The Slide-out systems have arrived

It only took 11 months for the American company, to finally get through the communication break down and get the slide outs shipped to us in Australia. We were very, very persistent.

Just in case you are unfamiliar and want to ask 'What is a slide out?' Think of a slideout or slide out as a boxy wall expansions that literally slides outs giving you a lot more usable living area or room inside the trailer or motorhome. Some can be pulled out manually, some are wound out and some have a little motor to drive the mechanism. Our latest ones are motorized with an over-ride.

The smaller of the 2 slideout mechanisms
Still they have arrived. Rob is so happy. He persisted with Lippert Component, as in his opinion, they are the best on the market. Rob has his innate understanding of the engineering as well as his personal experience of building his own slide-outs on two previous caravan trailers. He is very secure in his opinion, which is why he persisted when most others would have given up with all the run around we went through. So now that we have them, we can really get stuck into the bus conversion.

Starting the extending 'room' that will house the 2 seater reclining lounge

Though there was much that needed to be done, as evidenced in previous blog posts, there was little or no point in doing any of the finer, finishing details until the slideouts were done.

The lounge slide out is ready to be covered in aluminum sheeting.

Once the slide out 'rooms' are completed, we can start to put up the internal walls and cover the kitchen cupboards and bench tops etc.
Come back for more updates on the slide-outs.

A little time out

Please forgive me for my lack of posting lately. I have had surgery for removal of a nasal polyp . I have yet to bounce back from this surgery. I was fortunate in that I only had pain for about about 48 hours and this was easily controlled by meds. However I am still suffering a lot from fatigue.

On top of this, the pathology on the polyp reveal some 'questionable' cells which they are trying to ascertain whether it is some form of cancer or pre-cancer. The various scans, 2 types of CT and my very painful MRI are inconclusive.

Just yesterday I had a PET scan in Sydney. I am hoping it is just all a storm in a teacup stirred up by the fact that I had breast cancer a couple of years back. I am sure that without the breast cancer, they probably would have just said "we'll keep an eye on this" and have a test in 6 or 12 months time. Still it is better to be safe than sorry.

In the meantime Rob has been beavering away at various things with the bus. I will have some exciting news and photos as soon as I am up and about. We have done some painting and installing as well as lots of 'finishing' jobs.

I just wanted to touch base with you as some have emailed me privately to find out what's happening. Thank you for your love an concern.


It has been confirmed that I do have cancer. Rather than repeat everything here, I will write the personal aspects of my cancer over on my 'crafty' blog, Inkspirational Designs.

Christmas In Sydney

Sydney is offering you a magical summer Sydney Christmas with a five weeks of Christmas celebrations . There’s concerts, markets, food, crafts, decorations, carols, festivals, religious services. We have it all except the cold snow and ice skating of our northern cousin.

We can and do make the most of the warm days and wonderful balmy summer nights where we can wander around the streets of Sydney and thoroughly enjoy the Christmas trees, the light shows  and all the other festivities, all accompanied by the sounds of Christmas carols and the ringing of bells.

It kicks off on Thursday 28th November, where you will have 2 wonderful events to choose from. Personally I want both! And the fun continues not just for hours or even days but for 5 weeks.

Some of the Highlights

Go visit the Sydney Christmas website to get the full program or more information on the highlights.. You don’t even have to come into the city as many ‘villages’ are joining in and putting on a concert or other. There really is something for everyone. You will hardly know where to start and you will surely not be disappointed.

Christmas on the Green

The celebrations really get into gear on 28th November.  You can have a marvelous picnic in Hyde Park with entertainment for both the kiddies & adults, including costume shows featuring Dirtgirl and Bananas in Pyjamas and singing by Darren Percival and the Australian Girls Choir.


Martin Place Children's Concert and Tree Lighting Celebration

At the same time as the Christmas on the Green is the free children’s concert and Santa to kicks off the lighting up of the huge Christmas Tree in Martin Place. There’s entertainment for both young and old.

Christmas Projections 

Every evening, except Sundays, from Thursday 28th November to Christmas Day, from 8pm to 10pm, the Sydney Town Hall will be the focus of the fabulous and colourful light display.

There is SO much more. Like I said earlier, you must go to the Sydney Christmas to get all the info.I just can't fit it all in.

Here are just a few more:

Christmas Choir Program Be serenaded from 7 pm to 9 pm at Sydney Square, Martin Place and Pitt Street Mall

Etsy Christmas Pop up Shop 28th November to Thursday 12th December
Are you a lover of handmade things, the come, shop & browse. There will be demonstrations and workshops too. You can find them at 74 Castlereagh Street, Sydney.

Pop up Pyrmont Market Day in Union Square 29th Nov

You don't even have to come into the City as there are Christmas in the Villages. There’s bound to be one near you. Here are some that are listed:

Pyrmont: 29th Nov
Rushcutters Bay: 30th Nov
Paddington: 5th Dec
Redfern: 6th Dec
Alexandria: 7th Dec
ChinaTown: 13th Dec
Newtown: 14th Dec
Potts Point: 15th Dec

It is very important to my family and I to to attend attend a Carols by Candlelight  and visit a Christian Church on Christmas Eve here in my home town. If you are going to be in Sydney, take a look here  to see what religious services will be on near where you will be in Sydney.

Sydney's St Andrew's Catherdral

And there's more! I don't want to nag... but go to the Sydney Christmas website for full details.

I wont be able to get to the earlier events as I have an operation to recover from but I certainly hope to catch some of it. I am going to travel up by train when I recover. I particularly want to see the Pop up shop and market and to see Martin Place and the Town Hall all lit up.

Are you off to join in your local Christmas festivities?

Should Free camping be restricted?

There has been a lot of talk about caravan parks being pivotal in the closure of many free camping/boondock or low cost areas through out Australia. There are many people who choose to always camp within the confines of a caravan for a multitude of very valid reasons. There are also times when even many people who would normally choose to free camp would go into a caravan park for a limited time for any number of reasons.

Free camping at Toolangi, Vic

To me the issue is around choice. Just as there is no one set of clothing style that suits everyone, nor is there one style of holiday that suits everyone.

Caravan Parks are important and are vital to tourism. There will always be many people who will always want the security and the amenities that caravan parks offer. Just as there are some people do not need or want playgrounds, BBQ facilities and such. There are others who only want basic toilet and maybe showers and there are some that don't even need that. Some people just want to get away from regimented allocations of land spaces or even away from close proximity to other people.  Some people want to have a camp fire rather than run a gas BBQ. They have all that they need just to sit back and relax.

There is no doubt that camping away from the general bustle of crowded caravan parks has become very popular for lots of reasons. Free camping places as well as very low cost camping places offer some alternatives to the traveling public.

There needs to be a place for all of us in this growing market and I think there can be if we don't expect a one fit suits all type of attitude.

To say that Caravan Parks need 'protection' for their businesses is to show favoritism to just one sector of the tourist market. This would be the same as businesses who claim that Caravan Parks with a restaurant, a cafe, a shop,  pool, spa, playgrounds and mini golf courses are taking away from legitimate businesses that offer one of these services within 15 kilometres of their premises. That is a part of free world enterprise or economy that many of us learnt about in basic economics at school.

Free camping at Pildappa Rock, SA
At the same time, I do think that some genuine free camping issues needs to be addressed both by individuals as well as corporate and government bodies. We are seeing signs of stress on the free camping areas. Some places are over-crowded, generally unregulated, and in many cases filthy. These once beloved places are becoming more and more unattractive. Is this the infrastructure we want for the future? It is not fair to blame any one sector of the population for the mess it is in. There are bad apples everywhere. Most travellers are good fine decent folks that maybe even go as far as to leave a place cleaner than they found it. Many of us just try to 'leave no trace'. Unfortunately it only takes the odd one to make a mess or be disgusting and make it rotten for the rest of us.

Either way, there is a real cost incurred to the government whether it be local or state to have many such 'free' camps, especially if we want toilet facilities, dump spots and garbage collections for starters. I think it is a cost that will need to be addressed in the future, but just how is another issue. As soon as anyone or any organization starts to introduce a fee structure then there's regulations and wages and all sorts of issues that come into play.

Kalgan River Caravan Park

I do think we are coming to a time in the near future when all recreational vehicles (RV) will need to meet certain conditions such as being fully self contained. "The Leave No Trace" scheme as promoted by the CMCA. (BTW: We are not full members of the CMCA at the time of writing, though we will possibly join them some time in the future.)

How do you see the future of RV travelling in the short and long term here in Australia?

Win a holiday - what a scam

Wouldn't you just love to win anything let alone an all expenses paid holiday of a lifetime.

Many of us enter competitions, raffles and the like in the hope to win a prize let alone a wonderful holiday to somewhere, anywhere. I have family members who love to enter various competitions regularly in the hope of winning anything. I know of others who do so too. Australians in particular have this hopeful, gambling bit in our blood.

I know I would love to win any type of holiday especially an all expenses paid overseas holiday.  I count myself lucky to have won a door prize here and there and I still treasure this granny square blanket that I won and was made by a blind person in Bundaberg. I have not been lucky enough to win anything major and most of us in in that boat.

This Perth couple won their dream trip to Canada, including wonderful new luggage.

There's just no way you would begin to think it could possibly be a scam, especially as you haven't given your money or bank details. Most of us are smart enough not to do that, plus something like this happens to others not to us.

Yet, this couple were unwittingly conned into become drug mules as their new luggage had 3.5 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden inside each case, with a street value of $7 million dollars before they had even began to put anything into their bags.

Photo Source

I am uncertain what raised their suspicions, but thankfully for them, they took their concerns to the police and after some investigation, arrests were made of the true perpetrators.

Their dream holiday could have so easily turned into a nightmare and they could have spent the rest of their lives behind bars.

I found the gist of this story online at WA Today. where you can read the full story yourselves.

Installing RV water tanks

To start with, there are basically 4 types of water tanks that can be installed in your RV.

  1. Fresh water tanks - great for showers, washing, flushing the toilet. 
  2. Drinking water tanks - this need to be made from food grade material such as high density polyethylene.
  3. Grey water tanks - for holding waste water from everything except the toilet.
  4. Black water holding tank, for all waste from the toilet.
Tanks can be made from various materials. The fresh water and drinking waters can be combined in the same tank if the container is suitable for food and water storage. Accessibility also needs to be taken into account when designing your tanks and their placement.

Free camping can be limited if you don't have enough water storage
As we intend to spend many days free camping or boondocking as it is called in the States, we also need to carry as much as possible. Whilst we wish to carry as much water as possible, we also need to try not to go overboard. It is the lack of water and power that are the two biggest limitations on free camping. We have installed solar panels on our RV. Now we are trying to be wise as well as practical about the amount of water storage we can handle.

Baffles inside one of the tanks to reduce water movement
Rob has been busy making the various water tanks for the bus. Even though he has had over 10 years in the rotational moulding (polyethylene/plastic tanks) industry, he decided to make all the water tanks from aluminum with the exception of the drinking water tanks.

Checking the fit

All these tanks are made from 3mm aluminum. They will be all different sizes and shapes to maximize the various 'odd' spaces that are available underneath the  floor of the bus. After cutting and welding the tanks, Rob coated the inside and outside of each tank with a special paint to stop any corrosion. This paint is especially required for the black water tank as the acid breakdown from its contents is extremely corrosive. This paint is not suitable for drinking water, hence the fresh water tanks will be used for non food related purposes such as clothes washing & showers and we will purchase the drinking water tanks.

Black water tank

At the time of writing the the plumbing fixtures still need to be installed.

2 fresh water tanks

Giving a helping hand in Christchurch

Helping others has always been a part of who we are and what we do. We don't expect that to change just because we have retired, if anything, we now have even more time to volunteer. Even when we are traveling we love to do some volunteer work. We find it so enriching. You can read about some of our previous travel volunteer jobs at the end of this post.

Our talents and gifts don't disappear just because we reach a certain age. We may not want to work long hours again, that is our choice but we still want to be useful to society and give something back. As the saying goes, you get more out of it than you put into it.

At the end of September, Rob had the opportunity to go to Christchurch, New Zealand as part of a building mission trip with a team of about 19 from our church. They were to assist Spreydon Baptist Church in whatever areas they could especially with building some units for rehabilitation/retreat for ex prisoners.

The people of Spreydon Baptist Church have suffered greatly at the expense of the Christchurch earthquakes and numerous tremors since then. Yet they quietly get on with not only looking after their own parishioners but with the wider community

Various Volunteer organizations

There are many different volunteer organization and you can easily find one that suits your talents and personality. One doesn't need to have a trade, though this is certainly very welcome. One can just be a willing body, trimming bushes, cleaning windows, cooking a meal etc. Some organizations allow you a lot of flexibility as you travel and fit in various 'jobs' along the way. Others need a date commitment as they organize teams - often these are bigger and we are just a part of a wonderful team of volunteers. Some are responders to a crisis. You will be vetted and I assume all organizations do their own vetting of clients, though this depends upon many factors.
BCA Nomads (Bush Church Aid) helping churches in remote areas from gardening to building to haircuts and filing etc! This is our personal favourite.
MMM (Mobile Maintenance Missionaries) by providing building, maintenance and other practical services to people and Christian Organizations needing assistance
Outback Links  aims to give people living on the land in remote areas a helping hand
Blaze Aid helps families and individuals after a natural disaster. We haven't worked with this organization yet, though we have heard excellent reports of their work.

You can also help

Previous volunteer jobs

Some of the previous volunteer jobs we have done include assisting at various church usually cleaning and maintenance via an organization called BCA (Bush Church Aid). Many outback churches have a parish size that makes it very difficult and isolating for ministers and the parishioners to get support. Often times there is just not enough people in the church. A couple of jobs from working with BCA, included lifting lino and replacing a gutter at Roxby Downs. Another was installing play equipment and relocating the contents from an old shed into a new garage at the Underground Church in Coober Pedy.

We loved our stay at a youth camp ground called Wirraway, near Adelaide. Rob's building skills came in use here as they needed a pack kitchen installed in one of their cottages. This job was done through an agency called MMM (Mobile Maintenance Missionaries)

When we were in Queensland the last time, we joined up with Outback Links which aims at helping people in remote areas in various ways. We were allocated to assist on a cattle property, called Bogarella. There the young couple were struggling to find enough hours in the day. The house needed lots of little maintenance jobs done around the place and the young mum was glad to have someone help her catch up with jobs such as spring cleaning & ironing. In actuality I think, she really needed a distraction for her very energetic 4 year old boy, which I thoroughly enjoyed providing. We jumped on the trampoline and played lots of running games. I reckon I was smart as I worked out games where he had to run and I was not required to do anywhere near as much running! LOL It was a joy as it was like having one of my own grand kids with me for a bit!

Tidying Rob's Man Cave

Rob is doing some volunteer building work this week in Christchurch, New Zealand, which is still recovering from the devastating earthquakes of 2 years ago and the near constant tremors.

Rob on the left, working in Christchurch

So while he was away, I thought that I would lovingly surprise him a surprise by sanding this amazing tilt cupboard he has made. It was a job I had promised to do, but had procrastinated doing since it is way out of my comfort zone.

Whilst in there I thought it would be nice to sweep the bus out. I sort of got carried away and I ended up dusting and rearranging his millions of tools, screws, nails etc that have migrated into his new man cave. Good grief... I even vacuumed the floor of the bus! It took me all of three hours to do and this is just one tiny little bus!!! How much mess can a guy make? I didn't think to take a before photo, but here is the after photo. It is deliberately not too much detail since the bus is still a long way from finished, but you can see the floor and even some bench space.

After the tidy up

Will Rob be happy or horrified with what I done?

I understand that the garage is the quintessential man cave, and as such is a man's sacred sanctuary. By all intents, the bus seems to have become an extension of his man cave. Now when you read about a guy's man cave, it is a neat place where the man can escape to to do his tinkering. Not my Rob. His main workshop would look like a mess, especially his benches, to the uninitiated. But generally speaking, he does know where everything is.

As he has done various jobs in the bus, he has covered every surface with the myriads of tools and equipment that he has used. I guess there's no point in taking them back into his garage when you might need it again in the bus. Inside the bus now, are his welder and 2 masks, dozens of spanners, just about every screwdriver he owns, 2 measuring tapes, and I swear he has every one of his smaller electric tools in there from his nail gun, 2 different sanders, Oh lets not forget there are thousands of screws and pop rivets in every size imaginable.

I'd like to think Rob will be happy when he sees what I have done. Surely a clean and tidy space is not only aesthetically pleasing, but being a bit more organized, he will be able to quickly find that elusive tool he needs.

Take a gander at some real workshop type man caves. (There's lots that are just a glorified boy's room. I am talking about real workshops, man!

Photo Source

Photo Source: Chez Larsson

So what is your verdict? How would you react to such 'interference?

Time to myself.

Well Rob has gone to Christchurch, New Zealand on a building mission trip. So I get to spend a whole week having "Me" time.

I have spent lots of time browsing the internet.There are so many great ideas which I have collected and posted on my pinterest board here.

I have a variety of pin boards for food ideas, craft, travel destinations, parties etc. One board you might find interesting is my 'camping-caravaning' board where there is a collation of ideas that might be useful for people camping, in caravans, mobile homes and other RV's.

I want to make this for my RV

I spent some of my free time making these cute owl heat packs for my grand daughters. They seem to be quite popular with others asking for some too!

This is the first of the 3 owl heat packs I made this week
That's part of the beauty of having some totally ME days

What a wonderful way to serve fruit. Easy enough to do whilst camping too!
Rob had better watch out - I rather like being so selfish. I guess he had better come home soon before I get too used to it. Now let's see what else I can get up to whilst he is away!

The Long, Long Trailer

I saw this delightful old movie the other week on tele. It is about a newlywed couple who get the idea to start their lives together in a mobile home. Lucille Ball wants to be the epitome of the ideal housewife! Desi is the patient husband! And just look at the wonderful 50′s fashion and the campers of the days! Wow!

It was produced back in 1954 staring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. I just think it is a lovely light-hearted film set back in the quaint 1950's but it’s worth watching for the pure eye candy appeal.

I have been a long time fan of Lucille and this movie was a great way to fill in a couple of hours. Some of my favorite parts of the film have to do with the antics this lady can get into. I can well imagine even doing some of the same things, such as screaming at relatives to give the driver “absolute silence” while he backs up to the house. Rob is an excellent driver with a trailer having been a truck driver but even so he needs guiding as to low branches etc. She beats me hands down with her naivete and mishaps. I suppose that is where the joy is for me. It allows me to laugh at myself as well as at her.

You should have seen how much craft stuff I took with me let alone how much stuff I bought along the way. The silly part is, that I am not so sure I will be much better on the next trip! At least it is not as heavy as her rock collection. Rob has collected shells from many beaches. He found about about sand dollars on the last trip. He built this wonderful display coffee table with a glass top to display our shells.

What about you?
Do you collect anything other than memories of your trips?

How to avoid some mistakes of RV camping

Even though we are not in a position to travel at the moment with the bus only about half way through it's conversion, I am hankering for some travel and my mind keeps wandering to where we were and where we could visit in the future. I have even hinted to Rob about taking a few days off the bus conversion and going away in the caravan for a bit. Obviously the more time off we take the longer before we can hit the road properly.

In the meantime I have compiled this list of some of the pitfalls that can (and have) occur.
These mistakes below were not all made by us, some are common mistakes that we have heard of whilst sitting around at happy hour.  By far the most common fault of RV tripping is to be laid at the feet of human error - not mechanical or such. Follow there guides to help you have a trouble free trip.

Dirty Dozen tips to a better trip

  1. Use a checklist even if you are an experience camper. We have a rather extensive printed check list that we have laminated just at the doorway. We have done it so many times and can do 99% of it without resorting to our list, but still we go over it just before we pull out with the camper so that we are sure all of the steps have been completed. Each of us has designated ‘jobs’ but we also double check each other – which has been appreciated on more than one occasion. A pilot always runs around the plane with a checklist – so should we.
  2. Ensure you have enough fuel to get you to the next town. Wind drag and such really affect your fuel consumption. Carry a spare can of fuel but never rely on it. Keep it for when you truly run out of gas.
  3. Set your GPS settings to what suits you. Unless you choose otherwise, your GPS could just give you the shortest route, not the most suitable route to a destination. We had one that nearly always sent us via a tollway (even if it took us on a indirect route).
  4. Related to the point above: Don’t rely solely on technology. Have a paper guide as well as the GPS. At the very least have a general idea of where you are going. We have had our GPS insist that the next road was the right one, only to have doubts thrown up almost immediately. Use your common sense. It can be difficult to turn around in some places, making a bad choice even worse. Make sure your vehicle insurance and road side assistance policy is up to date and renewed before you leave for a long trip. 
  5. In remote areas, ensure people or at least the police know when and where you are going. Having a satellite phone is much more reliable than a CB or mobile phone!!! (You can get them on a pay as you go option rather than a monthly plan! Peace of mind is worth it!)  
  6. Don't forget to take down the rooftop TV antenna, close vents etc. Use your checklist!!! 
  7. Ensure the sockets are in properly and that your RV lights are working. Not having any turn signals, brake lights or even working brakes on the trailer can be very frustrating for any vehicles behind you, it also increases the chances of a serious accident. After a rather scary attempt to stop for a traffic light with no trailer brakes, a friend pulled over to see what the problem might be, only to discover a disconnected plug and cable hanging from the caravan that had been damaged beyond use. 
  8. Double check to be sure your jacks are securely locked in place. We once ruined the entire jack leg because we forgot to lock it up. 
  9. Overloading the back axle. Many a caravan or motorhome have additional weights on the back bumper, adding a lot of stress to the back axle. We have seen broken caravans caused by people thinking they can just a tiny bit more on the back. 
  10. Make sure to put chocks in front and rear of wheels before uncoupling from your tow vehicle. I raised the front jack to lift the trailer off of the hitch ball when all of a sudden it began to roll backwards. Luckily for us we were able to arrest the movement. Other friends were not so lucky, they watched in horror as their caravan proceeded to roll down the incline straight into the creek.
  11. Keep an eye on your tyre temperatures especially after having some work done on your wheels. We had it once where one wheel was in constant lock and wouldn’t let go. Even after having a mechanic loosen it, it spontaneously locked up again within 24 hours of travelling. 
    Source: Gypsy Journal
  12. Always be aware of the length & height of your vehicle, not just for passing under a bridge but for overhanging branches and turning corners. Rob has fashioned a extra long gaff . A gaff is a pole with a sharp hook on the end that is used generally in fishing, we use ours for hooking a branch so that we can tie it away from our RV (or cut it off it appropriate).
  13. And one more as a bonus: Keep some water and nibbles in the towing vehicle with you. You never know when you might not be able to access the kitchen in your caravan

What lessons have YOU learnt through travelling?
Write and share your hard learnt lessons in the comments below!

Our scented garden heralds spring

It is with a mixed heart that we stayed home this winter, rather than hitting the road as we have done for the past 4 years. As you would know if you have been visiting this humble little blog, is that we stayed home so that we could convert a bus into a motorhome that is even better suited for many nights off the grid, that is for truly freedom camping.

Now we are home and the arrival of spring is well and truly on it way. One of the joys of spring is seeing all the colourful blooms cascading from trees, fences and gardens. I just love to step outside in own garden as it is alive with scents. The first herald I notice in my garden is the jonquils, which usually start well before winter has moved out. I just lovey their bouncy little happy faces, though admittedly, I am not fond of their scent.

The jasmine has taken over a corner of our garden  and really needs to be curtailed somehow but it is so lovely when it is flowering and there is nothing more delightful that to sit outside and smell the heavenly scent. I would love to have the various scents of other spring flowers such as hyacinths and freesias however I am not willingly to take the risk due to my hay fever inclinations. I think I have tried early in our marriage but disastrous results. I am so thankful that the jasmine doesn't seem to make it worst even when gardening in and around it.

We used to have a Mock Orange tree which also has a marvelous scent which didn't affect me much outside either. I do miss this tree, but it was growing in an inappropriate place and had to be pulled out.
The clivia, dietes and the African daisies are all flowering well at the moment and these can be cut and brought inside for a short day only display, well maybe not the African Daisies as they close up pretty quickly without the sun.

So yes there is joy to be found in staying home but my feet are sure getting itchy... move on Rob, I wanna hit the road again... maybe a short trip is called for to keep me happy!!!

Oh the mulberries are just starting... maybe I'll wait a few more weeks before I start nagging him...sshh!