Archive for the ‘technical’ Category

Solar upgrades

September 15, 2019

We have had our solar set up on our van for just over 8 years now. We’ve had a great run with our set up including the solar panels and the battery bank. We are told that AGM batteries should last only about 5 years but ours are still going strong, which is what happens when you;

a) buy decent batteries in the first place

b) look after the batteries

c) don’t overload their usage ie. we panic if the battery levels ever get below 80-85% full!!!

However, we did want to put in a new charger that would top up the van battery off the solar feed that serves the house batteries, as when we sit still for any length of time, the van battery starts to lose power and although we can top them up from running the engine, it seems silly to start the engine every day just to charge it up again although we do have a magic switch that allows us to start the van off the house batteries. A new charger would keep the battery topped up all the time with the excess solar. So it was off to see Wayne Hunt in Hamilton.

We had arranged to meet him at his premises opposite the Base shopping complex in Hamilton, after a bit of discussion we also opted to have a new solar controller put in, an MPPT controller which would allow better charging of the batteries especially when they are getting to nearly full. I had it explained to me once that putting the last little bit of power into the battery was like trying to fill a container of water to the very top, carefully and slowly trying to dribble in the last little bit in to get it absolutely full. Previously, on a sunny day and batteries at 96% full, we would get a maximum of 0 to 1.5 amps dribbling in. In stark contrast, today at 96% with a weak sun we are putting in up to 11amps with the inverter going as well. A great improvement.

Wayne had it all done quickly, efficiently and tidily, he also tested out a couple of other things for us and also told us that our initial set up done by Absolute Power all those years ago was very well done which is always good to hear and he also made a point of telling us that our batteries were in great condition and we must have looked after them very well. We were happily on our way in an hour or so.

The new digital VSR on the left and the new MPPT controller at the rear

We can highly recommend Wayne at Motorhome Solar in Hamilton for very friendly, excellent service and at a very reasonable price, plus he goes out of his way to explain in layman’s terms the ins and outs to people like me who have few clues on all things electrical!

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig.

September 10, 2019

There’s no place like home said someone, once, and it’s so true. Although I have to quickly add that we do feel at home in England as well, especially at Alex & Ian’s.

I remember in one of my tutorials at University we were asked to define where is home…is it where you live now? or where you were born? or where you were raised? or where you went to school? You hear immigrants in particular talking of ‘home’, I remember my parents talking of ‘back home’ meaning England. Is home defined by place, people or thing? There is no right answer, everyone has a different viewpoint.

Getting over jet lag, opening mail, sorting out stuff were the order of events over the first days back. We made appointments for Doctors visits for checkups, sorted out bits and pieces and in between tried to get body clocks onto NZ time.

We had a very pleasant surprise in the mail from England. A spice kit that Alex Ian and Callum had organised for us. It’s a monthly spice kit which arrives with all the spice mixes to make delicious meals. With full instructions on the meal preparations as well as a little history on where the meal originated, a list of how to remake the spice mixes for a repeat of the meal all included.

The kit and the note from Callum

It’s something we had seen in England as Alex had bough Ian a subscription for his birthday. You receive an email notification of what is coming up in the next months kit and options to change for another kit of your choice if you so desire as there are up to 5 choices each month. You can also put a hold on receiving it for a few months if you wish and restart when it suits.

We just love the curries in England, it’s always our first choice when we arrive and it’s our choice of farewell meal as well.

Of course we were keen to give the kit a go, with the shopping list in hand (included in the kit) it was off to the shops for the main ingredients.

We were cooking this

Tonight’s dinner

it also required us to make a dum aloo, potato dish, and a spicy tomato chutney to accompany the main dishes. We had only arrived back the previous day, I should have thought a bit more about that before embarking on cooking the meal. I got 9/10ths of the way through preparing it all when Jet lag hit me, I just had to go to bed right there and then before I fell over. Roy and Antony finished off the cooking and reported that the meal was fantastic.

The result

Really flavoursome and tasty with the only chilli heat coming from the tomato chilli chutney that accompanied the meal.

We had the rest of the meal the following day and I can attest to how deliciously flavoursome it was and plenty for all of us so a generous 4 servings as per the leaflet. We really look forward to receiving the next parcel.

We had to get a WOF for the car as well as register it, that was done the afternoon of our arrival. Then we both needed a WOF for ourselves at the Doctors, that done we then could head off down to Whakatane to be reunited with our van.

The trip to Whakatane was via Hamilton so we could call in to see Wayne Hunt, a motorhome solar expert, to sort out a time to have a new charger put in that would trickle feed the van battery off the solar so that when we sit still for any length of time the van battery will be fully charged negating the need to start the engine every other day. That done we then called in to see our dear friends Wade & Lindsay for a quick catch up and lunch before heading off to Whakatane.

We arrived at John & Jude’s late in the afternoon and then spent the next few days sorting ourselves out. John had kindly sorted out our RUCs and van registration whilst we were away so we just had to take the van in to get a COF. It was all done very quickly and efficiently without any hassles at Ted’s Testing Station in Whakatane. We can highly recommend them and we will definitely use them again.

We made a day trip up to Papamoa to see friend Estelle whose husband Bill passed away whilst we were overseas. It was then on into Tauranga to see my 3 nieces and great nieces to catch up with them before we leave the Bay and make our way north.

We can’t thank John & Jude enough for looking after our home on wheels whilst we were away, it was great to know that it was safe and sound in their care and well looked after.

On the move

March 21, 2019

I’d had enough of being crammed in at Ardmore, it seems as though vehicles were jammed in everywhere with over 50 vehicles squeezed in and I guess with the motorhome show due to be held in Auckland later that week, people were starting to head on in to the city. Wednesday morning we had an early start as the van was having the underneath cleaned of surface rust and sealed so at 6.30am we were on our way, not too far to go though, just to Truck & Trailer in Spartan Road, Takanini.

We headed off to get some breakfast whilst the van was being worked on, and to do some shopping and generally keep ourselves occupied. It was 1pm when we got the call to say that the van was finished and we could pick it up. Off we trotted, we got a thorough look at what they had done and came away feeling very happy, especially when the bill came in at nearly half of what we were expecting. We will be back here again if we need any work doing on the van as we were so impressed with them. They do all maintenance work on large vehicles as well as fibreglass repairs and they even do a polishing service. And to top it off they were really friendly and helpful.

We had planned to stay the night at the Papakura Club however we decided to dump the tanks again at Bruce Pulman Park on our way. That’s when plans changed again.

It just so happened that Antony had got us tickets to the netball being played at Pulman Arena that evening (also just happened to be our wedding anniversary) and as we saw a couple of motorhomes parked up, I went and enquired about staying the night there.

the view from the door of the van, not too far to go to walk to the game.

And at the same price as staying in an NZMCA Park, it was a no brainer to stay here for the night.

After an early dinner we headed across the car park to the Arena to get our seats for the game, collecting goodie bags along the way from the sponsors inside the venue.

we ended up being seated around the mid court area, just beind the commentators

It was a good game to watch and afterwards we sauntered back to the van and had a very quiet nights sleep.

We were off the following morning to Hamilton where we ended up staying at the Car Museum, somewhere we had not visited before. Again it proved to be another very busy place to stay as we woke in the morning to find that we had neighbours move in on both sides of us both within spitting distance.

Whilst at the museum we thought we should patronise the facility particularly as though the parking is free so we had lunch in the cafe.

the outside of the museum building and the parking area before it became crowded.

We placed our order for our lunch and were wandering around looking for a suitable table when out of the corner of my eye I spied a familiar couple of faces. I stood looking for a good minute or so desperately flicking through my memory banks to put names to faces before the lightbulb finally went off and I could go say hi. They recognised us straight away. It was Chrissy & Ian, they were longtime friends with my eldest brother Mike & his late wife Ann. Chrissy and Ann were school friends and we had met Chrissy & Ian a number of times over the years so it was lovely to see them and catch up.

We also caught up with our long time friends Wade & Lindsay in the evening over a lovely dinner. It’s always good to see good friends. We also met up with Harry, Kim & family whom we had met a few weeks earlier at Shakespear. They had just been to have some solar charging issues sorted and were very impressed with the service they received from Wayne, so much so that we took his details so we could contact him at some point.

The following day we took off to AJ’s Park on the shores of Lake Karapiro.

the view through the front windscreen.

it is a lovely spot to stay, relatively quiet and peaceful so we thought we’d stay a couple of nights, but a week later we are still here! The place becomes quite busy over the weekend, and we are kept entertained by waterskiers and kids enjoying themselves being towed behind boats on various devices from knee boards to biscuits. It took us a while to figure that there is no tide here, quite a change for us as we spend so much time near the sea.

Sunday was an impromptu get together with a couple of my siblings – John & Jude called in on their way home to Whakatane, and Sue & Jeff joined us from their home not far away in Putaruru. This trip of ours is basically for us to catch up with my north island siblings before we head away to the UK, it seems we have started off quite well. Of course I forgot to take any pictures however it was a lovely afternoon with them all.

I did take some pictures later in the week as we went into Putaruru on a few occasions to spend some time with Sue & Jeff and catch up on family matters including swapping genealogy notes.

this is my sister Sue with the cheese & bacon scones she made one day for lunch……with the wrong mix she had mistakenly used from her pantry. Subsequently the scones were a strange sweet/savoury concoction 😂. And no, sweet savoury scones are not a new thing, they were relegated to the bin! Should have gone to Specsavers Sue 😘.

Roy & Jeff tackling their respective crossword puzzles.

in between visits into Putaruru I had made contact with Wayne Hunt who specialises in motorhome electric/solar systems and it just so happened that he was going to be passing Karapiro on Tuesday morning and he offered to call in. Wayne & Vicki duly arrived and over a cuppa we chatted for some time before getting onto matters we wanted to sort. We want to be able to charge the van battery when we are stationary for any length of time. Wayne designs and builds systems and he came up with a couple of options for us, now we are all sorted with what will work for us. Once we get it, I will do a blog entry on that later. We also gleaned another couple of ideas from them whilst we were chatting so it proved to be a very good couple of hours spent in their company. We can highly recommend Wayne for anything solar/electric/motorhome related, especially as he explains things so well.

Our departure day from here seems to be getting put back more and more, it may be tomorrow…but then again we may be saying the same thing again tomorrow!

And who can blame us with this for a view.

The best laid plans…

March 3, 2016

Plans are constantly on the move with the Vannini’s this past week. But firrst of all an update on Antony, he is is well recovered from his painful kidney stone episode and returns to work this week.  Meanwhile Mum has filled the freezer, washed everything in sight, ironed said washing, cleaned and tidied whilst Dad has mowed lawns, sprayed weeds and swept paths. Done.

Saturday -we had a funeral to attend for friend Janet’s brother Douglas who died suddenly last week.  Why is it that you tend to catch up with far too many friends at funerals?  Lovely to catch up with friends, but not the circumstances in which we gathered.  Although a very sad occassion, Douglas was farewelled in a very fitting manner. At this point we had planned to get underway on our next adventure on Tuesday….lets see how that turned out!!   

Sunday -we went to see Ron & Janet for a quiet catch up before we leave Auckland, it turned out to be a very busy day as we helped them sort out a few things but filled the day with lots of good conversation,  putting the world to rights and lots of laughter.    

Monday – time for our annual medical WoF with our Doctor but  first we had to fight the traffic to get there ….aarrrggggh! An hour and a half for what should have been a 20minute trip, no wonder both of us had slightly raised blood pressure.  But I did brave the question of getting my knees replaced (finally ) as I have successfully managed to put this off for nearly 10 years now but sometimes you suddenly realise that there comes a point when you need to have them done to regain some quality of life without pain and limited mobility.  The wheels are set  in motion for this to be done, once I got over the shock of the cost of it – $35,000/knee – even though medical insurance will cover most of it, it will still be an expensive exercise.  Need for X-rays, tests etc so review plans, now plan to leave Wednesday.  Settle down for the evening only to discover that the TV would not work, or more to the point the satellite dish was not picking up the signal so tomorrow we go to get it fixed at RSE – a specialist RV TV and satellite business nearby. 

Tuesday – Roy goes out to continue assisting Ron & Janet with sorting out matters whilst I head off to have X-rays and blood tests done, being chauffeured around by Antony.   I had tried to have the blood tests taken on Monday afternoon however after many attempts by two nurses they could not get any blood from me! I  left feeling ratherlike a pin cushion so back again today where this time success (amazing what happens if you remember to drink lots of water).   Shopping done and Roy returns in time to take the van into RSE for them to look at the satellite dish, we get as far as the gate at Ardmore to discover we have a flat tyre, or should I say two flat tyres! Both inside rear tyres have mysteriously got holes in them so call out the men from Carters Tyres to sort out for us.  We call RSE to reschedule repairs until later in the day.  Carters duly turn up very promptly only to discover they have to get in replacement tyres from another source which won’t be here until tomorrow. We ring RSE and change appointment to tomorrow.

Wednesday – tyres due around 2pm.  Roy and Antony take in Ant’s car to garage for scheduled repairs, Roy returns to van for the day to await new tyres, Bernice heads to Antony’s for the day to get a few things done.  Roy rings to say tyres now due at 4.30pm so RSE reschedule for tomorrow at 1pm.  Tyres changed, sorted, checked and done very quickly and efficiently.   Now leaving tomorrow afternoon…….hopefully.

Thursday (today) – about to pack up and head off to dump station, fill up with petrol and LPG before heading to RSE where we hope (fingers crossed), that it is an easy repair and we can get underway later this afternoon.  First stop Kopu where the insurance repairs for the mishap with the German tourists can be sorted.  

Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment which we trust will not be exciting, with nothing further to report, and we are safely on our way.  Fingers crossed. 

Living full time in a motorhome

January 2, 2016

We are often asked what it is like living in a motorhome and when are we going to finish traveling and get a “real” house.  The following is an attempt to answer some of those questions  (with some ideas and inspiration from the latest NZ American RV newsletter).

1. This is not Camping

Our version of full-time RV’ing is not camping… it’s living. In other words, we don’t consider our lives to be one big camping trip. We don’t eat at Maccas or RSA’s every night, nor do we eat dehydrated instant packet food, nor do we sit around the picnic table playing boardgames by lantern/torchlight. Yes, we stay in a camp ground occasionally, but for the most part we are not camping.


2. We do Laundry

When I lived in a house, I felt like I was always doing laundry. A load of towels, whites the next, clothing separated into dark and light for more loads.  It was a never ending cycle that I couldn’t seem to break. That is, until I moved into an RV with a small washing machine on board. Now I do laundry a couple of times a week. And it doesn’t take long.  I sometimes even use a laundromat, or utilise friends and family large washing machine for when I have big stuff to do (thanks!).  And I have finally given up ironing everything in sight, yes folks, you read it here first, I no longer iron my sheets or tea towels!!! 

3.  I will choose my tiny house, over your guest bedroom

When we visit or park in your driveway (which we appreciate greatly by the way) chances are we’ll say thanks but no thanks when you offer up your guest room. You see, the thing is that we like our tiny house with our cosy bed, favourite pillow, all our clothes within reach and the bathroom a few steps away from our bed. We travel in a motorhome because we enjoy the convenience of always having our house with us. So it’s not that we don’t appreciate the offer, but we really would prefer to sleep in our own bed. However, I will take you up on that offer to use your shower though!
4.  This is not a permanent holiday

This is a hard one for non full-timers to grasp. So you live in an RV and you get to travel to any cool place you want, yet you don’t consider yourself to be on holiday? Nope, not at all.  I think you can only function in ‘holiday’ mode for so long. At some point you have to create a normal routine with down time and off days. For us full time RV’ing is a lifestyle choice, not a permanent holiday, we choose where we want to go and when and what we want to do.

5.  I Sometimes Forget That I’m Not “Normal”.

I sometimes forget that our lifestyle is considered out of the ordinary. Especially if we’ve been spending time with other full time RV’ers who view living in a tiny house on wheels as commonplace. It usually takes an encounter with the “normal” folks to remind me that how we live is fascinating and envy-worthy.
6. I Have No Idea When I Will “Be Done”.

We get asked this a lot and I’m always tempted to reply, done with what? Done with a lifestyle that brings me joy? Done with expanding my horizons and becoming a more well rounded person? Done with meeting incredible people and making lifelong connections and friendships? Why would I want to be done with all that? The short answer is that I have no idea when I will be done, and I enjoy not knowing. There is something very appealing about a future that is open to endless possibilities. I’m confident that when we get the urge to settle in one spot, we will know when the time is right. But for now we will continue to roll down the road with no plans to “be done” any time soon 
7.  We will never see everything

We could travel around in this beautiful country of ours for many more years and still not see everything. In the beginning we enjoyed keeping track of where we had visited and making sure we checked off all the major attractions along the way. At some point we realised that it didn’t matter how many things were checked off the list, we would always be adding more. And I love that! I love discovering more things to do, see, and explore than I could possibly hope to accomplish in any amount of time. I love that our country is incredibly diverse and filled with such an array of landscapes, communities, and people that even if I travelled for decades, I could never see everything.  Besides, life isn’t about checking off lists…….. is it?

8.  Technology

Yes, we have the technology!  Not only do we have satellite TV (actually two Tv’s – one in the living area and one in the bedroom), we have a wireless router that connects us to the Internet – note to Telco’s; give us better, more and cheaper data!  We have PC’s as well as iPads, we have a large extensive library of books and movies (mostly in electronic format), we listen to podcasts on MP3 players with headphones,  we run a business from our home which has an office and yes we even have a full printer/copier/scanner.  We generate our own power from solar panels with a back up generator for when the sun doesn’t shine. We have a large bank of batteries to store all our power which we run through an inverter to give us 230v.

9.  We have a chefs kitchen!

You name it, we have it…full oven, fridge and freezer, cake mixer, blender, stick blender, wok, casserole dishes, risotto pan, brûlée torch, baking tins of all shapes and sizes, dariole molds, thermometers, meat slicer, vacuum sealer, banettons, microplanes, and a myriad of other essential gadgets like a spurtle (to stir porridge), and a special cutter to take the top off a boiled egg,  as well as knives, knives and more knives of every shape and size imaginable,   I mean, who else has two ham knives! We have a cold smoker and a hot smoker, we make our own; bacon and pastrami, sourdough bread, jams preserves and pickles, baking, and anything else you can think of.  

10.  If we won lotto…

We  get asked this often as well,”if you won Lotto, what would you do to live your dream?”  Our response is; we are living our  dream, what are you waiting for?  Sure,  a bit more cash would be very nice, but our basic lifestyle would not change much at all. Now let us just win Lotto and we’ll test out this theory!!!

So that’s it in nutshell, I hope that has answered any questions you may have had, if not, feel free to ask!

Whakatane 

March 23, 2015

Whilst we have been here in Whakatane we have managed to get lots of little, and not so little, jobs done.  The sealing around all the lockers, windows and joins on the van with the sticky black Simsons Sealer product is finally finished.  Don’t  ask me why but for some reason the black stuff seems to get everywhere and onto everything but the white product doesn’t! I think they call it something like ‘Sod’s Law’.  There was also an attempt to straighten the road sweeper that is attached to the back of the van. after an altercation with an inanimate object some time ago. It has been a little lower on one side but attempts to jack it up were not terribly successful but a good effort was made.  Lots of other little jobs have been completed, silly little things like reattaching the wire to the waste cap so it cannot be left behind anywhere, and fixing locker latches etc.  I even broke out the sewing machine to make some slip covers for the chairs, oh and not forgetting getting major things done like the upholstery.  All in all a very good couple of weeks well spent.  

In the middle of our time in Whakatane there was of course Cyclone Pam.  The storm had devastating effects on islands such as Vanuatu, so we were preparing ourselves for strong winds and torrential rain. We moved off the grass onto hard ground and made sure we were protected as much as possible from potential high winds, filled the water tanks and made sure everything was battened down.  However, it turned into more of a storm in a tea cup than a major storm and certainly nothing like what we experienced last year at Whanaknaki.  Yes the sea was very rough with an impressive large swell running and the bar entrance into Whakatane was closed for some time but we really didn’t have any strong winds or the lashings of rain – thank goodness.

A day or so after the storms passing we headed off to Opotiki with John, first stopping off at Jude’s place in Waiotahi to make sure all was well there.  Then it was off to the Two Fish Cafe in Opotiki for brunch.  Now it is not often that I can highly recommend somewhere for a really good coffee but the Two Fish Cafe serves probably one of the best coffees in NZ, certainly in the top three in any case.  Not only was the coffee fabulous but the food was great as well.  We loved the quirky style of this cafe, and if you are ever heading toward Opotiki, call in for a real treat, you’ll not be disappointed.

After two and a half weeks of being in Whakatane it was time to move on.  Thursday morning and we were all packed up and ready to go at a reasonable hour, just hook up the RAV and check the lights.  Bugger, the lights aren’t working, so after some fiddling, spraying contacts, attacking things with screwdrivers, we headed off into Whakatane to the auto electrician so they could check it all out for us.  But wouldn’t you know it? as soon as we got there, everything worked just fine!  But to make sure, we got them to check everything out, lo and behold, there was a problem…..insert here techno babble for whatever was wrong, something about a wire with low, or was that high? resistance, switches and relays …… The park lights were very dull.  Not that that is necessarily a problem as we try to avoid driving at night at all times,  but best to sort it out now.  After much testing and removal of one of the dash panels, they finally find the fault.  The park lights were wired up to the dashboard dimmer switch!  How had we not found that out before now?  Anyway, wires were cut, rejoined in the right place and after a couple of hours we were on our way.  And we must praise here the business involved – Langleys Auto Electrical – as all that was done for next to nothing with no waiting around and they were very pleasant to deal with.

  Dashboard dismantled.

We finally headed out of Whakatane to Tauranga where we spent a night there before heading on to Kopu (near Thames)  for a couple of nights as the van is booked in on Monday for a repair/replacement hydraulic stabiliser jack to be made as well as getting a new seal ordered for around the slide out.  The Electrical WoF will also be done whilst we are here.

Finally, many many thanks to John and Jude for the lovely goodies they gave us, particularly as it was so unexpected.  We look forward to enjoying all the lovely drinks (so pleased we introduced them to Pedro Ximinez), chocolates, Al Brown Oils and dressings that were all packaged up so neatly in a flax kit bag – which John tells me is one from the fishing shop in Scarborough where Dad used to buy all his gear from.   We are more than happy to return for more house sitting duties when required!

Amazing what you can learn

August 15, 2014

Brian & Marj joined us when we were parked at the RSA in Kaitaia and it was here that they asked if we could assist them with a computer problem. They had purchased a new iPad so that Marj would be able to listen to audio books – as she has a degenerative eye disease and can no longer read. They were having some issues with an App they had downloaded which supposedly enabled a book to be read aloud. Whilst looking at their issue and trying to resolve it, we stumbled across the perfect answer, and who would have guessed that it is already a feature of the iPad?

iPads come with an Accessibility function, which once you delve into it, it has all sorts of features from; Voice functions – size, boldness, contrast, reduce motion, read aloud functions etc for the sight impaired, to hearing functions- subtitling and captioning , and even touch sensitivity, click speeds etc for those who need to tweak this feature.

With a little patience, it is really easy to master, for those who wish to know;
Go to Settings,
General
Accessibility > voice over, swipe the button to turn on
At the very bottom of the accessibility page you will see Accessibilty Shortcut button, turn this on and when you click the Home button three times it will automatically start the Voice Over Function when you need it.

Within the Voice Over function you can increase or decrease the speaking rate (I find 15-17% about right), and then choose the language & dialect you prefer, I hate to say it but I find the Australian English easiest on the ear!! There are lots of settings you can play with to alter to suit your needs. There is even a Braille function – not that I have tried that one yet!

Once you have all you settings sorted, triple click the Home button to start Voice over, highlight the item you want with a single tap, i.e. If you want to open a book in your books folder, double tap to open (the voice over function will tell you what to do), then tap the app you wish to open eg iBooks, double tap to open, single tap the book you wish to read to highlight it, then double tap to open, tap on the sentence you wish to start reading then with two fingers swipe downwards for it to commence reading the page from that sentence on. You are now underway. You can use this function for reading your emails, even this blog entry! To turn off the Voice over, triple click the Home button again.

This works with all versions of the iPad. We have iPad versions 1 & 3 and the latest mini iPad, with all of these having the Accessibility function.

I am now enjoying reading my books through my headphones whilst I knit. It takes a little to get used to the voice and of course you do not get the intonations and character individuality but it does not take long to get used to it and for a change it is rather fun and I like being able to do two things at once. Of course for those who really need this function, it must be brilliant and make life so much easier.

We have always enjoyed listening to books. Especially when the kids were young we used to always have a book or three on cassette tape to play in the car on long journeys, we were even known to drive around the block a few times on reaching out destination to finish off a book! Cassettes then became CD’s (all usually borrowed from the local library), and we then progressed to mp3’s of various programmes. Before venturing on trips around the country Roy & I would have a few books or interesting programmes to listen to in the car – saves on inane conversation!!!! Now we have a new toy to play with.

So thank you Brian & Marg for asking the question and we hope you enjoy reading lots of books Marj.

Update and upgrade

August 10, 2014

We are heading northwards, but first a bit of a catchup on things missed from the last entry.
Whilst in Kerikeri, we caught up with Mieke & Graham Apps. Many years ago Graham worked for Roy at Kinleith, and Mieke is a renown fabric artist, weaver, quilter and general very clever lady – you can see some of her work and hand dyed fabrics here. We spent a lovely afternoon catching up with all their news and renewing old friendships, we will definitely catch up again next time we are in Kerikeri.

We stayed at Tokerau Beach for nearly 2 weeks, enjoying the views, the weather and the company. Jim & Judy came and went, Brian & Marj came to stay for a while and we enjoyed their company for many a happy hour. Brian & Marj were the ones who introduced us to the idea of Sunday Brunches – to remind them that it is the end of the week and tomorrow is Monday, with this lifestyle we tend to lose track of days so a Sunday Brunch is a good reminder of the day of the week. So it was lovely to be invited to their bus last week for Sunday brunch – and what an amazing repast awaited us. Pancakes, crispy bacon, grilled banana, caramelised orange slices, blueberries, maple syrup and homemade deliciously thick yoghurt.

IMG_1589.JPG a feast to set us up for the day.

We were running low on water and with little rain due, we decided to head off into Kaitaia on Wednesday. But wouldn’t you know it? In packing up I dropped my iPad, it hit the corner of the metal table leg and cracked the screen. Oh no, what am I to do? Luckily the break is mainly in one corner so I can still use it for reading, although a crack has started to appear across the main part of the screen. Thursday I drove from Kaitaia back to Kerikeri to see about getting a replacement screen. The first sales assistant at the Noel Leeming store told me yes, they could get the screen replaced but it would have to be sent away and would cost approximately $290 plus postage, plus, plus, plus…..so I decided to treat myself to a new iPad but this time a mini iPad, much better for reading as it is much lighter and easier to hold. I chose the iPad, and a cover and was talking to another sales assistant who then informed me of someone local he knew who does the screen replacement for around $130! A quick phone call and yes, she could replace the screen but not until next week. I went ahead with my purchase anyway and will get the old one fixed so either Roy or Antony can inherit it. In the meantime, I am transferring all my books and other data from one machine to the other and enjoying the novelty of a new toy.

We are parked at the RSA in Kaitaia, a large flat parking area close to town and all the amenities we could possibly need. We are making full use of the local library with its free wifi, and I can highly recommend the coffee at the library cafe! We have ordered a new water filter and having it delivered c/- the local Post Office as well as other mail. We are even getting a few other small tasks and jobs done. Things like buying a small handle to attach to the end of the bed base to make lifting it easier to access the storage area underneath, something we have been meaning to do for the past three years! Roy has a bit of work on at the moment so he can quietly get on with it. We have managed to catch up with Beryl, my late sister-in-law Ann’s 93 year old mother, and Ann’s brother Frank and will try and see another brother Donald later. We shall stay here in Kaitaia until Tuesday or Wednesday when we will head out to Matai Bay for a couple of weeks where we have a sneaking suspicion that we may meet up with a few more friends!

And a Happy Birthday to our daughter Alex for yesterday, we look forward to seeing you in October x

Ramp Road, Tokerau beach and a little R&M

August 1, 2014

It was time to leave Kerikeri on Monday, plans were set and we were ready to move on. However, things never quite go to plan or as simply as we would like as we seemed to fluff around for ages. First it was off to the dump station to empty the waste tanks and fill up with water, but the water pressure was soooooo sloooow, it took forever. I left Roy to tend to those matters whilst I nipped into town to; 1. Retrieve a notebook I left at the library 2. Get some cash to pay for the parking 3. Get our copy of the weekly Listener magazine 4. Post off a parcel.

That completed, I then met up with Roy who said we were to go to the local franchise of Carter’s Tyres to get the airbag suspension checked and the tyre pressures checked. A 10 minute job turned into an hour. All went well until the man got to the final tyre, and he could not access the pressure valve as it was hidden by the wheel cover. Try as he might, that damn cover would not come off, after much frustration and use of many tools he finally managed to get it off without a scratch. Finally we could head off. But not quite, first off to the petrol station for some fuel, hook on the car and this time we are off!

We arrived at Ramp Road and parked ourselves along the beach front and set ourselves up in the sun.

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We put out the awning as well as the front and side wind shade which made a huge difference, particularly to the temperature inside the van as the door was now sheltered from the wind. It was whilst we were setting ourselves up that Roy came up with a brilliant idea to stop the slight flapping of the front edge of the wind break. When we got all the pieces from the manufacturer, they gave us the half zip that was left over from making. Roy asked me to get out the sewing machine and sew on ties along the edge. That done, he attached the zip to the one on the front and used the ties to attach it to a centre pole.

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20140729-165856-61136863.jpg a hole drilled into the awning roll to lock the pole into position and we are set.

More tasks on the job list to be ticked off was the cleaning and resealing of joints on the outside of the van. We have a new product to use which seems to be much better than silicone, however, it does tend to be very messy no matter how hard we tried to keep clean. We have black gooey gunk and white gooey gunk ( technical name for Simsons sealant) but first the clean up of the joints, remove old silicone, mask off the area to be done, and get it on as quickly as possible. It turns out we make a pretty damn good team and managed to make a very good job of our first efforts.

20140801-144603-53163889.jpg black sealant around the wheel arch.

We have a long way to go to complete the whole van, but we can do a little at a time and it will soon get finsihed. During this process I accidentally discovered a way of cleaning and whitening the little locker catches, I removed one to have a go at cleaning it up, as part of the cleaning process (which included the use of a toothbrush -shhhh, don’t tell Roy, I’ll put it back when I’ve finished 😉 ) I made up a solution of a nappy soaking product, left the catch soaking in it for a few hours, lo and behold, it’s nicely clean and white!

Another we task completed was how to make the access to the washing machine easier. Those who have followed our blog will remember that we installed the machine into a cupboard, but due to size constraints it was a bit of a tight squeeze to get it in and out – read about it here. On talking with friends Brian & Marj, Marj came up with the suggestion of using some of those thin plastic cutting boards placed on the base to slide the machine out. With a bit more thought and experimenting, we have solved our problem, I chopped up a few of the cutting boards as it just so happened that I have a set of them that I don’t use as I don’t like them – they are not good for my knives. So, cut a couple up, glue to the base board, stick the fluffy side of a Velcro dot onto the feet of the washing machine, and hey presto, the machine now slides in and out easily. Sometimes, it is the simple solution that is the best, thanx Marj for sewing the seed.

20140801-150250-54170980.jpg colourful slides!

And just to make some of you a little envious, this is the view from the door in the mornings.

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This is the (d)awning of …..

June 30, 2014

The new awning is in place plus new side and front windbreaks, as well as a ‘skirt’ which provide us with a nice breeze free area in which to sit especially when the weather is a little inclement. We have been waiting to have the awning replaced for over a year now, observing all sorts of designs and options as well as manufacturers. We kept hearing about a Whangarei business that came highly recommended from a number of people so we were happy to wait until we headed north again.

We took the van into Palmer canvas in Whangarei last Wednesday morning and left it there for two days whilst we took ourselves off to Whakapirau to stay with Jacky & Chris.

We spent a lovely couple of days with them in Whakapirau having a few laughs and the odd rum or two before we headed back into Whangarei on Friday to pick up the van. We were given a demonstration by the lovely staff at Palmers of how everything works and goes together before we headed on our way, hoping that we would remember everything. First stop was at the dump station to empty the waste tanks and fill up with fresh water, that task completed, we headed further out of town before stopping at the petrol station in Tikipunga. We had previously done a recce around Whangarei to find a service station that has auto LPG as well as being easily accessible. But just our luck, a fuel tanker truck complete with large trailer was filling up the stations tanks as we arrived, blocking the entrance/exit for the LPG fill. Oh well, no hurry, we shall wait for him to finish. 15 minutes was all it took before we were on our way again – but not too far though as we needed to hook on the car, a stop at the first convenient rest area was required to enable us to hitch the car to the A-frame and onto the back of the van. We were greeted at the rest area by a flock/herd/brood of chickens.

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We were heading to Whananaki, which is just 35kms from Whangarei and is a delightful DoC camping area right on Otamure Bay. The beach is lined with Pohutakawas which must look stunning at Christmas time when they are in full bloom.

By the time we got to the camp site, it was late afternoon, perfect timing for drinks though as it did not take long for us to set up and settle ourselves in. Saturday morning was time to test out the new awning and to see how easy it is to put together, first the awning – easy – it rolled out as you would expect. Next, we attached the skirts to the side of the van, this stops the wind from funneling through under the van. The skirt attaches very easily via domes which are attached to the base of the van. Next, we slide the front windbreak along the awning roll, we have had this made so it can be placed anywhere along the front. Next, attach the side windbreak, this necessitates sliding one edge up along a channel fitted on the side of the van and hooking the pole through a cleat at the top with the other end of the pole fitting into a holed drilled into the awning roll. This is much easier than it sounds, so much so that even the vertically challenged one can reach up and do this all by herself!!

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We have had just the one side made which can be used at either end in conjunction with the front piece so whichever way the wind is blowing we can quickly and easily move it from one end to the other. Zips join the pieces together and close up the corner, a few pegs along the ground and we are as snug as a bug. What a roaring success it is, we have put our outside table and chairs in one corner with plenty of room to move around.

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It will prove to be very useful throughout the year we are sure. We chose to have large clears put in each section, we had observed other variations where the add-on was very dark, we wanted a nice light area. We also wanted something that we would actually use as we have met a number of motorhomers who having had something made, subsequently rarely use it as it is either too bulky or too difficult to put together. Ours stores away nicely in a bag made for it all plus with materials we have chose it is not heavy or bulky but it is very strong. Who knows, in the winter with the sun streaming in we could grow tomatoes in there!

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What shall we call it…..Conservatory? Loggia? Porch? Enclosure? Verandah? Portico? Stoa? Lanai? Guest wing? Glass house?