Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day Tripping.....

Owning a Campervan is not just about camping but it opens a whole new raft
of  possibilities for the humble day out. In reality you will only go camping in the warmer months and unless you are retired you'd be lucky to camp more than half a dozen times a year. But what about the winter and those times you just don't have time to "Camp over".
  This is where the other bonus of owning a Campervan comes into play..."The Day Trip". Our van gets used all year round and it can be a workhorse as well as a "Fun palace" and yet some of the best experience's we've had in the van have just been day trips out to Forests, Castles, Markets, and even Ikea.. Having somewhere warm and dry after a mornings walking and the ability just to brew up, gives you an amazing sense of "well being" and makes the entire day out more of an adventure.
  So don't pack away your campervan in the winter, but get out there , have fun and make a cuppa....." Day Tripping across the UK "

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Keep Calm.....and Relax.

Since being a small child August has always meant long summer holidays by the beach and playing out late. The summers were always sunny and life seemed so simple...Ahhhh the memories.
  Now with children of our own we try and recreate those times for Erin and Joel, hence why we have a Campervan. Right now we are in the middle of packing for our next adventure to France, which is just a few days away. As a child summer holidays for me involved long drives down to Cornwall in the back of mum and dad's old Ford Cortina. Back then the motorway wasn't finished so the journey often involved an overnight stop, where today you can do it in 5 hours. Anyhow I digress. Being a child you don't worry about the packing malarkey (that's mum and dads job) and it seems that is one thing that's not changed in 30 years. Erin and Joel are completely oblivious of the preparation work required for three weeks camping in France.. And why should they, they're kids.
  It's been two years since we've done a long camping trip as last year the Campervan was out of commission in August due to gearbox problems. We instead flew to Ibiza for two weeks, which was great, but these days flying is such a mither with all the regulations that going by Campervan is easy in comparison. This time we're taking the bikes as where we're going is fairly flat and there's some great cycle tracks to explore.
  This time as we're more familiar with our route and the Campervan the journey doesn't seem as daunting. The total distance we're driving is less than 700 miles and we are doing it at a leisurely pace over three days.
 We picked a 5* site this year with swimming pools and everything you could wish for and still only 500m from the beach. How much did this indulgence cost???..About £24 a night!!, which when you compare it to UK prices, its very cheap. Once there I shall kick back drink wine and relax, I may even try a little surfing.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Surgery time....

No one likes growing older and in our minds we all tend to think we haven't changed much since our teens, but alas the reality is far from that. So as we get older we have to start  paying more attention to ourselves to keep our aging chassis Our campervans are much the same and since Chester is certainly past his youthful years, he was staring to get a bit crusty around the edges (much like me ).
  Even reliable VW engineering is far from immune from the dreaded tin worm and those worms had been nibbling away on poor Chester for years. When the rust bubbles  started erupting with vengeance I knew poor Chester would be needing surgery and soon.
 Upon inspection several area would be needing rusty panels cut out and new steel welding in. This was beyond my capabilities  but in our VW club there was a guy we call "Metal Mickey" who was an old school craftsman who was able to do the job. In an ideal world I would have all the work done at once , but I can neither afford the cost in both money and time I would be without the van. So Mike had one week to sort the nearside rear quarter and rust holes near the windows. Mikes lives  about 100miles from me so after stripping a lot of the interior out I pootled over the mountains to his gaff and left Chester with him whilst I got the train home.

  Mike worked his magic posting step by step photos on our club forum so I could watch the progress from the comfort of my own computer. True to his word one week later Chester was ready and looking a lot less rusty. To keep the costs down I would be repainting the panels he's replaced, but hat meant after getting the van back I only had a few days before heading off to a VW festival CamperJam. Just enough time to refit the interior but not paint the van. Though as we had entered a "Cooking in a Camper" completion at the festival my daughter had a brilliant idea to use the black unpainted panel as a Menu board  for the cooking competition...:-)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

First Camp of the Year! last.

Normally by the end of May we would have got in two or three camping trips in the Campervan, but this year with it being the coldest spring in over 50 years it never happened. Indeed even May which can be a warm month in years gone by was decidedly cool and wet (not good camping with young kids). However we were determined to get away over half term so we searched round for sites in North Wales  and found a cracking 4* site in Snowdonia just outside Caernarfon. The first camp of the year always takes longer as we have to dig out all the awnings from their winter storage in the attic and collect all the gear which seems to go AWOL  just when you need it .
  I gave the van its spring service a few days before we set off and prayed the weather would did..Wahey.... On the day we set off it was glorious sunshine and wall to wall blue skies..result. However though it was only a 100 miles away everyone else had had the same idea, so a two hour journey turned into four hours. At least we were able to pull over to make lunch whilst everyone else sat fuming in the traffic jams (smug feeling)
 North Wales has everything a camping trip could need..Beaches, Castles, Mountains and some great pubs for when the thirst gets the better of you..The first evening we drove into Caernarfon to the castle and strolled along the harbour with the walls of the magnificent castle on one side and stunning views of the Menai Straights on the other..truly breathtaking.
  The following morning dawned with again great weather, so clearly today was a beach day...but which one?. Laura recalled as a child going to a beach on Anglesey near the village of Llanddona which was only a few miles away. However what Laura had failed to remember was that the road down to the beach was down a steep 35 % winding single track road with very few passing places, but boy it was worth the white knuckle descent to the beach...Half a dozen other campers had made the same perilous descent and were parked right on the beach at the high water mark, just kicking back and enjoying what mother nature has to offer....It was a brilliant sun soaked day.

  As is the way in Britain though, no two days are alike and so the following morning was grey and damp. No fears though today would be a "Castle" day, Penrhyn Castle to be precise. It was great to be inside and there was a great cafe serving home made soup...And since at the end of the day we felt that a BBQ would be pushing our luck in the rain , a pub tea was in order.. Well when I say "tea" I mean Welsh sirloin steak was washed down with a pint of local ale in a  500 yr old Inn next to Caernarfon castle...nice..:-)

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Corkscrew.....

Just a quick Blog this morning as the heavens have opened and I have ten minutes to spare while I drink my cuppa.
  The I'm not on about any new theme park roller coaster ride, but that humble implement that's supposed to sit in the cutlery draw at home or in your campervan. It comes in a variety of designs but its purpose is simple, to allow its owner to open with a minimum of fuss a  bottle of their favourite plonk.
  A straight forward task you may think, ahh but no. Picture the scene.  Your meal is ready you have a bottle of wine in hand, but can you find the corkscrew??? Can you heckers like. I have come to the conclusion after many years of research that "corkscrews" have the same paranormal abilities as "the odd sock" or the "missing keys". You'd think with our advanced intellect humans would have no problem getting a cork out of a bottle without a corkscrew, but under pressure we seem to resort to the problem solving abilities of a chimp.(no offense to chimps implied.
  So what's the answer I hear you say?... Simple, you buy more corkscrews!! So that why now we now have six corkscrews, there are probably more but they're off having a party with my odd socks and car keys. So tonight when you come home in desperate need of a glass of Merlot and can't find your corkscrew, just give us a shout as I might just have a spare one to lend you.... Ohh its stopped raining! Now where did I put my Campervan key's??????

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Break.....Not in a Campervan...

Easter usually heralds the beginning of the camping season for us, but with Easter varying from late March to April the weather can be a bit variable. However we were optimistic this year as last year in March and April it reached around 70f and since it was the first week in April the weather was bound to be better....How wrong we were.....
  March turned out to be the worst winter weather for decades and even though now its turned mild I can still see snow drifts on the hills from my lounge window and its mid April..What to do???. Now I can put up with cold camping but the rest of the family would not share my enthusiasm , especially in the biting easterly wind straight from Siberia...brrrr.

   Fortunately my wonderful wife Laura is always on the look out for a "deal" and spotted an offer at a "holiday park" in Devon in a static caravan..."with full heating" for the very week we we're planning to go camping...Now I have a confession....I "HATE" caravans....there I said it. To be honest I have never stayed in one but the idea of living in little boxes all lined up in a row sprawling over the hillside brings me out in a cold sweat.
   Now many will no doubt agree with me on how these places look from the outside, but the fact is the park had full indoor "fun" pools , a SPA, restaurants, and tons of stuff to do for the kids even if the weather was dire. So I bit my lip took a sedative and off we went for five days at Devon Cliff's. leaving the poor Campervan at home. I will admit I had a preconceived idea as to what these Parks were like and what type of people  go to them....again so so wrong. The caravan was luxurious , the Park spotless and laid back and the people from all walks of life including the well to do if the Range Rovers and Jaguars parked outside were anything to go by and yet "all" of us were in affect living in identical 12' x 35' boxes.
  The kids loved it and by chance our friends who also had their camping cancelled, booked the same place without our knowing. So it was a bonus to meet up with them in the pools and the pub at night. We got chance to tour the Devon coastline through some idyllic villages and sample some scrumptious  ice creams and Devon cream Teas.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Amazing Spaces...

 Last year there was a series on channel 4 called "George Clarke's Amazing Spaces" which showed what great design ideas you could incorporate into small spaces. The places people converted ranged from underground toilets to 1960's coaches and of course the ubiquitous VW Camper van. It was inspiring to see what people could achieve on budgets ranging from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands of pounds. When we built our Camper Van our budget was tight and yet we built and have enjoyed our Van for the past four years for a fraction of what it would have cost to buy a new purpose built van.
  A few weeks ago we went to a Camping and Caravaning show at the NEC in Birmingham courtesy of some free tickets we got from Sarah at Inspired camping . I had never been to a show like this before and it was quite an  eye opener as to the ingenious storage idea's designers build into their Campers. One idea that I really liked was the little Teardrop Caravans which could be towed behind the smallest of cars or the most underpowered of Campervans.

  In the four years since we built our Camper she has done us proud, but as with all things they need a bit of TLC now and again. So this spring we will be giving the interior units a bit of a makeover and then in the early summer the body work will be having a couple of panels replacing to keep the dreaded rust at bay.We view our van as a keeper and so spending money on her is seen as a long term investment as she has brought us so many happy memories over the last few years.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Moments of Trembling....the MOT!

Its that time of year when my heart beats loudly my mouth goes dry and my fingernails get chewed off....Yes MOT time....  Indeed moments of trembling would be a fitting meaning of the MOT test when your poor old Campervan gets prodded and poked by an MOT tester with no sense of humour or willingness to be bribed.
  Though we all recognise the need for our vehicles to be tested once a year to ensure they are not mobile death traps, it is a nerve racking time for the owner of "older" vans. Why the trepidation I hear you ask ? Well usually this is the time we get a list of things that need fixing which means ££££ will be flying from your wallet.
 Now we've had our van for four years now but I always forget and get caught out with the MOTs This year was no exception as it was about to run out three days before Christmas (bad planning) and of course I left it to the last moment and you guessed it they couldn't fit it in... eeeek. So the vans MOT had expired and I couldn't drive it for two weeks until the garage reopened in the New Year. So this morning with sweaty palms I dropped the Camper off for her MOT.....FAIL...ahhhhh. Thankfully Steve and Les who do most of the work on my van felt pity on me and got her in straight away for the relative minor work and I will have her back tomorrow...phew.