Life has changed dramatically for Bluewater Springs Roadhouse owners Geoff and Melissa Bolster since the coronavirus pandemic hit the headlines in 2019.
The couple has been running the Queensland outback roadhouse, located 120km outside of Charters Towers, for the past 15 years and are well known and respected in the road transport industry.
“Some years before coronavirus we would get between 35 and 70 trucks a day pulling up here. But now most times it is just a few a day and they are mainly owner-drivers,” Geoff told Big Rigs.
But the roadhouse still looks after truckies providing facilities such as clean showers, toilets and a dining room with a menu to suit the taste buds of everybody.
In fact, Melissa, 61, and Geoff, 65, share the cooking duties and have become renowned for their home-cooked food.
“We have become famous for our hamburgers and provide coffee for our truckie customers,” Geoff said.
Geoff said the roadhouse was shut for three months in 2019 when Covid-19 first made headlines and when many parts of the country were in lockdown.
This year Geoff and Melissa had to close the doors for several days to travel to Townsville for a Covid-19 test which came back negative.
“We had symptoms such as a cough, sore throats and runny noses and there had been caravan travellers from NSW and Victoria stopping here so we had to be tested,” he said.
The roadhouse also lost business for months in 2019 and this year when the Hervey’s Range Road was closed whilst work was done due to landslides.
That impacted the number of people coming from Townsville.
Whilst business is much quieter these days due to Covid concerns Geoff said the roadhouse had been kept afloat because of contractors working in the area, locals, and travellers.
For locals, Bluewater Springs is the “social centre’ of the region even though the couple handed in their liquor license about seven years ago.
“In the area around here live about 80 people on stations and many come here. We let the liquor licence go because it wasn’t cost effective. People enjoy a meal in our dining room,” he said.
Geoff said that roadhouse proprietors faced problems with many would-be patrons who refused to abide by government Covid-19 regulations.
“A lot won’t sign in, so we just don’t serve them which costs us business. But we abide by all regulations here and will continue to do so,” Geoff said.
The Charters Towers to Lynd section of the Gregory Development Road where the roadhouse sits is an important inland route for trucks and motorists as it provides a link from the south to the Atherton Tablelands and beyond.
It is also a vital alternative route when the coastal Bruce Highway is closed due to floods or accidents.
“That generally occurs a few times a year,” Geoff said.
However, it used to be considered a ‘goat track’ by many and back in 2009 an “Action Group” met at Bluewater Springs to lobby the Government to upgrade it.
It has been the scene of numerous fatalities and serious accidents and was narrow and had no road shoulders on most parts.
Present at that meeting was then Queensland Transport Minister Craig Wallace and about 80 concerned people including graziers, council representatives, business owners and others.
Since then, the route has been progressively upgraded to mostly double lane highway with just a 10km section to be widened.
“It is better than most of the Bruce Highway and much safer to drive on,” Geoff said.
The nearest roadhouses are at Greenvale about 95km away, and Oasis which is 50km further on along the Hann Highway near the Lynd Junction.
“We don’t keep an eye on what other roadhouses are doing and concentrate on running our own,” he said.
Geoff is also regarded as a genuine Good Samaritan in the area and is called on by police to attend accidents and to identify victims.
Every September the population around Bluewater Springs swells by several thousand when the popular Ewan Amateur Race Meeting is held.
“The racetrack is just 1.2km from our roadhouse and we do get people from there stopping here. But not as many afterwards as the police do roadside breath tests,” he said.
As much as they enjoy the peaceful life there, however, Geoff and Melissa are calling time due to health issues and the desire to be closer to young grandkids.
The roadhouse is now up for sale at the modest sum of $380,000.
“It would suit a younger couple with heaps of energy,” said Geoff.
If a sale is made, they will be sadly missed.