Caravanning and RVing in Australia



'On the Wallaby'


*For more than a decade Lionel's column 'On the Wallaby'has become the first page thousands of readers eagerly look for each month in 'Caravan World' - Australia's leading caravanning and RV magazine.

Here are a few samples of his columns:

(I've just put these in type and left out most of the cartoons as the column is too hard to read in the scanned version.)

October 2000

I've been spending too much time on the internet and too little time with my head on the pillow but it's fascinating to be in contact with people all over the world in just seconds whereas letters take days even if the person you write to gets around to replying straight away.

Sometimes you find out funny things and sometimes the opposite. This week for instance I found out that a lady in Wales has started eating baby food! Sounds funny I know but in fact Barbara's an old friend and the sad reason for her living on 'mush' is that she had cancer on the underside of her tongue cut out and a graft made from tissue taken from her forearm. The good news is that she's OK and started a redecorating regime as soon as she got home from hospital! I was in the RAF with Derek and he and Barbara often visited us when we lived in Yorkshire. People who have already read my autobiography, 'Living with Murphy', will recognise Derek from some of the incidents that happened to us during our flying days fifty years ago.

On a brighter note I get e-mail from an RV group based mainly in the States and Canada and it's great to read the discussions on topics that interest us here in OZ. I've even added my two-cents worth from time to time. Once you get to know that our 'caravan' is a 'Travel Trailer' and their 'caravan' is a convoy of RV's as in camel caravans in the desert it all starts to make sense. It takes a while to realise that when they go RV-ing they are caravanning or motor-homing but they do share the same sense of humour as the rest of us and a little gem circulated recently.

A couple of retirees were sitting on the opposite ends of the settee in their motor-home one evening when she looked at him and with a smile said,'You used to sit next to me when we were young'. He dutifully shuffled along the couch till he was next to her.'I remember when you used to put your arm around me as well'. His arm slid round her waist.'Sometimes you even used to nibble my ear!' At this he jumped up and hurried towards the bedroom.'Where are you going?' she cried.'I've got to fetch my teeth', he replied.

Some of the members of the RV group have posted quite elaborate journals of their travels on the net and they make great viewing. If you have access to the www you might like to have a peep. Their addresses are: and

An e-mail arrived last night from Maurie up at Gladstone in Queensland who had just finished reading 'The BIG ONE' and noticed my reference to free 48-hr camping at Calliope. Apparently some unthinking and selfish people had been settling in for extended stays and annoyed the local council who put up big signs to enforce 48-hr camping about eighteen months ago. It's not the first time that a ratbag minority have ruined things for the vast majority of responsible campers and I remember with fondness the lovely foreshore camping area at Grasstree Beach near Sarina that was closed for the same reason.

Maurie was concerned - as we all are - by the use of the bush as huge lavatories near rest areas.We were pleased to see an increase in the number of toilets at rest areas on the main roads in Victoria and NSW on our recent trip to Brisbane. I believe that most of the fouling that goes on around rest areas is a direct result of the lack of facilities for ordinary motorists caught far from home without a spade. Caravanners are usually far better prepared.

We've got hot water here at home. I knew you would be interested. A couple of months back I mentioned that Murph. had started blowing out the pilot light on our year-old HWS. I also said it had been fixed. It hadn't. It needed five visits from the serviceman before the faulty thermostat was found, a new one ordered and a week later the problem was almost solved. I say almost because after the man left saying it was all set up to specifications we found that the water only ran hot when you turned the hot water taps towards off otherwise it was just lukewarm. The flow had been set for tropical climates - not the Antarctic-like conditions of a Melbourne winter! Fed up after weeks of messing around and the fact that Bosch wouldn't honour the warranty as they blamed the fault on a non-return valve that should not have been fitted into the inlet by the builder, I fixed the thing myself.

The ED Falcon that has served us so well is going and a low mileage AU wagon will be in the driveway this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes and what new delights my friend has in store for me during the changeover.

Till then I'll see you down the track,


APRIL 2000
There are some days when you wish you had not got out of bed, when you would like to wind the clock back and start over again. The phone keeps ringing, people keep popping in, there are lots of jobs that should be done and you forgot to have breakfast.

There I was quietly minding my own business and reading the thrilling booklet my accountant has kindly sent me about the GST when a reminder came that I hadn't sent the editor a 'Wallaby' for the April issue of the magazine.

So here I am practicing my newly acquired touch typing skills and wondering what in the world to cheer your day with.

I could tell you of Vi's beautiful way of mixing up words but that would land me in deep trouble I'm sure! Everyone talks of Catterson's Purse don't they when they see paddocks of bright purple flowers? Her best effort was when a house had been on fire and she told me in all seriousness that,'None of the crackery was crocked'.

What is more important is that the now defunct 'The ABC of Caravanning' is about to rise from the ashes as part of a revised 'The BIG ONE'. We were nearly out of The BIG ONE and needed to consider a reprint in time for the caravan shows but as we still get a lot of inquiries for the ABC wondered about a reprint of it as well. Cost was the problem as short runs are very expensive. Then the idea came of dropping the caravan parks from The BIG ONE and replacing them with the main part of the ABC.

I spent the last few days revising and in places rewriting the book so hopefully my friend won' t let too many mistakes go through the system. Those of you who have spent hours in Yanchep searching for the sculptured heads without success will be pleased to know they have been removed from the book as well as from their location near Perth.

One of my vast army of spies was up north recently and saw a utility sporting a sign he thought would interest me ó it said, 'On the Wallaby' and although I realize this term has been in use in Australia for many years it does give the column a free plug. I hope the owners of the ute don't send a bill. If they do I'll pass it on to Barry after adding 10% for Mr. Costello!

The Scenic was starting to look a bit chatty after five years hard work so its been over at Scenic's yard for a service and having a few bits and pieces tidied up plus having a proper STRONG bicycle carrier bracket welded to the bumper bar. Regular readers will remember I lost a brand new bike somewhere in Central Queensland a while ago and I haven't been game to carry its replacement till now. Trevor Page uses my tragic loss as an example to dissuade his customers from carrying their velocipedes on the back of their new Jaycos. Thanks Trev!

When you read this the caravan shows will be in full swing and thousands of people will be seeing the radical new designs of the 'RV's of the New Millennium'. They look pretty impressive on paper and I'm sure some of the ideas and treatments will become commonplace over the next few years. I couldn't help noticing that despite space-age design concepts some are still using jockey wheels and corner steadies more reminiscent of the stone-age! I know one manufacturer not among the 14 on display, who is about to fit a very advanced leveling system to a special van that should be on display at the Melbourne show. More on this project later.

See you down the track,


MAY 2000
At the Adelaide Caravan Show, Peter, advertising rep. for a rival Melbourne-based magazine, accused me of making up incidents so I could write about them in the column. Then Murphy and I proved him wrong. I had taken the van to the show on the last day in the hope of getting a quick start on the road home when the show finished.

Cars had parked pretty close to the van and as I carefully drove forward and started to turn, Peter tapped on the window to tell me that if I kept going I would scratch the car next to me with the tail of the van as it had swung out as I turned. "I'll bet this doesn't get into that column of yours," he gleefully remarked. Wrong Peter! I had to unhook and manually extricate the van using the jockey wheel with the help of Tony , our strong advertising man in Adelaide.

I wish Peter could have been with me to see what happened later that night when sometime after midnight and a few kilometers from the rest area where I planned to kip, Murphy broke the fan belt! Pitch black, hot motor, and tired eyes were not a combination for laughter and I didn't fancy trying to fit my one-size-fits-all, you-beaut emergency belt on the roadside with huge trucks roaring past just centimetres away.

An extremely gentle drive with a very light throttle got me to the Lochiel rest area without ruining the engine and I collapsed thankfully into bed. Murphy had made certain the van was parked at an angle so I kept feeling that I was falling out of bed all night and was pleased when daylight came. I then rang the RACV for help and had breakfast while I waited. By just after 8am I was back on the road and on my way home - just 400 kilometers to go with a strong gusty headwind making the old girl consume LPG the way I swill red wine. At 44.9 cents a litre I wasn't too happy but who cares? It's only money!

At least one reader who came to talk to us at the Adelaide Caravan Show expressed the wish that there could be more practical tips in the magazine. Well here's one for you if you have a rear kitchen and the burners hop out of the gas stove during a trip. Ours constantly did this until I hit on the idea of fastening the top framework down with a bread tie. Don't forget to undo it before lighting the grill as it melts the plastic and makes a nasty smell! You can make a permanent fastener for the top but this makes it difficult to clean the top of the stove.

Another tip given some time ago by a reader, I've found invaluable since we moved into our new home and I have to back the van quite a long way up the driveway between the carport pillars using the mirrors to see where the van is heading. Looking into the mirrors you use the bottom of the steering wheel to guide the back of the van the way you want it to go. If you want the back of the van to go to the left, move the bottom of the wheel towards the left and vice-versa for the right. It works a treat and you can position the van within centimetres of where you want it to be. (Old grizzled caravan hands will be muttering about turning the wheel the opposite way you want the van to go - right hand down to make the van go to the left. Quite right fellas - but when you do that what happens to the bottom of the wheel, eh?)

I suppose that in any crowd of people there will always be the odd dishonest person but I didn't expect anyone to steal my Murphy hat! My bright red hat with the legend, 'LIVING WITH MURPHY' in luminous green was taken from our stand at the Adelaide show so if you see anyone wearing such a titfer you will know where they got it from. I also lost two browse copies of 'The BIG ONE' but that's par for the course - I can't for the life of me think why they don't knock off the good copies instead. By the way the revised version with the 'ABC of Caravanning' incorporated will be ready for the rest of the shows.

See you down the track,


June 2000
I've got another law for you to add to your list: People who are short of money should not visit caravan shows!

My wish list doesn't include a new caravan although there are some very tasty examples around these days but rather my envious eyes fasten on such goodies as cookware that you can misuse and never harm the nonstick properties or make them hard to wash up, turbo-ovens that not only cook wonderful meals but wash themselves up and towing mirrors that don't swing back in the breeze regardless of how fast you are traveling

The demo of the nonstick cookware is most impressive. Milk is put on high heat and allowed to boil dry. The black mess in the bottom of the pan just wipes out with a piece of kitchen paper! The same goes for burnt solid porridge - it just tips out. There's no Teflon coating to harm so you can use metal implements without incurring the wrath of one's partner and, best of all, you don't need fat for cooking.

Friends of mine bought a turbo-cooker for their caravan some years ago but found it so good it lives permanently in their kitchen and never gets into the van.

You must have noticed the ongoing correspondence about mirrors that don't behave like they should. Vi says it's not just mirrors but I can't think what she means by that.

The Camec people have some beauties for sale - they fit solidly on the doors using a hold-down strap with a tensioner plus an arm to the bottom of the window. 'Caravan World' had them on the Suburban they used for twelve months or so and their report was that the mirrors are excellent. When I get tired of sticking tape on my Falcon's boomerang mirrors to stop the towing mirrors dancing in the slipstream and have a spare couple of hundred dollars I'll invest in a pair.

There are three sets of wing mounting mirrors in the shed and a couple of pairs of the ones that clip over the door mirrors. With an eight foot van they don't extend far enough and I really do like to see what's coming up behind.

A reader has passed on a tip for you - always carry a spare pair of glasses in the car. (If you don't wear glasses this may by wasted advice but one day you will find they are using smaller print and glasses will be needed!) As he so rightly pointed out it is hard to find an optometrist when you are halfway between Mt. Isa and Katherine or somewhere equally remote and that's where the glasses are going to break or get lost.

I agreed with him as I always have some older glasses in the car for emergencies but didn't expect to prove the usefulness of this until the following day when my spare pair helped out the Editor when her glasses broke during the Melbourne Caravan Show. (If you think I'm going to type out the full official name for the show have another think - I can't spell destynayshun anyway!)

Have I mentioned clothes pegs lately? I reckon they might be better than sliced bread although they don't taste as nice.

We use them for so many things - most common is to replace that devilish piece of plastic used to seal the sliced bread wrapper. There is a clutch of pegs in the kitchen ready for any task and another gaggle of them in the cutlery drawer in the van. I must see if they will keep the bottom of my trousers from catching in the bike chain as the clips I bought nearly cause my feet to drop off meaning I have to tuck the trouser legs into my socks.

THIS bike is still going strong and is a pleasure to ride. It also keeps my brain occupied working out which of the 21 gears I should be in at any particular time. Cycling is good exercise and approved by my cardiologist who recently told me: 'Your body is getting away from you around the waist' Cheeky beggar - and then he had the nerve to charge me for his advice.

See you down the track,


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Lionel's column appears every month in 'Caravan World' magazine - why not become a regular reader and keep up with what's happening in the world of caravanning.
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