First proper week long trip - into the west country

Published by Jac Sprat in the blog jackie and martin's gap year. Views: 111

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We had our first proper long trip this week. We went to visit Martin's mum near Bristol and some good friends in East Devon as we were that side of the country. Generally we were delighted how smoothly it went and we feel very confident now.
I must say that was AFTER we tried to leave home and found the engine was flat as a dodo. We had inadvertently left the radio on for five days parked on our drive! There is a chirping noise that alerts you to this but each time we heard it we thought it was a real bird chirping locally !
We had used it as a spare bedroom for a big family gathering and were showing it off to everyone, not realising we were systematically draining the battery. The AA were great and arrived after 45 minutes. They told us to keep driving to recharge it and not to stop. Bang goes our plan to stock up at the local supermarket.... It was all service station shopping from then on. We then drove two hours to the half way point between Bristol and Norwich as we were too scared to stop.
In our defence - the radio only shows it's on by the tiniest of green lights that you have to really search for. We are now wiser so never again!
The first night we were the only ones in the campsite (Kidlington : Diamond campsite) excellent facilities. Funnily enough it was the same campsite where we arrived on our very first trip in our rented Hymer. Amusing memories of our terror! It was very crowded then compared to a ghost site this time. We had a lovely view over a field with horses. In the morning over our cuppa tea we watched a flock of starlings taking turns in the front line sweeping the field systematically pecking at whatever birds find in the grass.
Next day we drove into Bristol to meet Martin's mum and had fun parking in a city. We found it surprisingly easy to find on street parking in residential areas. That night we parked at the Slimbridge wetland nature reserve (Tudor caravan site) (see pic of canal) and this time it was packed to the gills with motorhomes - maybe it is always popular being a famous nature reserve with lots of rare birds. We were excited and thought we'd meet people so went to the pub but it was only 3 guys in cowboy hats propping up the bar. It put Martin in mind of his cowboy hat he is still carrying about and gave him ideas..... We had a few halves of a local beer that Martin always loves from that part of the country (wadworth 6X) and came back to watch a film on our TV. Second problem of the trip. Our all singing all dancing self satellite seeking TV had developed a visual iceberg right in the middle of the screen. We heard that we probably had somehow let condensation build up which affected the TV (permanently) Heavy news :(
We will try and get a free replacement (still under warranty) and maybe start bringing it inside at home not leave it in the van....
The other problem was how to find the button for the back windscreen wiper. We both thought we remembered being shown. We asked our friends to help us and spent a while playing with all the switches to no avail. Finally Martin - ever the scientist - went to have a look at the back wiper and found - there was none! Problem solved.
Our next venture was down to east Devon where the roads got prettier and progressively narrower. Sat nav took us down a silly lane that we had to abandon and do a 6 point turn around a mini roundabout. We learned that our van can't do a 360 on a mini roundabout. Sadly there were two queues of cars watching but they were being patient and long suffering which made me more flustered really. Martin always says very encouragingly in these situations 'this is great driving experience for the future love'
We found our first 'wild' camping site - in the carpark of a friendly pub. (See photo)
Wild just means no facilities but you feel a bit of a devil all the same.
It was great to have 2 free nights but it was on a slope which led to a bad night's sleep - we tried the wheel wedge levellers which looked great but still felt kind of funky; it felt like a lump under my head (but that makes no sense as the van is rigid?) However it was great watching all the activity in the carpark over 48 hours. It ranged from a majorettes baton twirling group on the grass to kids being picked up for school there, a baby handed over to a childminder and - most randomly - someone parking what I presume must've been his new van and taking lots of pictures of it and then driving off.
In the evenings we watched some wonderful films from our hard drive lovingly assembled by our son: Foxcatcher, Birdman, Babel, The Sessions and Man Up; all of them totally varied and thought provoking. I couldn't say which was the best. Now I am retired - I love films even more and can indulge myself with so many more than when I was working and having to go to bed early.
It may be 'second hand living' like Maggie Smith says disparagingly in Downton Abbey but I don't care! It's one of the great joys in my life.
So now we have put Lenny into
mini winter mode as he must stand on our drive for about two weeks while I go off skiing. Shutters drawn, water emptied, radio most definitely off - but Martin will check the batteries regularly and probably give it a charge with the electric hookup.
The first pic shows a nifty piece of parking we were proud of. Martin's semaphore arm movements in the rear mirror are indeed improving.
Let's just hope I don't break a limb like I did last time I was on the slopes.
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