Category Archives: Close to home

All the Stone Chips have gone!

One of the things we should have done when we first got our Motorhome 7 odd years ago was to put some protection on the bonnet against stone chips. I remember Fiona mentioning it at the time but I was too eager to use the new toy!

Years later after progressively touching up the stone chips on the bonnet leaving pimples of touch up paint, it was time to either repaint the bonnet or tidy things up.

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Masking out the design

Having just had the bumper done up after it dropped all its paint, I needed to have the decals that Dethleffs originally put on replaced on the newly painted bumper.

Jeremy applies the white base.

My son Drew was involved in Drift Car racing and met Jeremy years ago who is a sign writer extraordinaire who is also a dab hand at wrapping cars and anything else. Drew introduced us by phone so off I went to Jeremy’s workshop get the new decals.

Jay doing the other side with the white base.

Jeremy is an old school sign writer who can still do signs with a brush.. sounds to me like a photographer who still knows how to process a roll of film 🙂 I liked the sound of that.. nothing like experience!

He immediately looked at the images I had of the original decals and said “I can do much better than that” ! Jeremys right hand man Jay was there on one side while Jeremy was on the other.

On goes the blue
Applying the blue over the white.
Jeremy trimming the blue shape

Jeremy’s version of the Decals were quite a lot bigger but followed the contours of the bumper much more closely and also met up with the pattern on the sides of the van much better so it all looked a lot more streamlined than the original Dethleffs effort. I was over the moon.

Click on the Gallery below for blow by blow slideshow

Next came the bonnet which I was only going to get Jeremy to tackle if it wasn’t a huge job. Jeremy took one look at it and after a comment like “easy peasy”, we were off.

Jeremy sanding the “pimples” on the bonnet.

Jeremy got some very fine wet and dry sandpaper and with some water, gently hand sanded all the little pimples of touch up paint that I had applied down so the bonnet was smooth. There was also a Globe 4 decal on the bonnet which had to go too.

Applying the protective bonnet cover.

The bonnet then looked like a bluey grey colour which looked awful. I think Jeremy could tell I was a bit nervous so he cut off a tiny bit of bonnet protector and after wetting it, stuck it in the middle of all the horrible grey and immediately, it took on the lovely deep blue I was used to! It was a WOW moment.. I was amazed and it was a high gloss too.

Squeezing out the water.

Jay appeared with a sheet of the protector big enough for our bonnet and between them, they wet it and the bonnet and on it went. The next 30 minutes or so were spent squeezing out the water but it looked absolutely amazing. The best part was that out of the 40 or so original stone chips on the bonnet, the sanded paint filled up the holes left like a filler so you could really only see a handful of them afterwards.. A HUGE improvement.. Its like a new bonnet.

Jay tidying up at the end

Watching the process was awesome too.. with the new technology products now it really was something to see.

Wow all finished

If you’re looking to do a stone chip tidy up or do something with your Motorhome or Caravan, you can find Jeremy and Jay at Big Brown Industries in the Wairau Valley.  www.bigbrown.co.nz

Jeremy and Jay with the end result

Taking the Boys to Miranda

Our son Alex had a trip arranged to meet some people in the South Island for a few days so Fiona and I were on deck to look after the Grandies, Ayden and Liam.

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Parking in the street.. with auto wooden levelling blocks:-)

We parked Rafe over the road in a car park space in Papakura and I’d taken a couple of blocks of wood to level up Rafe with the camber which worked perfectly.

The boys were at School during the days so when Saturday morning came, we all went around to watch Ayden play rugby for his team at Ardmore. They were playing the top team in the competition so I think they would have been pleasantly surprised if they would win. The boys played really well, Ayden scored one of the two tries and they had a great game. The end result was 19-12 and after hearing the opposing coach saying afterwards say that Ayden’s team had improved vastly since the last time they played together, and it was a great game for both teams was really nice to hear.

Ayden in his half back role
On the charge

After the game, we went back to the house and then set off for the treat trip to Miranda Holiday Park in Rafe. Fiona and I used to go there quite often but haven’t been for several years so there were quite a few changes.

Checking in was a breeze and we were given one of our favourite parking spots against what used to be the hedge beside the driveway except its all gone ! .. Shock horror but I have to say it does look good the way it has been done and it lets a lot of light and sun into the place.

It had been raining for most of the day off and on so there was quite a bit of water around.

We hadn’t been there long when the boys went off for a bit of an explore and very quickly found that the office had ice creams and lollies 🙂

The Miranda Office

It was time for a swim where we discovered the other new feature, which is the addition of a smaller toddlers pool next to the main pool.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

The last time we were here was with our friends Bruce and Judy with Rafe’s twin and Dianne and Gary from Taupo. This was when we discovered the Dog friendly campsites out the back. They’re obviously a hit as there are quite a few more there now.. what a great idea. A bigger pitch with room around your motorhome for the dogs to roam while still being fenced in from the rest of the Campground.. fantastic.

The Dog Parks

Its always a great spot to stay and always clean and tidy.

Later we took the boys up to the Kaiaua Fish and Chip shop for tea followed by another swim in the pool. It was then time to watch the first All Blacks Aussie game in the TV room before we all crashed for the day.

It was wet

In the morning, we managed to sneak in a quick swim before we checked out and hit the road home. A great few days. The boys really enjoyed it and so did we!

Rafe’s Tracker map to Miranda – Armada GPS

Back to Rafe

We arrived in Auckland about an hour earlier than planned around 10:30pm and immediately grabbed a cab and headed for the Hotel Ibis at the airport. Our son Alex was going to pick us up in our car around 7:30 in the morning but with the body clocks being as they were, we were awake and ready to go by 5:30am wondering what to do with ourselves 🙂

It was great to see Alex, Sarah and the boys at their home in Ardmore after a long time away.  Unfortunately, we had to press on and pick up Rafe from Dianne and Gary’s shed in Taupo otherwise we had no where to sleep !

Click on the images for Hi Res

We left Ardmore around 9:30 and headed south stopping at Cambridge for lunch and then getting to Taupo about 1pm. Rafe’s COF had expired and it was booked in for 2pm which it flew through.

I hate the waiting and standing around with WOF’s or COF’s as you never know what is going to spring out of the woodwork but today was a good day 🙂

Lovely spot

We headed up to the National Equestrian Centre which is off the road north to Rotorua, just after the turnoff from Taupo. Its a magic spot and is $10 including power, showers and toilets.

Caravan Alley

With the jet lag the way it was, neither of us felt too good about driving north until we’d had a go at our body clocks and getting some sleep so we elected to stay here, despite the weather for the next 3 days and it just came down cats and dogs.

Toilets, Showers and rubbish right opposite

Although my front wheels were close to the gravel. There was quite a bit of churned up mud just in front so I was keeping an eye on that. The land around Taupo is a little top soil over pumice so it is really well draining and although there was a huge puddle behind and partly under us, when the rain stopped and we had to get out, I simply backed back from the mud and drove sideways around it and there was no slipping at all ! The water that was behind us had drained away really quickly.

You can see some of the neighbouring thermal activity here.

Its a great spot to park and the caretaker is really helpful and a really nice bloke.

After leaving there, we thought a night at the NZMCA park at Ngongotaha might be the ticket and then after that Auckland.

At Alex and Sarah’s  in Auckland

On the fourth day, we headed back to Auckland and stayed with Alex, Sarah and the boys in Ardmore.

Liam and Granny Fiona on the sideline.

The next day grandson Ayden was playing rugby at his rugby club around the corner so we all went around and watched that.

Ayden off for the Tryline. On the left, Grandad Paul, Granny Fiona and Grand Gran Mary all providing plenty of encouragement !

A great family occasion. Sarah’s parents Paul and Mary were there too. Ayden scored about 5 tries which was great so a lot of family excitement.

Ayden off again with the ball

Its lovely to be back in Rafe and we don’t realise how spoilt we are until we drive something a bit older. Its nice to be back.

Rafe’s track to the equestrian centre from Taupo

The Sunburnt Bumper

It seems at this time of the year, there is an endless demand on outgoing funds for the Motorhome.. Service, Insurance, COF and a rattle or two you’ve discovered that could be silenced.

This year, the big one was repainting the Bumper just to add to the list.

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looks like a peely shoulder !

To be fair, a new vehicle where ever it is made should not have to have its bumper repainted after only 6 years so that grates a wee bit, but not being one to dwell on these things, it had to be fixed.

Before.. you can see the yellow tint in the lacquer from the sun.

The deterioration started about three years ago and when I raised it at the time with the dealers, I was told it came under the Fiat warranty which had by then expired.   ….Hey Ho as they say.. Lets get on and get it fixed…!

It started with the whole bumper going a yellowy colour and then the paint peeled off in bits. I progressively sanded parts of it to blend the colour and make it look a bit better as it got worse.

About to be taken off

After talking to one of my favorite RV repairers Peter at RV repairs who is also a qualified spray painter, he advised that I should leave it as long as possible so as much of the peeling paint would fall off and remove the need for a massive sanding job!

.. It couldn’t wait any longer !!

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

In Devonport where I live, there is a great family run business which many of my mates at school have worked at over the years, run by Dennis  and Nathan Hale, called Fleet St Panel beaters.  They have a great reputation for doing things properly and are well known around the community as being really nice people.

In getting the newly painted Bumper. reattached

Where they are next to the supermarket in Devonport is pretty tight for big vehicles so it was a case of getting the bumper taken off and taking Rafe back home until the painting was finished.

All sanded and primed.

The bad news came on day 1 when after taking it off, we found that the bumper was actually fiberglass, not plastic. This meant it couldn’t be dipped to strip the paint off and they couldn’t bake the new paint on. It also needed to be sanded thoroughly before applying a special primer for the fiberglass. The good news part of this is that fiberglass is really strong.

Sanded and ready for some colour

Nathan was telling me it they budget on a couple of hours to prepare a plastic bumper. This one needed a day and a half of sanding as a lot of it was by hand. .. I could see my budget being blown sky-high and Fiona giving me a stern talking to 😐

All finished and waiting for Rafe – pic by Nathan

Unfortunately, they had a couple of staff off sick  and with the extra preparation, the 4 day job turned into two weeks but the outcome was well worth the wait. The finish was just sensational.

Although I was given the German paint codes, Kris the painter used a fancy machine that could read the colour off the side of the van and match it wirelessly to paints in NZ that can deal with our UV.

All done .. – WOW – pic by Nathan

An amazing colour match and friends who have known the van from new and know a bit about paint reckon it looks better than it was at the beginning.. I agree!!

Yes, it cost a bit more but I’m not complaining with such a great paint job.

Looking really good.. also with the polished headlights.

I’ve ordered a new logo sticker from Dethleffs and have my friendly local signwriter Tom putting the blue and white decals on over the next few weeks.

Wow

1,000,000 Hits

The last 100 k odd seemed like it was taking a lifetime but we made it. 1 Million Hits..

After 5 years or so we’ve made it!

The first post! August 2015

Now that we’re back in a house again, it has been a real struggle to keep up with the content and I’ve found myself doing trips just to get something to write about.  I’ve also just retired last month as a Commercial Photographer, so I will be taking things a bit more quietly from here so you will notice the posts only being made when there is something to publish.

One of our first posts.. Fiona and Rafe at Coromandel Motor camp

But this is the Milestone that matters… !!

Our first trip away in the South Island in our Caravan . wee Rafe.

Thanks again for checking in and thanks to everyone that made suggestions and offered help.

More to come…!!

At Simpsons Beach Coromandel

David and Liz’s Cosy Rapido

Fiona and I first met David and Liz at an annual Dethleffs do at Miranda years ago when they had their new A Class Esprit.  They had it for several years until they fell in love with their 2010 Rapido A class Motorhome on Trade me.

It is 7.4 metres long, has a huge payload and is rear wheel drive with a Mercedes 185HP motor which “goes like stink”.

David and Liz both come from a long NZ Army background like us and David knows Fiona’s Dad, Uncle and they have many common friends.. love it when that happens!

We met up with them again at the Covi Rally at Ellerslie Racecourse.

Nicely finished. I love the woodgrain on the dash.

Since they picked it up 8 months ago, they’ve done 20000k’s in it so they really enjoying it.

Galley area
Galley

David’s favorite spot was Mt Cook on a beautiful clear day when they went on the Alpine Track.

Most French beds are tucked up against the wall and hemmed in top and bottom, making it hard work to make the bed.. this is the real thing!  Access to 3 sides !

Corner Bed

What I liked about this Motorhome over their last Motorhome was its nice cosy feel, it looks and feels solid but is still under 4 tons GVM.

A good solid look to it too.

Really nice people enjoying their really nice Motorhome.

New Batteries – UPDATE

One of the first things I do after publishing a post is to link it through to several Facebook pages relating to Motorhoming.

I’d only just posted my post on my new Batteries from AA Solar when several people commented on how they were not optimally wired. They weren’t incorrect but I would get more life out of them if they were changed and several made suggestions on how it could be improved.

To be fair, Thorsten the Technician, only rewired what he inherited from the previous setup and increased the wiring size while he did it.

I actually thought it looked much better than how it was but when I posted into the NZMCA facebook forum, the advice came back on improvements that could be made and it was worth giving it another look.

How it was

I called AA Solar and after seeing my photos, they agreed and were more than happy to reset the wiring. What a difference!  Its got a much more obvious flow to it and even tidier than before.. It should perform better too.

Its a Beautiful thing
Thorsten finishing off the changes.

Thanks to all those who pitched in with the advice and thanks to Thorsten and AA Solar for a job well done.

New Batteries ..maybe before time.

Isn’t it funny how as you go through the various upgrades on your Motorhome or Caravan and someone tells you, “buy this, its the best there is” and you say to yourself later “more homework was required!”

In early 2018, I did just that and bought some new batteries which were then the best thing since sliced bread as they had a new fangled silicon plate system.

Click on an Image to Enlarge

Not long after I had them installed, I took Rafe back to get the new batteries load tested as I thought they were dropping their voltage too quickly but they passed with flying colours.

Over the last few years I’ve persisted with them and we’ve found ourselves being plugged in to power more often than we’d probably like to prevent  voltage range anxiety.

A nameless friend and battery advisor has  explained to me that the batteries I had, due to how they’re made were  not  known performers as house batteries for Motorhomes.

So here we are only 3 and a bit years later replacing them with Champion Deep Cycle AGM’s from AA Solar in Silverdale.  With the NZMCA discount, these batteries are known performers as house batteries and are quite a bit less expensive than the 3 yr old ones I’ve replaced.

The empty space under the seat for the new batteries after the old batteries were removed.

Thorsten was the technician on the job and got into taking Rafe’s seat out to get at the batteries underneath.

Thorsten re doing the cables for the terminals.

Out they came and with a quick test, although they had lost a significant amount of power, they were probably ok as low load crank batteries for a year or two. I made the decision to dump them as I could see them sitting in the back of our carport in three years time 🙂

Just about done.

In went the new batteries.. the new Champions were a bit longer but just fitted in under the seat. Thorsten took one look at the wiring for the second battery and declared it to be vastly undersized.. so he replaced this with colour coded heatshrink and new terminal bolts.. very tidy.

I was really pleased with how it went with the wiring and the batteries and am now looking forward to now being able to be off grid a bit more than we have with known performing, Deep Cycle batteries.

All done !

With the new wiring and all cleaned up it really is a big improvement just looking at it and it almost seems a shame to cover it all up with the seat 🙂 Thanks Thorsten for a really tidy job.

Wzzzzz and up it goes

I’d just switched the engine off and was plugging in the power point when Lance and Sophie pulled up alongside in the next door Camp spot. They were huge plots so we had plenty of room.

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It turns out that they has recently just bought it online from Palmerston North and was only 5 weeks old ! This one is a Flagstaff Mac made by the great American RV company Forest River.

Lance and Sophie with their trailer

This is their second one of this type although the first one was no where near as flash as this new one. They leveled it on the ground, plugged in the power cord to the post and flicked a switch and up it went! Quite impressive if you haven’t seen one before. Apparently their last one was a wind up one.

With a slide out dining area and the end bedroom areas that po out, its amazing how much room there is. It has a built in BIG gas heater for those cold nights too. Despite the fact that it is mostly canvas and several layers of blinds etc, it really holds the heat in.

Roomy!
Galley area

Lance was saying they got theirs second hand but they are available here new for around $32k fully kitted out which is an option for families who have a limited budget and don’t want a big Caravan.

Extra bed space
Dining area slideout

This was one of the first trips away they have had in it apart from bring it up from Palmerston North and they seemed very happy with it.

Looking across the slide out

A great couple enjoying their time on the road.

Above the waves at Muriwai

Only 40 odd k’s from the centre of Auckland is the fantastic west coast surf beach called Muriwai and directly behind the dunes is a raised campground.

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The view

Being so close to Auckland it is super handy if you’re not looking at doing any serious miles and it feels like you’re miles away.

I checked in during the week as they have a minimum of $46.00 during the weekend. It was just $23 for 1 during the week. I wondered about the wisdom of doing this as a lot of people in Motorhomes do travel on their own and now there are no international tourists, it is excluding a large section of those travelling.

Cheryll and Denise were very welcoming and gave me a brief guided tour and allocated me a park up on one of the top terraces with a view over the sea.

Before I’d even plugged in I had met my immediate neighbours also both from Auckland !

New Showers

The campground is leased from the council and about 4 years ago, the council demolished the old tin shed toilets and showers etc and built brand new concrete and really upmarket new buildings.

BBQ area

I tried out the shower and all it has is a push button which once pressed, the shower delivers the perfect pressure and temperature and automatically turns off afterwards. You can turn it off earlier I’m told by simply pressing the button again… very smart… and super clean.

Its a simple hop skip and a jump over a small park and over the sand dunes to the beach.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

While I was there, there were dozens of young people catching waves and enjoying the surf.

Great surf
The Gannet Colony

Muriwai goes for miles so if its a walk you’re after, there is plenty of scope for that too!  I was impressed with the camp, its facilities and the friendly hosts.

Looking North
End of the Day

A nice spot and if you like the beach, the perfect place for a long weekend.

Rafe’s Tracker map – Armada GPS