29 May 2015


After more than 2 years keeping an eye on the market it seems ever-increasingly remote that we will be travelling around New Zealand in our own mobile home (despite writing the e-book below!).  We did look at rentals but didn't find one that was seat-belted and slept seven let alone capable of sustaining a freedom-camping lifestyle.

The next idea was home-stays (holiday homes) which we still might be able to do, but after letting our options sit and reflecting on our situation the long-term goal of travelling to Germany/Europe came back into focus again.


Over the last few years we've saved at least a third of what we've been told to budget for a year-long adventure.  It's enough to get us to Germany for 3 months and back again - that's all.  Obviously we still want to see other countries after going all that way so we are selling anything we can on Trademe, have launched our e-book and a GiveALittle campaign to bring our dreams to life.

The more we raise the longer we can travel and the more experiences we can share together as a family while we are away.  Here's what we are thinking about the different scenarios.


Both Trademe and Gumroad (where our e-book is hosted) take a commission on sales, whereas Give a Little doesn't charge any fees for fund-raising.  You've got to love them for that!  What we'd like to do with Give a Little is run a Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK) fund-raiser.  You know how much we love RAOKs - they were our entire focus every week last year!  For your donation you can claim a RAOK for someone else get a little something in return.



One other way to support us if you need to buy contact lenses, glasses, books, natural health products or anything from Cafepress is to click the link from our website, so we might receive a reward for referring you to places we use ourselves.  


WILL THESE FUND-RAISING IDEAS WORK?  Perhaps.  Maybe.  We sure hope so.






07 April 2015

Theory test work station


There is little difference between the process for sitting the theory test for your class 1 and that of 2, 3, or 5 except remembering to take your completed medical examination form with you.

I went in today so let me walk you through exactly what happened.

Initially I only intended to apply to sit my test at a later date but found that no appointment is required so there was no time like the present to sit the 2L and get it over with.  I had already told myself that it was more than likely I would have to come back and re-sit (as I'd heard modern day driver licensing was hard) so this would save me an extra trip!


You hand over your filled-in DL1 - driving license application form; your medical examination certificate; and two forms of id - one of which must include a photo; and your driver's license if you haven't already used that as your photo id.  [If you have a photo driver's license you only need that as the sole id - not two forms.  More information on the new requirements for identity documents is here]  The clerk will hold onto your license.  You pay your application fee and your theory test fee; sign a digital slate for the signature that will appear on your new license; and sit down to have your photo taken.  There are no mirrors and you do not get to see your photo on screen - they simply take one photo and if they are happy it meets the criteria for the license that's it.

If you have a mobile phone it is taken from you at this point, usually with your handbag and put behind the counter; and you are escorted to the testing work station.

All the stations I have seen are simply in the main foyer / room of the testing agent.  Music is going in the background; vehicles are being brake-tested outside; children are crying; and staff are talking to members of the public behind you.  It doesn't make for a quiet conducive space to concentrate in especially when it's school holidays [what was I thinking?].

The clerk instructs you to enter a 4-digit pin code from a piece of paper, and you read the opening page of the test instructions.  If you have understood that, you click to start the test and question number 1 appears.

This is when the 30-minute timer starts and the clerk walks you through answering the first question.  You are informed that if necessary the test time may be extended; and to let them know at the 5-minute-to-go warning that you will need more time.  Being told this made me quite concerned that I too would need this time.

You are advised that if you know the answer to the question you select the (large) button and click on 'next question' where it will be revealed if you got it correct or not.  If you get it correct it automatically proceeds to the next question albeit rather slowly.  If you get it wrong it will show you the right answer and you will need to click 'next question'.  If you are not 100% sure of the answer you can click on the 'next question' button and this activates the question coming up again at the end of the test for you to have another go at.

I thought this functionality of the test was considerate.


So there I was in a noisy environment (noisier than having 5 children at home looking over my shoulder, whining, asking questions etc!) staring at an antiquated-looking computer programme (think very early huge rounded-corner box buttons) in a non-ergonomic set-up, navigating with only a corded mouse, and taking one question at a time.

To be honest, the questions were a lot easier than I expected, especially after so thoroughly studying via drivingtests.co.nz .  There was only ever 1 correct answer required out of either 2 or 4 possible answers, and no 'check all that apply' ones,  There weren't even, in my mind 2 very close answers that would have you oscillating twixt the two if you weren't quite sure.

The outcome:  I passed.  100%.  Wahoo!


With the theory completed you return to the clerk (or due to the influx of secondary school-aged children I had to wait for a bit) to receive your temporary paper license which you also sign.  [As an aside ... these DLE-sized license books are bound on the left hand edge like most cheque books and consequently are not easy for left-handers to sign.  Perhaps clerk's can rip it from the book before asking you to sign to mitigate this for everyone?]

You are told that your new license ought to be sent out within 21 days but that if it isn't please call the 0800 number on the front of the temporary license before it expires.


Then you go out and celebrate!  Vega was with me so we shared a passionfruit - mochaccino ice cream sundae.


One thing that concerned me was that the test was too easy; and that cramming had been used by others (just that same morning) to pass their class 1 theory that afternoon. I seriously doubt those high-schoolers will retain anything in even 2-4 weeks let alone for the duration of their practical driving requirements or beyond. How can answering only 35 questions really show a thorough understanding of the road rules? Even the student's accompanying teacher was bragging about their sure-fire system that they used to get their students to pass; as if passing was the ultimate result and real in-depth understanding didn't even factor into the equation. It makes me feel more unsafe on the road.

31 March 2015

Commercial public weigh station, Napier


On a class 2 license you are allowed to drive 5 different types of vehicles:

  • A rigid vehicle (including any tractor) with a GLW of more than 6000kg but less than 18,000kg
  • A combination vehicle (that is not a tractor/trailer combination) with a GCW of not more than 12,000kg
  • A combination vehicle (that is not a tractor) consisting of a rigid vehicle with a GLW of 18,000kg or less towing a light trailer (GLW of 3500kg or less)
  • A rigid vehicle with a GLW of more than 18,000kg that has no more than two axles
  • A tractor with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg, if driven at a speed over 30km/h
Ever wondered how a vehicle is weighed though?
That's the function of a weigh station or weigh bridge - an expanse of metal plating or concrete slabs that serve as a long narrow 'basket' for scales that measure in the tonnes instead of grams or kilogrammes.  Some are above ground and have a ramp to drive up, others are set into a pit so you drive straight onto them.
Weighing a vehicle becomes important after custom manufacturing & modifications to check it's within it's class weight allowance; or for companies whose primary function is to carry loads that may vary in weight and who want to prevent getting a fine for bearing too much.   It could also be very useful if you are towing a fully laden caravan with your passengers in a car / van / motorhome and want to satisfy yourself that you can still do this on a class 1 license.
Most weigh stations are commercial and privately-owned meaning that if you are interested in using them there will be a fee.  They are directed at the multiple-use traffic moreso than the curious, and will have an account payment system with key or card access to the facilities 24/7.  [You'd be forgiven in thinking that just because some are designated as 'public weighbridges' they are free to the public.]
Unfortunately a Yellow pages search also brings up all the retailers of weighbridges not just the publicly accessible places.  If you are looking for a one-off weigh you may also be able to ask at local firms with their own installed on-site scales if they'd be willing to do you a favour - think metal or aggregate yards, agricultural grain stores, forestry or logging firms, rubbish disposal plants,  fruit packaging warehouses etc.
The NZTA is responsible for the weighbridges used by the NZ Police Commercial Vehicles Investigation Unit (CVIU) around the country to perform their road safety and Operator Safety Rating (ORS) checks.  These are in all the major districts: Auckland (Drury), Waikato (Paengaroa), Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu/Wanganui, Wellington (Plimmerton), Marlborough, Nelson, Tasman, West Coat, Otago, & Canterbury.
Naturally it's better to be safe than sorry, and know (your weight) before you go.