Robin and Peter Lye call their latest caravan Lye Inn, although it is difficult to imagine this energetic, fun-loving and well-travelled couple spending much time resting up.
What was your RV experience?
Twenty-one years ago, we began the journey and joys of RV ownership when we bought a 13-foot caravan. It had no insulation, water came to the kitchen sink by way of a foot-pump, but we have wonderful memories of the fun we had back then. We spray-painted the caravan to match the colour of the car that pulled it, and felt very smart.
Several years later we sold the caravan to a dealer in Nelson and bought a brand new six-berth Sonata. That meant we also had to get a new tow vehicle. After a while, we decided that the corner bed was not suiting us. So we sold the caravan and bought a twin-axle, Bailey Louisiana with an island bed and a massive amount of storage. Both of us had retired by then and we did a lot of touring around New Zealand, staying away for months at a time and travelling from North Cape to Bluff. We have wonderful memories, from fishing in Matauri Bay to the Gumboot Rally in Mosgiel, and of learning to play ukuleles!
What do you own now?
A year ago we sold the Sonata and bought a smaller, four-berth, single-axle, 2017 Sterling Eccles 580 caravan. We did this because we wanted a rear bathroom, and also it had the exact layout we wanted. Initially, we thought storage was going to be an issue. Then we realised we’d accumulated far too much stuff in the old caravan. We started culling, and the things we decided we didn’t need filled many boxes. We were amazed at the amount of weight we had been carrying that we hadn’t needed to. We stored all the boxes in our garage at home in case we’d been too rigorous. A year on and we’ve not even opened one box. We are going to donate the contents to charity. Now that we have cut down on everything, there’s plenty of storage and we still have everything we need.
What items would you never get rid of?
Robin: One of my favourite items in the kitchen is a small sieve, which I use for straining vegetable water so no particles go down into the wastewater tank. It’s a simple job to tip any particles from the sieve onto a paper towel and dispose of them. This keeps the waste tank fresh. And I would not be without my saucepan, which has triangle-shaped dividers. is enables me to cook a range of vegetables in one pot, which saves gas and a pile of unnecessary pots.
Peter: Essential for me is a battery-powered drill for raising and lowering the stabilisers. I’d never go without my levelling gauge and plastic ‘feet’ to use on soft ground. A block of 50mm thick timber is also indispensable in case I have to level horizontally, or if we are on uneven ground.
How have you found the newest caravan, now you’ve had it a while?
We have grown to love the Sterling. For a while, we felt we’d made a mistake, as the memory-foam mattress was uncomfortable. Some people love them but it just didn’t seem to suit us. For several months we tried to get used to it, adding toppers on top of toppers! We thought we might have to sell the caravan and consider something else, but then we hit upon the idea of having a custom-made pocket-spring mattress. We went to Bed Barn in Palmerston North and have been thrilled with the result. For sure, this was one of our best decisions.
Can both of you tow the caravan?
Peter: I mainly tows the van, but Robin has learnt to tow so that on occasion she can give me a break. Once again, we upgraded our vehicle and now have a Hyundai Santa Fe, which tows brilliantly.
How do you mostly use the caravan?
We enjoy going to music festivals, other organised events and for the past seven years have been on the annual NZMCA Golf Safari, staying overnight at golf clubs along the way. Even those who don’t play golf enjoy hitting the cafes and shops in the different regions we travel to. Every year it’s in a different area and we go to places we would normally never visit.
We also belong to the Wellington branch of the NZMCA. In the past year Peter has become a committee member, so we now regularly attend the monthly rallies. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoy the friendships and fun.
Where do you keep the caravan?
It doesn’t fit in our driveway so we store it at a campground reasonably close by. We remove all food from the cupboards, pantry and fridge, taking care to leave the fridge door ajar so mould doesn’t grow inside. We leave almost everything else in the caravan. When we are preparing to leave again, we pack food supplies in a box and transfer them to the caravan in the car.
Do you take a lot of food with you?
We take the basics, but we buy everything else locally as we go, and cook meals in very much the same way we do at home. The caravan has a spacious bench, which we need, and the other facilities are very effective. Peter is an expert breakfast cook.
What is one of your most useful recipes?
Robin: I have a simple cheese scone recipe that is my favourite. It comprises equal quantities of self-raising flour and grated cheese, mixed well with milk. I drop spoonfuls onto a tray lined with baking paper, then cook in a hot oven. It never fails.
Do you have a tip for other caravan owners?
Peter: I am now a certified self-containment (CSC) officer for the NZMCA and on our travels, it has been interesting to learn just how many people, prompted by me, suddenly realise their self-containment certification needs updating. So it’s a good idea to keep an eye on that. My being an officer stimulates many discussions. One of the main ones is about safety. It’s common for people to not know how to use their fire extinguisher, and many don’t have carbon monoxide detectors [carbon monoxide is created by the inefficient combustion of LPG]. It’s not compulsory to have a CO monitor but, as I point out, if a fault should occur, it can save people’s lives, especially if they are sleeping.