“We’ll see”…… How prophetic. Well, here we are on our maiden outing just two weeks later – idyllic, or what?
“OR WHAT!” actually. The last two weeks have been interestingly stressful – but we SHALL overcome. The first agonies occurred as we discovered from the paperwork we were given (once the van was ours!) that the caravan was SIX years old and not four as we had been led to believe. And it had been in storage for four years and not two. I won’t lead you through the whole saga but our sense of excited anticipation was blunted to say the least. As it transpires the evidence was there in papers we had been given to browse and study. But, not having had time to read every scrap we’d missed the clues and not asked the questions we should have.
It’s probably a good job %*#### and &@### were not close friends – otherwise there’d have been a falling out. As it is we spent time checking out values and it seems we probably still have a reasonable value deal even if not as good as we had first thought. No doubt we will find out when (if?) we come to sell it.
We had already decided that buying second hand – even though it is a risk – is probably no worse a financial risk than buying new. The VAT on a new van and its immediate categorisation as “second-hand” must lose about £4,000 in the first year anyway. And since we only paid just over £6,000 for our SIX year old van and various bits and pieces (the stabilisers, hitch locks and so on) we would have been especially unlucky to lose two thirds of the value straight away…… keep watching this space.
It DOES mean that we have had to have new tyres all round since the rubber had started crumbling – we will also have to have new window seals on the three front windows, since that had also deteriorated in four years sunshine of storage. So much for `pristine`!
We were advised to clean out and flush the water system as well, of course, so I duly filled the Aquaroll barrel, inserted the Whale electric pump in the barrel and flicked the switch. WOW – it actually worked, so we stood inside the caravan listening to the water tank fill up and stood talking about “this and that” – as you do….
I thought it had been going for a while, so I popped out to check whether the barrel was empty yet. Indeed, it was just about empty. Strangely, however, there was a large quantity of water on the driveway, pouring onto the garden and I realised at this point that the van had, of course, been drained of its water to stand over four winters, so there must be a drain tap somewhere underneath where the water was pouring out. Ah well – a lesson learnt! Close the tap and try again.
“Okay – another Aquaroll”, I say to myself. This time when filling the Aquaroll, the short hose from tap to barrel flies off and I manage to get thoroughly drenched …… from head to foot …… before I can reach the tap to switch it off. Of course, Tricia is laughing merrily but who can blame her.
So, I re-attach the hose, fill the barrel and wheel it fifteen yards to the appropriate point alongside the caravan, attach the Whale pump again and confidently go inside the caravan and turn on the electrical switch again.
I am rewarded with the new gurgling sounds of the system filling up, so relax a little. Too soon, however. Just to check that I had turned the drainage tap right off I stepped outside and peered under the caravan. The main tap was tight and dry but water was pouring from another pipe! If course! – the hot water tank has its own drain – OPEN for winter drainage! So, at least, I now know where the drainage points are for the caravan, with all their taps.
The third try worked and the system filled with water – but then we had to flush three or four barrels through the system in order to cleanse it completely after four years storage.
I won’t try your patience with all the humps and bumps of the last stressful fortnight but eventually we are now Caravan Club members – to enable us to get the caravan insured mainly! – we have no intention of going to Rallies and raising a flag to sing round on a summer’s evening! Honestly we don`t.
Well, we got through it and, since this is intended to develop into a ‘Traveller’s Tale’ of the eventual Grand Tour of Europe, twenty first century style, we might just start with our maiden voyage from S********, the ##-electorate hamlet where we live) near Newark, to the Hargill House caravan site in North Yorkshire, just off the A1 at Scotch Corner, not far from Middlesborough.
As I write this it is now just a few minutes after noon on Sunday 30th July 2000. The sun is now shining after overnight rain and thunderstorms yesterday afternoon. The caravan site warden is happily mowing his grass (well, he looks quite cheerful?) seated aboard a tiny blue tractor mower and Tricia has just taken a photograph of me sitting in the shade of a tree writing. She now has the car rug out and is laid soaking up the sun. We have had one of the cloudiest, dullest July’s I can ever remember. Not a lot of rain until now – just cloudy.
The first major towing event this morning went without a hitch. Sorry, that sentence won’t do, since of course you can only tow a caravan WITH a hitch! Let’s just say we had no problems with it. We decided to start early this morning to avoid any hold-ups on the A1 and we were totally successful in this ploy……
…. I just had to move by the way so that the tractor can mow where I was sitting – he certainly seems to be enjoying his job; quite the enthusiast – I am surrounded by tractor fumes, noise and the smell of fresh-mown grass….
Anyway, back to the towing. We left home at six thirty this Saturday morning and the road was so clear we arrived here at the site just after 8.30am. Two hours for just about 100 miles. Then it took us about three quarters of an hour to get the caravan set up level on a “gentle slope”…! Hmmm! The description of the site actually says the slope is “gentle” but I have to report that my clutch was giving off a toasted carborundum smell after manoeuvring the heavy Buccaneer Caribbean backwards off the internal site road onto the neat greensward.
Well, it was the first time I had tried reversing a caravan and the slope felt none too “gentle” to me at the time. Once we had settled in, it was apparent from the tyre tracks on the grass that everyone else had had the sense to go to the end of the road and take a curving left loop gently round the grass and simply driven forwards onto their pitches. I can just imagine their smiles at the novice attempts I was making to get to the right spot by doing a lot of unnecessary reversing!
Then we had our “first brew”. A cup of tea to wash down the breakfast of cold fried egg sandwiches we’d brought with us. There was a certain sense of satisfaction at this first picnic.
OK – time has passed…..
We took ourselves off into nearbyRichmond and wandered round the market place for a token stroll (nothing too energetic today!) before driving back through the village of West Gilling where we decided to stop at the quiet and quite appealing Swan Public House and had a sandwich and a Black Sheep. (Just in case you are wondering and are not a drinker of beer; the Black Sheep is a locally brewed pint of best bitter – smooth and refreshingly delicate on the palate.
It is Monday morning now as I write and it is thoroughly grey and raining slowly but steadily. We had more Black Sheep last night at the Bolton Arms in the village of Downholme, a few miles south of Richmond on the road to Leybourn. Their restaurant was, they said, fully booked (always a good sign!) but they kindly squeezed us in to a table in the small bar area and we ordered from their extensive (for a pub, that is) menu.
Delicious seafood pancake for me and an apparently equally delicious warm salad with goat’s cheese and croutons for Tricia. For her main course Tricia chose halibut and professed to enjoy it but I always find halibut too solid so plumped for a salmon fillet, with a creamy prawn sauce. All very nicely cooked except the vegetables were a touch too al dente for me.
I wasn’t planning on having a pudding but Tricia felt the need for another taste to offset the rather rich sauce she had had with her fish. So, weak-willed as I am as far as food is concerned – and, no doubt, you will see this as we work our gourmand way through Europe eventually – I thought the sticky toffee pudding would be really good to keep Tricia company with the sweet course. Judging on the first two courses we thought the sweet would also be good. Not fine food, but good pub food.
Oh-oh – MISTAKE!
It arrived well presented as had the other courses. But it was virtually cold. There were also two unidentifiable ‘hard bits’ which I suppose may have been pecan nuts but I couldn’t make any impression on them with either teeth or a knife so I do wonder whether they were NOT pecan nuts! Then the cream, too, was disappointing – thin, with all the flavour of semi-skimmed milk; and the sponge was too light for a true sticky toffee pudding.
What truly spoilt the pudding, however was the long blond hair I had to extract from my teeth! Ah, well! We should have stopped eating after the first two courses and my tale of the Bolton Arms would probably have glowed with pleasurable memories or the savoury derring-do with fish, instead of the pre-cursor to a gulp of bicarbonate of soda, taken in the middle of the night for heartburn!
Time to go. And it rather looks now as though we will be getting appreciably wet as we carefully hitch the caravan back onto the car. Remember the slope… and the heavy van… I imagine there may be curses before we are back safely on the road… I will tell you later.
OK – time has passed again…..
NO! All went incredibly smoothly, if a little wetly. We did have a very wet journey home however – wet enough for me to put on my rear fog lights so we could be seen through the spray. But we made it home safely.
Not a bad maiden voyage. Will it get better…. I wonder? (more in the next Blog…)