Spotto Makes Cover Of Escapees Magazine

This is just so exciting to share! No, this is not a fancy Photoshop job of Spotto on the face of a magazine.  This is 100% legit!

Just as we were leaving to return to Australia, David was notified that his photo submission from last year was selected for the cover of the Escapees Magazine.  And here it is!

The description:

What is Escapees magazine, you ask?  It is the bimonthly publication sent to members of Escapees RV Club, which is a total support network for all RVers.   We joined in December, 2013, and have been so glad that we did.  A little history about the club: In 1978, Joe and Kay Peterson started a support group called Escapees RV Club to answer a growing need for community among early RVers. The club grew from the original 82 member families to over 10,000, and just kept growing. Today, it offers many services for the RVing community.  These include (taken and paraphrased from the Xscapers website):

RV ADVOCACY
A point of pride for Escapees is their RV Advocacy Coalition. The focus is to alert RVers to potential problems, so they may prepare for changes.  This includes changes to laws in the states of domicile popular with RVers: Texas, South Dakota and Florida. The effects of healthcare reform, drivers license and auto registration rules are all examples of areas of focus for the Advocacy team.

ESCAPEES MAIL SERVICE
Escapees Mail Forwarding Service is the largest private mail service in the nation. We use this and it has been just amazing! With a simple email, I can direct when and where I would like my mail sent.  If I have a question about what is in my mailbox, I can call and one of the exceptional staffers will go through it with me.  There is even a mail scanning service if I were so inclined.

DOMICILE OPTIONS
We use our Escapee mail forwarding address as a legal domicile. We have the freedom to choose between a Texas, South Dakota, or Florida mailing address, but Texas works best for us.

JOB BOARD
There is a job board that came about through the formation of Xscapers (more on that below).  It lists open positions, or allows the upload of ones resume to be reviewed by potential employers.

ENDORSED VENDORS
Escapees partners with the best in the field to offer a comprehensive benefits program. If they don’t directly offer a service, a partner may.  This list includes insurance brokers, roadside assistance, and warranty services.

PARTNERSHIP DISCOUNTS
Valuable RV related service and clubs such as Fulltime Familes, Roadside Assistance, Harvests Hosts and many more offer discounts to Escapees.

PARKING DISCOUNTS
Escapees owns 7 RV parks, referred to as Rainbow Parks. In addition to these, there is a vast network of discount parks across the US, Canada, and Mexico. These parks offer a 15% to 50% discount.

ROUTE PLANNING
To help find these parks, the Escapees Travel Guide is a digital catalog of all of the discount parks, as well as commercial members around the country. The guide is also incorporated their web-based mapping tool, helping one to plan travel routes with ease.

C.A.R.E (Continued Assistance for Retired Escapees)
CARE answers the question, “What happens to full-time RVers when they cannot take care of their own or their spouse’s needs following an illness, injury, surgery, or the progression of a long-term health situation?” From broken bones to Alzheimer’s disease, CARE provides professional help while allowing one to live in a caring community of fellow RVers next to Rainbow’s End in Livingston, Texas.  We visited the CARE facility in April 2014, and saw first-hand what a lovely benefit this is.  Having skilled nursing and assistance while still being able to live in one’s RV is surely a comfort.

CONVERGENCES
Convergences are events provided for the Xscapers community. The atmosphere is conducive for those working on the road. Convergences tend to be scheduled around standard business hours, allowing working RVers to more easily balance work and play.

DISCUSSION FORUM
Want to join the RV community but don’t know where to start? Got a problem and need some help? Want to share your love of RVing with others? Join our friendly and active online RVing community on the Escapees Discussion Forum (www.rvnetwork.com).

COMMUNITY
With a wealth of knowledge and a sense of family, Escapees (SKPs) are always willing to help, or share in their experiences. Whether it is through Discussion Forums or informal get-togethers, a “neighbor” is never far away. 

There are also organized travel adventures, called HOP’s. The Head Out Program program includes coordinated tours, cruises, and adventure-filled outings. Examples include decorating a float for the Rose Parade, or helping with a hot air balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival.

For those looking for a community or social engagement, there are like-interest groups called Birds Of a Feather (BOF’s) to join.  We are members of the Boomers and the Boondockers.  With 35 offically-recognized groups, there is one for everyone!

Additionally, there is a new lifestyle group of Escapees called the Xscapers. There are the “working aged” RVers, who enjoy life on the road while working full or part time.  This group can be considered the “younger” crowd, but there is no age division, and all are welcome to be a part of both groups.

CONVERGENCES
Convergences are events provided for the Xscapers community. The atmosphere is conducive for those working on the road. Convergences tend to be scheduled around standard business hours, allowing working RVers to more easily balance work and play.

So that gives you a great deal of information out the Escapees club.  If you are still looking for more, click here.

As for that lovely picture that David (now the published photographer) took. We were outside of Melbourne on the morning of April 12, and awoke to the loveliest rainbows! This picture brings back such great memories, and we are so proud to share our little Spotto with the RV world.  And kudos to David, who really wanted to have an Escapees cover, and accomplished it on his first try!

What a great way to go full circle.  As of Feb 28, 2017 Spotto is now owned by a lovely Greek couple who will be taking trips around Australia over the next couple of years that they have left on their work contracts. I am sure they will have great adventures just like we did.  Spotto will take good care of them.

I am so glad that we could have this visit!

~ Nancy

Port Macquarie NSW

From Sydney, we headed towards Brisbane, NSW and the Gold Coast.

Our intention was to route through Canberra, the capital of Australia, but we decided to save that for our return trip, since it was more “inland” and we wanted to go along the coastal route as much as possible.

We got a pretty late start out of the caravan park, so our first day was a relatively short one. With the help of our WikiCamps app , The Rock Roadhouse was chosen as our free, overnight stop.  We were the first of the van dwellers to arrive for the night, but were soon joined by many.  Upon arrival, most chose a respectable distance between vans, and all was good in the world until about 11 pm when a rental van of three girls from Germany decided to park between us and our neighbor, and proceeded to open and close their doors and speak at full volume for at least the next hour.  Even in RV living, or camping, we have all had THAT neighbor once in a while.

Vans At Rock Roadhouse

Yes, that is a gas station/restaurant that has been made to look like Uluru. Hence the name “The Rock” Roadhouse.

After a quick breakfast, we headed to the Seal Rocks lighthouse to see what we could see.

Seal Rocks Lighthouse
Seal Rocks Lighthouse

On the walk up the very steep path, we took a break to let others pass:

It's just not a hike without a reptile in our path
It’s just not a hike without a reptile in our path

The views were stunning:

From the Lighthouse
From the Lighthouse

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Back on the road and heading up the coast, we came upon a lovely beachfront town by the name of Port Macquarie.  It had numerous free camping opportunities, as well as a reasonably-priced caravan park.  There were surfing beaches and hiking trails listed as points of interest, so that it became our first real stop for the state of New South Wales.

Here is what Town Beach looked like upon our arrival:

Town Beach at Sunset
Town Beach at Sunset

The first night, which was really supposed to be the only night, was spent in a parking lot along – you guessed it – by the river, next to a hotel.  It was quiet, and had public restrooms just a quick 3 minute walk away.  There were two or three other backpacker vans, and we were treated to an evening show of flying foxes heading out for a hunt.  There seemed to be thousands of them, and David tried to get a picture with his camera on the night vision setting:

Flying Foxes - Nightvision
Flying Foxes – Night vision

Here is what they look like during the day –

Flying Fox Port Macquarie
Flying Fox Port Macquarie

That is a picture I pulled from the internet, as I did not seek them out during the day. Suffice it to say that they are very large, and there is a plentiful colony that lives in a nature reserve in Port Macquarie.  The night show was impressive.

The weather in Port Macquarie is magnificent! One would not suspect it is late Fall, with the water so lovely and inviting, and the days around 80-85 degrees F.

We expected this to be an overnight stop, but the beach and town were just so lovely, that we spent the next 6 days lounging around, hiking, getting caught up on library wifi, and generally feeling like we were really on vacation, or “holiday” as they call it here.

The town is really cute and has a little something for everyone – major chain grocery stores and a mall, a lovely library with free internet, a modern art center that doubles as a visitor center, boutique shops and day spas, as well as numerous ice cream and coffee shops.  The jewel in the crown was the magnificent beaches and walking trails. All of this was within walking distance of our overnight parking places.

One could see why this is the home of the Australian Ironman competition, which unknown to us, was completed the day before our arrival.  The competitors cleared out by our day 3, and we felt as if we had the town and beaches to ourselves.  The township of Port Macquarie was established in 1821, with many buildings from that time still intact.

As Port Macquarie became our home for 6 nights, between the great caravan park and the urban camping friendly parking lots, we averaged $7.60 AUD/night.  Of course, that does not factor in our daily shared $5 AUD soy decaf flat whites.  Yes, David has not only stopped giving me grief about drinking coffee, but I am sharing my drinks with him.  It is a change in attitude I can live with!

Some of the highlights of our time here:

  • The Town Beach and an ocean that I actually went wading into, multiple times. (I don’t swim, and rarely go into bodies of water, so this was really meaningful to me. I even got knocked down by a wave, but got back up and still played some more:
Port Macquarie View
Port Macquarie View
  • The Koala Hospital and the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail were both sources of entertainment. The Koala Hospital allowed us an up-close look at the care and rehabilitation of sick and injured koalas.  It is the only facility of its kind in the world, and is run by donation and volunteers.  The Sculpture Trail comprised of 50 unique koala sculptures placed in various places around town and the outlying area.  These sculptures were created to celebrate the largest coastal koala population on the east coast of Australia.  While I did not go about seeking these out, I took a snap of each one that I encountered along my way:
Koala Trail
Koala Trail
  • The Coastal Walk from Town Beach to Lighthouse Beach was a doozy through beaches for all kinds from surfing to fishing to dog-friendly to naked, with a rainforest canopy and a goanna sighting at a birthday party! The reward for hiking 10 kilometers across beaches and through rainforest paths: steps to the lighthouse!
Tacking Point Lighthouse
Tacking Point Lighthouse

On our final morning in “Port”, we shared Town Beach with our mothers, as we called them to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day.  One last look:

Mother’s Day beach photo
Mother’s Day beach photo

It’s been two weeks since we have seen Hannah, and I am ready to invade her space again.  We probably won’t take more than 3 days to get back to Melbourne; at least that is my hope.

It’s always a G’day Down Under,

Nancy

Sydney

We arrived in Sydney on a Sunday afternoon, and expected traffic to be less hectic.  Along that same thought, we headed to famous Bondi Beach. After paying $7/hr for parking, we walked around, took some pictures, and wondered what all the fuss was about.  I guess we are a little jaded, or maybe because the beach wasn’t filled with sunbathers and merry makers, but we just didn’t see the draw.  It felt excessively touristy, but we did find the pool at the edge of the beach a neat touch:

Lap ool at the beach
Lap pool at the beach

It took us over an hour to get out of the city and into our caravan park. It was so nice to be parked in a lovely site at Lane Cove River Tourist Park. The park staff was very helpful at check-in, the amenities blocks were clean and plentiful, and we were given a nice site with lots of room. The park was quiet, while also providing free internet access in the game/TV room.  For $37 a night, it was a bargain for the location alone.  Everything else was icing on the cake.

We headed into Sydney on the train the next morning.  Thank you, Alex and Sarah (previous owners of Spotto) for the Opal card with credit on it! We will pass these on to Hannah to use up the balance when we leave. The trip took about 30 minutes, and it was a relief not having to deal with traffic, parking, etc.

A free walking tour of Sydney started at 9:00 a.m., so we joined it.  Our tour guide, Lydia, grew up in Sydney, and had historical tales and secret passages to share with us.  The tour was 3 hours in length, but we left it halfway through, as we were near the Harbor at that point, and wanted to go at a quicker pace than the tour.  But we would recommend it to future Sydney visitors, as it is a great way to learn about the city.

Here are some of the places we visited:

Birdsongs
The Forgotten Songs art piece

Forgotten Songs was an alley art installation. “Forgotten Songs commemorates the songs of fifty birds once heard in central Sydney, before they were gradually forced out by European settlement. The calls, which filter down from the canopy of birdcages suspended above Angel Place, change as day shifts to night; the daytime birds’ songs disappearing with the sun, and those of the nocturnal birds, which inhabited the area, sounding into the evening.” If there weren’t so many people talking as we walked through, we would have really enjoyed it.  And we tried to find this on our way back to the train station, but could not locate it.

Seal of Australia
Coat of Arms of Australia

A little tidbit about the Coat of Arms of Australia: the two animals, the kangaroo and the emu, apparently cannot walk backwards.  Well, that is what our tour guide told us!

Of course, we visited the Sydney Opera House.  One can’t miss it coming over the bridge on the train, and it was a major part of our visit.

Opera House Selfie
Opera House Selfie
View from afar
View from afar

One can’t really see the size when viewing it from across the water.

Getting Closer
Getting Closer

But once upon it,

An Entrance Door
An Entrance Door

It is clear that it is many pieces.

Here is an up-close view of the outer shell of tiles whose reflection makes the buildings shine:

Tiles
Tiles

It was a beautiful day and we walked all over the downtown and harbor area.  On our way back to the train, we spotted these fellows enjoying a game of chess:

Park Game
Park Game

Now that we have experienced Sydney, we are pretty much finished with going into downtown areas for awhile.  The highlights of the day were the meandering walks through the botanical gardens and the trek around the harbor and around the opera house.  The lowlights were definitely the search for vegan food (we ended up with veggie sushi) and the packed malls.

We are now off to the Gold Coast, in search of some sun and white sand beaches.

It’s always a G’day Down Under,

Nancy

Unexpected Sites on the Road to Sydney

We decided that while Hannah recovers from her torn plantar fascia injury, we will transform from parents to explorers in a van, and really make the most of our time in Australia.  We set our sights on Sydney, a mere 1,000 kilometers to the northeast.

One our first day out, we came upon a town by the name of “Stratford on the Avon”.  Since David (and the other Keane’s, including his father Harold) grew up in Stratford, Connecticut, we decided that this was a must-see.  We were not disappointed.

This Stratford has an art walk, complete with an audio guide, an MP3 player, and a speaker, all available for pickup at the local theater.

Here is the Globe, the first stop on the art tour:

Stratfords Of The World
Stratfords Of The World

And the marker for Connecticut:

Bonus Points if you can name this helicopter maker

Here are some of the art pieces along the 1 hour walk:

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It was great to spontaneously take part in the tour of the town, and we were invited back for the weekend Shakespeare Birthday celebration that is apparently the highlight of the year.  We weren’t sure how far down the road we would be, but kept it as an option.

That night, we had a truly beautiful free camp site thanks to the town of Metung at the Chinaman’s Creek park.  Here is the view that awaited us in the morning:

Metung
Metung

Our next destination was Raymond Island to go on the Koala Walk.  A short ferry trip:

Ferry across the inlet
Ferry across the inlet

And we were on Raymond Island, following the Koala Walk.  Koalas were introduced to this island in 1953 when Australians were concerned that the population was dwindling. The koalas that live on this island are very used to people, and are not spooked by the many walkers and photographers that come over on the ferry to take the short 1.5 km walk. As you can see here, David was able to get very close to his subjects:

David Keane, Wildlife Photographer
David Keane, Wildlife Photographer

Here are some of the special koalas we spotted on our hike around the island

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In addition to the koalas, we spotted many birds

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And about the birds on the main photo: these are the Tawny Frogmouth.  What we first thought was just the top of an old tree, came to light upon closer inspection.  They were very well camouflaged! We thought they were maybe owls, but a little research and we discovered their true identity.

A first time sighting for us
A first time sighting for us

On the ferry back to the mainland, we spotted many jellyfish, and had fun trying to get a good shot. Not the most cooperative photo subjects!

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So Jelly
So Jelly

Our next two days were pretty much just travel and find a pretty place to stop for the night.

First, along the famous Snowy River:

No Sign of The Man From Snowy River
No Sign of The Man From Snowy River

And then in the town of Genoa, where the town provides a superb free campground:

The Chicken Whisperer
The Chicken Whisperer

We stopped in the little town of Tathra, NSW were we came across the cutest coffee shop/bakery  called “The Wharf Locavore” and treated ourselves to a cup of tea before we tackled a little hike.

Just look at how cute this place is:

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And the tea:

Fresh Lemon Verbena
Fresh Lemon Verbena

Yes, I could have stayed there all afternoon with those views and the tempting pastries.  But, we are just hours away from our Sydney-area destination, and we must move on.

It’s always a G’day Down Under,

Nancy

Spotto’s Electrical System

The Electrical Layout

The following describes Spotto’s electrical system as far as I know.  I’m sure there are aspects of the system that I missed or don’t know about so please cut me some slack.  Thanks.

Spotto has two 12 volt batteries.  The first is a regular car-starting lead acid battery that lives under the driver seat.  This battery is sealed so I don’t need to add water – thank goodness.  The second battery (house battery) is an AGM Deep Cycle battery.  It’s also sealed and is an Exide MSDC24 92Ah 20hr.  The starter battery – does just that – it starts Spotto.  The house battery powers all the lights, the inverter, the USB port, the water pump and the refrigerator.  There are two banks of three switches,  there is a volt meter to check battery level, a USB port and an outlet powered by the inverter.  The inverter is a 300 watt pure sign wave inverter that lives behind the head of the driver seat.

Electrical Diagram
This sheet was left by the original (French) electrical system designer.

 

The Switches

The first bank of three switches (left side) control the following from top switch going down:

  • 1. Dome light close to cab
  • 2. Dome light above bed
  • 3. Refrigerator.

The second bank of three switches (right side) control the following from top switch going down:

  • 1. Inverter
  • 2. USB Outlet
  • 3. Not used – until now!

I converted one of the unused switches so that I could cut power to the refrigerator at night right before we go to bed.  Previously I had to get up, open the slider and go out to the back of the van, open the rear door and push the off button on the fridge itself.  The fridge isn’t accessible from the inside of the van.  A real hassle when you are about to fall asleep.  We have to turn the fridge off at night because unfortunately the house battery does not produce enough Amp Hours (without being charged) to keep the fridge running that long.

Switches and Outlet
The Power Bank

The Charging System

As normal, the van’s starter battery is charged by the alternator.  The house battery is connected to the starter battery via a Dual Battery Isolator.  It is also charged when the van runs – same as the starter battery.  I also purchased a portable 120 watt solar charger that I hook up when it’s sunny and we are not moving.  I connect it directly to the house battery so only that battery gets charged.  The portable unit comes with a built in PWM solar charge controller as opposed to an MPPT controller.  A PWM controller is usually better for small systems.  Finally, we have a voltmeter with a toggle switch to check the current voltage of each battery.

Voltmeter with Toggle
The Volt Meter

 

House Battery with Isolator 2
The House battery and The Isolator

In this photo: the house battery and, in the back, the Isolator. This battery lives on the floor below our cabinets directly behind the drivers seat. Notice our spare 25 liter water tank to the right.

Spotto Charging
Spot Charging Her House Battery

No Worries,

David

Spotto’s Water System

Spotto has a simple fresh water system built into her kitchen.  It consists on a 40 liter container with a bottom brass fitting and a clear plastic hose connector to a small 12 volt electric pump.  The pump pulls the water from the tank and pushes it through the faucet.   The drain water is collected in a removable aluminum bowl set into the kitchen countertop.  There is no drain.  Drainage is performed by manually “picking up the aluminum bowl and tossing the water”.  Like I said – it’s all very simple.  The hardest part is refilling the 40 liter container which lives under the bed.  I fill it with another 40 liter container that I keep next to the house battery compartment or from a couple 10 liter bottles we use for drinking water.  I use a funnel to pour from one container to the other.

The only problem we have is that the pump loses its prime.  There is an air leak that I can’t find so I solved the problem another way.  I added another clear plastic tube to the top (fill point) of the 40 liter container.  To re-prime, all you need do is blow into the tube.  This adds pressure into the tank and forces some water into the line between the tank and the pump.  This clear plastic pipe is easily accessible under the bed just behind the kitchen counter.

Spotto Sink
Sink and Faucet. The switch next to the faucet activates the water pump. The faucet is adjustable and swivels.
Water Pump
Sink and Faucet. The switch next to the faucet activates the water pump. The faucet is adjustable and swivels.
40 Liter Tank
Sink and Faucet. The switch next to the faucet activates the water pump. The faucet is adjustable and swivels.

No Worries,

David

Spotto’s Kitchen

Spotto has a built in kitchen in the back.  Most of it is only accessible via the rear hatch door.  From the inside we can get to the counter top but that’s about it.  The kitchen has a sink with an electric water pump that pulls water from a 40 liter tank that lives under the bed (see post on Spotto’s Water System).  There is a 14 liter Waeco Thermo Coolpro Cooler that works on 12 or 24 volt DC.  The kitchen itself slides out about two feet from the back of the van.  Two small wooden pegs hold the kitchen in place.  When the pegs are removed the whole thing slides out on two roller tracks.  Also, the Cooler/Fridge slides out on it’s own tracks.  There is ample storage for dishes, utensils, spices and such.  We have a portable propane single burner cook top.  The propane canisters used by the cooktop are easily purchased in most grocery stores.  The canisters are not cheap but they are simple to use and very convenient.

The van also came with another one burner propane stove that sits upon a 1lb propane tank.  We’ve never used it but it’s a good back up.  The counter top space it quite large and has worked great for us.  It’s really nice that the tail gate door opens upward and protects you from rain while working in the kitchen.  The only issue we’ve really had has been the wind blowing out the cook top flame.  We’ve learned to point Spotto into the wind when we know we will need to cook.  This way the cooktop doesn’t get wind whipped and go out.

 

Kitchen 1
Kitchen when retracted.
Kitchen 3
Kitchen when retracted.
Kitchen 2
Kitchen when retracted.
Kitchen 4
Kitchen when retracted.

No Worries,

David

Spotto

We purchased a 2004 KIA Pregio Campervan on April 7, 2016 in Melbourne, Victoria.  The previous owners named it “Chookie”.  We changed her name to “Spotto” after the game (you can Google it).  Since Spotto is brilliant yellow,  she appeared to be quite clean.  It was a deception.  As the song goes, “we were blinded by the light”.  After we took ownership and were able to look at her closely, we realized that she was very, very dirty.  So, it was off to the car wash for three hours of scrubbing.  We were even warned by the car wash owner that we were not supposed to hand wash our vehicle.  Alas – she took pity on us and let us continue to hand wash when she saw all the dirt we were scrubbing away.  Or, was she just happy that we kept putting dollars in the machine to power wash the van 7 times between hand scrubbing?  Whatever the case we “gott’er done”.  Next, we hit the vacuum station and sucked out a few kilos of dust and stuff.  Spotto was beginning to look a bit better.

We got her home and I began to apply “Nu Finish” liquid car polish.  If you apply it carefully it will clean and polish all at once.  It’s not really a wax but it works like wax.  I’ve been using it for several years and really like the results.  Spotto was looking great now.  Any water that touches her paint just beads right up.

Spotto Clean
Spotto in St. Albans

To finish up with the exterior I still had some fine tuning to do.  I purchased a small can for high gloss black paint and painted the rear bumper bar.  It was crusty and rusted even if I can’t figure out what it’s purpose is.  The high gloss paint worked wonders.  I also did some touch up on the front bumper where some wires rubbed the black paint off.  Finally I scraped off the company logo sticker on the “Roo” Bar.  I hate stickers.

Next, it was on to the interior.  The inside really was filthy.  Again, a cursory look and you would think it just fine.  A closer look turns up dust, grime, stains and muck.  The worst was the driver’s seatbelt.  It was supposed to be silver but it was brown.  It also weighed about 2 kilos  – seatbelts don’t weigh anything, what’s up with that?  My first inclination was to order a new one.  When I checked the cost I changed my mind and decided to tackle cleaning it some how.  I tried several cleaners and nothing worked.  I went to an auto parts store and bought a cleaner they said cleans everything (like Totally Awesome).  It was called “Disol”.  It didn’t work.  I was about to give up when Nancy said, “try a degreaser”.  So we bought some degreaser at the local home store and Nancy went to work on that belt.  It’s now just about the cleanest thing in the van!

I started with the front driver door and just soaked everything in the cab with cleaner and scrubbed and scrubbed.  Most of the grime came out.  The seats were a mess so we decided just to buy some cheap “one size fits all” seat covers.  Unfortunately the passenger seat is a dual person bench so only the seat back portion of the cover fit.  I cut it away and then cut the bottom cover so it would at least cover the passenger’s butt.

Spotto Backside
Spotto in Alice Springs, NT

There are some switches on the dashboard and some lights I’m not sure what the heck they are for.  I couldn’t find any explanation online, nor could I find an owner’s manual.  One dial I figured out increases/decreases the engine idle speed (handy).  There are all kinds of symbols that light up when I start the van.  Oh, about starting the van – before I can start it I need to press the “Immobilizer” button on the fob (this is a thing that all cars registered in the state of Western Australia need to have).  I then have about five seconds to turn the key just far enough until the dash lights come on.  Then I have to wait (sometimes up to five seconds) for this one particular light to go off.  Then I can turn the key to start the van.  The previous owner explained to me that since it was a diesel it had “glow plugs” instead of spark plugs.  Before you turned the key in the ignition the “glow plugs” had to warm up.  Well, okay.  I just know that if I wait too long, then I have to start the whole stupid process over by pressing the button on the “immobilizer”.  Yes, this is all really odd but then heck, they drive on the freaking left side of the road here so why the heck can’t they have an “immobilizer” and a car you can’t just turn the key to start.  The emblem of the light that I need to wait for kind of looks like a rams head with the curled horns.  What this has to do with “glow plugs” I’ll never know.

There is one more switch I can’t wait to use.  If you noticed in the pictures the van has this huge aluminum pipe thing going on in the front of the van.  That’s what’s called the “Roo” bar.  No one has told me exactly why it’s called a “Roo” bar but I suspect it’s for when those fuzzy guys bounce out to try and meet Spotto while she’s going 100 kph down the highway.  It will keep the windshield and Spotto’s occupants clean.  Anyway, attached to the “Roo” bar is this big, hunking spotlight.  Again, although I see them on lots of vans I really don’t know it’s purpose unless it’s used to really piss-off some oncoming driver by flicking it on just as they get to you.  Or maybe it’s the ultimate revenge for the driver coming at you with their high beams on.  “Here you go buddy – you think your high beams are bad take a look at this!”

Spotto in Marla
Spotto in Marla, SA

Now that the inside and outside was relatively clean, we switched our focus to the mechanical aspects and to the interior living quarters.  The first thing I did was to check all the fluid levels.  Then I checked those filters that I could – air filter and cabin filter.  The air filter was dirty so I replaced it.  The cabin filter had completely disintegrated. Finding a replacement was a challenge and even after contacting the KIA dealer I was out of luck.  It was time to think outside the box.  I still had the plastic frame of the filter which  was grid like .  I just didn’t have the filter material which used to be between the grids.  It was off to the hardware store.  We found a “Bunnings” which is the Australian version of “Home Depot”.  I tried to think of what I could use as filter material.  Something that was thin enough that I could cut to the right size.  The first thing I thought of was furnace filter material.  I went right up to an older gentleman worker and asked where the furnace filters were.  I instantly knew something was wrong when his eyes bugged out and he took a step backwards and reiterated my words, “furnace filters”?  He then asked, “what are you doing with a furnace”?  I asked “what do you mean”?  He said, “furnaces are only used to cremate people”.  “Was I going to cremate someone”?  I said, “no I wasn’t cremating anyone – I just want to know where the furnace filters are”.  I asked him, “don’t people have furnaces in their houses for heating”?.  “Furnaces are only at Crematories” he said.  I could tell this conversation wasn’t going well.  I then explained what I was looking for and he said, “there is nothing like that in this store”.  Ok, this is a store the size of Home Depot with all of it’s thousands of products.  There has to be something I can use for a filter material.  I obviously freaked out this gentleman and he just wanted me gone.  So – I moved on and finally settled for some synthetic steal wool that was thin enough to cut and stiff enough to stay upright in the filter opening.  As I learned later – this did not work very well.  I will have to come up with another solution.

Spotto with a View
Spotto in Yambuk, VIC

I called the KIA dealer to make an appointment for oil, oil filter and fuel filter change.  I also wanted a general check over of everything.  They quoted me a ridiculous price of $440.00.  Wow, I knew some things were expensive in AU but that was too much.  I didn’t make the appointment.  I stopped in a local Kmart auto service center where they mostly do new tires but also general auto servicing.  I realized Spotto didn’t need to have her fuel filter changed – just oil and oil filter and the general going over.  They quoted me $160 AUD.  That was more reasonable.  I had the work done and they said everything checked out except she needed a couple taillight bulbs and new windshield wiper blades.  I said, “go for it”.  The total bill was $206 AUD and she was basically good to go.  There was one final mechanical thing I wanted to check before we headed to the interior bush – that was the air conditioning.  I made an appointment with a radiator place that the mechanic at Kmart recommended.

The next morning at the radiator shop they took a look at the A/C.  They said it was bad.  To get it to work they would need to replace the A/C radiator (fins were all bent), the compressor and possibly the A/C control panel.  The guy said it would probably cost more than the van was worth.  He suggested one of those 12 volt fans for the cab.  I asked him how much I owed him for spending the hour and a half and he said, “just take it and have a great holiday”.  I thanked him profusely.

Finally we did a bit of shopping and picked up an emergency porta-potty (it looks a little like this “Luggable Loo” ) and a few odds and ends for the kitchen.  “Spotto” was now ready to “road trip”.

Spotto Outback
Spotto in Kings Canyon, NT

 

And that is the clean scoop on Spotto!

No Worries,

David

 

And The Winner Is…

 

Spotto!

The above picture was sent to Hannah via Snapchat by one of her teammates who had “spotted” the van in the parking lot just after we purchased it.  Thanks, Amy!

David has a little story to tell that he will add as another post, but we decided to go with the bright, happy yellow van that was owned by Alex and Sarah, a French couple who spent 7 months touring Australia.  We have named the van “Spotto” because of a game played here (maybe elsewhere), much like Slug Bug, where one calls out “Spotto” when they spot a yellow vehicle.  Of course, there are rules: can’t be a taxi or a work vehicle, you must be in a vehicle when you call it – you get the idea.  We basically see people pointing and smiling at us all day – in a good way. It is not because we keep using the windshield wipers as turn indicators or leave the blinkers on too long.

The process of purchasing a vehicle got a tad complicated.  A wire transfer from the US to the seller’s Aussie bank account, completing title and registration paperwork, getting auto insurance, and then actually cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning.  It took us a good week to get to the point where we felt comfortable taking it out for a tour.

David washed and waxed the outside, and took it to a mechanic to have some things checked out.  We probably should have done this before we bought it, since this is how we found out the air conditioner really didn’t work, and the cost to fix it will likely exceed the value of the van.  The interior was mine to clean.  It is understandable that the cover of the futon would need a solid bleaching, and we were lucky that our rental accommodations had a wash machine at our disposal.  It took a few wash cycles, but finally, I had the cover looking and smelling fresh.  A comforter and a set of pillows went straight to the rubbish bin, and we weeded through some of the kitchen supplies too.

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Happy Man and Happy Van

I failed miserably when it came to cleaning the curtains.  I put them through a nice, hot wash.  And they melted together is a big, sticky pile.  As I tried to peel them apart, the plastic backing, which was not apparent when I put them in the wash, tore away from the material and caused huge holes in the backing.  I will absolutely need to replace these now.  Here is what they look like until then.  This view is from the inside:

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The blackout lining separated from the curtain – and is sticky!

Life just isn’t right for us unless we have solar power, so David found a solar panel dealer and we picked up some portable panels – enough to charge the second battery that will keep the cooler cold and our laptops charging.

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Sunning Himself and Getting Charged Up

I originally felt that I had rented the Airbnb studio for one week too many, and was really itching to get exploring, but in the end, it was good to have the home base while we worked to have the van road worthy.  It will now be our home away from RV home until June 1.

David took advantage of the unlimited internet access to plan our first couple of destinations and parking places.

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And Away We Go!

G’Day from Down Under,

Nancy