10 Surprising "Must Buys" Before Hitting the Road
Updated: Jan 22, 2019
The conversation went something like this.
Digital Kim (DK): “We want to work our way around the places that will benefit most from the Grey Nomad Awards. Right?”
Digital Liz (DL): “Correct. So all we have to do is decide if we’ll travel in a caravan or a motorhome.”
DK: “I think a motorhome would be best – neither of us want to learn how to tow a caravan, so let’s just find a motorhome.”
DL: “Woo hoo, we’re joining the moho revolution.”
DK: “As an adult, have you ever been caravanning or stayed in a motorhome?”
DL: “Nope. Never. You?"
No judgement, please. I feel ridiculous enough having shared the above let alone this next bit and choose not to imagine your tut tutting as you read about the two brave (Who wrote “naive”? Delete that word!) women who simply went out and within a short period found a motorhome less than three kilometres from their office.
Oh, we were so pleased with ourselves.
I recall one of us saying: “That didn’t take long. All the hard work is done now and it has everything we need!” (Sorry, I’m not in a position to disclose which one of us made this absurd statement.) The motorhome does have a comfy lounge and plenty of space for both of us to work. Good power options. A kitchen with all the mod cons. Good-sized fridge. Large easy-use awning. Reverse-cycle air conditioning. Even a bathroom big enough to swing a kitten, but probably not a cat.
And we were not so green as to dismiss that some things needed to be purchased. A quick dip into a camping store and we emerged with camping chairs x 2, a foldable table (a must for canasta, apparently) and a high-powered torch. A large retail chain had other essentials, such as elegant polycarbonate wine glasses. What else could we possibly need for extended trips across the country?
This happened about six months ago and we decided two short trial work trips were warranted, so we traveled in the moho to meetings that would have previously seen one of us jump into a car or hop onto a plane.
How did these trips go? This time I am not going to delete the word “naïve”.
Naivety and Our Very First Trip
We headed first to Stanthorpe, on Queensland’s Granite Belt, where vineyards blend with nature. We tapped away happily at the keyboard in relative warmth while the outside air dropped to a nippy minus 4.5. We learned much from that first trip and you'll find it educational if you're considering your first road trip too. If you're an experienced Grey Nomad, then have a chuckle - we did afterwards!
Trip 1, Section 1: Left 8.00 am. First stop 8.02 am – “Why has the fridge door flung open, and what are those little plastic clips on the floor?” Eventually arrived at our destination safely. A huge achievement and I was especially cocky about it until becoming slightly concussed at dinner-time from running headlong into the awning arm in the dark.
Section 2: Left Stanthorpe heading west, dodging more kangaroos than I’ve seen on Australian currency coins. Arrived in Miles barely intact with shot nerves. Fabulous little town which has firmly become a favourite. A better night – at least until 11.00 pm when I locked the caravan park amenities block key inside the amenities block.
Section 3: Passed through 159 kms of highway road works. When we arrived at pretty Crows Nest DK exclaimed “Wow, they’ve given us a great site overlooking the lake, but I think the ground is sloping.” Yep, and as a result I slept in a rather curious tilted position, feeling more like I was on a yacht sailing in high wind than in a motorhome on dry land.
Section 4: Arrived back at the office incident-free except for spilt milk. No point crying.
Despite the steep learning curve, we really loved our new mobile office and being on the road. How do we make it safer and easier though?
We quickly identified additional items that our rookie trip proved were crucial. Soon afterwards we purchased these four “must have” things:
* Bright orange safety flags ($2 each) to hang on each arm of the awning and a $2 pool noodle sliced to fit around the arm near the main door to stop the door from hitting the arm.
* A $1 hook on which to hang amenity block keys
* An old conference lanyard clip so we can hang the key around our neck when visiting the amenity block
* Two leveling ramps for $30 (which you drive onto to level your vehicle - and there's a great free Android app called Camper-leveler to tell you if the vehicle is, in fact, level).
Fortified by these purchases we bravely ventured forth again. The second trip was to warmer climes.
Back to School - Trip Two
Trip 2, Section 1: We were flashed by an oncoming heavy vehicle escort who was clearly talking into his radio warning us of something, but what? Ah yes, a semi-trailer 500 metres behind came into view lugging HUGE mining equipment that took up every inch of the roadway. Gulp.
Section 2: “Umm, the mains power in the caravan park has tripped our electrical system and we can’t get it working again. What do we do?” The answer: sleep (and I use that term loosely) with no power, rain coming through open windows and a thousand mosquitoes.
Section 3: Walked forever in near-100% humidity and 35 degree heat to buy batteries before copping out by catching a taxi back to the caravan park. This was followed by an almost incident-free night, except for that dreadful burning smell. Surprise, the next morning the slide out would not retract. We finally found the culprit - a fuse burnt to a crisp.
Section 4: Whoa! Some maniac overtaking a car almost caused a head-on, forcing the truck coming in the opposite direction to pull completely off the Bruce Highway. Damn, wish we had a dash cam!
So... we will soon be buying or having installed six more must-have items before hitting the road for much longer periods in 2019: a CB radio (and we’ll get our UHF name and channel on the back of the moho), a waterproof power connector protector, a push bike, a fire blanket (already got the extinguisher) and a dash cam.
Then will we have everything we need? Laugh all you want, but we’re not falling for that trap again.