Our original plan in order to get used to the van was that we would spend a few nights sleeping in it in our driveway before we went on any overnight trips, however best laid plans and all that!
Our very first trip began in January with an unexpected overnight stay in Littlehampton visiting my nutty Aunty Elaine so that we could attend the surprise party my Aunty and my cousins Melanie and Matthew had arranged for my lovely cousin Michelle’s 50th birthday.
We were so pleased to be able to celebrate with them and I was glad that my Aunty had come up with the brilliant idea of us staying down there in our van although we were a little nervous about our first overnight stay.
We had a great time with our family and we all met up in the morning for breakfast at the cafe down the road before Darren and I set off for a long weekend in Falmouth for our friend Stu’s belated birthday celebrations.
On this trip we learned that:
1. It’s not a good idea to stop in a lay-by for a cup of tea if it’s right beside a busy main road because it’s like being in a boat on a choppy sea as the vehicles whistle past and you end up WEARING most of your tea.
2. Not to believe the special motorhome SAT NAV (even though it has the van length and weight programmed in) because it still unnecessarily takes you through the centre of town (Falmouth) in the rush hour, down extremely narrow roads and then tries to send you down a CUL-DE-SAC. Darren was getting wise to it by then and ignored the SAT NAV because, as he pointed out at the time, a cul-de-sac is a DEAD END and funnily enough when we got to the entrance of the campsite, on the opposite side of the road we could see the end of the cul-de-sac the SAT NAV had tried to direct us down and there were staggered metal barriers across it AND cars parked on both sides of the narrow street!
3. We also learned that the campsite owner at Menehay Farm, Falmouth was very patient when Darren reversed the van onto our pitch, missed the hard standing and churned up the grass, the owner very kindly directed him onto the pitch properly and did it without shouting at him.
4. We discovered that you must check that all the doors are closed before you set off on a journey. That lesson was learned when we were on our way to The Eden Project and we heard a banging sound and noticed a cupboard door opening and closing as we drove along. That was slightly irritating but then our irritation turned to horror as we noticed the microwave oven was inching forward on the shelf, the slamming door was stopping it from falling out until the plug got caught in the door which gave the microwave oven the opportunity to start sliding even further forward, we were on a very busy road but luckily at that moment we came to a trading estate so Darren turned into the estate and I rushed to push the teetering microwave back into the cupboard and check that the door was closed this time.
5. As we continued on to The Eden Project we discovered that it’s a good idea to read signs carefully rather than react in a panic, we weren’t sure which road we were supposed to take to get there and we followed the first sign we saw which took us through teeny little country lanes, we discovered when we left The Eden Project and followed the correct signs that there is a big road that runs to and from the attraction!
The rest of the stay went well and we had a lovely time visiting Stu.
On the way home I remembered that most of the journey down had been on duel carriageway so it was the perfect time for me to drive the van for the first time. Darren found a lay-by that had a long slip road back on to the carriageway and we swapped over. Five minutes after I started driving we came to roadworks where the carriageway lanes had been coned off into narrow lanes and I spent the next two miles petrified that I was going to drift over into the lane next to me. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t but although I’ve driven it a few times since then Darren and I are both happier if he does most of the driving, however ‘practice makes perfect’ I suppose (it may also give us a lot more grey hairs!).
We experienced another surprise as we drove up towards Stonehenge when a little car pulled in front of us on the duel carriageway, as the driver became aware there was another motorhome in front of us, she almost immediately pulled out again and shot off up the road, we were very excited when we suddenly recognised the car and consequently tried to attract her attention …….. it was Darren’s sister, she’d been visiting friends in Honiton and was on her way home which was a three hour journey away!