Big Trip Decision Made. Now What?

Kylie and I have been talking about embarking on a trip around the country for a number of years now but the time has arrived to commit to it and get prepared. With that in mind, we have decided that we will be going for a minimum of 12 months and that we will be leaving by end of April 2018. This has now been communicated to all the other important people in our lives so they can now start to prepare for what it means to them. In many ways, our lives change from this point onwards.

Repairs to one of our fences. It was rotted to the point of collapse.
Making the actual decision and sticking to it is probably the first thing you need to do if you’re going to do this. Without a commitment, there’s no incentive to get prepared, and believe me, that is the single most important and complicated thing to do. This is the point reality starts to bight, and you realise just how much stuff, none of it terribly pleasant, that you just have to work through. To give you an idea, here’s what our thinking has lead us to consider:

1. What are we going to do with the house while we’re gone?
2. How much money are we going to need while we’re away?
3. What income can we rely upon and for how long will it last?
4. What contingencies will we have in place for dealing with emergencies?
5. Preparation of the rig (car and van).
6. Communications capabilities while were away.

Tackling the first question is probably the most significant as it potentially involves leaving us without somewhere to come home to. The options are:

1. Sell the house.
2. Rent out the house.
3. Get in a house sitter.

To make this decision, we have had to consider our actual overall financial position and to consider how we would cope with all the options on the predicted income we expect to have and how much of that will be left over with the ongoing financing of the trip. This is complicated by the need to pay out the lease on the Landcrusier and selling our other car, the Patrol, before we go. It turned out this wasn’t terribly difficult as our financial position is not all that complicated. We don’t have children to consider which makes it considerably easier. Getting a valuation on the house from several real estate agents has also provided us with a lot of guidance. At this stage we are reserving our final decision but the preparations for the house, regardless, are the same. Clean up, perform maintenance and get rid of everything we no longer need.

Now things start getting really scary and confronting, but, tackled with the right attitude, they end up being quite good experiences.

Modifications to the house have been limited to essential items only.

1. Change the carpet throughout the home and re-paint neglected areas.
2. De-clutter by removing old and unnecessary furniture.
3. Throw out anything that hasn’t been touched in years.
4. Sell any unwanted items of value.

Just a portion of the ridiculous amount of stuff we’ve accumulated.
Over the last couple of weekends, we’ve been ruthless with deciding what to throw out and have, thus far, removed 6 trailer loads of stuff and filled a 4 square metre skip with rubbish. It’s amazing what you accumulate over time…! We gave a lot of useful electrical items, books and other stuff to a local charity and much of our rubbish was recyclable, reducing the expense of tip fees.

We’ve started the maintenance on the house. All upstairs has been repainted and we’ve got a start on the exterior. A plasterer is coming to fix a few bits and we are replacing all the toilets. The bathrooms are getting a freshen up. The garden is being simplified and made presentable.

We still have a very long way to go but, for the first time since we decided to do this, it actually feels like it will now be a reality and we are actively working towards this goal. No more stuffing around.

Safe travels.

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Independent Caravan Weigh – In Day MtGambier 2017

organised by Everything Caravan and Camping and RVeeThereYet

Four months ago, Matt Sutton, owner of the Everything Caravan and Camping Facebook Group, came to me with an idea. He wanted to run independent caravan weigh-ins across the country, starting in his home town of Mt Gambier. I thought it would be a good idea, but I didn't think we would get too many takers in a small country town in SA. How wrong I was...!

Last weekend, we had the first of our weigh-ins and right from the start I knew we were in for a big day. When we arrived at the car-park where the event was run, there was already over 10 vans lined up waiting. By day's end we had weighed 48 rigs...!

Most of the rigs weighed were caravans, but we also had a few camper trailers and a couple of motorhomes thrown in for good measure.

The results...? Well we were quite surprised to find that most rigs were within 50kgs of their maximum weights. Given the margin for error in our scales, this is a very positive result. Most rigs were packed and ready for an extended trip with full water tanks and stocked fridges. There were around 10 vans that were well under their limits, which again is an excellent outcome. There were 4 vans that were well overweight, one being 400kgs over his ATM.

All up, it was an extremely successful day. We were fortunate to have great instructions of what to do provided by Graeme Shenton, the police officer who ran the recent operation in Newmerella, Victoria. We were also fortunate to have Matt's mate Kallen Westbrook, who worked tirelessly all day with me on the scales.

Special thanks go to Wendy and Steve McCallum and Rosie and Tony McKeough who bought us all coffees and snacks, and to Matt's wife, Paula, who who bought us lunch. Thank you for your support.

The next weigh in will be held in Melbourne at a location to be determined. Keep an eye out on the Everything Caravanning and Camping group and for details.

Safe Travels

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Generators – Decision Time

Recently we did a comparison test between 4 different portable generators in order to determine which one would be best suited to the average caravanner or camper. That test highlighted a few things to me about using a generator in the real world not the least of which was the physical exertion involved in physically handling a 20 to 30KG generator in a camping environment.

For a bit of a history lesson, my first generator was a Honda EX-350 which was only used as a backup to charge the camper battery and perhaps to run mobile phone chargers. Other than that I didn’t really use it all that much. When we bought the Lifestyle camper, we had more power requirements that put a lot of demand on its batteries. We purchased a new generator capable of powering a proper 15 amp battery charger. That generator was a Black Ridge BRG-800. I got it on special from Super Cheap Auto for around $400. That was pretty good back then. When we upgraded to a caravan, the Black Ridge was not powerful enough to run the air-conditioner, so it was shelved for a new model. It’s this point that I have had a rethink over.

Everyone that buys a generator for their caravan are obsessed with it being able to run their air conditioner when free camping, and many have problems buying one that actually works. The ubiquitous Honda EU-20i, which most caravanners purchase, seems to struggle for many and work for some. Many others will buy a cheap Chinese generator from eBay and again, the sometimes struggle. There are a few reasons for this however I wonder how many RVers have actually asked themselves how often they really thing they will be running a generator while away from 240 volt mains power.

I did give this some thought especially when lugging around 4 generators during the aforementioned test. You see, even at 20kgs, the Honda and others like it, are quite heavy and when you have to carry them over rough ground, like that found at most free camps, it’s a real chore. Then there's the question of where to store these things. You have to have a box big enough for them to fit and you have to be able to easily lift the generator out and put it back again when you’re finished. Its hard work especially in the heat and dust of the outback. Finally there’s the weight of these things and with the focus on getting our caravans under weight restrictions, being able to save 10 or more kilos can make a significant difference.

The Black Ridge running the battery charger in the Roadstar during a winter weekend at Sheepyard Flat.
So, for us, I really cannot see us requiring a generator that can run the air-conditioned. I think we would rather just acclimatise to the conditions. With that in mind, the Black Ridge, weighing only 15kgs, is much easier to store and carry around and it has sufficient capacity to run a 25 amp battery charger. It will suffice for our requirements and that’s why we have brought it out of the garage and its back in the caravan for good.

Safe Travels everyone

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