Jim Low - singer/songwriter

HUME HIGHWAY NIGHT DRIVE

It had been such a hot day in Melbourne that Wednesday (28 January 2009). The ensuing days were forecast to be the same. We had planned to leave and drive part of the way home the following day. After tea we decided on impulse to leave that night. We were definite in our decision. So the car was hastily packed and goodbyes were said. At 9.30 we were heading for the Hume Highway.

The night was still heavy with heat and humidity. It was pitch black on the road as we headed north. The red and white reflector lights, that bordered the highway, entrancingly raced ahead of us as they were ignited by our car headlights. Night driving made us aware of the highway’s varying gradients, even though we could not see any geographic features to give us any bearing. It reminded me of the night trips home from Coonabarabran, in country New South Wales, many years ago. The descent of that road was always made evidently clear as it headed for the little township of Binnaway, somewhere out there in the dark. In the daytime you seemed oblivious to it.

Once we left the settled regions our only roadside companions were the long-haul trucks that glided along, like huge caterpillars covered in a glare of dazzling lights. Like a plague, they seemed to be everywhere; not only on the highway but at all the roadside rest areas.

On that moonless night, we travelled the highway as though it was totally unfamiliar to us. We were intrigued and exhilarated by its novelty. It certainly kept us awake and alert. Only the town names that flashed by in the dark confirmed that we had regularly driven this highway. From the start, we felt committed to seeing this journey to its end. The further we drove into the night, the greater the sense that we had made the right decision.

A petrol and coffee stop at Holbrook was a welcome break. Half the trip was behind us. At the curb in front of us a driver rested briefly while his truck engines continued rumbling and his rig lights blazed. All around us the world of the long-haul truck driver was in full swing. We headed on to Yass and another coffee stop, this time at the all night, big, yellow M on the rise near the town entrance. Nobody there but us, so toasted sandwiches were not a problem for the one staff member to make.

Then on to Goulburn and the Southern Highlands, as the morning sky slowly began to appear. No air-conditioning was required while travelling during these early hours. More cars gradually appeared as their drivers headed for work. At around seven o’clock we pulled up safely in our driveway. The heat of the day was returning. We felt a sense of satisfying relief, knowing we had made a very wise decision those few hours ago.     

Night Drive

We travelled deep
Through night’s abyss,
The long-haul starships
Were hard to miss.

Across the highway
The car beam bled,
Igniting reflectors
In wildfire red.

The daylong heat
Still warmed the air,
As we headed north
For a border there.

On a highway known
But in darkness lost,
Two wide-eyed travellers
Whose dice was tossed.

Longing to see,
After driving all night,
Our mountain home
In the morning light.

© Jim Low
May 2009