Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s comments about the March 4 Justice rallies during Question Time strategically worked to change the national debate from violence against women to the virtues of liberal democracy.
When he spoke in Parliament and after refusing to address the March 4 Justice Protest on the front lawn of Parliament House, he deflected from violence against women to the virtues of living in a liberal democracy. This is how he did it.
Delivered by Scott Morrison on March 4, 2021 in House of Representatives, Parliament House Canberra
Rhetorical language choices.
Opening statement – recounting the event
Today, here and in many cities across our country women and menare gathering togetherin rallies both large and small,to call for change andto act against violence directed towards women.
Women and men are doing three things: Gathering together; Calling for change; and Acting against violence against women.
It is good and right, Mr Speaker, [[that so many are able to gather here in this way, whether in our capitol or elsewhere, and to do so peacefully, to express their concerns and their very genuine and real frustrations]].
PM positively evaluates gathering together as good and right. PM evaluates on only one of the three acts, that of gathering together in a generalised sense, noting that it is peaceful. He says nothing more about calling for change or acting against violence towards women
This is a vibrant liberal democracy, Mr Speaker
This refers to Australia. PM aligns peaceful gatherings with a positive evaluation of Australia’s form of government as vibrant
Not far from here such marches even now are being met with bullets, but not here in this country, Mr. Speaker. Not in this country.
PM compares this with another form of government which meets peaceful gatherings with violence (bullets). The implication in this statement is that Australia doesn’t shoot people who gather peacefully unlike another country.
This is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place…..
This refers to the ability to gather safely without being shot. PM overtly announces that the Australian form of government is a triumph, a winner in the debate on which form of government is better. The implication here is that Australian’s should celebrate the fact that their government affords them the ability to gather safely. Australians are on a winner.
No mention of violence against women.
Analysis of Morrison’s words.
Scott Morrison worked hard to distract the media and commentators away from the very potent issue of violence against women, which is happening in our parliament, to a debate on the best form of government.
Below are some responses:
“This is not the example to celebrate the notion of liberal democracy”, Natasha Stott Despoja, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
“To be fair to the Prime Minister … he was championing Australia’s democracy, and he was championing the cause of those outside Parliament. I know people have been taking pot shots at him, but the reality is he is providing the leadership that we need.”, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg
“That final comment that we should be grateful that we are in a place that you don’t get shot for marching was so off the mark. This is the moment when women are raising up their voices for change”, Tanya Plibersek, Labor Frontbencher.
“I think the observation about the opportunity to protest peacefully and safely in Australia is an important one. Our democracy does provide Australians with that opportunity. Our role now is to own the problems, to own the failings and most importantly to own the solutions – that is out focus.”, Marise Payne, Minister for Women.
One final note…. For me, the sad aftermath of Morrison’s rhetoric is the fact that discussion in relation to acts of sexual violence such as rape and assault and the need to do something about this through cultural change and policy settings are absent from the debates. In my view he successfully deflected away from the specifics and the impact that would have on his leadership, his government and his policies in relation to violence against women. I’m hoping that he won’t get away with it. The issue will not go away so easily. Women and men across Australia are activated and want real change now. Those that want the debate are still working hard to keep the debate on the national agenda. More stories are coming out and more perpetrators are being identified. Let’s keep going.
Go home, but know that you are good people with good intent. The election was stolen.
His speech may possibly de-escalate in the moment, with his supporters ‘going home’, but he hasn’t conceded the election and hasn’t asked his supporters to accept the actual election outcome. Rather he has maintained his position – as a jilted president, as good and just, as are his supporters, good and just. He has kicked the can of insurrection down the road instead of acting to prevent it. In my view, there will be continued unrest as a result.
Below is my semantic analysis.
I know your pain. I know you’re hurt.
Empathising with his supporters
We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side,
Denial of election outcome
but you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.
Call to retreat, call to peace
It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election,
Denial of election outcome
but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home.
Call to retreat, call to peace.
We love you. You’re very special.
Trump’s positive evaluation of his supporters
You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil.
Aligning with the supporters as good people in contrast with the bad people who are unspecified.
I know how you feel.
Empathising with his supporters
But go home and go home at peace.
Call to retreat, call to peace.
Go home, but know that you are good people with good intent. The election was stolen.
I’ve been troubled lately by the fires around me and the apparent ‘silence’ from my Prime Minister. Below is my attempt at empathising with him, noting my characterisation of his feelings and needs are my interpretation of his behaviour as it is reported through the media and as I guess what lies behind his choices of language and action or lack of it. This piece of writing is entirely fictional but the process of writing has helped me feel warmer towards him as a person while demanding he enact leadership and step up in our current crisis.
A letter of connection between Scott Morrison (SM) and Mother Earth (ME).
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, I come in peace.
I’ve been watching the media reports about your holiday in Hawaii and criticism about your leadership over the last couple of days.
I’ve been wondering how this feels for you. I’d love you to tell me honestly how it feels to be criticised for taking your family on a holiday while fires are burning across Australia. It is important to me to understand your situation and your needs. It might help me understand our relationship better and feel more connected with you.
Look. Yeah. I’ll tell you. I didn’t start the fires. I’m not responsible for when these things happen. How was I to know that during the one week that I take leave that there would be this catastrophic situation? And it wasn’t like I chose the dates for the holiday, either. I had to change the dates because of my prime ministerial obligations. I have to be overseas on diplomatic business to Japan and India during the holiday season. My holiday was never supposed to be this week anyway. I had no choice.
And besides, most Australians are reasonable and would understand a parent’s desire to take their kids on holidays. That’s all I was doing. I was spending time with my family. My girls don’t get to see much of me, and this was a little bit of time together. I don’t see why I’m copping so much flack for this. It isn’t unreasonable to take a short break. Give me a break. I’m only human.
I’m really hearing your frustration that your plans weren’t in your control and that what you planned to do for a holiday was only normal and reasonable, anyway. I’m hearing a desire for understanding.
Yes. I work very hard, every day. I’m committed to my role as prime minister, but I’m only human, you know. I need a rest, too. I need time with my family. I need time to recuperate. And I get so little opportunity. I’m really resentful of the media and journalists who whip up public protest. I know that the quiet Australians understand. I just wish the media would worry about the fires and not me. I’m just really angry. I’m not one of the brave volunteers who fights the fires. I’m not one of the people in the command headquarters. People should know that.
It sounds like you are needing understanding.
Yes, and now I’m coming home from my holiday early because of the pressure placed on me… I’m being made to feel guilty and ashamed and I don’t deserve that. I’m not that kind of person. I’m really hurt.
And you know, what really pisses me off, is that I can’t control what you do, or change what parts of you burn. I’m not God. I’m not in control of God’s will. I don’t know what God’s plans are for me… or for you, or for the rest of the peoples of the world, for that matter. God’s hand is in everything. But what I do know is that God rewards those you repent and ask for his forgiveness. There is heaven waiting for those of us who believe. And those of us who do, know we will meet again in heaven. So you see, you can’t blame me. I’m not God. Why don’t people understand that?
So, it seems to me that you are feeling guilty, ashamed and angry because you believe that this situation of catastrophic fires, burning and extreme temperatures is not of your making, nor are you responsible for it. It is God’s will, not yours.
Yes, that’s absolutely right. I’m not responsible. Why don’t people get that?
Are you needing reassurance and acceptance? Are you needing Australians to recognise that this is not your fault.
Yes, it’s not my fault. I’m powerless to change this situation. All I can do as Prime Minister is offer my condolences, encourage Australians to stay strong, believe in miracles and accept God’s will. That’s all I can do.
I’m guessing that you need recognition that you are doing the best that you can do. That it’s not your responsibility.
Yes, that’s it. I want recognition for what I do and that it’s not my fault.
I hear that recognition really matters to you.
Yes, it does. It really matters. I’m a good person. I love my country, and I love my God. I just want acknowledgement and recognition.
I am hearing that you might also need acknowledgement for what you do and recognition that this is not your fault. Is that right?
Yes, that’s right. That’s it. Acknowledgement and recognition that it’s not my responsibility. Actually, I really want acceptance.
Acceptance. Right. Acceptance is important to you.
Yes. Acceptance matters.
… Holding space in silence …
Is there anything else you’d like me to hear? Are you feeling finished? Complete?
I just want to thank you for that. For being so honest. I really appreciated your authenticity.
I’m wondering if you’d be willing to tell me how it feels right now?
Good. Yeah. Better. It feels good to be heard. To feel acceptance. Thank you.
I’m wondering also if you’d be willing to hear how it is for me right now?
Yeah. I would. Tell me,… please.
Well, these fires in Australia, Scott, are getting worse and worse. My flora is burning, my land is scorched, my atmosphere is polluted, my animals and my peoples are choking on smoke haze. The high temperatures, the stronger winds, the lack of rain, the persistent droughts are all happening because of the increasing carbon levels in my atmosphere and oceans. I’m sick. I’m sad because I’m sick. I’m getting sicker. I’ve been trying over the recent years to manage my health but now I’m slowly losing the battle of wellbeing and environmental balance. And I’m frightened because my ill health is speeding up. I’m less and less able to balance my health enough now to keep my lands, flora, fauna and people safe. I’m so worried about my ability to support life, to support the lives that rely on me… my plants, my animals and my humans. I love them all but I’m crying these days because I’m getting worse. I’m becoming toxic. I can’t give my inhabitants a safe home anymore. Your home is becoming unsafe, unpredictable, unbalanced. And what makes me really terrified is that I can’t seem to counter the changes, I can’t seem to stop them now …. things are spiralling out of control. This is devastating to me. I’m feeling helpless.
Wow. I’m hearing your pain, your fear and helplessness. I’m hearing you are crying, crying out for help.
Yes, I need help. I need help because so much of what is happening to me now is out of my control. I need help with restoring the systems that I’ve lost control of.
I’m hearing that you need help restoring the balance, help with the systems that you’ve lost control of.
Yes, that’s right. I’m feeling so alone in my crisis.
I’m guessing too, that you might be needing help from people? Like maybe they need to step up and assist? I’m hearing you telling me that you need assistance to help you restore your health.
Yes, I do. Globally…I’m needing assistance. I’m longing for humanity to recognise that there is a need to change behaviour across communities, cities and countries. I’m wanting leaders to work with me to restore my health. I can’t do it alone anymore.
I’m really sensing the longing for those in positions of power and influence to help you recover. I hear you asking for help from leaders.
Yes, I really feel weak and vulnerable. So, when I hear you say that that my bad health could be God’s will or part of his plan and that it is out of your control, I’m so sad and alone. I feel despair because the agency that comes with your leadership as Australia’s Prime Minister is the kind of authority and influence that I need to survive. Your agency is important for my survival.
I’m hearing you crying out for human leaders like me to exercise our authority, influence and agency. I’m hearing your fear and desperation as you face the future feeling sick and alone. I’m hearing your sadness as I say, ‘I’m not responsible’, ‘It’s not my fault’.
And, you are right. It isn’t directly your fault. It’s not anyone one person’s fault. It’s a problem we all face. It’s a situation we can all address. It’s a future we can all remake. It’s human behaviour we can influence to change. It’s a situation poised for our urgent joint cooperation, care and love.
I’m hearing your acknowledgement that it’s no one person’s fault, not even mine. I’m hearing that it is a problem that we both have and that cooperation, connection and love can bring us together to find a solution. I’m hearing that change can be led….
Yes! That’s what I’m needing. I’m wanting you to hear that change will help me. Would you be willing to use your agency as the Prime Minister of Australia to help me, Mother Earth, to recover? To help Australians help me to heal?
I hear you. You are telling me that human behavioural change will help you heal. I hear you. And I understand now that I can help you. There is a place for my leadership and there are many things that I can do. Yes, I would be willing to help you. I feel your care and love for me and I feel my love for you. I love my home, I love my fellow Australians. I love my country. I will help you.
… So Nov 5, I flew into Queenstown 27 years after I’d last visited with my ex-husband and the in-laws. That trip was to hike the Milford Track but sadly it was just before we were to tell both of our parents that our marriage was over. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful but the interaction was emotionally painful trying to pretend to the in-laws that all was well while looking across the emotional divide at each other when we were alone. We were together for nine years before we split up.
So I flew into this place again, this time to hike the Grand Traverse which ironically is nine years into my happy and loving relationship with my partner, Tender T. This couldn’t be a coincidence. Feels like an opportunity to be here in this special place to enjoy its beauty and my connection with him and friends in a way which I couldn’t experience back in 1992. A second chance.
We had a whopper of a first day. We are hanging out with our buddies, Bopping B & Equipped E. We are doing the hike together and playing in Queenstown and Dunedin once the hike is over. On our first morning in Queenstown, we did 6.4kms straight up along the Tiki trail, totally 470 m of elevation to the top of the Skyline Gondola. Then onto the Luge for a crazy, fun ride which curled around the gondola pylons. Then to lunch, shopping and a pre-briefing on our Grand Traverse Hike scheduled for the following day.The day ended with a walk through the botanical gardens and a Thai meal. We wrung everything we could out of Queenstown in one day. Tomorrow we are off on our hiking adventure.
Six days five nights, 66 kms in total ranging from 400 m above sea level to 1255 m at the highest point.
Day 1 Queenstown to Steele Creek Lodge 18kms
We had a great start. Four wheel drive bus along the side of a monster lake , Lake Wakatipu, across mountain streams along a windy, single lane road clinging to mountain edges and then following a very stressed mama sheep and her two lambs racing in front for their lives. No where to go. Just bleating and racing for a safe spot somewhere in front of us.
Our walk was beautiful. Windy beech forest paths with drop aways to the racing glacial gorge below, aqua and emerald greens. Lots of bird calls and a carpeted floor of delicate beech leaves, cushioning each steps. At about 10kms my pelvis spoke loudly to me, ‘Elizabeth, you have given a task to me which is challenging. I’m now packing weight I’m unfamiliar with… good god!’
I acknowledged this then thanked my pelvis and kept walking.
And speaking of thanking, as I walked, I was ‘home’ with myself, wandering in mind, thinking of all that I was thankful for. My thoughts went to my children, all adults now but all still babies in my heart. My eldest is at the top of her game, making a contribution in her profession and now planning a business of her own. It doesn’t just happen, it takes gumption and planning. She is dealing with this and most likely a bit of self doubt. But that is part of the journey and I have gratitude knowing she is up for the challenge and has the skills to succeed. And then there is son number 1. He has discovered his path. An academic life of learning and pushing the boundaries of his discipline. But to get there he has to prove himself through writing and creative performance. He has to run the gauntlet of his teachers and examiners. But I’m full of gratitude for him as I know he has fallen for the love of Learning and is now taking the ups and downs in his stride. And I’m full of gratitude for our number three. He is committed to his work and doing what is expected of him, smashing his KPIs and knowing his strengths. He has overcome a childhood of challenges, of confusion and misunderstandings. I look at him and feel pride. And then there is the baby, the towering young man, urgently wanting it all, wanting it now and feeling the pain when his edifice crashes. But he picks himself up and learns. As they mature, I feel gratitude. So as the wind howled around me, so as the sun beat down with the moments of rest between, I was grateful.
And I was grateful for the gluten, diary free donut topped with hundreds and thousands at morning tea.
Day 2 Steele Creek to Mckellar Lodge 14.5kms
So today wasn’t sunny like yesterday. But it was perfect for hiking. We were warned that we would get wet so the existential decision was ‘to be wet-weather geared up or not to be’. I geared up.
We then watched the morning helicopter run deliver the next day’s supplies as we headed off. The logistics of this hike are impressive.
My head wasn’t so full of thoughts of family and home this day. I was more centred on my surroundings and the track. We walked along valley floors, along steep river gorges, across dramatic rock falls and more beech forests. As I walked I saw the evolution of forests before me. The rocks fall down the valley walls. They sit and wait for the wind to bring particles and seeds. Lichens, moss and ferns begin to establish themselves as the beech seeds germinate and saplings grow spindly and tall towards the sun. The saplings grow stronger but with season upon season of snow, they splinter under the weight of snow and break like matches. But many survive and grow taller and wider with age. They are statuesque with a wise presence. They stand. They are. I felt their strength and their stoicism. Testament to long life.
And there was a lot of little things to notice, too. Mottled lichens forming patterns on rocks were there to see. Mosses that, on closer inspection, were delicate, miniature ferns. Pancakes of lichens with frilly edges. Delicate red, yellow, and brown beech leaves coating the paths, the rocks , roots and stones.
I loved the beech leaf carpet on the path. It was soft on my feet, spongey and gentle. Such a contrast to the gnarly roots tangled between rocks, offering a trip hazard for the tired mind. Deft stepping, deliberate choices of foot placement for safe walking. My mind was totally occupied by where to place my next step. ‘No rolled ankles for me’, was my mantra.
I was starting to get to know our fellow hikers. Aussies, kiwis and Americans (no Trumpers!).We are all talking about climate change, politics, retirement, farming and hiking trips around the world. Our guides are awesome. Fit, helpful, knowledgeable and good humoured.
Day 3 Mckellar Lodge Rest day
The night was an endless rain storm. It rained vertically, diagonally, horizontally, loudly with thunder and lightning. The thunder thundered so loudly that it shook the lodge multiple times. Equipped E lay awake catastrophising an exit scenario in case of flash flood, avalanche, rock fall, alien invasion, zombie apocalypse. …You name it, she had it covered, all ending in death and destruction. But we survived!
Our rest day was spent inside watching the rain bucket down, listening to the thunder and flinching when lightning struck. This was our official rest day but it was also enforced. We rested. I participated in my first Tai Chi class and blogged…. this.Also played Bananagram. A lot of fun. Equipped E very kindly repaired my rain trousers and I found time for a nap. She also supplied second skin for my little toe and reassured me I could call on her at any point. It rained and rained. But we were snug inside with a wonderful wood stove. Yay. The guides reckoned the weather report will state up to 200 mm in 24 hrs. Woo.
Day 4 Lake McKellar to Lake Mackenzie 15kms
Ok. So the best way to describe today is to start off with … this was the best day of my life! At the end of the day as I stood under the shower with a torrent of delicious hot water drowning me, I decided that this was the best. It started out in rain with torrents of water and the track shallowed by run off, with our precious dry boots drowned by water on the track. No option but to walk through gushing run off. We walked beside Lake McKellar which lost its banks, now swelling beyond its boundaries with beech trees and ferns submerged. At this point it was in the tea leaves, in the hands of the gods that I would slip and come a cropper! Slipped on a log. Lucky for me I had a pack. My snail shell. It saved me. No damage just another reminder to be careful. On through the rain but behold, the clouds lifted and the sun emerged and there was light.
So we sloshed along. Rocky path, creek, tree roots, creek, rocky path, creek, roots, logs, big creek, rocky path, bigger creek now requiring assistance. Guides lending a happy helpful hand up to their shins in ice melt. Still smiling, ‘watch your step. We don’t want you to slip’, they wisely said. Little did they know, it was too late. I was now a member of the Grand Traverse-Slipped-Over-Brigade.
We walked beside McKellar Lake, crossed over a saddle and found ourselves beside Howden Lake and then, BAM it was lunch time at Howden Hut. A warm wood stove, tea and coffee and… omg… miso soup. Luxury.
After an hour and a half of rest and recovery we headed out for an short up hill, three hour tramp. We were now officially on the Routeburn Track – one of the most famous and picturesque tracks in NZ. Our first stage was a walk to EarlandFalls. Same drill with the tramping (very NZ speak) but the track was wider and we met more individuals going both directions.
Earland Falls was heard well before we saw it. We turned a corner and there it was. Roaring over the cliff above. Roaring and smashing our track. Raining water, spray, sheets of water. Holy moley. There was no track to follow. But we could look in awe while getting saturated. So exciting. I was like a kid playing in puddles, loving the moment and loving getting wet. But the fun wasn’t over. The guides had to guide us below the falls to get around it. Down we went into a side gully. Deep. Wet. Slippery. Crazy. And so much fun. We clambered and inched our way down and across. Awesome. We popped out and there was a bridge to cross the biggest section of the gorge. I was pumped. And we were off again, tramping towards Mackenzie Lodge. We hugged the sloping hills through forests rich with mosses and lichen. And we saw the Kea or Kaka (not sure…), a big parrot with a beak that makes the sulfur crested cockatoo’s look meek and blunt. We saw a group of five fly past and one branch-hopping, seeking out insects.
The end section for the day was a long downhill into the valley where we were to lodge beside an alpine lake, Lake Mackenzie. I started to hobble. Without much warning my right groin muscle said, ‘Enough’. It was a slow, tedious downhill grind to get to the Lodge….. but hey, my spirits lifted when we arrived. The valley was beautiful, the Lake full and overflowing into the scrub below the Lodge. The Lodge was shiny new with cathedral ceilings, floor to ceiling windows looking out on an entire snow capped mountain range, the Hollyford Range. I was dumbstruck. We were met by our hosts who showed us to our room. ‘Is this for real?’, I squealed. ‘Are you kidding me? This is our room? This is our front row view?’ I have never, and probably will never ever sleep in a room with a view like this again! We snuggled and watched the sun set on our mountain range. We watched the clouds close in and then clear, the sky turn pink and the contrasts increase. The sun light waned as night fell in front of us. Nature at its most special.It was the best day of my life.
Day 5 Lake Mackenzie to Routeburn Falls Lodge 11kms
As described the Lake beside which we lodged was overflowing. As a consequence but only after the group photos, we set off through the overflow, ‘ET of the Overflow’ along with the rest of the crew had to walk straight through. Our beautifully dried boots were saturated 5mins into the tramp… over my knees! Crispy cool water.👍
Our path was only tree-lined briefly. We were already so high into the mountains that it wasn’t long before we burst out of the trees into the light. We were above the tree line. We were looking down upon the world. Wow. We kept climbing, switchbacking along the steep cliff line. Up and up, looking out rather than looking down, keeping the vertigo at bay. Up to the top and around the corner and BOOM (Boping B’s verbal exclamation mark), we were looking down into another valley, out into the distance to a lake and the sand of the sea shore of the Tasman Sea! Blues, dark blues, purples and violets of hazy colour dissolving into the distance.
The walls of the valley opposite us were snow caked. We could see the tree line on the other side and understood just how high we were. We were almost at line of sight of the helicopters cruising up and down the Hollyford valley. We walked and laughed, elated and feeling privileged. I also marvelled at the engineering that went into building this trail. We walked along the side of our mountain to the highest peak of the trip, Conical Hill -named aptly- well, just below it at 1255metres where we had lunch in wind and sleet. After a good rest and some more miso soup (BOOM) we geared back up and set out ready for some wind chill and maybe snow. After a few more winds of the track we found ourselves looking down on an exquisite alpine lake, Lake Harris and a distant U-shaped valley, ribboned vertically by waterfalls. I took a deep breath of wonder.
It was steep. Any missteps would result in a long falls down into a cold lake. I stepped carefully. We started the walk down at the point in the lake where its waters escape its boundary and fell out to freedom as a cascading,tumblingroar of water. We walked slowly down for the final hour through a meanderingriver created by the escaping water of the lake. Huge vistas and views. As my groin muscle started to remind me of its existence again, we arrived at our destination. Our Lodge was beside the massive Routeburn Falls. Another classy Lodge in the clouds.
Day 6 Falls Lodge to Routeburn Road 9kms
Today was the last day. As is my habit, final days always arrive with of bout of sadness at the thought of it all ending. We completed our morning breakfast routine and then set off for the final dose of wilderness. We walked down to the Routeburn Flats, a river of ice melt with reflections of the valley walls. Then we stopped for another break beside the river further down the valley only to witness a family of endangered Whio ducks (Blue Ducks) swimming, ferry gliding across rapids and diving for food – an absolutely precious experience. And then we walked quietly out of the forest and back to civilisation. First stop? The Glenorchy Pub.
We have made friends with some wonderful people, seen some breathtaking places and had some unforgettable moments. A big thank you to the guides and to our buddies, B and E. I will do another round with you guys any day! Hey, let’s do Dunedin (BOOM). Great. We have the itinerary sorted. We are off tomorrow (BOOM BOOM).
A 4,971 km (3,089 miles) road trip across the United States of America with some very special people – my daughter, Embo; my friend, BC and her daughter, Toots.
Our mission? To move Toots across the country to Providence, Rhode Island where she would spend 5-7 years completing a PhD in Political Science. We thus hired a car from Enterprise Car Hire and got ready for the adventure.
So, BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front), this was a driving trip first, with sightseeing, second. We traversed the following 13 states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York State, Connecticut and Rhode Island in 7 days.
What does a road trip like that feel like?
A bit like … lots of sitting, stretching, lots of conversation, podcasts, naps, moments of marvel as something breathtaking flashed past, many fuel stops, coffee stops, wee stops, picnic lunches, yawns, aching hip bones, sitting bones and knee bones, headaches, music and crocheting (in my case). Oh, and driving.
How did it feel? Frustrating. It was kinda like ‘look but don’t touch’. As the sites passed by, we all wished at different times that we could stop and take in the site, the event or the new and sometimes strange experience we happened upon for just a bit longer. But instead, we pushed on. Always driving for the day’s destination, having to give up on the desire and urge to explore more. “Something to see next time”, we’d say to each other and push on. For example, we drove past the Cody Rodeo – one every night of the week <www.codystampederodeo.com>. We drove past the biggest motorbike rally in the USA, in Sturgis, South Dakota <www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com>. But thousands of the drove past us …. Like noisy ants, so it wasn’t really disappointing after all. We sailed past the world’s only Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota <cornpalace.com>. Yep, you guessed it. A palace made of corn. Corn on the cob and corn fibre. That’s right, you got it. And we missed it, dang it. Oh, well. I wasn’t too upset. Corny, if you ask me.
But we did see some pretty special things. We played, had fun, laughed at the absurd and marveled at the majesty and scale of natural America. So I’ve recorded the highlights of our journey as it unfolded every day.
Day 1: 4th August, 2019
Eugene, Oregon to Idaho Falls, Idaho – 1,131 kms (703 miles)
Anticipated drive time: 12hrs; actual drive time: 15 hrs.
Today was to be a big driving day. With BC and Toots coming from the Pacific Northwest, they were familiar with the terrain. No need to stop and look. It was known country. It was familiar for me, too. Embo, on the other hand, was pretty awed with the tall trees, the pines, the lichen and mosses. It is a magical landscape of pine forest bowers reaching out towards you as they encircle their trunks to compete for sunlight. Apparently, ponderosa pine bark smells like butterscotch when you peel it back.
We stopped at Salt Creek Falls for two things: the Falls and the toilet;
had lunch in Riley;
and then afternoon break at the Starlite Café in Vale, Oregon for homemade pie. I sampled my beloved, all-American pumpkin pie. It didn’t disappoint.
We left in 40 degrees C (104 F). We were glad for the aircon after that.
Driving, driving, driving…
Conversation turned to podcasts and so we listened to our first of many – the Q-anon conspiracy theory https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/n8homa/122-the-qanon-code. Apt, as America seems to be the home of conspiracy theories. This one is about Trump and Mueller conspiring together to take on the deep state and win. Seems, the investigator and the investigated can align and work together for the common good. Who’d have thought. But believe me, it is more complicated than described.
Other comments related to the aggressively kind driving behavior of Oregonians. They stop mid highway to let a driver onto the road. Thanks, Toots for your great braking.
We weren’t going to get to Idaho Falls in time for dinner, so we stopped in a gorgeous little town called Glenns Ferry in Idaho, beside the Snake River, surrounded by vineyards and farms. With the sun setting we indulged in local trout and local Rose. Very, very nice. Saw this number plate as we left…
Puta is Russian for bitch, I believe.
Driving, driving, driving.
Finally, bedtime was midnight in our first AirBnB in Idaho Falls. Embo and I had the pink and blue, mermaid and dolphin wall-papered room. A little scary, but once we turned the lights out, we were OK.
Day 2, 5th August, 2019
Idaho Falls, Idaho to Cody, Wyoming via Swan Valley, Jackson, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone Park and the Wapiti Valley (Absoroka Range of the Rocky Mountains)
5hr drive, 240 miles but it was 7.30-11pm (15.5hrs on the road)
This was the day of the big outdoors. Our comments all day sounded a bit like this, … “It’s so beautiful’, ‘I love that ….’ , ‘This is absolutely stunning’!
We drove through the Swan Valley which was a Morman community, through to Jackson, in Jackson Hole Park, and then beside the Grand Tetons range which is a massive fault line, and on up into Yellowstone National Park. We moved through a valley floor and climbed steadily up into the mountains. The Parks were high plateaus with still higher peaks above.
Winding up towards Yellowstone, I noticed lots of eagles nests perched on power poles. They were given a helping hand to build their nests as the top of each pole had a neat wooden platform on it on which they could stabilize and build their nests. We saw birds in most of them, scanning their environment, looking for prey and tending their families. It was a hopeful sign of future, safe, healthy eagle populations.
Coffee stop at Jackson, a playground of the very wealthy. Then, lunch at the Visitor’s Centre in Yellowstone on Yellowstone Lake before making our way to the famous geyser, Old Faithfull. She goes off every 90 mins. We missed her by 5 mins. Bummer. But we saw the steam from the road. Close enough. We got the idea. Then onto hot springs, most notably, the Sapphire Pool.
The second half of the day was punctuated by animal sitings. The first was elk. Earlier in the day, we had seen a herd from the distance. Then in the Park, we saw one very large loner elk beside the road. This was soon followed by an even very larger, lone bison bull. We couldn’t stop to observe it but I certainly immediately respected the size and majesty of the beast. As we started to drive out of the Park, we were stopped by a long, snaking traffic jam. Why? A herd of bison meandering near and across the road. Oh, my goodness. We saw bison charging, playing, nursing and just grazing all right beside us. Bisons being bisons in the wild (at Alum Creek, Hayden Valley). I imagined how the original Indians would have relied on these herds for food and shelter and recalled the movie, Dances with Wolves and the edgy bison hunt scenes that it depicted. And then once the cars started to pick up speed, we went up and over a hill, only to find ourselves in another mess of traffic. This time it was two black bears playing in the meadow beside a river. I kid you not, it was special. One of the bears was running along like a monster puppy, skin wobbling from its lumbering gait as it mucked around with the other more sedate bear. So beautiful to see. And all the while, as our day unfolded, we were watched and entertained by eagles on the thermals, scanning and observing us.
As we left Yellowstone Park, we settled in for a long 4 hr drive to Cody, Wyoming – the home of Rodeo. What we weren’t ready for was the beauty of the drive. We drove through the North Absaroka Wilderness, breathtaking red mountains, outcrops, valleys, peaks, plateaus and windy road. You didn’t know where to look. Another ‘look but don’t touch’ experience. And once we made it to Cody, it was as flat as a tack.
Dinner in Cody will remain with me for some time. We found the famous Irma’s Restaurant (by chance) and stepped in for a meal.
I wanted prime rib – the American steak to die for! Ordered it straight away. It was Tony’s birthday and the time difference was favourable, so I sat down and called him to wish him happy birthday. We were then baled up by a cowboy in full regalia. He locked onto me, stared at me, said nothing, just looked and waited. Confused by his behavior and intimidated, I stopped talking and gave him my attention. He wanted a conversation. So I couldn’t get back to the phone call easily. I was feeling more and more weirded out, until BC distracted him, gave him the attention he wanted so that I could get back to Tony. It wasn’t pleasant. It felt like I had broken a rule…. no talking on the phone in this restaurant. What annoyed me about the incident was my compliance. I was stared down. Consequently, I stopped what I was doing and gave the man my attention. Viscerally, I felt dominated. I wished I had just got up, walked away and continued my conversation with Tony. Instead our brief moment celebrating his special day was taken away by a man in a cowboy costume. I resented that.
That night, we slept in a tent under a big sky with stars and the sounds of nature all around us. A fitting end to a big day.
Day 3 6thAugust, 2019
Cody, Wyoming to Rapid City, South Dakota, 628 kms (390 miles),
An estimated 6.5hrs drive, but the drive took 15hrs, arriving about 10.30pm
Before I get into the details of the day, I want to list the podcasts that we listened to along the way throughout the trip. It was great listening, covering politics and feminism. Embo had a wealth of podcasts in her phone, so we were totally up for her suggestions. They included:
We would listen. One of us would be prompted to respond either with fierce agreement or fierce outrage. Whatever reaction we had, it was always fierce. After animated conversation, we would then return to the podcast until the next need for a discussion. Interruptions also occurred when the google map Voice interrupted us with her directions. This would prompt discussion, questions, itinerary checking and laughter. Then back to the podcast…. until…. around the next corner came something that totally took us out of our heads and into the now, the environment and majesty of natural America.
So to return to the trip, we got up on Day 3, stiffly; untangled ourselves out of our tent to be greeted by the most beautiful morning sun and vistas of plains and mountains in the distance. Uplifted, we started the morning with some yoga stretching and headed off to find breakfast and coffee. We found an early opener in Powell and energetically entered the diner. The few locals just looked at us in silence. So we quietened down, ordered breakfast and built a tower of charging mobile phones while we waited. By the time we had finished, the locals had thawed, had found out where we’d come from, had warmed up, had shared their stories of Aaas–tralia and had even poured our coffee. We left with the entire diner saying, ‘goodbye’ and ‘best of luck’! Fabulous. International diplomacy at its best.
Little did we know that we were heading across the Big Horn Basin, only to climb up to Big Horn National Park. The drive was spectacular and mesmerising. Lots of stops for photos, coffee and wee wees. Up and over the elevated plateau to Sheridan. It was that this point that I decided it was time to drive.
Got in the car, started the engine, then … our Dodge Caravan’s Check Engine Light came on. O, oh…..
Calls to the hire company, ‘Carship Enterprise in trouble, HQ’;
advised to go the office in Sheridan;
waited for three hours for a car check;
gave up waiting;
requested a car swap. Nothing suitable just a pickup truck;
Gave up pickup truck. Waited longer;
Decided the unsuitable pickup was looking mighty suitable;
Decided to take it….;
Rapid unpack then repack of all the gear into the open tray;
Stuffed ourselves into the right cabin;
Drove off to Gillette to pick up a bigger van waiting for us there;
Rapid unpack then repack into a 10 seater bus. Forgot to buy razors.
On the road again…. Driver seated high, big engine, smooth ride, very comfortable experience. We came to love our bus.We got a recommendation to drop by Devil’s Tower, a massive, vertical volcanic plug, on the way to Rapid City. It didn’t disappoint.
We got in very late to Rapid City, but not before we stopped to do some food shopping and snapped the Trump Shop. I kid you not, a Trump merchandising shop. Never have I seen a politician sell their own merchandise – hats, flags, photos, posters…. You name it. POTUS is a brand; voters are purchasers of a fiction based on fear. Chilling.
We had roast chicken for dinner and some wine after an action packed day.
Day 4, 7thAugust, 2019
Rapid City, South Dakoto to Sioux Falls, South Dakota via Crazy Horse Memorial, Mt Rushmore and the Badlands, 1,050 kms (653 miles)
Estimated 4.5hrs drive but we took at least 12 hrs.
This was another day of grandeur. We were expecting fabulous vistas, super famous, grand sites and then flat driving to our destination. All came to pass. Also, we spent the day dodging and gawking at the thousands of big-touring-bike bikers, all gathering in Sturgis for the biggest biker rally in the US. Bikers on all the roads, in groups, as singles, with and without pillions, men and women all expressing themselves through their bikes and their affiliated clothing. On the road to the national parks they were spooky and eventually annoying as they took corners too close, veering onto our side of the road, leaving our big rig with nowhere to go. We just had to hope and drive carefully.
We were on our way to the Mt Rushmore https://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm via the opposing Crazy Horse Memorial crazyhorsememorial.org. Crazy Horse was unexpectedly ginormous. In the 40’s, the local Indian chief, Henry Standing Bear commissioned a well known sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski (and his wife and family of 8 children) to design and carve the mountain. OMG…. the whole mountain. He has since died but the project is ongoing. We arrived and sat through a video explaining the project, the vision, and the positive impact on the Lokata nation. It was a fascinating experience, if not a tad vexing as the memorial and the facilities have all been funded and developed by the white man on behalf of the Lokata nation. Seemed to contradict the messaging of autonomy and indigenous development. One thing that was without a doubt was the size and grandeur of the carving. It dwarfs Mt Rushmore and the presidential heads. It spoke to me: ‘Our head is bigger than your heads’ ; ‘We were here first’; ‘And don’t forget it’.
Then onto Mt Rushmore via a street walk in Custer City.
Yep, we were in the land of Cluster’s Last Stand.
The town was chokers with bikers. There was even a bike with ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) memorialising all over it.
We stopped for lunch beside a mountain stream, chatted up some lunching bikers and headed to Mt. Rushmore.
In a phrase, Mt. Rushmore was ‘the Temple of POTUS (President of the United States of America)’. Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln were all looming above us. We were directed to move through a valley-like, outdoor cathedral-like structure towards the alter of POTUS rising above us: Something to worship, to be in awe of, to be understood as sacred. Very interesting, I thought.
But Crazy Horse was bigger.
We were pretty tired by this time in the afternoon, but we still had Badlands to see and a long straight drive to Sioux Falls. We mulled over whether or not to take the detour to Badlands, but we decided to tough it out and go and see it. It was breathtaking. Way more than anyone expected. Miles and miles of wind eroded, hardened and striped volcanic ash mountains, peaks, mesas, valleys, gullies, on and on. We drove around and between the sentinels of endless shapes and towers. I was awestruck. So glad we took the detour.
With the sightseeing behind us… literally … we hunkered down for some straight driving with podcasts. We listened to the one on Gun control and the 2nd Amendment which states,
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
The Supreme Court of the US has had to rule on the interpretation of this grammatically incorrect amendment. The commas and the verbs are the problem.
Can’t help myself. Here’s my grammatical analysis:
The clause ‘being necessary to the security of a free state,’ can be interpreted as either
a modifying clause which qualifies a well regulated militia, as in, A well-regulated militia which is necessary to the security of a free state…..is or does something. But the ‘is or does something’, that is, the rest of the clause is not stated, so I rule out being necessary to the security of a free state as a modifying clause, or
an included clause which is adding an additional process in the clause complex. Again what is the process/doing or being? Seems there isn’t one. If you assume it is the verb, shall not be infringed, I suggest that an militia can’t be infringed. Rights can be infringed but not collective nouns of people such as militia or group.
However, neither work logically, suggesting ungrammaticality. To make the clause grammatical, I propose:
That being necessary to the security of a free state be expressed using the finite verb, ‘is’ and the comma after militiabe deleted and the comma after …state be maintained as follows:
A well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state,
In the second half of the sentence, I would delete the comma after arms; and insert a logical conjunction between the two, new finite clauses, adding either and or but to the start of the clause. The choice of conjuction willdepend on what relationship was originally intended by the author.
but/and the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
I like but as it sets up an ‘replacive’ relationship with the not in not be infringed Essentially this means that saying a well-regulated (implying armed under command/supervision) militia is needed for state security doesn’t negate the rights of individuals to be armed. My version of the 2ndamendment clause would read:
A well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, butthe right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
On was in my head for most of the drive to Sioux Falls. Yep, slept well in our own cute little AirBnB abode.
Day 5, 8th August, 2019
Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Madison, Wisconsin via the state of Minnesota.
699 km (434.5 miles), estimated 6.5hrs, actual drive time 9hrs.
Our stay in our own place was very nice. I think we needed the time with just ourselves. So I decided that it was time I had a go at driving. It was Day 5 with only two days to go. I had to give it a try, at least. So I took the first leg and drove for 2.5 hrs on the interstate. No dramas. It was fine. The speed limit fluctuated between 55 and 80 miles per hour, that is 88 – 130 kph! 130 kph isn’t a speed limit you find in Australia. I was driving the fastest I had ever driven. We stopped to get fuel, and change drivers. BC had the privilege of watching TV while she pumped fuel. Yep, the petrol bowser had a TV screen on the front.
We basically drove across Minnesota on I90 without stopping. We then had a picnic lunch on the banks of the Mississippi just prior to crossing the border into Wisconsin.
The drive concluded as we found our hosts Karen and Larry nestled in diary farming land on the edge of Lake Mendota, in Madison. We were introduced to Moscow Mule cocktail, then went for a walk, a merry walk (!), and then started chatting (at speed and at volume) until dinner, then through dinner and after dinner. Traditional American home cooked meal: fried chicken, corn on the cob and home made cherry pie. OMG. Lots of laughter. We fell into bed grateful for a good mattress and great pillows. BC even had a bath!
Day 6, 9th August, 2019
Madison, Wisconsin to Pittsburgh via Interstate 90 through the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio into Pennsylvania. 976 kms (606 miles)
Estimated drive time: 9.5 hrs, actual drive time 15 hrs, arriving 11.30pm.
Embo and I got up early for a walk. And breakfast consisted of politics and Karen’s classroom stories. It was a great start to the day. Great catching up with our Camino friends.
We headed out of Madison but not before we hunted down Embo’s father’s childhood home. It hadn’t changed a bit. Still the same but now occupied by a new family.
As we prepared to head off, I announced that this was going to be our hardest day. We still had a sizeable chunk of the US to drive across; we were all tired and there wasn’t going to be lots of wonderful sites along the way to distract us from the reality of driving, driving, driving. We were getting tired of being cooped up in the van and all of us were wanting some down time. But instead, as I anticipated, we would all feel the stress of the second last day. To add to the stress, we also were warned that the traffic would be heavy as we drove around the edge of Chicago. “Better than driving straight through it”, we were told. This proved to be precisely the case. But it was hours in gridlock. Thank God for aircon.
The day was punctuated by state boundary signs. We traversed five states in one day. Recorded the state border signs – but that was about it. However, we stumbled across the Indiana Dunes, a beach on the shores of Lake Michigan, where we had a picnic lunch and could see Chicago city skyline looming out of the distance. The Lake was like an inland sea. I had never seen a lake of such proportions…. as far as the eye could see.
Getting into Pittsburgh seemed never to arrive. In the dark we picked our way through the city freeways, on and off ramps, and noted that we were probably driving through a valley with a “The Burgh’s” city skyline moving in and out of view as we wound along and up and down the valley and its walls. We pulled into our quaint AirBnB, exhausted. Toots did all the hard driving in the dark, in a complete state of tiredness yet patient with all of us. I doff my hat to her.
Lesson for the day? It would have been a good day for a day off!
Day 7, 10th August, 2019
Pittsburg,Pennsylvania to Providence, Rhode Island via New York State and Connecticut 885 kms (550 miles)
Estimated drive time: 9hrs, actual drive time 9.5hrs!
We had arrived at our final day of driving. Now we were excited. After a restless sleep, we left at the crack of dawn, ready to finish our road trip. We were now well and truly close to the east coast. There was more traffic, the geography was rich and green, there was more traffic and the drivers were more determined, drove faster and with more unexpected driving behavior which was edgy and precise. We stopped for lunch in a cute little diner in Newfoundland, Somewhere (I lost track of which state we were in, but I know it wasn’t Canada). So as we drove along I wondered why Providence was called Providence. It was founded by a preacher man who was escaping persecution from other emancipated, persecuted puritans! Providence meaning, guardianship of God’s creatures, was established on the basis of religious and political freedom but not before it was negotiated away from the Narragansett Indians. It is a very old city with buildings dating back to the mid 1600s. We were anxious to arrive and feel the satisfaction of having driven across America from west to east. We made terrific time and arrived in time to meet Embo’s friends and have a seafood dinner of local fresh prawns and scallops.
We all slept like babies. All that remained was for us to unpack the van, drop off toot’s belongings at her new apartment and return the Carship Enterprise. Enterprise had served us well. She was comfortable, reliable and we were grateful for her easy driving. She was the first (and still for the moment only) car/van that I have ever driven in the US.
Game, Set, Match. Thank you Drivers, thank you Special Friends.