After having driven the van quite a few times and got some confidence with it, I decided that I wanted to take a short (one night) camping trip in it to try out things like cooking, sleeping and using the bathroom.
GPS (Google Maps) Woes
The first challenge was getting to the campsite. The lady on the phone had warned me that satnav’s sometimes get it wrong but I assumed Google Maps would send me to the right place. It did not.
First of all, it seemed to manage to find the most picturesque route for me to follow – down the narrowest of country lanes where I managed to brush my high sides up along various trees!
Eventually it led me to a farm, which was supposed to be where I was camping at, only this was a dead end and the map was telling me I still had a couple of miles to go.
I figured I’d just missed a turning so I turned around and drove about a bit looking for where I could have gone wrong. I couldn’t find anything so I decided to head back to the farm and see if I could find somebody to ask.
A couple of teenagers answered the door but luckily their mum knew. The map was trying to take me through a footpath. I had to take quite a long route around to get to my actual destination.
I finally found the correct road and then realised that the actual campsite was another mile and a half down a single track road full of blind bends and potholes! And of course I met another motorhome along the way.
Luckily we passed at a juction and we had plenty of room. Both occupants waived enthusiastically at me which was nice. Motorhome community 🙂
Once I arrived (at another farm) I was greeted by Elizabeth, one of the propietors. She was very friendly and showed me all the important points – the chemical disposal point (for dumping waste), taps for water and the bins / recycling area.
Arriving On Site
She showed me to my ‘pitch’ which was basically a small field backing on to a farm building with several electric hookups. There was one caravan here and that was it. Well, it is nearly November! She said I could just park where I liked.
The view was lovely and it was certainly quiet. There’s no wifi here so it’s the chance for a really quiet getaway. Also, this site has no bathroom facilities; you are forced to use your own which I wanted to do anyway to test it all out.
I had to do so straight away. As it had taken me so long to actually get to the site, I really needed a wee! But first I had to open up a laptop and check the manual to see how the toilet worked 🙂 Couldn’t be easier thankfully.
It’s very much like a festival toilet, but significantly cleaner!
Finding an Elusive Switch
After that was sorted, the next priority was lunch. I had brought food with me. I wanted to cook myself both lunch and dinner using the hob and the oven so I could really test everything out.
I needed to cook some potatoes. I already know how to turn the gas on but I ran into a new problem. The water taps were not working.
I thought they were because I was able to wash my hands after using the loo but it turned out to be just left over water in the pipes. No new water was coming through the taps in either the bathroom or the kitchen.
I knew the water tank was almost full so it had to be a problem with the pump; it wasn’t pumping the water around the system. There’s a switch for it somewhere. I remember the previous owner showing me but now just couldn’t find it.
I ended up switching on every switch in the van – still nothing. Consulting the manual was unhelpful as it merely said that the pump needed to be turned on but didn’t explain how.
I pulled up all the chairs looking underneath around the tank and pump for any sign of another switch I may have missed. I checked outside the van at the filling point to see if there was something there. Nothing.
I decided to ask for help. I went to the farmhouse and asked if the owners knew anything about motorhomes. They did not; they merely ran the farm and site and were not campers themselves.
Then just as we were chatting, the couple in the motorhome who had waved at me earlier turned up. The chap offered to come and have a look, and found the switch right away. The big red switch right in the middle of the main control panel with a picture of a tap on it!
My ex used to marvel at how I could be quite intelligent on the one hand and utterly lacking in any common sense on the other. She would find this to be typical of me!
I thanked him profusely and then we chatted a while about my travel plans before he headed off.
With the problem solved, I got my potatoes on the boil and proceeded to a cook a simple (French) lunch of warm potato, flageolet and tuna salad. My mum makes it a lot. Mine is never as good as hers and unfortunately this one is no exception.
The vehicle is not completely level. I can feel that it is on a very slight downward slope. I didn’t think this would be a problem but while I was standing up preparing food I could feel a slight back ache in one side where I was instinctively leaning slightly to compensate.
I had some levelling chocks in the van but decided to get lunch out of the way first as it was getting onto 3pm by this time and I was hungry!
So about an hour later I got out the levelling mechanism and fiddled with it. I then went outside and had a look under the van around the wheels to see if I could figure out where it goes and how it would work.
I found something that looked right but given my track record, and knowing that trying to lift the wrong place could just put a hole through the floor of my van I decided to live with the slope and leave it until I could get proper advice from somebody who actually knows how to do it properly.
Dealing With the Darkness
As the day grew on, it began to get dark and then I started to feel weird. I get this at home. When it’s dark outside, I don’t like seeing out of windows. It feels dark and lonely. I’m pretty sure it’s seasonal affective disorder.
I decided to close all the blinds on the windows and that felt better but my hooks had not arrived for me to mount the curtain I was hoping to use to separate off the cab from the living area.
I decided to improvise. I pulled down my duvet and hung it from the edge of the bed. I held it in place simply by putting the bed ladder on top of it. Worked a treat! It also helped keep the heat in too.
So now I had privacy so I could get changed into my PJ’s and I had successfully shut out the dark outdoors. It started to feel a bit like a home. Not quite – that’s going to take a while but I know it has potential.
It was also getting cold by this point. I decided to play with the heaters. Yes plural, I had actually bought a mini oil filled radiator a few days before.
When I tried the gas heater last time I didn’t like it. Gas heaters have a funny smell to them. It’s the same with the old gas fires you get in houses. I never liked those either for the same reason.
Plus it runs on gas of which there is a finite supply in a bottle that shows no indication of how much is left so I don’t like that either.
An oil filled radiator runs off the electricity, uses a fairly low amount of power (this model is 700 watts) and doesn’t have that horrible gas smell.
But unfortuntely it puts out less heat than a hairdryer. After struggling with it for about an hour I resorted to the stinky gas heater. Horrible but effective.
I’m really hoping that heating woes will be largely a moot point. It’s the UK and we’re almost November so of course it’s cold. But that’s exactly why I’m not leaving until March and come next winter season I will be somewhere warm such as Spain or portugal!
After I was done sorting out the practicalities of food, warmth, privacy etc I was then left with an evening to fill. I had made a mistake thinking that being without wifi would be okay.
I felt totally lost and out of touch. I hated it. In the end I just watched some TV that I had on my computer and then went to bed about 10.30.
The bed was comfortable and I slept quite well. I did have to get up in the night to pee and it was somewhat awkward trying to find my way down the ladder in that zombie-like state but I imagine that is one of things I’ll get used to.
In the morning when I finally decided to get up I opened the little window by the bed and was greeted by lovely countryside views filled with autumn colours.
Now of course I know that when I’m traveling it won’t all be like that but it was nice:-) But damn it was cold!
Things take longer in the motorhome. It takes a few minutes to boil some water for a coffee. Going to the loo takes longer as you have to fiddle with the flush thing, it takes a while to get the heater on.
But once I did have all those things sorted I was able to just relax for a while. I sat on the couch with my kindle and a cup of coffee and just read in the peaceful surroundings for an hour or so.
The Poo Gloves
A new motorhome had arrived in the evening and this morning I watched as the guy emptied out his toilet cassette and put various chemicals in it. This reminded me that I needed to empty my own out and I also made a note of the fact that I don’t have chemicals for it.
Removing the cassette was easy enough, it literally just pulls out. However I did struggle with the chemical disposal point. It was a large concrete hole in the ground covered with a manhole cover with the letters ‘CDP’ painted on it.
To lift it you had to use standard manhole hooks and that thing was bloody heavy. Almost too heavy for me really. I managed to drop one end of it on my foot whilst trying to get it back on and then worried that I was going to drop the cover inside the hole!
The emptying itself was simple enough, gross of course, and not a task I will enjoy but hey, it needs to be done! But this was just one CDP. Others might be completely different and I won’t know until I try others.
Lessons Learned and What’s Next
I figured out how to use the toilet and how to empty it. I learned where the pump switch is and how to get running water. I also tested the water heater and got hot water.
I also learned that my oil filled heater is really quite useless. And also, that the back door creates quite a draft. I shoved a pillow down there in the end to stop the cold air coming in. I realised that it’s really cold in the UK at this time of year and if I travel in these conditions I’ll burn a ton of gas on the heater.
I still need to learn how to use those leveling chocks properly.
Another thing I didn’t do was use the shower. I had intended to and then I had a new realisation; the toilet and the shower ‘room’ are not separate. It’s a tiny wet-room which means that using the shower would mean that going to the toilet would mean wet feet.
I would either have to completely dry the floor after every shower or take off any footwear and socks any time I wanted to use the loo. I wasn’t really prepared for either so I decided to skip that and worry about it next time.
I used the hob and the oven successfully and was very pleased with those. I still need to test out the grill – so toasted bacon sarnies next time!
I slept in the bed, used the couch to watch TV, got all my computer gear setup comfortably, and generally figured out how the main habitation spaces would work. I will need some cushions and extra pillows.
I also confirmed to myself just how much I rely on the Internet, and that without it I feel very disconnected from the world and lonely. I like to disconnect for a few hours when I’m out in nature somewhere like on a beach or on a walk, but when I’m back ‘home’, I need to be able to connect with people.
When you lack physical contact with people – online connections are vital. It will be a huge priority for me to ensure that I can be online as much as possible on the road.
All in all it was a very useful 24 hours, but I feel that I need to do it a few times more.