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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #049

Editorial

This chronicle covers quite a long period of time, a period in which we didn't do much except visit friends and sit on our land.

We did however make a very momentous decision, and that is to rebuild Wothahellizat. After being quite adamant over the years that I would NEVER build another motorhome, here I am deciding to do just that. Go figure.

You know what they say, "Never say never".

To be fair I won't really be "building" a motorhome, more "rebuilding" one. So there, I'm off the hook.

So what's the rational for this decision?

We started thinking seriously about a rebuild while on the 4x4 trip last year. We were actually very comfortable living in the Cruiser, and for the first couple of months wondered if we need a motorhome at all. But then it got cold, and we certainly missed our warm truck. So we figured something larger than the Cruiser and smaller than Wothahellizat would be about right.

The seed was sown, but it's taken several months to grow into action.

This chronicle leads up to the start of the Wothahellizat Mk2 project, then the chronicles will cease for a while. They'll be back, but during the break I'll be writing a construction diary so there will still be something to read at robgray.com

 

Thu 28 Aug 2006

For quite some time now the house batteries have been on the blink. They charge quick enough but will not hold the charge and turning even the TV on will cause them to drop to 22v or even less.

It's time for some new batteries.

I've decided to go for AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) type as I'm sick of doing the maintenance on wet cells. AGM batteries are sealed and therefore do not emit gasses or require any maintenance, and for someone like me that's a really good feature.

I order the batteries ($2500 ouch) but they are on a slow boat from China (literally, they are Chinese batteries) so won't arrive for some time. Meanwhile we're running the generator every night.

Tue 20 Sep

Geoff and Margaret arrive. They are two fellow 4x4 motorhome owners who we have met on several occasions, mostly while I was building the truck.


Geoff & Margaret's Hino 4x4 motorhome.

They stay for a couple of days, it's good to have a like-minded couple to chat with.

Thu 5 Oct

The grass on our block is very long and dry. This is a potential fire risk and also a pain in the arse as we like to go for walks and the long grass makes that difficult.

So we borrow a brush cutter from our neighbour and set to creating a small cleared area around the truck and container.


Burning the grass, my flat-packable barrow in the foreground.


The reason it's not a good idea to leave your shoes out at night.


A cute little gecko I disturbed while raking the grass.

Tue 17 Oct

Back down to the Gold Coast to visit friends.

Wed 18 Oct

There's a lot of bush fires in Australia at present, especially in Victoria where tens of thousands of hectares are ablaze. So we're a bit worried when a friend from Bundaberg rings to tell us that there are some fires in our area at Gin Gin.

Luckily we cleared a good area around the truck. I ring the local fire chief and learn that they will be burning off in the district to reduce fuel. She had already been to our block and was pretty happy with the fuel reduction we had done. She said they would be burning on and around our block tomorrow and would be careful with our gear.

Sat 21 Oct

Peter and Marie are long-time friends who also own an off-road motorhome and it's Marie's 60th birthday today. The family has organised a surprise party and we are here early to help set up.


A thing of beauty and joy forever.

The party guests include many friends she hasn't seen for a while but of most importance is her brother has also been flown out from the UK. He arrived a few days ago and apparently their meeting was a real "This is your life" event.

I've been drinking beer since 2 this afternoon, plus somewhere along the way I consumed a full bottle of wine because no one else liked it.

By the early hours of the morning there's just myself and Marie's brother still going, but I'm running out of steam and retire.

Thu 26 Oct

It's been a year since my Dad died and there's not a day passes when I don't think of the old fella.

Sat 28 Oct

In an effort to save money I decided some time ago to port this web site to new server, same ISP, just a new machine which for reasons known only to the provider makes my hosting cheaper.

Go figure.

So we're visiting some other friends in Brisbane who have a high bandwidth connection that will make the job easier.

While on a role I have also implemented PayPal as the payment method for the multitudes that purchase my photos.

There's been a few small technical hitches but overall I'm astounded at how smoothly the job has gone.

Tue 31 Oct

Some time ago I noticed that part of the Cruiser's chassis had rusted through. As it is potentially quite a problem I've been treating the vehicle with kid gloves recently.

Today however we are back at Peter and Marie's and they have a nice big MIG welder which is suitable for fixing the problem.

Unfortunately Peter has not got the workshop fully operational and the MIG is not yet working, his stick welder is working but I cannot stick weld to save myself, so Peter will do the job.

I prepare the area and create a plate to weld over the rusted section. Peter welds it in place and the Cruiser is as good as new.

While under the vehicle we also fix the broken sway bar.

Back to our block tomorrow.

Mon 6 Nov

For the first time in over four years of home brewing (or is that motorhome brewing) we have some bottles explode.

We hear a strange popping sound and walk to the front of the truck to investigate. Not finding the source of the noise I am about to return to my comfy chair when I catch the smell of beer in the air. This causes me to look more thoroughly.

We don't use glass, preferring the PET bottles sold by the homebrew kit manufacturer, and they've been great so far. But I guess they are getting a bit old. It seems that one exploded and took out it's neighbour.

Looks like we'll be buying some new bottles.

Tue 8 Nov

What a huge storm we're having, it's quite spectacular to watch the lightning from the safety of the truck's lounge room.

I amuse myself by counting the time between each lightning flash and it's associated thunder clap. You know the story,

FLASH, one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, BANG. That's about three miles away.

But how far away is it when you get...

FLASHBANG

"Not far enough" is the correct answer.

Thu 9 Nov

Telstra have introduced a new mobile system called NextG, I think it is an advanced version of 3G which has been available in the cities for some time. NextG is supposedly better and available everywhere CDMA is.

So, as CDMA is being phased out it makes sense to upgrade. But what's on offer?

Quite a lot as it happens. I get a new phone for free and the remaining contract on my old phone wiped. I get broadband speeds whereas CDMA is only 14kbps. My new plan is a data-driven plan whereas CDMA was time driven, this means I can take my time looking at web pages without constantly worrying about the clock ticking.

All in all it's a great deal I think. I also get an in-car hands free kit worth $200 thrown in, but this wasn't made obvious from the start.

All I really wanted was a method of connecting both a large external aerial (or broomstick as they are often called) AND the computer at the same time. However nobody could tell me if this was possible with the hands-free kit, including the people at the manufacturer's technical section.

I inspect the kit and it looks to me as though I can do what I want by simply not plugging in the wire that connects the phone to the cradle, but instead plugging in the computer cable. It seems that, as long as you don't want to use the hands-free option at the same time as the computer it should work.

But nobody can confirm this.

"I'm not spending 200 bucks on the off chance it will work" I say.

"Well we can throw the kit in for free" was the instant response. Telstra is obviously very keen for people to swap to the new technology.

The phone we are interested in is available in black or white, we got a black one, not because of any real preference but because the woman asked Chris which we would like, and Chris doesn't hear very well. Thinking she is being asked if she would like a cup of coffee she replies "Black please".

In total it took us 5 hours and several calls to various technical bods at Telstra to get hooked up to NextG and get the data connection working.

And just to show you how easy it is, one of the strings that must be entered when setting up the connection on your computer is

+cgdcont=1,"ip","telstra.internet"

I still can't believe I didn't get that one without some help.

Thu 10 Nov

You know how it is when you renovate a section of your house? All of a sudden the adjoining sections look pretty dowdy, so you feel you should tart them up, then the parts next to them look a little tired. Before long you've done the entire house.

Well we're having a similar problem on the block.

We started clearing the tall grass as a purely practical fuel reduction exercise in the area immediately adjoining the truck and container.

However the cleared area looked much better than the other 99% of the block, so we thought we'd do a bit more. We've cleared about 3 acres now, mostly with a brush cutter, but I've also chain sawed dozens of fallen trees and moved the resultant logs to a wood pile. We never have fires for recreational purposes so the wood pile is really just in case we have visitors who do.

Most of the grass is transported to our fire spot using my trusty home-made collapsible barrow, but at the far reaches of our realm it is simply cast to the winds.

And speaking of wind we had a doosey today, 100MPH or I don't know nuthin' about quantum physics. Needless to say we stopped burning when the wind arrived.

Mon 27 Nov

We got sick of transporting the grass to be burnt in a single spot, so have started burning off at various locations around the block. The woodpile is large enough to last several years so we are now burning all the dead wood as well as the grass.


Burning off again, this time the dead logs that litter the area around the truck.

Fri 22 Dec

After more than a year my Dad's house has finally sold, or to be more precise someone has finally taken over the lease and therefore the owners of the retirement village will soon release the equity to me.

Of course there is a final hitch, they reckon we owe more maintenance payments, and we reckon they didn't correctly calculate the depreciation of the items my parents added to the house.

So the saga continues.

Never the less we're feeling rich, so we decide to buy some bananas for the first time since cyclone Larry devastated most of the Australian banana crop a year or so ago.

For some time they were over $20 a kilo because there was little supply. At that price one assumes there was even less demand, certainly we haven't bought a single banana lately, not when you can almost buy a leg of lamb for the same money.

I saw a great cartoon the other day, it depicted a fruit and veg shop that had closed for the night. On the door was a sign that read "No bananas kept on the premises".

Fri 29 Dec

It's back down to the Gold Coast for us, we're house sitting for some friends over the Christmas break.

Thu 25 Jan 2007

I have the misfortune to deal with a bank today. I ring the freecall number and have to provide several personal details that only I would know, you know the drill, mother's maiden name, inside leg measurement, year of birth.

In answer to the last question I reply "54".

"Is that five four or one nine five four?" the operator asks.

"54, you know, as in 1954"

"But is that five four or one nine five four?"

"Waddayumean 'five four or one nine five four', is was born in 1954!, it can't be 2054 and I'm not 152 years old. Nineteen fifty bloody four!"

Maybe it was the tone in my voice, or maybe something I said, but at this point she decides to handle my query.

They say that money is the root of all evil, well I don't know about that, but it is certainly the root of much frustration. Without money you wouldn't have to deal with banks, and that has to be a good thing.

Sat 27 Jan

It's time to service the Cruiser and while I'm at it maybe fix an oil leak or two.

The main oil leak offender is the side plate on the engine, it's leaking like a sieve. That should be a simple exercise, just unbolt it, get a new gasket, and bolt it back on.

That's probably how it works for you, but life is never that simple for the Graynomad.

Three of the bolts had been snapped off and the heads just glued in place, presumably by the previous owner. After several hours attempting to drill the bolts and remove them with "Ezi-Outs" I give up and just drill them right out to the next size which is 7mm. Now the tap and die set has a 7mm tap so that's a standard size right? I'll just duck down to Bolts-R-Us and buy some.

"Nar mate they don't make that size any more", says the young fellow behind the counter. "You could try the wreckers, the old VWs had 7mm bolts".

After drilling the holes out to the next size (8mm), and waiting a day for the gasket the job is done, and I'm pleased to report that the plate leaks no more.

While I have my head under the bonnet I noticed that the vacuum advance doesn't work ($165 for a new one) and the clutch slave cylinder is hanging on by one loose bolt.

Now let's check out the spark plugs.

On removing them I find they are coated with a hard deposit. I'm not sure exactly what this is a symptom of so I consult the manual.

"Caused by bad fuel or more commonly 'old fogie' driving" it states.

Hmmm, old fogie driving indeed, they've got a nerve.

Sat 10 Feb

We're starting to think seriously about building another motorhome. Yes I know we've floated the idea a few times over the years, and normally I just lie down for a while until the feeling passes. But this time that trick isn't working.

But what to build?

We love just about everything about Wothahellizat, but our recent 4x4 trip taught us that we can be quite comfortable in a smaller vehicle. And the freedom we had in the Cruiser was great, we were comfortable exploring any track we came across, secure in the knowledge that we could almost certainly turn around at the end, and we could camp on any square metre or so of flat ground.

On the other hand, when the weather turned against us the Cruiser wasn't that comfortable, and of course we can't carry all our worldly possessions in such a small vehicle.

A large vehicle is definitely more comfortable to live in, but a real hindrance in many other situations.

It seems then that something larger than a Landcruiser, and smaller than Wothahellizat would be the best of both worlds.

So we start looking in the trader magazines.


This International 510 is fantastic to drive and has a very small turning circle. I am quite smitten but it's petrol, a little bit small, and the owner wants too much ($19,000).

Sun 11 Feb

We still like ACCOs though, and so we start looking for one of a similar vintage to ours. I am thinking of going to 4x4 rather than the 6x6 we have now. The only problem with that is the reduced GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) with two axles, I think the 4x4 versions are only good for 8 tonnes.


These ACCOs are all owned by one person. They are in poor shape but still cost up to $16,500, maybe we'll stick with the one we've got.

Thu 15 Feb

There must be something in the water here, Alan and Sharon (two friends also staying at Mark and Gail's) have decided to build a new motorhome. They currently live in a bus but have elected to go 4x4 this time.

To this end they have just purchased an imported Japanese 4x4 bus.


Alan and Sharon's 4x4 bus, it's still a 20-seater so they will have to clear everything out and start from scratch.

Sun 18 Feb

Peter and Marie (our friends who live near Glasshouse Mountains) are re powering their motorhome so we decide to drive up and see how the job is going.

It's a huge project, partly because the new motor has a turbo and doesn't fit in the same place as the old one, and partly because Peter is also swapping the the gearbox for a 6-speed Allison which is much larger than the Road Ranger previously installed in the truck.


The empty engine bay of "Slineaway", Peter and Marie's International S-Line 4x4 motorhome.


Peter working on the engine and gearbox.

Peter does all the work himself with the exception of the electronics required for the gearbox.

While here we check out an Isuzu that is for sale. It's more modern than I'm used to and quite nice to drive and we get quite serious about buying it. At $20,000 it's more than we had in mind but at least most things are done, for example it already has a good diesel motor, if we buy another old ACCO we will have to re power it and that would be a very time-consuming and expensive job.


A nice Isuzu we nearly bought.

Of course we don't have anywhere to build a motorhome, but Peter and Marie do own a huge shed, and they are going away for six months soon. Maybe they need a caretaker.

We float the idea passed them and they agree.

So we now have somewhere to do the job, but on what chassis will we build?

Mon 19 Feb

After looking at several trucks, and thinking about the pain involved in trying to sell Wothahellizat, we realise that we already own a good truck, it's just a bit larger than we now require.

We decide to dismantle our beloved motorhome and rebuild it as a smaller version, a sort of Son Of Wothahellizat.

Fri 2 Mar

We get back to the block. Because of a leak in the skylight, and my laziness regards placing a tarp over the offending part of the roof, the truck has been swimming in water and the carpet is stained.

It doesn't matter though, we'll be pulling the whole thing apart before long. Despite this Chris scrubs the floor for days to get it clean.

Sun 18 Mar

We will leave tomorrow, I sit on the deck with my afternoon beer and enjoy the view for what will probably be the last time in quite a while.

Mon 19 Mar

At 10:10 I start the engine and back out of our "house site". It's been over a year since we've been anywhere with the truck and it's exciting to be back on the road with it. Even if only for about 300k.

We camp for the night just north of Gympie.

Tue 20 Mar

Up early and off to Glasshouse Mountains where we plan to stay with Peter and Marie for the next several months. Partly to house sit for them while they head off in their motorhome, and partly as mentioned we will be using their workshop to rebuild Wothahellizat.

As we drive through the town of Glasshouse Mountains we drop in on Dave, another friend. Dave is in the business of modifying trucks, and we need to get some advice on our chassis.

Fri 23 Mar


Slineaway has it's new engine and gearbox. Soon we will see if it all works.

Wed 28 Mar

I'm spending most of my time helping Peter finish off the re powering of Slineaway. The job is all but done now, there's just some cosmetic items to finish, such as rebuild the firewall and line it with soundproofing material.

Peter takes Slineaway for a test run and I go along for the ride. The performance is impressive and there are no problems with cooling, driveline alignment etc.

The conversion appears to be a success.


Slineaway goes for a test run with the new motor and gearbox.

Thu 29 Mar

We started dismantling the truck today. Because we're still parked outside we can't do too much so we remove the cupboard doors and some shelves.


Wothahellizat's final camp site.

I'm a little sad, it's been nearly ten years since we bought the truck and over six since we started living in it. This is definitely the end of an era.

But it's also the beginning of a new era, hopefully in a few months we will have a vehicle with most of the same features but in a smaller package.

Sat 31 Mar

We rig up a tarp at the back of Peter's workshop, this will be home over the next few months. We have cleared half of the workshop and tomorrow will do the other half. Then we can move the truck under cover and get serious about the dismantling.

Goto the Wothahellizat Mk2 construction diaries

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