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Chapter Sixteen

1998 to 2008 - A Nomads Life

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Our life on the road is well documented on "The Motley Expeditions" web site at which I have maintained since we first became grey nomads. It seems appropriate here to look back on those years and review how our life has changed.

It all started in mid 1997 when the ABC aired a TV documentary called "Grey Nomads". This was an examination of the way several different people had decided to leave suburbia to go round Australia. The film maker had spent a year following these people on their separate travels and had found and shown the motivation behind each ones journey. Some of the stories were happy and positive and some were not but the essential message was clear, it is possible for anyone to discover the real Australia. Jean and I both realised that here was a plan for our life after retirement.

We did very little research into the intricacies of life on the road. We discovered a few days after the event that there had been a rally of motorhomers at Narrabeen which we should have visited. With no idea what we were doing, we set out to visit all the motorhome sales outlets listed in the Sydney yellow pages. This proved to be a fruitless exercise as we didn't see anything approaching what we needed. We knew nothing about the specifications of motorhomes but we knew that we had to feel comfortable with the idea of living in the vehicle. We did find the phone number of Winnebago and on the following Monday I rang to ask about buying a motorhome. They brusquely told me that they didn't deal with the general public and that I would have to visit Tynans in Miranda in far south of Sydney. I took a day off work and we visited them. We looked at each vehicle on show in turn starting with the smallest. Nothing seemed right for us until we reached the last one, a 24 ft Winnebago Alpine. Both of us were impressed with the layout as there were separate areas for cooking, eating, relaxing and entertaining, washing and sleeping and there was no need to turn any facility into another as was common in smaller units. We fell in love with the Motley and decided to buy it.

Our first year on the road was pretty much travelling from caravan park to caravan park visiting all sorts of places but not finding the real Australia. We had joined the CMCA and had spent some time at weekend gathering but the penny still hadn't dropped. We met someone from the club on the road who said that we should go to a club rally to find out if we enjoyed them. We booked into the rally at Berri and made our way there. On the way there we met some other people going to the rally and we joined in a Highway Wanderers bush camp but when we got to the rally, we were disappointed because everyone seemed too busy to bother with us. At a happy hour before the rally, I had told the story of the advice that you had to go to a rally to find out if you enjoyed them and a very experienced motorhomer had remarked that that wasn't quite right. You should commit to going to two in case you didn't enjoy the first one for some reason. I remembered that advice and we planned to go to the next rally at Townsville. The Highway Wanderers had advertised a gathering at Nanango and a safari to Townsville which seemed like a good idea. This became a turning point in our motorhoming career as we met some really nice people, had a really good time, and learned a lot about motorhoming from those who had much experience. Our second rally was quite the opposite of our first as we knew plenty of people and were able to participate in all the activities we had missed at Berri.

We had met the new President of the chapter and after the rally I got involved in a formal way in a disagreement between the chapter and the Board of the club. I found myself the chairman of a Chapter Sub-committee charged with investigating the rights and wrongs of the distribution of money raised at an earlier rally at Roma which had been run by the chapter. The issue was easily resolved as the Board had no justification for its position and all the documentary evidence supported the Chapter's position. I was happy to talk to anyone we met on the road about what we were doing but Jean thought I shouldn't let the information out because it might get back to the Board. In the event, the Board did get to know and they sent the cheque to the chapter even before they had received their copy of the report because they knew that the chapter had proved its case.

I was asked to take up a position as representing the chapter on the National Advisory Council. This required me to attend Council meetings at every rally to raise issues of concern to my constituents and to participate in debate on issues raised by other chapters. I soon found that the Council was a toothless tiger and that the Board totally ignored any recommendations they didn't like.

The Board had decided that they wanted to change the Constitution of the club and I was asked to review their draft and comment. I spent a considerable time doing the best job I could but my advice was largely ignored. When the new constitution came to a vote at the Alice Springs rally, I moved an adjournment motion on the grounds that the members had not had enough time to consider and discuss the changes in any depth. My motion lost by an overwhelming margin and I concluded that the membership didn't want to be bothered to consider what was happening to the club as long as they could have a good time on the road and have the benefit of the club's insurance scheme. After the Special General Meeting that approved the new constitution, the President told us that, if we hadn't approved it, the Board would all have resigned forthwith. I was stunned and disgusted by this as I believed that they had accepted an obligation to manage the club and, if they were prepared to leave the club without a Board, they were not accepting that obligation and they no longer deserved the respect due to them. I decided to resign from my position on the National Advisory Council on the grounds that I wasn't prepared to work with anyone who didn't have my respect. Some of my colleagues felt that I was wrong to do this, saying that I couldn't fix anything if I wasn't prepared to participate. It is appropriate to reflect that none of these critics were prepared to take up the position.

In due course, the Board changed its membership but the damage had already been done and the club is now a very different organisation. I argue that the board should only do things which help members have a good time on the road. I also argue that the membership is stronger than any board and that the thousands of us who have a good time on the road will always win out if it comes to a showdown.

I eventually accepted the post of chapter Secretary. I served my two year term and then decided to take a sabbatical from all things political and formal. Life on the road is very enjoyable but being obliged to attend every rally created a degree of dissatisfaction which a break from formal duties cured.

We've have made some wonderful friends on the road and wouldn't change that for anything. We are now able to travel where and when we choose and to do whatever we feel like from time to time and life is exceptionally pleasant.

I was amused to hear one of my friends say how quiet and retiring I was when we first met. She is our creative director who organizes all our highly successful chapter skits and she has encouraged me to be a ballet dancer, a singer, a sage, a belly dancer, a didgeridoo player, and a respectable motorhomer and she is proud of the fact that she got me on stage dressed only in a veil and a pair of red jocks announcing the next act to an audience of more than a thousand people.

We still go to rallies and we attend our own and other chapter meetings whenever we can. We continue to meet wonderful people and we are privileged to meet up with old friends wherever we go.

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