Saturday, 29 July 2017

Te Awamutu

I’ve been polishing up my pool skills while staying in the Waipa Workingmans Club (1805) car park in Te Awamutu. Let’s not talk about the fact that Dave is still thrashing me. 

Apart from the traffic noise, it’s been a great place to stay while sorting out things for Mum. She moved into a rest home last month and there was a lot to do sorting out her house and getting it ready to sell. 

Also, with all the travelling, I was struggling to find enough time to keep on top of my work (still working for Willow and I have a couple of proofreading jobs on the go). So we thought it would be great to just hunker down for a while, and this spot, close to the middle of town, fits the bill nicely. I can’t say that it’s stunningly picturesque, but it’s nice enough, and it’s free! Heaps of space here and no mud trekking into the rig! For most nights we were the only travellers parked up there, and they told us we could stay as long as we liked. So we did. 

One day, Dave was backing up beside the rig, and I was watching the reversing camera. The fence was getting closer and closer. "Stop", I said. "Stop! STOP!" 

He calls it "precision backing" with the towbar between the fence palings. I call it extremely good luck.

It’s interesting that on our second night here we both felt that we were finally starting to relax. It’s probably also a good sign that travelling every day is NOT a good plan, especially when we both have jobs that require some hours at the computer. The other day I was contemplating opening the laptop as we were driving along . . . but no, maybe not.

We’ve enjoyed some walks with Lucy along the river and around town although it was freezing cold during a cold snap that swept across NZ. I’ve decided the middle of the day while the sun is shining is the best time to walk during winter, but it’s still cold enough to need a beanie. Lucy’s not complaining . . . as far as she’s concerned, a walk is a walk! And she’s game for one of those at any time in any weather condition. This is her and Davein the distance. No time to mess around waiting for me to take a photo.

The mattress in our rig has been proving a bit challenging in that it’s just too firm for me. We looked around for a new mattress, but apart from the fact that the size we needed would necessitate a custom-made one (just a wee bit shorter than a queen size), we soon realised it would not be possible to manoeuvre a lovely soft mattress through the door of our rig and into place 😢. A latex mattress (bendy) was another option, but too expensive (especially a custom-made one) and far too heavy! It was clear we would need to resort to toppers. 

We purchased a beautiful feather topper and although it helped somewhat, (I slept better than I have since I’ve been in the rigexhaustion helps?), I was still sore and aching in the morning. Perhaps a foam topper pad may be the answer. Positioned between the mattress and the feather topper. I must say, Homeward in Te Awamutu have been incredibly patient and helpful trying to solve our problem, and there is room for any motorhome/rig to pull in there and turn around at the back of their building. We were able to take things out of their store and try them out on our own mattress. Great service!

We eventually purchased a topper pad (one of those egg carton looking ones) from our friends at Payless Products in Hamilton and they kindly cut it to the exact size we needed. More great service. And great prices!

We ended up staying in the Waipa Workingmens Club car park for a couple of weeks.  A great place—but there’s no power here and we discovered that off grid in winter is not so simple, even when you do have the occasional gloriously sunny day. The solar just can’t hack the pace. We have two solar panels installed and an extra battery, but apparently this is not enough in the winter.  All learning experiences. 

While we were there, during our walks with Lucy, we discovered . . .

 This was at the Millennium Sculpture Park

"Sounds"can you see the drums, harp, etc?

And at the Rose Gardens

Next we moved onto a farm just six to seven minutes out of Te Awamutu on Cambridge Road for a week (CAP 1796 for any NZMCA members). Power, shower and toilet provided—all for just $20/night. 

There are a lot of horses on this farm; we were told they are due to start foaling next week, and there are 50 odd due to foal this season! Unfortunately we will miss seeing any of the new babies. However, apart from the top of heads from over the hedge, we never really saw the horses. These were our neighbours:

The sunsets were lovely while we were there.

They lit up the surroundings beautifully.

We had a few wet days.

And some foggy mornings.

But it was a fabulous place to stay, and there was this beautiful fully laden orange tree. 

We went to leave on the Saturday morning and our satellite dish on top of the rig would not come down. It's an automatic one, and when you push a button, it folds flat for travelling. Push the button when you arrive and it sets up and automatically finds the signal. Magic! When it works. 

I read up the troubleshooting page in the manual, and we got on the phone and the internet looking for answers, but had no luck. We're just not able to travel with that sticking up in the air, so we were stuck.Three beeps told me it was trying hard, but no go.

We were told we should get up onto the roof and check it out, but we needed a ladder to do that. The lovely lady who owns the place, Lesley, came home in the afternoon, and we were eventually able to borrow one from her.

< Dave didn't think to take a photo of me climbing up on top of the rig, thank goodness. > 

A gentle wiggle of the dish while Dave pushed the button inside the rig reminded it what it was meant to do, and the Sat Dish then completed its swivel and folded flat. Yah! But too late in the day now to travel to Taranaki. It’s not nice arriving and setting up in the dark. 

Oh well, it’s another day tomorrow. And the lovely Lesley would not let us pay for the extra night. Bless her.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Hitch

Many of you have been asking how the hitch works: how we connect up and tow the fifth wheeler. So this is an attempt to explain the hitching process—an explanation from a newbie who also has no mechanical expertise whatsoever . . . . 

Dave is the official backer-upper and I’m the one who tells him what to do (of course). A friend suggested we purchase a set of walkie talkies, which saves the neighbours from having to listen to me shouting at Dave. So we did. And they work really well! We got them on special at Super Cheap Auto for $47.99. They have a range of up to three kilometres, depending on the terrain, so no doubt could come in handy at other times as well.

The Hitch:
Back in March when we first got our Ranger ute, we took it to On the Way RV in Mt Maunganui for 2-3 days and they bolted a couple of bars (base rails) through the tray. Although the rest of the hitch can be removed reasonably easily and you can use the tray, these rails are pretty permanent. They lie across the tray, running from side to side. Another two arch-like pieces sit over them (running from front to back) and then the hitch connects on top. On the very top is a large flat plate shaped a bit like a horseshoe.

Note the lovely, clean, empty tray! It doesn't last, as you will see soon.

The hitch has a bar coming out the side (called a shank or hitch handle) and this pulls the jaws in the centre part of the horseshoe open or shut. The jaws are the part that close and hold onto the kingpin, which is a round steel pin that is under the gooseneck of the fifth wheeler (see second photo below).

Wikipedia tells me, “The term fifth wheel comes from a similar coupling used on four-wheel horse-drawn carriages and wagons. The device allowed the front axle assembly to pivot in the horizontal plane, to facilitate turning”. 

You can see the jaws (closed) in the centre top of this photo below.

When hitching, the round plate above the kingpin slides over the flat plate on top of the hitch and the kingpin slides into the horseshoe opening. The hitch moves and tips forward a bit, which allows the kingpin to slide in and up onto the skid plate. Note in the pic (four above) the hitch is tipped forward slightly. It straightens up as the rig slides on. 

This is a close up of the kingpin from underneath and shows the round white plate that helps it all slide onto the hitch.

Lining it up . . . 

As it connects, the kingpin forces the jaws open, then they close shut behind it, holding the kingpin in place.

Sorry, not the best photo of everything in place, but I tried to lighten it so you could see the jaws. It's pretty dark looking in to check that the jaws have closed around the kingpin. We have pulled out the torch in the pastnothing like being absolutely sure!

You then flip a small bail (aka handle latch) over on the shank (aka hitch handle), preventing it from pulling out (which would open the jaws and release the kingpin).

 Latch/bail off:

Latch/bail on: 

After hitching up, the power, light and brake cables are attached . . . 

. . . and also the safety cable—that's the little silver cord dangling down that connects on to something on the tray so that if we ever became unattached (horrors), it would pull the pin and the automatic brake on the rig would come on. We're taking their word on thisnot planning on testing that anytime soon ever.

Next step, the legs come up. We retract them using a button in the side hatch until they lift up off the ground and the weight is on the hitch, then they are manually raised the rest of the way. There is a pin through each leg that comes out; you lift them up, and then put the pins back in.

The last job after you've closed the hatches and everything is ready to roll is to take the handbrake off. That's the red lever in the photo above.

I added a photo of us parked in the Waipa Workingmen's Club car park in Te Awamutu so you can see where the legs and kingpin are in relation to the whole rig.

Hope that all made sense! Let me know if you have any questions, but I can't promise to know the answer.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Lucy at the Beach

During our brief stay at Mount Maunganui, we introduced Lucy to the sand and surf for the first time. We found that dogs are allowed to run free on much of the beach. Heaven! Lucy loved it.

It was such a pleasure to see her bounce around, running back and forth checking out the water.

She’s never liked being IN the water, and this day was no exception. She managed to keep her toes dry, skipping out of reach each time the tide crept in towards her. Very entertaining.

Dogs are allowed to run free on the Mt Maunganui Ocean Beach from Rabbit Island (Motuotau Island) towards Papamoa, but not within 200m either side of the Omanu or Papamoa Surf Clubs. That’s a lot of sand!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Our first night in our new rig (Wednesday 28 June) was spent at Papamoa Beach Resort—a fabulous motor camp with lovely staff, and the amenities I saw were modern and spotless. We arrived late at night and fortunately had some friendly neighbours assist with plenty of parking advice, as we had rather a tight spot to manoeuvre into. We just thought, “It is what it is”, and got on with it. Found out in the morning as we were about to leave that we were really too large for that spot and would probably have been better off in another lane. Well, Dave managed to get us in and out of there, so we figure any others will be a breeze! Next time, we’ll ask for a site with a sea view as apparently they are more spacious.

We spent the evening unpacking and finding places for things to live. Although the camp ground is right on the beach, we never even saw the beach. It was over the hill. I fell into bed exhausted that night.

Then we were up and off the next morning. We had quite a tight schedule, mostly due to delays in picking up the rig. I was still driving the Citroen—we’d held onto this as it transported most of our gear we needed to pack into the rig. We went straight to my brother’s farm where our container is stored in Arohena (near Arapuni, east of Te Awamutu). I led the way in the Citroen and felt like I was towing the Ranger and the rig myself! Probably more nervous than Dave, driving down some of those tight country roads willing oncoming traffic to “Get outta the way—move over!”

We parked on Grant & Pam’s tanker track but were having problems getting our fridge to work on gas. Fortunately, we were able to plug into their power and thus save our frozen food.

As soon as we were set up, we took the Citroen in to the car auction place in Hamilton where we left it with them to sell. We had an appraisal done on Mum’s car as well before dropping it back to TA, then headed back to the farm in Grant’s ute. Another full day.

The next day we were flat out busy transporting “stuff” between the rig and the container . . . final decision time. "Do we need this? No! Can we fit this in!?" I'm sure I've made some bad choices, but we can always come back.

We were back on the road again after lunch, down to family in Inglewood, arriving just after dark. Our granddaughter’s birthday was on the Sunday. Fourteen 8 to 9-year-old children make a lot of noise! Note the doughnut theme.

Monday we moved on to Stratford, where our friends, Garth and Helen, laid out the red brown carpet for us. I must have begun to relax as I’d started to take photos again.

We felt very welcome and although we were a little apprehensive about getting down their drive, it went without any problems. Once unhitched, (still no fridge on gas), we hooked into their power supply and then found our satellite dish and the gas heater were not working. We eventually managed to get the satellite dish going again after unplugging everything to force a reset.

A couple of nights earlier, our battery had started to tick. This was more obvious at night-time with it situated at the foot of our bed. Dave described it as “Chinese water torture”, and did not sleep at all well. No sleep = one grumpy bear in the morning! The next night, following advice, we switched it off. This caused a beep from another monitor but that noise was further from the bedroom and could be ignored more easily. We switched it on again in the morning, but the problem remained.

The next morning (now Tuesday), all our lights went off. The water pump died at the same time. It wasn’t long after that we made the decision to travel back to Mount Maunganui to where we bought the rig to have all these issues addressed. We’d been in touch with On The Way RV (OTWRV) all this time, and as there were a number of issues, they advised us to come back and let them find out what was causing all the problems. I’d also discovered a small leak under the kitchen sink. So we packed up and set off. “Are we having fun yet?” was beginning to become the catchcry of the week.

The gas man walked into our rig within five minutes of our arrival at OTWRV and pronounced the fridge and heater both working well. Grrr!!

Then the electrical guy discovered the battery was not charging. Apparently, during assembly, some fuse thingy parts were not put on tight enough and had been moving around. The end result was that our battery was not charging and so, of course, we eventually ran out of power. Lots of things I don’t understand, (not being an electrician), but it seems the gas needs power to ignite and this could have been causing the issues with the fridge and the heater as well. With the long drive over, the battery had charged up sufficiently from the truck (Ranger/Ute) battery for the fridge and heater to work when the gas guy tried it. I don’t know why it would charge up off the tow vehicle but not the solar or the 24v power connection. It’s a mystery to me. But I have to admit, I’ve learned a lot over the past week and know quite a bit more about these things than I did before we moved into the rig. Sadly, I’m still no expert.

Facing an evening without lights as the battery would not have charged up fast enough, OTWRV sent us to a motel just across from the harbour. A lovely relaxing hot shower was bliss! 

This was the view across the road from our motel.