Rob Gray :: ontheroad :: wothahellizat :: wot1 :: diaries :: issue-019


16 Aug 1999

Some long-time friends of ours (Colleen and Dennis) have recently moved into their new house on forty acres to the north of Canberra. After years running their own business I guess they needed a change like many people do in their forties. Anyway I needed a day off from working on the motor home and neither of us had seen the new house so we drove out to spend the afternoon with them.

One thing about owning a reasonable piece of land is that you have a ready supply of firewood. Here we see Dennis using a labour saving technique to load the firewood, he backs his truck under the tree then chainsaws the pieces and they fall straight onto the tray.

Earlier in the day we where having lunch and discussing what we were doing with the motor home, including how much fun we thought our two motor bikes would be. I noticed a red Commodore driving at high speed up their long dirt driveway. It skidded to a halt directly outside the front door and the driver bolted into the house, it was their youngest daughter and she was almost hysterical, "There's been an accident" she yelled, "they've crashed the bikes".

The "they" she referred to was her two friends and they were both in the car. We ran outside to find one lad in the front seat, with a blood-covered face and holding his arm, and another in the back who looked ok. Dennis jumped in the vehicle and drove them to the hospital.

When they arrived the lad with the bloodied face was rushed inside but the other boy, the one that looked injury free, was told not to move until a stretcher arrived. It seems that there was some serious worry about his neck.

The point of this story, apart from the irony of two motorbike accident victims arriving just as we had espoused the virtues of our newly acquired two-wheel transport, is that it really drove home to me how your life can turn to shit at a moments notice. One second you're mind's full of impressing a potential girlfriend and what to wear to the disco tonight, the next you've got a face full of blood and the phrase "intensive care" moves right out of "Chicago Hope" and into your life.

Now I love motor bikes, I rode them years ago when, as the song goes "I wore a younger man's clothes". I had a 750cc Honda (with an 812 Yoshimura kit) in the days when they were one of the top Japanese bikes. Chris used to ride as well...until the accident of course.

I considered myself lucky to return to four-wheel transport with both my bike and myself intact, so when Chris first suggested we buy motorbikes instead of towing a 4x4 I was not keen on the idea. Still it did seem the most practical option and now we have them I'm loving the feeling again.

Hopefully, with us being older and a little wiser, and the bikes being smaller, we can have the fun of motorbike riding and stay in one piece.

27 Aug 1999

Another milestone passed. I spent the day on the road today with the truck, ostensibly for Mario (the engineer who certified the design) to do some trials on the body and mounting system. However while I had the trade plates I had a little drive as well. At first I was scared witless and stopped every few hundred yards to check everything. After an hour or so though it became apparent that nothing catastrophic was likely and I settled down.

As you can seen the body is largely complete is as far as the main frame goes. There's still a lot of bracing to be done though.

Mario and I hit the road and it drove well, slowly but well. There was no noticeable pitching or tendency to behave abnormal in any way. Then we took it onto a fire trail near Molonglo Gorge and tested the mount's ability to move with the chassis, once again no problems. When we had finished Mario gave it the thumbs up and I drove him back to his workshop before returning to the gorge to take some photos.

Here we see a shot of the rear with the truck parked across a very shallow gutter, note how much the chassis had moved in relation to the body, even with this small ditch.

I expected the above, after all that was the whole idea of the rubber mounting system. However I was a little surprised to see how much the body moved in relation to the cab. After all they are mounted to the chassis at points that are very close. The photo below shows both the angular and lateral movement. Good thing I left plenty of clearance

29 Aug 1999

The Canberra chapter of the CMCA was showing some motor homes at the Camping and Four Wheel Drive" show and I took mine as an example of a "work in progress". It caused a lot of interest, most people were intrigued, I guess some thought I was crazy while others were simply gob-smacked.

Those who knew the ACCO said it was the best truck for the job, simple old fashioned technology that will go anywhere. When we told people that we were hitting the road most professed envy. Comments like "I'd love to do that" and "You lucky bastard, I'll do that one day" abounded. Of course many of them could do it right now if they really wanted to but let's keep that our little secret, I don't want too many people filling all those great campsites.

20 Sep 1999

Not much exciting happening in the last couple of weeks. It's funny how I thought I was nearly ready for cladding about three weeks ago when in fact it's only now that that is the case. There's an incredible amount of fiddly braces to insert before the cladding can be put on and each one seems to take an age. Also I've had to finish most of the storage bin doors and window shutters. There's a lot of work been done I guess, it just doesn't look like it.

Let's see what else has happened, oh that's right, I quit my job.