Our Journey Begins
Finally we have left!
After working almost non-stop on Rockytoo, well along with the garden & the house, we got away at 3.30 PM today 26th Feb 2004.
R2 is a bit different to the beast we took to Casino. She has a refurbished solar system with two extra panels. New batteries. Trickle and bulk battery chargers. Upgraded distribution board with 3 way source select. Working Onan generator. Colour TV on a swingout bracket. Extra fridge freezer. New wiring and extra power points. 4 mechanics who have given their word that the truck is ‘good mate’, why do I still worry J. Refurbished water tanks and a new pump. Scrubbed out fuel tanks and a clean out with new filters. New cab upholstery and sheepskin seat covers. Bathroom window. New clearance lights. Repaired and working cab air con. CD MP3 in cab. DVD and digital TV in rear. New shower drains. A battery to start the Onan. New front tyres. A ‘blue slip’ and NSW Rego. Stainless screws around all window frames. Faded curtains replaced with mini roller blinds throughout (x7). Bunks changed to a couch and fridge cabinet. Upholstered new foam. Hundreds of smaller repairs plus cleaning, cleaning cleaning.
Incredible to think I had been planning to build a rig like this from scratch. I take my hat off to those that have whether it takes 6 months or 16 years it a bloody big ask, t t task.
A mate said yesterday that it’s hard to get going then easy to keep going. Roll on. When we were just about ready I sat down and wrote out a two-page list that took 3 days to complete. Insurances, last minute bills, security, keys, neighbours, mowing, bug spraying, cleaning, storing, packing, filling, buying, checking, turning on or off. 3PM. Done, crossed off, GONE.
Stop at woolies for milk. Walked out with milk, cheese, meat, salad, chocolate, toilet paper, yogurt, coffee (x2 on special). Gotta keep away from those places or I won’t be able to afford beer.
So away we went. Destination – top of the mountain at George Boyd Lookout. About 40Km south of Nowra and 20 north of Milton Ulladulla. It’s grey and threatening to get sunny with a definite chill to the wind. About 16deg, I hope we haven’t left this trip south too late. Margaret wanted to take the winter doona, we have the summer one. We took in the views, did the rainforest trail walk (yeah all those superlatives about huge sandstone, caves and views), downed a kilo of prawns with beer and red wine and now we are relaxing. We are gone !!!
A peaceful start was soon shattered. Woke early this morning to a cool sunrise atop the George Boyd lookout with the blind pull beside the bed tap tap tapping on the wall. To be fixed. We had breakfast and showers where we sampled some joys of modern motorhoming. Margaret likes to use the hair dryer to style her short spunky haircut so I fired up the genny for 10 minutes. Tried the r/c aircon on heat, ran the big battery charger for a couple of minutes then the hairdryer. All worked well. We cruised down off the mountain in low range with airbrakes giving wonderful slow decent control.
The trip out along the 8Km of dirt road back to the Princes Hiway was lovely. Damp from rain, no dust and a black Skippy crossing our path. As we neared the Hiway end of the track we could see a car parked at the entrance. I joked with Margaret that it was the ranger waiting to tell us off for camping at the lookout. As we got to the road it was lookout. Holy Shit! 10 minutes prior there had been a huge smash up and we were right in the middle of it. Two dead on the road, body parts on the road, one still alive, a very shaken old couple beside their car with a wheel ripped off, glass smashed and airbags hanging over the dash, what used to be a white holden or ford Ute crumpled and burned on the double lines, a 15 tonned rigid truck and trailer jack knifed and broken in the ditch and a tarago type vehicle all smashed in the side. There were wheels and springs and clothes and glass and blood and clothes scattered over 100m of three-lane road. Seems the Ute had been seen overtaking everything in sight some way back and on this effort had swiped the old couple’s car, which was in the north, bound slow lane, spun out, got the truck and Tarago and burst into flames. Odds on the one with chest injuries who got helicoptered out was the driver as the steering wheel usually does that. His passenger and the van driver met the other fate. Both were thrown out of their vehicles. One died with his entrails on the road beside him and the other had his arm ripped off and bled to death.
The hiway was closed for about 7 hours tho we crossed over into the Conjola state forest and got onto Redhead Road (trail) to Bendalong Road and back to the hiway south of the smash. What really pissed me off then was the radio taking whinges about the ‘state of the princes hiway’. What bullshit! It’s a lovely road, a 4-lane freeway it ain’t. This smash was caused by speed, speed, speed on a road that is nice to drive slowly. Sheesh I must be getting old. Who was it made 107mph on an old goat track section of the Hume when he had a new Valiant Charger?
On we went. Called into Fishermans Paradise and spent a couple of hours with Leisure Coast Wanderers friends Peg and John Trood (Havachat J) and continued south. Stopped at Batemans Bay tourist info (have taken note of how important Woody found them) where I picked up all the booklets for places around the area. I wanted a more detailed map of the Batemans to Moruya coastal road but the for sale maps were $5.50 each, A3 in size, we needed 2 and they had little or no more detail than our Hema Atlas. Low and behold the first freebie I opened had two perfect colour detailed maps. Always stop at that ‘I’ sign.
Travel note for an old favourite. Heading south, pass the left turn sign for Pebbly Beach, over about half a Km, pass the garage on the right then turn right at an ‘old princes hiway’ wooden sign. That’s the way to Shallow Crossing, great spot.
Friends Joe & Elaine had recommended Tomakin where they spent two freebies near the club and on the beach. We found the club but did not suss out the spot so have taken our chances tucked upto the bushes at a beach entrance walkway not far from the boat ramp. Fantastic spot, surf’s a bit noisy. Had a chat with a local lady, showed her in R2 and gave her a CMCA form from the Wanderer. She reckons the rangers are mainly concerned about dogs on beaches and we should be fine. If he does turn up he’ll get a cup of tea while I tell him how I’m fishing and had a disturbing day. Anyway this little duck just had a couple of beers so here we stay. Looks good tho.
Plan to go to Mystery Bay tomorrow and then to Bermagui. But hey, what are plans for!
A much more pleasant day. Tomakin was nice. Our little spot at the end of Reid St. was no hassle and friendly natives. Chatted with a few and showed a few (Pauline) thru. This area has hit the south coast real estate roller coaster. Right on the entrance to the beach track where we parked is a 2 x 2 storey pair of units on one black of land. Nothing fancy, curved front, bagged and painted commons, metal door frames. Basic white render, flat tin roof and zilch back yard. FS $800K each.
Cruised down thru Mossy Point and n & s Broulee. Not as nice as tommy. OK but lots more older houses and lots of ‘not much money people’ in old cars with surfboards.
Power note. Yesterday morning we were –30Ah. Today we were –40Ah. Difference was we had turned the fridge up a notch (well down colder y’know) and I left the outside light on for 15 hours @ 0.2A which took care of 3Ah.
Truck started gave +23A in conjunction with solar (maybe 4A).
Driving out of the S Broulee surf club car park we got a head snap. ‘See that ?” In a front yard was a big white 4WD truck with Australite windows in the side. I called in and met up with Stuart (s?) a well weathered and real nice bloke gold prospector getting things shipshape at his ladies house. I called down the drive ‘anyone home’ and we played show me yours. Nice truck. 20 years older than R2, bought for $1500 10 years ago and fitted out for $10K. I don’t reckon that includes labour and a loo and hws would be good. We left with a big handshake and my best wishes for a big nugget this year.
Stuart had a nice set of clean skins which I asked about as they are the same rims as R2, 900x20 splits. He had new Olympic Trojan Nylons. Fitted last year by Beaurepairs including new tube and rustband - $280. Sounds a lot better than the $400 ea in Casino.
Stopped for lunch at the Moruya granite quarry exhibition and waterfront. This is where the stone was quarried and shaped for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and cenotaph. Big weights, big numbers, lots of people and heaps of hard work. I doff my cap sirs.
Cruised on to Narooma where we stopped at (thanks Woody) the big I which also houses the lighthouse museum. Some bloody beautiful old lens grinding and engineering examples in old lighthouse lamps there with explanations of how the auto flame, wick and luminence devices worked before PC. As luck would have it when I was leaving I overheard the desk telling some tourists about a sign that had been souvenired and was giving more detailed directions for the turnoff to Mystery Bay. Ummm, fate? That’s where we’re going.
Mystery Bay council controlled camping area. Unkept tracks (shoe scuffs) to the cliff face for great looks at boiling seas and foam washed rocks. Rumours of a toilet and tap somewhere not too far, no bins and a friendly demand for $9.40 to park on any bit of scrub or fireplace you like. Great spot but there are better spots for (tax payers) free and as this place costs double in holiday times I reckon the council need a kick in the bum and a few rakes and pruners.
Up at 7.30am and as always check the vital statistics. –41Ah, fridge at 15.5deg. Bugger, I didn’t clip the door shut last night and it was slightly open. Strange I didn’t notice it running all night. Removed 10 recharged AA batteries from the charger, put 4 in the camera and it said ‘not happy Jan’. Trying another 4 it came good. I feel I’ve got 2 dud batteries in the set of 10 which need finding and dumping.
You’ve got to believe in fate. Yesterday we stopped at Narooma Tinfo which besides being worthwhile to see the lighthouse museum we overheard the Mystery Bay signpost had been nicked. We arrived with a flat rear and this morning when I got up to winch the spare down I found the winch post had put holes in the fiber glass roof. Maybe that’s why it lived in the bins previously. Good timing as rain is forecast for this arvo. The body of R2 is a thin fiber glass skin over 50mm of soft foam which would probably soak up water. I poked the nossle of the silicane gun into the holes and pressed a good dose of it into the underside. When that sets I’ll scrape a coat of gelcoat repair over it. May need a patch one day but this’ll do for a while.
Changing an outer back tyre has given two lessons. I had to run up on 3 blocks to level us last night and put the blocks under the inside tyre. Beauty, the flat was off the ground (well off J) so no jack needed. Lifting the spare six inches onto the studs was no fun but I worked out a lift lever with two spare blocks. Works well as it’s foot operated leaving both hands free to juggle the wheel.
Nice lazy Sunday morning. We’ll head towards Bermagui later on.
Arrived at Joe & Elaines back yard yesterday arvo after a slow cruise down from Mystery Bay. We took the 15Km tourist road (route 6) which ran thru some pretty farmland and winery areas to Tilba where we stopped and had a wander around. A quaint place with painted up original old weatherboard shop fronts but not an historical showcase. The shops were full of expensive tourist trinkets and I was disappointed to find the woodturning and leather shops were nothing more than retail displays of mostly manufactured goods from all over. I love to see a working shop with a craftsman and tools and machines and dust and smells, ah well. The woodturning shop had a ‘no photos’ sign at the door. With camera in hand I asked why and was told that the suppliers did not want their work photoed and copied. When I told her that I was going to take a shot for Woody who ran the Ubeaut website she lit up and said they had been trying to find his number to get some polish for all the fingerprinted and fondled stock. I wandered back to the truck and returned with Woody’s number in the display and photos were then allowed.
We stopped for lunch in the parking area on the south side of the bridge in Wallaga Lakes. Lovely spot, water everywhere. There are no signs to the contarary and this should make a great overnighter. As with all these great spots I think you may get some attention if you did it at peak Xmas or Easter but otherwise should be good.
Bermie is a lovely place. We’ve been here many times and the charm is not diminished. It’s also our first stop where we can and want to just hang out. We have a washing machine, loo and power. Luxury J. J&E are in NZ for 3 weeks.
I bought the batteries up to full with the trickle charger (about 2A at 27.5V) last night till around 10pm. About 5am we were –8Ah and at 8.30am –10.5Ah. It is now 12.30pm, bright blue skies, and we are showing 30.5V, +5.1A and +0.3Ah with the fridge stopped and the inverter running the radio. Gotta be happy with that.
We’ve completed 3 full days on the front water tank which has given 6 showers plus daily living water for flushing, washing & drinking. Our two tanks hold about 270 liters each. We don’t have gauges on them (yet) so are at the stage where we could run out mid shower and the other makes a quick trip under the truck to change the cocks over. A design consideration could be to put those cocks within the bathroom.
Our Thetford Aquamagic loo is still playing up intermittently. Certainly it is well worn (much more than any other fitting on the truck which may suggest it wasn’t new at fit out) but the design is crap (PTP) and I could easily do better. We have a slight fresh water leak from the treadle valve which could be bypassed and a push button placed in the supply pipe. The console mounts on its center which means if the floor fitting is a few mm low then it doesn’t seal and a few mm high and it rocks needing packers under the body. I would have the drop pipe going down thru a standard pan collar (rubber flanged sewer receptacle) to the tank and the body fixed to the floor. The sprung foot pedal mechanism which operates the cock and slide valve is worn out and sloppy side to side. I can’t remember if the hinge pin is in the plastic body mould. The slide valve is above the holding tank and necessitates a blind guide groove which can trap peanuts & paper preventing the slide from fully closing. If this could be housed in the top of the holding tank then the groove could be open ended allowing any trapped material to be pushed through the slide guide groove. It’s a mongrel to remove and repair. First tool required is a 14” socket extension operated from a contorted physical position which few other than Collyn Rivers would be comfortable with. The final bitch is that when I went to buy new rubbers for the slide valve and coupling I was told it was too old (sold new up to 4 or 5 years ago) and that I could only buy the complete mechanism for $180 plus freight plus gst.
Today I’ll do some maintainance. Pull the flat tyre apart although I think I forgot to pack a tyre lever. I do have a spare tube. Also pull apart and service my (3) fixed spool fishing reels. I used to dismantle reels when new and pack them with vaseline but the Ryobi reels I bought about ten years back don’t like it and the ratchets don’t work. Gotta have working ratchets and drags for the fish I plan to be catching J.
7.30am. Vitals are – fridge 4.6 deg, -21Ah, 24.9V, PL shows float. I left the outside light on again all night.
My feelings about the front water tank level was confirmed but nicely. Just as I rinsed the final bit of soap off, the shower started to hick up and spit air. So that was 3½ days with 7 good showers of 15-20 liters each and other normal living. Based on that we have a weeks supply in full tanks. I wonder what part of our touring will dictate more frugal use and conservation.
Took it very easy yesterday. Margaret filled the washing machine and read about 300 pages of her new book. I ate grapes from the garden, old fashioned sweet purple ones with seeds, washed my sandals, watched the extra bits on ‘The Dish’ DVD and cooked a roast lamb baked dinner. The little Smeg oven in R2 is a beauty. Very different in function to the electric stoves I’ve always had at home but does a slow cooked roast very well. I did cook last nights a little too long with the first hour on 4 which didn’t sizzle then up to 5 which did. Spuds in at the two hour mark for an hour which became an hour and a half while I waited for a big Zuch to simmer. The lamb was crisp skinned, tender all thru and fell off the bone. Yum.
Tip for smelly sandals, mine get that way lately – must be puberty. I found a good scrub was not enuff, a couple of days and they were off again. After a good scrub & rinse soak them in a bucket of clean water with a splash of vinegar and a few drops of eucalyptus oil for a few hours then dry in the sun.. Seems to kill the smelly feet bug and they stay good for a couple weeks. Maybe I should have told you that before the lamb J.
8.40am vitals. 24.7V, -19.4Ah, fridge 7.6 deg, ambient 16.6 deg.
I’m wondering why the fridge has crept up. As I write I grabbed the torch to check the dial in case we had tweaked the wrong way. Nup it’s up to 6 but the condenser is coated with ice. Might be the result of not being tightly shut the other night and needs defrosting.
Quite a good days work yesterday. It took a few hours to dismantle 3 fixed spool fishing reels and the big Alvey snapper reel. 10 year old (at least) grease and vaseline was a bit hard and smelly. Cleaned each one out with a drop of sugar soap and a kettle of boiling water then reassembled. One has a tight action even after filing around a jammed spool cam but it’ll do, other two are good and the old Alvey is unbreakable. I really admired the works of the oldest reel, at least 20 years old and the name has worn off just leaving korea on the casting. Being metal it’s 3 times the weight of the graphite ryobi’s but has a nice polished metal shafts and a gearbox. Sanded all the pitting off the aluminium spool and treated it to 300M of new 30lb line. Definitely the strongest reel so lets hope it gets to do some work.
Next job the HWS. I had what I thought was a faulty thermo couple as I had to hold the gas lighter on the pilot for about a minute before it would stay alight, I was advised to sandpaper the probe shiny which I did and it definitely made a difference. While I was at it I decided the edges of the outside cover assembly were looking tired and starting to show rust so I resprayed it. Using white night rustguard which is a tad expensive at $14 odd a can but very good paint. Am using it on the bull bar as well.
Next the flat tyre which I expected to be a challenge. The wheels are 20” split rims running 9.00/20’s with rust bands and tubes. I’ve done one before in the back yard at home but do not have with me the jemmy and demo bar that I used to break the bead. I have one 15” tyre leaver, a hammer and a spare tube. Joe had given me a tip to use timber wedges working around the tyre with the wheel up on a block. I raided Joe’s kindling box for two handfuls of approx inch square timber and started out driving the lever in with the hammer, knocking a wedge in beside it and moving on.. After on full circuit I had about a dozen wedges in place and found I could just see the wheel body where the wedges were so around I went again driving the lever a bit deeper than before and knocking the wedges in farther. About half way round - pop – off she came. Probably from the years R2 spent in a paddock and the spares on the roof laying split rim up, the rims are very rusty and flaked inside and under the split rim. The one I did previously I cleaned down with a wire cup brush on a little angle grinder and painted. A couple of truckies have told me that rust inside the rims is normal and that’s what the rust band is for but I’m convinced it need a bit more care and attention. The tyre I’m fixing was repaired last year by a truck tyre place in Alexandria and from memory it was $45 + gst. They simply put a patch on the tube and put it back together. Now if you have a rim flaking rust then I reckon it’s impossible to put tyre, tube and rustband on it without bits of rust getting onto the tube and I reckon that’s exactly how this flat has happened. A very small hole with a slight chewed mark on its edges. Not a smell of anything in the tyre but lots of rust bits. I’d had the forethought to pack the grinder & cup along with a few cans of cheap black spray enamel so within an hour the wheel and split rim were all cleaned up and painted. Today I’ll grab a tin of talc (forgot that) and put it back together with the good spare tube. I need to get a patch kit to fix the flat tube tho I dunno if I’ll find that in Bermie. Not urgent tho as I’ll have two spare tyres on top when I leave here and that’s important peace of mind.
Yesterday finished on a sporting note of what Bermie is all about. A boat pulled up next door (Blue Pacific Units, previously owned by J&E) asking to use the gantry & scales for a nice looking Marlin. 93Kg caught on a $10 lure. His mates $120 lure was ignored. I took a few photos including a lie, me with fish J.
A walk to town today, put the wheel together then I might go and try those reels out.
Motorhomes Australia 1998-2003.