December 2009

And what a great spot it turned out to be. The almost full moon rose over the water, while the wind whistled through the trees. In the early morning, the wind dropped off, leaving the water calm at first light. We actually slept in this morning, finally getting away at about 9:30, by which time the kids were nearly home to Seattle. The road wound around the side of the Murray River. We have seen some magnificent scenery today as we climbed over ranges between valleys. The “publish” got done at Tumbarumba while we went in search of lunch. We arrived in Tumut early afternoon and have spent several hours in the caravan park, just sitting admiring the river and chatting with other travellers. Home tomorrow. Ugh!

Update: We have been visited tonight by magpies, ducks and possums. Julie was in Heaven!

We made the mistake of coming home via Wee Jasper. For those who know the road, it degenerates into a back country dirt road, with potholes in places and narrow in other places. It took nearly 3 hours to cover just 50 Km, although the good news at the end of it was a delicious lunch at the tavern.

We parked the bus in the car park of the tavern.

Kangaroo paw (an Australian native plant).

A native bee entering one of the holes in the wall.

The inside of the tavern.

Julie was in book Heaven.

A stray sheep and lamb.

The native bees apparently are only there in the early afternoon, and the owner has no idea where they go for the rest of the day.

By then, we were running late for an appointment in Canberra and had to go all the way round, via Yass. Made it though. It’s taken several days to raise the energy to clean the bus out. Meanwhile, the LPG conversion went well until the guys discovered that the engine doesn’t have a throttle as such, which meant that they couldn’t use the manifold vacuum to switch the flow of LPG on and off, so they will need to install a solenoid on the throttle pedal and switch from there.

On Saturday, while Julie was at work, I went out to the local CMCA Chapter AGM and managed to get elected as Chapter Secretary. Then had to get home again in time for a Skype call from our new exchange student from Finland, Eemeli, and his father Jukka. Seriously, this technology is amazing. And we’re STILL catching up with the washing.

And it’s now 2 weeks since the wedding and my silver fingernail is still hanging in there! Update: I finally took the nail polish off another week later. I’m sure there are women out there would kill for nails like that!

The following weekend, I “volunteered” to provide a ride to one of the officials for the half triathlon as a pillion passenger on the scooter. As it happened, I got a guy from Newcastle as my passenger and he is a former athlete and a rider, so he was very easy to accommodate. He explained many of the rules of the cycle section of the race, in particular that riders should not be drafting the rider in front and that there were specific conditions for overtaking and being overtaken. Those riders who were yellow carded by him (and the other officials) had to take a 5 minute penalty in the penalty area. Those who were pinged in this way were, of course, not happy! I have to say that, despite the 06:30 start on a Sunday morning, it was a thoroughly enjoyable morning. I even got paid expenses.

The LPG conversion proceeded in stages, consisting mainly of striking another snag and figuring out how to overcome it. Tony discovered that the engine is so perfectly muffled from the inside of the bus that he simply couldn’t hear it well enough to perform his usual version of tuning the gas flow, which consists of winding it up until the diesel pings, then backing it off a bit. So we have installed, at wholesale cost of the part only (i.e. no labour charge), a pyrometer, which measures the EGT or Exhaust Gas Temperature as it comes out of the exhaust manifold. This gives us a very good idea of how much the addition of the gas is changing the EGT and whether we are likely to be doing any damage to the engine. I am pleased to report that the top temperature, which BTW is 850 degrees C, which occurs under sustained heavy load at speed (like pushing it up a hill, in the heat, with the aircon running, into a head wind). The performance increase is not as spectacular as it is with a turbo charged diesel, but it is definitely noticeable. This morning, I pushed it over the big hill on Hindmarsh Drive in 4th, something I have not been able to do previously. But the bus still tends to struggle a bit when we hook the Suzuki on behind, mostly we think because of the extra weight.

Julie had a surprise early morning phone call late last week, to say that her work place had been broken into. I don’t think I have ever seen her shower and dress quite so quickly. Turns out that just 2 laptops and the safe were taken, which suggests one of their kids was responsible. While they got away with the money and a substantial stash of gift cards in the safe, they didn’t get the staff “spare change fund” that they have been adding to all year, because she had removed it from the safe earlier and forgotten to put it back! Still, it resulted in her spending an entire day making phone calls to cancel the gift cards and vouchers, instead of doing her regular work, which then backed up and put her under more stress. People don’t realise that when they steal, they affect so many others in so many different ways.

Julie had also been a bit concerned that we hadn’t heard much from Eemeli about what he wants to do over here next year. Turns out that he has been swamped by exams lately and hasn’t had much time to think about anything else. Then his father Jukka explained that on his original application, he had said that he wanted to improve his English, experience a very different culture and travel as much as possible, but the local organisation had asked him to remove the third point. They had been very pleasantly surprised when we started telling them just how much travel we intend to do with him next year. Already, we have booked an Easter trip to Uluru for one night, followed by a direct flight to Cairns for a whole weekend and home on the Monday. And a 10-day trip in the bus during the July school holidays.

It’s Christmas Eve and we are now back in the caravan park in Tumut, to stay for 4 nights. When we arrived, Julie asked whether a river site might be available and was told that yes, there had been a cancellation on one and it was ours if we could get the bus in there. Say no more! We are under the trees, overlooking the river. Julie got to see her possums again overnight. They like Chex Mix and ripe bananas, but not the green bananas.

Merry Christmas to all our readers! It’s raining here. Which makes for a good test of how waterproof the bus is. And yes, it leaks in a couple of places, none of them really serious, although where it’s dripping down the front of the electrical switchboard needs to be watched. Since we’re stuck indoors, it’s a chance for Julie to get her kitchen organised. Poor thing, she still can’t get used to the concept of a cold meal for Christmas Day.

We took a drive out to Blowering Dam to have a look.

Boxing Day dawned to a cloudy sky and the rain has finally stopped, which makes for a much more pleasant day. We must be finally catching up on sleep, can’t believe we slept in until 10:30! Then the day’s excitement level ramped up when we received a phone call from the ACT Police, to say that a safe had been recovered from the Cotter area and it had Julie’s paperwork in it. They already had my number on file from the theft of Julie’s scooter in October. It could have been the one from her work, or the one from home, so when they said the side door was unlocked and the front door open, …. mild panic! Turned out to be the one from work. Tim went over there and we sorted the rest out by phone. Took the Officers by surprise to find that they were on the webcam, though.

Sunday, we drove out to Talbingo. Very different and lots of unexpected wildlife.

On the way home on Monday, we took the back road following the Tumut River and then the Murrumbidgee, where the public road went through private properties. At one point, we came across a kangaroo hopping along the side of the road in front of us. Usually, they will simply jump over the nearest fence and disappear, but they can also suddenly change direction and cross the road, so we followed him at a safe distance. To our amazement, he continued on up the road, as the photo sequence shows.

While Julie worked on Tuesday and Wednesday, I ran errands, fixed things on the bus and picked up valuable advice on aspects such as keeping batteries charged. By Wednesday night, we were ready to roll again, although we didn’t hit the road until Thursday morning because Julie had to finish up her work first, after a power failure had put her offline for part of the previous day. We trailed out through Binalong and stopped at Young for some supplies, before calling it a day at the tavern at Bendick-Murrell, about a third of the way from Young to Cowra, and proceeded to help the locals celebrate New Years Eve.