October 2009

This morning (Thursday), I was awake at 5:30 (sunrise), we were up at 6 and on the road before 7. Going down the Monaro Highway, following the Cann River we came across a young dog running down the highway. He looked young, fit and healthy, so we figured he was just temporarily lost and sent him on his way with positive thoughts.

The next discovery was a large snake heading across the road, a red-bellied black, no less, up there in the top 10 most venomous in the world. Big bugger too, at least 1.5 metres, and he reared up at the bus as we approached. If we had been in the car, without someone else right up our bum, we would have stopped to check him out. Then we came across a small bird giving a big bird a very hard time by continually swooping at him and hopping over him. I had to explain that the bigger one was probably way too close to the smaller one’s nest, which he was vigorously defending. And at another point, we ran into a swarm of bees, that splattered themselves all over the windscreen. Eeeewwww! It sounded like heavy rain drops hitting.

Coming into Lakes Entrance, there are some fantastic looking, (very large) homes overlooking the ocean from the high ground. Julie said she’d like one, but she’d also need a maid to keep it clean! She was also rather frustrated as the day wore on, at the various petrol stops that I had neatly planned out, one of which had no diesel and another it looked like we weren’t going to fit. Now there’s a challenge! As it was, we had to back out of the area and wait for someone else to clear the driveway before we could leave. It’s not easy getting a 30 foot bus into some of these places!

Possibly the highlight of the day was at a “sanity stop”, where we made a joint decision that if we have nothing to show for our efforts by the time we get home next week, we just put almost everything on the market and deal with the consequences of Capital Gains Tax later. Anyway, this guy who was just walking his dog went over to his car and pulled out his pet cockatoo and put him on his shoulder. Julie was suitably gob-smacked, to say the very least!

Angel just continues to have a mind of her own about bouncing off in whatever direction she chooses. Several times we find either or both of us chasing her down today. Meanwhile, the dominance issue between her and Kelly continues. At one point, Julie put Angel up into the third seat, where she would be contained in one place instead of wandering around the bus. Kelly of course just HAD to get up in the same seat and crowd her out. Until then, we don’t think he even knew the seat existed!

We also discovered that there’s nothing worse than arriving at a location that is clearly marked on the CMCA website as a campsite, only to find a “No Camping” sign. By the time we hit Moe, we really had had enough of driving and spent nearly an hour finding the caravan park. Fortunately, we were able to set up properly, complete with the awning up, where I rigged a running line, to which we attached her lead. So at least she had some boundaries to bounce around in.

After Julie cooked her first meal in the bus (spaghetti and meatballs), neither of the dogs was up to being even remotely interested in food. They’re even more worn out than me!

Friday. Well, we discovered what happens when we fill the poop tank (aka the black water tank). Fortunately, it doesn’t overflow the same way that the grey water tank does, it just backs up in the toilet. Poor Julie was woken up at 6:30 this morning by me starting the bus, so that I could shift it onto a site that had a sullage point. And then empty the tank, so that my whole day’s contribution wasn’t sitting there looking at me.

We also checked out a couple of the other sites that we would have aimed at last night if we had not chosen to find the local caravan park. One of them was very nice, right next to the creek running over a rock fall. Great if the area is not flooded. The other one was a rest area on the freeway, which was great as a rest area but would have been disastrous as an overnight stay. We navigated to the USA Store for Julie to stock up on goodies for Thanksgiving. While she was there, she found herself advising other expatriates on what products could be found here in Australia or adequately substituted. Very proud of herself she was and so was I. We then moseyed on up past Elwood Beach, where ten minutes in the freezing wind was quite long enough, thanks.

Then on to check out Misty’s Diner (a real American diner) in Prahran. We circled past it 3 times looking for adequate parking before we gave up and moved on. In Northcote, we were cruising up High Street looking for somewhere to eat when I spotted a double size parking space, enough to reverse park the bus, which I managed to do on the first attempt. Wow, all that training from Kevin, way back in Murray Bridge, finally paid off. And yes, I have photos to prove it. Julie just about wet her pants!

This has become one of Julie’s favourite stories. Kelly was sitting in his usual spot, on the ledge overlooking the footpath. As we walked back to the bus, someone was walking past and suddenly exclaimed, “Ooh, the dog moved. He’s real!”

Saturday. We have had a great day with Brooke & Paul and the kids, as well as Jan & Vince. It’s certainly the most relaxed I’ve been for a long time. The many photos taken today reflect the fun times.

Julie cooked a mini version of her Thanksgiving Dinner with Brooke’s help, and everyone was impressed with the finished product.

I also had a visit from Sacha, the Director of DirectLine Finance, who loved the bus, and could see why we had pursued it so vigorously. We also talked about the loan and about Julie’s and my decision to sell most if not all of the properties as quickly as possible, with the exception of our home in Holder. Our entire financial future is now on the line and we must take drastic action.

Sunday. Managed to get the beast out of the driveway without further damage (small scratch from the gate post on the way in yesterday) and headed south to see if we could into Misty’s Diner. Pulled up about 50 metres away and there was a parking space big enough!

We pigged out rather badly, then took nearly half an hour to get onto the freeway to get us out of there – we went over or under it at least 3 times before we found an entrance to it. After that, we made good time getting out of Melbourne, but it was nearly 5pm before we hauled into Glenrowan to stay the night with Helen & Des. And a good night it was. We managed to sleep in the next morning.

Monday. We received some good news, that the private lender we have been working indirectly with was prepared to loan us enough to dig us out of our hole. It will leave us with no reserves and deep in debt, but we will at least be free of the daily default interest commitments. After that, we implement the sale of enough of our properties to stabilise our financial situation again. All of the older properties in Queensland will have to go.

We drove all day with regular food preparation and dog piddle stops and pulled in at home just on 6pm. Julie even took a stint at the wheel. “You’re drifting left, dear.” Oh, there’s the rumble strip. “Um, please do me a favour and move about 2 feet to the right. Yeah, that’s perfect.” It’s been quite a while since she drove anything that size, not to mention being on the “wrong” side of the road.

At one point, she took a nap in the bedroom and reported that it was very comfortable, but also very noisy and VERY bumpy. She returned to the cabin to find that one of the surround sound speakers was dangling by a thread above my head. Now THAT could have been painful!

We’re exhausted, but also realise that when (if) we finally hit the road permanently, we are unlikely to be pushing ourselves quite that far in such a short time frame. And the bus continues to surprise us with little glitches. The problem we had with the inverter (12V DC to 240V AC) only seems to occur only when the switchboard door is open. Must be a short in the hinge area. But even more worrying is that the shower started draining directly into the black tank instead of the grey tank, so we REALLY needed the poop stop at Holbrook! Grey water I can handle fairly easily, black water requires special disposal.

Tuesday. The private finance Letter of Offer has finally arrived and been signed, scanned and returned. Then we received a broadcast email from Dorothy that in the space of one week, Pete has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, undergone surgery and is recovering much better than the doctor expected. She sounded very grateful that all the good news things had been in their favour, including being in Brisbane at the time and having direct access to the best surgeon in the business.

Oh, and Julie’s scooter was stolen from the carport and ended up in a small gully in the open area where we walk the dogs. Apart from some scratches, the only damage is that the steering lock was broken and both mirrors are missing. I guess when bored kids are on holidays, they do really stupid things for no reason.

Stepped into the back garden yesterday and was VERY surprised to see how much everything has grown in the last 2 weeks. Well, it has been raining lately.

Angel went in for her de-sexing operation on Monday. The vet suggested that we “keep her quiet” for a week or so. Yeah, right! The next morning, she was up at her usual time of about 06:30 (yep, that’s DST), so I had to stumble outside to have a pee and make sure that she had one too.

Funny story in all the finance crap today, that bears repeating. One of the lenders needed JP-certified copies of photos of the bus, both outside and inside. Now how the Hell do you get someone to witness that “this is a certified copy of the original which I have sighted” when the “original” is a digital photo. The final solution was for me to buy today’s copy of the local paper, take a picture of it, and then take pictures of the bus, with each picture including the paper, to prove that the pictures were taken today. Julie thinks it just plain hilarious.

And the finance crap continues. We have now gone through several proposed rescue packages and we are now down to our last one. Already we have several of our properties on the market, Including Mount Isa and Everton Hills. We offered the Chermside property to the tenants that we have had in there since Doris and I bought it in 1998, at a small discount below the market price, and they snapped it up. They were so keen, they had a meeting with the agent the following Monday morning and I had to scramble to get them the relevant paperwork. If the current rescue package does not come through, we WILL be selling every property except the one we live in, within the next couple of months.

On a lighter note, Angel is bouncing around the place as if nothing has happened to her, although Kelly picked up a gastro bug and is on antibiotics.

And some excellent news from April, firstly that her stem cell treatments have “taken” exceptionally well and her right kidney is now working at 50% efficiency. Her doctor said that he has never seen such a good recovery rate. So kudos to April for all of the hard work she has put into improving her diet and her general health. She than elected to go in for a double treatment of stem cells. That’s 2 shots of epidural, folks. Plus removal of her shunt, which means wearing a small bandage instead of a much bigger one, until it heals. That’s a truly gutsy decision.

The weather here has continued its Winter backlash and still shows no sign of warming up in a hurry. And I have a new definition of “pathetic”. After Julie’s scooter was stolen, I moved the PC and camera from the bedroom, where it was directed into the back garden, and moved in to the shelving behind the fence, with the camera pointing into the carport. Then came the huge Microsoft update, which made changes to the Windows kernel and the firewall needed a Yes answer before being able to connect to anything. So then I had to take a monitor, keyboard and mouse out there, plug them in and reboot it, to fix it. So there I was standing out under cover with rain pouring down just a few feet away, messing about with a live computer. Pathetic!

Today, we went to the Murrumbateman Field Days and wandered around for a few hours. Some points of note from the photos. What’s the common factor in the picture of the bunch of people? Most of them are wearing a hat. Yes, that is Julie wearing her hat. Because it keeps the sun off her face. The message for those lovely visitors to Australia in late November: Pack your bloody hat! And then wear it at all times in the sun!

The funny looking thing on the ground is a swag. It can be configured to be fly proof, weather proof and dust proof. It can be laid out anywhere on the ground and it is your bed. It then rolls up into a bundle and can be carried on the back, hence the concept of the “swagman” carrying his swag on his back.

Yes, that’s a black snake in the snake tent, probably a red-bellied black, that same as the one we ran over last week in Victoria.

Lots of old Army stuff and old farm stuff and some really cute alpacas, and some really old NRMA vehicles (that’s the local equivalent of the AAA). And a Holden red block straight 6 engine, haven’t seen one of those for a few years! And the sheepdog demonstration was impressive. And a nice looking Arctic quad bike.

Looking back, 2009 has been a spectacular year for us. Financially, it’s been a massive disaster, ending with a loss of 5 out of our 8 properties (one of which we only just bought in March), and a gain of one motorhome. But it was a lifestyle choice and an investment in our future. Julie has finally found a job that she enjoys and where she is appreciated, but it has been heavy going for her, while I have taken the strain of the financial mess, along with joining yet another new employer. It has been a very real test of our relationship and the fact that we are still together and planning for our future is a testament to how much we really do love each other and have learned to communicate much more constructively, and for the most part, to fight reasonably fair, without hurting each other too much. I’m really glad the kids are coming over from Seattle for the wedding next month, because it gives us something positive to focus on.