April 2009

I went out this morning to play golf. It was part of a fund-raising effort in aid of the Save The Children Fund here in Canberra, playing with Leon, an old friend, and his grandson Jacob. Now, I only have one golf club, a 1 wood, that I use for driving practice occasionally. Jacob was just stunned that I could even consider using the same club for every shot! But I had fun doing just that. So there’s a picture of me putting with a 1 wood. And the obligatory kangaroos, which are really just there to provide moving targets.

Unfortunately, Julie tripped in the dark of the car park when we were leaving from the fund-raising dinner and sprained her ankle, resulting in nearly a whole week off work and she is still hobbling.

This rose is the centre one of the three that I planted on Datsun’s grave. The two on the sides are a pale apricot colour, while this one is a very bright pink. It is even visible from our bedroom window and Julie let slip with, “Wow, you’re making great fertiliser there, Datsun” before she realised what she had said!

Just following on that train of thought, … But first the background.

This month has been a very busy one for me, working with Mary to get short term finance to buy the motorhome, based on the equity we have in the properties. And we had to lock in a trip to Bundaberg about 3 weeks in advance, so that Julie could have that time blocked out from her work availability. Meanwhile, numerous attempts to get said finance fell over for various reasons, and I have been stressed, to say the least. Meanwhile, the one remaining snag in the portfolio is that when we bought the house in Mount Isa, Julie was still using her surname of Decker, and it needs to be corrected. So I got our Brisbane lawyers to check on the process and they sent us the papers that Julie had to sign and get witnessed by a Justice of the Peace. The lady we always go to is just across the road from the other end of the units – Kelly and I walk past their place every time we go for a walk. Anyway, these thing have to get done, because we need to have them ready whenever the opportunity arises to change her name on the title deed. Like when we are re-financing and the title needs to be registered with a different mortgage. Which could be any time soon. So I was nagging her that it just had to be done and she was resisting because her foot hurts after walking on it today. The last time we saw her together, the twins were keeping her very busy and had just gone down for a sleep. So Julie asks after them, and our dear friend had to admit that they had lost their daughter early this year. Wow, talk about putting your foot in it! Actually, I had wondered why I remembered talking about twins but had met Charlie when he was hanging around in the driveway with his father on one of my recent walks with Kelly. Julie was suitably stunned by the Universe putting her in her place for whingeing! She is now somewhat subdued and no longer irritated! After all, she says she has NEVER signed her name so much in her life since she met me.

Friday night 17th, in flight returning to Canberra. It’s been a hectic 48 hours. Wednesday afternoon, I spent about an hour on the phone back and forth between the finance people in Melbourne and a solicitor’s office in Bundaberg, before we figured out that the finance thing just wasn’t going to get together in time for this trip. We would arrive in Bundaberg around 2:30pm on Thursday, which would have been fine to get to the solicitor, get our identities verified and our documents witnessed, but because Bundaberg is not part of the Express Post network (the one where if you get it in the special yellow box by 6pm, it will be at the destination the next business day), we would need to have the documents in the hands of a courier by 3 pm. No way. So I decided that we would implement the next Plan (must be around Plan G by now!), which is to forget about finance on this trip and concentrate on just getting ourselves up there to check out the bus and go over some of the finer points. We then decide that we would take the time to treat ourselves to a train trip from Bundaberg back to Brisbane instead of flying. Less cost and a whole lot more enjoyable, as we had all day to get back to Canberra.

So we flew out of Canberra as planned yesterday morning into Brisbane, and transferred to a puddle jumper to Bundy.

The photos show where the dirty brown flood waters are flowing out into the blue of the ocean.

And also as planned, we hired a car and drove out to check out the bus. Julie has now seen for herself, the size, both inside and outside, and is suitably impressed. Cameron, who had only just arrived a few hours earlier, having been stranded in Rainbow Beach by the floodwaters, took me through startup and shutdown processes, as well as how to hitch the baby 4WD to the back end of the bus. We then retired to the motel and enjoyed a very nice dinner – the usual, we share one of each of entree, main and dessert.

This morning was a short drive to the airport to drop off the hire car, a taxi ride to the train station, a short walk around the corner to freshly made (strong!) coffee with bacon and egg sandwiches, and wait for the train to arrive.

We boarded to find ourselves surrounded by screaming toddlers. When the conductors came through, Julie quietly asked whether we could be moved, as it was our first long distance train ride. He said he would see what he could do after the next stop at Maryborough. True to his word, he came back then and said that he had some nice quiet seats up the front of the train, in FIRST CLASS.  Yes, we enjoyed the trip after that! This particular train is the one with restored heritage cars dating back to the late 1800’s, and takes about 36 hours to come down from Cairns into Brisbane. So they often have berths (with bunk beds) that become vacant as people get off before Brisbane. Meanwhile, I was putting the mobile phone and my wireless broadband Internet account to good use, trying to get an appointment with a Canberra solicitor for early next week to do what we were originally going to do in Bundy. It only took all bloody day to make it happen. The photos taken from the train also show the effects of flooding on the water courses.

Meanwhile, when we checked Julie’s email, we found her getting crapped on yet again via email for a variety of discretions, some of which were pure bullshit and others were going to be her word against someone else’s and that’s a battle that can never be won. So we took the time to talk it over and then decided that she should quit on the spot and at least have the weekend to relax instead of worrying herself sick about being reamed yet again on Monday morning. And then we simply used the technology available to reply via email to do just that – quit. Very satisfying to have the opportunity to take the action ourselves. And to have her relax a little too. And now that she is a real Aussie, she stands a hugely better chance of snaring the type of job that she is suited to. That helps her feel better too.

Then we took advantage of Brisbane’s excellent rail network to transfer from the long distance train directly to the suburban train straight to the airport. Much more civilised than fighting with taxis. This weekend is going to be for chilling out! Because next weekend, we do it all over again. Fly to Brisbane on Friday night, stay overnight, catch an early flight to Bundy, collect our goodies and hit the road. It will all be paid for and ready to go. Still working on names. Might call them Suzy and The Beast. Suggestions are welcome. We will probably take the inland route and miss both of the capital cities, which is likely to be a much more relaxed route anyway.

Finally, we are clear for launch. Wednesday, after waiting to hear all day, I received a message that the loan had been settled and funds would be transferred tomorrow. Which means that I will advise the bank tomorrow that I will be withdrawing a very large sum of cash on Friday. Brisbane on Friday night, Bundaberg on Saturday, collect and pay for the goodies and go. I’ve just had a very enlightening conversation with my sister Dorothy (she and Pete are in Tasmania at present), advising us to stay off the inland highway, as it is the main truck route between Brisbane and Melbourne, and she nominated some towns to head for as we perambulate the back country roads. I think I’m finally getting excited. I may even relax soon. Monday is a public holiday in the ACT for Anzac Day and I’m taking 2 days of leave, so we’re not due back until Wednesday. Might also call them The Beast and the Baby Beast.

Update. The funds finally hit our account around lunchtime on Thursday and I hightailed it down to the branch and did a bank transfer to Glendda’s account. Surprise, surprise, it hit her account within a couple of hours. We are now clear to collect!

Saturday. Flew up to Brisbane last night and stayed overnight in a motel. I think we were both a bit too wired to get to sleep and it did take quite a while for the sleeping pills to kick in. Then it was up soon after the sun and get to the airport for the flight to Bundaberg.

Collected at the airport by Glendda (thank you!) and sat at her place for a while, chatting and completing the essential paperwork, before climbing aboard and heading off, all the way to the local IGA store for some essential supplies, like pillows, soft drinks, cheese and of course, eggs, bacon and pikelets for breakfast. Getting anywhere after that just seemed to take hours, although it was well after midday before we finally got moving. We’ve decided that on this trip, we can cook breakfast on the barbecue, but other meals need to be bought.

Coming into Biggenden, we learnt the hard way that once we are committed to a course of action with the baby beast on behind, you can’t change your mind halfway through. I was in the process of driving past the service station when I realised that the diesel pump was on the outside and went to turn in. We ended up right across the side street, having to unhitch it, so that we could then drive the big beast around the block to have another go, and then bring the baby up from behind and hitch it all up again. Ugh! It was hot out there too. Fortunately, it’s a public holiday today for Anzac Day and there was no-one around. I explained to the service station attendant that it was our first day in it and Julie showed her through while I filled up with fuel.

By the time we got to Murgon, we were both tired and cranky, and looking for a club or pub for something to eat. Hey, it’s Anzac Day, the only place to go is the RSL (Returned Soldiers League) Club. Sitting there outside, I looked over and right there, was a huge sealed unused car park area. Perfect. So I just pulled the bus in (should have seen the looks on the faces of the drunks in the club!) and turned it around and there we are for the night. We have discovered that the catch on the cutlery drawer is stuck and we have no access to any cutlery. Julie asked the lady serving and she said sure and gave us 2 sets for breakfast, that we can return in the morning.

A little later, we got talking to Sandy, a Vietnam Veteran, heavily involved in the RSL, both locally and nationally. He is actually quite keen to have self-sufficient motorhomes using the area, and hopefully patronising the club as well. Fair deal, I thought. Anyway, I took a picture of a motorised wheelchair parked in the foyer and discovered later when Sandy got on and went home, that it was his.

Sunday. I was up with the sun, but Julie waited until the coffee was ready before she struggled out, having had sone bad dreams overnight. Now that we had some time in daylight, we unpacked the suitcases and stashed them under the bed. Looks a bit more like home now that we’re not tripping over them. But little by little, some of the electricals have decided that they don’t want to work after all. We can handle the air conditioner packing it in, but does the dunny have to stop working before we get home? Ugh! So we have pulled into a caravan park for the night tonight.

Today was some solid driving that just needed to be done, as we needed to be in Goondiwindi tonight to front up at the Queensland Transport office tomorrow morning when they open to attempt to get the registration transfers done while we are still in Queensland. We knew we were getting tired this afternoon when we stopped for a pit stop and then took off with the door still open. We had to pull as far over as possible with the 4-way flashers going and fix it, and as the trucker went past he asked over the radio whether we were OK and Julie had to explain. We got a few amused waves from truckers after that!

I have also omitted to mention that the cutlery drawer had welded itself halfway between being locked and opening, so we had no access to any of the cutlery and had to buy some plastic ones. Because it’s the top drawer of the set, we can’t get to it from above. So, there we were, tooling along a rough road around a left hand bend and a drawer crashes open. Hang on, I thought we secured everything. Hey, it’s the cutlery drawer finally open. Oh poop, what do we do now? Not wishing for the drawer to self-destruct completely, I drove the left-handers a bit more sedately until the next town, where we invested in some WD40 and I treated the lock mechanism to some “persuasion”, along with numerous other drawers that didn’t quite have the importance of the one containing the cutlery.

Monday. Ok, we got up and got going early, and I was at the QT office when it opened at 8:30. First step, establish myself as a QT customer with various bits of ID that didn’t include an ACT Drivers Licence, then got the baby 4WD transfer done without a hitch. But the bus needed a safety certificate AND a gas safety certificate. So I managed to locate an Authorised Inspection Station operator would could fit us in around his other work, and also a gas person who would call by when he could and check that out. My special thanks to Lloyd McCoskey for the time you gave us at a very reasonable rate. It all went well, but it took time. We finally got out of Goondiwindi (BTW pronounced gun da windy) at 1 pm. By the time we blew into Moree at about 4 pm, we were tired and starting to make mistakes. We paid for stuff at the bakery and then left it on the counter! Finally remembered when we bought an extension lead to use at caravan parks and stuffed it in my bag, that I hadn’t seen the food anywhere. So we decided that we would stop here and asked a taxi driver where the caravan park was, in the direction that we were heading. When we pulled into it, we realised that it was the same one that the people we were talking to last night were heading for today, and wondered whether we would run into them. We walked down to check out the thermal pools and there they were! We just keep turning up like a bad penny. We promised that they wouldn’t see us tomorrow night and Fred said emphatically that if we did, then we would most certainly be hopelessly lost. They’re heading west and we’re going south. The 2 couples are travelling together to a Square Dancing convention in Perth in 5 weeks’ time. They’ve done Square Dancing, Ballroom Dancing and Clogging all over the world. BTW, no photos today, we were too busy, although I did have a fleeting thought of holding up the camera pointing down at the instruments in the sunlight, as we were hooking along at between 105 and 110 Km/hr. Never thought this old girl would wind up quite that much!

Tuesday. Actually, out on a good piece of road today, she got wound up to 120 Km/h. Wow! We actually pulled away from the semi-trailer behind us, for a while at least. But let’s start from the beginning. Julie had borrowed Carol’s board shorts last night to soak in the thermal pools. So of course, we had to return them. Actually, we got moving this morning within an hour, which is not too bad. As we trawled around the park looking for our friends from the previous 2 nights, we spotted them in the driveway, about to leave, at about the same time Carol spotted us going around the corner. So we were able to return the shorts and she explained that she had 2 letters that absolutely had to be posted today and she KNEW that Fred wouldn’t stop once he got going. It was the least we could do to get them into a post box.  Which happened in the very next town as I pulled off to let a couple of trucks pass, right in front of the local Post Office. Done deal.

Next stop was Narrabri, where we were looking for a public dunny and somewhere to get off the road and cook breakfast. Which went well, except that I got us cornered into an area that didn’t have enough room for a U-turn in one go, so yep, we had to unhitch the Suzy, complete the turn and then hitch it up again. Julie had already pushed her sore ankle too much yesterday and working the clutch on it for just that little bit of time got her sore and cranky again. However, we did successfully cook our bacon, eggs and pikelets on the outside BBQ. Now that we have worked out how to pull the awning out, all we need now is a table and chairs and we’re set! This time, however, we settled for a table in the park and fed the local magpie family.

 

Same town, we had pulled off to get fuel and I got distracted showing some guys through the beast and didn’t specifically remember putting the fuel cap back on. Given that it’s about 3 inches across, that an awful lot of fuel to slosh out through the opening! So just before we left town, I again peeled off to the right so that I could do a right hand block and check it. Fortunately, my habit of putting the cap on the ground has paid off and I had in fact replaced it. But out on the back street was a young kid and his even younger brother riding their bikes along. The older one had the good sense to stop and let us pass, but the younger one just kept on going. We followed him for a good 200 yards. Ah, small country towns.

We have entertained today by the conversations between truckers on the CB radio. Julie says they talk like they have marbles in the mouths. To me, they just sound like regular Aussies. Then coming into Dubbo, doing the speed limit of 80, when a utility pulled out right in front of us FROM THE LEFT. I saw him coming in total disbelief, and all I could was hit the anchors and hold on. In the process, I discovered that it pulls to the right when you hit them that hard. Fortunately, he just kept going across in front of us and we must have missed him by only a few feet. He still had absolutely no idea that we were there. If I had hit the horn, he would have stopped, right in front of us, and we would have cleaned him up, big time. Then we both heard on the CB radio, “In the RV there, you breathing again yet?” “Yeah, only just.”

Meanwhile, for the previous 40 Km coming into Dubbo, we had a red light on the dashboard suddenly come on. Now as we found out only yesterday, this bus was fully imported from Japan, so most of the warning lights are written in Japanese. Thank God that Merv had had the foresight to get a friend to translate all of these into English. However, the first thing we did was to ask directions to the local Isuzu dealer to have a look. It was only when we got there that we pulled out the books (again) and found that the symbol meant “stop/tail light”. We checked all of those, both with and without the Suzy plugged in, and all was OK but the light was still on. Finally after we switched off and allowed the system to reset, it went off. I must say that I was impressed with the personal service we got though.

The next battle to address was the non-working dunny. So we asked more directions to a local caravan specialist, whose mechanic helped me, firstly to blow another fuse, then to track down where the pump is located. Unfortunately, it’s buried in the back of the dunny itself. Now THAT is going to be a shit of a job. Yes, pun intended. So then we headed out to find a caravan park. After several “interesting” turns in traffic that was starting to build up, we hauled into a service station for more fuel. At this point, Julie explained that my pedantic approach of wanting to know EXACTLY where she had seen the sign to the new Western Plains Zoo Caravan Park (on the way into town actually), was causing her to become rather irritated. This is a very encouraging improvement in her ability to “fight fair”, as my psych friend Allan says. She states her feelings on the spot, instead of bottling it up and exploding later.

She then asked for directions to it while paying for the fuel and we did a few more “round the block” manoeuvres to head in the right direction. On the way, we passed the Bowling Club, which was also recommended by the receptionist at the caravan park. We checked into the park, drove in to check that we would fit onto the site without unhitching again and then drove straight out again to go around yet another block to park out on the main road outside the Bowling Club. The meal was definitely worth the trouble. And we have learnt more lessons again today.

This is Julie – So we are now happily parked in our caravan space. It is now 1930 and Rodney is still running around the motorhome. He is using his laptop as a flashlight (torch)!!!!.  He has decided to plug the power cord in. He decided to do this (after telling me we didn’t need to) “cuz the fan on the inverter was running all the time cuz we have the laptop chargers plugged in”. Note his explanation :>). ‘Tis is an interesting life. Hmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!

Wednesday. OK, we’re home now and we’re somewhere between pleased to be home and just plain exhausted. Between Julie’s ankle and my recent back pain (either pulled something or it’s the driving position), we will VERY glad to see our own bed. But this house seems so BIG! Overnight last night, I re-plotted the route home and decided that we would come down through Wellington and Molong to Cowra and through to Yass. We indulged in a great brunch in Molong, had a much needed pit stop in Cowra and picked up KFC as a treat in Yass.

We’ve cleared it out, given it a quick sweep, and with Tim’s help, turned the whole rig around ready for me to take it to work tomorrow to show the guys.