Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle – better economy already

I’ll be taking a few more trips to Newcastle over the new few months. My father is recovering well and we’re helping him with a few jobs around the house. So there’s a few chances to baseline the fuel consumption under fairly arduous conditions. Parameters:

  • Tyres at 45psi
  • Lower grill fully blocked
  • Full tank of Caltex 91 RON (ethanol free)
  • Temperature 10 – 20°c

The run from Canberra to Northern Sydney was at night from just after 21:00. Not much traffic and sticking to the limit, even up hills. The mythical Super Highway Mode still eludes me. Rather than cut through Bankstown, Rhodes and Ryde, which is nice but hilly, I took the M7 and M2. I chose that route as I assumed that the roadwork I had encountered on the M2 a few weeks previously would either be finishing or would at the very least be no worse. Boy was I wrong. The entire stretch of the M2 I used was a 40km/h zone (I remembered it as a 60km/h zone!) adding about 30 minutes to an already long journey. Arriving at midnight is not too bad. Arriving after 00:30 seems silly.

Early start to Newcastle on the F3 carrying a niece and nephew as cargo. The F3 is a bit busy and a bit hilly for cruise control. Pleasant drive interrupted by a wanker driving a black Volvo XC90 who overtook in the left hand lane (contravening Rule 141 and common sense) and then cut me off received a good toot from my horn and some choice words from the grown ups. Language warning belatedly given to the young children in the back seats. Obligatory toilet stop at Ourimbah for the youngsters didn’t delay things too much, I thought.

After a highly productive day we returned in 3 cars: Sister and brother-in-law ahead, us in the middle and Dad behind. We managed to maintain this order for the entire journey and for some parts had no other vehicles in between. I thought that I should keep an eye on Dad so I kept a reasonable distance ahead of him. This meant charging up the many steep hills on the F3 at nearly full power. Not great for fuel consumption. Here’s the funny thing; our formation flying was a complete fluke. Dad had left before us but had discovered a new dead end. The two other cars left together, but the superior torque of the Citroën turbo diesel allowed it to overtake on Carnley Avenue. Dad appeared in my rear vision mirror and stayed there for most of the journey. Arrived in Northern Sydney within 2 minutes of each other.

Roundabout way of saying that we travelled 854.6km (about 10km past the DTE=0km mark) using 38.22l of petrol at 4.47l/100km. Considering the flogging I gave the car, it was about 0.5l/100km better than I would have expected a few months ago. The return journey to Canberra was 284.0km at 4.6l/100km (4.2 on the HSI) at an average speed of 92km/h.

So, did the grill blocking help? It’s possible that it helped the aerodynamics at high speed. Just wait until the next tank fill; I’m expecting low 4’s. That’s almost certainly down to the rising temperatures.  And the grill block.

A Tribute to Ian Baxter, Mr Baxter and Jackie Baxter

A family studying their genealogy was looking at gravestones in a cemetery.  Inscribed on one was , “Here lies Jock McTavish, a soldier and a pious man”.

“That’s just like the Scots, ” the father said, “They’ve put three men in one grave.”

On Wednesday we paid tribute to three great men in the personage of Ian Baxter.

I’m not very good at estimating crowds, but there were at least 100 people outside the chapel on top of at least 100 within.  And each of those three great men were being commemorated by family, colleagues from Ian’s careers (teachers, principals, wharfies in high-visibility work-wear), his surfing mates and many schoolchildren in uniform.  And I got to speak to Tim Laurie, a great friend of Ian’s and my Year 3 teacher.

Ian was my cousin by marriage to Kathy and father to two boys, Adam and Jon.  There’s a running joke in my family about the size disparity between the Baxters (150-160cm) and me (195cm).  But Ian was a man that we could all look up to.  Adam and Jon both spoke at the service and reminded me of so many things; Adam putting a Vegemite sandwich into Ian’s cassette deck, BBQ in the back yard at New Lambton.

Mr Baxter was a school teacher who started his career with disadvantaged kids and worked his way through to become Principal of Somersby Public School.  After a few Googles I found numerous school newsletters in which he was writing as Assistant Principal, Acting Principal and as Principal.  I also found a notice from Rathmines Public School on 17 May 2012 announcing the news of a secondary cancer on Ian’s liver and a benefit night to be held in his honour in June.  Ian died just one month after the benefit.

I remember the old Nobby’s Beach pavilion spray-painted from one end to the other with,”I want to surf like Jackie Baxter“.  At the time [1980] there was a Paul Kelly & the Dots song “[I want to be like] Billy Baxter”.  It wasn’t until some weeks later when I mentioned it to Ian that his slightly embarrassed reaction gave away that the graffito was about him.  (I just found out who did it, but I’ll never tell.)  Jackie Baxter was an American surfer of the 1960’s and 70’s, so Ian was known as “Jackie” by his mates.

I think that I’ve only been in the water once with Jackie; we surfed at different times and places.  I remember paddling out at the Cowrie Hole as he was on a wave (backside for a goofy-footer).  He spotted a grommet paddling out in the break.  Ian pointed to him and said, “stay there!” to keep him at the bottom of the wave as Ian carved across the top and avoid a collision.

Jackie and his friends were some of the first to surf obscure breaks in Indonesia, years before any Red Bull-liveried jet skis and helicopters where even dreamt of.

Many years ago my friend damaged his surfboard – the leg rope socket had pulled clean out of the side of the board – and Jackie offered to fix it.  Since the board was made from very light fibreglass (too light, in fact), it was a very difficult repair.  Jackie did a brilliant job of fixing the board.  But then he told me how hard it had been to match the resins and how many attempts it took to finally get the repair to hold.  He finished with, “Next time you need a board fixed, hesitate to ask!”

We will all miss him so much.

I’ll leave the last word to Mr Baxter:

“This brings me to the message that I believe is vital to our school community. We work together for the shared goal of educating our children to reach their individual potentials.
To do this effectively, we need to demonstrate a mutual respect and a recognition that both home and school contribute significantly to the growth of our children.”

Ian Baxter, Principal

The one “Dad story” you are thankful your dad can tell you

We had a bit of a fright a few weeks ago when Dad had what now appears to be a warning shot-across-the-bow heart attack.  Without going into detail, Dad realised that something was wrong and immediately called 000.  By the time he gave his address (which took a few goes) hung up the phone and switched on the front light, the ambulance had arrived.

If nothing else, take this message: Ring an ambulance as soon as you have any symptoms.

Dad’s symptoms starting with burping continually as he laid down in bed.  As I know my dad, burping would not rate highly as an abnormal symptom.  But when he sat upright, the annoyance of burping was replaced by the frightening experience of breathlessness.

So the weekend before last I listened to my father tell the story.  (I had heard it from my sister, told the same way so I can tell that Dad didn’t add or remove any detail.)  From the first belch to being picked up by my sister a week later, I hung on every word.  There wasn’t much about the story that I didn’t know: the flat battery in the cordless phone by the bed, given a sugary cup of tea at the hospital despite wearing a Medic Alert bracelet with “DIABETES” stamped on it, the dinner kept waiting for his arrival at the private hospital, the vastly inferior room at the private hospital compared to the ocean views at the previous public hospital, Dad’s jokes to the hospital staff and so on.  Every word.

At the end of this Dad story I thanked him for being there to tell it to me.

Here’s a photo from yesterday; just a few days after his first operation to insert stents for 2 of the three blockages.

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