August 2014 – It’s HERE!

Wednesday 6th August 2014:

On Monday 4th August, we were all organised to pick up the van – except for one part, the cashola!  I popped down to the bank, only to be reminded that Murphy is alive! It was bank holiday. And so, because we couldn’t bump the allocated time slot for the hand-over, we still drove the 24 km out to Jayco at Heatherbrae, had our 1 hr instruction session from ‘lounge-suit Larry’, received the idiotic set of seven (7), yes SEVEN individual keys for the van, as well as the instructions and useless 3 1/2 minute DVD, and trundled home. Today was now the big day. We popped back out to Jayco, returning nervously, and with much muttering and unsolicited passenger advice with our new baby in tow.

Incredulously, after school pickup, both boys ran straight past the van (parked imposingly out the front), and straight into the house! To their credit, once they actually noticed the van, they were both very excited! Of course the first question was “can we sleep in it tonight?”.

June 2014

Wednesday 18th June 2014:

In the first week of June we finalised the options list for the Jayco van. Very exciting. Apart from the Alko Electronic Stability Control, all we’re adding on is the Fiama twin bike rack, external table, dual tank water tanks and level gauge and second gas bottle. We considered the Jayco stereo options (a.k.a ‘wroughts’), but the cheapest option for a low quality (and I mean an eBay Chinese special for $65) MP3 player and 2 cruddy speakers was $400, and the dearest option, that played DVD’s and had four speakers, was $1300! I bought a ‘JBL Charge’ portable Bluetooth speaker from JB HiFi instead for $170. Great quality, loud, clear, 12 hour battery life, micro USB charging, versatile and completely portable.

Planning has ground to a slow halt. I have however, purchased a 10” Android tablet for Kris – ostensibly for planning, although it seems to be used mainly for watching Master Chef…

April 2014

Saturday 5th April 2014:

The new car stereo (a Sony XAV 612BT) is IN! Luckily I severed my hip pocket nerve and bought a Sony to Toyota matched wiring harness, which saved me what would have been another few hours of wiring grief. As it was, there was the reversing camera (and power feed), composite RCA leads for the second and third video input, remote microphone, plus a new USB power feed to the rear view mirror in preparation for an event camera. I can also use my iPhone with a HDMI cable and USB charger to get navigation through the head unit and audio via Bluetooth. Clunky but functional. I have to ask why though, when I have a perfectly functional Tom Tom 4.3” GPS in the glove box! A bit like Hillary’s response on why he climbed Everest, “because it’s there”.

Monday 7th April 2014:

I went to Sydney yesterday with a good friend to inspect a Jayco 14.44-4 Outback van. The van looked like it had been through the wringer! The owner was a really lovely bloke, but the six month ‘Big Lap’ that this had just returned from really showed. He had it advertised for $37,900, and when I told him it was worth maybe $34k, he nearly fell over [note: this van eventually sold for $34,000 in July]. He responded with $35k, but Kris and I met with Jayco on Monday morning and put a deposit on a 2014 model 14.44-4 Outback, to be fitted with Electronic Stability Control and a few other goodies, all for $40,000, slightly better than RRP.

March 2014

Wednesday 12th March 2014:

Another purchase, this time a very large (1200 x 2100) Rola Roof rack and luggage tray. I measured up one of the racks on the car, and it is 2010mm to ground – gives me just 90mm clearance into most car parks, gulp! 

Sunday 16th March 2014:

We were invited to Redhead beach yesterday by some friends – so of course we HAD to go and test out the truck in the sand! We met at Redhead, which was locked off, so we trooped off to the Blacksmiths entrance a few kilometers south. Tyres were let down to 15 psi on all vehicles, and the fun began. I hadn’t driven ion sand since driving the VW Baja on Fraser Island in 1989, so I had a lot to remember. The Cruiser was great, about 2000 rpm in 2nd gear is about 40 kph, which was a good even speed. I even had a chance to use the new winch – one of our party, driving a V8 petrol 100 series Cruiser) got stuck trying to drive up out of a water crossing, so we winched, dug and winched some more and out he came. It was good to see that everything worked perfectly under full load, and that the power cables stayed cool. 

Monday 31st March 2014:

I took the plunge and bought a car stereo yesterday. A Sony XAV-612BT. It plays DVD’s, mirrors the iPhone, can connect a reversing cameras plus another two if you like, plus it’ll play rough cuts of our home movies on the run! I saw it at JB HiFi, 30% off the rrp of $799. Not a great price, but something else I can forget about. Still, it now has to be installed, along with the half fitted reversing camera (last location under the tow ball was uselessly low), half built Anderson plug, fuse block, repaired UHF radio, hi-gain mobile antennae removal and the rear drawer system I’ll have to build for the fridge.

On a more exciting note, my weekly trawl of on-line adds for the vaunted Jayco Outback 14.44-4 came up with a winner this morning. A near new 2013 model, with plenty of extras, for $37,900. It’s in Sydney too – not too far. I rang the seller and told him I could buy a new 2014 model for $39,000, so he’d have to sharpen the price.


31 January 2014 – ‘Big Lap’ Trip Preparations

Trip preparation is smooth (in so far as much as a corrugated road is smooth), and I feel as if perched on a precipice, that as soon as I start to slip, the avalanche will be unstoppable. The avalanche of information, the preparation, and the sheer amount of work necessary to do our Big Lap in 2015.  I hope that the Cruiser is the right vehicle and is as reliable as its track record suggests.  The upgradeitis is in full swing.

The internal dome and map lights have all been replaced with LED’s, as were the rear reversing and indicator lights (although I just recently refitted the original incandescent globes after Kris mentioned she could hardly see the LED’s in bright light following me home one day). The LED’s are cheap (generally $1 each) and very bright. I have also made use of the Sahara loom in the GXL body – installing door courtesy lights behind the blank red door diffusers.

The winch (complete with four new solenoids, a full rebuild and new fairleads) was finally fitted on the 11th February – which was a saga in itself. It was promised as part of the sale price back on 30th October 2013. So in essence a 15 week semi-nervous wait based on a verbal ‘yeah mate, I’ll throw in a winch too. Oh don’t worry, it’s a good one, it’s a Warn’. Anyway, all I had to pay was $60 for it to be fitted (needed the bull bar to be completely removed, and a new fairlead purcashed). Then $90 for new 2 gauge cabling (to relocate the solenoid box up under the grille), and $40 for a 500 Amp battery isolator. A bargain really (a new Warn XD9000 is roughly $1400 not including installation).

Next (there’s never a ‘lastly’ when it comes to upgrades), I’ve fitted an Anderson plug (with 8 gauge wiring), a permanent wired high capacity 12 volt socket for our Waeco 45 litre fridge in the boot (the factory socket has power on only with ignition, and likely has excessive voltage drop), and a USB hub for the tablets we are proposing for the boys. I’ve also bought a small air compressor, car seat covers, rubber 4WD floor deep-dish matts. I can see the need for recovery gear and potentially, a high lift sand jack. I’ve also seen an ebay add for groovy under seat lighting for the front and back seats, so I might try to trace the wiring for that and whack in some nice blue LEDs.  As luck would have it, James was home today with a head injury from school, I checked emails and a watched item popped up on eBay. A ‘Rola’ full alloy roof rack today and mounting system – all for $400. Apparently worth $1400 new.

After looking in every nook and cranny in the car, I simply could not find the Toyota spare tyre socket removal tool for the underslung spare, so after a considerable amount of time and hassle, the car seller sent me a complete replacement kit. I replaced the specially keyed ferule tool, only to find two unused removal tools in the glove box! How on earth did I miss that?  At least I worked out a relatively easy way to remove the spare in an emergency (take the weight off the spare tyre with a car jack).

I am now in the throws of looking very seriously for a van – the Jayco Expanda Outback 14.44-4 Outback is the preferred weapon of choice at this stage. I think we should be able to pick one up second hand for around $33,000 – the question is where?  I saw one for sale in Melbourne, and it looked perfect until we realised it only had the smaller 90 litre fridge – Kris reminded me why I had been so keen to get the biggest fridge available: – for extended free camping and Kris’s medicines.  My concern is that if we leave it too late, we’ll be potentially stuck with a higher priced, or compromised choice, or both. The plan is to find one with the larger 150 litre fridge, Alko drop jacks, end covers, bike rack etc – basically as much extra gear as we can find already fitted on a second hand van. This would leave just solar panels, a TV, stereo, an Anderson plug and Alko ESC (Electronic Stability Control) to fit. The Expanda option replaces the initial heart-set choice, which was a Jayco Swan windup – Camper Trailer Style. I scribbled down a likes/dislikes table, which can be summarised thus:

Jayco Swan outback:Likes:

  • Light towing weight
  • Assumed improvement in towing visibility
  • Feeling of openness when set up – no cupboards at head height
  • Two areas to relax in (Jayco Swan)
  • Offroad features (shocks, bigger wheels, dedicated 12v system voltage)


  • Low bench height
  • Can’t use the bench or fridge unless the roof is partially or fully wound up
  • Kids have to share a bed
  • Very small fridge and freezer
  • Setup time (5 minutes for the roof, 40 minutes for the lot)
  • Can’t park and sleep (bed extends into tow vehicle), unless extended draw bar is used
  • Can’t easily store bikes
  • Poor insulation with extensive canvas area
  • More difficult to leave a campsite quickly
  • Cant cook greasy food inside (no range hood)
  • More difficult to mount a TV


Jayco Expander Outback:Likes:

  • Kids get their own dedicated bunk
  • Minimum setup time
  • Can park and sleep (tow vehicle still attached to van)
  • Improved bike storage options
  • Increased internal storage space
  • Proper bench height
  • Option to have up to 150 l fridge
  • Option of A/C (only with powered site or generator)
  • Improved thermal and sound insulation
  • Improved ventilation – especially when wet
  • Better wet weather packup
  • Reduced wet bedding in the rain
  • Permanent mount for a TV (can also be used as a laptop monitor)
  • Can leave a campsite quickly
  • Can stop mid-trip and use the benches, stove, fridge, table (lunch or a cuppa)
  • Reduced maintenance with reduced canvas area
  • Offroad features
  • Clothing permanently in the van rather than the tow vehicle


  • Reduced visibility with head height cupboards when camped
  • Reduced on-road visibility when towing
  • Higher cost and potentially higher depreciation
  • Higher fuel use (taller and heavier than a windup)

A few months ago, I downloaded a ‘free’ budgeting spreadsheet from a guy called Steve Baile. A minor catch was registering with an email. He obviously compiled a mailing list to advertise a $30, 3 DVD set of 10 travel videos of his Big Lap – a 16 month, 46,000 km trip completed in 2007 with his wife and two young daughters. The DVD set arrived just before Christmas and we had a great time over the Chrissy holidays, watching one or two a night. Nothing ground breaking, but interesting, relatively well shot and edited and certainly worth the price. I have contacted Steve, and asked him technical questions about his camera gear, his editing software and what he would do differently if he had his chance again. He has replied in great detail, and I think his response may be even more useful that his videos! Nevertheless, I’ll definitely watch them again before our trip.

Kris hit the library the other day, bringing home a few excellent travel books – ‘Travelling for Grey Nomads’ and ‘Gregory’s Caravan Survival Guide’. My reading of the latter as my in flight ‘entertainment’ caused both mirth and derision from my very well healed client during a short business trip to India in January 2014. Still, better to be educated than not.