Archive | June, 2015

Are you spectating the Tour de France by motorhome?

28 Jun

utrecht This year’s Tour de France cycle race begins on Saturday 4th July in Utrecht, Netherlands. The first day sees a 13.8km time trial then on Sunday, a 166km run out to Zeeland. If you are going by motorhome or campervan into the mountains further South then you could be seeing sights like this

motorhomes at tdf During stage 18 on Thursday 23rd July, don’t miss the new climb at Lacets de Montvernier (below).

lacets de montvernier A truly stunning climb ! I cannot wait to see the helicopter film footage on this section. If you are going, please, please send in info via the comment facility day to day. Come and claim your 5 minutes of fame ! We certainly cannot get to see the early stages but if the mood takes me and I can convince my wife to suffer the mileage………… may still grab some action later in the event?

Not long now until we can enjoy the Summer “Campervan Style”

26 Jun


Family commitments are keeping us very busy again. When guests are travelling thousands of miles to visit you cannot simply ignore those long delayed home repairs. So, in between hanging new light fittings, painting those things left in just the undercoat paint for far too long and other myriad chores……..  I gaze out over the front of the caravan and watch my beloved Nissan campervan waiting patiently to be raised from restful slumber and point South towards sunnier Continental lands.


This is what it’s worth waiting for. A folding barbeque, bikes loaded and dreaming of turkey steaks and wine from Carrefour, frites from the campsite bar ( perhaps an extra chilled Leffe Brune beer whilst waiting in the bar) and plenty of exercise in the sun. Getting my son to house sit. No shortage of volunteers as they all know about the booze in the cellar and my poor stock keeping ! That is one joy of having a campervan. Anticipation of good times ahead ! In France, small things add up to much greater pleasures. A fresh baguette. Tomatoes that smell like they used to do , some local cheese and a small glass of red. At the side of a quiet road where all that can be heard is a tractor 12 km away and insects lazily buzzing in the shady wood. Can’t wait ! (Well actually I can. I have to……..) But  For

waiting still    Once the domestic jobs are done, I still have to connect the lighting board wiring and fit new tyres but almost prepared for trek South. Then when we get back, we still have enough Summer left for more UK adventures. Watch this space.

Shropshire and Welsh Borders visit

22 Jun

cambrian-railway-museumcambrian antiques

Day out today to Oswestry and Wrexham. Visited the  Cambrian Antiques centre next door to the Cambrian Railway Museum. The day started showery and cloudy but at Ellesmere Lake the sky was blue and the waters took on the colour of the sky. Highly recommended.

ellesmere lake shropshire

We allowed the sat nav to show us some “short cuts” and got to see some stunning Shropshire and Welsh countryside and villages. The border here is very convoluted to say the least. The facilities in the Kampa really came into their own today but we cheated by buying lunch from a Morrisons at Wrexham. We also visited Bryn Y Grog Antiques at Wrexham. We returned home tired but pleased with some plant holders for  the old walls of our cottage and my wife delighted with some French lace curtains big enough for a pair of double French doors. She is an absolute bargain hunter but always pays what is asked. In this case £3.00 , yes £3.00  The unit at the emporium was closing and a clearance sale was ongoing. Found some lovely new tarmac on the A525 west of Woore. The Kumhos behaved like “hot” racing slicks. Fifty mph can feel sooooooo good on a snaking summer road!!!!

bryn y grog antiques wrexham Bryn Y Grog: like your loft, only bigger !!!!!!!!

France beckons. More new tyres. More!!!!!!!!!!!!

21 Jun

michelin pilot sport PS2

We are fast approaching 23,400 miles in the Kampa and with our pilgrimage to France on the horizon, I think thst I will have to get the tyres checked to see if they can safely function for a return trip with caravan in tow? The Kumho Ecsta LE Sports have performed really well. Quiet running, good in the wet and certainly grippy enough even for “making good progress” , I am impressed with their even wearing and function BUT, they do not seem to last too well as I do not drive quickly (usually) and try to adapt a smooth , fuel saving approach most of the time as I am quite “tight” ! Would Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 s do the trick????? Would they last long enough to justify the added cost. I will know soon and may have to break the crust on my wallet and invest to find out. I do have an inbuilt respect for Michelin. For one thing, Michelin have had a factory in nearby Stoke-on -Trent for years and I have great faith in what they produce. Also we researched tyres for a major corporation as part of an engineering role years ago and Michelin’s expertise is second to none. I also spent time at other major UK tyre plants ( in another job…….. I have had a few!) and again Michelin stood up well. That’s not to say the competitors are less capable. I think that I may be biased. Before “friends” comment. It is NOT because I resemble Bibendum see below.


You have seen The Danbury Doubleback before, have you not?

17 Jun

doubleback danbury 2doubleback danbury 3doubleback danbury  Yesterday, I posted about a caravan with a pullout. For some time now, Danbury have been producing a VW T5 based campervan which pulls out to almost 8 metres in length. The pullout weighs around 150 Kg  and you can expect around 36 mpg. They cost from around £55,000  which is around what you would need to pay to get similar space but in a much larger “Motorhome” package. OK, there’s no shower room and perhaps the kitchen is not as comprehensive but once again, what an interesting piece of kit, I hope you will agree. See the impressive  Doubleback website and Practical Motorhome review  here:    

Progress with Bike Rack and an Australian Teardrop caravan

16 Jun

gidget teardrop pulloutGidget-teardrop-brochure A friend sent me the link to this very innovative teardrop caravan. It’s described as Retro due to the apparent historical use of these type of camping trailers in it’s homeland Oz. Not one for us because of the outdoor (or under awning kitchen) but it’s got to be of great interest for the tent/camping fans. I certainly find it a most interesting use of such a small footprint. Have a look at the selection of videos on YouTube. From about 18,000 Oz dollars. see     (sorry , it’s a cut and paste job.

Gidget seem to be continually developing the design and there are smaller, lighter, motorbike , trike and smallcar versions in progress. Anyonae imported one or planning to do so??????? IMG_0403IMG_0404 Got back from London and the tow ball had arrived from Ebay. Bought an aluminium spacer and longer bolts then fitted it on the back of the Microlight. The bike rack has less tolerance in the vertical plane than I remembered and the spacing needed to be spot-on for a nice fit. The padded support bar sits perfectly against the strong, timber re-inforced body moulding to which the pull handles are fastened. Deflection is minimal and seems no different to that when the carrier is on the Kampa hitch. May go the whole belts and braces route and instal brackets to pick up and secure the support bar. It will help reduce rubbing on the gel coat of the caravan. Still got to wire up for a lighting board which is not as simple as first thought but it will be worthwhile to keep it all legal.

A campsite in London.

12 Jun

crystal palace printcrystal palace cc site

I first stayed at the Caravan Club’s site at Crystal Palace over 40 years ago. It has not changed much since then. Crystal Palace park is adjoining and well worth visiting. The area is technically Sydenham but locals are rightly proud of their name.

crystal palace dinosaurCrystal_Palace_athletics_stadium

Just seven miles by road from the House of Commons in central London is Crystal Palace Park. This green haven, perched high above Sydenham was , until the great fire in 1936, the home of the metal and glass structure built by Sir Joseph Paxton.

Today, it is a very large recreational area with a superb sports stadium, collection of dinosaurs, petting zoo, boating lake and a very good cafe. Next door is the Caravan Club’s campsite which is so very convenient for visiting London. There are both Underground rail and overland rail connections. Recommended destination. While we were there, the weather was very hot, sunny and continental. Book well in advance if you want to stay on the CC site. You can pitch a tent. You don’t have to be a member. Vacancies currently start from August but only the odd day can be booked until September.

The Club Site is packed with vehicles from all over Europe. If are visiting the UK and want to see London whilst you are here, this has got to be right at the top of your list of places to stay. The weather was hot and sunny when we were there. We had a massive walk, a lovely outdoor lunch and even visited the sports stadium which was hotter still. A fabulous facility in it’s own right.


A bargain compact camper van for sale in Ayr, Scotland.

5 Jun

drivelodge joey

Loads of people have been in touch via the blog discussing low cost, economical camper vans which can be used every day as the only vehicle. This Drivelodge Joey , for sale in Ayr, Scotland on ebay has been reduced in price to LESS THAN £12,000.00. It’s a 2009 Citroen Berlingo base with Drvielodge pop top, double bed, awning and much more. In my opinion it is a real bargain. Make the effort and grab a bargain before it’s sold. It’s quite rare but with a Citroen base, easy to keep running. Near to Prestwick , south of Glasgow, it’s not far to go. A real alternative to an NV200. There, I have said it……

Hitch carrier made and fitted to Caravan chassis

5 Jun

, freedom microlite cycle carrier

Still awaiting delivery of a new tow ball and bolts which should have arrived by now. Got the bracket welded up by PJW in Stoke-on-Trent for a fair price of £15.00. Put two coats of  Aldi metal paint over a 48 hour period. This gave a super high gloss finish. Very impressed and easier to use than Hammerite. Marked out the mounting holes and centre punched. I needed a new 18mm diameter drill bit. These varied in price from a hefty £16 odd to an extortionate £51.00. Drilled the holes going up in 3 stages from 4 mm via 12mm and finally 18mm for a snag free job. The chassis is about 3mm section channel and strongly designed. I used very large 3mm washers behind the HT m16 caravan hitch bolts. There is virtually no flexing visible when trying to “wag” the hitch bracket but needs checking again when completed. Thus far, the job looks good. Where’s that postman. Sorry ! Post person. On a different topic, I have just fitted a second dash cam on the rear window of the camper van. It’s a later version of the one facing forward in the cab. Let’s reveal those tailgaters! Cheap insurance in my opinion. We have a wish list of about 10 places to visit with the bikes once we have sorted the carrier. Really looking forward to getting back to our old pastime.

This evening, a gentleman knocked on the door. He is about the 8th caller trying to buy the caravan!

Fitting a cycle carrier to rear of Freedom Microlite.

2 Jun

tow ballBefore it started raining…… Happy June 1st !!!!! I went out armed with a steel tape, pen and paper to measure up for a method of carrying bikes on the back of the Microlite caravan. Whilst laying there on our slate frontage, our neighbours came past and seeing me on the floor, wondered out loud if I had fallen from the caravan roof again. A quick inspection revealed a sturdy channel section across the rear and a second channel in a smaller section running centrally down the “spine” of the chassis. I decided to fit a standard tow ball to the cross channel with bolts to either side of the spine. The carrier plus our lightweight bikes should not put excessive load on the chassis. I shall carry out further checks on this once the bracketry is fitted. I mocked up the desired position for the tow ball and carrier and measured for a spacer strut to put the tow ball centre in the right place. A stabilising , thickly padded frame sits close to the strongest section of the rear caravan wall. I made a sketch and drew up the simple extension strut for my friendly welding shop to manufacture. I then ordered the following:

  • A tow ball   £8.59p
  • A pre-wired 7 pin (12N) socket for the lighting board  £5.50p
  • 4 x m16 high tensile bolts to attach the extension strut and tow ball £9.50p
  • Two 10mm thick steel spacer plates pre-drilled to fit tow ball £7.20p


The spacer plates will be welded to a 50mm diameter pipe to fit between the chassis and the tow ball. Once fitted , I can check for deflection and flexing. Photos later. Total cost thus far is around £33 or so. I already have the carrier. I can carry the bikes whilst towing and even re-fit the carrier quickly to the back of the Kampa van if we want to cycle out away from site. Example: camped at Carnon Downs and wanting to cycle the Camel trail at Wadebridge/Padstow ? No worries.

extension strutThe extension “strut” will look something like one of these. If it all works safely , I will post the dimensions for others to convert. Not sure that the demand will be huge….