Sunday, July 29, 2012

Changes afoot

Back in May I mentioned some changes and additions to the van but never quite got round to writing about them. Things have come on even more since then and my husband is currently in the process of lining the roof with plyboard ready to carpet it. Up to now we've used the van as it was, half finished with just parts of the sides boarded but the roof was just the bare fibreglass. When ever we were cooking or if it was raining and cold outside (which it has been mainly for the last two summers) condensation soon built up on the fibreglass roof making it quite wet to the touch. This is also a problem overnight from the condensation produced by our breathing. We've pondered over this problem for some time as I keep thinking that if we line the roof, even with insulation the condensation is still going to be there and eventually whatever we line the roof with is going to become damp. However it's no good the way it is. It doesn't look good and is obviously unfinished and every time we put things in storage over the cab they get wet from the roof.

In the end we decided it can't stay the way it is so we will just have to take the chance of damp occurring and decided to line it anyway and hope for the best. Before we went away in July my husband had already lined the part of the roof that goes over the cab. I love this space as I can fit loads in there. Unfortunately the space has become a little bit smaller because of the lining but I can still fit my two large plastic underbed storage containers up there. It's also good because now when we get up in the morning we can shove pillows and anything else up there without it getting soaking wet from condensation. We used household loft insulation between the roof and the plyboard. There is also a layer of tin foil between the insulation and the board with the idea being that the foil will make it a little bit harder for heat from the van to get through and meet up with the cold of the fibreglass roof, just hope it works.

Loft insulation in space over cab.

Underbed storage containers hold loads

We are doing quite well for storage. When we first started out with the van I did wonder where we were going to put everything. We've got the small wardrobe that as well as fitting our hanging clothes in, also fits two fold up camping chairs, a small TV, waste water bucket, the battery and various other bits and bobs and still has a small cupboard above the wardrobe that fits folded clothes. The underbed storage container on the right also contains clothes such as jeans etc and the one on the left holds our plates, jug, wine glasses, teatowels etc. Pans and kitchen type stuff reside in a cupboard under the microwave and the gas bottle and water container are in another cupboard under the sink. We also have a couple of colourful plastic tubs and small plastic baskets which are handy to store other loose stuff in like soap, shaving stuff and the like. These are really handy because it keeps everything together and can easily be moved out of the way into the awning when we set up.

Brilliant for storage.
Out with the old......
Last year when we started the van we looked at hobs. They are a ridiculous price for what is effectively a two ring hob and a grill if you're really lucky. They all seem to be made by one manufacturer Neff, not exactly renowned for being cheap. So we bought a second hand hob/gill and combined sink unit off ebay. We were never happy with it. The sink was OK but the cooker was old and rusty. Not really sure why they insist on making the pan holder out of thin chrome covered rod. The chrome cannot withstand the heat of butane gas and soon ends up looking very shabby and the metal glows moulton red when heated up and becomes worn and mis-shapen. 

Old hob
And in with the new........
We decided to cut the sink off and keep it but get rid of the hob and grill as it didn't look good. We now have the sink with a worktop at the side of it replacing the hob with a portable camping stove for the time being. This is not acceptable as far as the DVLA is concerned as they state it must have a fixed hob but we have our change of vehicle now and this is only a temporary measure until we have the funds for a new gas hob. It is so much better. The camping stove has two rings and a grill and after making a board to cover the sink, sits on top of the sink when we're using it with a nice work surface to the side. When we're on the move it is held in place with bungee elastic straps and only cost £30 from Go Outdoors.

The sink is under the cooker which can easily be accessed if needed.

Green silicone mat - great for putting hot pans or the kettle on.

Cooking is a whole lot easier with the new layout as there is somewhere to put plates when dishing out. The cutlery now fits neatly under the worktop where the grill used to be. When not cooking the worktop can accommodate the TV we bought which when you can actually get a signal is so much better than staring at the walls at night or watching the tea go round in the microwave.

So that's about it for changes so far. All for the better and we have just purchased some fabric liner for the walls and ceiling.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A summer washout

We went away again a couple of weeks ago in our campervan. Again I'd booked a week off work but this time we hadn't actually decided on where to go or booked a site. As everyone living in the UK is aware this summer has been an absolute joke. Cold temperatures and rain - lots and lots of rain. Compared to some areas we have actually been quite lucky where we live in that whilst it has rained a lot and it is cloudy almost every single day we haven't had the torrential downpours that other areas have seen with flooding. Even so I didn't have a whole lot of enthusiasm for going anywhere and spent more time looking for sites that might not be too waterlogged or where there were hard standing pitches rather than grass and looking at weather forecasts hoping that once we picked somewhere it was unlikely to actually flood. It's not the best way to find a holiday.

In the end we decided on Conwy Touring Caravan Park in Conwy, North Wales. We went there this time last year and quite liked it. It was sunny then. It was our first time away in our little camper, the glasses were kind of rose tinted. This time the glasses were distinctly clouded over and rained on. We arrived Sunday, went to Llandudno on Monday to do some cycling when it miraculously managed to stay dry and came home Tuesday as it did nothing but rain the whole time we were on site. In the rain, which was pretty heavy most of the time it didn't look quite so attractive. There are a lot of trees on this site and to be honest dark green trees, cloud, rain and mud coupled with the fact we had no TV reception, no mobile phone reception and no 3G internet, doesn't really make for a fun evening in. In fact the highlight of our two evenings there was to hurry over to the washing up area and wash the pots which because there is only two of us and we only had spag bol both nights, it didn't take up much time.

It was an absolute joy putting the awning away on Tuesday morning - not. It was pouring with rain, chilly and by now the pitches were getting really quite muddy. As we thought it would be better to get mud all over the outside of the awning rather than the inside, after taking all the pegs out we decided to carry it over to some grass that didn't look too muddy and tip it over onto it's side so that the outside of it would be face down on the grass when we took the poles out. After we'd finished scrabbling about on the floor in the wet grass we managed to get the poles out, dry off the pegs and shoved the awning in the back of the van and headed off for home. I would never make it as a festival goer, I just couldn't cope with being up to my eyeballs in mud.

All is not lost......
It wasn't a complete waste of time. We had a good day out in Llandudno on Monday. The campervan is brilliant as a day van. We parked up near a beach, had lunch in the van, got changed into our cycling gear and went off to the centre of Llandudno. Bikes are a brilliant way to get around. It means you can park up your van outside of the centre and ride in, so no roaming around looking for car parks. You can have a brew whenever you fancy one, if the weather takes a turn for the worst you've got a change of clothes with you and if we shut all the curtains we can even use our portaloo. Complete self sufficiency on a day out - love it.

Learning Curve
It was also an opportunity to test out the slight modification to the bed. When we went away in April I found sleeping in the van quite uncomfortable. The bed is a bench seat by day and opens out into a bed at night. The bed is made up of various bits of foam slotted together but as there was no side on the bed these pieces tended to drift apart in the night meaning we ended up sleeping in gaps that are not good for your back. Before we went away my husband made a side that slots onto the side of the base of the bed at night which keeps all the foam pieces squashed together so that they don't drift apart, problem solved. We now have a comfy bed again. We've also got rid of the quilt that we used last year and replaced it with out trusty old double sleeping bag that we've had for years, this takes up much less space during the day. We also discovered that the 12v battery system appears not to be working. We don't really need it as long as we have an electric hook up. The only thing we couldn't use was the tap because the 12v electric operates the pump. So that's something that still needs to be looked at though it's no big deal.

We also learned that there are better caravan sites than Conwy Touring Park. It's a vast site but it does seem to be getting a little bit worse for wear. They don't seem too interested in making any improvements to it. The washing up area was a little shabby, the roads seem to be developing pot holes here and there and in the rain it's a pretty dismal place to be. If you like things really quiet then go for it but we were getting just a little depressed there and I don't think we'll be visiting again.