Skip to main content

My F117 RST Nullarbor Adventure - Part 4

I'm really enjoying the drive at this stage, sitting on about 1950rpm, old Mack speedo showing 55mph, but not Being able to make sense of the odometer, until I realised it's been recalibrate to KPH, which I thought is an odd.

Transiting a fast gradual left hander a bonneted Kenworth coming the other way flashes his lights at me and signals to his ear, so I figured he just wants to chat about my old truck, but in hindsight I do remember his gesturing was more urgent than that...
I grab my little Walky talky, turn off the music to call him, but notice the batteries have died as I left it on all night, check the mirrors thoroughly for flat tyres, smoke or a fluid trail, shrug my shoulders and continue on.

It's around this time I discover there is only so much Patsy Cline that I can tolerate and skip the remaining 40 odd tracks of hers onto the rest of my collection.

Along comes the sign for the 146 km straight which I've been looking forward to and I've been enjoying the waves to and from oncoming semi's and grey nomads alike, as well as the mine workers servicing remote sites in their 4wd Utes fitted up with toolboxes and equipment.

I did however begin to notice that mine workers driving rigids weren't as sociable, it must just be a job to those guys and not a lifestyle.

About half way across the long straight I see one of these 4wd Utes with tool boxes etc slowly gaining on me. Anyway, the time comes that he's ready to go past, so I check and give the courtesy two right indicator blinks to send him on his way safely, I notice he's really taking his time passing me and just assume he's set his cruise control to about 90-95, no rush as we can see to the horizon. As he drawers even with me, I look across to give him a wave, he waves, then casually picks up his white paper note pad with the words in large text "YOUR TOOL BOX IS OPEN" shit!!!

In that tool box that I couldn't see in the mirrors (no convex spotters fitted) was about $1,000 worth of tools, compressor, jack and spare bits and pieces. I pulled up immediately. Thankfully even though the box was wide open when I stopped, not a single thing had fallen out. I feel bad that I couldn't respond to the guy in the Kenworth trying to alert me to this. I cut some duct tape and after firmly closing the tool box, tape it shut as added insurance. Looking back at it, I now see the funny side of it...

Back on the road, I soon pull into Cocklebiddy, dip the single large fuel tank, as the smaller tank on the drivers side has been converted to hydraulic. Plenty of fuel remaining and I roughly figure the truck is using about 30L/100K as I had expected.

I marvelled at the over sized massive multi wheeled Escorted Toll unit heading west with a massive transformer on-board, said G'day to those guys as I walked past to a phone booth that thankfully accepted coins. Tried to call Patricia but it rang out twice, so I hoped she'd work out it was me trying to get through. Us city slickers become all too used to being in constant contact via Facebook, messenger, SMS and the like...

I have a couple pieces of fruit, some unsalted cashews and crack open a box of BBQ Shapes that I had purchased a treat.

Back on the road with the plan to refuel and take a much needed shower at Madura, I was slowly becoming more comfortable with the reversed shift pattern of the 9sp Over Drive box and not grating as many gears.

A little about me at this point, I had my learners permit back in the '90s in Adelaide and had done a few dodgy Nhill changeovers helping out a mate in a Ford Aeromax 13speed, but apart from finally getting my unrestricted HR back in 2012, I hadn't driven a crash box in 4 years, as I only drive our synchro boxed tilt tray on odd occasions at work where I'm employed as a Fitter Welder these days.

The 44,000lb rear end and very short wheelbase unloaded is very unforgiving to the inexperienced when moving off from a standstill and the resulting rear end hop is only amplified by ones foot pumping the throttle even more due to the truck axle hopping. I'm still getting my head around that...

With no engine brake, I knock the Ol girl back two gears approaching the pass entering Madura and pull in to fuel. Whilst refuelling a guy pulls up on the other side bobtail to fuel up. We have a chat about old trucks, he too is about to have lunch and hook up to the road train I saw sitting westbound in a bay a couple of K's back, as he does change overs. I'm learning that so many of these senior drivers have cut their teeth on Mack's.

Once refuelled and and paid up , I park up and found another coin operated phone and thankfully Patricia answered. I tell her in more detail of my adventure so far, which we nickname "my midlife crisis". We comment at how long the call credit is lasting for, so thank you Telstra.
I sit down, have a nice burger for lunch, grab a nice hot clean shower, fresh hi vis, give the truck a quick once over and get back on the road.