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Motorhome Travels - July 2010


7 Years of living the motorhome lifestyle! Yep, the beginning of this month marks the end of our 7th year of travelling. Of course we lifted a glass and toasted the good life! Here is to year 8 (and whatever it brings)!

We have also changed the planned route. As you know, we originally planned to take the Tanami Track back to northern WA. Due to some issues with medical appointments back in Perth and the current reports the state of the Tanami Track we have decided not to travel that route. We will go back the same way we got here - across the Great Central Road. The decision not to use the Tanami left us with three possible options -

  1. North and across the top (but this would have meant a very quick(for us) trip
  2. South and back to WA via the Nullarbor (done that heaps of times - also a long way around)
  3. Back across the GCR - we liked it out there, known quality of road - shorter than the other options.

The West Mac's from up high, NT - [Click for a Larger Image]
The West Mac's from up high, NT

There has been quite a lot of rain along the West McDonnell rangers - we have completely filled our water tanks in the last three days. It was so nice to be warm and comfortable inside the bus when it was so cold and wet outside (Yippy for the diesel heater).

The forecast said that we would get two days of fine weather, followed by more rain. With this in mind we decided that we should make a break for it yesterday and see what the road from the West Mac's to the Tanami was like. After travelling on it for two days - I can report that it was a very good decision to get that behind us before any more rain fell on it. Much of the road was very close to impassable and we had to dig the bus out of a mud hole yesterday. By the time another few days of rain falls, nobody will be travelling this road for a while.

We are planning on being back in Alice Springs about the middle of the week. We will pick up and fit a part to the Moke before heading south towards the Great Central Road.



In this update I will describe the day the bus fell off the jack - but before I get into that drama...

We picked up the part we needed for the Moke from the post office in Alice Springs (a ball joint for the front suspension) and had it fitted in no time. The bad news part of that story is that it has not resolved the issue - I think we will need to replace the CV joint too. That can wait until we get to Perth.

The cloud cover on the West Mac's, NT - [Click for a Larger Image]
The cloud cover on the West Mac's,

The weather was really interesting as we made our way south to Yulara - rain in central Australia is a sight to see. Within a few days, all sorts of wild flowers appear and the countryside is suddenly transformed. We were not looking forward to the road from the Olgas to Docker River - it was in very bad condition when we were on it a few weeks ago. We were very excited when we saw the "Grader Working" sign when we left the sealed road. The joy was fairly short lived, we were just a few days early. The graders had only worked on about 100km of the road and as a result it suddenly returned to the uncomfortable mess that we were expecting. Fortunately, we know that this will greatly improve once we cross the state border into WA.

We stopped at a nice little camp area near the Aboriginal community of Docker River. This has been a honesty payment camp in the past - but has been declared free by the rangers due to the poor state of repair of the facilities (not a problem for us - we don't need any facilities!).

The corrugated road to Docker River ensured the return of the "air in the brakes" issue and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. With a few ideas in mind I jacked up the bus and removed the wheel from where I sure the air was entering (wheel cylinder). Before I start telling you about the solution, here is a recap of the problem ... after about 20 - 30km of corrugated or rough road, we find ourselves with almost zero braking. I have found that this is caused by air entering into the hydraulic system and after some detective work I have determined that this is coming in via the front left wheel cylinder.

The (as yet untested) solution (skip this section if you have no interest) ...
I removed the wheel and the brake drum to expose the two wheel cylinders. The cylinder where I feel the air is entering is facing upwards (so the piston extends upwards). What I think is happening is that the shoe is rocking on the rough roads and hammering the piston further into the cylinder than it should go. Then when the bus goes over a large bump, the cylinder is thrust upwards creating a vacuum inside the cylinder and allowing air to be sucked past the cup - probably a tiny bit at a time. Three modifications were designed and built to combat this issue...

  1.  The shoe and the piston have been pinned together - this stops the shoe from hammering the piston.
  2.  The end of the shoe opposite to the piston has been retained with a strong spring - this stops the shoe from rocking.
  3.  A locking arrangement has been added to the adjuster - this stops the adjustment from winding off on rough roads.

   As I said - currently untested ... I'll let ya know.

The Jack Mishap...
Now as I was taping out a thread in part of the brake hose support, I stepped back to grab a small container of oil when there was an almighty crash and the left side of the bus collapsed into the red sand. It took me a few seconds to realise that the bus had fallen off the jack. The front axle was buried about 200mm into the sand where my legs had been about 10 seconds before! (and yes I did say a bad word (or two)). This is not good.

Tracey and I both looked under the bus to see what had happened. The 20 ton air hydraulic jack had broken through the hard crust and simply dropped into the soft red sand below. I had very stupidly failed to put a large block of wood under that jack and the weight of the bus had simply been too much for the thin hard crust.

After recovering from the shock and the realisation of what it could have been, it took a couple of hours (during most of which I was still shaking) to get the bus back up and inspect the damage ... there seemed to be very little - the backing plate was a bit bent and hopefully that's all.

With the bus supported on three jacks all on large blocks of wood, I finished the job and was very pleased to put the wheel back on (and have a wee beer).

So that is the story of the day the bus fell off the jack. Have I learned anything? I sure have ... that will NEVER happen again.

The dingo in the rising sun, NT - [Click for a Larger Image]
The dingo in the rising sun, NT

Early this morning as I was writing an email, a dingo came strolling through our camp. After sniffing about he went and sat on a small mound of red sand to warm himself in the sun. He looked great in the red of the rising sun, so I grabbed my camera and got just one shot off before the sound of the shutter alerted him to my presence and he presented his rear and wandered off in a typical dingo skulk.

We will stay here at Docker River for another day or two then head across the border and deeper into the desert.



I am now officially the undisputed king of Bedford Brakes!

One of the brake mods (the spring), WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
One of the brake mods (the spring),

I realise that this is like being the a world expert on cutting dinosaur toenails - and perhaps even less useful, but it does feel great to have finally conquered an issue that has been bothering us for over 7 years. After several hundred kilometers of corrugated road (some very badly) - we still have brakes. And not just brakes - perhaps better brakes that we have ever had! Now I will not bore you with any more bragging or even a detailed description of the modifications - but I will tell you that it feels great to actually STOP when one places ones foot on the brake peddle.

As expected the state of the road improved once we crossed into WA. It is not all plain sailing - there are some rough patches. One of these rough patches has dislodged an old repair on one of our drinking water tanks. The two drinking water tanks are stacked one on top of the other, and of course the hole was in the bottom tank - thus we lost most of our drinking water. We removed the offending tank yesterday and applied a new patch (Sellies "need-it" - great stuff) and will pick up some water at the next road house (Warburton), so it is not really too much of a drama. I guess we should replace that tank when we get to Perth.    

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