Meeting Pete & Laurel and their Auto-Roller 746

By: Lisa Jansen, Photography by: Lisa Jansen


Lisa Jansen meets a couple who are making the most of their Auto-Roller 746, and taking Blue, their chilled-out cat, along for the ride

I am generally a friendly person but, as an introvert, I’m not always the first to introduce myself to other travellers. But there are two things that almost guarantee I will say hello: cute pets and watersports gear.

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Whangaroa Harbour

And that’s how I met Laurel and Pete Elliott at Tauranga Bay in the Far North. As I was walking past, I saw Laurel pump up her inflatable paddleboard while their super-cute Mandalay/Burmese cat, Blue, chilled out next to her. I could not walk past without saying hello.

As it turns out, Laurel and Pete are regulars at Tauranga Bay Holiday Park which, by the way, I highly recommend. There aren’t many campsites in New Zealand where you park right on the beach as you can here.

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Tauranga Bay

I understand why Laurel, Pete and Blue make the trip up from their home in Kerikeri most weekends. Having always enjoyed camping, first in tents and then in a pop-top camper, Laurel and Pete made the call to invest in a motorhome 18 months ago.

The desire to find a good work-life balance and make the most of the present was a key motivator behind this decision. They’ve worked hard to set themselves up so that now, in their mid-50s, they can spend at least four days a week travelling in their motorhome. 

Pete says this was deliberate. "We planned our lives to get maximum enjoyment out of our investment. This meant sacrifices along the way to achieve a great life balance at a relatively early age. There was no luck involved. You make your own luck."

They love their Roller Team Auto-Roller 746 motorhome for its big windows (to enjoy the views), its spaciousness and for the freedom it provides (it is fully self-contained). Space was a key for them, both in terms of living space and storage. They needed room for fishing gear and Laurel’s inflatable paddleboard.

And, at 198cm (or 6’ 5"), Pete needed to find a motorhome in which he could move around comfortably. Of course, a long bed was important. "The size of the bed was the key requirement. We have the U-shaped lounge permanently made up as a bed with a memory-foam topper on the squabs.

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Laurel and Pete exploring on their scooter

That bed is six inches longer than a super king, so there’s plenty of room even for a tall guy like me." Another handy feature is the fitted towbar, with a lightweight sideloading trailer that allows them to take their Yamaha scooter. The scooter is perfect for exploring areas around the campgrounds without always having to pack up the motorhome.

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The motorhome (their scooter is towed behind on a lightweight trailer)

And the Fiat engine with Comfort-matic gearbox is very efficient - a benefit not to be underestimated given rising diesel prices. There is only one thing Pete would like to change about their motorhome: "It’s front-wheel drive, which means there is not much off-roading for us, even with the traction control on.

So that is something we might do differently if we ever buy another motorhome."The fact that these two are so happy with their motorhome is no coincidence. They did their research before buying. Pete says an important part was figuring out what their must-haves were and then not compromising on those.

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Laurel and Pete set up

That is also the advice they would give to others looking to invest in a mobile home. That, and "buy in the offseason from a reputable dealer. There are usually good deals to be had." So far, Laurel and Pete have spent most of their travels exploring the area north of Auckland.

The Far North, in particular, has been a favourite. "We love the Far North for its warmth, lack of congestion and scenery. It’s an awesome coastline that takes some beating." And, of course, it’s convenient, given they call Kerikeri home. Why spend hours driving when paradise is just north of where you live?

Another highlight was an off-season trip around the East Cape in June. "Our 12-day East Cape trip was a treat - rustic goodness, whole beaches to ourselves with a West Coast feel about it all." Being a big East Cape fan myself, I agree with this.

It’s an extraordinary part of New Zealand and one I highly recommend for RV-ers to put on their to-do lists. During their East Cape trip, Laurel and Pete were able to freedom camp all the way, which was a great test of how well the motorhome would handle long periods off-grid.

"We were very pleased with how efficient the LPG was for central heating, cooking and hot water, and even though we knew that freshwater stations were few and far between, our tank lasted very well - with the aid of a 15-litre drinking-water carton."

Being relatively new to the motorhome community, Laurel and Pete still have a long list of places they want to visit. Hawke’s Bay and the South Island are at the top of their list. "It will be great to explore these destinations fully. We’re looking forward to visiting sights we haven’t seen yet and revisiting ones we have only been to briefly before."

Of course, I also had to ask about travelling with a cat. I often meet people with dogs, but motorhome cats are rare. Blue clearly loves it. When I came over, he was lying on a chair looking like the most comfortable and relaxed cat ever. "He loves it.

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Pete and Laurel’s cat, Blue

Sometimes when we’re at home, and I’m outside doing something around the motorhome, he comes running looking all excited about the prospect of going on a trip." While this might not be the case for all cats, Blue certainly seems happy to be a motorhome cat and doesn’t even mind being on a leash.

Given the many places you’re not allowed to take dogs these days, a cat might be the easier travel buddy. So that’s something to consider for those wanting a fur-baby to keep them company. I loved meeting Laurel and Pete. It’s always great to meet other people who value a good work-life balance as much as I do and who are willing to make sacrifices to make it happen. 

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