The trip to Rockybar was one that I will never forget in a hurry. In 2015 we had gone for the first time and it was lovely – except for the two hour detour when Spencer missed the turn off to Biggenden and took us out to Woolooga before going back the right way toward Ban Ban Springs! But other than that, nothing untoward happened on our journey so it was overall a great trip! 2016 was much different. As far as success goes, we had 3 completions and a single withdrawal so it was good in that sense – but the road to Rockybar was horrendous in the extreme.
The plan was this – Bec and I, along with my mum and sister, would tow Vegas and Sirahh. My brother was towing Koda and Mizzy. Kat was meeting us at Rockybar, she had already left earlier. Adriana was also meeting us there with her dad the following day, they were spending a night on the road and would head out to the station from their motel the morning of the ride.
It all started before we had even gotten the horses on board when my brother was backing his Ranger onto one of the floats and he hit my dog. Sammy is a rather dopey old shepherd and he was not at all listening when I called the three dogs away – by the time we saw that he hadn’t come it was too late. By sheer luck he was saved by the gutter, the tyre seemed to have bounced over rather than actually going over his body. There was a lot of shrieking – from me and my mother and sister – and Sam looked battered as he hobbled toward me. Thankfully Bec kept a cool head and went to work checking all of his limbs and bones – nothing broken and no blood! Poor Sammy was very frightened, but Spencer arrived in time to keep him under watch – Rescue Remedy and a pain killer later and Sammy was snuggled up on his bed for the evening. Spence was not coming to Rockybar so he was under strict instructions to keep a close eye on Sammy and the vet was aware and on speed dial just in case. I was in a bit of a panic, I didn’t want to leave him!
But after all of the work that had gone into planning and with my long-suffering husband on hand to care for my poor Sammy, I got back to the job on hand. The horses were soon loaded with no further incidents and we were finally on the road – I had no idea how much things were going to go wrong otherwise I probably would have just stayed home!
It was almost dark when my brother, towing the float ahead of mine, drove straight past the Biggenden turnoff, just like Spencer had done the year before! We managed to flag him down and turn him around before we got to Woolooga at least, so there wasn’t a huge amount of time lost. We made it to Biggenden and decided to stop and pick up some drinks from the pub, but we were soon back on the road. Nothing major had happened so I was starting to feel a little more comfortable driving all the way out to the station. Bec and I were accompanied by my mum and sister so we were having a nice trip at least! Little did I know what was about to happen.
We reached Ban Ban Springs and the little service station that we always pass was there on the right. We would turn onto the highway and follow it for another hour before we finally reached Eidsvold. My brother was behind me, I looked at my mirror to check and I was comforted to see the ute and float following faithfully behind mine. We turned and continued along.
As we drove we sang to Taylor Swift and laughed and joked with eachother. We’d been going along nicely for about fifteen minutes when I saw the indicator on the car behind me flick on and begin to overtake – well, didn’t I get cranky! What was he doing? Overtaking me and my float with his ute and the two horses when we were easily doing the speed limit as we were? Why did he need to be in front? I knew where we were going, he didn’t! Then it dawned on me as the car went by – it wasn’t my brother’s ute, there was no float and worst of all, there were no lights behind me either.
I felt my heart stop, everyone in the car went quiet as we all registered that we were missing a driver, a Ranger, a float and two horses. Then there was a flash of mobile phones being pulled from handbags and pockets, but there was no use there – we had zero service. Bec sat beside me, calm as ever and told me to pick a nice spot to turn the float around so we could go back. I still don’t remember doing any of it – but somehow we were headed back toward the service station.
I was in a total panic, looking for the white ute and float upside down on the side of the highway and the screaming in my brain wouldn’t stop. But ten minutes later we saw them – my brother standing on the roof of his ute with his phone in the air trying to get service – and the car and float in perfectly normal condition. What the hell had happened?
We were soon very painfully aware of the hell that had happened. Ben was barely 200m from the intersection where I had last seen him and his car behind me, off the side of the highway now as one would park a car with a flat tyre – but there was no flat tyre. If it had been a flat we would have been speedily back on the way, but no, this was much much worse. The A-frame of the float was hanging, suspended barely inches off the ground by the chains and the towball was also hanging! It was still attached by the ball to the float, but the tongue was completely detached from the car!
What the hell. How did this happen? I was thanking my lucky stars that my mother hadn’t been in the car with him when it happened, Ben was clever enough to have heard the thud of the A-frame tapping his bumper bar as he had straightened from the turn and had slowed the car gradually so that it hadn’t suffered more than a small scratch – and the float was still upright, attached and the horses were fine. I cant remember exactly what we did after that but we somehow determined that the pin and clip that keep the tongue of the towball attached had somehow come out.
It was time to do something. I drove my float and horses back to the service station where my mum and sister unloaded them and I unhitched. Vegas and Sirahh happily mowed the small garden near the station while Bec and I went back to my brother where we somehow managed to get his towball off and the float attached to my ute instead. I do faintly recall a panic attack – Bec may be able to clarify it but I remember shaking and crying and freaking freezing cold in the middle of it all – seriously, why does she put up with me! We soon had the two floats and four horses safely off the side of the road and it was time to make a flurry of phone calls – with the almost non-existent phone reception!
I managed to get in contact with Spencer. He was on the road to us with a replacement pin but it would be a couple of hours before he even arrived – what could we do? It was well into the night now, even when he finally got to us we couldn’t keep driving out to the station in the middle of the night! I was exhausted, we were all a little more than frightened and stressed, and then there was Kat who was no doubt waiting for us to arrive with her horse at the ride base! We had to get a message to her, but how! Someone got a hold of Adriana momentarily, who then tried to contact the station. I don’t know if Kat ended up getting our message or not but she’s a hell of a lot more chilled than I would have been in that situation!
We decided it would be crazy to push on through the night, so while we waited for Spencer we set up camp down a track well off the highway and yarded the horses for the night. They were happy, watered and fed and completely uncaring about the situation at hand. The humans on the other hand were all wondering what kind of crazy people camp on the side of the highway…
Spencer arrived and the boys fixed our towball issue. In their deliberations it was ascertained that the chains on the second float were a bit short and appeared to be the problem – they had popped the clip off allowing the pin to come loose. Check your chains and pins everyone! We ended up settling in for the night and after Spencer assured me that Sammy was totally fine at home, walking, eating and drinking normally, he stayed to sleep and would head out early in the morning to go home and head to work.
The next day was going to be as challenging as the first, but we couldn’t imagine anything worse happening. Surely we had more than our fill of bad luck!
To be continued in Road to Rockybar – Part 2