When life gives you lemons, go ride Lemonade!

Home Again

We had a busy time after arriving back in Adelaide from Tasmania.  As you probably remember we had the engine replaced early in our trip. The new engine was for a 1987 van (ours was a 1985) and was 10% larger (2.2 liter vs. 2 liter). The state of South Australia considered the bigger engine a “vehicle modification”. The new engine being bigger triggered all sorts of bells in the government office. We were sent a letter in September at our Lobethal address that said we had to do a bunch of paperwork and have several inspections. Our friend Jeffrey opened it, with our permission, and told us what was needed and that we had six months to do it all. So we waited until we got back to Lobethal in December to even start it. Each of these tests/inspections had to be done in Adelaide, the big city, a good hour away from Lobethal. That adds at least two hours to the time needed to do each step.

The first thing was to call the enclosed phone number and start the process. We talked with a very nice gal and she explained things and helped us get started. First was that the third inspection required an appointment and $253 paid in advance. This was on a Tuesday, Christmas Eve is Saturday, Christmas is Sunday, The official holiday for Christmas is Monday, The day after Christmas is normally “Boxing Day” (a day for boxing up old stuff and giving it to charity) and is also a holiday, but the day after Christmas is already a holiday so the Boxing Day holiday is put off until Tuesday and we are leaving on Thursday for Tasmania (Wednesday is for getting ready for Tasmania). This all means we have 3 days (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) to do all the inspections or put it off until we return from TAS (Tasmania). When we return we have 3 working days (and a weekend) before we leave for home. I decided to make the appointment for the day after we return at 1:40 in the afternoon of a Thursday and then hoped we could get all the rest of it done before TAS. It turns out that the Thursday was going to be very busy.

The first appointment was for an emissions test and we wanted to get it done before we left for TAS. The gal said “Your local mechanic can do it”. So we called Jeffrey’s local mechanic and he said no, he couldn’t and didn’t know who could. So Jeffrey and I got online and started calling around. One call led to another and then another and so on from one suggestion or recommendation to the next. None of them could do it! Finally a shop in Adelaide said he could do it on Friday at the earliest and we made an appointment. On Friday he found an exhaust leak that had to be fixed before the test and did that too. We passed the test but that was $140 more.

The second test was to be at the government test office and was a numbers test, license plate, registration, VIN and engine number. The engine number had changed, of course, and the paperwork had to be updated. There was no appointment for this test but it could take a while depending on the line of people waiting. There was no time for it to be done after the emissions test and before we left for TAS but it had to be done before the afternoon appointment. Our appointment for the third test was for 1:40 in the afternoon on the day after we got back. So we planned to be at the office when they opened to get this numbers inspection done that morning. We were and got it done in an hour. And it was $58.

But the government tests were not the only thing going on that Thursday. The van had been listed for sale on the eBay owned www.gumtree.com.au and we had an interested buyer. While in TAS we had made an appointment with him to meet at his mechanic’s shop at 11:00 AM that Thursday for a purchase inspection. We made it and passed that inspection easily. His mechanic thought it was a good deal. Afterwards we went to his house and set the van up for camping and showed him all of its finer points. He liked it and agreed to buy it. During this we explained about the government inspection that afternoon and agreed to meet back at his house after the inspection and, assuming it passed, transfer the title to him and collect out money.

We finished with the purchaser just in time to grab a hamburger and make it to the inspection. Nowhere has anyone told me what this inspection is for. We’re going into an unknown inspection totally unprepared with a 32 year old van. It turns out to be a safety inspection. I drive the van into a hanger-like building and am directed onto a mechanic’s lift. After checking that my paperwork is for the vehicle I’m driving we do a lights, horn, wipers, turn signals, etc check. Then I get out and the van is lifted and the underside inspected, u-joints, drive shaft, tie rods, wheel bearings, etc. Lastly it is lowered and I drive it onto a set of rollers and the wheels are spun and the brakes checked. The rollers also weigh each tire and then that weight is checked against the carrying capacity of each tire. This is the most complete safety test I have ever gone through. The van is 32 years old and I have my fingers crossed that we will be able to easily fix whatever doesn’t pass. The mechanic earlier that day said it was fine but his test was nothing like this! And we did have a problem, a tail light was out. I promised to get it fixed and the inspector signed off and didn’t require a return visit.

So it is back to the purchaser to show him the paperwork that we had passed. We gave him a discount and he promised to get the light fixed. It is now late afternoon and the buyer, Kathy and I head back to Lobethal where we will give him the additional items of camping gear and the bicycle rack for the rear and let him take it away.

This was a very nerve racking day with multiple connections and inspections that could have gone very wrong anywhere along the way. But by some miracle it all went smoothly. I’m sure that we’ll have to pay the gods back for their help on this some day.

It is now Friday, we fly home on Tuesday. I borrow one of Jeff’s motorcycles and ride to the neighboring town where we had a savings account for a local debit card. That card was a nice bonus because not every little gas station was hooked up to a system that accepted out of country credit cards. We had started with over $8000 in it and I was going to close it and take the remainder in cash. We had by pure luck planned it closely. There was $10.60 left in the account. I took it and thanked them for their good bank and their assistance. We had not gotten a local account in Europe because our plans covered so many different countries that no card would have been “local” everywhere. Here it was easy and very handy.

And because I took the bike I can now add one more country that I have ridden a motorcycle in; that makes 38 now.

Jeffrey is the chef at the well known and renowned Lobethal Bierhaus. He makes some fantastic food and the Bierhaus owner, Alistair, make some great beers. We have eaten and drunk there on several occasions, even joining in with the employees after hours to “clean the taps” on Sunday night. Jeff and Al want to have a going away BBQ at Jeff’s house the night before we leave. It is to be a small party with Kathy and I, Jeff and his wife Helen, Al and his wife Rose and Shane, unmarried, the chief gofer for the brewery. With Jeff cooking and Al’s beer it will be a good time.

At the Bierhaus employee Christmas get together I had given Al, Rose, Jeff and Helen t-shirts with the logo of my home brewery on them. Al and Rose wore theirs to this party.

(They say “Dragon’s Breath Brewery, Brewer of Fine Snowflake Beers, Vancouver, WA) (Snowflakes are, you know, “no two the same”. Sort of like my beer.)


Jeff cooked up some fine meat and Helen, who is also a chef, made the salads and other goodies. We ate until stuffed and then sat around and talked and drank Al’s beer for several more hours. From the left we have Helen, Jeff, Rose, Shane, Al and Kathy. My place is empty and you can see the good food.

Notice that this is t-shirt weather in the middle of January.




Meanwhile, on this same day, this is what our house in the US looks like. Later that day the HOA (Home Owners Association) plowed the streets and cleared the driveways.



The next morning, at 3:30 AM we got up and with Jeff and Helen headed to the airport in Adelaide for our 7:00 flight. We thanked them for everything but we will always be very, very grateful for their help and letting us use their home as our base camp and local address while we explored Australia.

When we first left home it took us 2 ½ days to get to Australia. With the time zones and date line we missed out on Wednesday completely.

On our return trip we will be arriving home about 6 hours after leaving Adelaide and spending 35 hours in airports and airplanes. And it will still be Tuesday!! We actually arrive in Los Angeles 3 hours before we leave Sydney. Talk about having a screwed up internal clock!



We have a 3 hour layover in LA where we have to clear immigration and customs. Immigration was easy, they had at least a dozen agents working. But customs is a very different case. There are only 5 agents working and they are about 200 feet (60 meters) past the Hollywood sign. We still have over an hour to make our plane but this looks like it could take longer than that. The lines moved surprisingly fast. When we get to the front we find that they are doing only a very cursory check and we pass through in about one minute. Back at immigration an agent had collected our customs forms and already had them in the computer. A scan of your passport and you moved on.

Now we are home, recovering, and moaning about the weather. But it is home and we are in our own bed and on our own couch. There are certainly some good things about coming home. One is that one can start thinking about where to go next, in a couple of years. Until then we will be back to local rides and trips as we did between our round-the-US trip a couple years ago and before Australia. Doing the planning is half the fun (well maybe not half the fun but it is fun to plan).

Until the next ride we’ll enjoy our memories and pictures, many of which, but not all, are in this series of stories. We took over 6,000 pictures thanks to today’s digital cameras. If we had had to buy film that would have doubled our cost.

Now on to a map of our route.