A short stay in Newcastle

After all the kafuffle getting out of Wollongong which were covered on our earlier posts here and here, we finally made it to Toronto (near Newcastle) more than a week later than originally planned. The purpose of this trip is really to check out the motorhome and make sure everything is working fine, which it was once that oil leak was sorted out!

We stayed in the driveway of Rob’s sister in Toronto to spend some time with her and use her place as a base for catching up with other friends nearby.

We spent the first day sightseeing around Newcastle. We especially loved the Hunter Wetlands, though not the mozzies! We were very fortunate to see not one but three Rare Freckled Ducks amongst all the other bird life there. A lovely day finished off perfectly in the company of wonderful friends near Morisset.

Rare Freckled Duck

On the second day we were escorted by Rob’s sister, Ingrid and we visited Fort Scratchley and were blessed to be there for the firing of the guns, since they had a few extra shots with a cruise in dock.

We can certainly recommend taking a guided tour of the Tunnels at the Fort. It was a 90 minute tour but never boring as the guide was very informative and interesting. Did you know that they actually did fire the guns at a Japanese submarine during WWII?

Fort Scratchley gun fired
 We took a short scenic trip on the way back after a leisurely & delightful lunch on the wharf.

Waiting for lunch on the Wharf

Unfortunately, this was all the time we could spare in Newcastle since our shakedown tour was delayed. We called in to the Manly area (Amberley) for 2 nights on the way home to catch up with one of our sons and a daughter who live nearby, since it would be close to 6 months before we see them all again.

With just a few days at home to complete the odd job and to repack for a longer trip, we were soon back on the road, this time to Melbourne via Deniliquin getting there in plenty of time to catch the ferry to Tasmania.

Shakedown trip - On our way at last

A lot of little things that had us wondering if we were ever going to get the bus on the road. Eventually we can leave. On Saturday, we make a little stop past a friend for a bit of advice and then finally we are truly on our shakedown trip to Newcastle, just 240km or 15 miles.

We've sprung a leak

Rob, being the cautious guy he is, decided to pull over after about 80km and take a look around, check temperatures of the tyres etc when he noticed some serious oil leaks on the ground. Murphy had one more trick up his sleeve and it was the most serious one yet. He really threw the spanner in the works. We had stopped in a dead zone as far as reception goes and we were quite worried about moving the motorhome at all but we knew that only a few kilometres up the road was the town of Wilton.

So with great trepidation, we very slowly drove to the town and parked as soon as it was safe. We tried numerous times to contact the mechanic but being a weekend, we knew it was very possible that it could be Monday before we could get hold of the mechanic. We decided to top up the oil and move around the corner to a quieter side street and we camped there for the weekend. Though we hadn't planned on sleeping there, we are still trialling the motorhome and that was something we were able to do anywhere we happened to be.

Making the most of it

So we decided to relax and enjoy ourselves as much as the situation called for. We found a lovely shady tree nearby and sat and read after a wander around the historic church and graveyard there. Being a hot 39 degrees, we appreciated every bit of shade we could before we headed inside and tried out the air con and the various aspects of the motorhome.

Wilton Church

On Sunday, we decided to unhitch the car & go out and visit the area and call in at a cousin of Rob who lived about 15 minutes away. so he could come and fix the problem which ended up being faulty clamps on the oil hose hidden behind the turbo.

We finally made it to Toronto (Newcastle) mid afternoon yesterday in 36 degree heat (That's 96.8 F)!

Camped in Rob's sister's driveway

Various delays

The whole experience of converting a bus into a motorhome has taken a lot longer than we ever expected. Three major delays being basically caused mainly by delays from manufacturers: the chain, the slideout mechanism and the reconditioning of the engine. Two major health issues didn't help either, my cancer diagnosis and Rob's lung clots which had him in hospital for 5 days just as I am starting to recover from cancer.

Now we can really get started in living the rest of our lives and for us that includes lots of road trips. We plan to spend Summer in Tasmania.

Shakedown trip & blasted Murphy

We had planned to start our maiden trip just days after our launch BBQ party. However old Murphy was a very unwelcome visitor, in fact he stayed around and created mischief several times in the following week. I went through a stage where I fervently wished we had never started this bus conversion. I wasn't able to voice thought as I didn't want to bring Rob down as he had to bear the brunt of the responsibility of sorting out all the hassles and I am sure there were times that he felt the same! I think Murphy had decided to move it with us for a while.

A big part of our problem was getting this engine reconditioned
It basically started  a couple of months earlier with getting the engine reconditioned and adding a turbo onto the job. We were first given a 3 week window for the job. The mechanics had so many problems themselves with the job. First it was much harder to remove the engine than expected. Parts needed were not the ones listed in the Mitsubishi manual - they had changed the parts and hadn't bothered to note the changes in the manuals and to make matters worst, the bus is a grey import so many parts are not necessarily kept in Australia. 6-8 weeks later the specialist engineer doing the job collapses at work and had to be rushed to hospital so a replacement engineer is needed. Finally the mechanic gets the engine back and there are more hassles in getting back into the engine area as room needs to be made for the turbo addition which makes it too tight to fit in the same space.

I can't believe I was so caught up that I forgot to take any photos of the BBQ
We were so confident that the bus would be back weeks earlier that we 'booked' a date for a BBQ launch party. Even the day before the party, it seemed as though we were not going to have the bus back in time. We decided we would have to blow up a photo and post that where the bus should have been. Thankfully we get a phone call that we could pick up the bus just hours before the party. There was no time at all to clean it up let alone pretty it up for showing, so a sweep and a borrowed doona off the spare bed in the house had to suffice for 'interior decorating'. We were just happy to have the bus there at all. The party went on to be a huge success.

We weren't going to be able to leave within days of the party as originally planned as Old Murphy stuck his head out again. We had a few things such as fixing. When Rob picked up the bus on the day of the party, he drove it home and then he found he was locked inside the bus, The door handle had broken in such a way that the mechanism inside the latch was broken. In the end we had to completely replace the handle. I haven't had time to remove the hand written note to push (as you turn) yet!. (Yet another little job for on the road.)

We had to replace the door handle completely
Another problem was that we couldn't figure out why the hot water wasn't firing up. It was just one hassle after another, so now the maiden trip was rescheduled for the Friday.

Whilst Rob is fixing all these little problems, I am tearing my hair out trying to pack the motorhome. I have a list that I have modified with each previous trip (in the caravan). It itemizes every little thing from toothpicks to the cooker. I am so glad for it esp with starting the motorhome from scratch. I was NOT convinced that EVERYTHING was going to fit in the bus, but I realize now in hindsight that I have room left over, but I am being miserly with using up that 'spare' space.

I am also trying to work out where the most practical place for the stuff to go, which is quite a challenge. I have moved the mugs 3 times already!

For our destination, Newcastle was chosen as it is far enough away to give it a decent first run and close enough to run home to fix any problems and to pack anything I have forgotten before we started our major trip to Tasmania.
Visiting Newcastle was also a great opportunity to catch up with family and friends as well. The awning arrived during our delayed week but it will have to wait until we come back from the shakedown trip as will a few not so important jobs - some of which Rob can do once we are really and truly on the road. There are just too many important things that need to be done first. We did get the name signs up though since Signarama Miranda sent a young man to adhere the stickers on for us and they look great!

So Friday comes along, I am starting to calm down a bit and can even get some regular housework done whilst waiting for Rob. Murphy has yet more tricks up his sleeve for us: The wiring for the towed car was about 6 inches too short - the people fitting the A frame didn't allow for turning. Next the indicator lights etc wouldn't work o the towed vehicle. We couldn't work that one out so the motorhome has to go off to the auto electrician to get him to sort it out. Apparently when the mechanic took the engine out, he cut the wires and must have forgotten to rejoin them in his haste to meet our deadline. At least it was a simple job - the wonderful auto electrician  at Figtree Auto Electrics didn't even charge us to fix it for us! So rather than stress we decided to stay home one more night. At last everything is ready to go. We decided it was better to leave first thing in the morning.

It is ridiculous just how many little hassles, old Murphy shoved our way. They were annoying rather than insurmountable. We needed a holiday just to de-stress from preparing for our holiday. I am so thankful it is not always so difficult - all just part of the teething problems!

Murphy had one more trick up his sleeve... find out what in the next post! (This post is long enough!)

Cutting down the “to do” list

This past week has certainly been a busy one.
For starters we had arranged a thank you BBQ for all our family & friends who have supported us in one way or another. We booked the date about a month ago when it seemed that we would definitely have the motorhome back and we’d have enough time to clean it out, pretty it up and start packing it ready for its maiden trip.

The engine that caused so much angst has come back

Well, it seemed a reasonable time frame at the time. We weren’t to know that it would still not be here until the day of the party. The engine reconditioning has dragged out to be a much more complex job than everyone expected and to top it off the poor specialist doing the job collapsed at work and has been in hospital since. So the company had to find another person to finish the job.

In the meantime, Rob did other work especially around the house in preparation for leaving for several months away, such as slashing the paddocks, clearing the gutters and downpipes, clearing the leaf litter under the windbreak etc.

Even without the motorhome, he was able to work on the Grand Vitara which is our towed vehicle. He put up a person barrier (like a mini bumper bar) to guard shins from the hitching point for the A frame towing bar as well as a stone guard frame he made himself and I sewed up the screen part.

Getting the stone guard frame set up on the car

So obviously with a big BBQ party to cook and arrange, I had my work cut out for me before the party. Since the party, I had the inevitable clean up to do and then the exciting part of starting to pack the motorhome. I would not manage either the party prep nor the packing if I didn’t rely on lists to keep me on track.

My very comprehensive RV packing list

I am now half way to getting everything into the motorhome. I have forgotten just how much stuff we had kept ‘permanently’ in the caravan let alone the foodstuffs and clothing etc that need to go in each time.Thank goodness I had made a packing list and modified it each time we did a trip. It covers pantry staples, soft furnishings, toiletries etc.

Next is the shakedown trip! Believe me there's more drama ahead!

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!