Wow it’s been a long time since I updated this blog!
It looks like my last posting was at the end of April, and it’s been an intense few months since then.
After a bit of work in London in early May, we had a rainy trip up to Kendal and Windermere (new Braithwaite Fold site - fab!) where we discovered some spongy walls in the Galaxy. I don’t know how I didn’t see it before, but it was big enough to require a visit back to the dealer and hope they honoured the guarantee.
Luckily, they did, and as I had a big job in London that would keep me away for about a month and a half, they would have time to do it.
I got back, and they still hadn’t done it of course.
Still - I could afford to wait, so we gave them another two weeks to repair the inner wall while we went to pick up a new member of our family, Lizzie, our new Daschund puppy.
They repaired most of the damage, and reassured me that a still slightly spongy bit near the roof won’t get any worse. I suspect they didn’t want to do a fiddly and expensive repair above a window, but I’ll hold them to their word. They found a leak in the roof and I can see that it’s been completely fixed externally. Sadly, they managed to crack the large roof window over the living area while resealing a seam - I can see where it’s been fixed with superglue, but it’s only on the edge and I’m too tired to argue. It’s not in an area where it needs to be sealed. I’m left with a little sadness over the whole thing.
After the heavy rain earlier in the year - and the whole damp thing, we’ve decided to cover the van with a water-proof tarp when we’re not out in it. I’m not going to risk months of being outdoors in English Liquid sunshine.
A couple of weeks on and we’re getting the van ready again. I’ve finally gotten round to installing the rear-view cameras and in the end, decided to take the cabling through the van. There’s a conduit above the entry door that disappears behind the high cupboards. I managed to thread the cables through this to the front drop-down bed, and take the wires down a strut, under the mattress and into the large monitor where my rear-view mirror would normally be. It’s all wired in and works great. The camera was much easier to fit than I expected. Just one drop hole and it’s all sealed up with marine gunk. I was going to use transmitters, but after realising the cables were long enough (just) I’m glad not to have to worry about adding complications to the whole thing.
So we’re waiting for Lizzie’s vaccinations to take and planning our next trip out. Probably to Wales for the first one with her. The van is just about ready, and I can’t wait to try out the new rear-view mirror.
Happy camping all.
We rose fairly early - I've found us doing that in the van. Really, as soon as the sun is up, I want to get the kettle on.
When the rest of the farm was up, I managed to find the young farmer's son we've nodded to over the last couple of days and he pulled us out of the wet grass with the tractor. We left a couple of decent holes behind for them to remember us by.
We took the M6 South for a few junctions and wound our way to Southport for lunch.
We've learned to stick to A-roads in the Galaxy - it just makes life easier, and for the most part it works. We stopped on the outskirts of the town at a Tesco's for food shopping, and we got to try parking in a busy supermarket. I was surprised to find that the van actually fits between the lines of a parking space. It's much longer than a car of course, but if you can find two spaces, it's fairly easy.
Oddly, I was much more nervous of leaving the van unattended in the car park than I would be on a campsite, and have resolved to find a safe (or two!) to fit for when we're away for longer periods.
We had a peek on Google maps for a car park in the town. I was able to check the satellite view to find a couple that had motorhomes parked up, so we told the iPhone app to take us there. With my better reading the screen, we made it there in no time and were soon walking along the promenade.
Southport is beautiful. You can see Blackpool across the expanse of sand, yet Southport feels like it has retained something that Blackpool has lost. It's genteel, and still has something of the Victorian retreat about it. Where it's noisier cousin across the water has hen nights and stag weekends, Southport still has tea-rooms and some of the more upmarket shopping you might find in London. Also, there was a motorhome and caravan park on the beach, behind a wind break. If we find ourselves up here again, we'll probably look into that place, and have a night in the town.
As it is though, we're heading south again, to Formby.
We were undecided as to how many nights we would have away this time, so have played it by ear. We like beaches, so figured we could detour down to Southport, and again on Google maps, I found a lovely site at Formby Point. The website showed vans nestled amongst pine trees and promised sand dunes and sea views.
Sea views are a little far away, but the site has lived up to its promise. We've walked along the dunes down to the sea, and looking south, we can see Bootle and Liverpool in the distance, and container vessels stately sail by in front of the wind farms out to sea.
More photos ensue, but before long, were tired and ready for beer. Thank you tescos.
Tonight will be quiet. We're under the pine trees. I just hope the wind doesn't blow too hard...
We woke after a fairly poor sleep. We'd had to use the cushions from the settee as I'd forgotten the pillows. Then no eggs for breakfast and the on-site cafe didn't open until 9.30. In the end, we managed a fairly decent cooked breakfast minus the eggs.
After ten, we took the local bus into Lancaster. The map never really shows how close you are to something, so I was surprised to realise that we were only 15 minutes or so away from the city.
Lancaster is a picturesque town, crowned by a brilliant castle atop a rocky outcrop. There's been a settlement up there for 2000 years, and a decent castle for the last thousand. Lancaster is a duchy town, so the castle is owned by the queen. It was converted into a prison and was only closed a couple of years ago or so. There's a complete prison still there and they're still trying to work out what to do with it. There's also a court which is still in operation, and the assizes were held there in the past, so if you were due to come up before a judge, you might be incarcerated for 6 months before the assize court date, then be declared innocent. Rough justice.
We went up to the castle and had a tour with the knowledgable James. There's actually not much to see in the place, but he made it much more entertaining than it could have been.
We had a wander around the town next. It's a university town, with two institutions, so the make-up of the population is quite cosmopolitain. Lots of young people of course, and plenty of nationalities too. I always love to see this. It tells me that the town will have learned generosity and tolerance, and the feeling in the town only reflected this. It's a walking city, and while there's not loads of stuff to do, we spent time in the town's museum and wandered it's squares and alleyways for a few hours. We'll likely visit again sometime. It's a pretty city with plenty of places to eat and drink, and a great feeling all round.
We took the bus back to Bolton le Sands and decided to have a little walk along the sand in the other direction, then return back to the van for some food.
We've been lucky with the weather on both days away. While the rest of the country has had rain, we've had bright sun and brisk winds, combined with the sea wanderings, it's been bracing rather than unpleasant. Great walks.
After some food, we went back to the beach to watch the sunset. I remembered the tripod this time and managed to get some great shots of the sun setting over rivulets of water along the beach. As the sun finally set, we sat with out legs dangling inside one of the strange stream-beds along the flats and shared a hip-flask of whisky and Ameretto I'd prepared beforehand. It sounds awful - I know, but I beg you to try it. One part decent blended whisky, and one part Disaronno. It's best over ice, and not stirred, but it's great with your best mate from a hip-flask while watching a stunning sunset.
Arrived at the Red Bank Farm site by about 3pm, a very nice farm on the edge of Bolton le Sands. There was a pleasant car park overlooking the flats, and as we navigated the steep hill past a train crossing, we saw two horses galloping over the sand, spray flying.
The pitch wasn't hard standing unfortunately, though had hook up - not that we really need electric. (saying that - it's handy for the fridge at least!)
The week has had a lot of rain, so once we positioned ourselves ready for the yellow levelling wedges, I tried to get up them, and poor Kit outside was shaking his head. The wheels were spinning in the mud, and the van was gradually digging itself deeper into the earth.
In the end we called it a day, but the van was listing quite heavily due to the self-digging, and the uneven pitch in the first place. We decided to make the best of it after I'd stormed around for a bit.
Next up, we made a list of all the things we'd forgotten. Pillows, Salad Cream, Eggs, Spanner for spare gas bottle... Oh dear.
We got some food anyway, and then had a walk along the coast to Morcambe, some 7 miles to the end of the town. It helped to chill me out a bit. We couldn't work out why people were staring. We're two blokes with cameras around our necks wandering along the shore. Once we got into the town itself, a car full of youths was parked up beside the main road.
"What lens do you use?" one of them shouted. "A cheap one," I replied and they laughed.
We moved on quickly. Very weird.
The town was completely closed. The costa had shut down at 5.30 and we were perhaps half an hour late for that. But in the town itself, other than the pubs, there was nothing else happening at all. Ghost town.
We took a couple of shots of the Morecambe statue (Morecambe and Wise), and a few more of the Midland Hotel (Poirot fans) then shuffled through the town quite quickly lest we should be waylaid down a dark alley. We should probably do a photo series on seaside towns off-season.
It struck me as a place that didn't welcome strangers. There were signs in the carpark (which of course before I bought a motorhome I'd never really taken any notice of before) saying 'no overnight stays', 'no motorhomes' and 'no camper-vans'. We were there, in town, with money to spend, but nowhere to spend it, but we didn't feel like the town wanted us there, and the signs just made me decide not to come through the town the next day.
On the bus back to Bolton, the driver asked us if we were professional cameramen, or if we did undercover surveillance. I answered negative to both, and he asked us if we'd like some surveillance work. With a very firm no from me, he took our £3 each (for one-way bus fair to a village 4 miles by road!) and we sat down for the journey back to the campsite.
The evening was crowned by my final mistake. I hadn't completely closed the clips on the dinette table, so when leaning on it to open an overhead locker, I managed to fling two wine glasses all over the walls and seats. Red wine. Everywhere.
I went to sleep with my feet pointing downhill.
On our first trip out, we realised that the metal roundels set into the floor to hold the tables go right through to the underneath of the van, and when snuggled up in the warm, they're bloody cold on the toes. So I've had a god run around today looking for a carpet to fit the space. I've found plenty I like, but none fit the 90cm x 130cm space well enough to do the job.
I've bought another mattress topper and a second duvet too. My better half has decided that he's likely to prefer sleeping on the second double bed rather than climb up to the second floor, so I've made sure there's plenty of comfortable bedding. A fitted sheet will hold the various cushions together. Good for guests too.
Then back to the Galaxy for the day's work. I checked out the existing wiring beneath the bed with a multimeter. There's been a few changes to the cabling over the years and I wanted to make sure which was live. That done, I made sure that the new monitor for the reversing cameras will fit.
There's a plate beneath (or rather - above) the monitor, and this gets screwed into the fibreglass shell, then the monitor is fixed to this plate. I've used bolts rather than screws, as the shell is only a few millimetres thick, and a washer on each side of the fibreglass. I wish I could have contained the mess a bit better, and a few drill holes later, the floor and dash is covered with pale dust. It gets hoovered up later.
The monitor cables are all contained in a single bundle, so they go through a large hole into the void beneath the bed first, then the plate goes up. Luckily, the centre sunscreen opens to cover the monitor in its closed position, so I place it there to hold the monitor plate on long enough for me to get the nuts over the bolts already poking through.
That all done, it's a simple matter of fixing the monitor itself onto the plate and it's ready to be connected up.
The monitor is 9in, and we certainly need it to be that large with the size of the cab. I've been using my TomTom on the expanse of dashboard and I have to hunt for it sometimes! The monitor also has a small LED light around the front. Not really necessary as we're over-subscribed for lighting, but a nice touch.
Onto the second job of the day. The dinette is a little high, and when sitting there eating or working, I find my elbow have risen up to my armpits. The other table is a little lower and feels comfortable. The difference is amazingly only an inch or so!
I mark a dot below each of the existing screw holes and it's a simple matter of shifting everything down. I've got a couple of things to buy tomorrow before this job is done, but it's a simple one.
We're gearing up for Thursday now. Confirmation of the campsite booking came yesterday and we're looking forward to visiting Morecambe and Lancaster.
It's been a quiet couple of rainy days. I find myself counting down to our next trip out this Thursday, when we'll be heading up to Morecambe for a few nights.
After our last trip out, I realised that we'd lost a nearside marker light - one of the high little plastic lights that are white on one side and red on the other. We brushed by a few low branches and must have flipped off the plastic cover.
I visited my local caravan accessory place today and found that it's a standard accessory, and managed to replace it for £7. Unfortunately I couldn't get just the cover part, but at least it's not a garage repair. It came with a bulb and everything was fixed in two minutes with no tools.
My second job today was to hunt down a gas supplier. None of the garages in Congleton sell bottled gas, but I found a little back-street company that does. They were really helpful to a newbie and sorted me out with a large bottle of propane to replace the small 6kg bottle in there at the moment. I had an old blue butane bottle that's been sitting in the shed for ages, and they did a straight swap. The gas came to about £25. I want to keep an eye on how long it lasts, especially during a cold spring, before I decide whether to look at a Gaslow or GasIt system.
I've ordered two transmitters from Chinavasion.com, a site I've used many times for cut-price electricals. In the meantime, I'll get the cameras and screens installed this week if I can.
After a week or so of waiting, and following our UPS delivery around the world (and rather bizarrely from the UK to Germany and back again!), my Chinavasion order has arrived.
They're a very cheap gadget company based (obviously!) in China that ships gear around the world. You have to sort out your own import duty, but the carrier usually takes cash on the doorstep as they hand over your goods. My order this time was £210 and the duty was £16.
I'm fairly handy with electronics, so feel I can fit a reversing camera to the van myself. The fiddly thing will be routing the cables of course, so I'll be taking it very slowly to make sure all that is okay.
So my purchases… I've got a clever drop-down monitor that will sit between the sunshades. It's nice and big at 9inches, and folds flat against the roof in its own slim housing when not in use. It's 12-36v and importantly, has 2 video inputs. The camera is a rugged, waterproofed steel twin unit. One camera is 180 degrees so I can see around the back of the Moho when reversing and the other is 60 degrees to use as a rear-view mirror when driving.
I haven't decided whether to wire the cameras through the van - perhaps under the chassis or go wireless. I know people worry about wireless cameras, but the ones I've seen have pathetically weak transmitters that wouldn't TX through tin-foil never mind the skin of a motorhome. The transmitters I'm used to (I have another life in broadcast television) are a lot more powerful that that, and little more expensive.
I have an A-class van, and the monitor will attach to the underside of the drop-down bed, so there is the added complication of wiring down the struts of the bed, and keeping all the mess hidden.
That probably means I'll be going wireless. Industrial strength!
I've also bought a car recorder. It's a wide angle camera that keeps an eye on traffic ahead in case of an accident. I've been lucky so far not to have been involved in an accident, but I've had more than my fair share of scary drivers behaving badly, so this is a precaution on my part. I'll be able to move that between the van and my car too.
So the next few days should be interesting. I'll be sure to document the installation.
We used the oven for dinner, just heating up a couple of small pizzas, but it took an age. We let it heat up for twenty minutes, then it took another fifteen for the cheese to melt. An hour later we figured we should just eat the food whatever state it was in. The pizza’s were cooked, but I suspect that the cooker is running cold. I’ll see if there’s anything I can do with this one (an old Belling 3000) before we look for something else. There’s always the microwave/oven route if we find ourselves on hook up more often. There’s a shelf available for a small nuke oven.
We started the night rather badly. My better half pulled a muscle climbing into the over-cab bed, so I made up the couch into a second double and we slept spread out around the van. Interestingly it works quite well. The dinette turns into a further single bed, so theoretically we could sleep five in here! I’m not sure I’d like to try it though. It’s very roomy for two. I think you’d have to be very good friends to sleep four adults in this little space!
We woke up a couple of times with the intense cold that greeted our first night out. It’s mid-april and summer it most definitely ain’t. It wasn’t cold enough for the boiler to dump its water (it’s got some kind of temperature sensor to protect against frost damage), but my nose certainly felt it! A few minutes of the heater on full blast and the van was nice and toasty again.
The beds were surprisingly comfortable. I’d taken some advice from the fun forum and got a memory-foam topper for the mattress. I’ll need to do the same for the second bed if we plan to use it regularly.
The interesting thing for our time in the motorhome is how deceptively large it feels. You can sit in about 9 different positions and it gives you the feeling of seeing the space anew each time. Then if you drop the bed down, you get a vista over the rest of the van, or if you’re in the kitchen area, you’re looking back down the length of the van in another new direction.
Outside, the motorhome appears much smaller than when on the drive, dominating the house and car, but out in the wilds it’s in its element, and feels very mobile.
We rose late and I got to test out the kitchen again for breakfast. I’m really pleased with the kitchen arrangement. The grill and hob work great and I’m impressed with how efficient it all is. We managed a full english breakfast as if at home. Washing up takes a little more ingenuity. We use kitchen towel to clean the plates off, then do each item of cookware or tableware pretty much one by one in the tiny sink. It gets done, but it’s nowhere near as ergonomic as cooking.
Next up – shower-time. I’d turned the hot water on as I got up so there’d be water for dishes and showers. The boiler has a nice electric option for when on hook-up, so that saved on gas. The bathroom is small, but it all worked rather well. There’s a curtain to pull around you, and you end up standing in this odd vinyl windsock of a contraption while you rinse. It works though, and nothing got too wet in there. Half an hour with the window open dried out the shower curtain afterwards.
If we were staying on site for longer we’d hang the towels on a drying rail outside, but we’re on a schedule today, so the towels get draped over the chairs in the lounge area where the sun dries them out in no time.
We drove to Bakewell, figuring that after half-term, the place might be quiet… Instead it was like a mosh-pit in the town.
We’d arrived on market day, so the car park was full to bursting. Indeed – there was a red sign announcing that the car park was full, but as cars were coming out, we figured we’d try our luck. We managed to find a space in no time and after a very short walk, were sitting in a pub near the river inside ten minutes. Score!
After a pleasant afternoon, we headed back to the van to plan our next step. One thing we’ve found with booking the Certified Sites in the Camping and Caravanning Club book, is that people are seldom around when we call for a same-day last-minute pitch booking. We quite like the freedom of heading to an area and then deciding where to stay – or even whether to stay. Of course, these certified sites are usually working farms or other rural businesses, so we’re calling during the working day. In future we’ll have to plan a bit more carefully, calling ahead – maybe days or weeks in advance to book sites. It’s something to bear in mind anyway.
We found a site near Whaley Bridge and the owner said that there was room for us and that we could arrive any time. An hour or so later, we’re on the site overlooking a lovely derbyshire valley and brewing up.
There’s no hookup or facilities here other than waste disposal and fresh water, again too far for the van to get to. I’m going to need a long hose and maybe think about a grey water caddy if we can’t drive up to these waste disposal areas…
We’re off hookup, so it’ll be interesting to use the gas heating. The fridge seemed to fire up fine, so that’s a relief.
Anyhoo. The wine is ready and I’m being called upon to produce lamb-burgers. Later there’ll be The West Wing on DVD. Life is good.
We’re on the campsite outside Leek, in the middle of nowhere with no mobile signal. It’s lovely.
There are a couple of horses outside the van and a few chickens scratching around in the broken soil where the horses have wandered. A pheasant makes an occasional chuckle from across the road, and apart from a caravan parked up on the other side of the site we’re on our own. This is one of the Camping and Caravanning Club’s Certified Sites, and though it’s listed as basic, has everything we need. The owner Peter took £15 from us (including electric) and showed us where the loos and showers are, the waste point and fresh water tap. We don’t really need anything, but the electric hook up is nice. Means we won’t need to heat the van with gas, we can use the small electric fan heater we have. We’re only away for two nights this time (to test the van out!) so I’m not worried about water or waste either. I’ll sort that when we get back home. Besides, there’s no way I’d be able to get the van up to the fresh water. I’m beginning to understand why people have plastic containers on wheels for everything.
The chickens are interesting. I’ve never really observed them up close before – being a reformed city-boy and all that. Their tails are much more mobile than I’ve ever really realised. As curious as the front half. I love how they scratch away at the ground, then take a step backwards so they can see what they’ve uncovered. Their tails twitch left and right, up and down. Fascinating to watch.
We’re in the middle of nowhere, so I’m hopeful that the skies will be nice to see tonight. We’ve started a list of things we’ve already forgotten, and top of the list is the telescope.
Other than that, we’ve read books, listened to the radio and my other half has lazed in the bright sun. It’s a little too chilly to go outside, but the light through the van’s windows is lovely.
We filled up with diesel too. The van drank 55 litres and I started on about a quarter tank, so I suspect it’s probably 70 litres or so. Actually – with our full tank of water, we must be nearing 170 kg of extra weight! Another 200 or so for us, and maybe another 70 of gear in the van and we’re surely getting close to our maximum weight!
The moho behaved well enough anyway, and the traffic was polite. We pulled over a couple of times to let cars get ahead of us, but we were generally okay. It drives like a car after a while, and you forget how big it is. Tomorrow we’ll head to Bakewell for a wander round and pass through Buxton to another small site near Whaley Bridge.
I don't believe in luck. I have always felt that you make your own fortune, and when things go right or wrong, it's just chance.
After today, I'm beginning to question that conviction...
I'm fortunate in Cheshire to have so many camping and caravanning stores around where I live. I've been to a few, from the glitzy 'Go Outdoors' in Stoke-on-Trent to the much more 'Aladin's cave' type on the edge of Arclid - a nearby town. I heard from a neighbour that there's a motorhome-specific place in Holmes Chapel (Spinney) so took a wander out there this morning to have a poke around, and maybe pick up a few more bits for the Galaxy.
On the way there in my little VW Polo I could see a red sporty car overtaking the vehicles behind me. Soon enough, he was right behind me and getting closer to my rear. Then a car brakes in front of me and I break quickly too. The sports car driver starts beeping his horn, then overtakes wildly and cut my up. I know I shouldn't react to it, but he gets a swift single-fingered salute.
Then the fun begins, he speeds up, then brakes, speeds up again and brakes, all the time gesticulating wildly in the mirror. I have to say, my adrenaline is pumping now - not a reaction that's going to make me any safer, so I slow down to put a but of room before us, not before blowing him a kiss though. This seems to stop him in his tracks and he drives off to overtake the traffic further up the road, one car or lorry at a time.
I'm shaking a bit when I get to Spinney and calm down a little before heading in. Aggressive drivers are worrying enough, but I hate that it brings about such anger in me too - albeit twenty minutes later when I've worked out exactly what I would have said to the muppet. Definitely Friday the 13th living up to it's reputation.
Anyhoo, Spinney is of the wonderful Aladin's cave variety of store and enjoy a good twenty minutes looking up the long aisles, pulling out some bright yellow levelling chocks, a cable connecter rain cover and short extension lead. I've been after a bit of hose for the grey waste tank, but haven't been able to work out the connector or what size of hose to get. I'd taken a photo and measured the pipe, but the man there said that he didn't know if anything would fit. I bought a single metre of black waste hose to test it out. He suggested using duct tape to connect it up. Eek!
A safe journey back home and the new goodies stowed away, I try out the black hose and it fits perfectly. Actually, nice and tight. There's a little water in the grey tank and a convenient sewer drain next to the van and would you believe it - a metre of hose is perfect. I'll go back there next week and get a longer hose, but for home this is perfect. This must be a bit of good luck!
We have a little chip on the windscreen of the van and rather than worry about it, I'd called Autoglass to come out and take a look. I moved my little car off the drive and moved the van a bit closer to the road for when the glazer arrived. When he did, he explained that the chip was actually an old repair and perfectly safe. Another one for the good luck team.
Then I came to reverse the van back into position.
I put the key into the ignition, but when I turned it - nothing. I did it a little slower, checking for warning lights or click and whistles. Again nothing. Bad luck strike two! Doh!
I go over the manual, but there's no information in there about this. I head back out and carefully go over the fuses in the dashboard. Ahah! A 15 amp fuse appears to have blown. I bought a box full of spares yesterday, so I pop one in where it sparks a little. Should it do that?
Then an alarm I didn't know I had starts keening away!
Hang on a minute - those two fobs on the keys must have actually been for something! I thought the previous owner (or one of them) had taken the alarm with them, and the fobs were just archaic reminders of an old system.
I try the fob and the alarm cuts off. Next the ignition... and one for team good-luck.
Later after I had armed the alarm/immobiliser again I open the rear door to the Van. After a moment or two, the alarm started up, so it looks like it's linked to both doors and in case someone tries to take the motorhome. Bonus.
So all in all, I'm still siding with making my own luck. On the whole, Friday the 13th has been a decent day.
When we bought the van we knew there was an awning on the side, but the handle alas was missing. It's a pity as it's a Fiamma Zip, and the safari room would have been handy! So this is an accessory that has been on order for a week or more, after realising that caravan shops don't stock this item. £40 (including courier) and a rather unwieldy box later and there's a Fiamma awning winder in my sticky mitts.
It's much slimmer than I expected, though rather sturdily made. There is the expected thick hook on one end, and two joints toward the handle end, with a couple of rotating pieces so you can wind to your hearts content with nary a whisper of friction to slow you down.
We attacked the awning and discovered that it's a lot bigger than we imagined. It'll provide some nice shade should we actually get any sun this year. It looks sturdy, though I don't know if it would survive some of the wind we had last year, so it might be something we keep an eye on as the weather changes.
I had a bit of a buying spree today actually. A lot of people on the Motorhome Fun forum suggested a mattress topper for the bed, and I've found a reasonable one. It takes a day to expand to its fullest from its packaged size, so I've left it on the bed in the van to expand as it will.
There are a few household items - a dustpan and brush, chopping board and bowls; and a couple of items for fixing things, a pack of felt shapes to help the doors close a little softer, and some double sided sticky pads for the odd hook here and there.
I still have to find a grey water hose for the waste tank and practise emptying the loo. The recommendation there is to use biological washing liquid instead of the blue fluid from the toilet manufacturer. It's about £6 cheaper for a start, and smells a lot better.
I think I'll find some gloves for when I have to cart the cassette around too.
All being well though, we're planning to have our first couple of days away on Sunday.
I'm sitting in the Galaxy with the heating going, hot water... well - hot, and the bathroom tap replaced and gently issuing water!
Over the last week, I've gradually gotten used to the van on the drive, but without working water or heat, it's not much more than an expensive cold wendy house. Two engineers from the dealers arrived at just after nine this morning and without accepting a drink got to work. In twenty or so minutes it was done and they were on their way again. I stepped into the van and tried out the water and after opening the gas valve, the heating. There were a few clicks from the boiler, a little woof and the air began to blow, first cool, then gradually warm.
I had a little shiver of excitement. I'd almost forgotten why we'd bought the van. It's all about getting away - getting out of the house and away from it all. Having the repair done has reminded me about all that and I'm suddenly excited again about using the Motorhome.
Our neighbour has just knocked on the van door and handed me a load of accessories. Two small solar panels, an awning bungee, awning skirt for a safari room and a clothes dryer. The solar panels are handy. I'll be able to use them to stop the leisure batteries from dropping too low if we don't use the van for any length of time.
So next stop - the first test!
I'm a bit frustrated at the moment. I was hoping to have been away in the van by now, but it hasn't happened. There is a pipe to be replaced in the bathroom, and because the whole system is pressurised, it means we can't use any water in the van. The heating requires water to be present in the tank too, so there's no heating either - and over a wet and cold bank holiday weekend, we didn't fancy losing our creature comforts.
Rather than cause further problems, we've opted not to go away. The van is an elaborate wendy house on the drive and my other half keeps catching me giving the Galaxy long looks from the upstairs window.
All being well, the dealer will send someone over tomorrow morning to replace the tap/pipe assembly and we can start thinking about a few days away after that.
Another hick-up occurred though. When I checked the bank this morning, it appeared that no money had moved since the purchase last week. You can imagine how pleased the dealer was when I called...
All sorted now I hope. I'll keep a close eye on the bank to make sure the funds clear and hopefully it'll all be sorted soon.
As for little jobs around the van, I've installed a few battery-powered led lights inside some of the darker cupboards. They've got a little motion sensor on them so you don't need to push any buttons to turn them on, and they turn off automatically after 20 or so seconds. They're from Ikea and you get two for a fiver. Bargain!
The other thing I've done this morning is to add an LED strip to the bedroom area above the cab. There was a halogen there already, but the light is hot, way too bright and draws too much power from the leisure battery. The LED strip is indirect, and while not as bright as the halogen, is perfect for reading at night. I'm hopeful that the rest of my LED replacement lights will arrive soon and I can get rid of the last of the halogens.
It's been a rainy day today, but during a sunny spell I managed to get a ladder against the van and have a good look at the roof. It needs a decent clean, but there's loads of space for solar panels if we go that route. I'll need to work out how to get cables down through the van too...
That's about it for now. Here's hoping the pipe can be repaired tomorrow and we can have our first night out!
It’s been a couple of days of tinkering and the van is getting there. We’re almost ready for our first trip away.
There’s a repair that needs to be made to the shower hose in the bathroom. I was hoping that the dealer would be able to get out to us yesterday, but it’s going to be a couple of days yet. It gives us a little more time to tidy up a few things though.
The van was without any floor covering, just the hard vinyl that must have been under the original carpet. We decided to go with tiles so that we could lift sections in case of an (inevitable!) wine spillage, so found some decent ones from the local DIY store that matched the overall tone of the van. To be honest pretty much any tile would have done the job, they all seemed to be brown of one kind or another!
The tiles went down easily, not even requiring adhesive. They all fit very tightly and hold each other in. There’s two left over for spares and will live in the wardrobe for the time being.
The whole vehicle was introduced to the vacuum and a couple of cleaning cloths as well. The previous owner(s) were wonderfully clean and meticulous. There was very little dust to be found anywhere – only in places you can’t reach. We’ve taken everything out that could be removed and cleaned every corner of the van. Pleasantly, not even the lighter in the cab has ever been used. Non-smoking previous owners – a new custodian’s dream!
Family are coming over this evening to check out the Galaxy. We’ve chilled some champagne and installed glassware and chocolates for the event. All being well, we’ll head out for the first time next week. Can't wait!
It's a day after taking delivery of the Galaxy and we're getting used to the idea of this new presence on the drive being part of our lives.
Every few hours I find myself stepping into the van just to sit down and get a feel for the space. Today I've brought my iPad and a keyboard to see how it feels to work in here (as you can imagine, my day job has taken a slight job in efficiency while the van's been on my mind!), and I've immediately discovered that the dinette table is higher than my desk in the house. I can feel my arms are at a less-than-perfect height for typing, and probably therefor eating. I'll measure it later and see if it might be lowered.
After the warm few weeks we had in March, the winter has returned with a vengeance over the first few days of April. Today there are little flurries of snow falling all around, and would likely settle on top of the van if the torrential rain hadn't moistened everything first. It's a good test of the van's insulation and heating. The interior seems to stay pleasantly warm and I can imagine taking it out during the cooler months and being quite cosy inside.
We've gone over everything inside, looking for little bits that need fixing or replacing. I've changed some of the halogen lamps out for LED versions and ordered some more to do the rest this week. I've opted for warm white rather than the colder LED's you used to be able to get. I find them rather cold. The colour of the warm variety is identical to Halogen - brightness too, but there's no heat from the lamps at all. With the halogen ones, you can feel the heat from the bulb straight away, and while the LED does get warm after an hour or so, you could still pick up or touch the LED itself. Battery-wise it's a no-brainer. The halogen's draw 2amps and the LED's .2. We should get more out of the leisure battery if we're without mains hookup for any length of time.
There are a few fixes to do too. There's a screen which stretches over the window when you lift the bed down from over the cab area. It probably hasn't ever been cleaned in the van's life (13ish years!) I can't blame the previous keepers, the cotton screen is screwed to the ceiling and walls and will be a bit of a drag to take down and put up again. It's looking a bit worn though and we'll look at replacing it with something else when we can figure it out. In the meantime, it'll get boil-washed.
The curtains are clean and will be fine and the upholstery is immaculate throughout. I'm sure we'll have it all refurbished in a few years time, but it's actually quite nice... in a pub-carpet Axminster kind of way.*
The van was originally carpeted and at some point it has been removed. There are thin vestigial strips which they couldn't cut out so we know that there was a brown textured carpet at one point. I'm not sure why they took it up, but we'll replace it with something.*
I visited my first caravan supplies shop yesterday afternoon. From the MotorhomeFun forums I know what dangerous places they can be. I spent a good half an hour just wandering round. I wanted EVERYTHING. There were gadgets for just about every task I could imagine, and I'm sure if I bought all the stuff I desperately needed, I'd have a van festooned with aerials, cables, pipes, brackets, pullouts.... all the beautiful gadgets!
I settled on a 25m bright orange hookup cable, and an adapter to connect it to my new outside mains box. At least the van has power on the drive. I picked up a blue 2m water hose too. They'll both live in the motorhome from now. I suppose I'll fill up the fresh water with the garden hose. I should probably taste the water from it first, but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to have a special drinking-water hose for the van.
I also picked up a brochure for a Gaslow system, and I've been introduced to the concept of adapting some of the systems that I've always considered to be untouchable. I had no idea that you could install these clever tanks. They're a bit more expensive to install, but there would be savings in about a year if we used the van every month (which we intend to do!).*
What about solar? I wouldn't need to plug into the mains to keep the leisure batteries topped up... or more interesting still - we could perhaps live without hookup - and save a bit more money...
This all needs a bit more investigation!