Travel Tales from the Pathetic Highway

All photographs and text Copyright 2018 Alexandra J Cornwell.

Apparently it’s too long for Google’s facility review to deal with my Macdonalds experience at the Port Macquarie Service Centre last week. I thought my friends could enjoy it anyway!


There are some pretty views along the Pacific Highway like the dawn colours over the Clarence River at the Ferry Park turnoff to Maclean NSW. 

Clean facilities (as expected) and nice renovation work since my last foray along the ‘Pathetic Highway’.

As an aside, like the occassional highway detour, I will say it is improving. Slowly. One day it might even be completed… In my lifetime… Fingers crossed…

Since my car does 900km on a tank of fuel I bypass the now decommissioned Shell at Bulladelah. Coincidental? Not when you multiply me by the thousands who drive (survive) this route every day.  With the longest bridge in Australia #triviafacts completed the allure of a pie at Frederickton is also bypassed.  With significant sections being upgtaded to dual carriageway, the feeling of early onset dementia is real in that, without the Garmin stuck to the inside of the windscreen, I no longer KNOW by the familiar landmarks of over 25 years driving between Sydney and the far north coast of NSW where exactly I am.

Although in some places, I am not alone as neither does the sat nav. At one point I spotted the vehicle icon spinning like a whacky compass while its onboard computer tracked and navigated a supposedly roadless terrain. Time to upload an update methinks.


A section of new dual carriageway on the  Pacific Highway with traffic conditions on electronic warning signs which are still useful when a B-double transport truck comes to grief.

Meanwhile, with the newly opened Oliver’s right next door (a source of such vegetarian staples as avocado noiri rolls that my daughter consumes like candy or ‘toad-food’ as my partner disparigingly refers to my occassional need for a phyto-oestrogen hit of tofu), you’d think Maccas would be on their game about competition in the salad department… Maybe no one orders salads in a bowl from Macdonalds anymore as the young staff dealing with constructing a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad on the Friday afternoon shift had no idea. To be fair, what kid after a long week of high school in the heat of summer would?

Fortunately I was dining inside and enjoying the modern thrill of air conditioned table service in a Maccas. I’d just uploaded the mobile app when it directed me to complete my order by inserting a table number. Such things are not on the table (I looked!) but are on a small disc obtainable from a dispenser that I presume acts as a homing device for the junior waiters with trays tasked with food delivery!

After the prompt delivery of the chai latte in a tall glass (the old dual ordering system has finally been overcome but still the barista service is faster than food!), the salad bowl arrived – with the salad, and ONLY the salad component. Some chopped up iceberg lettuce and a couple of pieces of tomato under a large clear plastic lid. Hmmmm.

Much to the amusement of my fellow diners, my multiple trips back to the counter to obtain the ingredients for a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad provided a laugh.

Trip 1. Grilled Chicken & Bacon pieces. That looks better but still there is something missing. It tastes dry. Ah-ha moment.

Trip 2. Caesar dressing – in a small container (with a side order of complimentary apology from the duty manager). That’s OK – I hope my empathic look said “You’d have to pay me very well to supervise adolescents in a commercial kitchen”.


I returned to the table, ate most of the salad – down to the parmesan shards that had stuck to the bottom and sides of the container in protest at the initial absence of other ingredients they could’ve clung to for warmth, if not company. Even that would require a bit of a shake to mix it all up… speaking of shaking – my mother was barely holding it together.

Lucky I didn’t do drive-through as we’d all required a comfort stop and my mother is not a big fan of the roadside verge or the smelly compost loos. She has 75 years of travel under her belt and I reckon she might know a thing or two (though I’d never admit it!).

By this time she was getting into her trying-to-be-helpful-but-not commentary zone with an innocuous “Are we done?” transmuting into the fully fledged “Why didn’t you just order it at the counter like you do any other place?” Good questions.


I answered with the consumer-participation component of emptying my small serve of fries and the shaker seasoning into a brown paper bag – and shaking it loudly in the air between us. It turns out that was merely a distraction to my noticing the other missing element – a complete lack of croutons!

Unfortunately we’d reached my mother’s limit re time spent in a fast food outlet with her adult daughter ranting about salads, teenagers and shaking a paper bag in her face when her home comforts were calling loudly to her. It’s just not that helpful to the diet when you’re the designated driver on a Sydney to North Coast run – so you end up licking shaker seasoning out of the bag on a french fry dipped in caesar dressing and cursing the lack of refresher towelettes.

Being the mother of a recently turned 21-year old male I automatically retrieved a wad of serviettes (in case anyone else wants one) and retraced my steps to the bathroom to wash my hands again. Shaker seasoning on the steering wheel isn’t my idea of comfortable driving.

Meanwhile aforementioned son (who’d ordered and eaten his KFC at the outlet furthest away from Oliver’s in the time it took me to upload the app) had put his ‘ears’ in.  Seeing me head for the toilets was his cue to amble back to the car. He’d had enough of his mother’s excitement and consoled himself with alternating front seat occupation while his grandmother’s D-Jaying (CD changing is the passenger’s designated job in my car) meant random CD selections like my Pink Floyd – The Wall and a rogue Violent Femmes – Best Of interspersed between K.D.Lang and the soundtrack to Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

It’s how we roll… some of the time.


The ordering instructions all make sense… as I’m leaving…

Back to getting on the road! By some miracle I’d reached my step-goal for the afternoon – and if I’d had the GPS tracker turned on my phone there’d be a heavy line between the seat at the unnumbered tables and the counter of Caesar salad reconstruction bracketed by the shortest routes to the ladies toilet.

If I ever do a drive through order here I’d skip the bag-shaken fries (in the intetests of road safety) and the super under-constructed salad (’cause I don’t want to be coming back to the drive-through window 4 times before leaving the carpark) and I’ll order the chicken wrap instead! Just like my mother did.


How was my experience?

Until next time I’m back on the road.
Happy travels!


Alexandra J Cornwell
Poet, Author, Foodie, Tourist, Mother, Chaffeur – and food critic!


2 thoughts on “Travel Tales from the Pathetic Highway

  1. Hope life goes well. My writing life becomes more frustrating as it gets harder to have anything read and,more importantly, appreciated, at a professional level. Ho hum. Catch up some time. Cheers


    • If you’re in Brisbane CBD on the 2nd Tuesday of the month you’re welcome to come along as my guest to the Society of Women Writers Qld Inc.’s monthly meeting in the community meeting room on the ground floor of the Brisbane City Council Library at 255 George Street. (* Note: because that room was booked for another group the June 2018 meeting will be across the river at the Qld Writers Centre near the State Library.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s