Monday, 29 January 2018

Goodbye Maisy...Hello Bertie

Readers of the blog will have concluded long ago that spontaneity is not my style. We never venture abroad without a detailed plan with distances noted, accommodation costs calculated, possible routes explored through 'Streetview', hazards evaluated. I don't think I have ever been any different. I always was, even as a kid, the class slightly spotty, myopic geek. So for me any unexpected outbreak of impulsive behaviour seems more than disconcerting; it feels a little disturbing, a tad transgressive.

By the third week of January a prolonged period of downpours punctuated by blizzards had taken its toll. Since Christmas Buxton has been cut-off by heavy snow three times, in-between it has been bitterly cold, we have only had two bright days between dull periods of rain and snow punctuated by fog  We are used to being active, the feeling of being trapped indoors becomes claustrophobic. In an attempt to occupy ourselves we dug out the kid's Wii Fit gaming console and took to jogging around its virtual island on the basis that at least in Wii Fitland it was always bright and sunny. 

However, there are only so many times you can circumnavigate the virtual island before you begin to reconnect with your inner hamster - we needed to get out. So we went to the moho show at Events City in Manchester a couple of Sundays ago. We failed to escape the rain, it was torrential, but the event itself is under cover  and we entertained ourselves for a couple of hours fiddling with shiny new vans; none of them came close to meeting our baseline requirements - transverse rear double bed, rear garage big enough to accommodate two Ebikes when we use secure storage abroad, solid simple design, no frills, big enough to live in during the winter without getting cabin fever. We did find a rear lounge style Adria that seemed to fit the bill so far as simple no frills design was concerned.

Later that evening we searched Autotrader and found an Adria rear garage model for sale in Geoff Cox Motorhomes near Derby. So, we decided to take a look there and afterwards pay a visit to Oaktree Motorhomes - their site had a low mileage Burster Ixeo for sale with our preferred layout. The continuing  saga over the malfunctioning 12 volt supply and problems with the fridge last autumn has sapped our confidence in our current van. Perhaps we need to change vehicles later in the year, we mused, if not before we head for Scandinavia in late spring, then certainly by the time we depart next autumn for a six month trip. What we were absolutely clear about was that right now would be a ridiculous time to swap vans given we were headed to the Far East in less than 10 days and were not due back until mid-March.

So that's exactly what we did. I am unsure how we ended up putting a deposit down on the Burstner Ixeo in Oaktree given Maisy's malfunctioning electrics - but it happened. My reputation for risk aversion and overplanning is in tatters. I am shocked!

So, tomorrow - goodbye Maisy....

Hello Bertie...

Well not quite, in fact hello to the photo of a van identical to Bertie filched from Google. Such was our impulse to buy the other day at Oaktree Motorhomes that we forgot to take a photo of our new family member. I realise that  Bertie the Burstner must be a commonplace nickname, but it was deemed 'cool' by the family Lisboastas, whose credentials in the creative industies help keep we greyhairs on the straight and narrow so far as contemporary questions of cultural propriety and matters of style are concerned. If Sarah deems Bertie a cool name, then Bertie it is.

Struck by a burgeoning sense of buyer's remorse I enquired on 'Motorhome Adventures' Facebook group, somewhat in trepidation, what other owners of the same van felt about it. The majority were very positive, a few moans and groans about the lack of electrical sockets and lack of lighting in the cab, but on the whole a big thumbs up. This proved to be quite different to the response of friends, family and neighbours who all were keen to point out how much we would miss Maisy - as if we were about to take some long term furry friend for a final journey to the vets. I am not so hard-hearted that I will not feel a momentary pang of sadness when we hand over Maisy's keys tomorrow. We have had a fabulous time over the past four years thanks to Maisy. In the previous post I mentioned we had travelled over 42,000 miles in that time; more to the point, we have lived for about 600 days in the van. By my reckoning that is 10 - 12 years of 'normal usage' in less than four years. The logic of this is inescapable, Maisy will need lots of bits and pieces fixing soon, both in terms of the habitation equipment and mechanically.

It will be a worthwhile project, there are tens of thousands more miles in the old girl and I hope whoever the next owners are they have as great a time as we have had. I have nothing but respect for the people I see travelling in older vans - classic Hymers and the like. Motorhomes should not be throwaway toys. I am also a realist. To make a success of touring in a vintage van one of you needs to have a modicum of technical skills and understand some basics about electrical systems and minor mechanical repairs. Neither Gill nor I possess that knowledge, on long trips we need the reliability that a more modern van offers. Of course any machine can break down, however a newish, low mileage German built van proffers a little more peace of mind we hope. There are other advantages too, a much better bathroom, dual fuel heating and compared to our double wheeled Transit considerably improved mpg. I worked out that a mere 5mpg improvement in fuel efficiency will reduce the bill for diesel on one of our six month trips by about £280 - that's more than a fortnight's camping fees at a mid-price ACSI site, or more impressive still, 56 bottles of wine at 5 euros a shot.

The new van will demand we change our behaviour somewhat. Without the extra overcab bed  and the tons of cupboard space we have at present we will have to be a little more minimalist about what we pack. This is a good thing, in terms of material goods, more is not necessarily better. On the face of it swapping motorhome two days before we fly to Singapore is not the most sensible thing we have ever done. It does mean we have something exciting to look forward too when we return in mid-March. Scandinavia in the spring, Croatia, the Balkans and Greece next autumn with a return planned early in 2019 through Sardinia and Corsica....the planning spreadsheets are completed already....Heels for Dust!


  1. The new van looks great, i'm sure it will prove ideal for all your future adventures. We are still counting down the weeks until I finish work at Easter, then off to France & Spain in our elderly Laika for 3 months at the end of April. Following your blog has been a major inspiration for us to pluck up the courage and hit the road, we can't wait. I'm sure the blogs from Bertie will inspire our future travels. Good Luck on all your travels.

    1. Thanks Steve. Just about to drive to Heathrow, Singapore, New Zealand Shanghai here we come!