Category Archives: campervan

Changes are a-coming

Firstly, what is this weather doing? One minute its brilliant sunshine, the next it’s snowing like Alaska, and the next it’s just grey and raining all day.

Will winter just make up its mind already?

Where we live, we tend to get a bit short-changed when it comes to the wintry stuff, so Eliot and I both got a little excited the other day when PROPER snow started falling. And then, 2 hours later we had blue skies and sunshine.

Mother Nature is a bloody tease!

This weekend, we were hoping it’d err on the side of “bright” rather than “grey and rainy” as the boys (the 3 of them, plus numerous friends) had planned to go to airsoft in Lincoln.

A photo taken of Jake (foreground) at a recent game.
A photo taken of Jake (foreground) at a recent game.

In fact, despite the weather and the forecast, they went anyway, leaving at 8 this morning with the car (and newly fitted roof box – we owned the box already from our tent camping days, but needed to buy new fittings for the Ampera) all loaded up with guns and kit.

Yesterday, as usual, was prep day.

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And prep day is one thing, clean up day is probably worse!

Will ya just look at those boots?!
Will ya just look at those boots?!

I have that to look forward to when they get back in a couple of hours. Oh joys!

Still, they’ll hopefully have had fun – despite the rain – and will no doubt be super excited to go again in a couple of weeks.

It won’t be long until we’re juggling our weekends though, between airsoft, MotoGP and going away in the van. MotoGP is a set calendar so that will get first dibs on our weekend, then hopefully we’ll get away in the van a few times in amongst airsoft. Hopefully!

We’ve got a couple of van trips away booked already, but nothing until the summer holidays. The rest of our vacation planning is really concentrating on our Portugal trip in May.

We need to get all the term-time holidays in that we can this year, because, all going well, Eliot will be in school from September!

We had much discussion about it, but we had a meeting with the school and we think he’ll be OK to go back, entering year 10 in September.

He’ll take Maths, English and Science as standard, and then be able to choose from a range of non/less-academic courses (such as construction, which he fancies, performing arts, music etc) on top. Hopefully, he’ll cope OK with it, knowing that it’s only 6 terms.

I think it might be a bigger deal when it comes to it, but we’ll see. We’ve got some work to do before then, but it is getting difficult as winter has remained busy for us work-wise.

Busy work is good, of course. We recently invested some money into some clearance stock, and we’ve had good sales on that stock so far. Much better than expected.

Of course, with increased sales, comes increased headaches. It’s a trade-off.

Jake is still hoping to find a job himself. He’s applying for various suitable jobs (warehouse work etc) but no luck yet. One job we applied for said it had had 700 applicants online alone. What hope does a 17 year old have?

 

Eeek, how long? A very overdue update!

I wonder how many of my blog posts, over the last 8 years of blogging, have the same title or similar? Actually, I don’t think I’ll go count them.
It’s a poor reflection of how shocking I am at updating blogs, I suppose, so let’s gloss over that one!
It’s been so long since I blogged now that I can barely recall what has even happened over the past 3/4 months.
<heads over to Facebook to remind self of notable events>
<comes back realising life is relatively mundane, uneventful and dull really>
That’s unfair actually. We’ve done several trips away in the van since then.
We’ve been to the end-of-season Motorhome show, and went away in October to Mablethorpe to take Zac on his first trip to the beach.
(Note to self: pick a warmer month than October next time!)
The Motorhome show was a bit of a treat because we went both child- AND dog-free! Much as we love our dog (and our children, of course!), it was relaxing not to have to think about letting him out and walking him, especially as he sleeps pretty poorly in the van (much preferring, I think, the warmth of our bed/sleeping bag to the floor!)
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It was a nice to have a wander in and out of vans without having to leave one of us outside with the dog too. Having said that, we did miss him, of course.
The other trip we did (and it was the last time we were away in the van) was Mablethorpe for a long weekend.
Exotic? No.
Fun? Actually, yes! (but cold!)
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Not exactly a busy beach. There’s a dog (Zac!) over there on the right somewhere!
He loved having all that space to run around in and, although he was initially reluctant, he was soon bounding about in the shallow waters.
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The boys (Nik and Eliot; Jake stayed home being a teenager) had some fun too. There was a large arcade on site as well as some novice activities such as target shooting and archery.
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Being fairly experienced at Archery and shooting, they both only really partially enjoyed them due to the basic nature and inaccuracy of the equipment, but it was something to do.
Eliot also had a go at the climbing wall (although soon got bored, as he does!).
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In all honesty, I think everyone (well, the men) in this house has decided that the only real pastime any of them enjoys (other than sleep (teenagers) and Xbox (all of them)) is airsoft.
Oh lordy, the airsoft.
It’s something Nik tried out as a way of keeping fit and, unfortunately, took the boys with him on his first trip.
Now, my house looks like this most Saturdays…
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And the pay-off is that, on Sundays, my house is empty (just me an’ the dog) and my boys look like this…
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They’re all loving it, and they’ve found several different places to play now, each with different game formats and site layouts. Barton on Humber seems to be a favourite although Lincoln, being closer, is visited equally often.
Now they’ve got all the kit, it’s cheaper for them to go as they don’t need to hire guns and vests etc, but they’re still having to pace themselves a bit as it’s a dear do to go every week when there’s 3 of you.
Ragtag crew of airsoft!
“Hang on a minute, ” I hear you say. “There are 4 in that photo!”
Well spotted. Nik is the one taking the photo and alongside Jake (left) and Eliot (right) are 2 other friends who have also become addicted thanks to my lot. There are even more of them now too. I think the Gainsborough tally is now up to 7!
They’ll have their own club at this rate.
A christmas tree is supposed to have PRESENTS under it!!
A christmas tree is supposed to have PRESENTS under it!!
So anyway, apart from airsoft and a few van trips, what else has been going on?
Well, big news (although, for us, old new now) is that Jake decided he wasn’t coping with college. Under normal circumstances, I think he’d have excelled academically, but unfortunately, he had difficulties handling both the travel and the environment and, in an effort to avoid the problems we had in school, we decided it would be better for him to leave college for the time being. He’s only 16, and it’s something he can most definitely re-visit in the future if health allows.
College uniform all packed away for now
College uniform all packed away for now
Additionally, he was laid off at work due to the winter period being quiet, so he’s been helping us at home/work until he finds himself another job.
Fortunately, we’ve been fairly busy so he’s helpful occasionally!
Unfortunately, by the time he’d found out he was losing his job, we were too late to apply to any Christmas posts (we ask about a LOT, everything was filled already) so he’s been applying for any suitable jobs he can find. Him and a thousand other people.
So far, no luck. One warehouse job he applied for had had 700 other applications already, and that was just online applications!
What hope does a 17 year old have?
Ah yes, Jake turned 17!
Not only is that terrifying because he’s getting older (I, of course, am not!), but also it is expensive as we insured him on our car as well as upgrading his motorbike now that he can ride a 125cc.
And how he loves that bike!
Even in mid December (when his birthday is) he went out on it. And several times since, including Christmas Day!
My boy togged up for proper biking
My boy togged up for proper biking
The machine (a Yamaha YZF R125, if anyone is interested)
The machine (a Yamaha YZF R125, if anyone is interested)

It’s unfortunate that his birthday is in the winter really, because riding opportunities are few, but he goes when he can. I’m sure he’ll go more for leisure when it’s warmer and drier, but it gives him a form of transport if and when he needs it for work.

And, as he keeps reminding us, it’s MUCH cooler than a scooter!

So, we’re about updated I think.

We had a good (busy) Christmas and New Year. I’d (crazily) decided to host for my side of the family for Christmas dinner (something I usually actively avoid doing!) for once and we had the more extended side of my family (I don’t see them often as they don’t live in town) up for an afternoon between Christmas and New Year so I’ve done my hosting duties for the next decade, I reckon.

Actually, it wasn’t so bad.

But, no, I’m not doing it again this year.

Maybe…

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Before I go, a cheer-you-up piccie of our groomed prettyboy!

Busy, busy, busy. Work,, school and play!

Summer, huh?It was summer, right? Because right now it’s easy to forget we actually had one. Stupid autumnal weather and its precipitation!

But anyway, we did. I know we did because I have blue sky photos and memories of van trips away to prove it.

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We’ve been away twice, in fact, since I last blogged.

Firstly, we did the Lincolnshire Steam and Vintage Rally which was a great few days away and our first trip without electric, and we managed just fine. In fact, if anything we are much heavier users of our fresh water than we are mains hook up electric. We managed easily on our 12v system (even on a less-than-sunny weekend where our solar wasn’t getting as much as it could) but we had to refill our water tank by Saturday evening. How we’re using 66 litres of fresh water, I’ve no idea, but for our subsequent trip away, we took bottled for tea/boiling (which was so much nicer than tap/site water) and used a large bottle of site water for the dog. We managed better over a longer period then, so perhaps we have it sussed now.

The Steam Rally was good. Typically British weather (and particularly windy) but everything worked and held up and we got pitched (in the Caravan Club area) alongside friends which definitely gave the weekend something extra.

Sunset along the rows of caravans at the Steam Rally - August 2016
Sunset along the rows of caravans at the Steam Rally – August 2016

Only a week or so after the steam rally, we had a longer, 4-day break at Kidderminster. Jake, again, decided to stay home (being 16, he’d rather not “camp”!) so it was just the 3 of us and the dog. Weather was rain, sun, rain, sun (same old, same old!) but we had a great few days.

The first day was particularly warm and sunny and we made the 4 mile walk into Kidderminster along the tow path of the canal.

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We spent a good few hours in the town, with the dog who was absolutely no trouble whatsoever as we took turns to go into shops and he was good as gold while we ate lunch.

It was a good trip away, although we did find one van issue. Well, not a van issue but an issue we had at the site in particular: slope!

There’d been no mention of all sloping pitches in the booking details (and I’d already ruled out a different site because it DID mention it!) and we had real problems levelling. The fridge told us we were nowhere near level when it melted all our ice creams because it wasn’t working, and it took a good 45 minutes with 2 site staff and a lot of scaffold planks to get us somewhere near to level on day 2!

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We know now though: pack levelling planks as the ramps we had (visible above) were definitely NOT up to the job!

Since coming back from Kidderminster, the van went on hold for a while as we sorted Jake out for starting college. We did a few trial bus runs to check timing and walking routes (which, through Lincoln at the moment, are both a nightmare as the major roadworks of COURSE were scheduled to start right as the schools/colleges start back!)

All went fine though and, on the whole, his start at college has gone well. He’s even been nominated Class Representative. As long as he doesn’t have to actually do anything, I’m sure he’ll be fine!

Oh, and speaking of college, we had exam results, of course. Jake needed 2 C grade passes  (in Maths and English) for college and he exceeded these by getting a B in his English. Apparently though, college then made EVERYONE sit both a maths and English assessment anyway in case people had given false grades!

say-wha-logo

Beats me why they did that. Jake was more concerned that he’d only got a C in his English one though (although he did better than his GCSE result in his Maths!) but he’s fine. He’ll still be one of the brightest ones in the class, I have no doubt.

He’s eagerly awaiting being 17 in December so he can start using his 125cc motorcycle for college instead of the bus. He’s still working at Pyramid on the days he isn’t at college so he still has some income even during the school term which is currently funding a motorcycle jacket and then trousers and, after that, fuel and running costs to get him to and from college and work.

They grow up too fast!

We are tentatively back to school with Eliot too, currently doing a bit of a maths recap with a view to slowly starting to look at GCSE programs. Hopefully, he’ll also take at least Maths and English GCSE/IGCSE to keep his college options open, but he has no clue really what he wants to do yet. He’s only 13, he’s got ages to decide anyway. Meantime he can learn life things and continue his passion for all things Japanese. We are learning some of the language and El regularly practises his sushi-making.

Eliot making sushi. The hat is just a teenager thing!
Eliot making sushi. The hat is just a teenager thing!

And obviously, he gets to learn geography as we travel in our van!

We’ve modded the van a little bit since our last trip actually. The kitchen cupboard was a pain, with the left door opening into the aisle and making it impossible really to reach over or around it to take anything out from inside. So, I requested a bi-fold option.

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It now hinges in the middle…
...and opens well out of the way...
…and opens well out of the way…
...for super duper access!
…for super duper access!

It’s SOOOO much better and I can’t wait to trial it this weekend when we’re away at the Motorhome Show (child-free AND dog-free!!)

We also added a much-needed bathroom cabinet to the wetroom

Valuable storage in the bathroom
Valuable storage in the bathroom

And, although I don’t have a photo – shocking, I know – Nik fitted an external switch for the new water heater so we don’t need to reach under the seat to switch on the mains/240v supply for it. It’d have been in the original design except the original heater was gas only so we never planned to have a 240v supply needing a switch.

We’ve got another short break planned in mid October too. We’re taking the dog to the beach for his first “sand and sea” experience. In the two years we’ve had him, we’ve not taken him to the coast at all and now we can do easily, so we’ve booked 3 nights away. We contemplated going actually during half term but a) Eliot said he’d prefer to go when kids are at school and b) £60!

3 nights mid October was £30
3 nights two weeks later, during half term, £90!

We can spend that extra money on stuff to do, so it was an easy decision really. It’ll be fun.

Apart from that, nothing much else planned. I’d like to fit in another trip away this year, but I think we’ll wait and see how the van fares in the cooler weather in October first (although, if it’s anything like previous years, it’ll be nicer and milder than now!)

We’ll do a few winter trips anyway because that’s why we made the van: to use it all year round. It’s just hunting down those good sites that are walking distance to other places, rather than needing a car to get anywhere off-site, especially out of season.

We’d really love to do a longer trip, further away. Maybe a week or so. But that would mean partially closing the business for that period (and ensuring that the 16yo got himself to college from home alone) so it’s unlikely to happen.

We joked about closing down for November and driving down to Valencia for the final race of the MotoGP season. That WOULD be awesome, but it’s not too likely to happen.  It’s quiet season, admittedly, but still a scary idea!

Maybe next year…

 

First trip a resounding success, more planned!

We christened our ‘van last weekend with two-night stay at Tattershall Lakes Country Park.

The weather forecast was good, and LOOK what arrived 2 days before we left!

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I know, right?

That pesky 5th sofa cushion finally turned up and made our seating area complete!

Please excuse the dried doggie pawprints on the black here!
Please excuse the dried doggie pawprints on the black here!
The clean version - just you can't quite see the cushion we'd been missing from this angle.
The clean version – just you can’t quite see the cushion we’d been missing from this angle.

After carting numerous crates of “stuff” out to fill the ‘van on Friday morning, Jake got home from work after lunch (because, yes, he came too!) and we arrived at Tattershall around 2pm.

Less than 30 minutes later, and we were all set up, awning, chairs ‘n’ all.

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I’m not sure why this photo looks so dark but I think perhaps it’s actually because the sky is rather bright!

We had a great weekend. We BBQ-ed twice (we’d planned to) and ate out at the resort restaurant on the Saturday evening. Nice food, if pricey, but that’s to be expected on a site like that, I think.

Sunday morning BBQ breakfast
Sunday morning BBQ breakfast at about 7.30/8am!

We weathered some rain on Friday night without incident. The awning held up fine, nothing broke down and we even trialled out the air con unit on the Saturday night because it was so hot overnight (even with the ‘van door half open)

Zac behaved impeccably the entire weekend. He wasn’t stressed out about being tethered (sometimes between van and awning, sometimes between awning and outdoors depending on what we were doing) and he was good as gold around the site on his lead.

"Is that my breakfast, Daddy?" (It was)
“Is that my breakfast, Daddy?”
(It was)

We had no idea how he’d be either on site or amongst the crowds (and, BOY, it was busy!) but we needn’t have worried. He was the best behaved a little doggie can be. Bless him.

The one thing that was noted as a problem was how uncomfortable the rear bunk mattresses are. They’re cheap sprung jobbies from eBay and they really are sloppy and horrid. Eliot found it so bad that he actually slept the second night on the floor of the van with the dog (who slept under the extended section of the sofa bed)

So this week I ordered some 6ft x 2ft sheets of medium density foam to replace the awful mattresses. The top one needs cutting down a few inches and perhaps across the corners to accommodate the angles at the outer side (the bottom bunk didn’t need these trimming, we just squashed it in, so it might not need it up top either) and then both will be wrapped in stockinette to protect the foam before the mattress protectors are put back on.

The 6ft length is a few inches too long for the top bunk
The 6ft length is a few inches too long for the top bunk
Cheap 5m of stockinette, often sold for cleaning cloths, is perfect for wrapping and protecting the foam of the two mattresses
Cheap 5m of stockinette, often sold for cleaning cloths, is perfect for wrapping and protecting the foam of the two mattresses
New mattress all covered and ready to roll.
New mattress all covered and ready to roll.

Eliot was so much happier with this so that’s good. More space for the dog on the floor for the next trip then, hopefully!

Speaking of next trips, Jake isn’t coming with us now so  there’s just 3 of us and the dog for the Lincoln Steam and Vintage Rally next weekend (an experiment in non-EHU trip which will test the 12v system and the solar charge more thoroughly) and then we’re away, again as 3 plus dog, for the bank holiday weekend at Wolverley Club Site. No idea what it’ll be like but reviews are good and it’s supposed to be great for dogs too, so we’ll see.

Jake, meanwhile, will be having wild parties (AKA sleeping in and playing Xbox all day).

Lucky him!

Or, he’ll be tinkering with his new toy.

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He’s not old enough to drive it on the road yet (not under December when he turns 17) but it needs work anyway right now (it was bought damaged to repair) and maybe that’ll give him something to do.

Or maybe it’ll just be sleep and the Xbox. (more likely!)

A few other things we noted while on our first trip:

  1. we need more rock pegs. We had just enough for the awning but not enough that we could have used the windbreak. Halfords had some decent ones reduced in price, of which we’d picked up a couple of packs before we went away, so we’ll see if they have any left.
  2. We ran out of water after 36 hours! An entire 66 litre tank! Probably because we weren’t policing it at all and we refilled water bottles and bowls and washed up from it regularly. We are going to purchase a large (10-15 litre) water bottle with pourer so we can decant from that for the dog’s bowl and, if required, use it to refill the underslung tank if we run out again.
  3. We need a splashguard of some sort between the sink and the beds. The water pressure is good and it did tend to splash up a little when turned up high. We’ve made a cover for the hob from the waterproof shower wall 3mm ply (to give more work space) which doubles as the splashguard for now.
  4. We have a slightly creaky sofa area. One specific half of one sofa. Typically the part my head and shoulders is on when I’m rolling from side to side at night so it’s annoying. For EVERYONE! Will find out what’s causing that and fix it.
  5. The seat velcro wasn’t quite positioned correctly and made pulling the bed out a bit tricky (although not impossible) so that needs relocating. Also, the smaller, infill cushion could do with some on it as it moved a bit when I got in and out of bed!
  6. More dog towels required! We took 2 large bath sheets for Zac which was just about OK for the tim we were there and the weather we had (scorchio!) but if it’d stayed wet overnight and still been so in the morning on Saturday, we’d have found ourselves lacking. Might need to pack 4 for bad weather!

I think that’s it!

Nothing major and certainly nothing that can’t be sorted out.

Counting down to the next one now!

 

 

 

 

It’s all coming together nicely

Yes, you do see right. This is the second post in a week!

Now you’ve got over the shock…

We have a new water heater. Yay!

240v and gas for quicker heating times on dual fuel
240v and gas for quicker heating times on dual fuel

And with a new water heater, comes a new flue/exhaust.

See how nice, clean and white it looks now!
See how nice, clean and white it looks now! So much nicer than the secondhand one.

The swap-over was fairly simple. Once the old flue and heater were off (removing the sealing silicon was probably the trickiest bit!), the new heater fitted in place without much trouble. We just needed to move the supporting platform back slightly as the new insulation jacket was a slightly different shape, but it’s all in and working hunky dory!

Yay!

The "utilities"!
The “utilities”!

One thing we did have a minor problem with was the new control panel. You can’t use the Carver Cascade control panel with the new design Henry water heater so we had to fit the new Henry controls. That meant routing a new cable through the van (behind wall panels etc!) because the plugs are all different! (Apparently, you COULD use the old cable, removing the plugs off it and using the wires individually, but we had no intention of attempting that and do not recommend it.)

The trickiest part of routing the new cable was getting the old one to feed through the narrow feed hole in the metal chassis part of the van. The duct itself is quite spacious but the access hole is small and difficult to get to and, as we were using the old cable to pull through the new, the feed was tight. Very tight, but we managed it.

Also, we couldn’t quite accommodate the new control panel properly where the old one had been on the control fascia. Now, we COULD have re-done the whole fascia… but decided just to mount it sideways instead.

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I mean, really, who cares anyway?!

(Note to self/husband: must make sure additional screws are put into light switches and new, un-mucky, labels are made up!)

Much of what we’ve been doing on the van has been finishing touches now. Labelling, storing, kitting out and preparing for our first trip away over the summer.

The entrance cupboard is stocked with "first needs" essentials, such as dog tether, step, hook-up cables etc
The entrance cupboard is stocked with “first needs” essentials, such as dog tether, step, hook-up cables etc
A basic first aid kit and fire extinguisher have been fitted within easy reach of both indoors and outdoors (no easy task finding the ideal spot, in fact!)
A basic first aid kit and fire extinguisher have been fitted within easy reach of both indoors and outdoors (no easy task finding the ideal spot, in fact!)
Storage boxes are gradually being stocked and labelled, because, you know...boys and finding stuff!
Storage boxes are gradually being stocked and labelled, because, you know…boys and finding stuff!
The kitchen cupboard is crated out to a degree to prevent too much movement in transit, and for ease pf getting stuff in and out.
The kitchen cupboard is crated out to a degree to prevent too much movement in transit, and for ease of getting stuff in and out (apologies for poor iPhone flash photo)
We have a switched charging station (switched so it isn't lit up like Blackpool all night!) for phones and suchlike.
We have a switched charging station (switched so it isn’t lit up like Blackpool Illuminations all night!) for phones and 12v items like our air conditioning unit.
Curtain tie-backs on the rear windows mean that the curtains don't get trapped in the rear doors when closing. It's a real problem, people!
Curtain tie-backs on the rear windows mean that the curtains don’t get trapped in the rear doors when closing. It’s a real problem, people!
Shower curtain fitted into bathroom/wetroom to keep bathroom door clean and dry.
Shower curtain fitted into bathroom/wetroom to keep bathroom door clean and dry.
Bathroom mirror fitted; acrylic for safety.
Bathroom mirror fitted; acrylic for safety.

Let’s just talk a bit about this bathroom mirror!

I hunted for ages for a decent mirror to fit in the bathroom. I didn’t want a glass one, just in case we had a problem with it falling and breaking, so I wanted an acrylic one, but finding a wall-mount acrylic mirror that we could fully fix to the wall (as opposed to just hanging) took some research and eBay searching.

The first one I found was no good. It had a plastic frame that we struggled to fit to the wall, and as we couldn’t really use a wooden frame in a wetroom, I eventually plumped for a plain acrylic sheet, paid a little extra for rounded corners and pre-drilled holes with screws and mirror caps.

The only problem is, the wall of the van isn’t entirely flat. This means that the mirror has a slight curve in it.

Think Hall of Mirrors.

Fortunately, the curve is inwards so it gives a rather flattering “skinnify” effect rather than a “fattify” effect, so I’m good with that.

Maybe I’ll fit one in the house too!

It’s all trimming and stocking up of the van now really. I’ve started adding in food and supplies for our trip away soon, and the next job is to drain down the water and waste water tanks so they’ve been flushed out. The fresh water tank particularly needs a flush through as the water it is currently running has been sat in the tank a while. We’ll drain it down and then part-fill it and drain it again (thank goodness we’re not on a water meter!)

Being nearly done in the van means that we have done stuff other than van lately too.

Shocking, eh?!

Eliot and I paid a visit to the Japanese Gardens at North Clifton on Tuesday and spent a few hours wandering about and taking (many) photos.

El is quite obsessed with Japan so he’d been nagging to go here since I let slip of its existence. The weather was good on Tuesday so we went. We had a great morning and a lovely lunch of Japanese Rice Salad, freshly cooked to order by Buddha Maitreya.

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Along with the outdoor gardens, which were beautiful, there is also what is thought to be the world’s largest indoor crystal garden.

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This was only half of it, but photos absolutely do NOT do this place justice. It was breathtaking, and both Eliot and I “wow-ed” when we walked in.

Eliot loved the whole place, and it’s probably only a matter of time before he asks to go again. At £11 though (£7 adults, £4 children) it isn’t cheap and you need to ensure you’re going to “get” it before going, I think. I was a bit worried that it’d be anticlimactic for Eliot, but I was happy to be proved wrong and so didn’t mind paying the extra £6 a head for the rice salad (which was lovely also!)

Next time though, the £2 fresh scones and a pot of tea, I think. For the budget’s sake!

Right, I’d better get back to work now! Nik and Jake are off doing a job dismantling a spray bay in town so I’m womanning the fort today.

I’d better stop blogging procrastinating and get some work done!

But before I go, I’ll just leave this here: a little something Nik made to go in place of the Fiat badges on the van.

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Get it?

A near disaster coupled with a cautionary tale about buying a secondhand Carver Cascade Water Heater.

Things had evidently been going too well, and we were obviously due for some sort of mis-hap, or set-back, or something.This, however, could have been a real disaster.

When buying larger, expensive items for the van (such as fridge, cooker, water heater etc) we did a fair bit of research and comparisons, not to mention shopping around, to work out what to buy new and what to buy used. You could easily blow your budget buying a brand new £500+ 3-way fridge, a £3-400 cooker, £100 hob, £300 water heater, £100 water pump, £200+ flushing toilet and suchlike.

When secondhand items are so easily available on the likes of eBay, some of these things become more affordable, meaning the budget can breathe a little.

We’d been lucky with our secondhand purchases. Our fridge works 100% on all 3 power options, the cooker, grill and hob all work A-OK, the water heater worked when we tested it, and we’d bought a brand new water pump anyway so we were relieved that we’d done good.

But…

Yesterday, one of the to-do list jobs was to make sure we had all the correct fuses in the 12v system fuse board. I dug out all the relevant paperwork and matched all the fuses up to the correct places.

After that, I tested everything – every light, switch, appliance etc – on the 12v system to make sure everything worked still, and it did. I switched everything back off again and ticked it off the list as job done.

Or so I thought…

We’d been out to town and come back down to the van for a second time, doing various jobs and bits (mostly sorting seat backs but that’ll come later) around the front end of the van, when Nik noticed that the hot water was still on. The switch was about half-way on so I obviously hadn’t fully turned the switch off and the water had been on for some several hours.

Not really a problem because we’d been doing mucky work, so we figured we’d use the hot water and wash our hands (because, you know, we can!)

No water appeared from the hot tap.

Water could, however, be heard under the sofa box. Not good.

Shifted all the cushions off the sofas (because, we have cushions now!), lifted the seat box lid to find a flood. The WHOLE tank had come away from the main water heater and water was all over the van floor.

Fortunately, we were saved in 2 ways here (and later more, but I’ll clarify in a bit): firstly, the water heater is positioned above the vent holes in the side of the van and so it drained readily to the outside and secondly, we were parked on the slope so that the water couldn’t have run anywhere into the main areas of the van (such as under the kitchen, through the second sofa, to the carpeted area etc)

But it was a mess.

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Now, it became obvious what had caused the tank to fail when we saw that the tie rod that tethers the tank body to the gubbings had snapped.

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Ignore that white thing at the top for now. The brownish-coloured thing is supposed to be screwed in to the gubbings end of the tank!

Old age fail. C’est la vie. The manufacture date on the back of the water heater said 1985!

“We’ll just replace the tie rod”, we thought, but decided to check that the heater was working otherwise before doing so.

Good job we did.

That white bit at the top of the photo is the pressure relief valve and it’s melted. This gave us a huge conundrum, because there was no logical way it could have done. And this wasn’t the only inconsistency with the happenings of the day.

Oh no, there was more.

Nick remembered, when we’d gone back down to the van the second time, that he’d noticed some dust-like substance on the floor of the seat box unit, quite close to the tank. He didn’t really thing too much of it at the time (we’d been working in that area, so mess was likely anyway) until later when he inspected it and it looked like limescale.

Yet this was BEFORE we’d noticed the water leaking.

Which meant that the water had already leaked from the tank BEFORE we’d come back to it and noticed the heater was still on.

CSI-like investigations and discussions ensued (except with rather more drama and less beautiful women!)

We concluded the following:

The tank, up to temperature and presumably, through heat, pressure, had broken while we were out, dropping the entire, HOT water tank contents (9 litres), limescale and all, into the van.

By the time we had come back a couple of hours later, the water had all evaporated due to the fact that we appear to be actually getting a summer (for now).

As the tank was now empty, but the heater was still on, we concluded that after dropping its water, the tank had continued to heat fresh air, the thermostat not cutting out because it had to water to measure, and heated the gubbings up to such a temperature that it melted the pressure relief valve which is attached to it.

Very top left is where the pressure relief valve melted away from.
Very top left is where the pressure relief valve melted away from.

Because there wasn’t far for the tank to go, it wasn’t visually obvious under the seat that anything had happened (apart from the aforementioned limescale), but when we did then go to run the hot water, the pump (which we switched on to wash our hands) had then pumped fresh water through the non-existent tank area and into the van. Again, it dried up pretty quickly though as we watched it drain away.

Now, all this was quite disastrous really, but it could have been so much worse.

  1. The van could have been parked on the flat, in which case it would have done far more damage as the water could have flooded living areas then
  2. We could have been on holiday when it happened. We could have been next to it, or the dog could have been next to it: a whole tank of 70c hot water!
  3. We could have been in the van working on it when it dumped 9 litres of hot water all over. Especially if we’d been working within the seat boxes which we were ALL day!
  4. We could have been on hook up, either home or away, and the tank could have splashed water across our electrics which, due to the confined nature of a campervan, are never very far away.

I could probably go on but, while the whole incident has been unlucky, we actually consider ourselves quite the opposite.

We debated repairing it but even the electrical controls are limescale-covered and I’m certain we’ll have to replace more parts and significant cost to get it up and working again.

The morning after the day before...
The morning after the day before…You can see the limescale, water marks everywhere.
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You can see the run of limescale on the left here (between the gas rail and the divider) that gave us a hint to more going on.

So, after much deliberation (and having solved the “mystery of the week” CSI-style, we decided to buy a complete replacement water heater.

First off, we looked at a replacement Carver Cascade 2, but these have not been manufactured for many years and any replacement could have the same fate in the future.

There was no guarantee that any other Cascade water heater we purchased wouldn’t also have a corroded rod or some other problem, and you can’t disassemble it to inspect before purchase, because to do so involves breaking seals which would then need replacing.

It’s a gamble you take, like with any secondhand appliance. Maybe we could or perhaps SHOULD have had them serviced before installing them, but that’s assuming a service would involved removing seals, checking rods and replacing the seals.
Like I said, it’s a chance you take when you buy secondhand, especially ancient secondhand!

We decided not to risk it and bit the bullet, instead buying the new, updated version, the Henry GE Water Heater, brand new! It’s a direct replacement for the Carver Cascade so we can fit it in exact place of what was there (which was essential really and so limited our alternatives)

It’s 240V also, so can potentially heat water faster on gas/electric combined than the previous one  would just on gas, so it’s an evidently better unit than the one it is replacing, but it’s coming at a cost, of course.

Fortunately though, only a financial one. Not a human or canine one.

It could have been so much worse.

The longer you leave posting, the harder it is to get motivated to do it again!

It’s been far too long and every weekend that passes means so much more gets done on the van that the job of updating the blog becomes more and more of a mammoth task.

Enough excuses now though, I must update before I decide I hate blogging forever more!

It’s been a busy 3 weeks or so.

We’ve had a fair bit of weekend time spent on the van and some evenings while the weather has been reasonable.

And we’ve got LOTS done!

The bathroom/wet room is FINISHED!

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(trim wasn't added in this shot, and plughole not cut out, but floor was laid)
(trim wasn’t added in this shot, and plughole not fitted, but floor was laid)

The bathroom also now has a door! (and, actually, an internal shower curtain) Always nice to have a door on your bathroom, eh?

The back of the van, beneath the beds, has been lined, painted along the sill, and a drawer put in for access in the van

Storage for camping chairs, awning and other larger items
Storage for camping chairs, awning and other larger items
Drawer, above pull-out step storage, accessible from inside van.
Drawer, above pull-out step storage, accessible from inside van.

We fitted cab divider curtains for privacy and a bit more light cut-out during the evenings and nighttime.

Smooooooth
Smooooooth

We sorted out the table, fitting a siting hole in the floor and giving the table top and pole somewhere to store in the wardrobe.

In use...
In use…
...and in storage.
…and in storage.

And wait…what’s that? Are those SEAT CUSHIONS, you ask??

Why yes, yes they are!

Well, 4 out of 5 (long story, probably can’t explain without getting annoyed about it again!), but we have the important ones we need to make the main sofa and the bed!

Sofa!
Sofa!
Bed!!
Bed!!

Cool, huh?

Curtains have now been shortened too. More sewing for me. Not something I’m too fond of doing, but needs must.

Nearly half of the length needed cutting off!
Nearly half of the length needed cutting off!
But they do look much better (apart from I HATE my homemade tiebacks!)
But they do look much better (apart from I HATE my homemade tie-backs!)

Let me take a van-break for a moment to change the subject briefly (thank GOODness, you all say!)

Eliot turned 13 last week so we had a meal out to celebrate. El is currently obsessed (OBSESSED!!) with Japan and he’d asked if we could eat at the Japanese Steakhouse at Damon’s in Lincoln so, knowing nothing about what to expect, we braved it.

Well, it was fantastic! It was as much a show as a meal and, although expensive, we’d go again for a special occasion. Great food and great staff (just make sure you allow £25 a head!)

Yikes!

Anyway, back to the van!

With the arrival of the main seat cushions (again, let’s not mention that missing one, eh?), we were able to get the additional seatbelt in the rear sorted. It’s not actually illegal to carry rear passengers in a camper without seatbelts (CRAZY!), but we wanted to fit one for our (well, Eliot’s!) security and peace of mind. We’re not adding it to the logbook or anything so it doesn’t need inspecting, but we wanted, for ourselves, to make sure it was properly fitted so some careful planning was required.

Firstly, we worked out where we wanted to fit it and to what!

That meant the removal of the front bench seat for some welding!

It was proper disgusting down there! (For the record, it isn't any more!)
It was proper disgusting down there! (For the record, it isn’t any more!)
Weldy, weldy, weldy (not during this photo, obviously!)
Weldy, weldy, weldy (not during this photo, obviously!)
One of the 3 welded seatbelt points. The 4th point uses the existing mount between the 2 passenger seats in the front.
One of the 3 welded seatbelt points. The 4th point uses the existing mount between the 2 passenger seats in the front.
Seatbelt position in the rear. We'll also be adding an anchor point to which to secure the dog.
Seatbelt position in the rear. We’ll also be adding an anchor point to which to secure the dog.

We really are pretty much onto finishing touches now, and Nik hadn’t been happy with the decals on the van for a while. They were put on months ago, just to make it not look like a “white van” and they’re just started to look a bit dull.

The original van stickering, even before toilet hatch went in!
The original van stickering, even before toilet hatch went in!
And then when the toilet hatch did go in, the design vanished!
And then when the toilet hatch did go in, the design vanished!

So we fired up the sticker plotted and printed off miles (well, ok, maybe not miles exactly) of red pinstripe and some silver and black extra pieces, and Nik diligently applied to the entire design.

The toilet door now has the design on it and the addition of a pinstripe makes it look so much better
The toilet door now has the design on it and the addition of a pinstripe makes it look so much better
Side 2 BEFORE...
Side 2 BEFORE…
... and side 2 AFTER
… and side 2 AFTER

And we are so, so close to finishing that look!!!

even my kitchen cupboards are beginning to get stocked up.
even my kitchen cupboards are beginning to get stocked up.

My shopping list now consists of things like “tea towel holders” and “washing up liquid”. If that doesn’t say “we’re nearly done”, I don’t know what does!

Our last major decision and purchase has been an awning.

Oh lordy, what a minefield that has been.

Obviously, we considered the Fiamma/Truma wind-out awnings but they’re extortionately expensive and don’t really provide what we need from an awning without investing in sides and a front to make a room.

Really, we wanted some extra living space so we decided (while wandering around the showroom at Brownhills in Newark on a 3m drive-away awning. It was 3m x 3m so we figured plenty big enough for our van.

Got the C channel/awning rail fitted to the van and test fitted it, only to find that, while the tent part of the awning might be 3m, the “tunnel” part that fits to the van was only not much over 2m and didn’t cover the sliding door. This meant it was impossible to open the door without snagging it on the awning and, inevitably in time, causing damage.

Brownhills customer service, it has to be noted, was EXCELLENT and they took the awning back for full refund (even though we’d got rid of the main awning box – dur!) but they couldn’t recommend an awning that would work for us.

We ruled out any drive-aways (which we didn’t need anyway) because they pretty much all have a too-narrow tunnel fixing for a sliding door (unless the awning itself was eye-wateringly expensive – like £800+!!), and started looking at a porch-like awnings. After emailing Outdoor Revolution themselves and asking them, they confirmed that their 3m wide canopy awnings would be 3m wide at the van also so I began hunting for one in our price range.

It came down to the Tech Canopy 300

Outdoor Revolution Tech Canopy 300
Outdoor Revolution Tech Canopy 300

or the Techlite Pro XL, which we decided on due to being able to enclose it if need be (ie it the Great British weather decides to rain, we can keep the van open and the awning closed, rather than shutting ourselves in the van which is, let’s face it, “cosy”!

The awning arrived today and we LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

It only just covers the sliding door, but cover it it does and it’s perfectly workable, a MUCH better quality awning (in our opinion) than the previous, drive-away one we had tried, and I can’t wait to be able to use it when we go away.

Awning up with temporary groundsheet until ours arrives
Awning up with temporary groundsheet until ours arrives

I have to say that, having been in communication quite considerably with Brownhills, who deal in motorhomes, including vans, that clearly there’s a huge gap in the market for this type of awning that will fit on a sliding door. Most awnings (except the huge/expensive ones) won’t, and this one (and presumably the canopy also as it has the same dimensions) DOES and it doesn’t break the bank (ours even less so because it had nearly 40% off for having been tried on a van previously!)

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It’s not fully pegged out here, but you can see that it fully covers the sliding door, offering protection against the elements. Good news for anyone who has a LWB, high roof Fiat Ducato, Citroen Relay or Peugeot Boxer!!

Gosh, I think we may actually be caught up on van shenanigans. Phewy!

In other news, Jake is working hard at the minute trying to save up enough wages for a 125cc motorcycle (he fancies a YZF R125) that he can use for college and work when he turns 17 in December. He’s so super-excited about having a proper bike. These next 5 months really won’t pass nearly quick enough for him, I’m sure.

Zac turned 2 a week or so ago. TWO! It’s hard to imagine life without him, for sure. He brings joy to us every hour of every day (even at 6.50am when I got up this morning!)

Please do excuse that carpet! It's the office floor and horribly neglected (it was a playroom when our tenants were in and has suffered for it!)
Please do excuse that carpet! It’s the office floor and horribly neglected (it was a playroom when our tenants were in and has suffered for it!)

I think that pretty much covers everything though. Next post might actually be a FINISHED van!

That’d be a thing, eh?