Good bye to a much loved Caravan

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 14:43

Member-Heather MG NSW

Yesterday we handed over our much loved Jayco Sterling Outback to new owners...a lovely couple similar in age to ourselves from Sydney. I think it is true to say that neither of us realised just how sad and strange we would feel to see it being towed away...out of our lives.... when we don't as yet have a replacement to take its place in our yard. On the upside...in our front yard we now have filtered water views and the possibility that the big bare patch of dirt will have a chance to grow grass before we take delivery of our next van in mid December.

We had owned the 'Glyde Inn' for almost 4 1/2 years and together had been on a big learning curve and some wonderful adventures and journeys.
At 18 ft long,it was the shortest model available and contained just the basics for comfortable travel...a corner ensuite, big 2 door fridge/freezer, air conditioning, full oven plus the usual and was a big step up from our even shorter and far more basic Pop top. We happened to be in Nowra having a boat loader fitted to the roof racks of our car and had a few hours to kill when we came across it...the first Outback model we had seen. We were not aware that the compressor Waeco fridge was not standard on this model and realised afterwards that it must have been a special order but when I negotiated the deal, we had a solar panel (64watts) included to keep the battery charged. Afterwards, I went home and started investigating the power requirements of these fridges and before we took delivery, we added a second 100 amp battery which we hoped might be adequate for our needs. (We had realised that we loved getting off the beaten track and bush camping the best.)

There was a short trip in adverse (wet, cool and cloudy) weather conditions when we realised we needed to add another solar panel so returned the van to the RV place to have it fitted.

Our first lengthy trip was to Queensland in the winter of 2008 when we were ignorant as to the workings of batteries, solar and the appetite of a big two door compressor fridge/ freezer.
(by now we had two 100 amp batteries and 128 watts of solar).
It wasn't all bad though.... I discovered ExplorOz when I went in search of information online and it was the start of a valuable and enjoyable relationship which has seen me become a lifetime member.

I joined as a a visitor, participated in the forum and asked pertinent questions to which knowlegeable and generous people responded. Before too long I was a member, writing a blog which outlined the problems we encountered while trying to keep the fridge and the rest of our van functioning; the trauma of having to buy a generator and then stay in places where we were able to run it; to not be able to stay in National Park campgrounds as we had so hoped....
Hopefully that blog has since helped like minded travellers to set up their rigs before setting out and they have been able to avoid some of the problems which we encountered.
On our return we made a decision...to get rid of the compressor fridge and replace it with a 3 Way. It solved all of our our problems although it was quite an expensive exercise! We no longer had to monitor the level of batteries as after only a few hours of daylight they were usually full or very close to full every day.

Our solar panels and batteries, extra 12 v points and other small additions have been instrumental in allowing us to enjoy some wonderful trips on many, many hundreds of dirt roads and tracks...often to places where owners of Jayco Outbacks probably think are inaccessible.

On that memorable first trip we also decided to take the van to Adel's Grove, discovering that some parts around the wheel arches required some serious attention to dust proofing!
(When we got there we were one of only a couple of vans which were not truly 'Off road vans'.)
We bought a couple of tubes of selastic in Mount Isa and before applying it, spent a few hours scrubbing and cleaning the van.

With careful driving and reduced tyre pressure, rear window protected by cardboard and home made stone guards, we have traversed the Oodnadatta track, Mereenie loop, and, a number of times now, driven the Diamantina Development Road and connecting roads in the far SW corner of Queensland.
On our trip on the Oodnadatta Track, we sustained a tiny crack in a water outlet hose beneath the corner ensuite and the dust turned our decor from white to terracotta red! It was annoying but apart from extensive cleaning, required only small and inexpensive repairs to make it better than new!

Some of our favourite camps have been on outback waterways.....Cooper Creek...near Windorah and at the Dig tree near Innamincka, and on the Wilson River near Noccundra. Others at bush camps along outback roads with a campfire and meal enjoyed in solitude watching the sun sink behind a perfectly flat horizon and be replaced by millions of stars.
I am currently undertaking a series of pastel 'campfire' drawings from photographs taken.

I am in love with the red earth and the landforms of the arid parts of this wonderful country and the plants, birds and animals which inhabit them...a love i suspect is not always shared by my husband!

This last Winter our route saw us take a road signposted as '4WD Only Dry Weather Track' from near Warri Gate to the Dig Tree through Orientos and Santos Stations. Having only re opened recently after rain, it was an adventurous drive towing a van which weighed just under 2400kgs and we met a few pretty amazed people who stopped to talk to us about it!
We also stayed in some beautiful Western NSW National Parks....Mungo, Mutawintji and Sturt and enjoyed the great amenities and walks provided in these.

We have also been across the Nullabor to WA although have not yet managed to see the Kimberley or the northern part of the Northern Territory...perhaps when we have ironed out any small glitches in the new van we will get there next year! And another goal is to do the Great Central Road..

There have been a number of trips to Queensland, as far north as Cooktown, to Chillagoe, and across to Karumba...with each one I try to choose roads and routes previously untravelled by us, regardless of whether they are sealed or not.

In the first few months of 2011 we caught the ferry and had 8 wonderful weeks in Tasmania, seeing extraordinarily beautiful scenery, climbing to the summit of Cradle Mountain, Mt Roland, Hartz Peal, Mt Field and any other peaks which presented themselves.....enjoying a mix of powered and unpowered sites and meeting another friendly ExplorOz member and his wife.

We have enjoyed repeated short trips to visit family on the North Coast, and to Mallacoota in Victoria where we were able to stay in the unpowered waterfront sites for weeks on end because of the features of the van. The solar kept the batteries topped up and we could use any amount of lighting, watch TV and run my laptop, radio and iPod player, use the water pump and any other 12v items we wanted for as long as we needed.

Because we no longer have a caravan, rather than cancel our booking, we will be packing the big tent and going back to a more basic form of camping for a fortnight in Mallacoota very soon. It will make us appreciate the comforts of our new van all the more when we take delivery in mid December! We are hoping the weather will be kind to us and the rain and gale force winds stay away!

And yes...our new van is yet another Jayco...this time a 20 foot Outback Starcraft... to which we have added all the options and more which come standard on the Sterling model. Once again it will have 2 batteries, a 120 watt solar panel, Ibis Air Command air conditioner, big TV/DVD player and radio/music player, extra 12 v points plus a couple of extras such as a drop down table on the exterior which we were thinking of adding to the Sterling before we decided to sell.
It will be our 4th Jayco and big enough to accommodate one or both of our small grandchildren for short stays occasionally. Their mum, one of our twin daughters, has been diagnosed with a very rare painful and little known genetic illness called erythromelalgia (sometimes called burning feet syndrome) and if and when another acute attack hits her, we will have to take over much of the care of the children until she recovers and can resume normal life. We had a period from August to almost December in 2011 when I was placed in the caretaker role of 'mum' to an 18 month old and a 3 year old......so that their dad could continue to work while Mum was hospitalised. It was a very traumatic time and we realised then that having a van which could accommodate the children would be very helpful.

I can't wait until 'Glyde Inn 2nd' is filling that empty space in our front yard and we are packing it to set out on new adventures! Ordering a Stone Stomper stone guard will be one of the first jobs on our list to help protect the Aluminium cladding from stone damage. We also intend spending time dust proofing the van and adding protection to any pipes, hoses and electrical cables underneath. We are so much wiser than when we took delivery of the Sterling.

Our tow vehicle is limited to 180 kg tow ball weight if the laden weight is more than 2 1/2 tonne so a Sterling would have been too close to the limit for us to feel comfortable, although it would have been our first choice. We hope the Starcraft does not disappoint but we at least have the comfort of knowing there is a big network of help and great Warranty from the company if/when we experience any glitches!

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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