Christmas this time was spent down South at Jo and Dave's property near Donnybrook, with around 25 people attending we choose to tow the Van down so we would have our own bed, some other family did the same with their Van and along with the house beds Jo & Dave's Camper trailer we all had somewhere to sleep. Jo and Dave put on an excellent venue, with 60 acres and no close neighbours it was a great place to chill out and enjoy the company. Our nephew Chris bought a heap of black plastic sheet and set up a slippery slide which got a lot of use from the younger crew, Christmas lunch was a feast to behold with enough food to feed us all for the following few days as well. One awesome surprise was our Daughter Erin and BF Scott surprising us with a visit from Adelaide, I had only just spoken to her that morning and she was sitting down to their Christmas lunch, 6 hours later here they were!!
With Christmas out of the way the next to get past was New Years Eve, we usually don't bother going out and celebrating the New Year, most years we would be in bed by the time clicked past midnight. This year though we had been invited down to South Yungerup to see in the New Year with Geoff & Vickie and their family Julie & Darryl. Julie & Fozzie as his mates call him have a lovely home on the Murray River with cleared park land between their home & the river, the ideal spot to park the Van and lovely views of the boats travelling up & down the river.
Ist job was to have a look at Fozzie's Van and find out why he had some gremlins in his electrical system, with much checking and undoing wires and connectors we soon all agreed that the problem was with the size of the wiring used on the two batteries and the way they had been connected together. With that diagnosed it was time for a beer. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chatting and laughing at the many jokes Foz could roll off, Yes we saw the New Year in, all 6 of us were determined but none of us were really jumping out of our skin with excitement and we all headed off to our beds at 1am.
Next day Geoff and Foz kindly helped me adjust the caravan brakes and replace the handbrake cable, simple jobs but those that i am finding harder to do with my hips & back giving me grief. I really appreciated the help.
Since New Year we have just been parked up at home base, our eldest Daughter and her family have been living in our home for the past 3 years whilst we have been touring around and it's handy being able to come back and visit. Even at home though we still choose to live in our van, having our own space helps not just us but our Daughter and family stay sane. What else helps my sanity is i have a shed and am able to muck about fixing or fabricating all the jobs that have been adding up.
First off the rank was to modify a bike rack that i bought on our trip so that it could be attached to the rear of the Ute, this wasn't to difficult as i was able to utilize the spare wheel lifting brackets to fit the carrier to. I then had to alter the spare wheel carrier's themselves which was a job long overdue as i was never happy with the way they were attached in the 1st place. Unfortunately i cannot weld aluminum and was only able to do the steel fabricating leaving the actual welding of the brackets to my Aluminum fabricator Paul who has done jobs for me in the past.
Spare wheels yet to be added
Next job was to alter the stone guard on the front of the Van, Bushtracker use a double outrigger style for attaching the stone guard to the van but this is annoying as it requires stepping over each time you need to access the draw bar of the van. Some mates had changed theirs to get easier access and i copied their idea but didn't go to the same detail they did. Having weighed the Van recently i was concerned about adding more weight and decided to keep things simple by just doing what was required. I went and bought a 2.4mt length of 50x25 steel and welded that to the sides of the stone guard where it is the closest to the draw bar, then cutting off the unwanted sections of steel, It was a simple matter of drilling 2 holes either side and using galvanized bolts 200mm in length along with a section of 6mm plate being the bottom plate the bolts went through, tightened up it is solid and adjustable if required.
Another job to do was get the Thetford Toilet Cassette flushing again, this problem 1st arose 3 years ago when in Alice, one of the micro switches that control the flush had packed it in and replacing that fixed the problem, so i was fairly sure it was the same thing again. Getting the mechanism out though is fiddly, with a small opening and the switch contained in a plastic cover on the ceiling of the cassette it requires a mirror, long arms and ability to operate in an uncomfortable position. Having done it previously i at least knew what to do and soon had it out and changed over the switch. Reassembling it all was harder as i had to locate the screw holes whilst looking in a mirror and trying to hold everything in place. Finally after some cursing it was done and time to test, Bugger ! more cursing as the unit didn't flush, with only two wires to connect surely i didn't connect them incorrectly? With only one thing to do and that was remove it all again and change over the wires, and go through the process of putting it back together, this time i had some luck as it worked.
Getting through the jobs on the van i turned my attention back to the Ute, now coming from an F250 to the Toyota Ute was a big change in internal dimensions, the F250 had enough space to fit a 40lt Engel between the front seats, not only were the drinks handy but it made a great arm rest. The Toyota Ute has the smallest excuse for a centre console so i set about making a larger one that could double as an arm rest. Geoff had already done this on his Ute and was happy with the result, mine was to be slightly different as i wanted to use a console lid off another vehicle to make it appear more genuine factory look. All this did was restrict me in the size i could make but the end result was a console 4 times larger and high enough to rest my arm on comfortably, I also did away with the small open storage console and made another to match in. With that done i then attempted to make an overhead console, The vehicle already has a centre roof mounted console and the new one was to fit in sideways across the screen, so out came the cardboard for templates and the jig saw, a few hours later i had it covered in auto carpet and fitted up. Both these modifications make the storing of maps and the usual bits and pieces we have in the cab easier and safer to access.
With me mucking about in the shed finished for a while it was time to take our Granddaughters away in the Van, being 7 & 5 and the 1st time they had been away we decided to not go to far and chose the Woodmans Point Caravan Park for 4 nights. Unfortunately we chose to go when the weather was at it's hottest, with temperatures hovering around 40 for the 1st 3 days, 2nd mistake was to go to the Zoo in those temps as the girls soon were tired of walking around looking at exhibits that were either empty or holding lifeless animals. So cutting that short it was off to the beach for a swim & play, within 5 minutes of being in the water the eldest had been stung by stingers ! Back to the Van park to treat her with fresh water, and burn cream we then went to the van park swimming pool only to be some of many doing the same. Sleeping arrangements required the centre lounge to be changed into a bed for the oldest Millana with Ruby sleeping up on the main bed with Vickie, i got to sleep outside in my swag.
Looking back they say they enjoyed it, we certainly loved having them but being Grandparents it is wonderful to be able to give them back.
So that just about takes care of what we have been up to, some things yet to happen are:
Vickie's next eye operation, we are unsure exactly when it will be as this time the op is being done under the public health system, she does have a specialist appointment in February and we may fly back to Adelaide to attend that. In the mean time she needs to undergo a stress test and see a cardiologist to find out why she gets unexplained chest pain.
With all that, i also have seen Dr's and a Specialist regarding my hip and have been scheduled for a urgent hip replacement, urgent meaning sometime March, we are hoping that none of these medical problems stuff up our plans to go to Ningaloo in May, fingers crossed.