The next European adventure - or jesus's old bra goes south

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Aug 18, 2008
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Oxfordshire/Berkshire borders ....
After last September's trip going pear shape with us coming back on foot and the westy following home a few weeks later on a transporter I was determined to return with a full 2 weeks away. So with a new engine nicely run in, correction after the Ninove trip put in place and a few useful bits added like a stereo, leisure battery etc and enough money spent to provide a bit of peace of mind we set off for the tunnel on Wednesday 9th aiming to visit France and hopefully grab some great ice cream in Tuscany. No set plan, just starting off the trip with a couple of nights in Epernay and visit a couple of champagne houses. I've spent most of my working life in hotels so following the wine list route was always on the wish list

To add a bit more protection from stone chips and the dreaded Kamikaze fly I'd bought the bra that used to be attached to jesus's great bus - so thanks Alex it worked a treat

The longterm weather forecast was not great but not much we could do about that, so armed with Cool Camping France, and an upgrade to Snooper's Ventura satnav for £49 which meant I could enter the exact dimensions of the bus and have access to all the ACSI campsites - which proved really helpful. Snooper want £99 just for european maps so to upgrade for £49 including the maps for a camper version was money well spent and it proved a really useful tool at times.

No problems with the euro tunnel and after a double circuit of the roundabout :oops: before we hit the right road south we were on our way.

First stop overnight was Epernay, this was a municipal site I think about 12 euro per night where you get your own hedge!

As you can see this was opposite us - so not very busy


We found time for a trip round the Mercier cellars, and a lovely trip into the hills for some sampling at a lovely family owned champagne house in Hautvilliers - just a few bottles ended up tucked safe and sound in the bus protected for the onward journey! A lovely village with great picture signs attached to many of the houses

We then started down the wine list run aiming to stop some where near Beaune. This is where the satnav with the ACSI campsites came into its own and a quick search for campsite within 10km brought up a good list and we found one in the commune of Savigny-lès-Beaune by the side of a tumbling brook within easy walking distance of a bar showing France's first game - what fun that was 0-0 after the first half and the local french already starting to shake their heads in disbelief at what they were seeing.

Next morning wandered into the village to the local chateau, picked up a couple of bottles for the journey and then spotted this on the front lawn of the chateau - apologies for showing this as a large photo but take a look to the left of the bus - not what you expect to see

Then on into Beaune as I'd always wanted to see the Hospices de Beaune and was not disappointed by that or the local market in the town square

The plan was still to head south and taking it gently always stopping to give me and the bus a break after no more than 2 hours at a driving stint - the french have got their stopping points so right this aire had great picnic areas on mushroom shaped seats and tables


This was part motorway and part standard road and the westy was going a treat on both road types, this shot was taken after a good few horseshoe bends and a view point at about 375m above sea level - what a great road this was not just for the bus but a great road for motorbikes.

I'd had only one scare earlier in the day when the oil pressure suddenly went off the scale - literally - but pulled into an aire pretty quickly and a careful search revealed that one of the sensor screw top had worked a little loose and was not making a good enough contact - tighten it up problem solved and a great sigh of relief

We were heading for a site picked from the cool camping book and were not disappointed - this was the view I woke up to


And there was so much space


This was the only place we bumped into another early bay - a really good usable cross over Danbury owned by a nice couple Pete and Lynne who were touring the opposite way round to us. Here we also caught the England v USA match - time for another beer that's for sure

Next morning the plan was to take a kayak down the river for a couple of hours but the weather was already on the turn so we packed up and kept heading south, shame this shot was taken the previous day and it would have been a good run down stream to the huge rock and stone bridges. This was one of the few days when the sun shone all day

Thought we were heading for a good site some 8km out of Nice, but it was a bit disappointing - it was not so much 'chilled' in between the olive and cherry trees but more tired and uncared for, so a longer stay didn't happen - best part was this view on the road up from the campsite - stunning

The next morning we headed for Nice and had already decided that heading into Italy was off the agenda as the weather was really not looking good, but we wanted a look at Nice and the coast road to Cannes and beyond. Nice was really disappointing and the sea looked just liked the Atlantic on a winters day with big breakers and blowing a gale - the only people happy were the wind and kite surfers in Cannes. This was a good weather shot in Cannes just before the heavens really opened

It was a good decision to start heading north, but the storm that we drove through was really not fun. You probably read or saw the pictures of the flash flood in Provence - that was the day we hit the motorway to escape it, the overhead signs indicated dreadful weather and it proved pretty scary, thank goodness I'd changed the wiper blades from the pretty looking OE ones to modern ones for the trip and treated the windscreen with Gtechniq's G1 ClearVision Smart Glass. A drop in speed and a white knuckle grip on the steering wheel got us through and the bus did really well. It wasn't until later we heard that 20 people had died and many campsites were evacuated with people loosing stacks of their possessions - bit lucky and thank goodness we hadn't hung around.

We ended up in another cool camping site, but thank god I still had wellies in the westy wardrobe from earlier in the year
This shot was the next morning after the rain had stopped

And this was the road away from the campsite as we headed towards the next destination Carcassonne.

Linda had read many books with story lines that featured the old medieval town and it was one of the few places if we were near that she wanted to see - so her wish was granted and we stayed on a site within walking distance of the old town, but a real tourist trap with more gift shops than you could wave a plastic crusader's sword at - time to move on and where we found probably the nicest site of all on the trip which was Camping Le Capeyrou at Beynac-et- Cazenac

Not the best photo but a well presented site with good facilities and just a lovely welcoming feel to the place, and it had the bonus of the place where we saw Mexico beat France - how great was that in a bar full of french campers, but also the next match was England versus Algeria - so the few English that were there were pretty quiet that night!

The trip had been a real mix so far, some great places and people found often by accident, weather pretty carp, the french were saying it was the worst spring and start to summer that many of them could remember and the rains were not helping the wine industry at all. But the westy had been running well we had covered somewhere between 1500- 1700 miles, but on the run into Beynac-et-Cazenac I noticed the odd noise as were turning at roundabouts, but it soon disappeared on the straights - didn't think I had a problem with any of the rear joints but decided that we would start to make our way back towards Calais at a gentler pace and give ourselves extra time stopping by the Loire for a couple of nights and then close to Calais - seemed like a good plan

And then it started to go pear shape again. The next day - Saturday - we packed away a wet awning and headed towards a site we had stayed at last September - just outside Brive the generator light came on as we went slow through some roadworks (pretty rare sight)and it was a wee bit noisy, lucky enough the slip road off towards Brive came up and decided to pull off. Managed to get round the slip road, spotted a car park on the other side of the road and pulled across to park up. Turned off the ignition and there was a fair bit of what can best be described as clattering - not a healthy sound. Could not see anything obvious, so called the breakdown service and they were on site within 30 minutes. Tried to explain the generator light and pointed to the alternator, but the westy would restart and the noise sounded like the starter motor would not disengage. So the breakdown guy said it was the starter motor, and told the AXA breakdown service that after the guys in the car park - it turned out that I had stopped in what can best be described as a big halford style car parts place complete with a workshop - also said that what it was. They said they could fix it but couldn't order the part until Monday, it would arrive Tuesday morning and probably no more than a couple of hours to sort and I'd be on my way. A bit tight on timing as we were still some 760 kms short of Calais but still doable to catch the tunnel train on Wednesday just after 1.30pm.

I was convinced that the starter was not the problem, or it it was there was another problem as well, so I spoke to the AXA people late again Saturday afternoon voicing my concern, because if other parts were needed there would be little time to get them there, they said speak to the workshop when they opened on Monday. So had a couple of worrying nights, pretty helpless, but although not the best place to be the proprietor of the business said we could stay in their car park, even though it would be locked up with all the gates shut, So pushed the westy round the back so it would be less conspicuous and Linda would feel a bit safer. Not a great place to be, but thank god we had our emergency loo tucked under the double buddy seat :lol:


So Saturday and Sunday drag by, rain still poured down Saturday night but bit brighter Sunday. Monday morning spoke with workshop and AXA who said the garage had confirmed that they had checked the alternator and it wasn't a problem only the starter motor - so don't worry we would still make the tunnel in time. But that day we checked into a hotel in Brive - there is only so much time you can park up in a car park next to a skip and still be on good speaking terms with your wife

You can guess the rest, new starter was eventually fitted at 4.30 ish on Tuesday afternoon, and yep the problem was not solved - there was a problem with the alternator and the fan. Now it was 5.30 so Calais was not looking good. The french were by now out of the world cup. Spoke with Colin at the Outermotive workshop in Warwick for some obvious things to check just in case something could be sorted, and the nut at the back of the fan housing was not loose, but there was a lot of noisy play. It was not going to be a quick fix. New starter motor taken off - not needed, a bill for 99 euro's for labour I really didn't need but which still had to be paid for ...

I was so angry inside that we got to this point, but the priorities had changed and I had to sort plans to get back to the UK the next day. So to cut a long story short, its a bit deja vu - the bus is coming back on a transporter again - we are now back home in the UK having got up at 4.00 am Wednesday morning to catch a train from Brive to Paris, taken a mad drive in a taxi across Paris from one station to another to catch the Eurostar, then across London to Paddington to catch a delayed train to Oxford due to people nicking cables and causing signal problems and then finally a taxi home to Burford. Got in at 5 to 3 after 12 hours not stop travel in time to see the England match

Yep I know sh1t happens, I know running a 40 year old bus is full of risk, but last Saturday night I was ready to chuck it all in and someone could have a lovely westy very cheap if they had pushed ££££ in my direction :x The fun had gone right out of this trip and as much as I had thought I had covered all the angles something unexpected went wrong

On the bright side there was a free music festival in Brive on Monday night and the place was buzzing with live music sets from nine different stages from 8.00pm through until 2.00am - I love live music, we were staying in a hotel and had found some great food that evening.

I can look back and have some nice memories with people we met, food we ate, some great places we stayed .. but its a bit harder to take this time

Just trying to get AXA to work hard at getting the bus back so that I can get it sorted before Camperjam, but its looking tight but not impossible, but plan B may need to be in place and I can see us staying in the Khyam awning

So there we go, sh1t happens, what you think are the best prepared trips can go wrong, but its given me an idea for 'friendly' VW and other classic marque help in Europe, but I don't think you can get the westy cheap at the moment!!!

It will live to fight on, I may think hard before crossing into europe again but hopefully will see many of you in Camperjam in a few weeks times - who knows
Nice write up, shame about the problems with the Van, but dont worry about that just think about all the posatives!

Looks lie you had an awesome time.
Some really good story's and pictures. Shame about the van in the end, but it'll get there. Mite turn out to be something and nothing.....but a real pain when you've got to be back.

I dont think my other half would have liked staying round the back of that garage.
Not the best ending but, you bit the bullet and did it again. The bus looks at home camped up in so many places, very nice.

It certainly makes me want to do it.

Looks like you were having a good time and having stayed and worked by Beaune a few times in the past its a really nice area with some great wine, love the fighter jets parked on the front lawn, as you say not something you see everyday!!

Sorry your trip turned sour again, its a great bus and I think you are having some bad luck with it but please don't give up on it, I've met you a few times and you are one of the good guys so stick with it as it would be a shame to loose you as an earlybay owner.

If theres anything I can do to help expedite your bus back quicker let me know, T5 and trailer sat waiting if needed
Gutted about the failure you have had again :evil:

Glad you enjoyed it overall though :mrgreen:

Welcome back ;)
looks like a great trip until the problems,

If the engines new and you fix whats up this time,there wont be much more to go wrong :)

seriously though i know how you feel,my crewcabs still in france after it died on the way to le mans a couple of weekends ago!

hope you get it sorted and keep the faith :)
Great pics and a great write-up. Shame about the breakdown, though.

We're off to northern France in August using some sites from the Cool Camping book - are there any I should avoid? ;)
sorry, reading my comment again makes it sound a bit like "nice pics, never mind your van tell me where I should go on hols" ... that wasn't the intention :oops:

Glad the van made it home safely and that you haven't lost the spirit!
blogdroed said:
sorry, reading my comment again makes it sound a bit like "nice pics, never mind your van tell me where I should go on hols" ... that wasn't the intention :oops:

Glad the van made it home safely and that you haven't lost the spirit!

No worries - and not taken that way in the first place!
Book is still in the bus but I'll double check when I get it back and let you know.
great first half trip and excellent pics. those kinds of things happen and we can account for it, happening twice is just plain bad luck and you did have good luck missing the floods though. they looks really terrible on the news :shock: , staill hard to believe 20 poeple could die, in europe in a flood, in this day and age :( .

Dont give up on it! and sounds like axa were a good help.
Sorry youve had more problems ... its always on my mind that 'anything can happen' and there is only so much you can do to reduce the risk at the end of the day.
Get the bus back, get it sorted and take stock. The rest of this year using it in the UK to truely 'shake it down' and then plan for next year?

I did like the quote "there is only so much time you can park up in a car park next to a skip and still be on good speaking terms with your wife" :lol: I fully empathise! :mrgreen:

As ever, anything I can do ...
You must be really cheesed off with leaving the van for a 2nd time but dont give up, stunning pictures and i'm sure it will be nothing serious.
Any updates?
froggy said:
You must be really cheesed off with leaving the van for a 2nd time but dont give up, stunning pictures and i'm sure it will be nothing serious.
Any updates?

Update this morning -

It's back in the UK and was due for delivery to Outermotive today to be repaired ready for Camperjam at the weekend looking more and more likely to be a damaged cooling fan and perhaps other alternator issues - but, its been damaged by someone driving into the drivers side at the rear corner in the recovery yard in Kent. Don't know full extent of the damage yet, hopefully know more this afternoon. But as an original bus, with all original panels and original paint everywhere I know it will never be as it was so I'm absolutely gutted as you can imagine

Sorry to hear the story is getting worse and I hope the damage is repairable, presumably at their cost.

As before if there is anything we can do to help please don't hesitate to get in touch,
They are beautiful pics, I echo what everyone else said. At least you're getting out and living life :mrgreen:

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