Queensland, are you ready for us?

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What are we doing in the photo?  We are currently in Goombungee planning out the Queensland section of our event.  Unfortunately due to uncontrolled circumstances, we had to modify our schedule to meet several commitments, so we are spending the next few days working out where we will be each day over the next couple of months, but also planning camp sites, notifying the media (TV, print, online and radio) as well as contacting local community groups and schools hoping to arrange a meet up, and hopefully a fundraiser (BBQ or dog meetup anyone?).

If you live in Queensland and you would like us to visit you and/or your local community/group/club/school, please get in contact with us as soon as possible.

We will update and republish our Itinerary page by the end of the week.  If the date we will be in your community doesn’t work, please let us know and we will see what we can do to be there at a more appropriate time.

A birthday and breaking in some new equipment

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Today has been an exciting day on several levels…

Firstly, it was Annika’s birthday.. her 7th birthday but her first in Queensland!.  

Secondly we found an area where Paul could legally fly the new DJI Mavic Pro which was generously supplied by our fantastic sponsor FPV Australia & Mongrel Gear.  Paul had fun learning to fly this brilliant piece of technology.  Paul’s biggest issue was that Luna decided that it would be a great idea to try to catch the drone in mid flight (as seen in the attached picture).  Paul has been flying radio controlled helicopters for quite a while now so it was very easy for him to adapt the the new drone.  Kirstine then flew the drone on her own and showed that with NO previous experience, you can still fly the DJI Mavic Pro without any formal training (using beginner mode).

Should we mention that we enjoyed a stunning 23 degrees today?? No, let’s not rub it in for our friends and family in the southern states .. hehehe

Queensland quirks and quid pro quo

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Pretty lights on the drone!!
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The old school version of our HN7 GPS 🙂
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Warm weather = seasonal fruit in the off season!

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It was a huge day! Leaving early from Narrabri in northern NSW after a quiet night at the showgrounds, we grabbed some (as it turns out) truly awful bacon & egg rolls from a servo, and made our way further north.

Have you ever sometimes had those experiences where you watch how others drive and wonder how on earth they got their licences?? Considering that not many cereal packets have “toys” in them anymore, it really did leave out minds boggling – road trains overtaking vehicles towing caravans, long vehicles overtaking road trains, we even had one driver swerve out to see what was coming (US!!) as he rounded a curve.. aargh!!

The kids cheered as we crossed the border into Queensland at Goondiwindi. We weren’t able to stay long, as we were committed to picking up a super special parcel at the Post Office in Toowoomba. Imagine Kirstine’s concern when she came back to the Legend with a bag full of QLD goodies, to hear Paul on the phone to TNT about the refused delivery of our special parcel! After a few harried phone calls, and clarification of how to collect a TNT parcel from an Australia Post (competition!) office, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief and concentrate on getting to Toowoomba. Caitlin (sp?) from TNT – The People Network was a miracle worker and made calls to try and get delivery attempted again by the driver. Success!!

Along the way we’d already noticed the warmth in the air, the sunflowers growing wild along the roadside, the bundles of cotton that had fallen loose from a bale or crop, and decorated the roadside, and once we crossed into QLD, the prickly pear (cactus) everywhere! The kids were wondering if we were going into the desert, because of all the cactus, but the rich crop and grazing lands of the Darling Downs region is anything but desert.

Arriving in Toowoomba, we were able to pick up our TNT parcel at the Post Office after paying a nominal fee. We had no problem with this, but the “protocols” each company had to work through to get the outcome we needed was tedious. It was definitely a learning curve for us. We have our mail redirected to a mail forwarding company, who can send to a post office for us to collect. We are learning that in some cases, good will (ours) isn’t enough, and there are bureaucratic steps to follow (Aus Post) to get the job done. Do you know what? We’re not worried. If you don’t experience these things, you can’t learn from them.

We made our way to the showgrounds at Goombungee, about 35km out of Toowoomba, and after a quick call to the Caretaker, were able to set up for the next week. Our plan is to figure out how best to travel Queensland, contacting community groups and media in advance to see if we can maximise the fundraising opportunities as we travel.

On a side note, the kids are super excited about the Mavic Pro drone we picked up today. Paul is quietly cursing Kirstine for finding a campsite that falls within a No-Fly zone, due to the nearby RAAF Base!! LOL!!

After SMPTE – Miller, Manildra & memories

We would be remiss in not mentioning Miller Tripods for the fabulous piece of equipment they have supplied us with for the trip, or Heidi from Videocraft in arranging this for us. The brilliant Miller Air Solo 75 Alloy 2-stage tripod system is lightweight and so easy to work with – even for someone as non-tech as Kirstine! We had a lovely visit with the team when we picked up the tripod, however concerns about the voracious nature of parking inspectors in the area meant our visit was cut short. A huge thank you to Miller for your support, and for making our camera work so much easier!

Where did we go after SMPTE? After visiting Miller, we stopped and had coffee with Anne and Lisa at Cub Campers! It makes such a difference being able to put a face to a name, and they were hugely supportive of our trip – albeit wondering how we would stay sane travelling for over 12 months with 3 children!!

From there we travelled around to Liverpool and stopped to see the local Nissan dealership. The Principal may have been away, but their social media guru, Christina, stopped to talk with us and take some photos of the Legend!

If you haven’t yet discovered the peace of the Royal National Park, we highly recommend you do! We ended up staying for three nights, to try and decompress after the busy-ness of Sydney. It is difficult for us to be in big cities now, if for no other reason than that we are towing a camper trailer! Seriously though, we find ourselves sometimes not wanting to give away the locations we find, but we can’t keep them all to ourselves. Reviews on various camping apps are often what lead us to a specific place, and it’s only fair that we share our own experiences.

Bonnie Vale was delightful. We initially booked in for one night, but after a fun wake up call by the local ibis and cockatoo population, we knew we had to stay a bit longer. Ever had some birdlife help themselves to loaves of bread or such like, while you were still asleep? No, go to Bonnie Vale! It was so hilarious to wake and see 4-5 sulfur crested cockatoos, ibis and ducks enjoying the stale bread we’d left wrapped on a shelf under the camp kitchen sink. There are photos on Facebook and Instagram if you’re interested.

The cockatoos became a standard group of visitors during our stay. A day was spent walking along a beach and coastline to see some local indigenous carvings in the rocks, and generally letting the kids “be kids” and burn off some of the energy they kept contained while in the Sydney CBD.

Eventually we decided to leave Bonnie Vale, after meeting some wonderful people and talking about our trip. The kids, in particular our eldest daughter, made great impressions with others, and we’ve actually had positive Facebook messages about those interactions. This really isn’t a holiday, and it means so much to have great feedback about the kids’ behaviour.. even if we doubt the authenticity when we are feeling particularly jaded .. lol.

The next day we crossed the Blue Mountains to Bathurst, after a stop at the Three Sisters. We’ve never been here before, and were in awe of the landscape. It’s a well set up location. There is plenty of space to see the Sisters and take photos, with a secondary viewing platform only a short walk below.

Bathurst was awesome – if only for Mount Panorama! Unfortunately the showground was dreadfully overpriced, considering that the amenities were over the other side of the race track, and we were right on the main road. I guess it goes without saying that the kids are used to “alternate” peeing arrangements in these situations, and Paul and I spent the evening pretending we were deaf, because the traffic noise was so ridiculously loud!

Being able to drive around Mount Panorama was a massive bucket list item for Paul. It’s a normal 60 km/h road when there are no events on, so both Paul & Kirstine had a turn at driving, going back the next day after the fog had lifted (weather as well as the lack of sleep), to get some photos and footage.

From Bathurst we headed further west, and found a fabulous spot at Manildra. We can’t speak highly enough of this campground at the showgrounds there. Top notch amenities, wonderfully friendly caretakers, and level grassed sites. We were able to send the kids off to run amok, and catch our breath! We source most of our camping locations on the CamperMate app. For the most part, the information is up to date and accurate. We had to rave about Manildra! This gorgeous little town is home to the largest flour mill in the Southern Hemisphere (!!) and the longest continuously running movie theatre in Australia. Please, PLEASE, don’t bypass small towns in favour of the bigger ones. You miss out on so much by doing this, and are likely also paying for the privilege. Alan & Hazel, you are doing wonders at Manildra, and we hope to see you again next year!

Having decided to stay for two days in Manildra, we travelled a loop to Parkes (out to The Dish), and on to Forbes, Eugowra and back to camp. Kirstine’s family is from this area, so it was so special to go and see some of the locations that meant so much to her.  At The Dish, which you REALLY should go and visit if you’re anywhere nearby, Paul had a special conversation with a staff member at Visitor’s Centre, in reference to a previous guest’s visit with their supposed “service dogs”. Kirstine believes there is a separate post to be done in this respect, so please bear with us.  

From a media perspective, we met with a journalist in Parkes and did a phone interview with one in Dubbo. When we have the links available, we’ll post them for you here.

Where are we now? We’re in Narrabri in northern New South Wales. It’s been a big day to get here, and tomorrow we’ll cross the border into Queensland. Then we will be STAYING PUT for about a week, so we can plan the itinerary for the state and contact the schools and community groups in the towns we’ll visit. Most importantly in the short term, our youngest daughter turns 7 on Saturday, and we always take the time to mark family occasions like this!

New Sponsors from the Sydney Motion Picture and Television Engineers Trade Show

adeallogo3.JPGFPV Australia

Thursday morning began early for us as we headed towards Alexandria to drop off the Legend for its 10,000km service. The service manager at Sydney City Nissan had SQUEEZED us into the schedule for that day, and we are hugely grateful for their support! It also felt good knowing that the Legend was going to get some love and attention after already traversing some tough terrain.

We were privileged to be invited by our Platinum Sponsor to attend their stand at SMPTE17.  As part of our visit, we were interviewed live to Videocraft’s Facebook account which can be viewed here. We made our way to the International Convention Centre (ICC) at Darling Harbour, and met up with our fabulous friends from Videocraft for the day at the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE17) Exhibition. The kids were excited to be issued their own access passes, and we weren’t surprised to find that Luna had one as well! Heidi introduced us to the team behind the scenes, and we were truly in awe of the professional set and equipment they were using. We know this is their bread and butter, but WOW!!

Paul and Kirstine were set up with microphones in readiness for our guest appearance being interviewed on Broadcast Brains, which Videocraft live streamed to the internet. LIVE interview – gee, no pressure!! In all seriousness though, it was actually surprisingly easy, and James made us feel very welcome and at home in front of the cameras. It was the perfect medium to talk about our trip and get the message out.

We met some genuinely wonderful people at SMPTE17. Heidi introduced us to those in her network who contributed to the documentary camera kit that Videocraft supplied – Sony & Avid Technologies, but Heidi was super busy with the live stream interviews running during the day, so we took Luna and went for a walk around the exhibitors.

Luna of course was a star, and we stopped to talk to lots of people and explain what a Mental Health Assistance dog does. When we stopped at Mongrel Gear & FPV Australia, we found that they are dog mad, in the best way!! John, the Certified Chief Instructor and Owner, wanted to know everything about our trip, and without hesitation offered us a drone for the event. Not just any drone, but the Mavic Pro! Knowing that we are filming footage to build a documentary, John knew exactly what equipment would help to get the best visuals to use. We are blown away by John’s generosity, and very much feel that Mongrel Gear & FPV Australia is a great fit to the Driving Oz family of sponsors. See our quick video here.

What were the kids up to in the meantime? Penny & Heidi from Videocraft kept the kids entertained! Penny took them on a tour around the exhibition, and Heidi even took them out to the huge playground at Darling Harbour to run off some steam! They also spent time watching the stunning video running at the Sony stand, so the kids can now tell you all about glass-blowing and the gorgeous pieces of art that can be produced.

Paul also had a great chat with the team at Adeal, and came away with a business card and a catalogue, with instructions to send through a list of the items we need so they can get some of them to us!!! Didn’t we say we met some awesome people at SMPTE17??

As the icing on the cake, Heidi’s friend, David, from Sony, is also a talented musician and offered to compose the music for our documentary after Videocraft has edited it.

MIND = BLOWN!!!!

Leaving SMPTE17 and picking up the Legend, our brains were spinning with the experiences from the day. Driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and watching the kids marvel at the bright lights and Sydney Opera House, was a lovely way to end the day.

To have so many companies believe in us, and be so willing to help us on our journey and continue to offer support on our travels, boosts our spirits, truly!

Showgrounds and spirit

Before we get into our SMPTE experience, it’s only fitting that we should share with you our travels to this point.

It has taken us three days to get here, as we undertook some strategic travel to avoid a huge rain front that was moving towards our planned route. Don’t get us wrong, we have no issues per se with some precipitation, however having packed up camp before in the pouring rain, we can categorically state that it is NOT fun, and we will avoid it when forecast indicates would be prudent.

We spent a night in Bungendore, NSW, after crossing through the ACT and having the kids excited that they had visited yet another state/territory. If you follow us on Facebook, you may have seen that we are big fans of showground camping. Aside from having the niceties of flushing toilets and electricity, the few sites available at various small-town showgrounds/racecourses, means that we are contributing to the economy of the town. It may not seem much to some, but for those on a budget (like us), and many smaller towns bypassed by freeways/highways and the rush to get from Point A to Point B, we love checking in, staying and reviewing. So much is missed out on when you stick to the main roads.

Bungendore was thoroughly enjoyable. Not only did the caretaker stop to see how a Cub Camper hard floor is set up, but he came back with fresh scones, jam & cream, and Freddo frogs for the kids! For $20, a powered site and such home made treats made for a truly lovely stay.

From there we actually took the long way around to Moss Vale – via Batemans Bay and Nowra! The Legend coped brilliantly (as did Paul) in the long descent over the Great Dividing Range. We’ve filmed some of it for later use as it was one of the steeper descents we’ve done while towing.

Fish & chips by the beach in Batemans was a treat, and the kids loved the adventure playground.

We were disappointed to find that the road from Batemans Bay to Nowra is mostly inland, having hoped to have a nice coastal drive before turning inland again. Even so, a visit to the Cambewarra Mountain look out made the trip worthwhile. You may have seen our pics on Facebook!

The Moss Vale Showground was easily accessible, and the Caretaker, even though away from the site, was able to give us the site number to go to, with a simple “come and settle up when you see our car”, a trusting country welcome to the Southern Highlands. When she came to call the next morning and saw that we are travelling the country for our charities, she waived the overnight fee for camping!! Never expected, but always appreciated, Kirstine described the purpose of our trip in more detail, and found that the caretaker will also be departing soon on a trip around the country – after her cancer treatment is complete. It just goes to show that so many of us take life for granted without realising. This lady will travel and see fabulous sights in a completely different light, appreciating the beauty of our country with new eyes after conquering cancer.

What catalyst do YOU need to get out and live your best life?

Sydney Motion Picture and Television Engineers 2017 Conference & Exhibition

SMTPE 2017

Are you interested in Motion Picture or Television? If so, get along to the Sydney Motion Picture and Television Engineers 2017 Conference & Exhibition in Sydney from 18 – 21 July 2017. Open times are Tuesday – Thursday 10AM – 6PM and Friday 10AM – 3PM at the International Convention Centre.

We will be there with our fantastic sponsor Videocraft on Thursday Morning at stand B14 so feel free to drop by and say hello!  Luna will be there so you can also get to meet her 🙂  We are also looking forward to meeting staff from Miller (tripods), Sony and Avid Technology, who’s equipment/software we are using!

We are still looking for sponsors and supporters, so if you are going to be there, you can expect to see us at some stage on Thursday.  We are still trying to organise the following equipment;

  • Speedlight/flash
  • E-mount lenses for our DSLR
  • Drone
  • Laptop
  • LED Lighting

If you will be there or can help us out, please contact us on 0427 388 168 or DrivingOzBlackDog@gmail.com

We are also looking for a television network to join us on our journey.

See you at SMPTE17!

Project – Paul Roadley Photography

Paul has been doing wonders with the wonderful equipment provided by our platinum sponsor, Videocraft. Studying his Diploma of Professional Photography, it’s very much a labour of love, and one undertaken when Paul is having good days and can focus. These images were taken using a Sony ILCE-7M2 DSLR.

Please enjoy these pictures and feel free to comment. If you are interested in using any of Paul’s images, please contact us.

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School holidays and online shopping for our cause

As you might imagine, being in the middle of the school holidays has slowed down our travels. We picked up Kirstine’s eldest son for the first week, and made our way back to the Murray River for some fishing and bush camping. The weather was spectacular (it IS Winter though, right?), and the kids caught some carp, and explored the bush, imaginatively naming areas as they created a fantasy world all their own. They even carefully relocated some geckos and skinks so that they “would be safe while we were gathering wood”. They were motified to then see four kookaburras have a free feed of the “saved” lizards 15 minutes later. A new electric chainsaw made collecting wood easier, and all the kids were keen to learn how to use it. Paul has been fully trained in using a chainsaw, but even so it was only the eldest of the kids who got to have a lesson in safety and use. The week passed amazingly quickly in this way, and all too soon it was time to pack up and take the kids to spend the next week with their other parents and families. The joys of blended families!

We spent a couple of days in a caravan park, as we do after we’ve been out bush camping. There is a definite need for flushing toilets, showers and washing machines by that stage! Camped at the site next to ours was a Cub! We really do find them everywhere, as if we are drawn to them with our own. Through Luna we met a delightful couple, and got into conversation about how depression has affected her since she has had multiple health scares and surgeries over the last couple of years. Whenever we have these conversations, we find it interesting to know how people have found a way to keep moving forward on their darkest days. For this lady, it was her fish, and keeping her brain active through colouring in and cooking. She also has a fondness for driving a quad bike on a friend’s property for hours at a time when they go to visit!

It’s important to remember that no-one with depression WANTS to feel the way they do, and it can be so difficult to find an activity to keep your interest when your attention span is affected. Paul gets great satisfaction from the photography course he is doing, but it can be very hard for him to find the motivation to work on it. Another friend of ours is a talented artist, but his health struggles have kept him from picking up the brush and putting it to canvas. We are staying with friends for a couple of days in the country before picking up the kids, and a discussion we had last night highlighted just how many people we know who are going through a hard time mentally – many of them are men, and as Paul’s mate said, men are still conditioned not to talk about it when they are struggling with depression. It’s not just a generational problem. This is why Paul being able to travel and talk, as much as that takes a significant toll on his own fight against mental illness, is important. Men need to see other men standing up and saying “I’m not OK, and I’m not coping”. They need to know the avenues of assistance open to them. Suffering in silence is no longer expected of anyone.

 

So I’ll step off my soap box for the moment and update you about some of the other activities we have been up to.

Kirstine has set up (and is still working on) an online merchandise store for Driving Oz with the Black Dog. This is a fundraising activity, as all profits go to our charities. It’s also a great way for you to get behind our cause, and spread our message as well. If there is any merchandise not listed on the website that you’d like to see, send us an email and we’ll see if we can add it for you. We welcome the creative feedback as we update the store.

We’re also giving serious consideration to running a raffle for a holiday, but we need to know if there are people willing to sell some tickets for us! We can mail them to you, so put up your hand if you’d like to be an advocate for us by selling some raffle tickets at your school, work place, community group! Let’s kick this fundraising into top gear!!

Our story has been published in some additional media, so we’ll put the links for those here. A major magazine publication has also been in contact about doing a story with us, so that was an exciting development!! We’ll let you know if that happens as planned!

Camper Trailer Australia article  – 04 July 2017

The Miner newspaper article – 14 June 2017

99.9 Voice FM website 07 June 2017

Lastly, at the end of this week we pick the kids up and begin making our way to Sydney to work with Videocraft at the SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) Expo. We’re not quite sure what we’ll be doing, but it will be exciting nonetheless!!