Monday, 24 February 2014

Away at last….

There's no right time at the moment to recommence our travels but feel unless we go now we will never  go. This is based on Mum improving dramatically after some intensive tests and drug balancing on the doctor's part. She is in good hands with 24 hour care and we will return late May to visit her hopefully fully recovered from her recent setbacks and established in her choice of residence
She has given us her blessing as ever and will keep in regular touch

More goodbye get togethers entail with memorable nights followed by an impromptu evening spent with chums Paul & Nick in Burton Joyce which I thoroughly enjoyed
Parking overnight at the rear of the pub was a real logistical bonus for us which will surely be repeated..

A familiar sight for us which means we are 'going home'

Clearest day for ages

Smiles all round

Windswept selfie

1st night's stopover north of Rouen and all is well
Cost here was ZERO for a country view and free electric which was a real Brucie Bonus
When will the UK actually engage with this idea and build 'Aires' & 'Stellplatze" like the continent to promote tourism. The answer sadly is never as, if you are British, you will know why this will never happen
This must be the last time I moan about this but there is a ray of hope…
We spent the last night in the UK at Canterbury Park & Ride, sounds sexy doesn't it?
Seriously though it is great for us as Dover is just 20 miles away, the cost overnight is £3.00 with water facilities and quiet, and the regular buses in to Canterbury are free. Well done guys, please try to spread the word to other UK tourist spots!

Nina couldn't resist buying this quite pleasant example of French warmth. At €2.89 we cracked our recent tee totalism for 1st night's 'topping out' ceremony. Well, its traditional!

Next day en route for Le Mans we are hit by a stone thrown up from the car in front and think nothing of it as we are hit regularly and they just bounce off the screen
Not this time...

A four inch outer crack soon develops which makes our hearts sink as we drive along
Always a drama with us….

An eagle eyed Nina spots a Carglass outlet in downtown Le Mans amongst a million other buildings on this immense industrial estate. After checking what time it opens next day we park here for the night and try to ignore the view as we are only pleased we found a possible solution so soon

Several runaround phone calls to our UK insurers reveal that a new screen is required and its not simply a repair job
These are the times you are glad the van has a Ducato base and the screens are held in stock locally and in numbers as they are really common
So in goes the van later that afternoon for surgery
As I blog I am waiting to return and pay the guys the equivalent of £720.00 to claim back later (minus excess) from the insurers
Incidentally we were quoted to have it done by the same UK company via the Insurers again but this time for the job to be done in the UK by Autoglass. This would have been a whopping £1100.00!
Explain please someone……
I do hope tomorrow is a normal day

Monday, 10 February 2014

Monsal Trail

After seeing family for what we thought was the last time before departing overseas again at the weekend we visit my Mum as usual in hospital. This was to make sure she was making good progress towards leaving after her recent setbacks with acquired infections.
Poor Mum, she now has yet another infection and is struggling. She originally went in hospital back in November for what turned out to be a successful hip revision
This means that the delayed trip back to the Continent will be delayed well, indefinitely, as we simply can't leave her in this state
So we will chill as best we can here in Derbyshire whilst visiting her and take mini breaks in the van to go walking. The weather has been very kind to us although the rain seems relentless at times

The view from the van parked near Buxton on Topley Head Farm CL
Always the case on departure day that the sun shines through the gloom…..

A different story the day before as we decide to brave the elements and go walking down to Monsal Trail
Nina (my packhorse for the day) is shown sporting my usual rucksack and a large brolly as rather graciously she decided to help my ailing back and lug the essentials on her own

Nice to get out walking again, albeit slowly

We love this trail as its pan flat and a steady 8.5 miles to Bakewell (where we were married incidentally) 

Formerly part of the Midland Railway line running through to Manchester this section was closed in 1968 by Barbara Castle, the Transport Minister of the time

The Peak District National Park took over the line in the early eighties and turned it in to a superb trail for both walkers and cyclists alike

This abseiling point on a high bridge above the Wye river is very popular with schoolchildren and leisure groups

One of several audio guides along the route

We only managed a short section of the trail this time as we wanted to:
1. Limit the grief on my back
2. Visit the pub we'd passed earlier!

On arrival at the Anglers Rest near Millers Dale we encountered these strange folks rehearsing some Pagan dance outside

Which took me back just under 2 years to these 'Pagans' who joined me on my 'Retirement walking trip', pictured in superb weather on the Anglers wall
Tell me boys, how is work these days?

If you've never visited the Peak District, then come. You are in for a real treat
Superb walking or cycling on many trails that were once industrial railway lines piercing beautiful uncrowded countryside. 
The High Peak Trail and Tissington Trail are among our favourites nowadays as they are so much easier to walk than our hikes for many years up on Kinder and the surrounding wild areas
We love it in winter here as its quiet and rugged. You'll always find a classic country pub not far away with a log fire to greet you after a long hard day on the hills or in the valleys

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Lincoln weekend with Keith & Chris

In between the seemingly endless trips to the dealer and other businesses we find time to spend a weekend in rain soaked Lincolnshire
We stayed at Fiskerton just outside the city parked up with Keith & Chris who had joined us at Wessington last summer
Keith still works for my old employer, NFRS and together with Chris yearn for retired times when they can please themselves. 

A soaked CL but with hard standing provided the venue for a very enjoyable couple of days together

It took ages to get us in to this position fearing not only carving up the guys grass but more importantly getting stuck!

Your words mate not mine you will recall

After a superb curry the night before, prepped and delivered by our hosts and washed down with rather too much vino tinto, we head off next day on foot bound for Lincoln

A 5 mile leisurely jaunt is filled with much chat, bird watching and me wincing every now and again with the now daily back pain grief
(a later visit to the Docs brings forth new tablets and a gradual recovery)

Nina looks for shops whilst Keith, and I suspect Chris, sniff out other emporiums...

Found one!

Nice cathedral!

Reminders of last weekend…
After watching England narrowly beaten by the French in Witherspoons we head for dinner and more refreshment

A rip off taxi back to base is soon forgotten as we tuck in to yet more tinto
and cheeses before, knackered, we settle in for the night

Bright and breezy next morning and Nina is cooking more than just breakfast!

Mugshots prior to departure…
Thanks for a great weekend you two, see you soon...

More work on the van

We return to Derbyshire for a few days and get ready to travel, yet again, back to Doncaster and Ferrybridge for more work on the van
This was a 'habitation check' at the dealers and some essential floor support strengthening I'd proposed to the guys at Armitages who had fitted the suspension set up back in december.
I had stressed about the floor around the kitchen area in the van for a while now and as things were getting quite spongey suggesting the onset of the dreaded 'delamination', I'd decided to do something about it. My gut reaction here was to avoid the customary fob off by the manufacturers as they would surely claim overuse as the reason for a weak spot and quite frankly we did not have the time to mess around arguing over the next few weeks over what could be done.
Kevin at Armitages had made such an excellent job of the Drive Rite previously we entrusted the work to him
Below is the suspension set up…

Bump stops replaced with air bags inflatable to 7 bar (we run at 4 bar)

Nicely placed dual bag inflation gauge in rear locker

Air compressor tucked away in the bedside cupboard

The van behaves very differently on the road now. I researched this until I was numb prior to purchase and there was very little feedback out there on the web as to real life experience of the system
Apprehension was quickly replaced with relief as the set up performs really well making the ride much more comfortable
We were previously running on or very near the bump stops fully laden with a harsh ride and bottoming out on uneven roads. The leaf springs, now relieved of a lot of strain, work as they should and the van is more positive on the road. The ride to be honest before was quite good but this just makes the whole deal much better
The huge advantage now is I can also 'pimp' the van. The ride height at the rear of the van has been raised dramatically at normal inflation pressure so have not bottomed the van on inclines once so far due to its large rear overhang. If its pumped up to its max pressure then the rear end points skywards, very ungainly but a dream when boarding small ferries! Easy to inflate prior to boarding then deflate in seconds after driving off the exit ramp, perfect.

Next job for Kev was to build an arrangement to support our rather weak floor in the kitchen area. Why motorhome manufacturers don't do this as a matter of course beats me, they are probably obsessed with weight and cost limitations 

Fitting this 'bridge' to a two year old van may put new buyers off but it had to be done if we were to preserve the floor integrity for many years to come
All of you thinking about extended touring as we are doing at the moment really need to think in advance about the impact this will have on your van
They are constructed in the main, in my opinion, for occasional weekend use and few manufacture vehicles suitable for the long haul
The van, it has to be said, is one of the better examples with positive, sound construction but more thought needs to be given to the needs of distance tourers and the projected use they will get

I was more than impressed here with the standard of work particularly the area around our 'soft spot' below. All is well now and we can relax
Many thanks to Wayne, Nigel, Kev and staff at Armitages