Recycling the Vintage Magazine Racks

We hope to be hitting the road in the Robbiebago motorhome for our first trial run within weeks. It has been a long hard struggle with many suppliers and trades people not meeting their own time frames but we will get there eventually.

Meanwhile, Rob & I can still find things to do. One of my projects was to take the old vintage magazine racks that were on the backs of the chairs of the bus and recover them.

I have done 8 of them so far. I recovered the top part with various coordinating upholstery fabrics that fit within my colour scheme of green and burgundy. (Rob would be horrified if I went with pink!)

I played around with dyeing the netting but decided to leave them the original burgundy colour but I had to recover the faded velvet top.

The original magazine racks with the cup holders above.

These will be scattered throughout the motorhome. Here is one of them up in the motorhome under the dash near the front door.

I love to recycle things when I can. Everyone needs a stylish magazine rack, am I right?  I still have maybe a dozen left over. I am wondering if I can use them somewhere else. Maybe I will list them for sale on Ebay when we come back from our trip if I haven't thought of anything else.

So what do you think of my 'new' retro magazine racks now?

Under the dashboard

When we redesigned the dashboard, it gave us the opportunity to create custom storage areas under the dashboard, in and around various things.

Some of the stuff we'd rarely need to get to such as the electrics for the headlights. However we still need to be able to access it occasionally. So we had to consider designs that enable us to remove a wall or create some other sort access or door to still get at these areas if and when needed sometime in the future.

We have installed open shelving that slopes back and down gently and the big round 'disk' is an access hole which we are considering inserting a radio or such sometime in the future. Already we have installed a reversing camera/GPS  on the top of the clutch cover.

Front area includes some shelving that slopes down and back gently!

I just love storage and cubby holes - the more the better in my opinion. Some we don't know what we will do with it until we actually get the motorhome on the road but I am sure I will find a use for each and every spot Rob can  create for me.

If you look at the extreme left on the top photo you can see what appears to be a flat area or maybe you thought it was a step. but actually it is a lid for the box housing the 3,000 watt inverter. We did take up a narrow part of the wide steps for this. There is a opening at the front for air circulation. The lid will allow Rob to access the inverter if it needs tweaking or whatever.

The inverter being placed before being encased!
I have also jazzed up some of the vintage magazine racks and have yet to decide if we can fit one of these here too! Maybe under the grab handle.  The others I will be scattering them around the motorhome.

Redesigning the Dashboard

The original dashboard was quite ugly. There were equipment that we didn't want to keep and as it was you could see the mess of wires etc. We wanted to utilize every scrap of space possible and that included making the most of the area around the dashboard and the front area as well as make it look much nicer than it was.

The dash board as it was when we bought the bus

Rob decided that we would redesign the front area with plywood and cover it with vinyl for looks. We kept the angular lines for practicality. He measured and cut the plywood, taking into account the air vents and the accessibility to the clutch fluid so we can top it up as needed. You can see the circle cut in the top of the plywood in the photo above. We used a 6 inch cover plate - generally used for sewer pipes.

Fitting the plywood top.

We painted the plywood, only because it took a while finding a supplier for the vinyl also gave me an idea of what the contrast would look like before going to the effort of the vinyl covering.

The painted dashboard with the clutch fluid access hole

The air vents on top were taken out, repaired and  spray painted black.
Eventually we found a supplier for the vinyl. We ordered a dark hunter green and it duly arrived. 
We glued dense foam (from Clarks Rubber) to the plywood and then glued and stapled the vinyl to the foam after cutting holes for the air vents and clutch cover.


The new looking air vents were screwed back in place on top.
We have added the screen for the reversing camera to the clutch cover. We also added a grab handle for getting in and out especially as we can't stop the clock we have to admit we are getting older. (But shush... don't tell anyone I admitted that!)

So all  up we have a great looking dashboard... next blog post is about the area under dashboard!

Where should we go in Tasmania?

Now that the motorhome is registered, we are planing on spending Summer on the delightful island of Tasmania. We had hoped to leave last year but with the bus conversion taking longer than expected esp things like the slide-outs taking over 10 months to be made and shipped from America, things just didnt go as planned. Then on top of all that, I  (Michelle) get a little crook only to be finally diagnosed with a rare head cancer. So then that throws everything totally up in the air.

Now the bus is now officially registered as a motorhome and I am starting to feel much better and the doctor is happy for me to continue with checkups with a colleague in Tasmania and thus we are  now able to start planing. Our daughter moved home early this year with the idea of house sitting while we were traveling. Thankfully she is still willing to stay here while we gallivant around Tassie.

The only way to get your RV over to Tasmania is on the Spirit of Tasmania. We have booked the ferry. We have booked the motorhome and the car as separate vehicles as we found this to be the cheaper option rather than take the car as a towed vehicle.

So  now this is where you guys come in! Where should we go? Thankfully our schedule is very loose and flexible/ We also are fortunate in that we  have 4 months before we need to come back to the mainland.

We are the type of people that make only a rough idea of a plan and then make decisions along the way. We are able to free camp extensively. Rob has been to Tassie before but it was well over 35 years ago. Whereas everything will be totally new to me. We want to go slow and enjoy the places we visit and the people we meet along the way.

Make sure you also list your favourite camp grounds especially any free camp spots since we are seld sufficent and all setup for free camping.

We need your advice!

So help us out please. There is with an incredible amount of choice for places to go.We love the natural side of life and generally tend to avoid spending a lot of time in cities, though there are some exceptions. We want to dig a little deeper and find the real Tasmania.

We love the quieter pursuits

  • national parks
  • beaches
  • waterfalls
  • easy bush walks
  • snorkeling
  • watching great sunsets
  • scenic drives
  • new experiences
  • great campsites
  • fabulous happy hours with other campers
I also have a hankering for the crafty side of life especially craft markets and fairs and Rob loves a good feed without the fancy price tags.

Places already on our radar

 Freycinet National Park 


Bruny Island


Liffey Falls in Deloraine


 Where else should we go and what activities should we definitely add to our list?

Powering up the Motorhome

To live any kind of 'normal' life on the road we will need to have access to some sort of power. We also plan on frequent free camping since it is a lifestyle we really enjoy now that we have been introduced to it on our Western Australia trip. By the way, free camping is the Australian equivalent similar to boondocking or rather dry camping which is basically camping anywhere (legally) with limited or no amenities.

Since we plan on spending the majority of our time free camping we did a lot of research and thus have possibly made our motor home rather unique. We chose not to have any gas. (The wife has a 'thing' against gas since one self ignited in our first home. Thankfully we were home at the time and avoided damage to the house and ourselves!) Optioning for no gas, not only saved the costs of having it installed and certified by the appropriate authorities we also believe it to be safer.

Our power supply 240v also is not very conventional in a few ways. Most of our appliances will be regular household appliances even though we intend to spend weeks at a time free camping, we believe we have ensured that we will have enough power to run these appliances even if there should be some cloudy or rainy weather.

Our Induction cooker
Ordinary household fridge with a microwave oven on top
We opted for lots of  solar panels on the roof to ensure plenty of power. We covered all the spare spaces on the roof with small solar panels since this utilized the area available much better than larger ones plus they fitted the slope better too. Smaller panels also have better power generating capacity especially when some shade falls on a panel. See our blog post on solar panels for more details.

The bus roof full of solar panels
Adding more batteries to run everything only works if you have adequate generating capacity to charge them. We opted for solar panels and lithium batteries.

We installed solar panels on the roof to ensure plenty of power but then we had to ensure we could harness that power and after much research, we went with lithium batteries, for many reasons but mainly because they are much more efficient. The batteries are 400amps at 24v Lithium batteries and are controlled by a Dingo controller using SSR unit to take the bulk of the power from the solar to the batteries using a Vitron shunt off a negative cable to show us the amps, volts etc.

Connecting the Lithium batteries together

We have a separate 12 volt system and we have connected to solar 80w panel in the control box as well. 12 volt used to be the standard for extra low voltage power systems eg led lights etc. 

Dingo solar charge controller
Rob wanted 2 different systems. If we use 12 volt out of a 24 volt system then we are only using half of a battery which s not  good for constant use. A 24 volt system is more efficient because you can use smaller cables and higher output  to allow a more efficient distribution of power. So we are going 24V with a 240V inverter.  Sine wave inverters provide the same quality of power that you can expect from mains power. They are therefore safe to use with all your electronic appliances but they do cost more than the modified square wave models.

Battery Inverter

The higher the current (measured in Amps) the bigger the components need to be. High currents require large diameter cables and fuses, both of which can be expensive. However by doubling the voltage you get double the power (Watt) at the same current.


Sure we could have considered petrol generators, which are a cheaper alternative but they are not very neighbourhood friendly, they are noisy, they are not allowed in all campsites and you need to cart extra fuel for them as well as that creating on-going running costs.We have been at some camp sites that generators run upto 18 hours. Luck has it we were far enough away not to have to put up with these ourselves, though we feel sorry for anyone close by them.

I am hoping we never need a generator - only time will tell.

What is free camping?

Free Camping is the Australian equivalent to Boondocking or dry camping. It offers you an unparallelled opportunity to really connect with mother nature. Camping for free? We all like to get a bargain. Sure it might be a cost effective way to see the country, but you will find there are many other advantages too.

Chasing the sunsets
Free camping is not for everyone. If your idea of a holiday is a long hot bath, air conditioning and a restaurant or nightclub down the road then free camping is not for you.

Can you live without some creature comforts?
Free camping basically means that you park your caravan or motorhome somewhere where there are little or no amenities that is no water, no electricity, or or toilets. There are many areas now that are welcoming free campers, some have a few restrictions usually as to the length of your stay. All you have to rely on is what you brought with you. Most caravans and motorhomes are capable of free camping for a night or two. The next question is for how long and in what degree of comfort can you free camp? And the answer to that is how long is a piece of string? There are so many variables.

Generally, what limits your stay is the capacities of your RV in water storage, sewage storage, and battery charging.

Water Storage

Carrying your own water with you is great and generally the more water you can carry the better but has its draw backs too as weight is involved. You can also extend your fresh water capacity by carrying dedicated jerry cans or other containers to extend your stay. However at around 1kg per litre, the weight can quickly add up and may overload the axles and/or tyres.

Water capacity is also important


It not anyone's favourite topic but we all have to do it and it is also a vital part of the equation when free camping. There are 2 types of waste waters: grey & black. Pure sewage is black water. Washing up, showers etc falls into grey water category. There are strict regulations about disposing of both types of tanks. Please don't think that just because you are away from the towns that you can do what you like. There are serious health issues which leads to a ethical responsibility to dispose of all rubbish in a caring manner. You can't even empty the tanks into many of the bush toilets that you will find as you will destroy the bacterial environment that can not cope with the chemicals you need to put into your own tanks to keep the bacteria and smells at a minimum. There are more and more Dump Spots located around the country where you can legally and safely deposit your waste water.

The capacity of your black and grey water tanks will also limit your stays

Alternate Power Source

Power is generally from batteries. You can use deep cycle batteries, lithium batteries or use a generator. The problem is that they can drain quickly and thus need to be charged up. If you are not careful you could easily drain the batteries in one night. There are ways to increase battery life such as solar power or a generator to recharge the batteries during the day. Generators are big and fuel hungry, so now you have to transport extra fuel as well as listen to the loud racket they make.

You need to supply your own power source

Security v Isolation

One of the biggest drawbacks for some people is the lack of security. If you take a few precautions it shouldn't spoil your fun. We like to park in designated free camping spots with other like minded campers. We believe in safety in numbers. So we tend to stop traveling by about 3pm. If there is no-one else there that is still OK as quite often people will stop once they see that someone else is there. However if no-one else stops by about 4.30, we might get back on the road and try the next stop where it is likely there are more people.

Meeting some other campers around 'happy hour'

We like to walk around and introduce ourselves and get to meet our neighbours, even arrange a communal happy hour. This also helps each of us to gauge one another. I like to do any outdoor business such as walking the dog and checking engine done in daylight. We have taken discreet photos of other vehicles number plates and will park the vehicle in such a way that we can drive off in a hurry if we feel a need to. We don't like to leave things set up outside such as a portable BBQ or camp chairs and table. Just because you're with other campers doesn't mean there's not a thief among them. We will use a public toilet if available during daylight hours but will use our own in house one after dark. Be alert and cautious but don't be fearful. You want to enjoy your lifestyle. Most of the other campers will be nice people who just want to enjoy themselves too.


Keep your vehicles in top condition. Do check out the "clicking" noise you heard earlier. Check the tyre pressure, oil levels etc on a regular basis. Quite often you are a long way from a mechanic when you need one, you certainly don't want the expense just because you got a bit lazy!

Check your tyres regularly (Image from Bodeswell)

Where do you find those great camp spots?

Some of the best places are usually found by word of mouth from people whom you've met on the road. Just remember everyone's definition of a great spot is different. We have been to places that others rave about ad we have gotten there and looked and each other and said "why here?" Occasionally you will befriend others who might even invite you to join them on part of the next leg of their trip.

There are also some great guides for you to use. Camps Australia Wide has a great book out with a appliaction for GPS add ons too which we have found invaluable. Wikicamps is also highly recommended. 

Rocky beachscape at Barn Hill

It also pays to stop and ask the locals especially at any "Information/Visitor's Centres"
Join a caravan or motorhome club or association, They not only have great little camp weekends and occasional rallies but they also know of some great locations to visit. You can also join online clubs or follow some blogs or facebook pages of people with similar interests as you.

 Saddlier's Waterhole  at Morven
There are certain points of etiquette to observe. But basically be considerate and remember that the very best free campers are those who take nothing but photographs [and memories] and leave nothing but footprints. Do this and we can all have free camping around for the enjoyment of anyone for decades to come.

We were fascinated by the folded rocks at Hammersley Gorge

Slide out addendum

The earlier slide out post, mentioned that we installed 2 slide out boxes into the framework of the bus. The slide outs, which are run by a 12 volt 500 - one gear box, all inclusive with the uprights, we imported direct from America.

The back [bed] slide out under construction

In the 2 previous caravans we owned, Rob designed and built the slide outs himself. The first one had a 2.1 metre slide out making it a fantastic L shaped room inside but much more difficult to pull out when ground is uneven. The second caravan had two 450mm slide outs that were opposite each other - one housing a regular household 3 seater recliner lounge and the other housing the dining table with swivel chairs. Being opposite each other, this created a lovely size living area which was almost perfect. Oh those proper chairs & lounge make such a huge difference when you are on the road for months at a time.

The first caravan with the 2.1 metre slide out

The 2nd caravan with one of the 450mm slideouts open

On this bus conversion Rob wanted this newer system that he had seen on imported caravans as it takes up less room and it is much more convenient and quite a rigid system. It is a better system that any he could make himself. It is also electric driven on 12 volts. it took ages to find the manufacturer and then to talk them into letting us buy one from them, let alone importing it into Australia which was relatively easy in the end.

Closeup of Slide out mechanism sliding

Closeup of Slide out mechanism cog

The system we have now goes out 700mm. We have one for a 2 seater lounge to sit in and one over the rear mounted engine for the bed extension. It does make the bed very high but with steps up the sides and well as additional storage space under the bed which we can lift up, we get to utilize every bit of storage space as possible (even under the steps too!)

You can see the newest slide out mechanism on the lounge 'box'

The lounge slide out inserted before the aluminium skin on it.

Rob decided to post install a couple of extra windows into the lounge slide out to increase the visibility out as well as increase the amount of light coming into the motorhome. I did not want any windows in the bedroom slide out as I am one of those people who wake up with the dawn and I would like to try to trick myself that it is still too early and thus sleep in a little longer when traveling.

2 additional smaller windows were added later to the lounge slide out

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below if it is not covered here or in the previous slide out posts.