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Tales of the travels, trials and triumphs as we explore Australia in a converted bus

Motorhome Travels - January 2009


Welcome to 2009! I have just uploaded a new section of the website offering a guided tour of Hobohome (the motorhome) in some depth. You will find it in "The Rig" section of the site. It now includes a short video clip showing the Moke being "born" from the back of the motorhome and lots of new photos of the interior of the motorhome. There is also an updated section describing the current electrical setup.


A NSW Storm brews near Grafton - [Click for a Larger Image]
A NSW Storm brews near Grafton

During the last week of December we spent time with Rob and Chris at the Glasshouse Mountains where we built the bus hub lifter thingie and Rob taught me to MIG weld. After avoiding the Christmas madness we headed south to Grafton then inland towards Bingara. Just before Bingara there are some great camping spots right on the river and we have been camped there for a few days now. While here we have installed our latest addition to the motorhome ... guttering designed to capture rain water from the roof of the bus. Using a series of valves we can now direct water from the roof into any of the motorhome water tanks (via a filter of course). Now we just need some rain to test it out.


We have purchased a portable satellite Internet system and are eagerly awaiting delivery. While there is good coverage using our Telstra NextG phone and Internet system here on the east coast, once we begin heading west we know that signal from any mobile phone network will be hard to find. A short description of the system can be found here. I will write an in-depth review of the entire setup once we have had a opportunity to play with it for a while.




The plan was to head south to avoid the heat! Despite heading south we have not escaped the summer heat. We have had temperatures in excess of 40 deg in the last few days. Thankfully it has now cooled to a reasonable 28.

Tracey washes the bus in the rain... if only we could collect all this water! - [Click for a Larger Image]
Tracey washes the bus in the rain...
if only we could collect all this

We are currently just south of Dubbo and today will be heading for Parkes where there is an Elvis festival on this weekend. Now that should be really interesting! Apparently there are hundreds of Elvis impersonators expected. That should make for some unusual photos.


A few days ago we fitted our rain collection system (RCS) to the bus. Really just some simple guttering and some pipes, filters and valves that will allow us to collect rain water from the roof of the bus. Of course (as you would expect) since fitting, we have not seen even a splash of rain to allow us to test the system. The concept was inspired partly by Rob Gray (who has a system like this on his truck) and partly by the huge down-pour we had just before the new year. I guess it will now be months before we see rain!





Elvis has not left the building! - [Click for a Larger Image]
Elvis has not left the building!

Elvis on stage LIVE! - [Click for a Larger Image]
Elvis on stage LIVE!

Elvis performs outside a pub - [Click for a Larger Image]
Elvis performs outside
a pub

Before arriving in Parkes, we did a quick search through our MP3 music collection and dug up all of Elvis's hits. We listened to these in the bus for the hour that it took us to drive to the Elvis festival. This was the ideal way to get into the mood for the event.

When we arrived it was clear that Parkes was just bursting with Elvis fever. There were loads of people really getting into the spirit of the event. Almost every shop in the town had a Elvis display of some type in the window and all of the pubs had Elvis impersonators singing on stage and even outside. The only person who had not gotten into the sprit of this huge event was the woman who worked at the Parkes information centre. After lining up with a number of other visitors to the town (undoubtedly all of whom were also looking for information on the annual event) the information centre woman told us that she had not had the time to print the information she had been supplied on the event! Despite this wonderful service we managed to find our way around the events.

There was a large outdoor market where you could buy almost everything Elvis related you can think of ... if you happen to be looking for Elvis cushion covers or an Elvis oven mitt, this was the place for you.


In the evening we walked from pub to club and had a great time watching and listening to the Elvis at each venue.

While we do not consider ourselves Elvis fans (not really our era), we had a great time in Parkes and would recommend the event. Just remember to bring your sideburns and gold rimmed glasses!

"Thank you very much!" 




Police Paddocks on the Murray River - [Click for a Larger Image]
Police Paddocks on the Murray River

Camping along the Murray River is wonderful. There are hundreds of designated camping areas (almost all on the Victorian side of the river) and most have good access to the river. By the time we arrived here at Police Paddocks last Wednesday, we really needed access to the river! It was 43 degrees outside and even higher inside. The last time we travelled in heat like this we ended up replacing 5 tyres in 3 weeks. Police Paddocks is a very large flat area on a bend in the river with lots of shade and a couple of nice places to swim. Surprisingly, there is only one other motorhome here, at this time of the year I would have expected to see lots of campers.


I have spent the last few months learning PHP (a programming language for the web). My latest challenge has been to extract the exif meta data from the photos that appear on our web pages, and display this information in a meaningful way. We get a few emails asking us where photos were taken, so I also wanted to display maps showing the locations of the photos. Because all this information is already encoded into the photos, it was a relatively straight forward job to extract and display this information. Almost all photos on our website now have a function attached that will display shooting and location information. Just click on the [photo information] link below the photo.


One of the major problems with asking our motorhome to go off road is it's length - and in particular the length that extends beyond the back axle. This over-hang causes many problems on tracks and river crossings. If we manoeuvre the bus down a steep dip, it is quite likely that we will drag the back end of the bus on the ground as we leave that dip. 12 tons of Bedford bus dragging along the ground can do quite a lot of damage (both to the track and the bus). A few days ago one such dip actually bent the rear bumper (made from 1/4 inch steel). Yesterday I spent the day re-shaping and re-positioning the back bumper (with the help of a very large pounding hammer and a 20 ton air jack). I am also going to add some very solid skids to the back of the bus, these will be attached directly to the chassis and should avoid the damage to the back of the motorhome when we encounter these nasty dips.




The joey box - ready to be fitted to the bus. - [Click for a Larger Image]
The joey box - ready to be fitted to
the bus.

We have been at the workshop for one week today. The list of jobs to be completed is slowly shrinking. We decided to take the gearbox out of the bus to have a look at it and also to accurately measure the gear ratios in each gear. Adrian (owner of "Bedford World" where we are doing the work) has a couple of brand new 7 speed Isuzu gearboxes here. We thought that if the first gear on the 7 speed was significantly lower than our existing first gear, we may elect to simply change the entire gearbox. This turned out not to be the case and we have decided to continue with the original joey-box plan. The joey-box has a gear ratio of 2.65:1 - this will give us a very very low first gear. While the gearbox was out of the bus we decided to have some work done on it, it has been occasionally jumping out of second gear.

The joey-box is now almost fitted, we are just waiting for the return of the gearbox so we can complete the alignment and send off the two tail shafts to have their lengths altered.

Jobs left to complete:

What is a joey-box you ask?

Sorry, should have explained ... a joey-box has nothing to do with a place to keep a baby kangaroo! It is a small auxiliary gearbox that installs behind the main transmission. Once installed it will provide us with an optional very low range of gears. This means that when the joey-box is engaged, all 6 existing gears will be much lower (by a factor of 2.65:1). So why do we need this? We have found that since fitting the Isuzu engine, we miss the very low first gear that the old Bedford engine had. Occasionally (when we are stuck in mud or sand for example) it is very useful to have an extremely low first gear. Some joey-boxes provide three ranges - low - direct and high range. The one we are fitting is just a two speed unit.


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