Thursday, June 09, 2011

Yes, We do "Loik Dawgs".

A number of weeks ago Tash and I were discussing about what we were going to do regarding accommodation at this years show.  The odds of the bus being completed were becoming ever slim, and she made it clear she didn't want to do another weekend in Chateau Benz - and neither of us wanted to camp! ... and so I found myself browsing ebay.  That's always how these nightmare stories start, right!?

Typically enough there was this really cute little two berth caravan up for auction.  Starting price was £300, with no bids and a few day to go.  Desperately trying not to fall into the "ebay trap" I merely added it to my watch list to see how events unfolded.  I felt quite pleased with myself for having not bid on it there and then!  I followed the auction, and with a few seconds remaining someone stuck in a bid for £300 and won the van.  Tash was a little disappointed we missed out, and I think she had kinda fallen in love with the little two berth Cadett.  Having looked around the net, £300 looked a fair price and so instead of being disappointed I sent the guy a message saying "if the winning bidder messes you around I will be interested, please contact me".

I left it at that, and thought nothing of it.  And then about ten day later my phone rings and a deep northern accent tells me it's mine if I want it, the winner bidder hasn't made contact for days and doesn't seem to be able/willing to come up with the cash.  Naturally, I agreed to buy it straight away - and then realised I had a caravan to collect, the caravan being in Wakefield and me not having a car with a tow bar!

A plan was constructed which went something like a) buy a new battery to get the Benz going again, b) make a trip to Bill's to chop and weld the exhaust so the Benz blows no more c) get Troy (a mate who runs a mobile tow bar fitting business) to fit a tow bar.  Simple, right?  The new battery cured the Benz's starting problems, and although it took us a whole day Bill and I did get the exhaust sorted and she runs quieter than ever!  Just the easy part to go now, get the tow bar fitted.  Except this proved nigh on impossible, as either posted tow bars didn't appear, or companies openly admitted that a tow bar for a 1990 W124 estate was like rocking horse poo.  And so, some two weeks later it became clear we would need to have one made, which takes a week ... except I go away in 3 days, and I want the caravan collected before I go away.

And so I bit the bullet, called the local van company and arranged to rent a van to make the trip.  And so yesterday Alfie and I spent the day on the road, cruising up the A1 to retrieve our very own pikey-wagon.

Remembering that nightmare journey to the port in December I knew I wanted to be prepared.  And so the Tuesday night I set about making road snacks - Nutella on bread, smoked cheddar and basil with spiced onion chutney sandwiches, and a tray of all day breakfast bars! 

And so after an early rise and a quick run out with the dogs Alfie and I collected our rent-a-racer.

Leaving Letchworth it was looking like a lovely day, but I had no idea if it would hold or not.

With Alfie enjoying his reflection in the wing mirror I wanted to get as many miles under our belt as possible.  Google maps had told me it was about 160 miles each way.  Alfie was a star though, and by the time we stopped for a break we had made good progress.  I had reset the trip counter when we left, and looking down I saw we had nearly clocked off 100 miles already!

All it took was a quick stretch of our legs and Alfie was keen to hit the road again!

But as we got closer to the outskirts of Sheffield the weather started to turn, and it did become 'grim ooop narth'.

Thankfully it was just a shower, and we reached our destination by around midday.  We spent about an hour with Neil (the chap selling me the caravan) who showed me around all his old barns and workshops and the collections of old cars, caravan, bikes and mopeds.  I could have spent hours there!  Amongst all the toys were some real gems including the Morris Minor which has only 11,000 miles, a really early Sierra with 30,000 miles and the original tax disc in the window, and a freshly restored MGB.  And there were LOTS of caravans!  This gives you a little feel for his place.

It was nice to get on the road home though, and even nicer to see us leaving the dark skies and thunderstorms behind!

I was expecting to stop a few times on the way home for Alfie, and although I was in no rush I did want to get back in time to return the van so I didn't have to worry about it the next morning.  Once more Alfie was an angel - each time he seemed to get restless, and I promised him we'd stop at the next services he'd fall asleep!  I made the most of it and kept trucking!  These guys passed us down the A1, clearly on their way to Dover and across to Le Mans.  As I thought back to our happy trips to the home of the 24 heures, and listened to that distinctive TVR rumble, the miles just clicked by.

Eventually Alfie woke up, just a few miles from home and so we stopped.  At Baldock services!  We had done 115 miles back in about 3 hours without a stop!  I took a moment to view the caravan - how hilariously small!

We shared a milkshake in the back of the caravan and then made the short trip up the A507 to home. 

 With the caravan unloaded, and the rental racer returned, by the time we got back Tash was already home peeking in through the windows to try and see what we'd bought!

I opened her up and showed Tash inside.  This is how it looks.  Through the door ...

The view to the rear of the van.

The table folds down, the cushion slide down, and it makes a nice little double bed.

Its a right little piece of Retro Cool ... right down to the In Car Entertainment!

We will certainly be doing the Retro Rides Gathering in comfort this year ... and Tash can't wait to get cracking with the sewing machine!

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