I did wonder recently however whether my usual courage would desert me.
For almost fifty years have driven fairly regularly from Melbourne through Sydney to my aunt’s house near Chatswood on the North Shore. It has always been a challenge, accompanied by a sigh of relief when finally exiting the Harbour Bridge or the Harbour tunnels. Getting into the correct lane when entering the southbound tunnel to return home is also a drama, always followed by a sigh of relief. However, I have never doubted that I could do it.
A month or so ago I drove to Sydney via Canberra to visit my now 102-year old aunt living in a nursing home on the Northern Beaches. Before visiting her, I planned to spend four nights at a boutique hotel in Watson’s Bay attached to Doyle’s Restaurant.
I had not thought much about the challenges involved in doing this until I was just about to leave Canberra.
Oh dear, I thought, I haven’t driven in Sydney for over two years! I’ve never driven to Watson’s Bay. Getting to Watson’s Bay involves exiting the tunnel before the Harbour Bridge, a different exit from the tunnel. I felt a stirring of fear, of anxiety. Would I still have the reactions, the capacity, to manage this?
I had prepaid my boutique hotel – I could not back out!
I planned strategically, carefully reading and visualising the maps and saving Google maps on my smart phone. I planned my entrance to Sydney logistically, booking my Trans-tunnel pass online so I would not be anxious about unpaid tolls. Just before the main tunnel I took a long break at a servo to review the maps.
The drive through the tunnel was certainly more anxiety producing than usual, but my memory didn’t fail me. I remembered the turnoffs before the turn off required, comfortably entered the left lane and exited without causing chaos. There were a few moments of confusion near Kings Cross, but with a quick check on my phone and the maps, I righted my course and was soon heading along New South Head Road to Watson’s Bay.
I made it! Whew!
After a few delightful days beside the Harbour travelling the ferries and eating lots of sea food, the reality of negotiating the tunnels again set in. It was time to carefully read the maps, set directions on my phone’s GPS and strategically plan my route through the tunnels to the Northern Beaches via Manly to see my beloved aunt.
I made it! What a relief!
I made it home again, too, choosing the correct lane to enter the Melbourne Bound tunnel again the only really stressful moment.
I learned from this trip that I could still negotiate my way around Sydney, which was a relief and confidence restoring.
In terms of ‘life stages’, however, this trip marked the realisation that instead of being in the zone of gradually increasing possibilities of my youth and early to mid-adulthood, I’ve entered a possibly long Third Age of gradually increasing impossibilities. The time may not be far off when negotiating my way across Sydney to the Northern Beaches will be ‘too much’ for me.
Hopefully, I will manage a few more trips before then.
August 25, 2019