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!

Keep your fork

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favourite Bible.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

"There's one more thing," she said excitedly. "What's that?" came the pastor's replied.
"This is very important," the woman continued.."I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.. "That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked. "Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor.

The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, "keep your fork." It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them: "Keep Your Fork..The best is yet to come."

The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming. At the funeral people were walking by the woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right.

So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come...

Daddy’s Empty Chair

A man’s daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows.

An empty chair sat beside his bed.

The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me," he said.

“No, who are you?” said the father.

The minister told him his name and then remarked, “I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up,”

“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”

Puzzled, the minister shut the door.

“I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day, four years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest...’”

‘Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky, because He promised, ‘I will be with you always.’ Then just speak to Him in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’”

“So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon.

“Did he die in peace?” the minister asked.

“Yes. When I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But, there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?”

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, “I wish we could all go like that.”

Lithium batteries

Batteries for what?

The main purpose of us converting a bus is to have an RV unit that we can afford and that will give us as much freedom travelling as possible. Batteries require some method of charging. We put a lot of research into alternative power sources and we decided to utilize all the roof real estate to incorporate as many solar panels as possible, in our case that was 32 of them. If you missed that post, you can find it here. Obviously we then needed to have some sort of energy storage capacity.

The roof full of 32 small solar panels

Deep Cell versus Lithium batteries

We found through personal experience over the last 30 years caravaning that the deep cell batteries have certain limitations.
You can read more about the downsides of deep cell batteries here with quite a bit of technical info about it too but in a nutshell you can only use a part of the rated charge of a deep cell battery. It is all too  easy  to drain the batteries more than you should and thus drastically shorten the life span of the battery. Another issue is that deep cell batteries are huge and heavy. So we looked for alternate energy storage options and chose lithium batteries.

one regular deep cell battery

What are lithium batteries?

Lithium batteries are a type of battery composed of Lithium metal or compounds as an anode. It is the lightest metal and the metal that has the highest electrochemical potential. They are also much longer lasting. We have chosen Lithium Iron Phosphate also known as LiFePO4. They are reportedly non-combustible, and thus vastly safer than the original Lithium-Cobalt-Oxide batteries.

16 of the 32 lithium batteries we went with

Advantages of Lithium ion batteries

  1. They are much lighter than deep cell batteries which is a major asset in any RV.
  2. Can be charged at nearly 100 per cent efficiency, whereas most batteries run at a much lower efficiency.
  3. They are more compact enabling more batteries in the same area and thus more power, up to 80% discharge. 
  4. These batteries have a better cycle life: 3,000 or more cycles compared to acid batteries' 500 to 1000 cycles.
  5. Lithium batteries do not restrict solar input thus they use full use of solar input. (The batteries are very greedy) LOL.
  6. The batteries hold their voltage better.

    Practical Application

    We expect to be able to run all our appliances on 240v including the domestic fridge, an air conditioner, water heater, induction stove, CPap machine and others, many which are much harder or near impossible on deep cell batteries without a generator. I have a dislike of gas and don't want to have any gas appliances other than a potable butane gas stove. Our lights are all LED lights. Where possible and financially viable we will make any new purchases with an eye to how much power they draw and if an inverter option is available such as the microwave oven, then this is the way we will go. By going with regular 240 volt power also means we are not restricted to expensive RV specialized appliances.

    We have installed 32 Lithium batteries under the bus
    At this stage, we do not anticipate a need for a generator, though a good 12 months on the road will be the ultimate test!

    Want more info

    To understand more I can recommend Technomadia's posts on Lithium batteries. They have had them up and running in their bus now for over 2 years and can speak from both a technical understanding and personal experience. Click here to read their post.

    The big nasty debate

    There is a lot of debate about Lithium Batteries on some RV forums and some of it quite nasty. It seems as though the lead battery big guns have been steadily undermining the debate to protect their own business interests, similar to the fuel companies pushing fossil fuel over alternate fuels.

    First off, I will delete any truly nasty comments rather than genuine constructive comments.

    Secondly, I did not go into technical details on this post as that is way beyond my comprehension. I am after all just the glorified writer, it is my hubby that delves into the technical and practical side of the conversion. Rob has relied heavily on research and the advice of others combined with his own knowledge. We do not consider ourselves experts in this and if I have made any obvious mistakes in any of the information above, I am willing to correct it.

    Thirdly, because of copyright ownership of some technical details, there is also stuff that I can't reveal within the scope of this post. So with all that under our belts, lets keep all this in perspective. It is just a post stating what we have done and why. It is possible we have made some mistakes in judgement. We have looked into it and believe in what we are doing. In the end, it is all a part of the spice of life, some of it is wonderful and some is bitter.


    We will value any comments and advice. May I suggest you direct some of the more technical questions to sites such as Technomadia or any RV forums though these seem to be heavily slanted against proper discussions on the merits of Lithium batteries, with some even banning such topics due to some strong negative reactions of a few.

    In reality

    We run 240v power off the lithium batteries 24/7. During our 4 month trip to a cold and mostly overcast Tassie, Summer 2015, we really tested it to the hilt as we free camped nearly the whole time. We only hooked up to power 3 times to charge up the batteries during this time. We are running a household fridge, microwave oven, induction cooker, CPAP machine etc. We are extremely happy with the solar power/lithium batteries we have. We can't divulge details of the battery management system though as we had an agreement with the guy who advised us as it is his intellectual property. He runs a private forum on Lithium Batteries which you may peruse which will help genuine seekers after admittance by invitation only. Be aware there is some opposition to Lithium based on incorrect information. So be discerning of your sources and the currency and relativity of the info.

An Amazing Dad: A Father's Day story

This weekend we celebrate Father's Day here in Australia.
It is a time when we celebrate the men who have become mentors in our lives, regardless of whether they are listed on our birth certificate or not. The man or men who have helped us become the people we are today.

Personally I have had no contact with my biological father at all. However when I was 8 my mother married and Hilton became my father figure. He loved me and accepted me as I was, so much so that some 18 years later, when being questioned by a distant relative researching his genealogy, about his  he automatically included me and my children. Sadly, his own boys from his first marriage were unable to have children for various reasons and he adored my kids.

Rick & Dick's first marathon

I want to tell you of someone else's amazing dad, of a father & son, who compete together in marathons and triathlons across America. What is so amazing about this pair is that the son is physically unable to walk let alone run. Rick is his name and his father is Dick. Though Rick is unable to talk, he is astute and is able to communicate via a special computer. Rick demonstrated a high intelligence completing a university degree. He loves following sport. When he was 15, he told his dad that he wished to support a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident and was having a benefit run held for him. His Dad, though far from being fit, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles coming in second last. Later Rick commented to his dad that he doesn't feel handicapped when running. Being a great Dad, Dick resolved to run more marathons and eventually included triathlons with his son. They have completed well 1,000 runs including this year's Boston marathon which was bombed. Dick is now 72 and plans to run the Boston again next year.

Rick & Dick at the 2013 Boston Marathon
There is more to the story and I encourage you to read it all here. They have set up "The Hoyt Foundation" to build the individual character, self-confidence and self-esteem of America's disabled young people through inclusion in all facets of daily life; including in family and community activities, especially sports, at home, in schools, and in the workplace. Being profoundly deaf myself and having to fight my way through many people's mistaken perception all my life, I applaud their goals. Read more about the work they do here.

We have an amazing Father who has given everything for each one of us. God loves us so much that he has done more than run that extra mile for us. If you want to know more about what he has done then read articles such as 5 Truths about Love or get it straight from the Bible. Start with a 'book' within the Bible called John or Mark. It is in the last quarter of the Bible. Try to find a simple to read Bible like The Good News or The Message Bible. You can find a copy of the Bible at your local library though it might be one of the easy one.  You can also read a slightly harder version online here. Any Christian church would most likely give you a copy for free too if you were to ask there. You don't have to commit to anything - there's no catch though they might ask if you would like to attend a meeting to learn more, but it is only an invitation not a condition. Ask me if you want and I will post one to you.

I would also love to know if we have a similar foundation to Team Hoyt, here in Australia. Please send me any details  either by the comments below or via Facebook, Google+ or email.