Keiron (and grandkids)

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Keiron's rig and (inset left to right) grandchildren Charlotte, Riley and Campbell.

Mumsbox1When Keiron, 65, set off on a two-weeks-plus caravanning adventure with his three grandchildren, he didn’t know what to expect. By the time he was unpacking his pop-top at the end of the trip – in which he was joined at different stages by both his two daughters, his wife Margot (briefly) and his son-in-law – his already strong family relationships had been further enhanced … and he was planning his next grandchildren escape. Here, ‘Grumps’ gives the lowdown on his wonderful experience.

Tell us about the grandchildren who came with you?
Charlotte, 11, is a very capable academic who is a born leader and plays soccer as well as she can dance. Riley, 9, is the mathematician and the soccer player who will one day make David “bend-it-like-Beckham” look like the drinks boy! A very good all-round sportsman. Then, the baby of the three is Campbell, 7, who plays a mean game of soccer too, but is just as happy studying or seeking out “fossils”? If any one of the three kids were to be our next PM, it would be this little boy. All you have to do is ask him! And finally on this little dude, he has one sick sense of humour.

What did you travel in?
The “Rig” is an 18’ dual axle Viscount Pop-top. It is lavishly appointed with two single beds, at one end of the building, with the dining, kitchen, games room, theatrette, and entertainment area at the other! Given that the outside temperature was so cold the kettle would not boil, we were all cosy and snug in our 5-star quarters, (that is one star for each of us).
The van is equipped with solar and battery back-up and with the exception of the ‘outside loo’ is well set up for short free camping stints.  (You should have seen “She Who Must be Obeyed’s face when I first handed her a shovel to dig a hole!). Big mistake. The Tug is 4.8 L Nissan burning lots of petrol.

Where do you like to camp?
Caravan Parks mainly because we do not have an ensuite on board, and also because of the added security if you want to un-hook and do some touring.

Have the children been caravanning before?
This was the very first experience for the kids in a caravan. Ever since we brought it home at the beginning of the year, they have been anxious to get in and travel. I am sure they loved it for a whole range of reasons. Not just that they got two weeks of school, with the appropriate approvals of course.

How did the trip go?
Wonderfully. The kids were so excited and seeking out adventure, enjoying the moment and looking forward to the next. Because we had no pre-plan or agenda to follow or adhere to, we were able to be flexible and as we did several times say:  “Okay, let’s do that”. We never had to say: “We don’t have time.” This approach allowed the kids to some extent set the itinerary and, within reason, see and do those things they wanted. With no TV, we were able to give the kids plenty of free time to explore, but also to communicate. At night we talked, played cards, wrote up the daily journals of the day’s highlights, and discussed what the next day might include.

How did the children take to caravanning?
It took them much less time than it did at home to make it look like a pigsty. That was day one and quickly changed, when they appreciated that everything had a place and when not being used should be in that place. (God love them). When setting up camp on day one Riley was asked to wind down the caravan ‘stabiliser legs’, which he adopted as his job each time we set up. He also took the hand-held walkie-talkie to the back of the van and facilitated a check, via the CB radio, of the caravan lights, blinkers etc. That was his job and no one else was doing it. His other job was to connect the 4WD fridge to the 240volt from the van (under supervision).
They all loved the novelty of camping, and I think enjoying the adventure of using communal amenities. They are always asking when we can go away again. The boys in particular are wanting to do Lightning Ridge as soon as possible. Planning currently underway.

What were you able to teach the grandchildren?
How to melt marshmallows and chocolate in ice-cream cones for sweets.
How to navigate using the sun and stars to find North.
How to play Euchre and Pontoon.

What were they able to teach you?
I can now tweet, text and Google. And I now know what eBay is, too. And I know who Rhianna is, and Pink, not to mention INXS and Eminem. Whew! Exhausting stuff.

Did taking the grandchildren give you a different perspective on caravanning?
Being a ‘novice’ at this whole ‘Nomad’ thing, which I do love and cherish, I feel sad for anyone who may choose to exclude their grandchildren from their travel experiences, and sorrow for those who are unable to for whatever reasons. What I may have learnt is that the more people you can share your experiences with, particularly younger generations, the more rewarding.

Did the trip throw up any surprises (either good or bad)?
Every day was albeit a surprise for the kids because they did not know where we were going. Neither did their parents or I until either that morning or the evening before. For example, when we pulled up at the dinosaur museum in the ACT the kids had absolutely no idea, even though they had been trying to guess from the time we left camp until we arrived. Even at the old Roundhouse Railway Museum at Junee they had no idea where we were until we had entered the front door. Similarly at the Licorice Factory. Not far out of Temora we pulled over for a drink and stretch beside a paddock holding two mares, their foals and a couple of cows. All of the animals came over to the fence where the two grandsons, and their dad, spent the next 30 minutes hand feeding them grass. I enjoyed watching and cherish this memory.

There were no bad experiences for anyone, just memorable ones for all. Sorry, maybe the kids were a little surprised by some of the “night noises” experienced when you have 5 people sharing a 2 berth room. Like, Grumps, did you know you snore and make other noises?  You gotta luv em.

Okay, get the journal out. Give us some details of your trip, please?
On leaving Campbelltown, NSW, we journeyed down to Canberra where we stayed at the Exhibition Park centre. Good clean facilities and that cold the kettle would not boil. The next few days had us visit the Mint, an annex of Questacon next door to the Mint  and The War Memorial, the Dinosaur Museam / Park and Telstra Tower. We asked the kids if they would like to visit Parliament house and we were met a resounding NO NO NO!

After a few days, we put Canberra behind us and ventured on to Yass, had lunch in the park and, travelling via the Tuckerbox Dog, set up camp in Gundagai, complete with a drive-thru and ensuite. Gundagai is a nice little town but has so much to see and learn about. The kids, and my daughter, had a wonderful time at the old railway station, walking the tracks and trying to absorb the workings of the signalling and points switching systems.

A memorable part of our time in Gundagai was an old museum, just off the main street, on the railway end of town. This museum has so much memorabilia from my childhood, which I could explain to the kids and show them how things worked. A feature for the kids was the old settlers’ hut outside, complete with the olden day version of the “Loo”. When it was explained to them how things used to work in the little house outside they just laughed. (I do now look forward to some free camping with them so much).

Next we were off to Junee, and the licorice & chocolate factory, a mandatory stop when in the area, and the caravan park for the night. It was hell’s own job trying to keep the little one from fishing in the lake outside the fence, until the temperature dropped low enough for the fire to go out.

The next day, after breakfast and getting back on the road, the kids’ father, and my dear little Margot, rendezvoused with us in Junee for coffee, and a leisurely trip out to Temora.

With another coffee stop in the main street of Temora, Margot, Charlotte and her mother Leisha, departed for the drive back to Sydney, whilst the two boys and their father and I moved out to camp at the Aerodrome at Temora.

The next seven days we travelled out through Nerrandera, Jerilderie, Deniliquin, and Finley to Echuca, where we stayed in a caravan park in Moama. Lovely park in the midst of a winter make-over, and lovely ensuite which must have been only days old. Just beautiful.

Two days in Echuca doing the walk-about and paddle-boat thing before travelling along the Victorian side of the majestic Murray to Hovell’s tree in Albury. Whilst in the area took the opportunity to visit the historic railway station, and exposed the two boys to some of the associated history.

Overnight on the banks of the mighty Hume Weir, cold raining and camped on a terraced 45 degree slope. The little one did get in some fishing, caught nothing and felt good about it, because he felt he was as good as his Grumps (our family substitute for Grandfather because no-one thought there was much grand about the old bloke).

After breakfast and a hairy exit from the muddy and slippery park, we visited the Hume Weir proper, then travelled back up to Gundagai via the Ettamaogah Pub at Table Top, (no longer trading sadly), Holbrook where the boys climbed all over the submarine.

The following day we met up with my other daughter Charlotte and the boys’ mum in Yass where, after some social time together, the three kids and both parents left for home, as my youngest daughter stayed on with me for the next part of this epic adventure.

Is taking the grandchildren a cure for ‘missing-the-grandchildren’ syndrome?
How does one answer this double-edged question? Let me first give you one scenario; the kids play up, are unco-operative, fight, are disobedient, loud, uncontrollable etc; A good solution for never taking them again maybe …
For me, having had this most memorable experience with my three great (as in wonderful) grandchildren, it makes it even harder to travel far and wide, knowing that I will miss their company and loving joys until we are again re-united.

The “missing the grandchildren syndrome” is something we shall have to grin and bear, for one cannot stay at home eternally (except of course our own kids), nor can one abduct their kin and vanish into the night for fear that their parents may follow. And then we will run out of beds.

Do you think you will take the children off again in the van at some stage?
Given the chance I would be gone this afternoon. I thrived on seeing the kids, both my own and the three grandchildren revel in the experiences they encountered, and appreciated the opportunities presented them. And I certainly appreciated the opportunity to share this little bit our development(s) together. Absolute joyous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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