C Day – Caravan Collection Day! 10th May…
Today, the early heatwave that had made the papers miraculously exchanged itself for a Severe Weather Warning. It was a big day. The day we were to collect Caravan Kismet. I can’t tell you how delighted we were to have been blessed with such perfect ‘Introduction to Caravanning’ weather!
The dealer, Webb’s, gave us a 2.5 hour introductory lecture on our new caravan. We received detailed advice on putting up and collapsing the folding table and how to remove the microwave plate for travel. Well that’s the bit I remember. Then they hitched us up and sent us on our way, notepad full and minds reeling with corner steadies, Whale pumps, Alde heaters, Aquarolls, CALOR cylinders, Wastemasters, gas fridges, scary cassette toilets and when to use Elsan blue, pink and green, but not a whole lot about hitching, unhitching and all those funny bits at the front…
Our first journey was an epic. We travelled approximately 1.5 miles! “That’s a nice van! Been caravanning long?” was our greeting from one of the wardens, Steve, as we arrived at the Salisbury C&CC Site. “Our first day…” we muttered sheepishly. Steve grinned warmly. “I’ll try and put you on a fairly level pitch, then…” he said, helpfully “Follow me.”
That we were ‘All The Gear and No Idea’ became evident immediately. We couldn’t even unhitch the caravan! “Are you having trouble?” asked a pleasant chap called Granville, who wandered over having spotted that we’d been fiddling about with our tow hitch for about half an hour.
Granville soon had us sorted. “Pop on the caravan handbrake and just pull your tow car forward a couple of inches” he said. Lesson 1 – The reason that we couldn’t unhitch was because we were suffering from a compressed tow hitch.
Although Steve had kindly found us a pitch that we could drive straight on to with no manoeuvring, we had reversed to line up the hole for the ALKO wheel lock, which has to be EXACTLY in the middle of the gap in the alloys. It was lucky that we couldn’t unhitch; if we had, the compressed tow hitch would probably have shot forward as it de-compressed and punched a dent in Big Blues behind!
We managed to set up almost level, attach the hitch and wheel locks, then get the water, waste and electricity connected within, oooh, about five hours! We sat back with a frothy cuppa (we hadn’t purged the water system) and rather enjoyed the relaxing thunder of torrential rain hammering down on our Alu-tec roof. Certainly, it was preferable to the sound of torrential rain on canvas, which, come to think of it, has accompanied our EVERY other camping experience!
The Awning – A ‘No Tears’ Approach 12th May
Today, the caravan became a Faraday Cage. Our perfect ‘Introduction to Caravanning’ weather continued with lightning at 13:00! It cleared a bit later, so today Mark decided to tackle The Awning. We had specified the awning very carefully – we just asked the dealer for “The biggest one” and oh my – this one came complete with its own Double Entendre. It was HUGE!
I was a bit scared of the awning – and with good reason. My caravanning cousin warned that divorce proceedings have frequently been initiated over an awning. However, I can share with you now the perfect ‘No Tears’ approach to putting up an awning. I supervised from a chair, having a cup of tea with my friend Helen, because the sight of a brand-new awning on the ground was like honey to a bee; it attracted every bloke on the site. They all wandered over to rub their chins with Mark and help him organise his poles. Helen and I regarded them happily from the comfort of our now sun-bathed deck chairs and christened them ‘The Erection Section’
Our motorhoming friend Steve came to join us on site, with his brother, Steve. I mean Andrew. Excuse me, but they are twins. It was like having Steve in stereo! Steve is a trailblazer of trailers; a Titan of towing; caravans, motorhomes, boats, portaloos (yes really!) Steve is the Martini of reverse towing – any time, any place, anywhere, he can get it in. Ooer missus. (Sorry, but I did warn you about me and Double Entendres.)
It was a relief to have some experienced brains to pick. We had questions to ask – and we didn’t even know what they were.
As the week ended and our caravanning experiment came to an end, I took the Canine Crew for their last run through the buttercups on the ramparts of Old Sarum while Mark packed up. I saw him do it. Then I saw him do it again. I ran over in panic; I was greeted with a perfect, wet cow pat defaced by two Kai-sized trenches straight through the middle. I walked back to the site unable to contain my laughter. Kai ran on ahead happily, straight through a newly-mown field, unconcerned that most of it adhered to the wet cow pat.
“What cute dogs!” At the gate, an American lady leaned down to stroke Kai his full length. She recoiled in horror as her fingers met with soft fur, encrusted with a mixture of wet and drying cow pat, embedded with grass clippings that felt like iron filings.
The showers on site have a very insistent ‘No Dogs’ sign on them, not that we would use the facilities to cleanse a cow-pat covered cavapoo, but there is no hose either, so there was nothing for it. Puppy Love Is – crispy, green, cow-pat boy on your lap all the way to Selsey, which was where the caravan was going into storage. At least it took my mind off the terror of knowing that there was now a 1.5 tonne, 7.35m caravan following us all the way there. My heart was in my mouth for every one of the 62 miles.
Caravan storage – The Myth. I imagined that it was just like airport parking. Drop off the caravan; they pop it away for you. Ring up when you need it and arrive to find it valeted, ready and waiting for you to just hitch up and go.
Caravan storage – The Reality. Turn up at windswept, deserted, gravel yard; try to find a way to reverse into a space approximately 1mm wider than your large caravan. Find that there is not enough manoeuvring room in front of the space for your 40ft rig*. Want to cry. Husband – confident in reversing skills – sticks it in, wiggles it about a bit and gets it right first time. Feel very proud – and almost faint with joy to have towed and delivered an undamaged caravan safely into storage! Stop feeling sick with nerves and discover that you are STARVING. Take cow pat covered dog to café with outdoor seating area and try to conceal him and his singular aroma in a corner. Have all day breakfast at 3pm. Sigh with relief.
I am not sure that we could class ourselves as real caravanners yet, but we had certainly been blooded!
*We were, as yet, a very long way from discovering that it is possible – and much easier – to push the caravan around by hand on level ground!
If you would like to catch up on the first couple of chapters in our Caravanning story, please click on the links below.
World Wide Walkies – The Story So Far
Relevant Reviews & Blogs
- 30s Site Review – Salisbury C&CC Site
- The Knowledge – Towing Safely & Legally
- It Worked for Us – Getting Rid of STUFF!
- My Tips on eBay Selling
The blogs about getting rid of STUFF are there because, never having owned a caravan before, our plan is all about renting out the house to tour full time!