This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2012 Travels September to December 2012


In September, friend M departed for two months in Italy, France, England, returning via New York. Her travelling companion was a long time friend whose wife – a great friend of M’s – had last year suddenly died.

Each to her own – I was not at all envious of M’s overseas travel, but took great interest in her emailed bulletins.

John spent a lot of September detailing Truck preparatory to selling it. My contribution was to wash – by hand – the sheepskin seat covers. God, those things are heavy when wet. If I’d thought there were dust remnants of our far-flung travels in the crevices of the van, there were even more in those seat covers. It took a heap of soaking, and about ten changes of the water in the trough to clean them. I could measure the depth of sludge left behind, at the start, with a ruler!

That damned ulcer on my leg kept on being hard to heal, and at times was extremely painful too. Twice weekly trips to our doctor’s practice nurse became times to dread, because of the pain caused by her dressing changes. Eventually, after a few different anti-biotic courses, there was improvement and healing. I even tried applying very expensive manuka honey to the wound – and, boy, did that sting. Much pain for no gain though.

I had researched, online, to try to get an idea of the value of our 1996, well-travelled Defender. John had thought he’d get maybe $7000 for it. He was amazed when I told him to double that! It did have a lot of extras fitted to it, and apparently there was a bit of a cult following for them. Our model was particularly valued because people didn’t want the later version with more complex electronic systems, that could and did go wrong. That really was a pleasant surprise. Also, it seemed that Landrover would soon stop selling Defenders in Australia because their design and structure did not allow them to meet the new safety standards.

Our sixteen year old Defender all spruced up ready to sell

We had nibbles on Truck as soon as I advertised it, in early October, and within a short time our (mostly) trusty old vehicle was on its way to a farm in Tasmania! As with the van, I was sad to see it go. It had taken us to so many wonderful and out-of-the-way places, over the years.

Since coming home from our first Bus trip, I had been researching and considering options that would give us greater mobility when parked up with bus.

In the past, John and I had been rather scathing when we saw motorhomes towing cars behind them – on trailers or their own wheels. We’d made comments along the lines that such travellers might just as well have become caravanners! How wrong was I?

My first thought had been that my little old Holden Barina might be suitable to take away with us. But John did not like my car – it was too low for him and he battled, these days, to get out of it. We had to have a higher car, he said.

We had rejected outright the idea of towing a trailer with a car on – that would have been too much like caravan towing. I did not like the idea of driving on and off a trailer, and could also see parking the trailer in some caravan parks as problematic.

That left what, in motor homing parlance , was called flat towing. And, boy, was that a complex topic to get my head around. To begin, basically the vehicle would have to have manual transmission, for some complicated issue to do with transmission workings in automatics. I took the word of the experts, but John took some convincing, loving automatics as he did.

Then, I discovered the issue of weights and ratios. Sounds complicated? It is. Essentially there are rules to ensure the motor home is not towing a vehicle that is too heavy for proper control, with the gross weights of both vehicles being key. Eventually I got my head around the rules and the maths of it all – not my strongest ability – and discovered that we would be looking for a car no heavier than 1500kg. When I thought about the towing combinations we had seen on the road, it seemed that a lot of motor homers were well outside the legal limits.

The field was limited. Very limited! I’d been secretly thinking that I might get a lovely brand new diesel Grand Vitara out of all this. Not to be – they weighed about 2 tonnes.

Eventually I decided that a Daihatsu Terios was the way to go. Light enough. High enough off the ground for John. Reviews had extolled a surprising capacity for handling challenging roads and terrain, having some sort of differential switch that almost approximated 4 wheel drive. The only catch was that importation of the Terios cars ceased in 2006. So, we would be looking for a used one.

I was then to find that they were a very popular car for flat towing, and thus in considerable demand for a superseded brand.

There were a few advertised for sale. But too many of these had done upwards of 200,000kms. John was also browsing the car sales sites, and liked the description of one he found: 2004 model, only done 45,000kms. Sounded too good to be true. But then, my 1986 Barina had only done 60,000kms in the 25 years that my father and then I had owned it.

There was a catch: the Terios was in Adelaide. Undeterred, John flew there, was very impressed by what he saw; next day had the car checked by an independent mechanic, and bought it.

He then set out to drive it home. By the time all the checking and paper work had been completed, it was into the afternoon before he set off. Via phone, he told me he’d overnight at Keith and hope to get home the next day. But there was no accommodation to be had in Keith. By the time he reached Bordertown and found a motel room, the night time driving qualities of the Terios had been well tested.

The Terios and John reached home the next afternoon. John raved about how lovely it was to drive and insisted that we go straight back out again so I could have a drive of it. He was right – it felt great, but having a narrow wheelbase and being quite tall, it did take some getting used to cornering.

Even better, from John’s viewpoint, it had air conditioning.

We had to get a Victorian roadworthy certificate done – no problems – and then take it to be registered in Victoria. So the little white Terios gained a nice new set of number plates.

It had, apparently, come from Port Augusta, where it had been a town run around for an elderly lady. That location could possibly also help explain its one obvious flaw – someone had keyed along the driver’s side. I’d read somewhere of that being a problem in car parks there.

My Barina was detailed by John – it was not as hard as Truck had been. I did not need to wash its lambswool seat covers because they were put in the Terios. When we turned up at the mechanic’s for the third roadworthy inspection in two months, I think he suspected we were running a used car business on the sly. The car was old, but looked pretty good, and had that low kms reading. It sold and I was happy with the price.

My elderly car ready for sale

The next complexity in all this was what A-frame hitch would we use to tow the Terios behind Bus? There were two main  brands available. I was attracted to the one that was Australian made, initially, but the experience of some users suggested they could be more difficult to use. So, eventually, we bought a Ready Brute. This had the advantage of folding up at the back of the towing vehicle, when parked up – thus being out of the way of being tripped over. Anecdotally, it was easier to hitch up on uneven ground, or if vehicles were not quite exactly aligned – a big plus. There was an accredited fitter fairly locally – another definite plus. He was able to order the hitch for us from the importer, plus whatever bits and pieces would be needed to make it all operational.

The existing tow bar on Bus proved to be too light and was fitted to Terios by the hitch fitter. So the cost of a new tow bar for Bus was added to the already considerable cost of the hitch. There was a base plate specific to the Terios to be fitted, that the hitch fittings would then go on. A brake system cable was part of the kit – operated by inertia somehow, when the towing vehicle slowed down, not directly by the driver. A little red light was fitted on Bus dashboard – this would light up when the Terios brakes were applied while it was being towed – a bit of a fail safe against them locking on.

Something else we hadn’t known when we embarked on all this was that some electrical works were needed to make the 24volt Coaster compatible with the Terios.

At different times, both Bus and Terios went to the hitch fitter for all this work. When all was done, we went in Terios to pick up Bus – and get a hands on demo of how to hitch the two together. It didn’t look too hard. I hoped that wasn’t a famous last thought……

The hitch and associated works ended up costing us nearly as much as the Terios itself.

Terios hitched up to Bus.

Another issue loomed – we would have to find a place that could carry out servicing and any works on the Coaster. I had assumed that a Toyota dealer would do this – but found out that not all service  centres have heavy duty hoists, needed for a vehicle of this size. Our local one did not. But Bus had been serviced just before we bought it, so that problem could wait a while.

By December we were back to having two cars in the carport and one Bus in the parking bay – i.e. normal. The travelling rig was all ready to go again. We did an occasional local drive, to places like Warburton or Healesville, for the sake of giving the bus a run.

Of course, it seemed that, these days, we could not get through the year without things medical and surgical popping up again. Late in November, John had a shoulder reconstruction, not because of an abrupt injury such as had caused mine, but just age-related wear and tear. That necessitated two nights in hospital – a city hospital of course. It couldn’t be the slightly more convenient Epworth Eastern. So I battled the commuter and city traffic for three days. Driving in Melbourne had become such a pain!

Couey fretted for the two nights that John was gone. Guess dogs do not have a “coming back” concept. Of course, she was rapturous when he reappeared.

Dad’s back…..

A few days after this surgery, John woke up and found it hard to breathe. There was pain in his “bad” leg, so his immediate thought was of blood clots – yet again. Because his breathing was so laboured, I called an ambulance and he was taken to Box Hill Hospital. I joined him there and we waited in Emergency – and waited – and waited. Eventually all that showed up was an old hardened area of blood clot behind the knee. At 8pm we left to go home. Not a great day! Episodes of troubled breathing continued and an overnight stay in another city hospital ensued – more commuting for me! No definite diagnosis could be reached, except that maybe the symptoms were due to anxiety about getting blood clots again.

I became the sole household driver again, while John’s shoulder healed. This was hard on us both, particularly because he was never a good passenger. I didn’t take kindly to the constant flow of instructions – turn indicator on, change gear, don’t brake so hard, don’t turn the corner so sharply…..and so on. It would be early January before he started physio.

And so ended 2012…..

Xmas present 2012

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2012 Travels August 24


We both had a sleep in and, surprisingly, dog allowed it. It was still raining steadily.

After dog’s morning ablutions and breakfast for us all, in view of the poor weather forecast, we decided to call it quits and go home. John’s Beechworth idea had not been a great success, though the park would be pleasant in good weather and we filed it away for a return visit.

As usual Couey, who by now was happily going in and out of the parked  Bus, saw our packing up happening. When it was time, she refused to get on. Some peanut butter on a dog biscuit changed her mind. Despite this, we thought she was starting to adapt reasonably well – just as we were finishing the trip!

It was just after midday when we left the park. As we had paid for today at the time of arrival, this was not an issue.

Back to Wangaratta, then down the Hume to Seymour. Stopped twice – once in a roadside rest area to eat lunch, which I’d packed before we left,  but we stayed in our seats to do so. Then a stop at Euroa to fuel up. $1.489 cpl.

From Seymour, followed the usual route to Yea and home via Yarra Glen. The weather stayed grey, cold, gloomy, showery all the way. There was cloud on the hilltops south of Yea.

At home, did what unpacking was necessary – the fridge contents and our technical gear, basically, plus dog’s food and treats.

Bought fish and chips for tea.

The trip hadn’t quite gone as planned, but it was enough to show the potential of travel in Bus. For John, it was so much better to drive than it had been Truck towing the van. Much easier. Both of us had found it much more comfortable than the van, to live in.

However, the trip had also shown up one major problem. It was not convenient to pack up for moving when we needed to shop, or to go sightseeing every day, or even to find a park or oval for dog to have a run. We would have to investigate options for giving us easier mobility.


11 nights.

Accommodation cost: $366.20. (5 nights ensuite sites)

Average per night: just over $33 per night

Chain discounts received: $31.80

Most expensive accommodation: Riverside Caravan Park, Swan Hill (non en suite)

Kms travelled: 945kms

Fuel cost: $203.92.

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2012 Travels August 23


It rained overnight, and then on and off throughout the day.

The ground outside Bus got very muddy – there was no cement slab and it was just rather worn down grass and dirt.

Managed to get the dog some walks by the lake, in between the morning rainy spells.

Late morning, we went for a long walk to the town centre. I wanted to browse in some of the shops, but John was not in a mood to wait while I did so. I was able to buy a large half foccacia and some cold meats for lunch.

The town was where the well known Beechworth Bakery began, back in 1984 – which was incidentally the only other time I had visited Beechworth. We had to go there, of course. Bought a vanilla slice and a bee sting cake, to be our dessert for tonight.

Couey coped alright with having lots of people around her, and with the main street traffic. If nothing else, this trip had been valuable for getting her used to new places and experiences.

Late lunch back at Bus – the bread, cold meats, and cheese. Yum.

The rest of the day was mostly in Bus. It was cold and distinctly miserable looking outside, with the rain. John gamed on the computer; I read the newspaper I’d bought at the shops, embroidered and completed the piece I had been working on.


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2012 Travels August 22


We dawdled around a bit in the morning, so didn’t depart the park until 10.15am.

Holding onto the ball so she can have a rest

John parked up in the main street, near the supermarket. He went in and bought rolls for lunch and a cask of water that I wanted. I was not happy drinking the local water supplies and wasn’t yet confident in the quality of the water from our fresh water tank – although John had filled it at home, didn’t know how long the water already in there had been there.

It was John who went to the shop, because it was easier for him to get out of Bus. Dog had already realized that if I got up to go out, then the door would open and she could get out. There would be barking and jumping at the door and I would have to battle to keep her in, while I got out.

I had envisaged a leisurely drive paralleling the Murray River, maybe as far as Rutherglen for a couple of nights. But no – John was determined to get to Beechworth in one go. Shades of the old days….

So we went via Echuca, Shepparton, Benalla and Wangaratta.

Booked into Lake Sambell Caravan Park – the site ended up costing us $26.10 per night. We booked in for three nights. The lady at Reception asked if I was a CMCA member – I was, so we were given a 10% discount. I had joined the CMCA as soon as we bought Bus – partly for a source of information and partly in order to be able to access their motor home insurance scheme.

Our site was quite wide, though not very deep – but no one was put behind us. The amenities were modern and clean. It was a very attractive looking park.

There was a motorhome parked next to us that looked an interesting one – a Horizon Grevillea. I hadn’t seen one of these before. Not too large. It had a slightly upswept back, so more ground clearance there than we had. That type of motorhome was a cut above the older, converted Coasters like ours – but probably also much more costly…..

After setting up, took Couey for a walk in the parklands that bordered the lake. Here, she could go for a gallop. There wasn’t much of the afternoon left by then, so it was tea, TV and bed.

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2012 Travels August 21


The usual morning routine with dog, then breakfast and pack up.

Couey had been tethered to Bus bull bar whilst we packed up and was clearly unhappy at the signs. When it came time to go, she had decided to stay. Where was the Pyap and its whistle when we needed it? John had to pick her up and lift her into Bus.

We hadn’t hurried the morning routines or the pack up, and left a bit before 10am.

Drove back the way we’d come. I drove Bus for most of the way to Robinvale. Found that I would have liked to have the driver’s seat further back, only by a couple of inches, but its backward travel was stopped by being right up against the wardrobe wall. Guess the guy who had it converted had shorter legs than me. I only really noticed the restriction when having to work the clutch or brakes, the rest of the time it was quite comfortable. The steering was typical Toyota sloppy feeling – like our Hilux had been, and the Troopy at Pungalina.  Otherwise – all good.

I suggested we could do that stay at Robinvale that we’d talked of on the way up, but John wanted to go further today. So we just stopped there  for a short walk and coffee break. Again, Couey needed lifting back into Bus.

Stopped at Swan Hill for fuel and for me to go the Safeway. Diesel was still $1.399 cpl, Bus took 64.14 litres, so I was able to work out that we’d managed a tad over 7kms per litre. That was not too different from the Defender in general use – and better than we’d gotten from that when towing.

I bought a few grocery items. John needed to buy beer. He bought a pie for his lunch and ate it while I was in Safeway. I bought a pull apart loaf. We took the trolley with our purchases back to Bus, unloaded, then John returned the trolley. Somehow, he got in a muddle and left his daypack in the trolley when he returned it. Luckily, I noticed it was missing and asked where it was, and he was able to race back and retrieve it.

The afternoon was getting on a bit, so I ate some of my bread loaf whilst we went along. It would have been nicer with some butter, though!

At Lake Charm had a look around and a drive through its nether regions. We tried a caravan park there that had frontage to the lake – that was an attractive idea. There were lots of permanent establishments there – vans and annexes set up to be holiday homes, mostly. The caretaker was out and there was no one to assist us, so we left and continued on to Kerang.

Booked into the Kerang Caravan Park – $23 a night, The place was central, and there was a park next door where Couey could have a run. However, this was a park with mostly permanent dwellers in a formal, but shabby looking, section. We chose to go to the informal, riverside section. Here, the amenities were dated, but very clean. The river was more like a creek.

Set up at Kerang

Set up. John retired for an afternoon nap. I took Couey for a good run in the park.

Later, because there were no other campers in this section, we played ball games with the dog, near Bus.

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2012 Travels August 20


I did the usual morning routine with Couey.

Was a reply on Facebook from John’s daughter – not a phone call. She would be away all the coming week, for work, and then spending the weekend in Wilcannia to be at the rugby – a recent interest, it seemed.

I told John we would not go to Broken Hill, after all. It would be over a 700km round trip, just to spend a couple of days at the Menindee Lakes. I thought we could slowly progress back along the river and eventually head home again. John suggested a stay at Beechworth – his ancestral home area. I agreed, thinking he meant having a day or two there, after our slow jaunt back along the river.

In the afternoon, walked Couey along the bush track beside the main road and back around the big block formed by Carramar Drive. She picked up a three corner jack in a back paw, yelped, stood still, then stuck out the leg for me to “fix”. Quite comical.

Interesting phenomenon: in our van travels, we had quite often propped in a place for days in a row, without going anywhere, or doing anything except walking, reading, John’s computer game playing, my sewing and writing. But here, I really wanted to go somewhere – anywhere – just because I couldn’t. That really got me thinking some more about this bus based travel and what was starting to seem a real limitation.

Murray River

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2012 Travels August 19


Before breakfast, while John was having his sleep in, I walked Couey along the street again. It was obvious that too many people – locals or those from the caravan park – did not pick up after their dogs.

The bike riders had gone before I got up this morning. We hadn’t heard them go. Bus really was quite sound-proofed.

After breakfast, we walked towards Buronga, to the small IGA supermarket at a service station, probably a bit over a km away. We were able to do most of the walk on tracks a bit distant from the main road. Couey could range a bit in some sections – she was very reliable at not going far from us and immediately coming back when called. She wasn’t happy about crossing the main road with us, though – there were trucks! I almost had to pick her up and carry her.

I was able to buy some salad makings and vegies.

Lunch back at Bus. John took dog across the road where he could throw the ball for her on the wide verge.

I’d have liked to go for a drive into or around Mildura, but John felt it would be too much effort to put in the awning, unhook services and generally get Bus into travel mode. I’m sure Couey was happy!

After tea, John tried to contact daughter. The phone numbers he had no longer worked. In the end, he sent her a message via my Facebook link, saying we would like to travel up to Broken Hill and see her. He asked for a reply by tomorrow, so we could plan our travel. I thought we could combine time in Broken Hill with a stay at the Menindee Lakes, where we hadn’t been before.

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2012 Travels August 18


The day was still cold, but there was less wind and rain.

Before breakfast, I took Couey on a run in the park lands.

Packing up was a bit faster. It really was much easier than it had been with the van.

Couey was not happy again, with the moving Bus, but the anxiety remedy did seem to dull her reactions. It was interesting that she was quite happy to be in the bus when it was in living mode, but upset as soon as she realized it would be moving again. She would totally happily go in and out of Bus, when camped, but once it was all packed up, had to be cajoled with treats to get on board.

We stopped at a servo in town for fuel – with me watching out the side window to make sure the correct nozzle was selected! Diesel was $1.399cpl, 76.4 litres went into the tank for $106.89.

John parked Bus near the servo and I went off to buy papers, and a chilli pull apart loaf that would be for lunch. As I walked away, could hear dog barking…..

We took the Murray Valley Highway. It was pleasant driving, much of it through irrigated farmed land. The road paralleled the Murray River, though only in a few places was it actually close enough to be visible. That made sense – a road too close to the river could flood.

I was forming plans for a future, more extended trip through these parts, that would see us camping in bush sites along the river – away from caravan parks. Given the Driver’s increasing dependence on TV and the recent, hospital-acquired addiction to the computer game World of Warcraft, separating him from plug-in 240volt power might be a dream on my part, though.

We stopped at a rest area in Robinvale for lunch. I was able to easily access butter from the fridge, for our pull apart loaf, and prepare it in Bus. Very convenient. After that, we went for a walk along the main street and bought take away coffees.

As we were driving out again, just before the river bridge, noticed a pleasant looking caravan park on the river bank. We agreed this looked like a town we should come back to for a few days of exploring.

Crossed the river at Robinvale into NSW and continued towards the Mildura area that way. This meant that we came into Gol Gol without having to go right through Mildura first. Much easier.

Booked into Rivergardens Caravan Park, where we had stayed before. This time, our en-suite site was a much better spacious one, across the other side of the park, tucked away by the side road to the river. We paid $33.30 a night, after chain discount. The park had new owners who had only been there for nine months.

Gol Gol camp

After setting up, took Couey for a walk along Carramar Drive, the road with all the lovely homes that front onto the river. There had been a couple of new places built since we were last here in 2010. The road had a really wide, sort-of grassed verge on one side, so dog did some free ranging along there.

Later in the afternoon, a group of motorbike riders moved into the nearby cabins. Then some local bike riders arrived – could tell they were local because they weren’t carrying gear like the first ones. They all congregated for a social event in the camp kitchen. We were a bit concerned that this could become a rowdy Saturday night, but they were not too noisy. About 8.30pm, the local riders departed, and all was quiet. We should not have been so quick to stereotype.

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2012 Travels August 17


It rained for much of the day, and blew a gale. A very cold day.

First thing in the morning, I walked to the shops and had my repeat anti-biotic script filled, and bought some more silver impregnated dressings. Saw some track pants on sale for $6.50 at a menswear store, and also a fleecy zippered jacket for $13.50, so bought both those, to be additions to the cold weather gear to be kept in Bus. Did a small food shop at Coles and got some chicken thighs and sausages. It was becoming obvious, that with the small capacity of the Bus fridge, and no supplementary car fridge, shopping was going to have to be more regular than we had been used to.

In between rain events, we took dog for a couple of park walks, and also walked the other way as far as the Pioneer Settlement.

The riverside Pioneer Settlement dates from the 1960’s, earlier than most other history based theme parks in Victoria. As the name suggests, it shows aspects of life back in the heyday of the river boat era.

The Pyap, which scared Couey a couple of days ago, is moored here, and does short trips along the river, for tourists. It was originally more of a barge than a true paddle steamer, and was used for some years as a travelling general store, along the lower reaches of the Murray.

The Pyap churning up quite a wake

I had never been to the Pioneer Settlement, though John had brought his children here when they were young. We would both have liked to go in and look at the exhibits – but the place did not welcome dogs.

Spent the rest of the day in Bus – it was warm and snug in there.

We were pleased that the awning seemed really sturdy in the wind, though John had taken the precaution of tying down guy ropes on each of the front corners, to anchor it a bit more.

We did some more fiddling with Bus “gadgets”.  Like a kid with a new toy, John turned on the hot water service – on electricity – and it worked. What a luxury – to have hot water for the washing up, instead of boiling a kettle or jug! I played about and got the inbuilt CD player working; this radio/CD player was a separate unit from the similar one at the front that was part of the Bus gear for driving mode.

All of the fitments and additions – like the built in CB radio at the front – appeared to be quality goods. The fitting out of this home on wheels had not been done cheaply.

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2012 Travels August 16


Before breakfast, I took Couey for a walk in the park. She enjoyed that, free ranging a bit, but mostly on lead. Then we transitioned to the streets, going as far as the Information Centre, not that far from the park. I had thoughts of leaving her tied outside and going in to check out some local information – not having expected to be in Swan Hill just yet. But, once we left the park she was very anxious, and kept looking to go back the way we’d come. So I wasn’t game to leave her tied up and go away. Once we got back to the park, she was happier and seemed to already know that the correct morning routine was walk, then breakfast.

Murray River by our camp

John had a good long sleep in. After his breakfast, we walked through the park again – more fun for dog – and then along the main street. Dog seemed slightly happier to be street walking with both of us. John waited outside Safeway with her, whilst I went in and bought a few things we needed. Couey didn’t like that and fretted and whined until I came back. Her pack should stay together!

Had a late lunch back at the van – rolls I’d bought this morning, with some ham, ditto, and cheese.

Bus at Swan Hill camp

There were some rain showers intermittently through the afternoon, so we stayed around Bus. It was  also quite chilly.

When I checked my leg, later in the day, decided that the petrol caused wound was infected and again opening up. Hell and damnation.

The Pyap made an appearance again. This time, dog was safely inside Bus.

Tea was pasta, with tuna, olives, capers tomato sauce.

It rained quite solidly through the night, and was windy. No roof leaks to worry about in Bus – unless one of the roof hatches was left open!