Saturday, 1 October 2011

Bring on the snow

Today I refitted the adapters for our Spike Spider snow chains to the front wheels and put the chains in the backbox. It's the hottest October day on record but we keep hearing that snow might come before the end of the month, and it IS autumn. Feels daft though, thinking about snow chains in this heat, but I had nothing better to do.

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to etc.

It was the van's first birthday on Thurs 29th September. She was in Spinneys at the time, but, when she came home the next day, she got a pressie of a super new awning (see separate post) and, to celebrate, we had French Fancies and tea. We always have French Fancies when celebrating in the van cos Auto-Sleepers have 'em in the brochure pics for the Warwick Duo. Sad or what?

So, it's the end of our first twelve months of motorhome fun.

We 've had countless trips including two abroad and have covered 11,500 miles.

We've learnt loads and we're looking forward to lots more fun and enjoyment with our van. We love it so much!

In a week or so I'm off with my mate Bernie to Normandy for about 9 days. We're gonna be visiting WWII sites associated with D Day and the battle for Normandy. I'm presently reading Max Hasting's excellent book, "Overlord, D Day and the battle for Normandy 1944".

Habitation service and warranty stuff

This week the van's been to Spinneys for its habitation service and a few warranty issues to be sorted. They've adjusted the ignitor on the fridge, which should hopefully stop it going out.
We had the wire between the heating control and the heating replaced. Evidently the cover had come off the spare blown air outlet on the heater and this had resulted in the wire starting to melt! No wonder the control was going haywire.
In an effort to find out why the waste water tank warning (which should come on when it's full) wasn't working, Spinneys discovered ... it doesn't have a warning, even though it's mentioned in the handbook. Doh! Thanks Auto-Sleepers.

The habitation service cost £183.

Phew, it's hot!

One thing our trip to the Pyrenees taught us was, we need an awning. If not for us, then for our dogs, who from next January, will be accompanying us on trips abroad. A couple of very hot days saw us quite unconfortable with no shade.

So, we spent lots of cash and, this week, I had an awning delivered and I, Chrissie and Bernie fitted it on 30th September, the hottest September day on record.

It wasn't particulary difficult, once we'd thought it through, but it's a big thing to handle.

'Looks great now it's done. It's a Fiamma F65S in titanium silver, so it matches the van.

One thing about doing this on a hot day was, once wound out you can really, "feel the benefit", as Mum used to say about taking your coat off indoors.

You wouldn't want your coat off indoors or out today, mind (Sat 1st Oct). Our weather station's showing 25.4 C in the shade!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The tale of the heated rear window switch

Once upon a time, in a far away land over the mountains, there was a man with a van.
Not long after he took the van home he noticed that, when you switched on the heated rear window and door mirror heaters the little light, on the switch, didn't come on! The heaters worked though!
Now, the man was a little compulsive obsessive and, having paid lots of pennies for the van, he thought that this little light ought to come on. So ...
He took the van to the nice man at the big Peugeot garage in the big city, (it was called Manchester).
He smiled and told the nice man his problem.
"Ok," said the nice man, "let's have a look then."
So the nice man got one of his friends to have a look and said, " Needs a new switch panel. We'll get one for you."
"Does it need all the switches replacing then?", asked the man with the van.
"Yes, you can't replace them individually," said the nice man.
So the man, sat on a rock and waited patiently.

Presently, the nice man phoned to say he'd got a new switch panel. So the man took the van to the big city and had a cup of coffee while the nice man had his friend fit the new switches.
"There's a problem," said the nice man.
"Oh?" said the man.
"Yes," said the nice man. "My friend's fitted the switches but the light still doesn't come on. He's having another look."
So the man had another cup of coffee. It was very nice.
"There's a problem," said the nice man.
"Oh," said the man.
"Yes," said the nice man. "My friend's taken some bits off the dashboard, but he can't find out what's wrong. Could you bring you van back another day and maybe leave it with us for a couple of days. We can lend you a nice little car to drive around while we have your van. Also, I need to tell you that the problem might have been caused by the men who made your van into a lovely motorhome."
"Oh," said the man.
"Yes," said the nice man, "and, if that's so, someone would have to give us the pennies for fixing it."
"Oh," said the man, a little worried, and he left the big city behind and went home.
The man phoned the nice people who'd sold him the van to tell them he was worried.
"Don't worry," said the nice lady. "The men who made your van into a lovely motorhome would give the nice man, at the big garage, in the big city some pennies if it was their fault."
"Ok," said the man, "thank you."
A while later, the man took the van and went back to the big city and, just as he'd promised, the nice man lent him a nice little car to drive around while they mended his van.
The man drove around. He went home, he went shopping, he went to visit his friend, Big Ears, then he went home again.
Days passed.
The nice man phoned and said, "My friend's found the problem. It's the BIS unit; it's broken!"
"What's a BIS unit?" asked the man.
"It's a box full of magic. It lives behind the dashboard. We've ordered a new one. It'll be here in a couple of days. You can keep the nice little car to drive around though."
"Ok," said the man. "Thank you."
Days passed. The man phoned the big garage in the big city.
"Please can I have my van back?" he asked nicely.
"Sorry," said the nice man, "we haven't got the BIS unit yet. It'll be here in a couple of days."
"Ok," said the man.
Days passed. The man phoned the big garage in the big city again.
"Please can I have my van back?" he asked nicely.
"Sorry," said the nice man, "we haven't got the BIS unit yet. It'll be here in a couple of days."
"Ok," said the man.
Days passed. The man phoned the big garage in the big city again.
"Please can I have my van back?" he asked nicely.
"Sorry," said the nice man, "we haven't got the BIS unit yet. It'll be here in a couple of days."
"Oh dear," said the man. " The thing is, we're off on a holiday in the van next week and we need to make it ready; put nice things to eat, and to drink in it. You know?"
"Oh," said the nice man... "But my friend's got your van's dashboard in bits."
"Oh," said the man. "Perhaps you could put it back together again, so we can go on holiday, eat and drink nice things and have fun. Then, when you've got the BIS unit I could bring the van back again and you could mend it for me. And maybe you could lend me the nice little car again?"
"Ok," said the nice man, a bit grumpily.
So the man took the nice little car back to the big city and drove his lovely van home.
Then he went on holiday, ate and drank nice things and had fun.
Then he went home ... and waited ... and waited.
Days passed.
Weeks passed.
Months passed.
Then, one nice, sunny day the nice man phoned to say he'd got the BIS unit.
"Super!" said the man.
"Can you bring your van in so we can mend it?" said the nice man.
"Well," said the man, "we're off on holiday again, to eat and drink nice things and have fun. Can I bring it in after we've come home?"
"Ok," said the nice man, "just phone and let us know when."
"Ok," said the man. "Can I have a nice little car again?"
"Yes," said the nice man.
So the man went on holiday, ate and drank nice things and had fun.
One nice day, after he'd come home again, he drove the van into the big city. It was only six months after he'd first gone there. He was very good at finding his way to the big garage now.
He had a lovely cup of coffee in the big garage, then the nice man lent him a nice little car to drive around.
And, by and by, after a couple of days the nice man phoned to say the man's van was mended.
"Does the switch light up now?" asked the man.
"Yes," said the nice man.
"That's lovely," said the man.
And he went and took the nice little car back to the big garage in the big city, thanked the nice man for being so nice and helpful and then, drove his lovely van home, with the switch for the heated rear window and the door mirror heaters switched on ... so he could look at the little light.
And he smiled ... and he laughed ... and he was very, very happy.
And the man ... and the van ... and all his friends and relations, including Big Ears, lived happily ever after.

Hello Followers!

Hi there
Just a note to say hi to those lovely folk who've signed up to follow this blog. I still feel pretty new to this and am flattered that anyone could take the trouble to follow my ramblings.
I've occasionally thought of discontinuing this drivel, but seeing you folks joining has given me the incentive to carry on.
I have tried to contact you individually to say thanks but for some reason, can't sign in successfuly to this facility; probably doin' something wrong!
Anyoldhow, thank you to all of you and do feel free to add a comment; I've not had any yet!
Happy travelling to you all and I will get around to looking at your blogs if I haven't done so already.

PS Special thanks too from Tilly & Dixie.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Pyrenees, summer 2011

Been back a couple of weeks but it's bin quite busy around here. Time I updated the blog.

What the heck's a tank doing in a tale of our journey to the Pyrenees? Well ... I'll tell you.

We set off a day earlier than planned; Chrissie had no work, the pups had gone to kennels so the place felt empty. We headed for this wild camp spot near Melton Mowbray. Had a pleasant meal and were just watching the news, when Chrissie said,
"What's that noise?"
"It'll be a tractor, probably working in that field."
"No, it's a  tank"
"Don't be daft ... bloody hell!"
Whereupon the beast in the pic rumbled past, carrying a driver and grinning kids. I got out, waved and took this pic. Evidently it's a privately owned Chieftain. Must be a lot of bovver in these parts if you need privately owned tanks!

Anyoldhow, after a night here and one at the Folkestone CC site it was off for our second trip this year to la belle France.

We'd had little success with aires at Easter but were determined to try again, maybe even wild camp. So, here's the first aire of the trip at Mesnieres en Bray, NE of Rouen. A beautiful stopover, even if the local shop was shut for the hols.

We enjoyed wandering around this delightful little place. This tiled artwork adorned a well outside the church,

whilst this old mill was beside the river.

Moving on next day, we stopped at another super aire, this time with proper hedged emplacements. Can't remember where this was! But, as with the previous one, it was free.

And another one. in a lovely walled town. Again, free. I know I'm probably preaching to the converted but, aren't French aires a brilliant insitution? So wonderful to be welcomed. No "No Overnight Camping" signs here, eh?

And then we rolled into Lourdes. An interesting place and an important destination, especially for Roman Catholics. As Chrissie said, everyone seems to have a story here. Lots and lots of folks in wheelchairs or with other physical problems. It does make you wonder and contemplate how lucky you are ... or should I say WE are.

After our brief visit to Lourdes we wound our way up to Cauterets; a delightful little tourist town in the mountains. Not too commercialised though. On arrival we pitched up here; one of two aires in the town.

But we planned to stay in the area for a few days and, since this aire cost 10€ per night, we chose to move to a campsite costing only 16€. It was just a ten minute walk north of the town centre. Basic but a really tranquil place.

This photo, taken on the site, is entitled, "Blue Butterfly on Blue Croc".

Here's the old wooden station building in Cauterets. The railway closed some time ago but this place is now used as a community hall.

Cauterets is a ski resort in the winter, but in summer it's a popular base for walking in the mountains. We enjoyed several meanders amongst the peaks.

Here's Chrissie by Lac de Gaube.

And me, fillin' my face in the same location.

A revelation of this trip was the discovery of how quickly you can cool the van by opening the rear doors. This is another benefit, not only of a panel van conversion, but also of the rear lounge layout. Opening the side door and the big Remis roof vent makes it feel like you're sitting in the shade under a big, tin gazebo. Chrissie's busy checking emails via my smartphone and Vodafone's excellent data traveller service; £10 for a months web access, 25MB a day limit, plenty for keeping up with emails and looking at the odd web page.

Here's a pic from our trek up the Valee de Marcadau, from Pont d'Espagne.

And this is one of the views we were rewarded with at the head of the valley.

Near the Refuge Wallon, Chrissie filters some water using our superb First Need water filter. We've used this for many years and it never lets us down. It's one of the very best available and turns the muckiest puddle into clean, safe drinking water.

Another beautiful scene up at the head of the valley.

On the way down we met a guy bringing supplies up to the refuge with two donkeys. Albert, the lead donkey, was a touch disobedient. Despite Chrissie stepping to one side, he still tried to push her down the steep valley side with his pannier.

These beautiful Charolais cows inhabit the highest alps.

more to come :)


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Last minute holiday prep

So, it was Spinneys on Friday.They looked at the fridge burner and fitted a draught deflector cos evidently the burner's right behind the lower outside vent; so the slightest draught could blow it out.They glued the fridge "salad tray"; seems ok. They put a longer length of pipe below the shower drain, with a bit of a dip in it, in an effort to stop waste water backing up into there; we'll see if it works. They reckon they'll have to remove the cooker to sort out the rivets and need more time to look at the wiring for the waste tank warning. No problem. They didn't have a lot of time and I'm happy for these bits to be sorted with the habitation service in Sept/Oct.

While we wre waiting we had a bit of fun persuading a couple in the sales area that what they really needed was an A/S Warwick. They seemed to take our tips in good heart. Or, if they didn't, they didn't let on!

Yesterday I checked the tyre pressures and found the front o/s down quite a bit. Topped 'em all up and checked the front o/s this morning again - gone down again! So, off we go to Kwik Fit in Glossop.
"No, can't do that mate, cos we don't have torque settings for van wheels so we can't take it off"
"I'll take it off then."
"Sorry, can't let you do that on our car park ... We can look at a loose wheel though, if you bring it in off the van."
Drive round the corner to Autoden, our favourite car accessory shop. Buy a vanity mirror for the passenger visor and ask if it's ok to take the wheel off outside their shop.
"No problem."
Remove wheel, roll it round to Kwik Fit, who, in double quick time, identify a leaking valve, replace it, rebalance the wheel and say, "No charge".
Down to Tesco for last minute shopping and return with a tenner for our friend at Kwik Fit. To be fair, these lads don't make the rules. They work for a big company with an unhealthy approach to health and safety. What if I'd found a flat tyre on the van while it was in their car park?
Anyoldhow, at least I found out about the slowly leaking valve before we hit the motorway down to Dover! Not only that, but now Chrissie can check out her limitless beauty from the passenger seat whilst travelling.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

You can see our house from up here

Today I decided, for the first time, to get up on the van's roof to give it a good clean. I do use one of those long brushes to do this from a step ladder every so often but I wanted to get to those nooks and crannies, including around the vents, where dirt acccumulates. I'm not good with heights but, aided by Chrissie's steadying hands on a ladder, I managed the job quite successfully. I restricted myself to kneeling so as to spread my weight and, hopefully, not dent the roof panels.

We have a few minor problems so the van's going to Spinney's next Friday afternoon.
Firstly, when running on gas the fridge burner keeps going out. It seems to happen at least once in a weekend. You can see the orange light flashing as it tries to reignite but you can only get it to work by switching it off then on again - just like a computer! A post on motorhomefacts suggests it may just be dust on the burner.

Next we a have a rattle on the cooker which, after lots of investigation, I found is caused by two rivets which should, but don't, hold the grill reflector in place. A bit of sloppy assembly by Thetford it would seem. I currently have half a clothes peg wedged in there to stop it rattling, but I did once light the grill before removing it. What's that burning smell?

Some time ago I found the cause of the water leak in the washroom. Water with coffee grounds in it revealed that it is, in fact, water from the waste tank coming in through the two plugholes in the shower tray as we're driving. We get round this by always emptying the tank before driving off from a site, but it can be a nuisance when wild camping.

Lastly, a broken lug on the plastic box in the bottom of the fridge means the lid doesn't open and close properly.

I'm taking the van in at 2pm, the only slot they have available and this is just four days before we're off to France again. I've said that the priority is the fridge burner. Don't really expect them to deal with the other, less important issues. The van will be due for a habitation service in September anyway. Let's see how they do.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Does my bum look big in this?

Time on my hands today, so I added some press studs to the rear window curtains to stop them gaping. Really don’t want anyone passing to see us in, as Ian Dury said, “…the naughty, naked nude.” I think I noticed this had been done by A/S on a later van.

I put ‘em on both sides of the curtains/door.

Will I ever run out of modifications? Don’t answer that.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Have tags, will travel! Part two!

While lazing on the moors near Malham, we picked up a message on our home answering service. The dogs' pet passports were ready!

So our pups now have their very own passports.

Tilly is so excited, as you can see.

And Dixie is simply beside herself at the thought of transcontinental travel!

By the way, we only allow dogs on the furniture on special occasions. And if you believe that ... you'll believe anything!

Of course, those of you paying close attention to the news of late will know that the powers that be have decided to relax the rules for pet passports ... from next January (2012). There'll no longer be the 6 month for the passports to allow re-entry to the UK (only 21 days instead) and no need for a £90 blood test for the rabies jabs. We've just forked out for two of these. Oh well!

A Dales weekend

Chrissie had no teaching on Friday so after a quick turnround - Tilly and I only got back from our few days over in the East Riding on Thursday - we were off on a journey up to Malham and the Dales again. We had a quick Macdonalds lunch, fuelled up with Shell V Power diesel and hit the motorway. By 4 oclock we were set up, under a brooding moorland sky, in this beautiful location close to Malham Tarn.

The scenery in these parts is typified by this pic showing the white limestone drystone walls.

While the atmosphere in the van was typified by this scene of a hangdog lab doing her best Snoopy inpression. "When do I get a flippin' walk?"

In the morning, C&D set off over Fountains Fell for one of the legs on the Pennine Way they'd been forced to miss earlier in the Spring. Tilly and I washed up from breakfast then wound a lazy route over single track roads to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. On arrival, we found more cars than I've ever seen in the village. Turned out there was a charity walk on. I'm never sure about the validity of these events. Why, as a society, can't we support charities without the need for hundreds of people descending on one small honeypot in the countryside? I'm probably wrong but there have to be better ways. Anyoldhow, we eventually found a parking space up a quiet, dead end road on the outskirts of the village. After packing a quick lunch we made for the summit of Pen Y Ghent, hoping to meet up with C&D. The route was much too busy for my liking but, nevertheless, we made the top in good time and settled down for a rest to await the travellers. Once we'd met up we reversed our route back down to Horton, pausing for a look back at the imposing hill.

We had a good view of this waterfall, which crashed into the pool below before meandering a short way down the valley only to disappear into one of the many subterrainean chambers which form part of the extensive cave system in this area of the Dales.

Before returning to the van, I discovered what happens when you stare like a fool at the front of your camera to watch the lens cover close as you hit the power button ... but you press the shutter release instead.

What a berk!

We passed a quiet evening and night on the aforementioned lane in Horton. Next morning Chrissie woke with a bad migraine, so her planned route to Hawes was off. Thirteen miles with a headache's no fun. Instead, we took the dogs for a short walk up the track near Helwith Bridge then meandered slowly back home.

This was likely to be our last van outing before the Pyrenees in just a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

North York Moors and the Howardian Hills

So I just felt like a few days of peace and quiet with my dog. And here we are for our first night, in a gorgeous location on the North York Moors.

Next day I planned to drive further for a walk, but realised that during the day this was quite a busy little car park so I felt happy leaving the van here. Tilly and I walked down into Rosedale, along a sleepy track and back up again onto the ridge. These few days have been quite a heatwave and it's been a little warm for Tilly. Sometimes her tongue's not long enough.

With temperatures hovering around 25 degrees I realised long moorland walks were a bit of a no-no.
After another night in the same camp we set off for a coastal trip. we found a free parking spot at Sandsend and the two of us enjoyed the offshore breeze on a walk on the beach.

Then I had lunch in the van while Tilly watched the sea.

 From here we drove down through Scarborough and on to Flamborough Head; a favourite haunt from my childhood. We climbed down to the beach near the lighthouse.

From here, we drove across country to the C&CC site at Slingsby. Chrissie and I came here with our rented motorhome last Spring.

Next day it was still hot so we booked in for a further two nights and went for a walk around the area, on the level rather than yomping up hot, sticky moorland hills. It was very pleasant, despite the heat.

Dixeland farm reminded us of home.

Wonder if Dixie knows this place is named after her?

We passed these, apparently unused, farm buildings.

And rounding the corner we met these guys.

Tilly really enjoyed the walk.

With the end of the heatwave it poured with rain overnight, but, in the morning it was very fresh with patches of blue in the sky. Donning waterproof trousers we set off on an 8 mile route from the site. As we climbed up into the Howardian Hills you could look back towards Slingsby and get an impression of how open the terrain is.

A little further we turned onto this delightful bridleway.

At this time of year (July) there are lots of poppies around, reminding me of our days around the Somme at Easter.

Towards the end of the walk we passed through this tunnel of trees and shrubs.

We endured a couple of showers on the way and the site's showers were very welcome on our return. The only other noteworthy event was having to shift Tilly off her perch on the driver's seat. She kept resting her head on the steering wheel and sounding the horn!

Now, what time's the fish'n'chip van due?

The next day we were due home. The morning dawned with forecasts of heavy showers across the whole country. Here, it was bright and breezy. We chose a 3 mile walk and cleared it with the site manager that we needn't leave until 1ish.

We found more poppies.

Having completed three walks around here it's apparent that these old lanes, often with beautiful mature hedgerows, are a feature of the area. Can you spot the tail of a disappearing lab?

Being mostly arable country it's great for dog walking; no livestock for them to annoy.

In Tilly's considered opinion, this is an appropriate stick for walking. She carried it for around half a mile, back to the site,

including taking it for a dip in a stream.

And lastly, this view over crops to a wide open sky typifies the local landscape. Must come back here with the rest of the tribe.

Blessed with no rain for our walk, we're now back at the site for some housekeeping and lunch before making our way home. Once there, it'll be a fairly quick turn round. Tomorrow we're off up into the Yorkshire Dales again for the weekend. Chrissie was forced to leave out a couple of days of the Pennine Way earlier in the spring cos the van was with Peugeot. So, we're off to Malham so C&D can complete their efforts while Tilly and I fall back into our support role.

Incidentally, this post is brought to you courtesy of, new-to-me, technology. I'm posting from a small notebook computer in the van, connected by wifi via BT's openzone system where you share wifi with fellow BT users who've agreed to this. It's a clever system, and free! I've also managed on this trip to connect the computer to t'internet using my mobile phone. I never ceased to be amazed by communication technology. Bye for now from the C&CC site at Slingsby in beautiful North Yorkshire.