As I’m writing this, I’ve just managed to get four hours of the most utterly boring driving imaginable out of the way, and for some reason I decided to do it by choice.
It’s not because I’m some sort of automotive sadist, but because if my expensive three-year journalism degree taught me anything, it’s that you need to jump on a story quickly when it comes up.
This story, I didn’t manage to get onto as quickly as I’d have liked. When I first heard about it, I was on the way to catch a flight to head over to Melbourne – with the focus of the trip being to produce some very exciting content you’ll see on this site very soon – which I only returned from last night.
Regardless, with the story only having made national news on Sunday, it wasn’t too late to execute my plan that saw me undertaking the journalistic equivalent of Christian Bale’s torturistic method acting.
So, what is the story in question? Obviously, it’s related to motoring and travel since it’s on this site, but it’s outside of the sort of thing I’d cover in the Essential Drives series, which is focused on great driving roads. And let me assure you, there were no great driving roads involved in this journey. Rather, this is in relation to… a landmark? Yeah, we’ll call it a landmark given I can’t think of anything better to describe it.
You see, South Australian media personality Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello – best known as the presenter of the television program South Aussie with Cosi, which I once appeared in an episode of in a past life – started a teddy bear fence with his daughters while travelling along the Copper Coast Highway in SA’s Yorke Peninsula two years ago, and since then, it’s become an easily recognisable part of the road’s scenery.
Inspired by another teddy bear fence in Truro, Cosi’s, situated between Kulpara and Paskeville, has already earned a world record as the longest teddy bear fence in the world. An estimated 1500-2000 plush children’s toys adorn the one kilometre-long stretch of fence in the name of good fun. But, of course, fun is something that’s illegal in Australia these days.
That’s why last week, on his breakfast radio show, Cosi broke the news that the fence was set to be demolished due to the Barunga West and Copper Coast Councils not wanting it, along with a small number of complaints from “whingers and winers”, which has prompted the South Australian Department of Planning, Industry, and Transport to make the call to have it destroyed, with the date set for around a week from the time this article goes up. A few higher-ups in the state government may be trying to fight for it from what’s been heard around the place, but there’s nothing concrete in that regard just yet.
Now those of you who were able to read the headline at the top of the page will understand that my position here is that I am against the removal of it, and believe it should stay intact where it is, although some minor changes could perhaps be made.
And here’s where we tie it all back to the four most dreary hours of driving I’ve undertaken in recent memory all in the name of a good story. You see, the thought hit me the moment that this news broke that I should head out there and document it given what I’ve been doing with the Essential Drives articles, and just in case the plans to go ahead to have it destroyed so that there’s something on here to memorialise it with. Also, I thought it was a good opportunity to dust the cobwebs off my old Golf GTI and take it for a drive, as it usually sits for fairly extended periods being unloved while I’m busy driving other, perhaps more exciting cars.
It took me around 150km to get to the teddy bear fence from my house, meaning a four hour round trip given I hit early school pick-up traffic on the way there. Unlike the roads I usually like to drive – that is, with picturesque scenery, smooth surfaces, and an array of tasty corners to devour – there was barely a turn on my way there. Nor was there really any interesting views to behold, either.
And this is where the point that I set out to prove with this arduous drive comes in, which is one I know from many previous drives along this stretch of road while heading to the beach at Moonta. It’s boring. Really boring. The scenery never changes. There’s nothing interesting to look at, and nothing interesting to do. All there is to keep you occupied is a stressful 50km average speed camera zone – along with two mobile speed camera cars shortly after it on my drive there – and an array of signs reading things like “Fatigue Kills”.
With nothing to look at, it’s a mind-numbing journey to undertake. That is, until you get to the teddy bear fence. While it’s really aimed at giving kids and families a few seconds of fun – at 100km/h it takes just 36 seconds to pass – it realistically provides any driver with a welcome sight of something that isn’t some endless grey fields of nothingness.
I think it’s a terrific idea having it there. It’s a talking point to help distract you from your game of I spy that hasn’t taken off due to a lack of anything to spy with your little eye in this otherwise desolate land. It’s something to help make you smile. And that, it always does in my eyes at least. (It also signifies that you’re nearly where you want to be, thankfully, which is a handy morale-booster.)
Since I was going all this way just to protest the plans to have it removed on here, I decided a silent protest while I was there would be in order, too, by tying a bear on there myself.
Stopping in at one of the petrol stations in Port Wakefield, all it had that fit the brief on its fairly empty shelves was a plush toy of BB-8 from the new Disney-era Star Wars films. Close enough, I figured, given it was the last chance I had to procure something before I got there. Given I was attacked by a group of seagulls the moment I stepped out of the servo, however, I’d recommend bringing one from home if you yourself plan on adding to the fence’s plush-toy population.
Armed with a few cable ties from home, I tied the little droid right to what is the start of the fence if you’re heading towards Kadina, nabbed some photos and headed home, in a particularly contemplatory mood.
The main reason for the fence’s planned removal is due to safety concerns – some ‘traffic hazard’ signs do alert drivers from both directions before it – as the speed limit past it is 100km/h and there are fears of people crashing into it, or people putting bears on it.
Cosi noted that he agrees with the safety concern in regards to the speed limit and I must admit that I do too. I also agree in part with those who’ve said that there isn’t quite adequate-enough room to stop on the side of the road for if you want to add a bear to it, although I tactically chose the spot I did when I stopped because there was enough room to safely pull off there.
Personally, and this is coming from someone who likes to get places in a hurry, I’d be happy to have the speed limit dropped to 80km/h past the fence, both from the safety side and to get a proper look as well and enjoy it for the extra nine seconds you’d be going past it for.
The fences supposed messiness was another cited complaint, but on the couple of times I passed it while out there photographing it, I didn’t see any mess or fallen toys along there at the time – likely due to Cosi’s claims of him and his mother often going along it to tidy up if required.
I hope the fact that this did become national news helps to save it, since I think it’s well worth having there. It’s just a bit of innocent fun that truly brightens one of the worst, most boring drives I can imagine. Plus, since having ‘big’ things has always been a good bit of Aussie fun – think of the Big Banana or Big Prawn, or for some South Australian examples, the Big Rocking Horse or Cosi’s own Big Cockroach that can be seen along the same drive to the teddy bear fence – why not celebrate having something that’s the world’s longest, since really, it’s just horizontally big.
I really do hope the decision to have it destroyed is reversed, as with a few minor changes for the benefit of everyone’s sake, I think it could become a real icon of the Yorke Peninsula, and while residents of the area may hate me for saying this, it honestly could do with one since while some of the destinations are lovely, the drive otherwise honestly just sucks.