The best of days (5,6,7)

The party at steves was great and ended with a big sing song. Molly was the star of the night with her numbers backed by steve. I told her to dump the loser with the guitar. Not normally one to participate in amateur nights, I was roped into doing the only song I can do that is someone elses and lit up the French night with a note perfect rendition of the power of love (you guess who’s version…). I also managed to neck at least a pint during it’s glorious 3 minutes.
Saturday was just as good as we sorted the finer points of modern camper living, casually having breakfast and lunch and walking over to steves, jumping in the pool with the kids and watching footy and England hammering the ozzies. Thanks to everyone for these great days we’ll never forget!
Sunday was dylan’s second birthday and we celebrated with the opening of presents and chocolate biscuits in what was now becoming our lovely family camper van. It was time to move on. Kate was being cooler and more laid back than me, which was great, but I feared a backlash (which never came). Our plan was to go to the lakes on the south west side of France. We fancied settling down for a few nights but on tinterweb, the big camps looked like butlins!
Kate suggested we just headed off in the right direction and took what was coming to us. I feared a backlash…..,
It was a long journey, kids were hot, no, very hot and tired but excited when we got to the first campsite that presented itself in mimizan. It was just what we wanted. Next to the lake but proper camping and beautifully well kept toilets and showers etc etc. As I bombed off to sort things at reception, Kate calmly suggested we just sat down for a beer then have a stroll around before we committed ourselves.
I feared a backlash.
The awning went up in two minutes flat with no crooked poles and we’d set up camp with minimum fuss and the lake looked beautiful.

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Day 4

Steve and abby invited us over for a BBQ last night which was well needed and appreciated. We settled down for our first night in the camper. Well, me and Kate were still having words so we slept in separate beds (!? Good job we had a super viking!)
This morning got even worse as it started to rain and our gaffa taped pop top windows weren’t quite as water proof as we’d hoped. Internal gaffa and a couple of beach towels bailed us out although some of the foam had got wet. Kids ok though but with it raining, it was all getting too much for Kate.
Was basic living really this hard? Had we completely lost touch? Expectations, stress and effort. The transition from our accepted world to this was stretching us massively and I was pretty disgusted with myself.
After a heart to heart and us doing the basic things like getting showered and cooking pasta and sauce and sorting and organising our stuff, we felt a lot more positive.
We worked out how to keep dry using my dad’s extra ground sheet he’d chucked in, a washing line and kate’s climbing skills. The awning had stayed up and attached with our improvisations. But was this a holiday or a test? I hoped it was turning into a holiday.
There was a party at steve and abby’s mum and dad’s place and Kate had gone to the supermarket as me and the lads went for a walk to the party. It should be good tonight.

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Is there a doctor in the fish?

Travelling to the ferry, the graze I felt I had on my knee was actually a boil. Kate took the chance to inflict pain on me by squeezing it with glee. But the resulting explosion didn’t happen, so we thought a mozzy bite (of which I had loads of from working outside in the camper) had gone septic. By the time we got to the ferry, my knee was a big bulbous sore and I could hardly walk.
I went to the ferry doctor in the morning who was half asleep despite me paying her £20 an hour. She told me it was a ‘bzzz’ sting so I guess I’d kneeled on a bumble bee outside our house where we have a massive lavender next to the camper. I also showed her the recurring viral spots on my sides and sores under my armpits which she prescribed me a very expensive eye ointment before I asked her if it was the right thing.
My knee really really hurt and I hoped I would be ok to drive

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Day 3 – getting there!

My knee had recovered enough to be ok to operate the clutch, so the plan was to drive straight out of Spain to biarritz for lunch then on to montrejau where steve and abby have booked our campsite.
Camper running well. Still conserving tomtom energy. Got to Biarritz fine. Actually think I’ve worked out the gears on this thing after about 400 miles! Great time paddling, good lunch then off to montrejau.
Had ian’s voice in my ear saying ‘check your oil every time you stop for a piss’. Thing was, I was checking it but I didn’t know where to put it. The only cap I found was numbered 730 (see the picture). Maybe Germans number their parts rather than put words on them. So me and Kate made a system to fill a bottle with oil and poured it down the 730 hole. The oil seemed to fill up so on we went. Oh, the engine door lock fell out, so I put it back.
Met steve in the LiDL car park in montrejau and was guided to the ‘rural’ campsite. No mod cons. It also looked like it was going to rain so extra gaffa was called for on the PVC windows of the pop top. The mains leccy was hooked up ( thanks for the advice Adam!) and we could rejuvenate the ict.
By this time we were really tired, Kate wasn’t happy about the state of the ammenities and then we got the awning out for the first time.
It was meant to be a quick throw up job with click in poles. There were no clips to fix it to the bus, no pole to sit in the guttering and one of the four legs was completely twisted. It came with full instructions which obviously assumed all these parts were all present and ok. It also came with ten rules. The second one stated ‘never go away without checking your awning equipment is complete and working. I felt awful and me and Kate started bickering. It wasn’t going well and it looked like it was going to rain.

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Day 2

Well, not much to report here. On the ferry. Doctors drugs for my bee sting knocked me out for half the day. We went to the main food hall last night and Kate called it ‘camper class’ so today I bought her some nice perfume and took the family to the posh restaurant for ribeye.
Seem to be loads of dolphin and whale spotters on the ferry. They seem to be the older relations of train spotters. I didn’t see any but they had better equipment than me.
Knee is swollen, red and hurting like mad. If it doesn’t get any better I won’t be able to drive tomorrow.

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Day 1

I really wanted to show you a bunch of photos of our finished (!?) bus and a happy family just about to set off but I can’t because it all got a bit panicy. Last night, everything was going swimmingly and we cracked open a bottle of champagne while I gaffad the PVC into place.
This morning, we just finished a few little final jobs, packed really well, then things went a bit wrong.
Jac’s 3 point seat belt went tight and fully retracted. I eventually loosened it but then we discovered that when the foams were on the back seat and jac was in his seat, the seatbelt was too short. The solution? Jac was riding shotgun upfront with daddy. Kate was in the back which didn’t go down well.
Oh, and the auxillary battery electrics just wasn’t working at all. No power to the tomtom, iPhones or iPod touches. My ICT had failed me. But using the mental dexterity akin to tom hanks in Apollo 13, I worked out a strategy to get us to the ferry by conserving battery energy without resorting to a map, god forbid. I also bought a volt meter and vowed never to leave myself in such a predicament again.
The good news? We had radio and an intermittent fan. When it went off I had to tickle it under the dash to turn it on which I quite liked. A thought crossed my mind to leave it like this as it was quite charming, but somewhere on the M1 I decided to do a quick fix. The lighter socket took one for the team and I connected one of our multi socket with USB things to the lighter wires. It smoked. Afterwards, I checked the voltage with my new volt meter and the wires were the wrong way round. 50 / 50 and I’d lost. I’d also bought a whistle to find my key ring that just kept going off. Like in playschool, it chose to go through the square window. Were we doomed to fail?
We were close to portsmouth. Only then I realised how well the bus was running. Yeah, the gears were tricky but the engine was running fine. We got to the ferry about an hour early. Perfect. Then the ferry was delayed for two hours.
Plan the dive. Dive the plan

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The end of days…..

Disaster struck on the last day of preparation.

The job of putting the rubber trim around the pop top left us discovering a rotten roof and popped hinges.

We had to drill out the hinge rivets to get the trim installed, which we did, then re-rivet the hinges.

As we were doing the last one, I spotted one of the hinges had popped out… then another….. then another

Phil quickly drilled out the new rivets, and this left us with a lop sided, unhinged roof. My camper had an 80s side parting.

Side parting pop top

Side parting pop top

Squeaky bum time. Less than 24 hours before we set off, and we have no roof.

I figured if I was anywhere, I was at the right place to fix it, and tried to figure out what went wrong. I showed Phil that the pop top must naturally want to sit away from the hinges, but why? He realised the the gas pistons, although weak, were strongest at their most compact. The pistons were pushing the pop top away from the hinges.

Out came the pistons, on went the pop top, then the pistons went back on again. You beauty!

Phil, my hero!

Phil, my hero!

Rob came round again with his impressive 2 bi 1 (it’s not BY it’s BI) wood to give some much needed strength to our drooping erection, and figure out some electrical quandaries (popped fuses, wiring wrong way round), while I added the curtain rails and got rid of the unsightly rubber glue inside.

Then home again for Kate to fit the curtains, and me to fix the foams upstairs and gaffa the PVC windows.

What a journey! Thanks to everyone who has helped us off on our way, and keep the blog comments coming as every one is appreciated!

What a journey, and we hadn’t even set off yet.

But we will tomorrow………

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No sleep till Portsmouth

Yawn! It’s 4.40am Monday morning…..

Haven’t been able to sleep for the last three nights!

Been working constantly on the camper, getting it all ready, and these last two days have been a real team effort, so thanks everyone!

Ian finished the service and new parts of the car engine etc. We got the radio installed (woohoo!) and Steweee flew in to rescue our electric nightmares, declaring our camper fully supercharged at about 3pm. Phil worked on everything and we finally got the rock n roll bed in, with seat belts and kiddy seats. Mundo came round for a bit of shock and awe (Steve! upload the video to youtube and post comment!).

Bit of a daddy moment there, when I saw the kiddy seats in the back. Had to hold the tears back in front of the manly mechanic types….

Surprise of the day? Getting our retro black and silver (and highly illegal) number plates in time. Nice…..

Time for the interior….

Struggling with door cards at 7am, waking the neighbourhood up. Went to B&Q, came back with MDF and Butt Hinges……

Then Rob our lord and saviour came round with the family and we got to work doing manly things with my £15 jigsaw. Cheers Rob!!!!

Finally, and surprise of the day coming from Dennis (Thank you SO much!)…

We have AIR CON! I am SO EXCITED!!!!!!

We  have AIRCON!

We have AIRCON!

Me and Kate worked until I don’t know last night, and we’ve broken the back of it. It actually looks like a camper. Not got chance yet to take photos, but we’ve got the bench and toilet in, Lino, Fully clean and carpeted cabin.

One day to go……

Need to install pop top rubber seal, curtains, air con (!), upstairs bedding, pop top windows, test awning, clean as much as we can and pack it all in 24 hours. And I need some kip (Plenty of time for that on the ferry)

Portsmouth, here we come!!!!!

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Last minute hitches and let downs

Obviously, somethings were going to happen to throw a spanner in the works given that we really didn’t have any time to do much really.

Justaircooled let us down on the chrome bumpers despite assuring me a couple of weeks ago they were on their way. So, we’ll have to spray the old ones black for this trip. Please don’t tell me these are not essential!

JustKampers let me down on the headlight rims, but GSF came to my rescue! WHY did no one tell me about GSF?? They are about 500 yards away from Phil’s place and sell loads of stuff for campers.

Phil’s contacts let us down on the pop top trim, but VW Heritage came to my rescue and are delivering the trim Monday morning before 10.30 (!? – this means that the day before we set off, all we have to do is drill out the rivets of the massive pop top, fit and glue 12m of trim, then rivet it back together. No sweat….)

Craig, Phil’s pal who does out coach interiors couldn’t get the time to do much, but gave us good advice and helped with the door cards and installing the radio.

Finally, and this one was a biggy. I nearly called the whole thing off. We couldn’t get the right colours for the vinyl stripes down the sides. I know. A shocker. Our camper would have to go to France and back naked. Rob suggested that he had changed his mind about the stripe colours anyway, which calmed me down until he continued with, ‘I just don’t think they’d go with AA yellow….’

Luckily, Ian had bought a bag of bits and started work on the trivial matter of getting the engine fit to travel about a thousand miles..

I'm flying!

I'm flying!

The belly of the beast

The belly of the beast

14th August, 3 days to go…..

(I just hope to God that Ian doesn’t find anything too nasty under there…….)

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So where are we going?

Oh, yeah….

we do have a plan of where we are going. Sort of.

We’re setting off Tuesday 18th August down to Portsmouth. Already got bets on that we don’t get past Brum. Hang your heads!

We catch the ferry down to Bilbao, north Spain, which takes like, 36 hours!

Then we head over to Montrejeau, South of France, foothills of the Alps (I think!) to meet our good friends Steve and Abby, Molly and Penny at their old man’s place.

Then, nipping over to the South West coast to stay round the lakes in Rudi country, near Bordeaux, and maybe visit his mam…

Then on the way back, going through the Loire valley up to dunkirk / calais (not sure coz we haven’t booked the ferry back yet….)

Then home again, home again, jiggety jig…..

Well, that’s the plan anyway. Sounds good doesn’t it…!?route plan

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