January 2011

Happy New Year, again. My New Year started with Julie at home, asleep, and me in a bus on the way into Civic, watching the fireworks as I approached. As expected, the Night Rider service was popular, with most buses over half full until the demand tailed off at about 4:30am. My most populous run had most of the passengers happily arguing about who should be dropped off first. Once they had that sorted out, they just as happily navigated me from one drop-off to the next. We also had twice as many buses running, so it was pretty full on. I found out later that we carried about 800 passengers during the shift.

Julie’s week at work appeared to be pretty rough, with lots of lifting and carrying, combined with some shaking and vomiting. On Thursday night, all Hell broke loose when she started vomiting dried blood, She already had an early appointment on Friday with Dr Susan, so we held off until then, but when we walked into the surgery carrying a bucket for just in case, the staff knew that there was something wrong. Dr Susan’s diagnosis was quick and decisive – probable stomach ulcer, major changes to her medications, quit smoking NOW and go get a blood test taken. By the time I got her to the pathology place, she was deathly white and about to faint, so the staff called an ambulance for me, which was going to be my next step anyway. At least she was alert enough to remark on them being young and cute when they arrived.

Anyway, this was followed by a whole day in the hospital, most of it in Acute Care, with 2 blood transfusions, before the Gastro specialist put a scope down her throat and determined that she has 2 small ulcers near the bottom of her stomach (with a picture to prove it). They will be treated with a strong antacid and changes to the pain medication for her back. She stayed in overnight while I went to work (really boring, a whole 3 passengers all night) and I brought her home after I had got some sleep. Since then, this weekend, she has discovered that she really is in no condition to go back to work next week.

Fast forward to Wednesday and Julie woke up saying that it was time to quit. This was confirmed shortly afterwards during a phone call from the boss, so I stayed home to “be there”. Cue forward to Friday, when I stayed home again, and my Night Rider shift was cancelled (for various reasons) and Julie was the first to suggest that we could escape for the weekend. So here we are on Friday night at Yass Showground, just 50km from home, surrounded by noisy cockies and observing the sheep passing through and totally ignoring us, while collecting rain water from the low corner of the awning. What a lovely way to relax after the week we’ve had.

We are also experimenting this weekend with having the table made up inside the cabin, to see how much extra space it provides. The down side is the we don’t have an outside table, which leads to discussions as to whether we need to carry another one. Saturday, and the inside table seems to be proving to be useful. That, of course, is only my side of the story, because I’m writing this! Meanwhile, this showground seems to be quite a busy little place, with people coming and going, mostly with or for their horses. And although it didn’t seem to be raining overnight, the drizzle collected by the awning filled the bucket with fresh rainwater, and now we don’t have anywhere to put it, although Julie did ask specifically for rainwater when making the muffins for breakfast.

Julie’s job search is progressing. She is now keen to make a complete break in her career path and try out for truck and/or bus driving. So I have put her on that pathway, while reminding her that perhaps she could find temporary admin work for the 6 weeks or so that the various processes take to complete.

The following weekend, I was again missed from the Night Rider roster, so we hit the road again on Saturday morning, ending up at Stewarts Crossing, where a back road crosses the Shoalhaven River. We were advised to take the “back road” from the Kings Highway, rather than attempting to take on the crossing itself, which we did. Even so, we had to ford a small creek that had about a foot of water over it. We found a good spot, and when the Canberra couple occupying the prime spot overlooking the river had to go back on Sunday, we grabbed theirs. After that, I decided to put the Zook in 4WD mode and have a look around. And have a go at the crossing, not realising that the gauge on the OTHER side of the river was showing a depth of 0.8m (about 3 ft). I almost made it across. Fortunately, a bunch of guys appeared from nowhere and helped me to push it out of the water, then a man from the motorhome up on the bank came down with his can of magic spray. Squirt that stuff up the air inlet (after the air cleaner) and it will start just about anything! Which it did. Then I had to get back across. The same man loaned me a space blanket to hang over the front of the bonnet to retard the water getting into the engine compartment and this time, I made across OK.

Then spent an hour or so finding where the drain plugs are in the floor of the Zook and putting the floor coverings out to dry. Lessons learned: The Zook can’t take water much more than about 0.5m in depth without covering the radiator area. If you want to take on more than that, cover the front, don’t mess with second gear, use first gear low range and gun the bugger! Get that bow wave going and keep it going. Now back to relaxing, walking, swimming, reading, no phone and NO Internet. Add to this, the generator has decided it doesn’t want to run properly and we are REALLY on power usage rations. Gotta go, back tomorrow after we charge the batteries via the solar panels.

“Tomorrow” came with a cloudy sky. We decided that we had had enough of being off line as well as power rationed, so we got out of there. The Zook probably still had a bit of moisture in the engine air intake and refused to start, so we ended up towing it with the bus, up the slight gradient so that we could get it attached. Yes, there were plenty of other people not far away, who I am sure would have helped if asked, but I wanted to know that we could ourselves out of whatever pickle we were in, ourselves. And we did.

We also saw some interesting wildlife on the way home.

We headed for Braidwood, ostensibly to visit the bakery, but ended up dumping our grey water tank and then went to a service station to buy some of that lovely flammable stuff you spray into the air inlet to start the engine. I had asked someone in a work shirt whether the stuff I was buying (called “Start, Ya Bugga”) would do the job. He assured me that it would and then proceeded to give me, from out of his service truck, a whole can of the spray stuff that cleans electronic areas, such as around spark plugs and leads. Wow.

After that, we decided that we just wanted to be spoilt with a powered site, so headed back to Bungendore, which is on the way back home to Canberra. We parked up at a lovely spot in the back of the Showgrounds and will be out of here on Wednesday morning when the army of volunteers arrives to make the place ready for the Annual Show on Sunday. We had already unhooked the Zook to enable me to manoeuvre the bus into position, so the next job was to get it to start. A good spray on the plugs and leads, followed by a goodly squirt up the air cleaner inlet, and it started immediately! One of my jobs for Tuesday is to give the generator the same treatment.

I managed to put together a nice panorama of Lake George.

Tuesday. I regret to announce that said treatment did not work for the generator. We’ve driven the Zook into town to look around and pay our fees and the rest of the day consists of lounging around, watching things happen around us. A couple of tomorrow’s volunteers are here already, putting up marker tapes and cutting grass. Meanwhile, it seems that Angel may not be quite as Dumb & Stupid as we first thought – she’s just a slow learner. She now recognises my voice (most of the time) when we are walking off-leash and comes running to me. Definite improvement. And she appears to have learnt that when she is on the leash on the running line under the awning, that she can drink, pee and poo, the latter two being outside the new green matting.

Sigh. Home tomorrow. Work on Thursday. Update: Some interesting developments. For a while now, we have been looking at the concept of moving out of the house and into the bus semi-permanently, rent the house out and work a little better on our debt recovery while finding out whether we actually can live in such close quarters without killing each other. As we were leaving the Showground on Wednesday morning, our contact person dropped in and during the conversation, happened to mention that they are looking for caretakers to live in their own accommodation and be there overnight to collect camper fees and clean the dunnies occasionally. Then tonight, there was a major domestic incident in the driveway of the units involving an axe and a shotgun (we think). Starting to think that the synchronicity is telling us it’s time to get on with it.