We left my brother for the last time on the 8th of October 2013. We dropped our last load of stuff at the lock-up and then drove to our friend’s the Essex Harrisons house back in Southend on Sea. It had been a long day, we were 98% ready for the road but we’d been run ragged for a few days and they offered a common sense solution and dinner for our first night out. It also meant we could hook up electric and try everything out in the sure knowledge that any emergencies could be dealt with ... or read that as we suddenly found ourselves unpinned and we took the easy option because we were/are still not quite ready to be out of our comfort zone, and the Harrisons are fine company.
Thinks get blurred after that.
We stayed on their drive for two days, fitted the new number plates with Euro symbols. From this you can assume that we got the Logbook back, and in a sudden flash of DVLA commonsense, it came back with two changes: the colour and the body type; both completed (contrary to the information from my earlier phone call to find out why it was taking so long). We just had to sort out the Tax Class change on the V10 form the DVLA sent in advance of the logbook, then tax the van and send the logbook and proof of tax back to the DVLA. It was a bit of a faff, but it means that we can pick up the logbook in person from the Somerset Harrisons, now we are in the west.
Before we left for our first nights in the wild, I had to fix an issue with the De-Mister fan that resolved itself with a little wire tracing to the `speed controller connector block’ being detached; probably during the stereo install (the weather had been so fine since the install that the issue went un-noticed for a couple of weeks). It was a bit of a faff but a relatively easy win. We sorted out a small void between the shower tray and toilet cassette that would allow the seal to break between them if they were put under pressure (in my humble opinion. And finally I sorted out the going away toolkit and storage of said tools and odds and sods for potential odd jobs.
We put all flammables, adhesives, tapes various and sharps in the LPG locker which is fireproof (making sure not to block the `Gas Dropout holes). We fairly ruthlessly went through our kit and took out some more excess (this included everything we had duplicated in case we had guests ... they bring their own or go without). We connected to the Harrisons power and tested the Hot Water heater ... it worked. I then tested all the lights on mains power, with the water heater and blown air heating system on simultaneously and blew a main fuse between the primary leisure battery and charger. However as we had mains power I waited until daylight to sort it out. Lesson learned. There are limits to what can be on, and what you’re charging. I also had to trace back through circuits because where I thought the faulty fuse was, is nowhere near, where it actually is. It was a bit of a faff, but visually following out all the various wires and fuses means I now know where everything goes and where to look if I break it again.
On the evening of day three, having been to the lock-up to dispose of the excess and get rid of the bikes, we went off to Wallasea Island just outside of Southend, to camp; that Wednesday if you’ve forgotten (as we would, had we still been living in a brick house with many rooms to escape to), was the day October woke up, stretched, remembered that it was supposed to be an autumnal month, and opened the heavens, blew some gales and tipped down rain for around eighteen hours solid.
It’s all been a bit up and down since.
The first night I discovered that the Gaslow Gauge has a very short span between Green, Amber and Red (signifying the gas has run out). I discovered this while cooking some rice. Fortunately we have the expedition cook-set, so we broke out the Camping gas stove did the rice halfway, put the pan on a cork mat, insulated the pan so it would stew in its own juice and got on with the chilli ... it was a bit of a faff, and a little embarrassing ... but to quote the Pope `Shit happens’. The expedition stove is a great contingency; without that it we would have had a long drive to the nearest chippy (there isn’t a bar or restaurant at Wallasea Island).
Losing the gas meant that the hot water heater locked out. I had to read the manual to find out what the light sequence meant, and it took a week to reset it, because I had other things to do. Wallasea has great showers, and wash up facilities. So I isolated the gas to the heater, and the light flashing was just a reminder that I had a job to do eventually. Resetting the water heater required a specific on/off/on/off switch sequence to clear the error; failing that it would have been covers off for a full reset. I managed it second attempt with the main switch sequence ... It was a bit of a faff. Lesson learned, and I know how if required to access the manual reset but hope never to have to.
So it rained on the Thursday. It rained without pause. We said at least half a dozen times that we would put on our waterproofs and go for a walk, but we didn’t. Instead we played `move the contents of the lockers around’, until we ended up with the same amount of kit we arrived with, but in places it could be got at ... and with room to spare. Who knew? ... it was a bit of a faff but well worth the effort.
This took us to Saturday afternoon. We had to pack and leave for midday which was mostly dry or drying out. Once we’d packed up we took a walk alongside the River Crouch by the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project (link attached it would take too long to explain). http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/w/wallaseaisland/index.aspx
We then drove back to Tilbury for an evening of beer and carousing with our friends the Smith-Wells of Essex. We parked on their drive, made up the bed and then socialised.
On the drive to Tilbury, I saw out of the corner of my eye a silver flash. I looked down and to my left and saw a drip mark on the floor. I felt ill seeing it, because it meant water was above the headlining inside the cab. However to cut a long story short it turned out to be condensation. It did however mean that I didn’t want to head back to a campsite until I knew what was going on. We texted the Harrisons of Essex to see if we could park on their drive again, so I could do the required investigations and any repairs required. I checked the three original ambulance aerials, and GPS node and they were fine. Then I dropped the cab light cluster and a desert spoon of water fell to the floor. And that was the extent of the `alleged leak’.
There is a space between the headlining tray and the roof of the cab that has no insulation. Fortunately Lance had some sound deadening foam and I have a spare tin of high temperature contact adhesive for jobs like this. I lined the roof inside and stuffed insulation into all the frame voids around the cab the same as I’d done for the rear habitation area. I also cut slivers and tacked them to the inside of all the trim panels. It was a bit of a faff, but there are two benefits from this: 1. Moisture can no longer condense on painted metal, run down the headliners support frame into the light cluster and “shock horror” the `Central Locking over-ride switch’ (a design over-site if ever there was one). 2. The main cab noise has abated almost completely; there is nothing for engine noise to resonate against, our voices are now completely clear to each other and the stereo which was great before is now ... I think the word is `EPIC’!!!!!!
The cab condensation issue wasn’t the last of our troubles.
Read on, the Auxiliary belt hadn’t been replaced when the clutch was done, we hadn’t been charged for it so it was just another visit to Benchsound. So on the Tuesday we dropped the moho back to Benchsound (I could probably change the belt myself but just didn’t have the confidence in getting it correctly tensioned to take the chance ... I did however ask them to get me a spare just in case it comes to it). And by feeling the tension and observing the play I’ll know how for next time.
Belt replaced, we chased Toomey Vauxhall to find out if the second electronic key fob was ready, and lo and behold the delivery time had stretched from 3 to 5 days to 7 to 10 days. I was to say the least pissed off. I knew what I was told when we put the deposit down, but what can you do? Whining wouldn’t make it appear, so we had another night on the Harrisons drive. And fine company they are ... one feels as if they would quite happily let us live on their drive in perpetuity.
On the drive back from Toomey’s I heard that familiar tictictictictictictictictictictictic coming from a wheel that indicates an object being stuck in the tyre tread. You always hope it’s a bottle top or a stone. However late that day I looked the tyres over and found an 8mm bolt head flush with the tread on the nearside front wheel. Fortunately the tyres are new and the bolt was short. It had holed the tyre but not catastrophically. So in the drizzle and wet I had to jack up the van and do a tyre change (those tyres have only been on for six weeks). It was a bit of a faff, but now I’ve used the jack and wheel removal kit (very neat and clever ratchet design ... makes up for the shit headlining support), so would be confident roadside ... you must find the silver linings.
On Wednesday evening (this brings us nearly up to date) I called Toomey Vauxhall, both the key and the fob where in, and went to get the key programmed on Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon, after lunch one final time with the Harrisons, we left to drop some papers and a laptop at my parents and then proceeded west to Trowbridge and the Hardy-Smiths of Wiltshire.
You couldn’t make the next bit up.
We drove 139 miles round the M25 and M4 to within 100yards of our final destination to get fish and chips because it was late. I turned off the engine and did a bit of waiting while Amanda went to the chip shop. And when she came back I turned the ignition key and ... you guessed it; noting happened.
After checking the obvious: immobiliser fuse (we just had a key programmed to it that day), the battery was charged (we have the meter built into the habitation controls), and the main fuses ect. I concluded that I wasn’t sure what was buggered between key and starer motor, and that in the dark I’d be hard pushed to find out. So I called the AA ... to discover my membership (auto re-enrolment is enabled) had lapsed at renewal last year. I was cross, I have had to re-join and get an additional charge for the call-out, and the AA can provide no explanation as to why they didn’t collect their money (investigations will continue on Monday).
In any event the AA man turned up in what can only be described as record time (fifteen minutes at the longest). I listed the symptoms and we concluded that it would be the Starter Motor at worst. As there is a cab LED that would indicate the engine immobiliser being buggered. I knew the new starter motor (just not the how), but that’s why you have the AA. He found a disconnected live wire due to an over-size Bullet clip from the battery (remember that sometimes lax NHS maintenance contractor I mentioned before ... prime example of `bodge it and leg it’). It’s likely had a new starter motor at some point and when they re-made the ends they used the wrong connectors, and stored up trouble, in the form of movement leading to corrosion of the clip.
Now here’s the funny bit: the wire had been disconnected by a falling torch that one of the Benchsound engineers had left in the engine compartment (poor old Benchsound lost a torch). At some point after we left my parents, we had been over speed humps, dislodged the stuck torch, it hit the wires as it fell and pulled the corroded connector off, the torch then came to rest on the exhaust where it mostly melted (good torch as well ... gutted).
One has to say at the moment when the engine failed to run I felt ill (theme developing here). It was a bit of a faff. However if you look on the bright side, it couldn’t have been better timed. The wire would have gone at some point because the connecting clip was oversize and had corroded. The lost and ruined torch exposed the fault when it fell, I also discovered my AA cover was up the spritz, and the man from the AA replaced both of the worn cable ends to the starter motor, and we were back on the road in under an hour with a hundred yards to drive, and finally because we were in a car-park in a motor home we just sat down and ate our dinners while we waited.
So now we are residing on another drive. I’ve fitted Amanda’s door pocket and some blanking grommets in the rear doors. And we’ve had a lie in this last two mornings, I didn’t wake up until 10.30am Friday morning, Amanda closer to 11am. It’s been a fortnight of high drama, intrigue, heartbreak (melodramatic cobblers), and highs. We’ve popped our tyre change, electrics, gas and water fault cherries, now we just have to get across the channel without sinking the ferry.