So, as I said in my last post, we have done a few things to get Black Betty a bit more up to scratch. I spent 2 days with my dad (he’s a sparky) “Electify-ing” BB. She did have an anderson cable for charging, but it was 4mm2 cable, she had a battery but it had dropped a cell and was not accepting any charge, and she had 2 ciggy plug outlets but they were wired up with wire as thin as hair, I was not happy plugging in the new BIG fridge into these outlets so we made some changes.
I know Jess has already ‘introduced’ Black Betty but I thought it was time to do it properly…. i.e. Blokey-ly….
So settle in for another one of my monster posts. (I don’t post often, I just post BIG)
First up, Stats:
Make: All Terrain Camper Trailer (ATC)
Model: 17′ Full Off Road with upgraded deluxe kitchen and ‘Moon Roof” otherwise it is bog standard (well, it was….)
No disrespect to Karen Camper, living in her during our big trip was very comfortable, but there were times when we faced a decision whether to take a certain road or not, based on if we felt Karen would make it. Jess and I do not like being limited like that, if we want to go somewhere or do something, then nothing is stopping us.
Enter “Black Betty”
We have come to the very tough decision that we are selling our faithful ‘home away from home’ Karen Camper’.
It was always a given that when we ended our trip we would have to sell ‘Karen’ and down size back to our tent set up or maybe purchase a camper trailer. We drew down on our home loan to purchase Karen and know now that our trip is over that we should sell her and put some $$$ back on our home loan – financially that is the smartest thing to do.
We just won’t get the time off to do another big trip like that again any time soon. Our camping trips now will be weekends and hopefully a few extended week or 2 week adventures. Added to that 4 children would be a very tight squeeze in Karen.
So, big sigh, she is up for reluctant sale. Here are the details as per Matt’s ad on Gumtree;
“Meet Karen the Kamper
Karen has safely and very comfortably carried our Family of 5 most of the way around Australia for the last 4 months.
If you are looking for the “Hardly used” or “Never been offroad” camper Karen is NOT it.
If you want a camper that has canvas and vinyl that is perishing, hardened tyres that have flat spots and shockies seals that have cracked all due to lack of use, Karen is NOT it.
If you want a camper for your ‘Round Oz trip, that has already been round the block 3 times and had all the little modifications made to it to prepare it for some real adventure then Karen IS it.
We are the third owners of this camper, each owner has taken her around Australia and she is still rock solid. Some people say poor Karen has never had a break and had a chance to sit in a shed under a tarp and get rusty, dusty and lonely. I say she has probably seen more of Australia then Burke and Wills.
She has all the things needed for full on long term camping, for example:
1. 180L of water on board
2. Gas hot water system
3. External shower
4. Dual water/fuel Jerry can holders
5. Dual 9kg gas bottles
6. Dual spare tyre carrier
7. Purpose built Generator Box
8. Upgraded wind up mechanism (heaver grade cable, pulleys and casing)
9. Genuine Vehicle Componants DO35v2 off road hitch.
10. Fully independant, low manitainence and easy to source leaf sprung and shock absorber suspension.
11. 4 x Quality Maxxiss Bravo 771 off road tyres (all less then 6 months old)
11. 3-Way Fridge (with 2 Gas bottles you’re talking almost 2 months of cold beer before having to find civilisation)
12. 120Ah deep cycle battery (With the 3 way fridge on gas the only thing the battery runs is the water pump and the lights. We never got below 70% on the battery and that was during 9 days of rain so no solar)
13. Anderson Plug for charging Battery from the car or solar panels
14. Dual Exhaust fans fitted to the rear of the Fridge to help remove excess heat.
Thousands and Thousands of dollars of modifications have been made that really are required if you are serious about going bush for extended periods.
Of course there is the standard features:
1. Queen bed one end and Double bed at the other, table drops down to a bed and the design of the lounge means that one side of the lounge is even another bed (child)
2. Full Size Oven (used, used a lot in fact, why do people always say their ovens are never used?? How do you know if it works?)
3. Griller and 4 burner stove
4. Microwave (actually that was never used because we we very rarely plugged into 240V)
5. Bagged and zipped bed end flys both ends
6. Fiama F45s wind out awning (if anyone tells you you need an full sized annex ask them how many times they actually got the 48 poles and pegs and ropes out to set it up? 20 seconds and the Fiama is out, you are in the shade and your cold beer is open)
7. Fold down table (perfect for road side lunch stops)
8. Pull out external BBQ (perfect for road side lunch stops)
I could go on forever. Simply put, if you are in the planing phase of quitting your jobs and thowing the kids in the car and heading out around Australia then Karen will get you there and back comfortably and with ease.
If maybe you are just after a serious long term camper, for the yearly Xmas/Easter trips but have a nice clean, dry garage Karen can sleep in in the mean time, I’m sure should would love the rest.
Eitherway, if you are even looking at this ad, you know that the older (pre-blue colour scheme) Goldstreams where the ones “made like they used to” so you already know just how rock solid and amazing these campers are and know that she will serve you very very well. Karen is a 2003 model, the last of the Maroon colour scheme.
Oh, almost forgot, She just had her bearings and brakes done. And dont worry, she does look a bit dirty in all these pictures, but she has had a shampoo, wash and blow dry and she is looking schmick-o again.”
This is the link to our ad on GumTree – please feel free to pass on the link or our blog to anyone who is looking for a great camper!
We can honestly say, hand on heart, that she was the perfect camper for our trip. Very easy to set up and pack down and oh so comfortable. We never felt crowded or even like we were ever really roughing it!! And we are happy to report that after we gave her a very good clean and finally removed the several layers of dust she had been wearing, she is still in very good condition after all her Fealy Family Adventuring!
Ok, as promised, a few things that have made life a bit easier that I thought might help a few people out, 12 months behind us in their planning stage.
1. Pocket knife.
I love my pocket knife, I use it at least 10 times a day, on average. And don’t worry about having room in your pocket for it. Before we left I ALWAYS felt like my pockets were full, with my wallet, phone, keys, (and the oodles of cash I normally carry around) etc, but I haven’t seen my wallet for a few weeks, the keys never come out of the car and I haven’t seen my mobile phone since May.
2. Waeco in the car.
We just love the Waeco, but at $1200, and $250 for the slide, it was always going to be a big decision, so when a 2 yr old one with the cover AND slide came up on Gumtree for $600….. $600 very well spent. If we were to do it again though, we would pay the money for the MSA Drop Slide, using the fridge everyday climbing up into the back of the car does get pretty tedious
3. Outback Solutions Rear Drawer System
Again, at $2000 a pop, this was a looooong shot with the accountant. Infact, this was probably my biggest sell. I planted the seed as soon as we bought Peter Prado but Jess just wasn’t up for it, well she would argue that the drawers need to be in the essential kit list now. Again, $600 for an as new set on gumtree pushed us over the edge…. I reckon we would pay the $2000 now though awesome.
4. $40 12volt car charger for the Laptop
Found these on ebay, it is permanently plugged into the back of the car, we unplug the laptop when we arrive, use it all night, and plug it back in the next day, we drive, we arrive, fully charged laptop. I’m not sure if I even know where the proper 240V charger is anymore.
5. $50 Pack of 2 spare Camera batteries and 12V charger.
Same as above, ebay Chinese special. With the original camera battery this gives us 3 batteries, one in the camera, one fully charged in the camera bag, and the last one permanently plugged into 12V plug on the dash of the car. Battery goes flat, it goes on charge, the charged one goes in the bag, the one in the bag goes in the camera, we drive, it charges.
7. 12v chargers for the handheld UHFs
Again, allows us to stay charged with out 240v
6. The gas hot water system in the camper.
Almost every day we say “man I love that hot water system” sure we could boil a kettle, but hot water straight out the tap, in the middle of nowhere…. Cool.
Just for interest sake, the stuff we thought we might need but haven’t.
1. Genie (see above re. Solar panels)
2. Inverter (see above re. 12v chargers)
Look out for Blokey stuff Part. 3 coming soon….. Some truly enthralling statistics on roads, tyres, gear ratios, rpm and fuel economy/prices, wow! I don’t know about you but I can’t wait!
We had a little bit of time after an early set up when we first got to the East MacDonnell Ranges, (posts about our time here still to come!) so we finally got a chance to get some photos of Karen Camper all set up before we messed her all up by living in her (and we had done a little re-organising in Alice Springs). So here are at last some photos of ‘Our Home’ in her most photo worthy state to date, she’s not flash but we love her and she has served us well so far!
I have to say a huge thank you to my Mum who is the very clever one who did all the beautiful crotcheting, the gorgeous bunting,the caterpillar rug which we have all snuggled under during the last few weeks of freezing nights, treat tins, our great floor mats and made our lovely kid’s cushions – we were sooooooo spoilt! There are also lots of other lovely gifts in the photos from our friends and the little bits and pieces really remind us of the wonderful people in our lives and make ‘our home’ all the more, our camper of love! Thank you to you all!! xoxoxoxoxo
Below is just a short video of what the camper actually looks like with us living in it! Now, as the saying goes;
“Although you’ll find our house a mess, come in, sit down, converse. It doesn’t always look like this: Some days its even worse!”
Well for those of you who aren’t in the Facebook loop, you would not yet know that tonight we are back in Tennant Creek after only travelling 60km’s down the road this morning to find the car throwing the same problems (air conditioning goes, dashboard ‘check engine’ lights up, indicators etc go, battery starts losing charge) as the pre, new alternator breakdown. Thank goodness for our RACQ membership (so grateful) as they have now upgraded us to a cabin for the next two nights while the car and camper wait in the queue to get back to see the Auto Electrician tomorrow afternoon.
We’re trying really hard to stay calm and positive about this. I went for a walk this afternoon and did a loop around town trying to work out just exactly what the universe is trying to tell us we need to do here before we can leave. I didn’t come up with anything other than buying a lotto ticket from the newsagency tomorrow morning – cross your fingers for us.
We really don’t know what is wrong with the car/camper – Matt thinks it may be something to do with the Electric Brake Controller/Trailer plug blowing our ignition fuse, which then kills the alternator, which then means the battery dies?? That’s about as much as I can follow. We’re really, really hoping for a quick fix when the auto-electrician can squeeze us in tomorrow afternoon. We are bummed because we were meant to meet Matt’s dad and Rema tonight who have just arrived in Mataranka from Cairns to travel with us for a few weeks – hopefully we will be sitting in the hot spas with them soon!
Matt is forgetting about the day with some ‘man cave’ time and a scary/violent movie I would never sit through, on the iPad. Me – I think I’m just going to ‘blog’ (block) it out and keep the blog posts rolling – we are nearly all up to date again! We’re thinking we might have to give it a go to write a magazine article for one of the camping/camper trailer mags – an attempt to try to mitigate some of the damage the trip budget has suffered, the criteria for the articles is a little daunting though!!
Anyway – to finish, back by popular demand (hehehehe – thanks Lee – a very loyal reader who we haven’t yet even met! No need to instigate the BBFPOTD Facebook Page just yet! ) is favourite part of the day. Let me tell you, Matt and I had to scrape the bottom of the barrell hard for ours tonight!!
Favourite Parts of the Day
Lex – getting back to the swimming pool and having our lunch
Tobes – walking in to the awesome cabin
Jacko – leaving Tennant Creek and then walking in to our new cabin
Jess – getting back on the road this morning and seeing this on the highway ……..
Matt – leaving Tennant Creek
What was your Favourite Part of Today? C’mon ………. join the fun, you know you want to!
PS. Go the mighty Maroons!!
Well Peter Prado is back, and better then ever! Just a quick post to update what happened, how it was fixed and how to avoid it again.
So as you all know, we were pretty sure it was an blown alternator and we were right. Peter now has a new and improved, bigger, better and much much shinier alternator.
Jess was quietly having a go at “pansy” Peter and I was getting some not-so-subtle hints that while our water crossings last week were fun, maybe they were also expensive. Well I’m happy to report, the water crossings were not the culprit, nor was the copious amounts of dust and dirt and sand driving we had been doing…. No, the problem was….. A stray live wire from when the spottie fell off. Yup, a wire from the spottie had come free and made contact with the bull bar a couple of times creating a short each time, eventually burning the regulator in the alternator out. (Not worth fixing)
So, good to know that Peter is not that precious that a few dirt roads and a creek or two hasn’t killed him (Good boy Peter, he might have cut the aircon, and then the indicators, lights and eventually speedo and taco, but he got us all 150mtrs into Tennant Creek before finally giving in, like a valiant steed!) Also good to know that the second your spottie falls off, separate the wires and insulate them immediately.
Thank you all for your encouraging comments, it was a pretty dark day the first day, but we have actually made the most of Tennant Creek and the forced stop, and believe it or not, Jess and I both said tonight how relaxing it has been…… Thanks Peter for forcing us to stop…. Next time though can we keep it under $1000 please!
Ok, enough of the emotional fluff from Jess, time for something really interesting! Modifications to the Prado! Yeah! (To our female readers, this is your queue to switch to your Facebook page and go and ‘like’ people’s pictures of cats and e-harmony cards, or turn on Home and Away). For anyone else, you know the drill…..Matt has had a beer or three and is in the mood to write, I suggest you grab a beer of your own. As a guide, this post took 4 beers to write. Good luck.
So the first modification was to install the brake controller after thankfully learning early on that without it, we were actually illegal, and being we intended to camp every month from the day we purchased Karen Camper to the day we depart for the big trip, we needed that sorted asap. While we would be running cable for the brake controller, we knew we would also need an Anderson plug to allow the car to charge Karen’s batteries while we drive. We also knew that we would need a second fridge, preferably in the car so when we did day trips away from the Camper we would have cold storage (read: beer). Having a fridge in the back of the car meant upgrading the power outlets to the back of the car (to handle the current draw of a fridge) and, unless we wanted to run the risk of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a car that wont start (or worse, warm beer) we would need a second battery set up.
It was clear the first modifications were going to be electrical. Thankfully we play squash with a top bloke who is an auto electrician, and who is very meticulous. So off to Russell from Kedron Car Electrics (07 33594411) to do up a dual battery install with redarc isolator, heavy-duty power outlet in the rear, Anderson plug and while we are at it, throw a few extra power sockets in the second row of seats to charge the iPad and torches.
While Russ was at it, he put in a “Momentary Push Button Battery Switch” which is a fantastic idea.
You see, my ultimate goal when designing this dual battery system was to (try) and ensure that we would never be in a position of not being able to start the car, either because of a flat or broken/failed battery. Also after Stewie and Myra explaining their disappointment of feeling like they had to rush parts of their trip worrying about the car fridge running the starter battery flat, it was priority No.1 to always be able to start the car. So, we still start the car as per normal, but lets say somewhere along the line, the starter battery does go flat or fails or breaks, all we do is hold down the little button on the dash that momentarily switches over to the auxiliary battery to start the car. This way we can recharge the starter, or, continue to start the car until we can get somewhere where we can replace the broken battery….love it, Great Tip Russ. Actually, another great tip from Russ, he ran the heavy-duty power lead for the fridge to the back and into the little compartment for the bottle jack.
1. It is nicely hidden when not in use, but more importantly
2. It is not permanently installed by cutting a hole in some arbitrary place in the plastic trim of the car. Russ left about 3 meters of extra lead on it that just rolls up and hides in the jack compartment, this means it can act pretty much as a 3 meter extension cord for power from the car, be it for the fridge if we wanted to take it out and under a tree during a picnic, or for a light or anything requiring the 12V!
So we installed a 105Amp/hour “Allrounder” battery (not purely deep cycle, so we can start from it, not purely a start battery, so we can deep cycle from it), Russ assured me that it should in most conditions happily run the car fridge for about 4 days without having to start the car or hook up any solar etc.
I tested this theory over (the HOT) Christmas, and he was spot on, at the end of the 4th day, the fridge switched off. For the nerds out there, I had the Waeco set to -1deg (mmmm cold beer) and on the lowest low voltage cut out setting, meaning the battery would have been quite flat, but not totally dead. I had intended to try and start the car from the second battery at this point just to see if it would, but I forgot, bugger. Now I have to spend another 4 days of stringent testing, requiring me to find a way to ‘replicate’ the real world conditions of running the car fridge for 4 days, with regular intervals (say every 30mins) of opening and closing the fridge for, I don’t know, some kind of beverage maybe….. how am I going to do that? Would anyone like to help?
I digress…..so, with the redarc battery system installed, once we start the car it will immediately begin charging the starter battery, once it is fully charged, it will isolate the starter, and begin charging the second battery, and once it is charged, will send all the alternator power to the Anderson plug to charge Karen’s battery.
So with all this done, it was time to think about Modification number 2……hmmmm anyone see what is wrong with this picture?
If anyone makes any comment about me needing to “lay off the pies”…..
As you can imagine, we have spent hours and hours of time on the internet researching (yes – ‘researching’ not procrastinating to avoid folding the washing or to avoid the million and one jobs that actually needed to be done!) places we’d like to visit, joining online groups such as ‘My Swag’ http://www.myswag.org and ‘Prado Point’ http://www.pradopoint.com and pouring over their forums and posting numerous questions hoping for feedback, as well as reading blog after blog written by others who have undertaken trips similar to the Trip Around Oz that we are planning. Oh, and I have joined way too many to mention, Facebook Groups relevant to our trip!!
One blog in particular really stood out to us as being the most informative, easy to follow and totally captivating read that we came across in our hours on the internet, and that is the story of Lyndon, Bec and Charlie’s trip around Australia.
Their blog ‘1 year Off’ can be found here http://www.1yearoff.com.au. It is worth checking out just to see their beautiful photos of many of the amazing places that we are hopefully going to visit on our trip! We aren’t the only ones who think the ‘1 year Off’ blog is pretty great – Bec, Lyndon and Charlie actually won the Explore Australia Road Trippers Hall of Fame competition in 2012!
Anyway – we liked the Blog so much that we decided to get in contact with Lyndon, Bec and Charlie and after a few emails back and forth, Lyndon was kind enough to send through a stack of tips for us that they learnt first hand from their trip around Australia.
And you, our loyal readers – probably all 3 of you – Mum, Dad & Gayel, are lucky enough too that Lyndon has ok’d that we share these tips on our Blog.
So, below is the email we received from Lyndon – we feel very grateful as most of these ideas are ones that we would never have thought of ourselves!!! Thank you Lyndon for taking the time to send them through to us!
Here are a few tips we picked up along the way, you probably have thought about quite a few of them already;
We found a few things very handy that we kept in the car.
- A wrench and spanner to check the wheel nuts on the car and trailer almost daily. The amount of people we met who had lost a wheel all because they didnt check.
- A compass in the glove box, was very handy for when we were lining the trailer up in the campsite so we didn’t face west.
- A small spirit level to ensure the trailer is level.
- Tyre pressure gauge in the glove box. So much easier grabbing it out of the glove box to check the pressure than finding it in the back drawers each time.
- I saw on your last post you were wanting a HF radio, we bought a satellite phone instead, thankfully we never had to use it but it was always there in the front seat in case we did. I entered the Royal Flying Doctors numbers in there for each state.
For the Camper
- If you can fit a heater in, take one as it will be freezing cold in certain parts.
- We took too many clothes, especially tshirts and shorts.
For the Car
- I see you have the bull bar and snorkel as a “want”, see if you can move them up to “essentials”. There is a lot of wildlife on the roads and a bull bar will protect that radiator which means you can hopefully drive away from the accident. A snorkel will keep a lot more dirt out of your air filter than where the current air intake is positioned which is essential on those dirt roads you will be travelling on. If you have a compressor, get an attachment that allows you to easily clean the air filter after a day on the dirt and always carry a spare filter.
- Spare fuses, also spare fuses for the caravan.
- Hide $1000 cash in the car somewhere for emergencies. You never know when eftpos will be down in the middle of nowhere and you need to get fuel.
- Top up on fuel whenever you see fuel in remote areas. When we crossed the Gibb River Road, there were 3 places that sold fuel and only 1 was working. We were even at El Questro for a week and their system was down for that entire time.
- Pack a set of wheel bearings with grease for the car and also your caravan and wrap them up really well so the grease doesnt leak. (If you dont know how to do this, get a mechanic to do it for you). If wheel bearings arent checked they will cease, and even if you dont know how to change them over, at least you have bearings for your outfit and someone will be able to fix it for you. You dont want to be packing the grease in on the road as chances are it will be on a dirt road and grease and dirt dont mix well together…
A few other things I thought of that we took.
- A pack of 20 occy straps from Bunnings, its amazing how many uses they have…
- A pack of 5 small super glue tubes, they come in one pack and at least then you don’t go and use the glue and it has dried up…
- A small tarp had a number of uses, laying it on the ground to get under the car or trailer in the wet or dirt, extra shade etc.
- Spare radiator hoses and fan belts for the car.
- Gloves from supercheap auto, were great for setting up and packing up the trailer.
- Fly and mosquito nets to put over a top of a hat and cover your face. The mosquito ones were very handy in Kakadu as they swarmed there in the evenings.
- A mallet for bashing in pegs (I need to get my index finger reconstructed this year from hitting it at Kings Canyon, it was such hard ground there…) plus very good pegs for your annex, and also sand pegs for places like Ningaloo Station.
- Make sure you get good head lamps as it gets very dark out there.
- We took quite a few other spares also such as battery terminals, wheel nuts and bolts, spare headlight globe, soldering iron, engine oil, diff oil, oil filter, plenty of tools, fencing wire, maxtrax, axe, car recovery kit such as a snatch strap, tree protector, pruning saw etc, a very good first aid kit.”
We are now slowly working our way through these tips to make sure we are as prepared as we can be when we hit the road! We all know that I love a good ‘list’ to tick off!
So, does anybody else have some good advice for us to keep in mind as we get organised over these final few countdown months?? We’d love to hear it!!!