21 Feb 2019
WATCH: Meet Alan, who's clocked up thousands of kilometres and dozens of ripper road stories to match
Meet the man with so many pins on his map he's lost count.
Mosey over to Alan Richardson’s campsite and he’ll likely show you his impressive iPad road trip map, which has more pins than you can poke a stick at. Even Alan has lost track, covering a whopping 50,000-odd kilometres in his time on the road.
“We just always do as much as we can,” he says, zooming in on the various trips and pins along the way on his map. He’s proud as punch, and so he should be. His partner Lorel is proud, too. “Don’t ask me about the trips,” she says with a laugh, “Alan has done it all. He’ll tell you everything you need to know.”
A country man through and through, Alan grew up in regional Queensland, eventually owning a cattle property in the Roma district. Later on, he spent much of his adult life in the Toowoomba area, where he still lives on and off when he’s not on the road. “My mother is in a nursing home there, so we try to do one or two trips a year in between seeing her.”
He’s been travelling since 2010, covering an impressive amount of Australia’s red earth. “It’s still not enough time, though,” he says with a chuckle. “Unfortunately, with all of the travelling I’ve done so far, I have always had to be back home by a particular time, so we just do as much as possible.”
Three main trips in the last nine years have taken him on journeys upwards of 13 or 14 thousand kilometres, an impressive feat for any traveller on the road. “There’s been little trips in between those, but out of the three main trips, it adds up to nearly 50,000 kilometres.”
He’s been almost everywhere along the eastern side of Australia, with destinations all over the place: Ayers Rock, Darwin, Melbourne, Winton and the Oodnadatta Track as well as Birdsville Track, Strzelecki Track, Tanami Track and the Gibb River Road. Often, he’s joined by Lorel as well as some of his kids, grandkids and cousins who he loves having around the campsite.
He says it’s all about having a vague plan, rather than mapping everything out before you hit the road. Be too specific and you’ll miss out on some of the best bits. “There’s not always a plan, but there’s an idea of where I’m going… a general direction. You say you’re going to turn left, but then you turn right.”
He says staying at caravan parks along the way provides the right amount of peace of mind for Lorel and himself - a safe place to rest their heads and be prepared for the next day’s drive. “I prefer to stay at caravan parks just for ease. I try to make every distance I’m travelling in a day have a caravan park at the end but I’m equipped to free camp if that doesn’t happen.”
He’s got plenty of tips for keen roadtrippers, too, with dozens of stories of stopping to help fellow travellers along the way. “I always say ‘don’t come underprepared’,” he says with a laugh. He also says that knowing you’ve got good tyres underneath you may seem simple, but it’s the key to Australia’s rougher roads and having a vehicle in good condition. “Always leave with good tyres.”
When it comes to food, Alan is organised as they come. “I cryvac my meat and then I freeze it. I have one fridge on deep freeze and the other one just as a fridge. I’m a milk drinker, so I’ll put probably two bottles in the deep freeze and one in the other. We pick up bread, fresh fruit and veggies in some of the small towns along the way if needed - you can always get a loaf of bread.”
His favourite part of life on the road? The journey. “I just like driving. Getting going again the next day. I don’t find the driving hard. 90% of Australia is flat as a board. I don’t get bored driving through the country because I was brought up in the bush. I’m driving through thinking ‘how many cattle could I have in there’…my mind is going all the time wondering how people make a living off the land in different areas. I love driving through the flood plains, deserts, grazing and farming country, mountain ranges and looking at all of the different colours this land has to offer.”
Bravo, Alan. We’ll see you on the road.
This story from the road was published in G’DAY Magazine.