Conquering a mountain of fear - by bus
I'M scared,” I heard Miss7 say over my shoulder.
Which was perfectly understandable because she was tied into her seat, ready for the ultimate adrenaline hit - a time lap on Mount Panorama.
In a bus.
With me driving.
Our bus is named KennyGOWest for my uncle, Kenneth West, who passed away a short while ago, leaving us the money to buy this bus so we could take our kids on this adventure.
Uncle Kenny LOVED car racing and Bathurst in particular. He even owned a couple of Monaros in his lifetime - because no kids means you get to have nice things.
So it felt fitting to take our Kenny out for a lap, even if the munchkins were a little apprehensive.
"Me, too,” said Miss10. "I'm petrified.”
Overcoming anxiety is something we're working on with the kids during our Big Lap.
After they had to go to hospital to say a final goodbye to their Mum (false alarm, thank goodness), their apprehensions have been heightened.
We've had some awesome successes already this trip - holding crocodiles and snakes and the like - but it's a day at a time and baby steps.
I turned in my seat to face them all.
"Who's ready?” I asked enthusiastically.
No one really answered but I'd lost my train of thought anyway. I'd just noticed Miss5 was wearing her bike helmet, which I thought was taking things a bit far.
"Does Mum even know you're doing this?” Miss10 asked me suspiciously, as though I'd gone rogue.
"She's filming it,” I said, pointing out the window to where Tracey had just pulled up in our car.
"For the coroner's report?” asked Master12.
I hadn't seen him this nervous about my driving since the very first day we took off on our Big Lap.
When we arrived at Bargara for the night he shook my hand as he exited the bus, telling me I'd done a much better job than he'd expected because he "thought we'd have crashed by now”.
"Your Mum really wanted to be in the bus for the lap,” I told them, "but we need shots from outside for the video I want to make.”
"Wish I'd thought of an excuse,” mumbled Miss10.
Someone listening wouldn't have thought they'd done a lap the day before in the car.
And then we were off, with the kids screaming and moaning their encouragements.
"It'll be awesome to watch the Bathurst 1000 and know you've done the track,” I called over them.
"Just watch the road, Dad!” Master12 suggested, sounding a lot like his Mum when she's riding shotgun.
Tracey, meanwhile, had jumped back in the car and tore ahead to stop and film the next bit. Something she did the whole way around, which detracted somewhat from all the pedal-to-the-metal action in the bus.
"We're so high,” I heard Miss10 whimper as we finally crested the mountain top.
"Really?” I said.
The reaction to my simple one word question nearly sent us careening into the concrete barrier.
"DON'T LOOK!” they screamed at me, making me half jump out of my skin.
Going down the mountain was also pedal-to-the-metal, although it was the brake this time.
A matter of seconds later - 300 or so of them - we belted across the finish line and I pulled up with a mighty grin on my face.
"What are you doing?” Master12 asked me.
"We did it,” I told him. "That's all I wanted to do. You can all relax now.”
"But that was just one lap,” he complained.
It took me a second to realise what he was saying.
"Are you saying,” I said, "you'd like to go around a...”
"Again!” Miss5 finished for me.
"One more. One more. One more,” sang Miss7, successfully starting a chant because all her siblings quickly took it up.
"I'm going around again,” I said out the window to Tracey. "Want to hop on with us?”
Four laps later we called it quits and went home, having conquered the mountain.
And taken another bite out of a few niggling anxieties as well.
Given my best lap time, I estimate we'd finish the 161-lap race in a touch over 33 hours, not including pee and pit breaks. So - you know - two days or so.
Learn more about Bruce's efforts to raise his family on little more than laughs at bigfamilylittleincome.com