The Little Van That Could……and Sometimes Couldn’t
One of the oldest Tandem Project team members is not a rider, though it does have wheels. Our as-yet unnamed faithful combi van has been hauling tandems from one side of the country to the other for as many years as the program has been running. It has certainly had its quirks, but so does everyone else in this team. The beauty of the combi, is that it can carry an impressive six tandems, plus various equipment. The tandems do not jostle around, but instead are lovingly hugged safely in the back all the way to their destination. It seems however, that there has been a falling out of love between the combi and Team Manager Victoria, or the combi is simply getting stage fright every time the legendarily cranky manager gets on board! Maybe it’s jealously? He wants Mike all to himself – you know, to bond with the boys, and Victoria’s double x chromosome simply ruins everything.
And so it was, on the way over to Nationals that the combi lodged its protest vote. The combi had been happily purring along, with Mike and Murphy on board, all the way to Horsham. There was a mere two hours to get to Ballarat, so Victoria kicked Murphy out so that he could get some sleep in the Skoda. The convoy roared back into action, all except the combi! Over and over the key was turned, with barely a shudder. In fact, no signs of life at all. This had happened before – it was simply a matter of letting the old boy cool down a bit – or so Mike said. And so we waited…….and waited……..and waited. Every time the key was turned – nothing…..nudda……zip!
Not that the lovely Horsham didn’t give us some entertainment courtesy of the local bogans. We had a vehicle park beside us, with a woman clearly off her nut – screaming away at the guy in the car with her. Doors were slammed…..more screaming……as you can imagine…….the boganess didn’t have much nice to say. Eventually the guy in the car started his retort. More screaming, until finally said boganess got her arm slammed into the door – she was attempting to scratch the dude at the time through the door, so trying to close the door on said psychopath was probably fair-cop! Screaming replaced by crying, wailing…..then more screaming.
Meanwhile, Mike and Victoria were trying to look inconspicuous in the giant, broken-down combi right beside them. On departure of the entertainment, road-side assistance was called. Enter the most useless road-side mechanic you could ever possibly imagine! We won’t enter into any details, but after establishing the battery wasn’t flat, no further solutions were considered or offered, and a tow truck was called for. This was an absolute disaster. Once up on that tow truck, the program was going to be in an absolute pickle! How on earth were we going to salvage our Nationals campaign?
The tow truck rolls around the corner and starts looking for where best to haul the combi onboard. I looked at Mike – utterly stressed out, and he decided to try the ignition one more time………..and the old boy roared into life! Victoria was literally jumping out of her skin. The sight of the tow truck was clearly an indignity the combi couldn’t handle. We chugged along without incident to Ballarat, too scared to stop even for a loo break, just in case we had the same problem again. While in Ballarat, Victoria was not in the combi again, and there were no more issues regardless of who was driver or passenger.
So it was with reasonable confidence that the convoy took to the road for the return journey to Adelaide. Three hours in and it was time to give Murphy a sleep in the Skoda again. Sound familiar? Victoria jumped on board the combi and, you guessed it, NOTHING! FFS! This time, a solution had to be found. Tony had pulled up and came over to help us. We knew it was a contact issue with the gear stick. When the gear stick was in a particular positions, then a spark could be seen. Between them, Tony, Mike and Victoria figured out how to remove the entire housing to the gear stick. To cut a long story slightly shorter, while Mike and Tony were pulling out and reinserting fuses, Victoria just sat there quietly thinking about things, correctly deducing the solution. She reached down and simply squeezed the gear stick closer to the contact plate on the other side and success! A spark, a contact, and ignition! We could now get the combi rolling regardless of the temperature – the prolonged heating up of the gear stick was expanding the ignition wire away from the contact plate. It has since been fixed!