GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #050



Well, that was fun. Eighteen months of working every day rebuilding Wothahellizat. Now I know I said this last time but this time I mean it...

Never my lips...NEVER AGAIN.

The first time it took three years and I was in my forties and this time a year and a half and I'm in my fifties. In both cases I figured that was an acceptable amount of time to lose from my life given my age, but as I get older I have less time to waste on such things.

Of course this truck won't last forever and there will come a time when I can't handle it and have to do something different, but hopefully that's a long way off.

Meanwhile there's a lot I want to do, and slogging my guts out under a truck is not one of those things.

So what's next. Basically we just want to head northwest, back up into the Territory and West Australia, but the combination of overspending on the truck and the recent financial crisis has left us a little short on funds, so maybe working for a while is on the cards.

As it happens we may have a job lined up in Gladstone, just a few weeks but long hours and good money. This may fit in well as it's too early to head north now anyway, there's no point being up in the tropics before April or May because it will be the wet season.

It's also possible that we may have some work down south for a couple of months. So I guess we'll just wait and see. Meanwhile we'll sit around on our block and do as little as possible.


Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

This chronicle starts after we rebuilt Wothahellizat, if you haven't been following the construction you may like to read the Wothahellizat 2 construction diary.

Sat 8 Nov 2008

Finally we leave Peter and Marie's. It's been a long 18 months and there have been times when we've both despaired of ever getting the job done. But done it is, well good enough for the time being, and we can point Wothahellizat's nose towards the gate, put it into gear and actually drive though said gate and keep going.

What a liberating experience to be driving down the highway in our truck, although Chris is driving the Cruiser as we need it for another month, so she probably doesn't get quite the same feeling. This is also unfortunate as it really makes sense to have someone else in the truck to keep an eye on things because I can't hear much over the engine noise.

We stop several times to check for problems, so far so good.

After half an hour we pull into the Burpengary BP truck stop, I decant myself into the Cruiser and we drive into Morayfield to do some shopping. It's just a quick trip and before long we're back on the highway, heading into Brisbane.

I've been putting on some weight lately and it's all Chris's fault, you see we now have an oven and she's been well happy to use it, mostly because there's often nothing she can do on the construction side of things [what a lot of crap he talks! — Chris], but also because she knows that I run on my stomach and cannot work for more than a couple of hours without a feed.

So five or six times a day I get cake or chocolate slice or muffins or all three plus other treats. Couple this with the fact that building a motorhome is not a very aerobic procedure, it's good for strength and flexibility but of little use for weight loss, and one can gain a few inches in the waistline.

This was highlighted the other day when we went to buy some new pants and found I'd gone up a size or two. It was a little depressing but the lady in the toll booth on the Gateway bridge didn't help with her comments.

She was apparently training a new operator and I guess part of the job is to assess the cost for each vehicle that crosses the bridge based on it's size. She peers from the booth to look at the truck, then looks at me and says to the trainee, "He's a super size, that'll be $7.90". Bloody cheek.

Not long after we pull into our favourite spot next to the J C Trotter memorial park. We haven't been here for six years, will it have changed? Will we still be able to camp here?

Within seconds of pulling up, and even before I turn the motor off a car pulls up. "Were you here a few years ago?" the driver asks. "Yes, are you the bloke that bought us fish and chips?" I respond.

He is! (See story here in new window)

His name is Michael and he lives just down the road. He's a nice old bloke and we get on well, as before. We might drop down to his place tomorrow but for now we must take our leave as we're both dying of thirst and really just want to sit in a comfy chair with a coffee.

 Wothahellizat camped at the park. Our first day back on the road.

Sun 9 Nov 2008

After lunch I walk down to Michael's. When I get there I find that the property is covered with wallabies. They're a little bit skittish but in general I can walk right passed them and they totally ignore me.

I chat with Michael and his wife for a couple of hours then he drops me off at the truck.

The main reason we're in Brisbane is to attend a function tonight, it's the 45th year of publication of Wildlife Australia magazine and as a fairly regular contributor I've been invited. When looking at the map a few weeks ago we thought we would camp in the university where the function is, however we elected instead to go back to our favourite spot here at the park. Good thing as it turns out, the university is so steep and tightly packed there is no way we could have even got the truck around the streets, let alone camp here.

The function is OK as far as these things go and I do manage to catch up with Ken, an old friend from Canberra which is great.

Mon 10 Nov 2008

Some time ago I was approached by a TV production company. It seems that they would like to do a series about a nature photographer photographing some of Australia's endangered places but had been unable to find a suitable photographer, until they found my web site that is. So yours truly is shooting a pilot today, and we've chosen the Boondal Wetlands as a good spot for filming.

Before that though I have to drop my new camera and two lenses into Canon. After 18 months at Glasshouse Mountains they have mould in them. This is a disaster, especially with the camera as it cost $5000 and I've hardly used it. Why couldn't one of my old bodies have got the mould?

We drop the gear off at Canon then proceed to Photo Continental, supposedly the largest camera store in the southern hemisphere, but to some of us it's just "the place of dreams". I'm interested in looking at the Olympus E-3 with a view to changing over to the Olympus system. The camera looks good and certainly the lenses are fantastic, but a new system will cost at least $14,000 and possibly up to $20,000. No way I can afford that, I'll have to get creative if I want to swap to Olympus.

Once our business is done we move the truck up to the Boondal Wetlands. It's a bit of a tight squeeze turning the vehicle around in the car park but with the old Wothahellizat it would have been nearly impossible. The new truck also goes better, I crossed over the Gateway bridge (very steep) in fourth gear the other day, that would have been unimaginable in the old truck. It looks like the previous 18 months of purgatory is at least paying off with a more drivable vehicle.

We no sooner start preparing lunch when Luke (the producer) arrives, but food comes before film and I must eat.

Ten minutes later we make a start, the filming of the pilot mostly entails me wandering around pretending to be actually looking for a photograph, but I also do some work to camera and we film the truck on the move. After a couple of hours it's done. Luke will edit the footage into a pilot for showing to the network, if they like it I'll be a TV star, if not I'll stay a semi-retired nature photographer. Either way life is pretty good.

He'll probably get the nod for the idea but not the talent, I can just hear the TV executives now, "Great concept Luke, but dump the old fart with the beard".

We don't know where we can camp around here so finally decide to head up the highway to, wait for it, Glasshouse Mountains. It's as though after 18 months of captivity we finally get released but can't handle it in the wide world and run home. In our defence though we won't go back to Peter and Marie's place, we'll camp next to the park in the township.

Tue 11 Nov 2008

The original idea was to bolt straight home but we've decided to hit the shops, specifically the Chermside Mall, a huge shopping centre on the north side of Brisbane. Also I want to return to Jaycar (electronics store) and get some more LED lights, yes I know I said I'd never touch LED lights again, you just can't trust no-one these days can you?

After a grueling day in the shopping centre there's no way we're travelling today so it's another night at Glasshouse. Peter drops in for a few minutes on his way home from a job building a dam, he looks knackered.

Wed 12 Nov 2008

We drive up to Gin Gin. Initially we planned to camp somewhere along the road but it's only a couple of hundred kilometres so we just soldier on.

On the northern side of Maryborough we pull over for a drink. While I look around the outside of the truck Chris climbs inside to get some water.

"Bloody hell!" she exclaims.

The fridge door has opened and most of the fridge's contents are on the floor. What a mess.

It turns out not to be as bad as it looked though, nothing is broken except some roundish objects that you purchase by the dozen. I'm not at liberty to divulge the exact nature of the broken items, but I can give you a hint, we're having omelette for dinner tonight.

After cleaning up we continue and finally pull into the Gin Gin rest area at about five. We thought we'd just fill up with water here then proceed to the block, but there are so many campers over near the tap that we decide to stay the night and get water in the morning. Also we may have to clear the long grass before parking the truck in its spot on the block; it's already too late for that sort of mucking around and certainly would be by the time we actually got to the block.

No, we'll just sit here and relax instead.

Thu 13 Nov 2008

Everyone has gone, the area that was packed last night is now totally vacant, so we fill up with water then head up the Mt Perry road, we're nearly home.

As we get close I can see "our" hill and the back of our land, then we pull off the main road and wind our way between the hills along the meandering track that leads to our road. There's a steep climb, then we enter the long grass and drive along the ridge that provides level access to our otherwise very steep piece of paradise.

As it happens there's no need to clear any grass and I swing the truck straight into the spot we used to park, I remember that it took a few goes to get the old Wothahellizat into place.

Finally we're back on our land.

Fri 14 Nov 2008

Motorhoming friends of ours, Gavin and Tracy, have purchased a block of land at nearby Mt Perry, 70 acres of mostly cleared farming land with permanent water. It sounds good and we'd love to check it out. But before we get out there they drop in here.

We show them around our block which is steep with no water and heavily wooded, totally different to theirs.

As they leave Chris notices that we have a flat tyre on the truck. It will of course have to be fixed but I am totally sick of doing this type of work so I just put a jack under the axle to stop the tyre deflating further and leave it for another day.

Sun 16 Nov 2008

Today we drive out to visit Gavin and Tracy at Mt Perry.

It's about a 40k drive with steep hills and the Landcruiser is not running well so it takes a while to get there. On arrival we find their bus camped next to a spring, there's a sprinkler running to green up the grass around the motorhome, what a luxury having water on tap like that.

It's a very pleasant spot and we wind up staying for a camp-oven stew. At around 7:30 we notice some bad weather is approaching so we leave in order to get home before the rain. [who left all the shutters open hey?]

The Cruiser is so badly out of tune that I have to make several runs at the hill to get up onto the road, I hope we can outrun the storm.

We know other motorhomers who are thinking of buying land around Gin Gin based on recommendations from yet other motorhomers. It looks like we started something. It is a great area up here though, so I'm not surprised.

Mon 17 Nov 2008

We go into the city today, the City of Bundaberg that is. The main purpose of the trip is to organise to have the truck's springs reset.

We've had three of the four springs reset over the years and the truck used to look nice and level. However with the new weight (12.5 tonnes wet) and weight distribution the springs have risen to different levels causing everything to look a little awkward. Even on flat ground the cab is skewed in relation to the body.

Anyway there's a mob here in Bundy that did the last spring job for us so we'll take it back there. They don't have a furnace and so can only cold press the leaves but that will have to do.

I walk into the workshop and approach the first bloke I see. "I need some springs reset" I say. He looks at me, "On the purple ACCO?" is his reply.

Whoa, do I look that unusual that he would remember me after three years?

This guy is just one of the workers and cannot book us in so we walk over to a pit where the boss is working under a truck. "Remember the old ACCO?" he asks, "The purple one?" came a response from beneath the vehicle.

Hmm, it seems we made an impression around here.

We walk over to the office, as we're filling in the details in their diary the office door slides open. "So how's that old ACCO?" I hear from behind.

I turn to see the fellow who was the boss last time we were here. He's a nice bloke and I remember we talked at length about life on the road, in fact he was building a truck himself with a view to hitting the road as well.

His arm is hanging limp and he walks with a shuffle, it's obvious he's had a stroke but I don't ask.

I'm right, he finally finished his truck and was within two weeks of heading off when nature stepped in to ruin his plans.

After four months he's recovering but still has a long way to go and certainly cannot drive his truck. He's handed over the business to his son but still does some office work.

"If only I hadn't spent so much time working" he says, "It certainly made us realise what's important".

Amen to that, if I had a dollar for every story I've heard along these lines I'd have...well several dollars.

Wed 12 Nov 2008

Huge storm today with very strong winds. It highlights my slackness because the truck is still disabled with a flat tyre and we couldn't move it to a safer spot if we had to.

Fortunately we don't have to, but what's the point in having a mobile home if it's not mobile?

Thu 13 Nov 2008

It's off my arse and into tyre-fixing mode. It only takes a few minutes to put the spare on so at least we can drive. Now I have to tackle the job of removing the flat tyre from its rim and fixing the tube.

It takes about 20 minutes of bashing and prying to get the tyre off, not bad by my standards, and partly helped by the fact that I always smear the rims with rubber grease when I put tyres on, this helps when the time comes to get them off.

 The offending wheel propped up on wooden blocks so I can jump up and down on the rim to force it out of the tyre.

Having got everything apart I cannot find any obvious holes in the tube. I'll have to inflate it and check with soapy water but at this point I run out of enthusiasm for the task. Another day.

Fri 14 Nov 2008

Although we didn't have to clear any grass to park the truck the whole area around Wothahellizat and the container is choked with long and dead grass and that does have to be cleared, partly to reduce fuel if there's a fire, partly because we'll be having visitors and they will need a clear area to park their motorhome, and partly because it looks better when cleared.

So the whipper snipper came out a few days ago and has been put to work. As we're a few hundred yards from the entrance to the block we don't expect to be seen and I often work in my undies and boots (if that conjures up an image that you weren't prepared for you may like to take a moment to recover at this point).

This works well until my neighbour decides to show his parents the back of his block and, with no vehicular access through his land, he brings them up through ours.

Although we've waved a couple of times when we passed by his shed we haven't actually met. He jumps from the car with beer in hand and introduces himself as Pete. He's a pretty rough-looking fellow but seems nice enough, his parents look nice enough too, although it's difficult to tell with them trying desperately to look somewhere else.

Sat 23 Nov 2008

It looks like we're in for another storm and all the tyres, tubes etc are still lying around so I guess I should put them away. I still haven't tested the tube so I stick another spare one inside the spare tyre, hoist the two into the spare wheel drum, then hoist the spare wheel on as well. (we carry both a spare tyre/tube and a complete spare wheel).

 Our camp in disarray, with a storm coming it's time to tidy up.

Sun 24 Nov 2008

There's a lot of smoke around and we always get nervous when we see smoke so I head off on the motorbike to investigate. I ride around the road to a nearby high spot but still cannot ascertain where or how far away the fire is.

A ute pulls up. He's also trying to figure out what's happening. His name is Bob and he's a boat builder living in a caravan on his block just around the corner. We chat for a while then go our separate ways.

As I return I see Pete in his yard and stop to say g'day. I have ulterior motives though, as he's the new owner of the land adjoining ours I want to find out what his plans are for it. You see we like it just the way it is and don't want any fences or man-made infrastructure of any kind. We certainly don't want a house built up near the spot we stay.

I think we're in luck on this score because Pete doesn't appear to have 2c to rub together and is on a pension.

He's a nice enough fellow.

I mention that I may have to watch the news to see if there's any information about the fire. "You've got electricity in the truck have you?" he asks.

"Of course, we run on solar" I say, "and so do you, haven't you got power?". He says that it just runs a couple of lights but he'd like to be able to listen to his radio.

I say that he'll need an inverter but let's have a look at the system anyway.

The first thing I notice is a small black box with "Power converter" written on it. I reckon he already has the equipment he needs.

There's no 240v socket, however there are two wires leading from it. One goes into the battery box and the other disappears into the gloom (the lights aren't very bright) somewhere behind the box.

"I reckon that wire will have a socket on the end" I say. I pull it out and sure enough it does. Looking inside the battery box we find that the inverter is not connected, I make the connection and the front-panel LED comes on. The radio is not immediately available to test things but it looks like he's in business.

Well I've made a friend there but it's time to get back, it's well after beer o'clock.

Tue 25 Nov 2008

We're due in at the spring man first thing tomorrow but decide to drive in today to save having to get up too early. We know a good camping spot just around the corner from him so we'll drop anchor there for the night.

Because he'll have the truck all day (and possibly the next day as well) we also take the Cruiser so we can gad about town. This means though that, once again, Chris cannot travel in the truck which is a real pain because I keep hearing noises in the back but I cannot investigate the cause.

Wed 26 Nov 2008

At 8AM I drive the truck 50 yards to Bundaberg Truck Align. There's already a converted bus there and while we wait for Matt (the boss) to arrive I get talking to the bus's owner. He's been travelling for a few years and has a base in Victoria. He'd like to head back over to the west but is afraid to because of the economic crisis, worried that he'll get stuck over there far from home.

I offer my opinion that as long as you have a couple of thousand bucks you can always drive back in a week or so.

"Yes but what if there's a fuel shortage?", he counters, "or even a war". Well you know that they say, just because you're paranoid it doesn't mean something won't happen.

This however is probably indicative of what everyone is thinking, albeit a little extreme, and it shows how self-fulfilling all this media hype can become. We're all told how bad things are so we pull our heads in, thereby making things worse.

Apparently there was a big recession in the 90s and another in the 80s, at the time we were engrossed in our jobs and generally enjoying ourselves and didn't even notice.

But it depends on what stage of life you're at I suppose. If you're 20 or 30 you don't really care about this stuff, as long as you keep your job the state of superannuation funds and stock market is irrelevant. Even if you lost all of the $38.50 you have in super there's plenty of time to make it back up.

But now we find ourselves to be 50-odd, on the verge of taking out our super, and finding that it's value has nose dived over the last few months. At least we've stopped the rot by moving it all into cash where it will stay for the time being.

I still think we'll be right and won't have to work, but we are keeping an eye out for a way of making a few bob to top things up.

Matt arrives and we spend some time talking about a course of action for the springs. We decide to reset the left rear pack and add a spacer to the right front.

Now we have all day to fill in, we've grabbed a couple of books and chairs and it's my plan to spend a large part of the day sitting down by the river reading, but like most of my plans that's not how it works out.

By 4:30 we're still shopping and have to cut things short to get back and pick up the truck. It looks good with the body nice and square to the cab. We hand over $923 and drive it back around the corner where we'll camp for the night.

Sat 29 Nov 2008

A week or so ago the TVs set top box appeared to have died so we've been watching tele using the TV's tuner. Trouble is the TV is analogue and doesn't get all the stations, so we resolved to get a new STB while we were in Bundy. Of course as soon as we hit town and tried the STB it worked, so we didn't bother looking for a new one.

Now I'm sure you can guess what's coming. On our return to the block we settle in to watch some tele and the bloody STB doesn't work again.

So today we drive back into Bundy with a view to buying a new STB, but this isn't as easy as we thought it would be.

You see most TVs these days are digital and don't need an STB, Harvey Norman (a huge retailer, AKA Hardly Normal) don't have a single unit on the shelves. Another huge retailer does, but none of them run on 12v and anyway they are too large to fit where the old STB is. Luckily the young salesman used to work at yet another retailer and he mentioned a small STB they used to sell there. It's just a black box about the size of a packet of cigarettes, no fancy displays or huge box. That sounds about right.

We drive back into the main street and find the STB at Dick Smiths electronic store, sure enough it's tiny and it runs on 12v. We buy it. It's only standard definition but that's all we're used to so it'll be OK.

On our return to the block I plug the new gadget in and everything works, another challenge successfully overcome. I'll wire it in properly tomorrow.

Wed 3 Dec 2008

Talk about a slack attack, we've spent almost the entire day just sitting around on the deck talking and watching the world go by. Actually what are going by are thousands of butterflies, they are making their way from the SE and heading NW, mostly in pairs but not always.

The reason for their direction of travel is a mystery to us because it's against the wind and not towards the sun.

After several hours we decide it's time to do some travelling as well, so we go for a walk. The circuit we used to walk (through a couple of neighbour's vacant properties) has been cut by a fence, the land in question was recently purchased by a new owner and apparently they like fences because they encircled the entire block even though there's no animals or buildings on the place.

As there's nobody in residence we follow our walking track anyway, climbing over the obstruction.

On our return we resume our positions on the deck. We just love it here so much so that we're in danger of not getting back on the road. I have to constantly tell myself that I can sit here all I like in ten or twenty years time, meanwhile we should be out there doin' it.

Later, as the sun sets, we're still on the deck, the only difference being that my coffee cup has been replaced by a beer mug. It's dead quiet except for the sound of crickets and birds.

Did I mention that we love this place?

Thu 4 Dec 2008

We're still sitting on the deck. This time we get talking about the cost of living, whether or not we have to work etc.

We decide to roughly calculate now much it costs us to live, we've done this several times before of course but it's a good exercise to revisit occasionally.

Once again we come up with the same answer, we can live quite happily on $15,000 a year. Now that doesn't include any contingency allowance, ie. provision for a blown motor or dropped camera, but it does allow for normal vehicle maintenance etc. and it allows for about 8000k of driving the truck, more than enough to drive from the top of Australia to the bottom and back again to follow the seasons.

Fifteen grand! That's less than some people spend on a golf club membership. While most couples wonder how on earth they will live on the $24,000 pension, we can't wait to get a pay rise.

Then we got onto the issue of how much it would cost for each of us to live if the other was gone. For me there wasn't much difference, I'd just halve the food bill. But if Chris was left alone she could live on...wait for it...$3,250.

This even blew me away. How can someone live on just over three grand A YEAR?

The main reason is that she can't drive the truck, so she wouldn't be doing any travelling in it and therefore no huge fuel bill, insurance etc. She would just use it as a house on our land.

The other reason is that she is very easily amused, with miles of space to walk around and a cheap supply of books from the op-shops she's happy. No web sites, data plans, cameras or any of the relatively expensive things I seem to need.

Truth is I could live without most of that stuff as well, I just have this compulsion (or is it ego) that tells me people are interested in reading about our lifestyle and/or looking at my photos. One day I'll realise that's not the case and save myself a lot of money :-)

Fri 5 Dec 2008

We're going back into town today but first I get to have a bit of a sleep in. Really it's more of a lie-in as I've been awake for hours and at some point Chris alerts me to the fact that the wallabies are grazing just outside the front of the truck.

Because it's been very warm all bedroom shutters are open and their design is such that the bottom of the shutter openings are directly in line with top of the mattress, this is for ventilation but it also means that we can lay in bed and look out at the world, or in this case the wallabies.

What a great way to start the day.

Later while on our walk we hear a car approaching, it's Pete our neighbour and he's actually on his way around to our place to drive through to the back of his block with a load of junk for his shed.

His car is a wreck, it seems he rolled it a week or so ago while doing a U-turn out on the main road. Now I would think that it would be almost impossible to roll a vehicle whilst doing a U-turn, unless of course you were not in possession of all your faculties and drove into a ditch.

Given that every time I've seen him (including now while he's driving) he's had a beer in his hand I'd say that was the story. His version of events seems to confirm this as well.

Apparently he was turning very slowly and "all of a sudden" the car started to roll over. A woman stopped to help and while he was busy trying to hide several cartons of beer in the bushes she rang the police. I don't know if they found his booze or if he was done for DUI, but it probably doesn't matter much because he was disqualified from driving anyway.

About three nights ago I noticed that he was burning a light until the wee hours and figured that something had changed because last I heard he didn't have the spare power to run a large light all night. We just walked past his place, noticed a new generator and figured that explains the light.

Well it does explain the light, apparently he just bought the generator a few days ago, but it doesn't explain its use all night. That can also be attributed to the booze because it seems he "fell asleep pissed with the light on".

And speaking of books (well I was the other day) I managed to find some time to do a bit of reading today. Chris had a smallish book with a story set in the middle ages, it's the sort of thing that I like but that she'll never read, so with nothing but crap on the TV I open the book. By midnight I've nearly finished it.

Sun 7 Dec 2008

I have done some work today, grass cutting, painting and tidying up some rubbish, but by late afternoon it starts raining and we find ourselves back on the deck.

We're finding that the storms seem to largely go to the north of us which is fantastic because we can sit on the deck with a drink and watch the show.

And what a show it is. For a couple of hours the rain comes through in waves, repeatedly hiding then revealing the mountain. And the lightning, both sheet and fork, is spectacular.

The new deck is a triumph, even better than the one on Wothahellizat 1. Because half of it is actually inside the lounge room we are more sheltered than before and can enjoy the area in a much greater range of weather.

So today we can sit on the deck while it's raining, but just two days ago it was nearly 40°C and it was still comfortable because we can open the sides to let the breeze through.

Another thing that's working well is the rainwater collection, we have been getting low on water but today, even though we missed most of the rain our tanks are now full so we've added about 300 litres. You may think that's not much but by our standards it is, probably 3-4 weeks worth of usage.

Fri 12 Dec 2008

We have friends staying at present. Mark & Gail ( and Gavin & Tracy (

 Mark & Gail's rig (the GMC) and Gavin & Tracy's (the blue Bedford bus).

M&G used to own Hobohome, the Bedford bus, and sold it to G&T several years ago.

We've cleared a more or less flat area for friends to park on and created a fire place so I think everyone is quite comfortable.

It's certainly great to be camping with some motorhoming friends and we spend several days catching up. With happy hours around one or other of the motorhomes it's almost like being back on the road.

Tue 16 Dec 2008

M&G left yesterday and G&T are leaving today so we'll be on our own again. Not for long though as we are heading back to Glasshouse Mountains on Thursday to house sit over Christmas.

Before we leave though we have to sort out some materials to take with us as we'll be doing some work on the truck while we're away.

Wed 17 Dec 2008

Tomorrow we drive back to Glasshouse Mountains to house sit for Peter & Marie, so today is largely spent tidying up and preparing Wothahellizat for the trip.

Thu 18 Dec 2008

We mean to have an early start but as usual it doesn't quite work out that way and it's close to 9:30 before we leave. The truck runs well and there aren't too many dramas, we're slowly getting to know what needs to be tied down, locked up, or put away before we drive.

Fri 19 Dec 2008

Peter & Marie and the entire family are going to Fraser Island for the Christmas break, that's why we're here mostly because there are a lot of animals that need caring for.

Before they go though Peter oils underneath all the vehicles, this will protect them from the salt as the majority of driving on Fraser is on the beach.

Peter has a rather unique method of accessing the underneath of a car, he just lifts one end up in the air with his digger.

 Peter oils the underneath of his ute in preparation for a trip to Fraser Island.

Tue 23 Dec 2008

Gavin and Tracy arrived the other day. They have two reasons for staying with us over Christmas (apart from liking our scintillating company that is), firstly they want to be off the road and out of the way for the silly season. Secondly, the other day while they were camping on our block we got talking about how they get bogged so often and how the debogging procedure could be made easier.

One of the main dramas when debogging a truck is getting under the vehicle to place a jack so you can lift the wheels and pack under them. On the ACCOs you can jack wheels from the outside because the hubs extend, but on most busses/trucks the hubs don't extend, in fact it's worse because the rear wheels are often duals and deeply dished.

So we came up with the idea of building something that could bolt onto the wheel nuts and extend enough to allow the placement of a jack.

And so the "bolt on hub extending jack thingy" (BOHEJT) was born. The BOHEJT consists of a steel ring that goes over the hub, it has holes cut for the wheels nuts, three on the bottom are smaller and designed to go over the studs and be bolted on by the nuts. The rest of the holes are large and fit over the remaining nuts.

A large tube is welded to this ring, it has to be large enough to fit over the hub and long enough to extend past the dished rear wheels.

When bogged you remove three wheel nuts on the bottom of the wheel, bolt on the BOHEJT, and jack the wheel up from the outside.

 The BOHEJT in action. It looks too long here because this is the front wheel, on the rear wheels the hub is much further in and the tube only just protrudes enough for the jack.

It works a treat, so keep a look out for the "bolt on hub extending jack thingy" in your local 4x4 shop real soon now. We've got to work on the name though.

Sat 3 Jan 2009

We're still here at Glasshouse Mountains working on the truck. For the last week or so I've been painting every day and it's now finished.

We have also installed the windows in the rear shutter and they look great, with the back wall up and the windows uncovered it's almost like having a small sunroom at the back of the house.

Sun 4 Jan 2009

We've just about finished, but before we move from under the shelter of the wash bay I'd like to adjust the brakes, get the park brake working, and check out some leaks on the front hubs.

The parking brake mechanism is as difficult to remove as is was last time I tried, however about half way through the job I remember that's it's not actually necessary to remove the linkages to adjust the brake, you just have to loosen a lock nut and turn the linkages.

Then I want to remove all brake drums as some are so seized that last time I tried I found it impossible get them off. This time is no different but at least I have access to a large oxy/LPG torch, eventually the drums succumb to a little heat.

Two drums that are easy to remove are the front ones, that's because they are covered in what looks like oil. I've noticed the leak for some time and assumed it was brake fluid, but when we get things out into the open it seems to be liquefied grease from the hubs.

So the seals have gone, now we have to pull off the hubs.

In the process one of the wheel bearings sticks onto the axle, and as the seal is behind the bearing we'll have to cut the bearing off and this means buying a new one.

As usual a simple job turns into a not so simple job. All I really wanted to do was adjust the brakes and free up the drums, now I'm in for an almost complete dismantle of the front hubs. Bugger.

 Wothahellizat back in the wash bay.

 The front axle with hubs off.

 Close up of the left side, note the bearing still in place, it's supposed to have come off with the hub.

 The two front hubs and a pile of bearings, hub nuts etc. Check out the original Army paint, 38 years and still going strong.

Wed 7 Jan 2009

Still waiting for the new bearing. I've finished replacing the seals on two of the axles but the third one requires the bearing to be cut off before I can proceed.

I could probably do this but Peter is an expert so I think it's wise to let him, after all a stuff up could ruin the axle and then we're in deep doo doo.

 The left hand axle with stuck bearing, all cleaned up ready for cutting.

 Peter makes a start with the oxy.

 It's getting a bit hot in there.

Thu 8 Jan 2009

We ordered the new bearing the other day and today it arrives. Peter is in town so he picks it up while I pay for it over the phone.

When he returns with the bearing Chris notices that there is a error on the invoice, they've charged $522 for what should have been a $50-60 bearing. Probably added a 0 by mistake when typing in the value. Never mind, we'll phone in the morning and sort it out.

Fri 9 Jan 2009

"Five hundred bucks for a bearing?, bloody hell" I exclaim into the phone.

The man at BSC assures me that's the correct price because it's an old and uncommon imperial size. Youch! I have to sit down for a while to recover. Good thing we didn't order a spare.

And speaking of spares, there's been several times over the years that I've thought it would be a good idea to buy another 6X6 ACCO and strip it for parts. We've never thought it was really worthwhile, but with prices like that maybe we should revisit the idea.

Sat 10 Jan 2009

We move the truck out from the wash bay so Peter can have access.

Sun 11 Jan 2009

Just tinkering with some wiring and other small jobs.

Mon 12 Jan 2009

There's a nifty gadget you can get called a MICA lock. It's basically a valve that you insert into your brake lines, when closed it will hold pressure on the brakes without having to keep your foot on the pedal. This is useful if you have a dicky park brake but is mostly used for locking the wheels when winching and using the truck as an anchor.

I'd like to implement a MICA lock on Wothahellizat, but the real thing requires the routing of the hydraulic lines up into the cab. That's way too much work, but we have air-over-hydraulic brakes, so I got the idea that I could do something similar with the air part.

To cut a long (all day) story short I can't get it to work, I still have another idea but I've had enough for the moment.

That's it then, we're done with the mechanical work, I just have to tighten up a few things and pack away the tools.

As I'm tightening up the air lines on a bulkhead near the front of the motor I lean on the fan. It rotates. "That's a little strange" I think, but then justify it for a few seconds by telling myself that it's a hydrostatic fan. But it's not a hydrostatic fan, there's no way it should move, unless...

  1. The fan belts are really loose, or
  2. The motor is turning, or
  3. Something's broken

Naturally we go for option 3.

It's the harmonic balance, the gadget that's attached to the end of the crank shaft and that turns the fan belts. A harmonic balances other purpose in life is to remove any "harmonics" from the rotating engine and they do this by being made of two steel parts joined by rubber. The rubber allows the outer part to vibrate to compensate for any slight imbalances in the motor.

But when the rubber fails the outer part, which has the V-grooves that drive the fan belts, is free to rotate independently of the motor. This causes those devices driven by the fan belts, ie. the alternator and the fan, to behave erratically. This in turn explains why my tacho has been all over the place lately, as it get its signal from the alternator.

So now we need a new harmonic balance.

It's late so I put this problem in the too hard basket.

Tue 13 Jan 2009

Today I have to pull the harmonic balance off, that's not a huge job but requires the removal of the radiator which is both very heavy and delicate, thanks goodness we have a forklift.

First though I had better source the part. I find a source for new parts and get this, a new harmonic balance costs over $1600 and takes four weeks to be delivered from England.

Let's try second hand.

$650, that's better but I'll keep trying. $450 and it will be here overnight. That'll do. Now I'll remove the old one.

 Wothahellizat looking like it's having a nose job.

There is of course a complication. A chassis crossmember runs in front of the motor and there's only about 15mm of clearance between it and the balance. Trouble is you normally need a couple of inches to pull a balance off. This presumably was not a problem when they installed the motor because it would have been dropped in vertically, but the balance has to be pulled off horizontally.

We have three options, raise the motor, remove the crossmember, or cut the crossmember.

We go for option three, it will be much easier to cut a section of steel from the crossmember and then weld a piece back in after the job. And while I'm at it I can modify things to allow any future harmonic balance removal.

 The harmonic balance is off, with the help of one of Peter's pullers (foreground).

 The modified crossmember.

Fri 16 Jan 2009

We could really leave now but P&M are going away for the weekend so we'll hang around to look after the place. I can keep busy by finishing off some more wiring and doing a few odd jobs.

The pace has certainly slackened though, we're nearly done now and it's very difficult to find the enthusiasm to do anything.

Tue 20 Jan 2009

Today we finally leave the workshop, and this time we won't be back. We're not going far though, some time ago we identified a nice spot in a nearby national park so we're going there for a few days.

We say our goodbyes although it's actually everyone else that's leaving first. Peter is off to a job and the rest of the family are going into town, so we're left alone to pack up and shut the gate on our way out.

 Beau says good bye, what a lovely dog he is.

Later in the afternoon Lee drops in, we have been communicating for some time about the truck and he's come down to have a look and a chat. He's convincing me to write a book about our travels, I like the idea so we'll see if I can muster the energy.

Wed 21 Jan 2009

We get our first "Did you build it yourself?" today from a passing walker. It's just like old times.

Later in the day we have another visitor, Peter is a photographer from Brisbane and he's been up a couple of times to check out the truck while we were building.

He's now decided to build one himself so has driven up to pick our brains. We talk for several hours, mostly while sitting out on the deck, and I think he left even keener to do something.

Thu 22 Jan 2009

I want to check out the huge Borders bookshop in north Brisbane so we ride into the city. I must say it's great to be back on the motorbike, to be able to breathe in the scents of the country as we pass through it.

OK so things were a bit ripe when that cattle truck passed, but overall it's great to be more in touch with the environment rather than the pasteurised, homogenised, and air conditioned life us westerners usually live.

We get to the Chermside shopping mall and I make a bee line for the book shop. My task, should I choose to accept it, is to find as many books on Java Swing as I think Chris will allow me to buy. Java is a programming language that is pretty much computer independent. This means that any applications I write won't be reliant on that 400-pound gorilla we all know and love, otherwise known as Windows.

This is becoming an issue as I have several applications written in VB6 that will have trouble when I move to Windows Vista, something I will almost certainly have to do soon because my current laptop is five years old and really showing signs of its age. There's so much crap on it that the poor thing is flat out powering up let alone running a large app like Photoshop CS3.

To this end we've been looking at the new laptops lately and the range available it just ridiculous, it's taken me a week to get up to speed on the processors alone of which there appears to be over 50 types available. Centrino, Centrino 2, Core Duo 2, Atom, and each type has dozens of subtypes, P9600, T8400, T7350 etc etc. Why do we need so many? Then to make matters worse some shops call a Centrino 2 a Core Duo 2 and vice versa. Eventually we ignore the labels and get into the system settings to see exactly what the computer has.

We almost bought a Toshiba that will allow me to roll back to XP, however I've decided to bite the bullet and move to Vista, but it just pisses me off that Microsoft are forcing my hand. For example, the Office 2000 I have won't run on Vista, so not only do I have to buy a new computer I also have to buy Office. Corel 7 won't run either, and who knows what else. So it's going to be a painful period.

That's why I'm going to start migrating to applications that aren't dependant on Windows but it will be a long process and some programs will possibly only ever be available in Windows so I don't think moving to Linux or an Apple is practical for me.

And now I hear that Vista will be replaced by Windows 7 in 18 months. Bloody hell. It had better be compatible.

Anyway, after starting to look at $700 laptops and realising that they are way under powered, we moved up to $1500 then $2000 and were fairly happy that we could get a good unit for around the $2k mark.

And then we saw it, the Toshiba Qosmio G50/402.

What a weapon, 640Gb hard drive (actually 2x320gB which is better than a single drive), T9400 processor (one of the fastest), 18" screen with 1960x1080 resolution, built in TV and radio tuners, all the I/O ports in the right place (ie on the side that suites my office), the DVD drive on the front (another requirement for the office layout) and of course it's a Toshiba, a brand we've always been happy with.

And the price, $2799, or closer to $3000 with extended warrantee. Youch!

Stay tuned to see if we decide we can justify it.

Fri 23 Jan 2009

It's raining today and we really should make our way back to the block but I'm in the mood to just sit around and read. It's a really nice spot here and we're in no hurry to leave.

 All shutters open in the rain.

 The open deck looking out onto the bush.

Sometime early in the afternoon we get another visitor. Rod lives locally and was driving past. He stopped to look then couldn't resist and came over to say g'day.

We talk for a while then he leaves.

Later he returns with Tracy, his wife. They're both pretty interested in this kind of lifestyle and we get on well. We chat for hours until it's dark, hopefully we've convinced them that being on the road is a great way to live.

Sat 24 Jan 2009

We're still sitting in the national park. It's a nice spot and there's no real need to move.

Sun 25 Jan 2009

Jeez, you can run but you can't hide. Chris has been email-conversing with some old friends from her school days in the UK of late. Based on a couple of comments made by her friend we decided to see if we could find her house with Google Earth.

Well blow me down if we didn't do just that. All we had was the post code and fact that there was a blue tarp on the greenhouse roof and we can get an aerial photograph of Chris' friend's back yard with enough detail to plan all sorts of mischief.

So from a motorhome in the Australian bush we can check out the back yard of a house in Nottingham UK. Pretty impressive technology and Chris is living up to her nickname of Sherlock (one of her previous surnames, she's had a few don't ask, was Holmes).

If that's what we can do from a motorhome in the bush with a cheap laptop just imagine what Big Brother (the Orwellian BB, not the inane TV show, ) can do. Still I don't know about you, but I have the utmost faith that the authorities only use such power for our own good.

Mon 26 Jan 2009

Today is one of those classic living-on-the-road days we love. I spend much of the time wandering around looking for photos, and Chris relaxes on the deck with a book. This is what we're supposed to be doing and it's been a long time between drinks.

 Some macro shots of the day.

Tue 27 Jan 2009

I wake to the sound of rain, it's great to just lie in bed and listen to the drops on the roof and leaves. The shutters are working well, even in a downpour there's little need to close them. We only do so if there's also a wind that blows the water through the side of the shutter opening.

We really should make our way back to the block but neither of us want to travel in the rain so we'll hang around another day or so.

Thu 29 Jan 2009

OK we've been slack enough for one week, it's time to head back to the block as we have friends meeting us there on the weekend.


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