So, since acquiring Clara back in January, the poor girl has mostly been sat idle outside our house covered in snow We’ve bought a few bits & bobs to go inside her and we did give her a sunny face-lift a few weeks ago, but apart from the odd trip out we’ve never really used her… Later in the summer we’re booked in and are driving Clara all the way down to Spain, so we’ve been desperate to give her a good test since the day we bought her. Clara’s 30 years old (bless her) and the last thing we want is to be stranded next to a broken-down campervan somewhere in Europe. Car mechanics is not my strong point!!! A couple of ‘planned’ weekend trips have been cancelled recently due to the shite weather. I stubbornly refuse to camp in the snow. Unfortunately though, we were beginning to run out of time to get our ‘practice’ trip in. The year is slipping by pretty quickly and before we know it we’ll be hitting the French autoroutes down to Spain. So last weekend, with a tentative look at the weather forecast, we booked ourself into a cliff-top Welsh campsite just outside St. David’s. A good 5 hour journey according to Mr. Google. And if that wasn’t a stern enough test for Clara, we were also taking the crazed hound with us Baggins has a lot more marauding space inside Clara and boy does he use it. I don’t think the bloody dog sat down for the first 4 hours!!!
Mr Google’s 5 hour estimate clearly wasn’t a 30 year old campervan estimate, which meant it was over 6 hours before we finally pulled into our Welsh campsite, but this was the kind of test we’d been after. And to her credit, Clara had performed beautifully. Everything worked and despite the dog’s best efforts nothing had broken. Things went downhill pretty quickly from this point onwards, but they have taught us a few valuable lessons…
- Learning how to erect our drive-away awning is certainly one lesson learnt. Actually fitting the thing securely to our campervan we’re still to master!!! We’d bought the ‘specially designed’ plastic connecting strips which did indeed slide nicely into the edge of our awning, but no sooner had we clipped the awning onto the side of Clara, the wind simply blew it off again. We tried & tried & tried until we eventually gave up.
- Valuable lesson number 2 is to attach some kind of sign onto the windscreen of Clara which reminded you to unplug the electric hook-up before driving away (yes I know!!!). Fortunately our cable is fairly long, so whilst manoeuvring Clara a little closer to our awning I didn’t quite reach the full length of our plugged-in electric hook-up. Thank God!!! I could’ve blown the electrics on the whole campsite
- Lesson number 3 is to teach our old dog a few new tricks; mainly the do’s & don’t s of using an extendible dog-lead. He was a bleedin’ nightmare. Within a matter of seconds he’d pulled out tent-pegs, knocked over bottles & chairs and wrapped his lead around everything in sight. We unwrapped him and seconds later he was in exactly the same mess. Teaching our crazed Springer Spaniel the protocols of entering/exiting a tent is also high up on our agenda.
- Valuable lesson number 4 is simple… No matter how calm & sunny the weather may be when erecting your awning, make sure you securely fix all of your guy ropes and tent pegs. Especially if you happen to be parked on a Welsh cliff-top…
By the time we’d all bedded down inside Clara we had no idea that hurricane Gwyneth was racing across the sea towards us. We certainly did when we pulled the curtains back the following morning. Our awning was practically sideways. We were lucky; other tents had simply disappeared. A caravan’s satellite dish lay discarded on the ground nearby and the campsite’s waste-bins were full of snapped tent-poles and broken furniture. With the rain lashing down I hastily secured our battered awning as best I could. Physically strapping the awning to Clara seemed the best option, which we did. But this did kinda scupper the ‘drive-away’ feature of our awning. So we sat there while the wind and the rain continued. Thankfully we had games for Sawyer, a fridge full of beer for mummy & daddy and an electric heater… Correction; we did have an electric heater. After a quick race back across the field from the toilets I discovered that Clara’s internal plug sockets had stopped working, which meant no heat The next few hours were spent shivering on the floor whilst fiddling with fuses, wires & little brass fixings. All fuses looked fine, all wires were connected and apart from the one I dropped & lost (oops) all fixings were fixed. I had no idea why the sockets had stopped working??? So after just one night away we sat and took stock of the situation… It was cold (very), wet (very), windy (off the scale!!!), we had no heat and couldn’t drive away from our awning for fear of losing the damn thing. It was never voiced, but I think we were both contemplating packing up for home. This was far from fun… With this in mind I reassembled the faulty plug-sockets (minus the brass fitting I’d lost) and to my amazement the bloody things began working again!!! We had heat. The world was wonderful once more
To be fair to dear old Mother Nature she did take her shockingly shite weather elsewhere later in the day. And over the next few days life on our Welsh cliff-top improved dramatically. The sun shone, we successfully managed to drive-away from our drive-away awning (it was still there when we returned too), we almost managed to sort out the dodgy awning connector strips (they were fine until the wind returned!!!), the dog calmed down (a little), and we finally managed to use Clara properly. She was an absolute joy. She was roomy, the beds were comfy, the cooker was probably more efficient than the one in our house, the fridge was great, we had plenty of storage and more importantly, after a 6 hour journey there and a whopping 7 hour return, mechanically Clara was superb… So all being well a ‘Clara Goes To Spain’ blog-post will follow some time soon.