Panic at Pinnaroo

We’ve jumped the timeline to share the events of today, which had the potential to end the journey for Driving Oz with the Black Dog.

Enroute to Victoria to assist dear friends who asked for help at their farm while they’re away, we left Blanchetown and were due to arrive at the farm late this afternoon. Turning from Pinnaroo towards Bordertown, we encountered a South Australia Police officer, who had closed the road due to a truck having lost its trailer and accompanying oversized load. The option was, wait the anticipated 60 minutes till the road was to be reopened, or turn around and head back to Pinnaroo and detour. Paul and Kirstine made the decision to instead head back to Pinnaroo for lunch, and then retrace our steps to the Bordertown road which should have then been cleared.

Three kilometres back towards Pinnaroo, Paul swore and pulled over quickly. The wheel bearings on the driver’s side of the Cub Camper had failed, the wheel was on an angle and smoke was pouring from the wheel. For reasons of propriety we can’t mention the expletives that flew as we surveyed the damage. Even the kids got away with some language they aren’t permitted to use.

The stink from the burning bearing grease burned the hairs in your nostrils, and it didn’t take long to decide to unhitch the Cub, easy while the road was still closed, and find a mechanic in Pinnaroo to source the bearings we needed.

It was a tense 20 minute drive back to Pinnaroo, and the strain on Paul was obvious to Kirstine. He is a very skilled and thorough driver, accustomed to towing and using mirrors. Paul always checks the Clearview towing mirrors to ensure that the Cub is towing properly, and the tyres are functioning correctly. It was these Clearview towing mirrors that enabled Paul to see the smoke from the wheel, and pull over just in time. To elaborate on the gravity of the situation, had Paul NOT noticed the smoke and deformed wheel movement, the wheel WOULD have flown off as we were driving at 100km/h. This would have likely flipped the Cub, and potentially involved the Legend in the accident. It would have been a catastrophic trip ending event.

Kirstine googled the mechanics in town once back in range of internet and phone services, and we found a Repco authorised service centre, making a beeline there. Peers Motor Group was professional in all respects. Synon arranged for his father to meet us out at the Cub, load it on a trailer (a trailer on a trailer!), and bring it back for them to assess the damage. Paul expertly reversed the Cub onto the tandem trailer, and we saw it arrive back in town, before going in search of accommodation for the night. Clearly, we weren’t going to be travelling to our friends’ farm in Victoria today.

We pulled up at the Golden Grain Hotel, and enquired about a room for two adults and four children. They were happy for us to take their family room, and brought up a spare mattress and bedding. It was a relief to have somewhere to stop and relax while we anxiously awaited the report from the mechanic.

Time to think is cruel when you start to second guess yourself. Paul is regimental in checking the vehicle and camper before we travel, and after the Cub’s wheel bearings were replaced in the Northern Territory at a Repco Authorised Service Centre only EIGHT DAYS AGO, he still checks the wheel nuts and hubs. For these to have failed so quickly, had him wondering if he missed something, though Kirstine assures him he is far more thorough than many people towing campers/caravans.

Brilliant news came when Paul rang just before 5pm to hear the verdict. Sure enough, the bearings had completely failed on one side, and Synon had needed to cut the bearing brace off the stub axle. Thankfully, he’d been able to repair it, replaced the bearings, and repacked the ones on the other side with fresh grease. When we went to collect the camper, Synon told us how lucky we were that Paul had noticed the smoke and stopped before we lost the wheel. He gave us a spare set of bearings, and was going to speak to the NT service agent to resolve the matter under Repco’s service warranty.

Aside from avoiding a serious accident today, we heard from five people that our trip is very worthwhile and important. One shook their head as they told us that they’d read the statistics regarding suicides in the farming community. Another said that there needs to be more talk about mental health in small towns. One lady shared her story about her struggles with PTSD after leaving an abusive relationship, and how this was compounded when her small town circle of friends shunned her when she had a breakdown. Shocked and anguished, she relocated, and her dogs helped her through her darkest days, giving her a reason to leave the house when nothing else could compel her to.

Tonight, we enjoyed a hearty pub meal, and are all comfortable in our room, ready to leave tomorrow and finally reach our farm destination. Isolation is especially cruel when you are struggling with your mental health. Our friends need us. Thankfully we can now make it there, and Driving Oz with the Black Dog will continue, in no small part due to the fabulous assistance provided by Peers Motor Group in Pinnaroo.

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