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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #005

Editorial

Well here we are, sitting up in sunny Queensland wondering if we should go further south for the summer or just hang in here.

Our original plan was to go south but what the heck, it's nice up here so why leave? That's the great thing about this lifestyle.

We've spent the past three months staying with friends near Caboolture. In that time I've done over seventy jobs on the truck and am now declaring it finished. Not that it will ever really be finished but it's near enough.

 

Gee you're lucky
If I had a buck for every time someone said that to me I really would be lucky.

Yes we are lucky. Lucky to live in a country where this lifestyle is safe and achievable, lucky to have been born with a certain aptitude that allowed us to do this,

BUT

It wasn't luck that worked everyday for years building the motor home, it wasn't luck that went out and got the skills required to do the job, it wasn't luck that worked long hours for years earning good money and promotions, it wasn't luck that didn't blow that money on fast cars and five-star trips to Bali and it wasn't luck that decided not to have children knowing that they reduce our financial options,

SO

Yes we've been lucky, but we also worked like stink for years and built on that luck. We did it and so can you.

 

 

Tue 6 Nov 2001

We stay a couple of days but my mum doesn't like the thought of us living "on the side of the road". I try to convince her that we were not exactly sleeping in a cardboard box under a bridge, but eventually we move into one of the local caravan parks.

Wed 7 Nov

The Bagara caravan park is situated at the very northern end of town and is a great place to stay. We park in the no-power section, a beautiful grassy area with massive fig trees for shade.

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The no-power area, we park in the sun but there's great shade if you want it.

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Palm trees on the beach, just across the road from the caravan park.

Fri 11 Nov

Today we had two Lorikeets (very brightly coloured parrots) land on the railing. I throw a piece of bread onto the deck and they pounce on it. One is obviously dominant and takes the lion's share, so I throw another piece to the other.

This goes on for some time. One piece falls short and lands in the lounge room. In their strange hopping gait, the bolder of the two comes in for it and the other follows. They fly back to the railing, where one of them leaves us a little message before flying off.

As I write this one of them returns, this time he flies straight into the lounge room and perches on the settee, we are both sitting in the recliners with the foot rests up, and he was only inches from our feet. For a while I think he is going to jump right onto my big toe.

These two birds become regular visitors, flying directly into the motorhome and sometimes landing on my shoulder or arm.

We're finding that the local bird life seems to enjoy our deck. We've had everything from Kookaburras using it as a lookout, to parrots using it as a dining table, I just hope no eagles get the idea.

Tue 22 Nov

We go over to my parent's place this evening. Chris on the pushbike and me on the motorbike, for a short while I ride next to her. There is a strong head wind and she is not going very fast when we pass a young fellow out for a walk. We must have looked like we were training for a triathlon or something as he decides to join in.

Sprinting to catch up he then settles into a pace that matches ours. He's wearing white shorts and shirt and reminded me of the guys in 'Chariots of Fire' running on the beach. I am getting tired of going so slow so I accelerate and leave them to it, with the sound of the movie's theme tune ringing in my ears.

Sat 24 Nov

I ride home tonight in the pouring rain. One thing about Queensland is that it's seldom cold, even when it's raining, so that isn't a problem, but dodging the cane toads is. I must look like I'm drunk as I weave in and out the froggy 'speed bumps'.

Sun 9 Dec

I've spent the last week or so recording about 30 of my old vinyl albums onto CDs, a simple but time-consuming process.

Tomorrow we must leave and head back to Elimbah (just north of Caboolture) to do some work on the truck.

Tue 11 Dec

We arrive at Peter & Marie's place in Elimbah and settle into our 'usual' spot under the pine trees.

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Parked under the pine trees.

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The view from our lounge room.

Thu 13 Dec

The truck moves into the shed and I remove its rear wheels. Dave and his offsiders cut the axles off, measure things up, then weld them back on. Hopefully this will correct our crabbing problem.

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The axles are cut off with an Air Arc Gouger.

We also have had severe tyre wear on the back axle and general consensus is that a set of shock absorbers would fix this (the 6x6 ACCOs don't have shockies on the rear axles).

Mon 17 Dec

I've decided to add shockies to the truck's two rear axles while it's up on stands with the wheels off.

I've purchased four Monroe-wylie shockies from a local second-hand dealer, off a Unimog he thought but they are exactly the same as those on Peter's truck and the front of mine. So they're really off an ACCO.

To verify this I ring Monroe and quote their part number from the box, they've never heard of it!

Over the next day or so I'll make the appropriate brackets, the bottom ones get welded to the axles and the top ones bolted to the chassis (you don't weld to a chassis), this means drilling 12 holes in the truck's double chassis rails which is bloody hard work.

Wed 19 Dec

I've had a fairly hard day (by my standards that is) working on the truck and it's after dark when I stop. Peter comes over from the house with a couple of beers, and we stand under the mercury vapour lights shooting the breeze.

The place was swarming with bugs, big bugs. A massive moth lands on Peter's belt, looking rather like a bizarre buckle. A Rhino beetle lands on my foot and latches onto a sandal strap.

After a few minutes I notice and comment that we were standing having a beer wearing a four-inch moth and two-inch beetle. Peter just said "Yep, we're in Queensland". I have visions of some weird planet where the denizens use live animals as clasps for their clothing.

Speaking of Rhino beetles we've been woken up recently by a banging on the roof that sounds as if someone's up there bashing with a mallet.

Dave had told me of this, but it still took a while for me to realize what was happening. Kookaburras like to eat Rhino beetles but don't like the heads (if you saw the horn that gives the beetle its name you'd realize why) so they fly the unfortunate insect to the roof and bash the b'jeebers out of it until the head comes off. Charming.

While on the subject of wildlife, Mark has found a Blue Tongue lizard in the house. He catches it and releases it in the bush, after a photo op of course.

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Mark (the "Snake Man") shows off the Blue Tongue lizard before releasing it.

Thu 20 Dec

Peter needs a photo of Slineaway on a dirt road with the Glasshouse mountains in the background. We can't find a spot with all the mountains so settled for Mt Tibrogargan.

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Slineaway hits the dirt near the Glasshouse Mountains.

Fri 21 Dec

We finally get tyres. I found three at a local second-hand dealer and another three from a steel fabricator who uses them on the land planes he builds.

I have also purchased the appropriate equipment for changing tyres, so we have become even more independent.

Peter, Mark and I change one of the tyres, and by the end we're all a bit knackered. We inflate it only to find bulges appearing on the side walls, the tyre is no good.

I can't wait to do this by myself in the heat and dust of the outback.

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The truck parked in Dave's workshop, a newly changed wheel/tyre on the ground.

I've completed the changing of the tyres. It's hard work, each wheel/tyre combination being four feet in diameter and weighing about 150 kilos.

The six running wheels were bad enough but at least they were galvanised rims (no rust). The spare however was not galvanised, and the rim has rusted under the rust band.

My sliding bead breaker is no match for the rusted on tyre, so I have to resort to breaking the bead with a high lift jack.

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Using a high lift jack under the bull bar to break the bead on a recalcitrant tyre.

I then pour lubricant into the bead and wait a few hours. Eventually I persuade the tyre to leave the rim. Before replacing it with a radial, I paint the rim with cold gal and smear rubber grease on it. The new tyre literally falls onto the rim.

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We thought we'd start a Tyres-R-Us franchise.

Wed 26 Dec

39 degrees three days in a row. Two days ago it was too hot to work, yesterday was Christmas day, but today I built the lower brackets for the new stabilisers I'm adding to the truck.

39 degrees and I'm flame cutting and welding steel, oh well it' got to be done sometime.

Sun 30 Dec

What a storm. At about 5:30PM the sky fell on the Sunshine Coast. Chris battened down the truck while I run to the workshop to find overflowing gutters and horizontal rain drenching tools.

I move things to safety, struggle with the large sliding doors in the gale and flickering lights caused by a faltering power supply, then return to the truck to wait the storm out.

Shortly after that the power fails entirely, no problem for us as the inverter just takes over without missing a beat.

After an hour or so the power is still off so we decide to do something about the fridge and freezer in Peter and Marie's house (they are away for the weekend).

I remove our generator from its possie in the truck and install it in the garage. After a brief period during which I struggle with a moral dilemma, whether to use the generator for the beer fridge or the food fridge, I decide to save the food.

Our small generator won't run both the fridge and the freezer (they're both very large) so we elect to save the freezer's contents.

Later we swap the generator to the fridge, fill the tank with petrol and go to bed. Sometime during the night it ran out of fuel.

Mon 31 Dec

Rising at 5:30AM we find the power still off and decide to have a cuppa then restart the generator.

While watching the NSW Bushfire News on TV and drinking our first heart starter Chris notices that the batteries had risen to 26.7 volts. That means that they are in a state of float charge and, at this time of day, can only mean that the power has returned.

We return to the house to plug in the fridge and freezer. Chris goes to open the front door and recoils, there's a frog perched on the doorknob.

Yep, we're in Queensland as Peter would say.

On ACCOs the winch cable runs down the side of the chassis, and the addition of shock absorbers and stabilizers means that it has to be re-routed to clear them.

This means that I have to construct two rollers to force the cable out around the shockies and another to bring it back into line with the chassis.

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The new shockies and winch cable rollers.

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A closer view.

All this, plus adding upper mounts for the shockies, means that I've drilled 25 holes (plus another 25 pilot holes) in the chassis over the past few days.

Drilling holes in a double chassis rail is not fun. With a high-torque low-speed drill you use all your body weight to force the bit through the steel for the majority of the hole, but as you near the end you have to back off and chew slowly at the material or the bit can break through too soon and jam. Even if you do slow down the bit often bites the steel anyway.

Now usually during the course of hole drilling in chassis you have two stationary objects (the truck and the drill) connected by a spinning object (the drill bit).

But when the bit stops something else has to spin, and you can bet it won't be the truck.

What with pressing the drill to my chest with all my weight and being bashed around by a spinning hand tool I've been a little bruised lately.

Thu 3 Jan

It's been quite hot recently and we've been using the pool a bit. One person however who will not use the pool is it's owner, Peter.

Apparently the only time he's been in it was some time ago and that was an accident. It seems that, while skylarking, Peter wound up in the pool fully clothed. Remarkably he saved his beer by holding it high, like a heroic Aussie version of the Statue of Liberty.

One can only wonder how long he would have stayed immersed before deciding that air was more important than beer :-)

Sat 13 Jan

Peter needs a hand collecting pipes on Stradbroke Island today so at 4AM I'm in the passenger seat of his Scania.

As we cruise down the highway the merest sliver of a new moon rises over the mangroves. A great photo op but we have a barge to catch.

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The Stradbroke barge, the ramp approach angle doesn't look much but apparently busses regularly get stuck.

We're booked to return on the 1:30 barge and have plenty of time so Peter organizes for us to board the mine's giant processing plant.

This plant weighs about 4000 tonnes. It floats with its dredge on a lake that moves around the island as sand is dredged from one end, stripped of Rutile and other minerals, and deposited on the other end.

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On the processing plant, control room windows on the right.

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The processing plant is connected to the shore with giant umbilicals. Here we see one of them, you get onto the plant by walking along the pontoons.

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These devices separate the minerals from the sand. Their technical name is "spirally things".

The land then has to be reconstructed as close as possible to the the original, including rebuilding the hills, valleys, drainage etc. Of course they can't put fully grown trees back but I saw areas that were mined ten years ago and they did look natural.

As we leave the plant we passed a valve on a 12" pipe, you could hear the water rushing through the valve and the power is incredible. If one of those pipes blows anywhere near you it will definitely ruin your day.

With the sightseeing done we get to work loading the pipes we'd come over to collect.

Most were cut into six metre lengths the other day so we just have to load them. Peter operates the digger as a crane and I do the dogging.

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Peter picks up a pipe with the digger.

Fri 25 Jan

We borrow a car and drive back up to Bagara for a few days to visit my parents. These days I either ride a motorcycle or drive the truck so doing 300-odd ks in a normal car was a little strange.

We book into a nice motel right on the beach, $80 a night, ouch. It really hurts to pay for accommodation when we're used to bringing it with us. Likewise for food, $15 for lunch in a service station whereas we would usually park someplace nice and have a feed for almost nothing.

Sun 27 Jan

We return to Elimbah. It's nice to be back "home" but I'm getting itchy feet, there's still work to do on the truck but I'm starting to think that some of it can wait. The road is calling.

Wed 6 Feb

We went to see Lord of the Rings the other day, I just loved it but then I've been a "Ringy" for years. I first read LotR and The Hobbit in the early 70s and have read them several times since, including a couple of weeks ago to refresh my memory before seeing the film.

I've always been interested in doing some film making so I thought I'd have a crack at my own version, let's start with the title and some of the main players. (If you aren't familiar with the characters in LotR then you should probably skip this).

"Bored with the Rings"


starring


Gonedeaf - the somewhat hard-of-hearing wizard
Fraudo - he's not what he seems
Grimly - the dour Dwarf
Elround - the tall and lean leader of Rivendull
Legless - he's an Elf, but not as nimble as most
Bauron - the evil but really uninteresting bad guy
Arrogant(Prider) - direct decendant of the Gondor kings, and does he know it
Dorcs - not real bright, they work for the bad guys and are really ugly
Blobbits - a friendly if somewhat portly race

set in

Rivendull - The home of Elround, not much happens here
The Shire - home of the Blobbits
Mordorcs - The ring must be destroyed in a volcano in Mordorcs,
trouble is there is more Dorcs here that anywhere else

There that's the hard part done, now if I could just afford a video camera...

Sat 9 Feb

I got to thinking about getting gas bottles refilled and the difficulty of transporting them even a couple of hundred yards if we can't get the truck near enough. Also there's all sorts of occasions where we might want to carry stuff for longish distances, shopping for example.

So, I've decided to build a trolley. At first I though a simple hand barrow would do but as the idea grew I decided to make a trailer for the pushbikes.

Pushbike trailers cost about $250 and they don't fold down for storage so, as usual, I got to and made my own.

Thu 14 Feb

Because our truck is old it has a MPH speedo which I find a pain, not so much for the speedo but for the trip meter facility. Naturally all signs are in kilometres these days and I get sick of converting.

So I've installed a bicycle computer as a speedo. If it works out I'll write a tech talk article about how to do it (there are some traps).

Thu 7 Mar

Work work work, for three months I've been working on the motor home but that's it, I've declared it officially finished. We've packed up and had planned to leave tomorrow but there's a party on Saturday so maybe we'll hang around for that and head off on Sunday.

Sat 9 Mar

I had a number two today, no not that, a haircut. I finally got sick of having bad-hair days so a couple of weeks ago we bought one of those haircutting kits, but its taken me this long to get the guts to use it.

I started with a number five comb on the shears but that hardly had any affect so I bit the bullet and pulled out the number two.

The hair was flying thick and fast for a while but when the dust settled there was a new, even more feral-looking, man sitting on the stool.

So now I'm in "low maintenance" mode. With a full beard and a crew cut, grooming is a simple and infrequent affair that I can do myself.

Sun 10 Mar

We finally leave Elimbah and head down the road, all the way to Caboolture (10k). After stopping briefly in a spot we thought would be a good camp we change our minds and drive to Deception Bay.

It's nearly dark as we pull into a nice spot right on the Pumicestone Passage. Some passing walkers point to a sign lying face down in the sand. "It's a No Camping sign" they say, "the ranger moved someone on last night".

We thank them for the warning but stay put. No ranger turns up, at least not until after 4AM when we leave and rejoin the Bruce Highway, southbound for Brisbane.

 

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