Earlier in the year……
We had realized, back on our extended trip, that we did not really have enough solar power capacity to run the fridge and lights for an extended period.
When we had the van built, in 1997, and even now, solar power installations in caravans and motorhomes were a novelty, very new on the scene, and there were few people who seemed to know much about the field.
Now, John had become fixated upon being able to run a breadmaking machine, when we were not on external, 240v power. My research had suggested that these draw too much power to be feasible for operating via an inverter, but…..
John contacted J – the “expert” in 12v solar systems for caravans – who had installed our initial solar panel. He, of course, agreed with John that it could be done!
So, early in the year, after being serviced at Trakmaster, J collected the van and took it off to his factory in Alphington, to have another solar panel fitted on the roof (as J advised), a second battery and an inverter installed, and associated other bits and pieces fitted.
Truck also got some attention, with new batteries being put into that. This was done by J at the Trakmaster factory.
The work on the van was only supposed to take a couple of weeks to be done – in amongst other jobs – but we became increasingly uneasy when we had heard nothing, after some 5 weeks. On the phone, John was assured that the van was almost ready! It took a few more weeks, and another couple of phone calls, but eventually J arranged to deliver the van back to us.
He duly arrived – in teeming rain – with the door to the battery compartment swinging open and the van door likewise – only held from totally swinging open by the hook. I also noticed that the poptop holders were not fastened down, but fortunately the weight of it had kept it down! I was quite horrified by this slackness.
We had previously heard, at great length, about J’s woes because his wife had gone off with his best friend and how he wasn’t coping well with this. Looked to me like the not coping might have extended to his business as well.
We went into the van to get a demonstration of how the new system worked. It didn’t! No 12v power at all. J protested that it had all been working alright at the factory – it had been tested. He wanted to immediately take the van back to his factory. No way was I letting him have it again.
After some messing around, he thought that the batteries had not been charged, and that leaving the van plugged in to 240v power overnight, would see everything working tomorrow. So much for his “factory testing”.
All up, we were to fork out some $3,700 for the work on the van and Truck.
John went out and bought a Panasonic bread maker, that was supposed to have the lowest current draw of those on the market.
I’d turned my attention to finding a house sitter to live in, look after the cats, mow the lawns, forward our mail. I was not really sure how to go about finding someone reliable, then happened to see an ad in the Age newspaper, put in by a lady looking to house sit. A phone call gave me the information that L was in her 30’s, had given up a career in finance to go to Uni, where she was studying Fine Arts, and that she hoped to continue on and complete a Masters degree. Obviously, she needed to conserve funds, hence the house sitting.
We arranged that she would come and meet in person, and also inspect the place. We liked her, she liked the set up – and the cats. John and I had already decided that we would make the three back bedrooms and bathroom available for a sitter – to enable them to settle in well for the five or six months that we envisaged being away.
All settled – L would move in just before we planned to leave, and receive all her final instructions then.