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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #019

Editorial

OK, I know it's been a while since the last issue.

At first we were travelling for long hours, and I didn't feel up to writing after 15-hours of driving.

Then we were working on the truck again, and likewise, I didn't feel like writing after a hard day flame cutting, welding etc.

Then, for a long period, we have been staying in one place, and there hasn't really been anything to write about.

Then I just plain got out of the habit.

Sorry about that, we're be back on the road now, and back on track.

 

No motorhomer is an island
I like to be as self-sufficient as possible, we have the tools and power and whatever to do most jobs in the field. But there's times when it sure is helpful to have some power, or shelter, or maybe the loan of a car.

In the past couple of years (almost) since we hit the road we've been helped by many people, from a lift into town to buy a newspaper, to full run of a workshop and the tools within.

We could have done everything with our own resources, but the help provided by people (many of which we had never met before) has sure made life easier.

I won't name names for fear of forgetting someone, but thank you to all.

 

 

Wed 14 May 2003

At about lunch time we pull into Cummins Monument lookout. As we walk up the track we notice a dead bird hanging on a high-tension line but take little notice.

At the top of the hill there's a marvellous vista.


Looking up and down the coast from the lookout. There's an osprey nest on top of the rock pillar in the left-hand photo.


Osprey nest, complete with resident Osprey.

As we walk back down the track to the truck I decide to investigate the dead bird on the wire.

As I get nearer I notice that it's head is moving, it's not dead.

What a pitiful sight, the seagull must have collided with the high-tension line in such a way that it's wings were broken and folded over the wire. By the look of it's tiny webbed feet, hanging limply from a still body, I'd say the unfortunate animal's back is also broken.

And yet with a marvellous stoicism, that only animals can display, the creature simply surveys the scenery as if on the lookout for a picnic table to raid.

Sadly this bird will never raid another picnic table, and it breaks my heart so see it hanging there. But at 30 feet in the air, and 33kv running through the wire, there's nothing I can do.

We continue down the highway.


Anglican church in a field, near Sheringa.


Shadow of a tree on post-harvest stubble in a field

Just on sunset we pull into Farm Beach. There's a lone fisherman in the bay, and a lovely glow in the sky.


Fisherman, navigation beacon, seagull and sunset, at Farm Beach

It's quite cool so we have the shutters closed. However, as the cooking of the evening meal progresses, the interior of the truck warms markedly, and I open a lounge room shutter.

"G'day" comes a greeting from below. It's the lone fisherman, Alton is his name and he's just caught himself a feed. "I've got a mate who'd love to see this" he says.

Apparently Alton had been wandering around the truck wondering what the hell is was, when a shutter opened and he was bathed in light from on high.

Alton leaves, we have dinner and settle in for the night.

Thu 15 May

Last night I spotted a nice-looking fishing boat anchored a few hundred yards down the beach, and this morning I walk down to photograph it.

Initially it's invisible in the dense fog, but slowly it emerges.

I don't have a cable release and so use the camera's self timer, set to two seconds, to fire the shutter. This works well for static subjects, but then I see some seagulls flying towards the boat.

I'd like a bird in the photo, but cannot fire the shutter at exactly the right moment because I'm using a slow shutter speed, and therefore should not touch the camera at the moment of exposure.

I estimate the bird's speed and start the timer two seconds before I think it will be in the correct place. The result is shown below.


Fishing boat and seagull in the fog

Chris has joined me by now and we walk back along the beach. On the one side we have the almost perfectly still bay, and on the other, masses of seaweed and open pippy shells.


Before dawn at Farm Beach

Farm Beach is so called because the locals used to keep tractors on the beach to launch and retrieve their boats.

Apparently the practice of leaving the vehicles permanently on the beach is no longer allowed, so the tractors live in a compound just off the sand.


Tractors in the compound at Farm Beach. Despite appearance most of them seem to be registered.

Fri 16 May

We drive into Port Lincoln, parking on the edge of town and walk into the main street to do some business and pick up our mail.

On our return to the truck I spot a Cormorant on the beach. Cormorants are usually very wary of humans, so it's strange to see one on the beach in the middle of town.

I rush back to the truck and grab a camera.

I find that I can approach the bird to within just a few feet, probably even closer, but I use a long lens to increase what's called the "working distance". This allows me to get close-up photos without actually getting that close.


Cormorant on the beach at Pt Lincoln.

After photographing the bird we drive out to the Billys Point boat ramp for the night.

While enjoying my evening beer an old Fairlane drives up. The driver gets out and says "What the hell izat?"

Kym is his name, he's the friend that Alton mentioned last night. He's been following our progress on the web site.

Apparently he and Alton had seen us drive through town and, figuring we'd be looking for a place to camp, they went looking in some likely spots.

We talked for some time. Kym invited us to stay in his workshop. "I'll have to move a few things" he says, "But I've been meaning to do that for a while anyway".

Sat 17 May

There's a nice sky this morning which we share with an insomniac runner and a few ducks.


Dawn at Port Lincoln

After breakfast we go round to Kym's workshop. I think he was a little optimistic about us fitting into the shed.

It's chock-a-block with cars, tractors, boats, and just about everything you can imagine.

While we're there another local drops by. Terry belongs to the Whyalla & Eyre Wanderers, and he invites us out to Surfleet, in the Lincoln National Park, for the weekend.

After lunch we drive out to the park to meet Bill, Joyce, Terry, Sue, Ross and Chris. We camp with them for the weekend. The weather is not good, but the company and the fire are.

Mon 19 May

Everyone left yesterday but we decide to hang around for another day.

Tue 20 May

Pull into Kym's workshop, well actually the concrete slab outside the workshop. As I said before there's no chance of fitting inside.

We plan to fix the shutters while we're here, but it's a job that should be done undercover so we'll give it a miss for the time being.

Still there's some maintenance to do, and a few small jobs, so we'll drop anchor for a few days.

Kym's a great bloke, he's put a deposit down on a bus and plans to do a conversion. However, after talking with us, and looking into some of the work involved in Wothahellizat, he's beginning to wonder about building a motorhome himself.

It's not that he's not capable, he used to own an engineering business and would be far more capable as a fabricator than I am.

I suppose it's a case of enthusiasm and ignorance. When I started I was dead keen, but I was also totally ignorant of the amount of work involved. If I'd known I may not have started.

Kym has a lot of experience building things and therefore has a pretty good idea what's involved.

Chook (owns the neigbouring workshop) is also into bus convertions, and has just taken delivery of an ex-Canberra transit bus.

He brings it around and we talk about some of the issues involved. In some ways I couldn't face starting again, and yet the sight of a "blank canvas" like this bus does get me thinking about it.

Sun 25 May

We get a call from my dad this morning, he's had a bit of a health scare.

We decide to head back north to Bundaberg. It's a 2500k trip, 3000k if we go via Canberra to pick up some tools and books we left with friends 18 months ago.

We had planned to continue around the south, through South Australia and into Victoria then pop over to Tasmania at the end of August. We knew it would be cold but figured we could handle it.

With my Dad being a bit under the weather that plan has gone the way of most plans. Still it will be nice to be warm.

Mon 26 May

At 11:30AM we leave the workshop. In the side mirror I can see Kym watching us as we round the corner.

I find myself wondering if he will ever clean out that shed and build his motorhome. (Come on Kym, I know you're reading this, get stuck into it, life's too short)

We drive all day, finally pulling into a gravel pit just past Pt Augusta.

Tue 27 May

First thing in the morning I ride back into into the post office to pick up some mail, then we continue south.

Before long we turn east and head into the picturesque Horrocks pass, for the next hour or so we wind our way up and over the range.

After the pass the country turns into rolling farm land, dotted with old stone farm buildings, including the famous "Midnight Oil" house. I'd love to stop to photograph them but we're in "drive" mode.

We drive into the night, eventually crossing from South Australia into Victoria. It's getting very cold and Chris has rugged up, she's wrapped herself in a blanket with a fold over her head and looks like the Emperor from Star Wars.

Pity she wasn't, my toes are freezing and I'm sure someone with The Force could easily warm them up.

At around midnight we pull into a rest area. I'm still not that tired, and besides trip meter only reads 495, I'd like to be able to say I've done 500 in a single day, so we continue.

At 507k, and after 15 hours, we find another gravel pit and pull in for the night.

Wed 28 May

It's 6 degrees this morning, way too cold if you ask me.

Mid morning we pull into the main street at Robinvale. We have friends (Greg and Sue) who have moved here (former bus nuts who decided to settle) so I get on the phone to them to see if we can drop in. They've just gone into business but Greg seems reluctant to tell me what kind.

It must be a very flexible business though, because the other day he said he'd come and meet us, no matter what time we hit town.

True to his word he says that he and Sue will be down at the truck in a couple of minutes.

Two minutes later a taxi pulls up with Greg at the wheel. I see, he's got a job as a taxi driver.

Nope, they bought the taxi company.

We spend a couple of hours catching up, then leave town at about 4PM.

For days now we've been driving through some really nice countryside and it's been killing me not to be able to jump out and take some photos.

However, when I see the light on the deep furrows in a field I can't stand it any more. I jump out and run into the field.


Afternoon light on a newly plowed field.

At midnight we pull off to the side of the road.

Thu 29 May

Around midday we pull into Steve & Jill's place in Tocumwal.

Both Steve and Jill appear to be out, so we go for a walk into town.

Tocumwal is a quaint little town on the banks of the Murray. The real estate seems to have doubled since we were last here a year or so ago.

Later in the afternoon Steve and I rotate some of the tyres, just for something to do.

Fri 30 May

A couple of our tyres are getting a bit down on rubber and Steve has a regroover, so we decide to regroove them while we're here.

After seeing Steve's current project (a Bedford 4x4 chassis under an Austin bus body), and talking about building motorhomes, I once again start to think about building another one.

Sat 31 May

Leaving Steve and Jill's we drive along some back roads to the Riverina Highway, then on to Albury where we turn onto the Hume Highway and head north.

We have lunch in the car park at the Ettamoga Pub,


The Ettamoga Pub, no it's not falling over, it was build that way to mimic the pub in the comic strip

drive a bit further then feel like a rest so pull into a rest area for a cuppa. I find an entire dinner set sitting on the ground near a rubbish bin.

We have no need for the whole set, but the cups look good so we pick them up and continue on our way. (They turned out to be useless so we leave them further down the road. These cups have probably seen more of Australia than I have.)

Once again we drive on, camping just out of Gundagai near the famous "Dog on the tuckerbox".

Sun 1 Jun

Up the Hume Highway to Yass, then turn off towards Canberra. We stay with friends on their farm near Hall.

Tue 3 Jun

We move the truck to Kambah Pool on the south side of town. Our friends have loaned us a car for the week which is very helpful because the weather is terrible.

We drive around Duffy, one of the suburbs almost totally destroyed in last summer's fire.

It's quit unbelievable to see a city suburb with nothing but foundations and empty swimming pools. Very weird.

Most sites have been cleaned up by now, some are even rebuilding, so I'm sure it doesn't look any where near as bad now as it did a few months ago.

Later we walk down to the picnic area that used to be Kambah Pool.

This affects me more than the desolate suburbs because I used to walk along the river here every weekend.

Walking along the river is no longer allowed, presumably because of the danger of causing erosion with no tree cover or undergrowth.


The regrowth starts amongst the desolation. What are the markings on the burnt trees? I have no idea

Thu 5 Jun

And to think we we're going to stay down south this winter!. What were we thinking?. The weather is abysmal, freezing temperatures, howling winds, rain, hail; and we lived in this for twenty years.

The other day we were talking to someone who said they were preparing for the winter, referring to the stockpiling of fire wood etc.

I said that we were also preparing for the winter, we're heading north as fast as possible.

As you know we were up north for over a year, and during that time I wondered why anyone would live down south. I also felt a bit nostalgic for the cool weather and the turning of the seasons, something you don't see at the top end of Australia.

Now I'm back with the turning seasons, but I'm not nostalgic anymore, just cold.

Fri 8 Jun

Today we move over to the north side of town and squeeze the truck into the narrow drive way of Mark and Gail, some motorhoming friends.

Sat 7 Jun

So many friends and so little time. Over the past week we've visited a number of people from our previous life.

It's been great to catch up on what people have been up to, and to relate some of our adventures.

However we must be on our way.

After lunch we fire up the truck and say our goodbyes to Mark, Gail and the girls. I'd love to stay longer but the purpose of this trip is to get up to my Dad's, and we're in danger of settling in here in Canberra.

After a short drive we drop the loaned car back to its owners, have a cuppa, and hit the road.

Several hours later we pull up next to the golf course in Cowra.

Sun 8 Jun

It's 4AM and I can't sleep so I get up and make coffee.

Drive all day and camp just outside Coonabarabran.

Mon 9 Jun

Today we cross over into Queensland, the land of cheap fossil fuels and diabolical roads. We fuel up at Goondawindi and keep going.

Is that my imagination, or did it get warmer as we crossed the border?

Just a few kilometres into Queensland the road turns into a goat track. It's lovely countryside, which is just as well, because at the speed we're able to drive at we'll have time to inspect most of it.

Tue 10 Jun

We pull into Bargara at 8PM, park behind the Carlyle Gardens village, and kill the motor. 3000 kilometers in two weeks, something of a record for us.

I extract a motor bike and ride around to see my Dad. Tomorrow we'll move the truck into the complex.

Fri 27 Jun

We've heard that friends (Adrian & Carrol) with another WORT (Weird Off Road Truck) are staying with Peter and Marie in Elimbah.

We'd love to catch up with them, and we need to do some work on the truck, (P&M's workshop is the best place we know to do it) so we drive down.


Adrian & Carrol's Thornycroft (left) and Peter & Marie's Ford/Inter hybrid.


Everything hanging out of the truck. Situation normal :-)


Weird truck heaven

Tue 1 Jul

Adrian & Carrol leave at about 10AM, half an hour later they return with a noise in their transfer case. "Probably just a bearing" Adrian says as he reverses back under the pine trees.

Not long after he comes over with two bearings in hand, they're OK, so it must be something else.

After another short period he returns, this time holding a small object, a tooth from one of the transfer case's gears. Oops.

Now most people would be fairly upset about this, but Adrian just takes it in his stride. Transfer case gears for a 1958 Thornycroft don't exactly grow on trees, but the Capels foresaw these types of problem and purchased several similar trucks to pirate for spares.

So they have the required parts, but they're in Sydney. No problems, just hire a car and drive the 2400k round trip. They left late this afternoon.

Fri 4 Jul

Adrian and Carol return late this evening.

I'm still working on the truck, the largest job has been to remove the water tanks and replace them with large bladders.

The original tanks have been useless almost from day one. Even though we paid a fortune for them, from people that seemed to know what they were doing, they have not lasted.

Two of them have been repaired several times already, and I found a crack in another when I removed it.

So, in an effort to reduce some weight, we've decided that the tanks (and their supporting hardware) will go.

We have plenty of unused storage under the lounge room floor and we're going to try something a bit unusual.

We've purchased two 500-litre bladders and installed them under the floor.

Because we cannot see the bladders I've also installed two water meters, one to count the water going in, and another for the water coming out.

By subtracting the value on one meter, from that on the other, we should be able to tell exactly how much water we have at any given time.

In true KISS (Keep It Seriously Sophisticated) tradition I build a housing for the two meters, plus a new filter and a calculator. We must be the only motorhomers in the world that need a calculator to fill up with water.

The motorhome's newest piece of technology should have a name, and I feel an acronym coming on.

How's POTWACAC (Potable Water Command and Control Centre), kind of rolls off the tongue don't you think?

Fri 11 Jul

We've been in Elimbah for two weeks now and the job list seems to be as long as it was the day we arrived.

Today I spent some time applying bitumen to parts of the roof. This stuff is supposed to stop leaks; it should do, after all it can stop the water getting into a a woolly mammoth for 20,000 years.

We've had a real good look at the junk (and therefore weight) we're carrying, and thrown out a lot of stuff.

Some surprising savings were,

  • CD covers, over 20kg in plastic Jewel cases for our CDs.
  • Unused clothing and linen, another 20kgs, dumped into a St Vinnies bin.
  • Spare wheel hardware, moved the spare to the back of the chassis and replaced 18kgs of lifting hardware with about 2kg of steel that does the same job.
  • Laptop support arm, I was using one of those fancy monitor arms that were popular some years ago. At 15kgs it had to go.
  • Bull bar, cut off the tubular pieces and the back of the heavy square section, 35kgs.

Wed 16 Jul

After two and a half weeks we've finished much of the modifications to the truck, but we still haven't tackled the job we really came here to do; fix the hinge on the loungeroom shutter, the one that I bent at Pemberton.

I also decide to replace the other two large hinges, one (the garage) because it was damaged in the wind at Geralton, and the other (the left lounge room) just because I think I should.

Tomorrow I'll finish the skylight and make a start on the hinges.

Fri 18 Jul

After putting off the hinge job it's going smoothly, partly because I had a brain wave.

As I mentioned, the hinges need to be replaced on the three large shutters. Initially I figured I'd have to remove the shutters entirely, cut off the old hinges, put new ones on, then replace the shutter.

Trouble is the shutters are large, heavy and several metres in the air, so it was going to be a difficult job.

But then I remembered how you retrofit dampcourse into a brick wall. You don't pull down the wall then put it back, you chase the mortar out for a couple of feet, insert the dampcourse, redo the mortar, then repeat the process for the entire wall.

In other words, you do it piece by piece, not all at once.

Using this strategy I replace the hinges one-third of the the length at a time. This way there is always two-thirds of hinge in place at any one time, this supports the shutter nicely and so it doesn't have to be removed.

It's still a very labour intensive and time-consuming job however.

After three days climbing up and down the ladder I'm fairly weary, but the shutters are now sporting their new hinges.

Wed 23 Jul

All done, there's still a few jobs to do, but most don't required workshop facilities and so can be done in the carpark at Bargara.

Thu 24 Jul

We return to Bargara. My Dad's feeling better now, not that anything's changed really, I guess it's been nice for him to have some family around.

Wed 13 Aug

Today we went into town to buy a pair of tracksuit pants, but do you think we could find any?

I'm of fairly average build, 5'10" and 180-odd pounds, so you'd think it would be easy. Not so. There's a few hangers sporting "Small" sizes, but by far the majority are XL and larger.

There's dozens of 4XL, 5XL and even 7XL! What the hell's going on, is the entire western world really that fat?, or is it just this town?

Sun 24 Aug

No more jobs!, at least not until next week. We've finished all the things in our list.

Most of the jobs we've been doing over the past few weeks have been repairs or small enhancements to the interior. There has also been a few things that were never finished; now they are, and I officially pronounce the motorhome "Finished" (about 18 months after the last time I pronounced it finished).

Some years ago, when we started this project, we were told that it will never be finished, I'm beginning to agree.

One of the main things I've done in the last week is to install the security cameras. I purchased some of the makings for this project a long time ago, even installed the monitor in the kitchen, but just never got around to fitting the cameras.

There are now four cameras mounted around the truck, and we can see pretty much all around, but now there's a requirement to easily switch between these cameras.

Now at this point most people would simply stick a $3 rotary switch in a panel and connect the cameras to that.

But somehow that just doesn't seem enough.

I go into the electronics shop and return with a handfull of parts, latching relays, IN4004 diodes, hookup wire, RCA sockets and plugs, some VERO board, and a black box to put it all in.

A few hours later I have a four-channel, pushbutton-activated, video switcher.

Have I mentioned in the past that I like my gadgets?

Tue 26 Aug

We start moving our "stuff" back into the truck today.

After several weeks based at my Dad's house we've spread out a bit. There's a fair bit to do to get things squared away, so we decide to start packing now.

We plan to leave on Saturday. It'll be good to be back on the road.

 

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