December 2010

This month started with a bang, that being the LWB Christmas Party, which was going to be on the Pirate Boat on the lake. It became stranded on land, but the theme stayed on. Julie & I went as modern day pirates, dressed in her USAF camos with a few other touches.

The rain continues this week. Today’s highlight was a heavy storm that dumped on our suburb just before I came home, and the flooding only minutes before was obvious. Pictures are of the main drainage channel from the Weston Creek area,

plus the “trickling stream” that drains out of Holder.

There was some interestingly coloured water running down the pathway at the side of our place and the courtyard drain was obviously blocked.

I grabbed a picture that someone else had copied from the Bureau Of Meteorology, showing the storm cell just south-west of Canberra, which was the one that hit our place.

On the way to work on Friday, I checked on the low level bridge at Queanbeyan, over which I usually drive, and saw that it was 4 feet under water at its lowest point, which equates to the 1.2 metres in the picture shows. On Sunday morning, the water level was right down, but still over the bridge.

The weekend saw my first foray into commercial bus driving, after Deanes Buslines scored the contract for the Canberra Night Rider service. We turn up at the depot in Queanbeyan at about midnight for a briefing and allocation of routes, vehicles and a cash float. Then head out to Civic, ready for the first runs to start at 1:00am through to 1:45am. We then do another run at 2:30 through to 3:15 and a third run at 4:00 through to 4:45. The departure time depends on the route and each bus carries a security guard. On Saturday morning, I was in my own home territory of Weston Creek and the south end of Woden, while on Sunday morning, I did the Belconnen run. Often, if the bus was empty, or had only a couple of passengers for a 90-minute time slot, we’d go out of our way to take others home outside the route boundaries, or park the bus at another bus stop in the interchange and negotiate for business. While the service is new (for this year), I can get away with it! I get home anywhere from 5:30 to 7:30 and go straight to bed.

During the week, we had major rainfall over the already water saturated area, causing the Googong Dam to finally overflow and the Queanbeyan River to flood in a 1-in-20-year event. It closed the Kings Highway for the day and left an almighty mess. I dropped in on the affected area on Saturday morning on the way home.

The water level of 1.2 metres over the low level bridge last week was more like about 5 to 6 metres this time!

Mud on the roundabout.

Debris on the tennis club fence where the water was up into the McDonalds car park.

Mud, trees and debris.

And the XR6.

Looks like something else got left out in the rain.

Week 2 of the Night Rider and I seem to have landed with the Belconnen service. I showed Jeremy my test run of the one page map inside my shift folder, on which I could mark the passenger destinations in red marker pen. He was impressed, so I might go one step further and make up a laminated page. I’m also having a huge amount of fun, window shopping.

I have NEVER seen so many short dresses and skirts, and high heels, in one place! I also remembered to pull the camera out this time and take a couple of snaps. I figured that if I wandered around taking too many pictures of short skirts, I’d eventually get decked by someone, but I did manage to get one in the picture.

I do still vividly one young thing walking across the street in front of me with a VERY short white skirt and I can guarantee that she was wearing bright orange underwear!

Meanwhile, the BlunderBuss refuses to start. Our neighbour in Unit 7 has a mate who is an auto electrician. I finally caught up with him yesterday and he sounded confident that he could get it fixed in time for us to get away for Christmas. I hope to give him a hand to work on it one evening this week. Update: He called me during the week asking for the brand and model of the bus, as well as the model number of the engine, so that he could do some homework on it first. We’re still hoping to escape for Christmas.

During the week, I created and printed A3 size map pages for the Night Rider routes and Julie got them laminated at work. On Saturday morning, I was on the Tuggeranong run, so the map came in very handy. The intended use is that as the passenger boards, the security guard steps into the boarding area and blocks any more passengers until I am ready to talk to them, then I ask them where they are going and work with them to mark the location on the map. Then I take their money and give them a ticket, and the guard lets the next people up. By the time we are ready to roll, I have an overall view of where we need to go and an indication of how I’m going to get there. Combined with switching on my GPS once we get out in the suburbs, the system works.

News of great joyfulness!! The BlunderBuss is running again. My work colleagues Lee & Frank encouraged me to call the Isuzu specialist and ask for some suggestions. What I got from them was that I should have a good look around, possibly some relays around and try to isolate the problem area. So I came home tonight and had a good look around the area in the engine bay where all of the electrical stuff seems to be terminated. And found a fuse that has simply slipped sideways out of its holder. Put it back, along with another one that was going that way, reconnected the battery and started the engine. Joyous relief! I was so happy that I took it round to the local service station to fill it up before the price goes up again later in the week.

Just in that short trip, I did notice that I’m driving it a little differently and much more confidently. Even Colin’s advice to “hug the white line and they’ll get out of your way” was put to the test, with very successful results. Pity it doesn’t work on semi-trailers. Looks like Christmas Day on the river flats at Jugiong might be on the cards after all.

Christmas Eve. It took me all morning to get all the shopping and packing done. In all my years in Canberra, I have never seen the shopping centre in Weston Creek with BOTH car parks full to overflowing. Collected Julie after she finished work at 12, connected up the Zook and hit the road. Here it is at 4pm and we are parked up in the reserve at Jugiong, overlooking a single lane bridge over the Murrumbidgee River, with the sun shining from behind us, the breeze blowing through under the awning, the dogs relaxed and very nicely settled in, thank you. In fact, we are looking across the river at the very first campsite we ever had in a motorhome, on the Sydney to Melbourne trip, way back when we were doing relocations.

In other news this month, we have sold both scooters on eBay. Mine went in the first week and was collected by a lovely couple who drove up from Wangaratta to collect it. Julie’s took 2 weeks to go. When it failed to sell in the first week, we upped the price by $300 and it sold to a guy in Sydney. He should be collecting it after Christmas.

A bit more on where we are currently parked up. The high water mark (HWM) from the recent flooding is one metre above ground level where we are. This river must have been easily 200m wide, at its flood peak just 2 weeks ago. I took several pictures trying to show the effect of the flood. Then I realised that from where I am sitting, I am seeing the HWM on a tree on this side of the river and looking across, I can see the same HWM in the field on the other side, where green stops and the debris starts. I’ve marked it in the picture. That whole piece of road leading up to the bridge was under water!

I have put up a picture looking back the other way. It looks like the flood waters were right up to the main road into the town.

When we get away in the bus we ALWAYS manage to forget something. This time, it was the laptop chargers. Fortunately, we have one that lives permanently in the bus to drive the laptop that takes pictures for the TravelCam, so we have to share it. Probably just as well, as this time, we are in FULLY self sufficient mode, although we do still have the generator if we need it. Just that with its remote start not working (sigh, another thing to fix), it’s a real pain to have to pull it out and start it with the pull cord. Yeah, life’s tough out here. Update: In the absence of REALLY bright sunlight, we have had to run it for a couple of hours each day. I didn’t realise just how power intensive our lifestyle is.

We had rain yesterday afternoon. Yay, a great opportunity to collect some rain water. “Huh?”, says Julie. “What for?” We collected enough off the corner of the awning into a bucket to refill the 10 litre drinking water container in the fridge. Yes, she could really taste the difference. I even had enough left over to fill the bottles used for topping up the batteries.

Tuesday. Yesterday was a wonderful day of sunshine. I ran the generator for about 90 minutes and realised later that I could have run it for about 30 minutes or so less. When I switched it off, the battery meter was showing -50ah, which means they were about 50 amp hours below being fully charged. We ran our usual gamut of electrical goodies during the afternoon and I was surprised to see that the batteries were fully charged by late in the afternoon. Which means that on a good sunny day, the solar panels can recover the batteries from a heavy night without any intervention from me, even with the 240V inverter running.

We are now back home again, as Julie has to work for the next 3 days and I will be working overnight again on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It’s almost boring sitting here! Does this mean we’re developing the mindset for being permanently on the road?