The trip – the start of the adventure

Wednesday dawned. As do most Wednesdays. But this Wednesday was the start of our adventure.

I’d gone round the house marking stuff for the removals people about what was to stay. They had an extensive typed schedule of what to move and we had sent them the keys.The theory had been that they actually came and packed stuff before we left but life doesn’t work like that and they claimed double booking. So we told them to come and move us after we had gone. The stuff was going into storage anyway.

We couldn’t change our ferry booking date because everything was finely tuned round the certificates from the vet for exporting the dogs. For anyone thinking of doing this in future – the key combination is ferry booking, vet’s appointment, and getting the certificates from Defra which are posted to the vet for them to complete. When you are in the midst of selling a house – and moving before completion of sale – it is not an easy one to juggle. Believe me.

Our planned early start ended up being lunchtime. In fact we were so late that I ended up shooting out to the organic shop for a couple of sanis just before we left, to keep us going on the road.

The trailer was loaded up to the eyeballs with all the essentials that you need for a European trip. Tents, stoves, ex-mil 6ft trestle table, generator, chain saw, spare exhaust, spare manifolds, brake shoes, seals, angle iron (to feature later..) three spare wheels plus tyres, axle stands…….

We shut the door and got in. This was it. The big moment, and no I didn’t take a photo. The Hillbillies cruised slowly down the avenue, waving regally at the odd few neighbours who were about. It was a great feeling to be on the road.

The good thing about setting off late was that there was no way we could contemplate a detour to see my parents and have a tearful goodbye scene.

We had allowed two full days to get down to Portsmouth to give us time for the unexpected. Which had now become a day and a half. The ferry left at some unearthly hour, 7 or 8 am or whatever, so we were booked into a guest house for the night before.

Leaving the city behind, we cruised down the A1 at a leisurely 50mph. The old girl didn’t seem too bothered about pulling a trailer full of not-so-scrap iron and went well.

Until we got to the services outside Sheffield. The exhaust tail pipe was not looking too good. In fact it was rotto. Adrian twisted it off and chucked it in the bin. I stood there aghast wondering what on earth was happening. We resumed the journey without tailpipe.

As it was November it got dark pretty early. We started looking for somewhere to stop when we got to Loughborough. It seemed there was a conference on and everywhere was full – either that or they didn’t like the look of the Series III and the hillbilly trailer.

But eventually someone directed us to what was presumably the old station hotel. It wasn’t cheap – £50 a night for tarted up tawdry tat, but it was a bed, and we could take the dogs, and breakfast was included. Oh and there was a car park too.

We decided against the unbusy hotel restaurant, had a couple of drinks in the busy bar and then wandered out to find an excellent Chinese restaurant. Another walk for the dogs and an early night was called for.

The next morning, after picking our way through the largely inedible breakfast, Adrian set about finding a garage to weld the spare tail pipe onto the exhaust. (Always handy to carry spare tail pipe we find). As luck would have it, there was a decent garage not five minutes away who agreed to do it immediately – ish. Adrian marked the exhaust where he wanted it cutting, held it in position while the tail-pipe was welded on, and then bolted it on to the silencer.

Even if we had brought the welder with us in the trailer with all the other essentials, we couldn’t have fixed it ourselves. We had no power source and the generator doesn’t have enough power to support the welder.

I sat in the hotel room writing a couple of letters in my unexpected leisure time. The Landy was ready mid-late morning, and we set off again. Just as well we had allowed extra time.

We reached Portsmouth before dark. There was no-one in at the guest house. We parked up and Adrian looked at the electric fan. It didn’t seem to be cutting in. We rang the RAC. They wouldn’t be long.

It got dark. The guest house people returned and I booked in. The RAC still hadn’t arrived. We rang them again. And again. And again. Seemed there was a computer breakdown. We risked leaving the vehicle and walked up the street for a quick take-away pizza.

The RAC guy arrived around 10pm. It was freezing cold at this point sitting in a Series III in November. I had wimped out and gone to the bedroom (which wasn’t much warmer) but not much point in two of us shivering in the Landy.

As with all electrickery it was simple. A cable had come apart due to metal fatigue. Adrian came to bed looking brain-dead and frozen cold.

We were leaving too early in the morning to be served breakfast so there was a sort of offering awaiting us. Some naff cereal, instant coffee and some bread to toast. We toasted a couple of slices of bread and cleared off.

We reached the ferryport and joined the queue – things suddenly looked better. Ports are exciting, and the Landy had got us there in time, in spite of a couple of minor blips.

Time to embark. We drove on, clunkety clunk. Locked up the Landy and went upstairs to explore the ship.

And then we set off. We moved slowly through Portsmouth harbour in the half light, leaving everything behind, and heading out to sea.

Pic courtesy of Britanny Ferries.


Home to Loughborough – 288 km

Loughborough to Portsmouth – 276 km

Total UK mileage: 564 km ie 352.5 miles

Landy problems

Broken tail pipe
Time taken – a couple of hours, but that was mostly waiting for the welder to be free. Cost, can’t remember, but somewhere between £20 and £40.

Electric fan breakdown
Time taken – five hours waiting for the RAC. Five or ten minutes to do the job. Cost nil – apart from RAC membership cost of course.