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The final wrap: 31/12/22

Well, we made it! 46,000kms, 7 states, 75 events, $38,250 raised for charity, and 273 days on the road. It’s very hard to summarise the year in anything less than book format, but here goes… What an incredible year we have had, homelessly bootscooting round the country with no constants except for each other, the car, tone deaf singing voices, a $12 Aldi torch which never failed us, and the Nutbush. It’s a strange collection of things, but somehow one which got us around in one piece, and finally, we’ve made it to the finish line! Setting off for the trip was pretty daunting, as we had no expectations, but rather hopes, of what would happen. We hoped people would turn up, we hoped the word would get out about the trip, and we hoped we wouldn’t feel like killing each other at any point. People did turn up – we had 104 people at Westbury (Tas) which claims top spot attendance-wise, while Rosebery (Tas) saw one lady come along (she won the lucky door prize surprise surprise, but we gave her extra tickets to build the suspense), and the age range was 6 weeks old, up to 95 years. The word did get out thanks to the media latching onto us – we were in the media about 60 times and hopefully made people smile at the end of news segments about Putin, the Queen’s death, and the rising cost of living. And we’re both still alive and friends – we think intentional ignoring helped here. Intentional ignoring is when we occasionally decided to pull up at a camp and not talk to each other for the rest of the day… it was all harmonious, and worked a treat! While the hopes came through, we knew there would also be things that happened this trip which we wouldn’t have come up with in our wildest dreams. Claire has a full page of ‘trip go-to yarns’ in the back of her diary of truly bizarre things that happened, and while it would take forever to list them all, we can pick out a few of the best. A fairly amusing memory from early in the trip was when we got stopped at a fruit and vege quarantine station in SA at about 9pm on Easter Sunday, where Kate was asked to provide (and successfully did provide) a receipt for a single tomato – the quarantine guy thought he had us, but no, Kate’s big black folder had him beat! Entering WA from the NT, we all of a sudden got worried about the legality of basically all food in the car, so pulled over at a truck stop and put chutney, sesame seeds, jams, you name it, all into a very inaccessible bag in the middle of the car. We got them through (because they were inaccessible), but they were all things that were fine to get through anyway… we’d overprepared. Other go-to yarns include the time we were in Darwin and Kate got asked for her ID when buying a beer, and when she didn’t have it on her, the bartender advised her to ‘use your friend’s ID’, ie Claire. Further rule bending happened in Parliament House, where our speaker got confiscated upon entry to the building, yet after explaining what we were doing they gave our speaker back immediately and asked us to teach the guards a dance. We haven’t made friends with everyone though – in Arno Bay (SA), Claire got told off by a camper for talking, out loud, in a public space, at 6:30pm while old love was trying to sleep, while in Kimba (SA), a guy repeatedly walked in asking us when the professionals would be coming on. In a slightly awkward moment, Claire’s question of ‘is everyone here’ for a photo in Emerald (Qld) with the Lions club was answered with ‘no, one of us died this arvo’ and then radio silence… there’s no coming back from that! In terms of life lessons, our answers as to what we’ve learnt about ourselves and the world are certainly not cliché. In Gladstone (Qld), we learned that if you have no way to get home and you’re number 37 in a virtual queue for a taxi, the best thing to do is make friends with people who are a tad inebriated, but have a car and are staying at the same place as you, and offer a lift. We also learned through observation at Coolgardie (WA) that trying to film a Facebook live with one hand, while drinking water with the other, and pushing a pram, all while in a dance mosh pit, is just too much for one person to handle. Upon entering Vic, we learned that the announcement of Horsham being 125km away deserved far more space on the sign than the tiny ‘Victoria’ sign on top. And arguably the most important lesson of the trip – when Kate’s energy levels are waning, a lemon squash in the system works wonders, washed down with the High School Musical Soundtrack on the car stereo for an hour or so afterwards. We estimate that we boogied with about 2800 dancers overall this year. Almost all of our events were in towns and places based on request, meaning we had a wonderful variety of locations and demographics. The Oodnadatta Gymkhana (SA) at the race club was possibly the toughest event to teach at, due to the crowd being mostly more interested in their drinks than in us, while the crowd at Boot-Scoots and Tractor Toots in a beautiful old shearing shed (Mellenbye Station, WA) were a ‘here to help’ crowd, switching out our $50 notes for smaller ones when the float situation was looking a bit dire. The Smithton crowd (Tas) in the local community centre was incredibly enthusiastic, while the Yunta (SA) event as part of the town’s easter tennis tournament featured cowboy-boot themed tennis trophies. In Geraldton (WA), the girls from Bendigo Bank came along and presented us with a large cheque for the amount raised on the night, while the kids at Girilambone School (NSW) guessed that Claire was 64 years old, and at the Humpty Doo Hoedown at the pub (NT), no one knew the song ‘The Man From Humpty Doo’. We hope that’s been added to their Spotify since our departure… The ‘woop woop’ move was a constant at most of our events, and the official results are in: Barossa (SA) took out first place, Wyalkatchem (WA) second, and Hamilton (Vic) third, while Junee (NSW) and Richmond (Tas) were honourable mentions. When it comes to variety, the list is extensive. Here are a few ways you can finish the sentence ‘you can line dance’ based on experiences we’ve had and people we’ve met through the year:

· To opera and heavy metal · In heels and a ballgown · With coppers on the side of the road · On top of a shipping container at dawn · In budgie smugglers with your wife’s face printed on them (obviously not us) · In cow onesies with a photobombing golden retriever · On crutches, in a walker, or in a wheelchair · On a cable drum with seven other people · Linking arms provided the outside person runs quickly to get to the next wall

We’d like to emphasise that the trip hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. We knew going into it that there would be moments where we’d rather anything else, events where we felt exhausted and had to put on a front of energy, and times where we just completely and utterly missed our old lives. To focus on a few of the more amusing of these moments, we nearly ran out of water in Kakadu (NT) because we thought there were drinking taps in the park, Kate did all the West Mac walks despite feeling like death (NT), having to teach at Coolgardie (WA) after not having access to a shower for 3 days, camping out the front of the Devils Marbles pub (NT) feeling not super dooper safe, eating sandwiches in Birdsville where the ham, cheese and bread had suffered from being stored in 40 degree heat, and navigating through flooded NSW, taking a 500km detour and ending the day making spag bol in a park while a guy sat in his Lamborghini watching us and looking awfully bewildered. And of course, fuel prices were not our friend. The Petrol Spy app always took us to the cheapest fuel in town, but overall, we still spent over $10k on fuel on the trip, with our most expensive fuel up being $2.79 on the Nullabor… that one hurt.

We’ve seen some memorable things this year at the houses of people we’ve stayed with – Steve’s salami shed in Jardee (WA), Lorraine’s 3500-strong Barbie collection in Junee (NSW), and Sue’s Priscilla Stiletto in Hopetoun (WA) to name a few. We can’t possibly name all the wonderful people we met, but to share a few of the more memorable quotes, we had Variety NT chairman (and auctioneer) Frank jokingly advertise a raffle as ‘first prize is a night with me, second prize is two’, we had Gay at Westbury (Tas) introduce Kate to her friend Mary by saying Mary was ‘so old she doesn’t buy green bananas in case she is dead before they ripen’, and Corey at Coonamble (NSW) telling everyone on the dance floor to ‘sharpen up and look like you want to be here,’ before he descended/ascended into karaoke. If ever there was a lull in conversation – which was rare, seeing as Claire never stops talking – our go-to questions were to ask people to pick their favourites out of Heinz vs SPC baked beans, Vitabritz vs Weetbix, and the correct method for squeezing toothpaste.

In terms of what’s next for us, 2023 will be a year of focusing on things further up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs than just the base layer of ‘food, shelter, water’, which has been the main focus in 2022. Kate is headed to Rockhampton (Qld) to work as an agritech education officer for Central Queensland University, while Claire is moving to Melbourne and has a few potential leads to chase up, hoping to combine journalism, line dancing, events management, and charity work. We’ll also get to work on writing a book, although we each have a fair few days of our respective diaries to catch up on before we start on that project (detailed phone notes to the rescue here).

As for Hoedowns For Country Towns, the bulk of the venture is over, but we have a few ideas floating around of how we can continue bits and bobs sporadically in the future… more on that later.

They say a bad attitude is like a flat tyre – if you don’t change it, you won’t go anywhere. Well, we had a good attitude, and zero flat tyres, and 46,000kms later, we feel like we’ve been everywhere. Thanks for being a part of our journey this year, we feel so lucky to have met such incredible people right across the country! From supportive relatives and friends, to people who had never met us before welcoming us into your homes, the generosity of rural Australia makes us so so proud to be part of the country landscape. The warmth, kindness, enthusiasm, humour, hospitality and thoughtfulness from people right across Australia is what kept us going, and we appreciate all the support so so much.

The biggest thing we’ve learnt this year? Back yourself. If you want to do something, just go out and do it. In most cases, people won’t support you til you have backing, but no one will back you unless you have support. Initially, the ‘how will this happen’ or ‘reason x means it won’t work’ or ‘have you thought about xyz’ skeptical responses come up far more than the positive responses along the lines of ‘that’s a great idea, go for it!’ So, first up, you just have to stick to your guns and believe in yourself – you won’t know you can fly unless you take the leap. If you’ve got a dream, let us know, because you can guarantee we will back you from the get go!

All the best for 2023.

Yours in bootscootin,

Kate and Claire.

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