Chapter 15

Back on the road, from Townsville.

Monday 29th July 2002, (Rollingstone).

5:30pm and we are sitting outside the van and enjoying, listening to, the gentleman next door playing the piano accordion. We are once again at Rollingstone camp area soaking up the tranquillity of camping in a bush setting.

We left Townsville this morning and are on our way to Cairns, we have about 3-4 weeks to get there when it will be time to meet Narrelle visiting on her way to a wedding in Melbourne. We are very much looking forward to her visit.

Tomorrow will be the test for the modifications I made to the solar panels as to whether they will provide enough charge, considering we aren’t worried how much power we use tonight.

I have tested out our new shower pump and nozzle set up now in our shower tent and it was rather enjoyable. It made quite a difference being able to simply switch it on or off rather than fiddle with the difficult nozzle on the old water bag one.

I can’t remember if I have previously mentioned the fuss the caravan park owners have been making about these free camp areas in this area run by the local council. We had a visit from the council ranger today and his attitude was rather extraordinary, as if to say “to hell with the park owners, we have provided these parks for a reason so they can like it or lump it”. This was not an actual quote but seemed to be his attitude.


Saturday 27th July.

I have managed to achieve all chores I had intended doing in Linda’s absence, and I even came up with another mod for the solar panels so I can place them on an angle while on the roof so they can catch more sun while up there. Some paint was purchased for the cupboard doors and draws and I came up with a clever idea to prevent wasting paint. I purchased one of those edges painting, flat, brushes and it tuned out excellent to use. The problem was getting the paint on to it. The tin I purchased was a very small one and the brush would not fit into it, and the idea of using a tray wasted too much paint as I intend only doing a couple of doors at a time. I tried placing the paint into a sauce squeeze bottle so I could apply paint directly onto the brush as required and this turned out to be the ideal situation. The screw cap keeps the bottle sealed, one can release and use only the amount of paint required direct to the brush, and there is absolutely no waste of paint.

Linda is back now and we can settle back down to a normal life of travelling.

Monday we will be moving on towards Cairns, so the next chapter will commence there.


Sunday 21st July.

Things are always there to test one. A message from Linda, in Tassie, informed me that her sister Maxine’s daughter is leaving Tassie in eight weeks for Queensland. The problem is as follows; our household goods from home are in storage in the garage at the residence she is presently at, which is owned by Maxine and husband Paul, and when their daughter leaves the second daughter is likely to move in. This in itself is not the actual problem but the relatives; one in particular, of her boy friend, has a record of unsavoury behaviour, being recently released from jail for break and enter and theft. Recommendations are that it would be unwise to leave our gear in the garage while this fellow is, or can be, residing there. It seems the appropriate suggestion would be to consider, and pursue the option of purchasing an old sea container and store our gear in it and then store the container on the block next to, and owned by, Paul. If we were to do this then any future problem of this nature would be overcome by simply finding somewhere else to store the container. It was also suggested that when we are finally finished with the container we could re-sell it and recoup the costs of purchasing it. The other problem is finding a starting point in finding out how to go about, and where one would, purchase one of the said items. At this stage we will concentrate over the next month on overcoming this hurdle and if not successful we will have to think of another answer.

To a different thought, tests on the solar panels while on the ground revealed that I can, with them off the roof, achieve almost twice the charging power than when they are mounted on the roof. I was surprised to find that the angle of direction pointing at the sun, that is between horizontal and vertical, does not have a great variation on amount of power provided, about 25% at the most. So why then, with them mounted on the roof, was power down by 50%? It was then revealed that one problem with them being on the roof is that the roof itself is not level, but rather a convex shape between sides. The result of this is that, in most situations, one panel is actually sloping in a direction away from the sun, beyond vertical at least, and is not providing much charge at all. I am now considering that the work I have performed in making them removable from the roof was well worth it. This has also provided me now with several other advantages as well, such as flexibility in placement of either panel where I wish, and being able to take one with us when we go camping in the tent. With the plugging system I used I will possibly now be able to leave one of the batteries in the car permanently.


Thursday 18th July.

11:00pm and I am already feeling what it is like living on my own once more. I have been busy during the day so the effect wasn’t really felt, but now at night on my own with the whole van to myself, gets a bit lonely but we’ll be able to handle it ok.

I achieved a fair bit today as I removed the other solar panel and placed the sockets on the roof to plug the panels back in when replaced on the roof. The roof also received a wash, and needed it. One of the panels was rewired to a socket and a test was done by plugging that one in. The sun was rather low as by this time it was late in the afternoon and it was slightly overcast, but the results were promising. With the panel pointed directly toward the sun, according to maximum reading on the meter, I did receive a little over 4 Amps intermittently, which is almost the total I have been getting from both panels on the roof lately. It will be interesting to see the results tomorrow when both panels are fully wired and constructed so they can stand together supported by a prop.

I did have a visit from Barry, Ida’s other half, today and it was enjoyable having him around for a chat, and I think he was a little impressed with some of the work I was doing wiring the panels while he was here. I do admit one doesn’t see any caravanners doing such work. I was also invited around for happy hour at 4:00pm, which I did attend, but when it was time for them to dish up their roast meal, that looked enough to feed an army, I politely excused myself and went home before Ida could get a chance to ask me to stay for tea. Who knows whether this would have been her intention, as she gives one the impression it would, I wasn’t going to, and will not, give her the opportunity.


Wednesday 17th July, (On my own).

Linda is on her way home, and at this moment is in Brisbane spending the night with Deris before catching another flight tomorrow on her way to Tassie.

Seeing that Linda has gone I took it that it was now ok to start on the solar panel job, so number one has been removed from the van. This job could turn out to be a bigger one than originally perceived, as the panels themselves are a little bigger and heavier that I had planned, but all will work out well in the end. I guess it will have to, because I have now started it, I will have to complete it.

While looking and considering what I could use and be suitable for a dust cover on the new gas fitting, I stumbled on the ideal item. The plastic, or rubber, backstop for the caravan door turned out to be an ideal size to snugly fit over the outside of the fitting. These backstops are readily purchased from a hardware shop and after trimming the length of the item it made an ideal cover. Even though it fitted very snugly I ended up purchasing two of them, one as a spare in case the other failed to stay on during travel, but I personally think this will not happen.

Back to cooking for myself; and having to do those menial chores such as washing and wiping the dishes.

It’s now 9:30 pm and Ida has not yet enquired as to my well-being. Ida is the better half of a couple we have become close to in the caravan park, a bit of a worrywart.


Tuesday 16th July.

Nerves have hit Linda as she is due to fly home tomorrow and the usual things are occurring, such as not being able to sleep. She won her count down to two more sleeps, but it should have immediately reverted to no more sleeps and the next two days are going to become one long one.

I finally managed to get the gas job done that I have been threatening for 18 months, an outlet on the side of the van for the outside fridge. The job cost a bit more than the first quote 18 months ago, but this plumber did, I consider anyway, a much better job. He actually ran the feed from the stove tap fittings inside the cupboard, and hence all the new feed is internal with a plug in fitting the only item under the floor on the outside. As nothing is provided, I now have the task of finding a method of covering the outlet to prevent dust entering, I’m sure I will come up with something.

A blow up mattress was purchased yesterday to bring us one step closer to being totally fitted for camping in the tent, so in a few days when I have done the solar panel work I could consider testing the system we have by heading bush for a day or so without the caravan. Maybe Rollingstone would be an ideal test area.


Saturday 13th July.

It has been a rather industrious week as Linda has been busy spring-cleaning the caravan and I have been doing some maintenance work to make our lives a little easier.

I have finished modifying the roof racks and have now bolted down the wheels, much better. Repacking the panel van is just about complete, a pack up and move will see that finalised.

I have also been busy inside the van permanently fixing things like the video recorder, speakers and stereo so we do not have to tie them down each time we move. Linda is hounding me to provide a permanent mounting for the plates so she does not have to pack them each move. We have discussed possible methods to achieve this, so I will see what I can come up with over the next few weeks.

A breakthrough with mobile Internet access with my new computer yesterday when I decided to try an option that has been available to me since I bought it, I have kicked my ass since for not trying it earlier. There is a device on the market, I’m sure I have mentioned before, called a serial to USB converter, one of which I tried that I borrowed from Tony Cruse and it failed to work. Since that day I have had advise from so called computer experts whom all said mobile phones would not work via these converters so I have since left it at that. I have recently spoken to others on the same subject and it seems the cheapy that I tried did not provide full emulation that is required for mobiles and there is another on the market that should work. The price of the other converter is the reason I did not try one when I originally bought the PC as I considered $120.00 too much to risk if it did not work. Tandy had one of these devices and their policy is that if it fails to function then I can return the product within 7 days for a full refund. I tried one and YES!! It worked. In the mean time I have been waiting on a data cable for a new Kyocera phone and when it turned up I had intended buying a new phone. All this was going to cost about $800.00, so when this converter worked, at a cost of $120.00, I considered that I had another big win, then proceeded to kick my ass for not trying this device months ago. Bearing in mind I have only had it working the once and with my sceptic mind I am keeping the box and paper work for the converter in good condition in case.


Tuesday 9th July.

Bloody travel agents: a call today revealed how the travel agent changed the Brisbane to Tassie leg and when she rang Qantas they refused to change the Townsville to Brisbane leg. After convincing her that it was not satisfactory to have the two legs separated by a week, she seemed to think this was ok, she kindly informed us that our old booking, that she cancelled, had been sold and she could not revert back. This was just not satisfactory so she went back to hunting and eventually came up with a flight the same day as we had previously but at a later time.

Back to better things: the roof racks have been installed, but at this stage I am not fully satisfied with tying the tyres on with straps, so I will have to come up with a better method. Perhaps bolted with a long bolt from the topside of the tyre down to the aluminium tray underneath will suffice. Then I can use the straps I purchased to tie down the bike on top of the tyres.


Monday 8th July, (Townsville).

Been rather busy lately organising the rearrangement of gear from the caravan to the panel van. One day was taken up re-packing the panel van, removing the spare wheel to make more room, and finding space to store things like the blue box from the front of the caravan that once held fuel containers and such. This box now contains several other small containers of gear mainly move from the van, such as paper for the printer, a small container full, the map books and such for other states that we are not using at present, and sleeping bags and doona’s that now don’t take space in the caravan.

A roof rack was ordered to place all spare wheel onto, and possibly gas bottles and such, and it should turn up later today.

Another full day was spent moving one of the batteries from the caravan and installing it in the back of the panel van. A fair bit of extra wiring had to be installed to cater for this battery to be useful while there, as well as connecters so we can plug in a solar panel to charge it. We have planned on utilising the battery and solar panel when we leave the van and travel overnight using the tent; yes we have also purchased a tent for this purpose. The solar panel will be one of the ones on the roof of the caravan, I have yet to get around to making them removable for this purpose and also so we can place them on the ground pointing at the sun to achieve maximum power from them. I have found that they are down to 50% of power laying flat on the roof. I am hopeful we will only have to remove them in winter as in summer the sun is almost directly overhead.

I assume I mentioned earlier that I was having trouble with something I picked up from a shower block somewhere, well I received the test results today and it turned out to be just some fungal infection, not over important and it has cleared up now anyway.

Linda has had a change of heart about her return trip to Tassie; she would now like it to be for two weeks rather than just the one. Enquiries have proven to be a little difficult due to the fact that we made separate bookings Brisbane to Tassie, and Townsville to Brisbane. We also made these bookings with different travel agents so to convince one agent to attempt to make all the changes proved to be not too easy, but they seem to have made the appropriate arrangement for us. We only have to get conformation of the bookings tomorrow. A lesson learned in all this is in future to make all bookings direct with the airline one intends to use for the trip.


Wednesday 3rd July, (Townsville).

After a further clean out and reshuffle of gear from the caravan to car, with what is still to move, I reckon that my new estimate is we have off loaded in excess of 200ks from the caravan. We may be still over weight by a little but I will at least be a lot happier towing the van knowing that it is lighter. The final test will be our next move and whether I will have to alter the amount of lift I need from the level riders and if there may be a difference it tow handling. Talking of level riders: the lift needed from this device is the other critical thing where axle weight of the van is concerned as the weight of the lift applied must be redistributed else-where, and half of it must go to the caravan axle, so the greater the lift applied the more weight on the van axle. If too much lift is applied the purpose of the shedding exercise will prove to be futile.

As we have been preoccupied with off loading weight, we have not had enough time to do anything else, but this is the task at hand at the moment so we will get some free time when it is finished.

We made enquiries about taking Linda’s bike home for Adrian on the plane and were surprised about the difference between cost of taking it with her as luggage and sending it as freight. We can get it hame as luggage for about $40.00, but the cost of freight was more than the value of the bike. The only problem with taking it with he is that Linda will have to lug the bike, in box, around Brisbane with her while she is there over night. A chat with sister Deris saw her agreeing to pick Linda up from the airport and dropping her off again the next day so the bike then is no longer a problem.