sign,
“Alvin you’ve done it, you made it in time!
You’re old and you’re rusty, but we don’t care,
At 23.50, you’ve made it with a cool ten minutes to spare.”
Now where’s our hotel? “Will turn off we’re near…
Hmm, I’m sure the hotel was supposed to be here”.
“Charlotte, what do the directions say? This is the road we just came from”,
“Excuse me, please don’t shout at your very tired Tom Tom.
Please turn around when possible and try not to fret”.
Meanwhile Sarah muttering “are we nearly there yet?”

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The open middle seat

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Sunset as we cruise towards Sydney

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Not far to go….

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Will’s final backseat sleep

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Sunset

The hotel was amazing, though we were pretty delirious,
We’ve come from Perth in Alvin we told them – “You’re not serious?!”
“We certainly are, old Alvin’s a king,
He made it here to Sydney in spite of everything.”
Alvin, you did it, you sure know how to drive,
54 hours later and you’re still alive.
And whilst Santa has Rudolph with his red shiny nose,
We have Alvin, with bunting and an old leaky hose.
From us and Jam we’d like to thank you Alvin, you’re the man,
Our trusty, (our rusty) our noble camper van.

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Merry Christmas!

Charlotte & Sarah x

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4 thoughts on “AN ODE TO ALVIN

  1. FANTASTIC!!!! Even brought a tear to my eye in someplaces!! you sound like you are having a ball!! If only these opportunities were around when I was ur age!! Heather has been telling me about you both for ageeesss… So happy I have now logged on to follow you.. Take care and make more happy memories!!! Xxx

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  2. You girls are champs! Not only for revamping the van and making him look fabulous, which he does. What a trip! Aussie roads are long! But i especially love your poem! You are creative geniuses! Reblogging this so others can enjoy this post!

    Like

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