A wheelie wicked sense of humour
Phil Jarratt takes the adults-only approach on the road from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast
BY now our kids have become used to the idea that we baby boomers are determined to grow old disgracefully, so it can’t be a complete surprise when I mention to the grown offspring that their mum and I may fly down to Melbourne from our home on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, do a bit of business and drive home in a Wicked campervan.
‘‘ You must be joking. Who do you think you are? Teenage Swedish backpackers who don’t know how filthy the graffiti all over their van really is?’’
This is a bit of a return to service since I’ve been dining out for a while on the story of the backpackers I encountered one morning in the carpark at Noosa National Park. They were cooking their breakfast on the burners at the back of the van, apparently oblivious their holiday transport shouted defiantly to the straight world: ‘‘ Buggery makes your whole week.’’
I said hello and asked if they had chosen this particular message from a fleet of available options. ‘‘ Ja, ja,’’ the girl responded. ‘‘ Vee luff your country, ja, ja.’’ Which is probably the perfect answer in such a situation.
While I’mnot sure that a bloke of my vintage can pull it off, I start to ponder what sort of response I’d get alighting from such a vehicle in front of one of the cutesy tearooms you find in the doily towns dotted along the east coast.
My interest heightens further when Queensland Premier Anna Bligh begins a one-woman campaign to have Wicked come clean. It just seems a bit too nanny state to me, so I decide to put the charmless offensive to the test.
I do a little research and discover Wicked campers have a bed big enough to sleep three (as they would) with plenty of storage, and at about $50 a day are half the price of those without offensive graffiti.
We fetch up to the Wicked depot in Footscray, Melbourne, on a bleak Saturday afternoon and are shown to a camper that has a skull and crossbones down the side and, across the back, the legend: ‘‘ I taste so good you’ll want the recipe’’. This isn’t as clever as, say, ‘‘ I’mnot a gynaecologist but I’ll have a look anyway’’ (a personal fave) but it will do.
We take delivery of the slightly grimy beast and head north. Since the market for an alternative to traditional campers has emerged, several companies have taken up the business model of the cheap, cheerful and colourful fleet. But none has quite captured the spirit of the backpacker generation as effectively as Brisbane-based Wicked. Its raunchy messages have been sprayed across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and Italy. The brainchild of former mechanic David Kinkead, Wicked has become a badge denoting membership of an irreverent culture and, for those of us who can recall a Kombi bought for a song outside Australia House in London and resold somewhat messier to the next sucker six months later, it surely reminds of the freedom of being on the road with good mates and bad intentions.
But that was then and this is now. Mutton driving lamb, we bare our metaphorical butts to Melbourne and chug up the Hume, belching smoke and guzzling gas at about 20c a kilometre.
‘‘ Youth is wasted on the young,’’ I say to the missus as we wave greetings and smile our best smiles at another Wicked van overtaking us. But wait . . . are they smiling or laughing? With us or at us? I pull a beanie over my grey hair and turn up Neil Young on the MP3.
About two days and six tanks of petrol later, we pull up at Bollicky Bill’s Roadhouse next to the tuckerbox at Gundagai, which seems appropriate. There are stares, but they are not curled-lip stares of undisguised disgust; more the kind you reserve for women of a certain age with nose and lip rings and goth attire. In a service station several stops later, my wife feels sure she detects a ‘‘ good on ya love, why not?’’ stare. This encourages her to forgo her alternative plan of being delivered to the next airport.
Of course, the van has to break down or we would feel we have completed only half the journey, and so it does, near Laurieton, on yet another bleak morning. But the repairman comes quickly, sneers only mildly and gets us on the road again fairly painlessly. As we get closer to Queensland, the Wicked army becomes thicker on the highway, waving and honking like true brethren. I want to say I feel part of it, that the freedom of 1973 comes rushing back, but I can’t. In fact, I jump out of the cabin at my home beach in Noosa to catcalls, raucous insults and general disbelief.
It’s a kid thing and we really can’t share it. But what we can do every time we see one of these slightly offensive pieces of junk trundling along is to think less about the silly graffiti and more about what a ball the kids inside are having. Unless, of course, they’re ours.