Wednesday, 9 May 2012
|Fleetwood Clochester/Honda CRV|
My wife had talked me into some silly and extravagant purchases in my life, but never one that was less thought out than buying our very first caravan. We had been "looking" around for some time and were eventually drawn to a Fleetwood Colchester, mostly because it had fixed twin beds. We actually proceeded with the purchase though neither car we owned had tow bars fitted AND we had nowhere to keep it! Amazingly, on regaling this story to a colleague at work, he stated that he had done exactly the same thing two years previously, so that made me feel a tad better. To say that the following week nearly sent me over the top with cold sweats and sleepless nights would be no exageration. The prospect of towing filled me with dread, Part exchanging my then current car to a Honda CRV proved a wise decision, as it was the right car for the job. And so we entered blissfully into the world of caravaning & one that would bring with it just about every imaganable positive and negative emotion that anyone would wish to experience!!!
August 20th 2006
We found a storage facility and arranged for them to tow our new pride and joy to their site. I couldn’t believe how many van’s there were in storage. One can only hope that the owners never inadvertently make a decision to put them all on the road at the same time! My wife then set about purchasing vast quantities of (apparently) absolutely vital accessories and equipment that roughly cost about the same price of the van in ensuring it became her pristine new second home on wheels. You name it, she bought it, bedding, kitchen equipment including cups mugs plates etc just about everything other than what I considered to be top of a must have list, a TV. We took advantage of the storage owner special offer in moving our van to a touring pitch on site in order that we could ensure everything was in working order before setting off on our first great adventure. Both of our cars (neither with a tow bar) were loaded and resembled something akin to an African Safari. My wife set off from home with our loveable pooch Holly, arrived safely on site, and began to unload her car. I left as early as I could and rapidly found myself stationary on the M5 in a 5 mile tailback. My wife’s first call was “did I have any idea how to connect the cable from the power point to the van”, this question to a man with no experience! It transpired that she was trying to fit the end of the cable to either of the plugs (that connect to the car) on the van. And so began an afternoon of utter chaos and frustration. If there was a right and wrong option, we inevitably chose the wrong one.
Tuesday, 8 May 2012
The Caravan came with a plethora of literature on how everything in the van functioned through the provision of the various manufactures handbook’s i.e. from the hot water tank, to oven, heater etc, but with the frustrating exception of a manual on the actual working and switches of the caravan itself. It is readily accepted by both of us that we are well past our prime, and therefore neither of us possessing an instant recall of the salesman explanations of where and what to push, pull, or switch up or down for the desired gadget to work. So we diligently set about our tasks of filling the water container, immersing the “pump thingy” into the container on its return & connecting the same to the side of the van. We thought we had remembered where the switch was for this part of the operation to engage the pump and recalled that the tap in the van had to be on to indicate that the on board tank had been filled. We waited patiently for 10 minutes with nothing happening. The water level in the barrel outside remained full. Heated discussions took place followed by accusations as to why the other hadn’t paid more attention when being told how it worked! The discovery of a switch marked “pump” located in the most unlikeliest of places was discovered, and when pressed the whole thing burst into life, a truly eureka moment! I went outside to press my ear against the barrel to confirm the pump was working and awaited another eureka moment of the tap producing water by a cry of delight from wifey, which duly followed confirming the same! The temperature dial was set and we had both hot & cold running water after a short space of time. Since that fateful day we have often been caught out when filling the on board tank through this process for the first outing of the year by not having remembered to turn off the drainage switch. This results in all the pumped in water rapidly disappearing straight out again through the drainage hole! A lesson learnt!!!
The importance of a level van was stressed to us when the salesman was running through a list of “what to do” and “what not to do”, which as it happens was a complete waste of his time given that we had forgotten about most of it when it came to setting up! Apparently, a level van was priority number one before attempting any of the other arduous task’s in order that electrical equipment functioned as intended and water flowed freely in the direction it was designed to do. I of course was assigned to the job of raising and lowering steadies whilst wifey shouted instruction from inside the van having made herself foreman by virtue of knowing where the spirit level was kept. I have since learnt (blindingly obvious) that stage one should be to raise and lower the jockey wheel (not the blasted steadies) in order to achieve our objective, a fact which had completely escaped me! To be honest very few other problems presented themselves other than the appearance of a strange coloured liquid swilling around the shower tray, which we thankfully later discovered was from our washing up bowl having taken the wrong direction when vanishing down the plug hole i.e. instead of going out of the van into our waste container it had taken a wrong turn and ended up swilling around at the bottom of the shower. Clearly we hadn’t got it as level as we had believed!!
One vital piece of security equipment (allegedly) is apparently a wheel clamp. This turned out to be my biggest challenge so far, as I wrestled for what seemed an eternity to try and fit the same to one of the van’s wheel. I sustained various cuts and bruises to both my hands and feet as a consequence and never got it to lock properly. I have since invested in a hitch lock, and to be honest have experienced similar problems with that piece of kit also. In my opinion a land mine (converted from an explosive devise to an alarmed one) buried in front and behind the wheel would be far more affective. We enjoyed what little sunshine was left of the day after dining el fresco fashion in the true spirit of what outdoor living was all about, having also polished off a few G&T’s in the process. It was a fairly trouble free night although the unnerving sound of bits of tree falling on to the top of the van in the night along with the arrival of numerous winged creatures as dawn approached ensured it wasn’t as deep a sleep as what I had hoped it might be. Bleary eyed, I arose and armed with appropriate bags set off to take the pooch on her first of numerous necessary walks for the day. That set me thinking during the walk of a television programme that once suggested that any hesitant “wannabe” Caravaner could simulate the experience of caravan living by moving their bed along with a chemical toilet into the kitchen where they could then spend the evening to see if they might enjoy the experience. The other analogy being to try and ballroom dance in your broom cupboard at home. Wholly inaccurate & exaggerated of course, but certainly struck a cord with me as regards to how I found my first night in the cramped confines available. My opinion has since changed for the better. Today would also be the first day that I would attempt to learn the art of “towing” along with hitching and unhitching, and again I was full of dread!