THE REST OF 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…..