Rob Gray :: ontheroad :: wothahellizat :: wot1 :: diaries :: issue-017


22 jul 1999

In small ways our new lifestyle is already beginning. The other day I was browsing the 4x4 magazines in a newsagent. There was a couple of articles that seemed interesting, one in particular caught my eye, it was about off-road driver training for trucks (actually for people who drive trucks). Not long ago I would simply have forked out the $7 or so without a thought just for that one story and the phone number included. This time however I decided to memorise the number and save myself $7.

On the home front there have been some small changes as well. I'm a pretty big milk drinker and can be very particular about the taste. However we will not be able to store milk for the weeks we plan to be out of touch with civilisation, so what to do?

Ultra High Temperature (UHT) milk has been around for years. It's processed in such a way that it can be stored for months, unrefrigerated, as long as you don't open the container. It sounds like a good idea but you know what many of these things taste like.

Anyway I saw no viable alternative so we bought a litre of the stuff. I tried some in coffee, not bad but most things are when disguised in a cuppa. Then I tried it on cereal, pretty good, a little different but still good.

We had been running real milk and UHT in parallel just in case the UHT didn't work out and I when I wanted a plain glass of milk I'd use the real stuff. Then came the acid test, we ran out of real milk. Could I drink a straight glass of UHT? I am happy to say that the answer is yes, in fact it's bloody nice.

These are just two of the thousands of things that we will have to change in the way we live as we pass from being DINKs with plenty of money and no time, to semi-self-funded retirees living in a motor home on a limited budget.

23 jul 1999

We've been scouring the kitchen magazines (and buying them I'm sorry to say, not quite weaned off magazines yet) looking for ideas for the interior of our creation. We plan to do things a bit off-the-wall and haven't really found anything stranger that what we already have in mind. Nevertheless part of the process included doing the display home thing. A few years ago I was right into real estate and loved spending time in these immaculate show homes. But times change.

The main show home setup in Canberra at present is called "Dream Street" and it's just chock-a-block with beautiful houses. We spent a couple of hours inspecting them looking for inspiration, without luck. Where once I would have admired the spacious family room, I now saw only two hours cleaning every week. The massive back yard simply looked like an afternoon's torture behind a lawn mower; and in the impressive brick facade I could see nothing but an even larger mortgage and years of toil in a crappy job just so another bank can declare a 3 billion dollar nett profit.

Dream Street eh? Well I guess we all go through phases in our lives and in each of those phases the dreams change. This was no dream street for me, more like Nightmare Alley.

I returned to the workshop and attacked the welding of the motor home's frame with renewed vigour.

When I got home there was a message from Steve, he's just been across to West Aussie via the Anne Beadel Highway.

24 jul 1999

I rang Steve, it seems he had an interesting trip. The "Highway" is really about 1400k of bush track of which about 1000k is very overgrown to the point where he was forcing his truck through the foliage for most of the time. The poor old Bedford 4x4 suffered many injuries including,

  • all clearance light torn off,
  • roof vent torn off,
  • house access door buckled,
  • mirrors bent,
  • most windows broken,
  • cladding severely scored,
  • front left spring broken,
  • solar panel removed before the trees did it.

And that's just what I can remember him telling me about. Steve said he had heard that I intend to clad the truck entirely in aluminium checker plate, "Bloody good idea" he said.

Right from day one I designed the truck to have NOTHING protruding from the body and to protect everything that was breakable. This has made the design far more difficult. All windows had to be shuttered and we must be able to cover the solar panels when required. The aerials must fold down and, as far as possible, all crannies and gaps between body parts have to be filled somehow, because, sure as eggs, a tree branch will get jammed in there and cause a problem (Adrian and Carrol's vehicle has a gap between the solar panels and the roof, guess what caused them to get hung up with a tree on Fraser Island).

I now feel justified in deciding to got this way from the start.

31 jul 1999

Just steady work adding bracing to the frame. It's quite amazing how much steel bends as a single beam and how stiffer it gets when braced. This is very tedious work, whereas erecting the main parts of the frame is satisfying because you see a lot happening, this bracing is time consuming and you don't see any great advances.

Here we see the bracing for the cab-over bedroom...

and the lounge room.

The lounge room bracing is VERY strong, maybe a bit over the top but this section of the body cantilevers for more than three metres so it's under a lot of stress. In the next photo we see part of the storage area under the lounge room floor.

I know it's expensive renting a workshop but I wouldn't build a project like this any other way. Firstly, when I get tired I simply turn off the lights and go home. Secondly, on rainy days like the one shown below, I can just keep working regardless.

It's not always raining though so sometimes I work on the truck outside on the drive. In this shot I have placed some ply to simulate the walls, just to see if the drawings match reality and make sure the finished space won't be too claustrophobic.

Now that I have a floor (albeit temporary) in the lounge room I decided to sit for a while and pretend I'm up north somewhere warm.