A wheelie wicked sense of hu­mour

Phil Jar­ratt takes the adults-only ap­proach on the road from Mel­bourne to the Sun­shine Coast

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

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.

www.wicked­cam­pers.com.au

Il­lus­tra­tion: David Fol­lett

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