In 1998 I talked my wife, Sandra, into our hiring a motorhome for a holiday in England.
I wanted to try an enormous American RV; nothing small for me. We hired a Rockwood six-berth, K-registered (1992) ’van –which had a price of £49,999 on its windscreen – from Midland Motorhomes, in Coventry, for a week. To hire it cost us around £1000, including insurance.
Before we took it home, the hire company owner insisted that we should take it out on the road to make sure that I could drive it. The vehicle was 32 feet long, automatic and left-hand drive – phew!
I was fairly confident about my driving abilities, because in the past I had driven right-hand cars on the Continent, and handled really large vehicles in the Territorial Army, but that had been back in the early 1960s when I was just 18.
I got behind the wheel of the RV and set off cautiously. I passed the informal test, but Sandra said she had never seen me sweat so much!
Then it came to buying fuel to get us home; I had never put so much fuel into one vehicle. In fact, I stopped short, when the pump was telling me I'd bought £100-worth, which didn’t even fill it up.
Once we got back home, we filled the ’van with plenty of food, sleeping bags for four, cutlery, pots and pans, and two bikes on the back. We were ready, except that we had to go to a funeral in the next village. We'd left our car at the motorhome dealership and we couldn’t take the ’van, so we walked there, in our funeral clothes, in the blazing sun.
Cornwall, here we come!
We set off the next day, heading for Newquay, in North Cornwall, and stopped for a rest on the M5 and then had to stop again near Exeter for more fuel. The attendant asked me which pump I was on.
“Four, five and six,” I replied.
We found a good campsite near the airfield. Access to it was via narrow roads and Sandra was worried: “What if something large comes the other way?” No sooner had I said that we would sort it out and squeeze by, than a bus appeared. We held our breaths and squeezed through.
Our daughter and her friend went right into Newquay on their bikes. We had warned them that in Cornwall you can go down to the beach easily, but it’s hard work coming back up the hills. They cheekily got a lift back to the campsite, with their bikes, in another motorhome.
We thoroughly enjoyed the experience: our Cornish holiday proved to be pretty expensive, but really good.
I retired in 2000, and realised that I had been hankering after a motorhome ever since that first tour.
At last, in 2013, we took the plunge! We bought a Fiat Ducato-based Swift Royale. It's not as sumptuous as an American RV, but it burns less fuel. The open road was calling – and who knew what would happen next?