I thought I would get to a much greater age than 28 before my evenings were spent viewing caravans online, but life can be funny like that. To be honest, I didn’t care about any stigma attached to this past time, I was researching my dream. After many painstaking hours, I had found the style I wanted. A small rounded vintage style, circa the 1960s. The only problem was they aren’t that common and therefore they aren’t that cheap. I left Simon the unenviable task of hunting one down.
It was several months before I got a message from Simon telling me he had found the caravan of my dreams. I hadn’t even seen it, but he had taken a leap of faith after a few glasses of wine and bought one on eBay. To be honest I think he had just got tired of searching. I was so excited! “When can we collect it?” I asked. “Well, the thing is I didn’t really pay attention to the location” he sheepishly replied. “It’s in Leeds.” My geography is pretty awful, I knew that was north but how far it was, I had no idea. Google Maps to the rescue.
“That doesn’t seem that far,” I said, looking at the map. 4 and half hours drive is fine. Simon explained that towing a caravan would slow the journey and there was just one other thing… “Oh god, what have you done?” I was now a little worried. “Well, the good news is it was cheaper than we expected. The bad news is it hasn’t moved in quite a while, so we will need to get a trailer to tow it on.” His suggestion that we make a weekend of it and it would be fun suddenly felt a little shallow. If we were, however, to take this kitchen around Europe at some point then this would be good practice, wouldn’t it?
Hiring a vehicle with a tow bar turned out to be harder than we thought but after many phone calls, Simon managed to book a small transit connect from a local hire centre and a trailer from a separate place. We were booked. (Do you like how I’ve delegated all the scary serious stuff to Simon?) We would collect both on Friday night, drive up Saturday, stay over nearby, collect the caravan Sunday morning and be home for a roast and glass of celebratory wine by Sunday afternoon. As the meerkat would say, “Simples.”
The hire place was packed on the Friday night when we arrived. Patiently waiting our turn we were finally served reconfirming what we had checked and double-checked when booking by phone that it had a tow bar. That was the only part we really needed. The girl looked back at him blankly. “It doesn’t say anything about a tow bar on the computer.” I could see the veins on Simon’s baldhead starting to throb.
In case any children are reading this I will cut out the exchange of words that occurred over the next ten minutes and get to the outcome. The small nippy transit we had booked did not have a tow bar, but they did have one vehicle available, which did. Neither Simon nor I had heard of a tipper truck before this day, so when we walked out to view it, both our mouths dropped open. It was blooming huge. So big that if we could lift the caravan onto it, we could forgo the need for a trailer. Sadly that wouldn’t be possible.
With the trailer attached, we would be driving a vehicle over 11 metres long, not far off your average coach size. It had very little suspension, even less acceleration and the engine was very loud. Oh, and for good measure, we had never towed anything before either. It was going to be an adventure. Now we just need to find somewhere to park for the night!
Up at the crack of dawn, we were keen to get on the road (well sort of). First, we fashioned a temporary number plate for the trailer out of some cardboard and slowly began the drive. At least we felt safe enough that if someone did hit us we were unlikely to even notice.
Aside from the uncomfortable nature of the ride, we made the drive to a hotel we had booked – chosen for its large car park – near Wakefield. We were relieved to have made the first and undoubtedly the easier leg in one piece, well almost. Simon managed to hit a tree in the car park and broke a reflector pole off the trailer, oops! We entered the hotel ignoring the welcome from the receptionist and went straight to the bar for a drink.
We were meeting the seller at an industrial park in Leeds City Centre the next morning. Being it was a Sunday the roads into the city were thankfully quiet. Hopefully, we could load and be gone before the Sunday shoppers descended. Finding the location, we did a check of the caravan, pretending we had some kind of idea what the hell we were doing when really our combined knowledge was ‘they look like wheels and this bit’s the door’.
Next came a moment of realisation, that we really should have had a lot sooner. How exactly do you secure a caravan to a trailer? Thank god for YouTube. Ratchets are actually very clever devices, once you figure out how the hell they work. We attached every one we had as securely as possible, as well as tying on extra pieces of rope, string, sellotape, chewed up pieces of gum and anything else that could be tied or was adhesive that we could find. After two hours we thought we were secure, only to be told by the seller the door didn’t lock, so would likely get blown open by the wind as we drove down the motorway. Not ideal. Another 30 minutes later and we had fashioned a mass of some form of knots not found in any Boy Scout book and were ready to go.
I think it’s fair to say we were both shitting ourselves as we eased slowly forward out of the car park onto the now busier road looking like the travellers that often get moved on from Preston Park in the summer. Every time we had to brake, turn a corner, were passed by a car or a bird flew even slightly too close we braced ourselves for the sight of the caravan bouncing down the road in the opposite direction.
By some sort of miracle, and a mere eight hours later, we made it back to my parent’s house in Hassocks where we would store it. Relieved, tired and close to tears we celebrated by having a massive argument about how best to get it off the trailer and onto the drive. Such is life. Meredith, as I had named her during the journey home, had arrived, though. The first step of my dream was complete and what better way to start it than with a road trip adventure, the very essence of what my future plans with Meredith will hopefully be all about. Well, that and shed loads of yummy food.
Wondering what on earth this is all about? Read the first post in the series: Foodie Eshé… The Next Step.