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Thursday, January 31, 2008
Short Duration Trips (2-3 days)
1. GPS: A Garmin Etrex Vista CX - because its colour, has high capacity memory card, is rugged and does everything I could possibly want, aside from being more waterproof, and having better reception.
2. Laptop: Its really hard to find a laptop that does everything I want it to do. I used to love my old Toshiba Libereto with a 5inch screen. Travelled all over Asia with it, but its a dinosaur now. I await a similar designed & size unit with a battery power of 5-7 hours. The Sony VGN-TX850P which I am currently using has that battery life, but I dont like the flat keys and the poor screen. I also want a solid-state HDD is I can take it over rough terrain, whether in a campervan or MTB. A laptop can also function as a radio, TV, DVD player, MP3 player. Really not happy with Sony computers in the last 5 years. Alot of crap. Its importantly access to the internet and maps, info on canoeing and MTB trails. Plus a carry bag, mouse & mouse pad.
3. Waterproof Digital Camera: The next big feature in digital cameras I guess is durability. Olympus seems to be the leader in stand-alone waterproof digital cameras, as opposed to those ones that require some encasement in some bubble. I have a habit of getting the latest, which was the Olympus 720SW about a year ago. I note that they have since shrunk the size by a third of mine, which is cool. There are features about this camera I dont like, so I might migrate back to Sony's in future, but I need waterproof, so until then - its an Olympus. The features I dont like are the difficulty selecting settings and the slow shutter speed. Sony was more intuitive.
4. Sevylor Tahiti Inflatable Canoe & 3-section oar: Having an easily stored 2-man canoe is a useful item in the back of a car or campervan. If you are cruising around a country and come across a river its great if you can pull out a canoe.
5. Mountain bike & helmet: Another useful piece of equipment is a MTB. I love getting off the road to go places you cant go in a vehicle. I am not particular about the brand, though I refer just front suspension, hand brakes and aluminium frame for light weight.
6. Backup HDD: You need to backup your work when you are travelling, so if I cant do this online, then I want a portable HDD. If I am not dealing with alot of files I will just use a USB flash card - say 1-2Gb, though they are capacity is growing all the time.
7. Steamer: I want a well designed steamer in which I can stream meat, vegetables, rice. I dont like that alot of camper's come equipped with a burner. I guess its great if you can store fuel in your car and book with gas, but I prefer to stay electric for everything, and a diesel genset if power supplies run low.
8. Small Fan: Air conditioning is not practical to cool a camper so I like having a small fan for the back of the vehicle. It tends not to be a requirement in Australia. It makes more sense to park in the shade or open a window. Its not humid enough in the south, so its a necessity for the north.
9. Toaster: A toaster is not the most energy-efficient device but it does its job well, and you only use it for 3minutes a day.
10. Nokia E61i cell phone: This is the best phone on the market in terms of value. It has great MP3 player, though I find it hard to hear people, and the camera has wifi. I like having the big size keyboard for typing notes and the wifi, though I have always found it hard to get a free connection in Australia. All wireless connections are locked and cafes more often than not dont have them.
11. Deep cycle batteries: I want enough deep cycle batteries to last me around 3 days so I dont have to recharge them from the diesel genset so often.
12. Refrigerator: I require a 60-litre refrigerator to store fresh fruit & vegetable, as well as drinks.
13. Bedding: I just use a sleeping bad though a blanket will surfice. A pillow or just a rolled up jacket is enough for me.
14. Clothing: I would normally take 10 pairs of undewear, 5 pairs of socks, 5 T-shirts, 3 pairs of shorts, one pare of nice jeans, nice dress jeans, basic dirt shoe, dress shoe, 3 hats for all occasions, a jacket fit for the snow, light nylon pants for canoeing (sun protection) or skiing (snow), 3 dress shirts, prescription sunglasses.
15. Cutlery & utensils: Just need 2 knives/forks/tea & tablespoons and a can & bottle opener. Two plates and bowls, and an open washing basin, containers to store cut fruit & vegetables.
16. Personal items: Shaver, tooth brush, mouth wash, soap, shampoo
Long Duration Needs (>5 days)
The changes I would make to this set up if I was spending more time on the road, or playing to do alot of trips in excess of 3 days would be to get the following:
17. Coleman Diesel Genset: The intent being so I dont have to pay $30/night going to a caravan/RV park, and can just stay on the road instead.
18. Water tank: A 50-litre water tank for drinking and washing purposes. For shorter trips I would use public swimming pool and club facilities.
19. Portable toilet: Basic model only since I would be inclined to be using public facilities as a matter of preference, particularly for shorter trips.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
Monday, January 21, 2008
Travelling from Darwin to Sydney, I stayed in car parks, residential areas by the side of the road, and tourist locations. The safest place was in the residential areas - short of the option of paying $20-30/night for a RV park. But this gives you no option of mixing with fellow RV'ers. Anyway, I will have to try. Not sure I would have anything in common with them. Has to be tried though. If I were to get an idea of their values I guess they would be:
1. Nature lovers - though they might question that idea given all the roadkill they will contribute to, and/or
2. Freedom lovers - trying to get away from governments and oppressive employers, and/or
3. Poor - trying to avoid the high cost of over-regulated land (zoning) in Australia
4. Cheap - always lamenting the rising cost of food, rent, etc
5. Simpletons - looking for an easy and inexpensive way to live out thei life before they become roadkill
Ok, when I look at those possibilities, there is room for possibilities. I love nature, hate government and unnecessary regulation, love avoiding taxes, not the wealthiest person around, I'm as tight as a newborn lamb....hhmmm.....that last one might be a problem. I'm not opting out of live, I just like to be doing the things I like to do on the road. Maybe I have more opportunity to meet the aspirational type of people I welcome on the road when internet coverage improves. No one has open networks, not even coffee shops in the country. The only option is the expensive Telstra network. Well we are all waiting for Wimax. See my posting at http://dotcomspeak.blogspot.com/ to better appreciate the role of Wimax.
Andrew Sheldon http://www.sheldonthinks.com/
Andrew Sheldon http://www.sheldonthinks.com/
So if you are planning a trip to the USA, you might wonder just where you should go for more information. Well let me do the work for you. I spent some hours generating the following list of online resources.
There are great resources for getting travel ideas and asking questions from veterans. The best ones are:
1. RV USA: See http://www.rvusa.com/forum/mbbs22/forums/forum-view.asp?fid=2. This is a very commercial site so you will get referred to paid advertisers.
2. RV Info: See http://www.rv-info.net/rvforums.html - this non commercial site has alot of useful links.
3. RV Net: See www.rv.net/community. This is another commercial site with a forum, its mostly for info on RV types and maintenance.
4. USA-RV Forum: See http://usa-rvforum.com/USARVFORUM. This is a good site for ideas on RV'ing in different parts of the USA.
5. Free Campgrounds: See http://www.freecampgrounds.com/. The name saids it all, but they also have a forum.
6. RV Parks Review: See http://www.rvparkreviews.com/. This site provides customer feeback for RV parks in every state of the USA and Canada. They also have a forum - www.rvparkreviews.com/invboard/index.php.
7. RV Net Linx: See http://www.rvnetlinx.com/. They offer good info resources for RV'ing in the USA.
8. More RV Links: See www.campingandcampgrounds.com/rv_link_08.html
9. Backhauls USA: If you want to get work backhauling a campervan in the USA, go to this site www.rv-coach.com/current_category.1950/Forum.89679/forum_thread_full.html.
There are also alot of other RV forums attached to 'activity groups' in the USA, but these links will give you a start.
Andrew Sheldon http://www.sheldonthinks.com/
Sunday, January 20, 2008
These are some of the issues that I think a campervanner needs to confront:
1. Stability: Do you mind being unsettled, potentially moving every night to new free sites, or otherwise paying the high cost ($20-30/night for a paid site with electricity. In the countryside, off the main roads, you are more likely to find places you can stay for an extended period of time.
2. Subsistance living: Do you mind spending time accessing local services, whether you need to stop for an hour to recharge your batteries from your diesel generators, empty your own septic tank, fill up the water tanks, maintain your batteries. The good news is that cleaning a van is so much easier than a house. The difficult part might be finding a place to have a shower, go to the toilet, or fill your water tank, particularly if there is no public water supply, or that supply has restricted access because of drought.
3. Space: A lot of people will dislike the tight camper spaces after a time - assuming your budget or lifestyle constraints force you to buy a smaller camper. But there are other ways to cope. You dont need to spend all your time in the camper. Towns have public swimming pools where you can swim, libraries where you can read a newspaper or book, public parks where you can work, read or walk. There are also private facilities like coffee shops and clubs and pubs where you can hang out.
4. Lack of social life: Unless you take your social life with you, you might find life on the road a little boring or lovely. How are you going to spend your evenings? I found country people really hard to interact with, so its best to take your own companion. Even when I meet country people, on some occasions I would have a great time with them, but I couldn't see it happening again. It was nice because it was an unfamiliar experience. There really is a deep divide between country and city - loving the country is not the point of difference - its your whole value system. I was surprised that even staying in coastal NSW was like that. Anyway you are moving on. Unless some of you are inclined to have people invite you to park on their lot of land. Its a new one for me. Having said that some farmers do allow you to stay for longer periods of time cheaply or for free.
5. Storage space: Its easy enough to move out of home, place all your worldly goods in a commercial storage facility and live in a campervan. But you need storage space on the road. I want 4-5 deep cycle batteries to retain alot of electricity backup, and a 60litre fridge for several days food supply.
6. Security: Roaming in a campervan means you are exposing yourself to new worlds. You are unlikely to know the risks to your personal security when you reach new places. The best thing you can do is ask a person when you initialy arrive in town. The best person to ask is a shopkeeper (say at the grocery store). They will have a first-hand knowledge based on their experience of having their store robbed or vandalised. You can trust the advice because you have bought goods from their store too. You will quickly learn where the threats lie. I avoid the bad parts of towns, as well as around clubs and pubs, as people tend to recognise that campervan users are tourists and that you might be sleeping in side. I know a person who had a brick thrown at their vehicle. So it pays to be discrete. There is of course the possibility of theft from your van so you want to avoid remote, dark parking locations if you are leaving the van, but these types of locations are fine if you are sleeping in it. Avoid parking where teenagers might drink such as beaches or public parks.
7. Inconvenience: Perhaps the biggest loss of convenience I found travelling in Australia by campervan was the lack of internet. Australia does not have an open network. No matter where I went - I found connections - but most of them were locked to the public. Not surprising for a security-conscious country. But sometimes it was restrictive. Many businesses locked their networks, others such as libraries had restricted access or no wireless, very high charges for computer access or time limits (say 30-60mins). In the cities I found all private networks locked. Fortunately we are seeing an improvement in services. The pre-paid cards already popular in Japan are spreading to other countries. In Australia, no doubt Telstra will charge monopoly fees for this access.
One of the big questions is whether you have reasonable expectations about what is possible. eg. You might think you can simply stick a few solar panels on the roof and that will accommodate your needs. Sorry, but alot of research is required.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
You can view foreclosed properties listed for as little as $US10,000 in Japan thanks to depopulation and a culture that is geared towards working for the state. I bought foreclosed properties in Japan and now I reveal all in our expanded 200-page report. The information you need to know, strategies to apply, where to get help, and the tools to use. We even help you avoid the tsunami and nuclear risks since I was a geologist/mining finance analyst in a past life. Check out the "feedback" in our blog for stories of success by customers of our previous reports.