June 2009

It has certainly been a busy time since I last wrote. Julie has been absolutely embraced by her new work colleagues and has had to do some internal assimilating and processing to work through that concept. Of course, she still has to prove that she can do the job, but she certainly has been accepted like never before, since she left Boeing.

The bus now has one of the tables that we had used for the Thanksgiving celebrations, modified and fitted into the area above the couch, so that it can be stowed away behind the couch or brought out and set up as a work bench. Photos will follow when I finally have a finished product to show off. Meanwhile, we have spent some time planning towards going “down the coast” this weekend for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, leaving on Friday to avoid some of the traffic. Kelly is going with us this time. He has already taken a couple of short trips in it and his position of choice is on the ledge adjacent to the left hand side of the front window. It will be interesting to see whether he maintains that spot when Julie is sitting in the co-pilot’s seat. We will have 4 days and 3 nights away, so it will be a bit of a shake-down for getting our “stuff” together for living at very close quarters.

Meanwhile, April has implemented a punishing routine of fitting doctor’s appointments and dialysis sessions around her work commitments, her Duncan commitments and her home life. It has now been established that she will need a kidney transplant in some time in the future. She & Michael are now gearing up to do the dialysis at home, which will certainly involve Michael a whole lot more.

Some good news from April today, to say that the process of blasting away her kidney stones without invasive surgery seems to be working well. And that there might be some hope in proposed (at this stage anyway) keyhole surgery to attempt to revitalise some of her right kidney. We wait for more news.

And good news for Julie as she worked late trying to balance petty cash. Her boss had left, but then called her from her mobile phone to say “well done” for her work this week and that if she continues at that standard, then they would be “looking towards the future”. I think we need to read between the lines a bit at this early stage, but it sounds promising to us.

Ok, it’s Friday night and we are not at home! And of course, the home network went off the air about an hour after we left. As planned, we have both taken the day off in advance of the long weekend, took a while to pack the bus with clothes and kitchen stuff, then a stop at the local shopping centre for food and grog. Poor Kelly just couldn’t decide what to do or feel, or where to sit. As we got to the “top of the mountain”, we took a “mandatory” break before tackling the downhill run. Julie took him for a short walk in the forest and then we realised why he had been shaking so much. She said he peed for an entire 60 seconds! And finally collapsed in her arms. She says that he is going to have to get his shit together when we are on the road permanently, because he sure as hell isn’t going to sleep in her arms all day!

This was our first run “down the Clyde”, which is the part of the Kings Highway that drops down from the highlands to the coast area. It’s one of those “buses and trucks must use low gear” pieces of road, so I had it in second with the exhaust brake on and lots of toeing the brakes. About halfway down, we caught up with the vehicles that had got past us on the first turnout area, who were stuck behind a very heavily loaded semi-trailer carrying a huge load of hay. HE was in FIRST gear. So with a bit of gearbox crashing, we also got down into first gear. It was so good to know that we weren’t the slowest one on the mountain. And also about halfway down, I wondered whether the smell was our brakes or someone else’s, so the lesson there was that “low gear” means first gear.

It took until nearly 4 pm to make our way down to North Durras. I really wouldn’t have believed it would take that long, but everything seems to take a whole lot longer in the bus. Peter, the owner of the caravan park, was a bit dubious about how well we could get around the corners in the park, but we managed to find a way to get in that took us straight into our allocated spot without too many dramas or running into too many tree trunks. Getting out of here will be a little more “interesting”. We are now set up in our little “home”, all of the popout buttons on the cupboards and drawers are popped out because we’re not going anywhere for the next 3 days and we are nicely warm with the heater running. It’s tracky dacks and mukluks time! And it will shortly be dinner time as well. On tonight’s menu is an easy meal to start with, an oven baked frozen seafood pack. And very nice it was too.

Saturday, and we have certainly tested out most of the systems today. Starting with driving the bus forward onto blocks on one side, as the whole bus had sunk onto the downhill side overnight, followed by Julie cooking breakfast of leftover creamed potatoes and fried eggs, cooked on the gas stove, while I filled the water tank and dosed the water with a purification treatment, feeling very pleased that the fresh water hoses went further than I had expected. Then we got Little Bob out and went for a drive, first stop being the service station out on the highway to make sure we didn’t run out of fuel, especially with the fuel gauge not working, then into South Durras to get access to the beach with Kelly, as the beach where we are staying is part of the National Park and dogs are not allowed. Actually we were only a few hundred metres down the beach, but because of the dog restrictions, it’s a 25-minute drive to get there. So there we were, standing on the beach watching the lone surfer, when I noticed a dark shape in one of the breaking waves. Suddenly we could see dolphin fins a little further out and as we watched, they surfed the breakers. At one point, almost the entire pod was lined up on the same wave, all surfing it at the same time. To the locals, it’s probably pretty ho hum, but to us, it was pure magic.

Then on the way back, got sidetracked by a sign to Big Bit Lookout. After we met a cruiser barrelling down the hill, it was clear that it was time to put the little beast into 4WD low range. It might still have lots of things wrong with it, but it certainly handled the road extremely well. The lookout had a 360 degree view and the road back down was second gear low range and toe the brakes.

Back to the bus, and test out the concept of “working” outside under the awning, complete with power supplied to the work table and the drinks fridge within easy reach. Now this is what we have worked so hard to get! Pity it didn’t take long for the sun to go down and the air to get cold again, but it is winter after all.

Sunday morning and we’ve had rather an eventful night. When we saw fireworks in the air, we went for a walk around the park and dropped in (or rather, invited ourselves in) to someone’s place for a while. Than around midnight, Julie woke from a nightmare and went outside for a smoke, to discover 2 young men who had just arrived and were trying to set up a tent for the first time, in the headlights of their car. We dropped the couch down into its double bed formation and bundled them in to sleep for the rest of the night. Turns out that the their friend, who should have been with them, had contracted appendicitis and they had left him in hospital in Sydney and come on down anyway, since they already had the booking made, deposit paid, etc.

When I woke up, I just made my way out to sit in an outside chair and listen to the birds and watch the kookaburra cleaning himself in a nearby tree, with 2 kangaroos not far away behind me. When the boys got up and moving, I was at least able to provide a couple of valuable pointers on how their tent went together.

We spent the day hanging out around the campsite, watching videos and figuring out how some of the technical stuff worked (yeah, I know, RTFM), For example, we now know that that the monitor behind the driver’s seat is also a DVD player and can act as a monitor for a computer, as well as being the monitor for the DVD player attached to the sound system. The day culminated in checking out the litter of puppies a few sites down. Not quite sure how I feel about it yet, but we have a new addition to our family in 2 weeks time, when we collect Angel from Sydney. She is a Maltese Shi-Tzu cross, the runt of the litter and the one with the most character. It will be good for Kelly to not be alone during the day.

We also overflowed the grey water tank late in the afternoon, resulting in a severe curtailing of our water usage. We detoured via South Durras to take another walk on the beach with Kelly, then headed “up the mountain”. Wasn’t as bad as I had expected, although we did hold up some traffic on the way up, but we made sure that we let as many as possible past us on the overtaking sections. And at one point, coming into Queanbeyan, we weren’t the slowest ones on the road, which is always encouraging! Good to be home, but I could easily just keep driving.

Good news this week, that Julie has been offered a permanent job with Life Without Barriers, which is “a national not-for-profit organisation working to support children and young people in crisis, people with a disability and those with mental health issues”. She appears to be a combination of Receptionist, Admin Officer and Finance Officer. Heh, it’s been years since she dealt with that level of finance stuff. From my point of view, it is just so nice to see her come home, (tired, sure but) happy with where she is and who she works with. Just quietly, I’m actually very proud that she is working in a community organisation. She may or may not realise it, but by doing so, she is making a difference. And that’s important.

Meanwhile, I take the bus for a run every weekend, just to keep the diesel ticking over. Last weekend, I took it back to Frank’s place to show him the final product of what he had helped me to start – the internal table that normally lives down behind the couch, but can be put up by one person (me) to become a solid work bench over the top of the couch, complete with folding aluminium legs.

This was in the foyer of a company with whom I took a training course.

We recently had the local electrician here to install a timer for the booster circuit for the solar water heater. He did a great job of installing a tiny little timer that fits into one of the individual switch sockets on the switchboard by the front door. It was also a very good test of the “security” webcam system, which fired off numerous photos of him as he arrived, retrieved something from his vehicle and finally left. When I showed the photos around at work, my colleague Ken said, “That’s Garry Hallisey from GMH Electrical Services, we’ve been friends for years.” And every day since then, we have blessed Garry’s name when we jump into a nice hot shower.

Like this morning, after our trip to Sydney yesterday to collect Angel. The trip itself went well, as she spent most of the trip in her box, lined with a towel plus a mat from her siblings to provide a familiar smell. We established a pattern where she would be put outside and praised when she piddled anywhere outside. We also fed her some of Kelly’s leftovers, which she demolished in short order. She has almost been renamed as Hoover, which was the nickname applied to Datsun after he died, when we realised just how much food Kelly DOESN’T eat. So I carefully settled her in the same box in the bedroom as I went to bed, only to be woken by Julie a little later with the information that she was walking around the house. Obviously, that box is not tall enough! The net result was that we finally got to sleep about 1am and she slept next to my pillow, managing to wake me often enough for me to take her outside for a pee a couple of times during the night. I vaguely remember being that tired when my kids were babies! I would respond to the cries, change the baby and deliver him to Val for feeding. After that, it was her problem and as often as not, the baby would still be in the bed in the morning. I’m not quite how I actually functioned at work the next day, but I was also much younger then too.

Today (Sunday), we have done some training on putting her out through the dog door in the lounge (next to the front door) and encouraging her to make her way around to the sliding door where the dining room opens into the courtyard. We have also established a pooping area in the same vicinity as the area of garden where Kelly does his, adjacent to the street gate where Julie has been given a smoking spot. Let’s put all the stinky stuff in one area, right next to the rubbish bins, shall we?



True to her nickname, Angel has vacuumed up Kelly’s food, followed by some diarrhoea and a bath in the bathroom sink. Wow, she certainly looks like a drowned rat when she’s wet. And I’m sure Larry will be pleased to know that the puppy dry food that he gave us makes a great treat (aka bribery or reward) and by tonight, she is starting to catch on that the outstretched hand contains one of those.

The voice you hear is Lily from next door.




Thought for today: You know your life is not boring when you go to brush your teeth in the morning and realise that the bathroom basin where you washed the puppy’s bum yesterday has STREAKS in it. For the record, the basin has now been thoroughly cleaned.

I feel inspired to write about some exceptional customer service that I received today. For the last few weeks, I have noticed a noisy fan in the inverter in the bus – the one that kicks in when we switch to charging the batteries via the solar panels. I finally got the chance today to pull it out, take the cover off and have a look. The problem component is a typical 12V fan, very similar to the ones used in computers, but I have really no idea of where to start looking for a replacement. As it happens, it had the supplier’s sticker on the bottom, so I called them for some advice. The tech guy responded with, “look, it’s just easier if I just send you out another fan, if you’re happy to put it in yourself.” So congratulations to Advance Trident in Brisbane for a job well done. For the record, it’s a Xantrex Inverter 500 model. Update: the fan arrived via Air Express just 2 days later from the company, who have since changed their name to Enerdrive. The note from Tim said that it was the only one they had, but that it tested OK and he hoped it would work for me. Tim, you’re a champion. I have never been so happy to NOT hear anything. Well done, guys.

Meanwhile, puppy training has been progressing. I have rigged up the dog door so that it partly open semi-permanently and Angel has no problems going in and out through it. It’s now just the process of getting her to remember to go out when she needs to go. Oh, and the quantity of fur around her bum makes for some sticky situations requiring yet another bath, almost every day! I took Kelly out for a while on my weekly run in the bus, mostly just to keep the diesel from forgetting what it’s there for. While we were out, Julie said she was outside wandering around wondering where that brown dog thing had gone, something to do with that gate, I’m sure. Oh well, I’ll just pounce around for a while and then have another sleep. While I was out, I checked the location for our proposed stay overnight on the night of the KAZ Ball in a few weeks. All of about 100 metres from the front of Parliament House, far enough away that the PH security guys don’t care, in a small car park that is almost level. Perfect.  To see it, go here, feed in the coordinates  -35.30579, 149.12769  then Set Centre and use the “+” multiple times to drill down, and finally switch to satellite view.