Making travel plans warms up the darkest of winter evenings and we motorhome owners look forward to road trips. The open road, the sense of freedom, the world unfolding through the windscreen.
But sometimes, no matter how cunning your schedule is, how open you are to adventure, things will go awry. Your travel plans will turn to ashes.
We had a road trip booked to Cornwall. Friends from Germany were visiting and they were about to experience the 385 mile journey from our house to Penzance in our old motorhome. Having read The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, like us, they wanted to taste the Cornish coast. We had an itinerary and they had B/Bs secured. It was going to be epic – in an understated English way of course.
We had even promised them a cream tea!
But our travel plans had to change!
The day before we were due to leave, one of our cats disappeared. Strange for her. She’s old and unwell so doesn’t stray far.
She returned much later…crawled back…and was obviously poorly. Our guests compassionately suggested that our best decision would be to remain with her. So they have taken our embarrassingly expensive railway system to Cornwall to continue their English journey.
We know that we have done the right thing. Yet we are disappointed not to be showing our friends the best of the British road network. Yes, the M25.
Below is a photograph they sent us –
Look at what you could have won…
It’s difficult isn’t it…making these decisions. We had just recovered from coronavirus in time. The freshly serviced motorhome had a shiny new MOT certificate. Family were coming in to feed the cats during our absence. Everything was booked. The van loaded. Bags by the door. We were due to leave in an hour – but in pretty good English, our friend said “we think you need to stay. We will take the train”.
Once we knew that they understood – and they truly did – our decision was easier.
We realised that we would not enjoy the walk knowing that our cat was facing illness with only one welfare visit a day. Postponing the road trip was our only option.
We walked our friends to the railway station then as we hurried back to the cat, reminisced about other road trip failures we have suffered.
What can go wrong on a road trip?
Usually if anything goes wrong, it will be the vehicle playing up. Our VW T4 Cree needed a full gearbox rebuild two weeks before a Scottish road trip. We were desperate to take her as she was to be our wedding vehicle there. Recovered from a remote riverbank, we had to find a mechanic competent and willing to do the work. Thanks to Last Transmissions ltd she proudly wore the white ribbons a fortnight later.
She’s also refused to start from a busy garage forecourt! We had planned a Christmas Lights Cruise with the Suffolk Bugrs. We blocked a pump at Stanway Sainsburys for several hours before being recovered.
There was a “red light” monster as we travelled to Whitby. We wondered what on earth had gone wrong! Read about our red-light problem!
We’ve had to complete a road trip without onboard water due to leaks. We had the gear box linkage secured with cable ties for a few of our journeys. The drive shaft rattled and banged its way through more than one of our adventures.
Oh…and the infamous hole-in-the-exhaust trip where we sounded like a tank as we roared through the mountains of Scotland. Hobo Gav’s innovative fixes lasting a few miles at best!!
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Even our German friends had fallen victim to the travel plan gremlins! Their Cornish holiday had been cancelled by the provider at short notice so they visited us instead and we intended upon walking the same route together.
Truthfully, most of our road trips go without a hitch, as they should. BUT it is the ones where there is an issue that we remember as the real adventures!
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What tools should you buy for a road trip?
We have the basic amateur tool kit – appropriately sized screwdrivers, sockets and spanners. And pliers, cable ties, tape, torch etc. Also a small hammer and the wheel brace. And a full set of replacement fuses and bulbs.
We discussed buying a bottle jack in case we had a flat tyre, but Gav decided that the risks outweighed the benefits. Having a large vehicle balancing precariously on a jack beside a road thundering with trucks is not anyone’s idea of a road trip adventure. We read the tale of a man whose motorhome collapsed onto him as he worked on the wheels which confirmed our worries.
But since neither of us is particularly competent at mechanics, we leave the big stuff to the experts and purchase breakdown cover.
Is breakdown cover worth the cost?
Although ours is usually reliable, any vehicle will break down. And recovering a motorhome is a costly exercise. A loose screw can blow away your travel plans! Our recovery policy has proven to be worth the price and we are fortunate to know someone who is an absolute wizard at fixing her up.
But this time, the problem will not be fixed by a few repairs or gungum. The cats are living, breathing bundles of bad attitude and poor behaviour. They are family.
We love them as much as the diesel-guzzling-money-eating motorhome! So, we’ll give the cat the time and attention she needs, and the Cree will be patiently waiting.
As a friend approaches the end of their life, it is a stark and painful reminder that our time is also limited. We must grab our opportunities for travel and adventure whilst they still present themselves.
Just not this time.
Have you had travel plans go wrong? Let us know in the comments below…
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