The Travels of Mouse: three time’s the charm

Hello again, Mouse here.

It has not been a trip of unalloyed delight so far. (I dunno, I just write what he tells me – Mum). We got away on time and seem to have brought everything we need as far as the Staff can tell. However, that is where the story starts to go wrong. At a distance too far to turn around, we discovered while refuelling that the Anderson plug connecting the caravan to the car (which powers the fridge/freezer containing supplies of MY food) had pulled out due to being a bit too short, trailed on the ground and been stripped down to its metal contacts by the friction of the road. Much language ensued. It was Sunday and we were nowhere near anything that could fix it for us, but we found a service station that sold electrical tape, and Dad got to work. Mum says it’s called MacGyvering.

He found a connector cord we had for one of the car fridges, which had an Anderson plug at one end. He spliced in this cord and plug, removing the car fridge connector at the other end. There was a lot of electrical tape and not a few cable ties involved, but it held until the next major city 300+km away, where he was able to buy proper connectors with shrink sleeves. It was quite impressive!

We got to our first camp site, Tannum Sands, at a reasonable hour.  This is where Mum managed to hurt her sore paw for the third time in as many weeks. Some lazy camper had left a tent peg in the ground because they couldn’t pull it out. Instead of hammering it all the way in to make it safe, they left the hooky bit sticking out and pointing up. It had gone rusty and couldn’t be seen against the browns and greens of the bush floor. So of course, she caught the sticky-out toe of the Boot on it, went flying and landed face first in the dirt. I was a Very Good Boy and stayed put to guard her, and some people came to help because they saw what had happened. One man was on crutches, and said he’d pull the hook out with a crutch, but sadly only succeeded in bending it slightly… I like Tannum, it’s quiet, it’s got lovely smelly bushland all around it, some really good places to walk, and Mum says so long as you wear your insect repellant, the sandflies won’t eat you alive aren’t too much of a bother.

The third and final upset was caused by the satnav. It kept adding time to our projected arrival time at the next stop. Dad was getting very worried that we wouldn’t get here before dark. Mum was a bit dubious, and did a cross-check with Google Maps. Satnav said arrive 7pm. Google Maps said 3.30pm. We reprogrammed the satnav. Turns out Google Maps was right! We’d been rushing like crazy, hadn’t stopped for anything except fuel and grabbing a sandwich, oh, and letting Me out for, ahem, “some fresh air”, for them, not me (that would be right, Mr Fluffbum – Mum). Turns out we could have taken our time a bit more, stopped for lunch, (not driven past several perfectly good pie stops – Mum), etc.

So, now that we’ve got the bad luck in threes out of the way, it’s time to enjoy ourselves. This holiday park is lovely! It’s the Gold Coast BIG4 at Helensvale, and while it’s right by the Gold Coast theme parks, you’d think you were in the heart of the country. There’s bushland, a huge fenced play park for doggos, lots of different types of accommodation from luxury cabins to unpowered tent sites, a water park and pool (with a movie screen!), a riverside walk, an activity centre where they do everything from colouring sessions for small humans to daiquiri tastings for large humans, plus it’s convenient for shopping for groceries. Normally, Mum says, we wouldn’t stay here. Going south, it’s too far from the previous stop. Coming home, it’s not far enough, making the next stage too long. But if you’re looking for somewhere friendly, attractive, well maintained and perfectly placed for family holidays, this would be it. The en suite bathrooms are lovely, the landscaping is immaculate, the staff are super-friendly and helpful and so far, all the campers and their doggos have been really nice.

It’s apparently going to be a ‘lazy day’ with not too much activity planned. I will be snoozing and getting my usual levels of public admiration from passers-by, Dad will be able to sit and paw at his plank in the shade, and Mum will cut fabric squares and hopefully avoid any further damage to that paw or any other paw.

Hopefully….

Travel trinkets

We’re off on our travels again soon.

This trip has been planned and anticipated for months and months, and we’ve come to realise that in the future, we’ll want to do a lot more trips with Miz Lizzie the caravan. We needed to reconsider our towing vehicle. We have a very nice modern car we love, with lots of useful features, excellent fuel economy and a very enjoyable driving experience. But it’s not really up to the job of pulling the caravan very long distances. It gets the job done, but long term it will suffer excessive wear and tear. We’re sad to see it go, but we’re selling it. Instead of doing what most people in our position do, replacing it with a new and enormous ‘tank’ with a vast and thirsty engine and multiple gizmos, we have bought a 12 year old workhorse.

I like the idea of recycling a perfectly good older vehicle, which has several benefits: there are scratches, dings and fading paintwork, so I’ll never worry again about putting a scratch on its gleaming surface; it comes already fitted with a number of things we’d have wanted anyway; it’s affordable (and so are parts!), despite being a much more powerful and roomy vehicle than we’re used to, and finally, it feels cosy and safe despite its size, unlike many new cars which are sleek, complex and intimidating. It has been looked after, and we will continue to look after it, so I hope to enjoy driving it for many years. Oh, and I love being higher up, with greatly improved visibility and larger windows.

Meet Bill. He’s a Hyundai Terracan, a 2.9L CRDi, with 7 seats and already set up for caravan towing. He’s capable of hauling 2 tonnes. We’ll be taking out the rear 2 seats to give ourselves an enormous cargo space. He’s tall, with excellent visibility, proper 4WD and chunky tyres. But there are three important things he doesn’t have. The first is satnav, a very, very useful thing in this enormous country of vast distances and poor signage. The second is a reversing camera. The car is nearly 5 metres long, and the driving seat is a very long way from the towbar… And the third thing is Bluetooth hands-free for our phones.

Hence the trinkets. We’ve bought a Garmin satnav after days and days of research, and it seems pleasantly easy to use and intuitive, plus it has Bluetooth built-in so it enables us to use our mobile phones hands free, safely and legally. The other trinket is a replacement rear-view mirror with a built-in display for a reversing camera and a forward-facing dashcam on its back. We can reverse safely, and also record our front and back views in case of accident.  The mirror is enormous, about 25cm (10 inches), so we get an excellent view too.

Naturally, I’ve made a little pouch for the Garmin. Well, you didn’t really think I could resist, did you? The Garmin’s not built in so it’ll need to be removed from the car when we leave it.

I’ve put a sheet of tough vinyl between the layers on the front of the pouch to protect the screen from damage by sharp poky objects, and the whole pouch is padded and quilted to give it a better chance of survival when I inevitably drop it.

Because there may be times when we need to get at it with one hand, I’ve made a button and elastic loop closure; no fiddling with a zip or buttonholes. Don’t you love the way the button matches the fabric? And that ribbon is just perfect; I got it from the lovely Annett in Germany as part of a package of goodies – this is absolutely the right place to use it.

And the car’s name? The Husband is responsible for that. Terracan -> Billycan* -> Bill. It’s a very good name for the car, who’s definitely a bloke 🙂

*For non-Aussies, a billycan is an essential feature of Australian outback camping, used for making tea and cooking over a fire of gum leaves and wood. Perfect for our Bill and the life he’s going to lead.