Nigel DonnellySee other Blog articles filed in ‘Our 'vans: Project Wilma’ written by Nigel Donnelly
With new tyres fitted, our Volkswagen T25 campervan with a Reimo conversion was fit, or fitter at least, for the road. So we needed a place to go. We didn’t have a weekend to spare, but we did have a day, so we decided to drive to Runnymede, to park the 'van and make a cup of coffee alongside the river.
Making a coffee by the river is not the most punishing test of a VW campervan’s capabilities, but it would at least let us get familiar with how she – Wilma – worked.
Before we did this though, we had a lot of stuff to get rid of. The previous owner was emigrating to Australia so she was leaving all her stuff in the 'van for us to use if we needed it. Anyone who owns a camper, motorhome or even a car will know that, over time, all these vehicles fill up with stuff. Some of it is useful, some of it less so. Wilma was loaded to the gunwales with camping kit. We needed to work out what we wanted to keep and what we needed to get rid of.
We cleared everything out onto the pavement to see what we had. We quickly filled a couple of bin bags with old travel guides, road atlases, a lot of old rags and clothes, some very well used saucepans and a lot of old cleaning stuff. Two disposable barbecues, some old toiletries, a frisbee and a tiny black and white television found their way to the local tip, too. There was also a very tiny alarm clock with a homemade face which said ‘Wilma time’ on it. Kinda cute, but in the bin too. I’m a cold, hard man.
Among the clutter, though, there was a lot of stuff that was worth keeping.
We found a Camping Gaz table lamp, a lot of cutlery, some plates and cups and a few torches. They were all kept. Under the seat base, there was a petrol can, some WD-40 and a fold-up table. There were also three folding camping chairs, a bike rack and a portable DVD player. All kept. Sadly the furry seat throw, cushions and old bedding were not so lucky.
With all the stuff we didn’t need bagged up, Wilma felt lighter and even a little cleaner. We gave all the surfaces a wipe with anti-bacterial cleaner and with that, packed our kettle, a couple of mugs and set off to Runnymede.
Runnymede is only a half-hour drive from home and it was an uneventful journey. Once we reached the car park, we found a nice spot overlooking the river, parked, lifted the roof and I set about firing up the hob.
It was not as easy as I’d hoped.
There were two gas cylinders – both different – in the locker behind the passenger seat, and there were two different regulators. One was fitted to the gas hose, the other was wrapped up ready to fit. I hooked it all up and we got a cup of coffee out of it. I made a mental note of the gas flexible hoses and regulators as things to be sorted.
Electrically, things were similarly messy. There is no leisure battery installation, with all the 12V lighting running off the vehicle battery. There was little chance of flattening the battery however. Only one of the three fluorescent light fittings actually worked and precious little else is powered from that system.
Incidentally, the mains installation is yet to be tested, but the fact that the 'van still sports continental two-pin sockets and the mains input socket is wobbly, suggested it needs checking before powering up.
Still, we didn’t let ourselves get too down. We knew that our VW campervan was a rolling project, rather than ready to go, but realising she was capable of furnishing us with a hot drink and a place to sit on a sunny day means that she already does enough to let us enjoy owning her.
A bigger test was on the horizon the following week however. A 220-mile round-trip to Taunton to learn some retrimming basics meant we had our longest trip yet to look forward to, and our first overnight stay. We’ll let you know how we got on soon.