We arrived at the dealers (Go European - J12 on the M6) a little before midday so we could check out the nearby garden centre (and calm my nerves a bit to be honest!).
The team were having a final look over the van as we arrived so we sorted out the paperwork first, and made the biggest Visa transaction of my life. One expected call to Mumbai later and I'm the new owner of a motorhome.
One of the chaps shows me round the van, pointing out how everything works and what all the little buttons do. Luckily there's an owners manual inside a leather pouch containing paperwork with every little thing the Galaxy has had done to it over the years. It's great that the previous owner has been so conscientious, but I'm worried whether the manuals and paperwork might push us over our weight limit...
After an hour or so, I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be. We're going to have to drive the thing 50 miles home.
The tank is half full (I kind of see this as a £60 discount) so at least I won't have to tackle that today. The helpful dealer brings the van onto the garden centre car park (away from the more expensive Motorhomes!) and we shake hands and say goodbye.
We clamber in and remember to put seatbelts on. There's something about the comfortable chairs that makes me think we're in a living room rather than a vehicle. Here goes...
The diesel engine is quiet. I had been shown under the bonnet but to be honest, the mass of pipes and cables hadn't resembled anything I'm used to seeing at the front end of a car, and while noting it was surprisingly clean, I'd switched off beyond, 'Here's where you put the screen-wash'. I'm used to an older car - our little polo is about 16 years old. Though the Moho is only a few years younger than that (13 or so), it has a few more features than I'm used to. Like power steering.
I know we're supposed to like it, but the steering wheel is too light. I wonder if it's even connected to the wheels. We roll smoothly forward and my first compulsion is to overcompensate, turn the wheel more so I can feel some sort of heft as the van pulls away. There's no effort at all, and I make a conscious effort not to go too fast or corner too soon. There's no rear mirror of course, but the wide side mirrors give me more vision than I expect and I can tell where the back of the van is.
The back wheels follow the front. Fairly self-evident I suppose, but in my head I had been almost steering from the rear - waiting until the wheels are at the corner before I make the turn. Driving this lumbering beast is, in reality, like steering a butterfly. A very light touch on the wheel and she goes where I need her to.
Road placement is more a matter of faith than anything else. I'm sure there's enough road on either side of us, but sometimes when I look out of the mirrors, the lines feel very close to the sides of the van.
Acceleration is slower than I'm used to, but there's power there. Except in fifth gear. There's no pull there at all. I make a mental note that I'll need to change down to overtake, not just put my foot down.
We navigate our first roundabout. Veeeeery Sloooowly. I'm normally very conscious of drivers behind me, but to be honest, today I just don't care. It's my first ten minutes driving a tank and I'm not going to worry about what I can't see behind me. Luckily, it's about 2.30pm and the roads are fairly quiet. The first hill, and the van climbs with no slowing down at all. I change down carefully, and the van obediently slows to a stop.
We turn left on the second roundabout and start onto the M6. Here goes nothing...
The road is clear and I'm sitting comfortably at 60mph and smoothly get onto the motorway. I have no intention of racing today and feel a strange sense of belonging amongst the trucks in the left lane. One by one, the large vehicles in front indicate to pull out, and soon enough, I'm getting close to a small car doing 50. I drop down a gear, put my foot down and overtake at 70, the clean whine of the turbo a new sound to me. Truckers are much more friendly to larger vehicles, and when I need to overtake, they almost universally flash to let us know when it's safe to pull back in.
It's a windy day, and soft-sided vehicles drift by like yachts under full sail. I can feel the Galaxy pulling occasionally, especially as other large traffic passes. I'm much more aware of the sucking air wanting to pull us off course.
Finally, we pull off the motorway. A kind articulated lorry driver comes to a complete stop and flashes us so we can get off the awkward T-junction and onto the road. We take our time as I'm more aware than ever of the width of the van. There seems only a finger of clear road to either side of us, and manoeuvring is more an act of blind faith than skill now. Thankfully, she knows where she wants to go, and we get back to town safely.
Another motorhome is coming towards us, and we all wave to each other as if it's the most normal thing in the world. I've ridden bikes before, and this sense of solidarity is something I've missed. And then there's the final hurdle. We get onto the street in front of our house. We've trimmed the hedges, but is it enough?
We come to a stop, then crawl forward. The front of the van swings around, but not enough. I need to reverse to get a bit more room to move round. Once we've done that of course, I can't pull the back of the van round enough, and we're brushing the hedge on the nearside rear. There's nothing more I can do, I can't pull forward or backwards without scraping something, so we ease forward carefully, pulling more to the right that I would like, then swinging the front over.
My car is in front of us looking much like a toy from the giddy height of the van's cab. I can't see anything in front of us so get my (surprisingly calm) better half to have a look for me. never mind a rear camera - I'm going to need a front one too!
Finally, we're in. There's no damage to the back of the van from the hedge, and there's plenty of room on the drive for both vehicles. I make a mental note to take another foot off the shrubbery and we head into the house to find a much needed cuppa.
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