It’s unusual to be thrilled about rainy skies and crowded parking for a lunch trip to the countryside but we live in unusual times.
Regional towns like Braidwood are struggling with the effects of the bushfire crisis and the longer-term drought. The Kings Highway on-and-off closure has blocked thousands of families from travelling through the town on their way to what is now a fire-ravaged South Coast. This traffic normally provides critical sales for the businesses in Braidwood and Bungendore.
As the region recovers from the fires, we are being encouraged to travel to our regional towns, to stop and enjoy their friendly hospitality. Canberra’s Adam Browne accepted this invitation on Saturday and took a herd of Mustangs with him.
Adam’s mother operates Poppie’s on Wallace, a delightful old-style tea shop and gift store. Like all businesses in town, she relies on the summertime traffic to make the business viable. But the road closures have slashed takings by 89 per cent.
Adam is the proud owner of a red Mustang and a member of various Mustang groups on Facebook, so he simply invited everyone to come for a cruise in the countryside.
“I was expecting perhaps 20 cars, and at the Queanbeyan meeting spot I counted 28,” Adam explains with a smile.
The fleet swelled as it was joined in Braidwood by cars from Sydney and beyond. The final tally was 45 Mustangs representing all ages of the marque’s 55-year history and an eclectic mix of other enthusiasts with their Fords, Holdens, Subarus and even a Moke.
The car crowd enjoyed the delights of the town’s iconic stores. Suggestive comments were made about the ‘Love Rock’ at the Boiled Lolly Shop, and I can advise that the BLT on Turkish bread from the Concept Coffee Bar is well worth the drive.
“It is only a 45-minute drive from Canberra, and you get to enjoy the warmth and friendliness of the small town,” Adam says. There were plenty of friendly waves for the convoy’s impromptu parade along through the main street.
By the end of the day, well over 50 cars had joined the muster, but the number of smiles on the tourists and locals was countless.
Donna from Braidwood Outdoors echoed the common sentiment of the day, and one which will surely endure as the recovery gets underway: “Not only did people come and open their wallets but they opened their hearts. We’re so very grateful.”
There were more than just grateful local shopkeepers, with residents offering cheerful greetings from the footpaths.
“Braidwood businesses and the town people were so overwhelmed and were so thankful to all involved. They have said not only had it helped financially but also had brought a smile and a vibe back to the town that hasn’t been there for months,” Adam says.
Washing your car and going for a cruise is normally a sure thing to bring rain, so the only disappointment was that the morning’s sprinkles didn’t turn into a proper downpour. Perhaps future day trips can break the drought?
The Kings Highway is reopening at around 4:00 pm this afternoon (14 January), so why not plan your own road trip? If you’d like a reason to go east, Canberrans Danny Phillippa and Shea Cara Hammond are planning a pie run to the Braidwood bakery and associated purveyors of baked goods. Look for the Braidwood Pie Run on Facebook. It’s happening on Saturday, 25 January 2020, at 1:00 pm.