On 23rd April 2017 Jay, DM and I woke up to the second morning of our own, personal, awfully big adventure. Life in a motorhome!
Iggy the Hymer was slumbering peacefully in the Sunday morning quiet outside the Scottish Government building. Considering we’d been at our friends’ (most excellent!) wedding until the wee small hours we should really still have been slumbering too. But…to steal a few quotes, and cliche a few cliches we were far too excited to sleep! Or even to be hungover! There were ants in our pants; the road was waiting; the game was afoot. Iggy was back on the road and we, had a ferry to catch!
The team at Knowepark Caravans in Livingston had done a cracking job – God Bless Them One & All!! Iggy’s broken nose had been fixed in the nick of time, and we’d picked him up on Friday, ready for today’s drive down to Calais and our six week, test tour, to Portugal and back. The butterflies were churning!
It had all been a bit of a whirlwind since then! We’d packed our lives into Iggy before he went to the workshop, so thankfully only what we’d kept for the week at our daughter’s had still to be transferred into the van. But!! Wait! What was this?! As we drove Iggy out of the workshop an engine management light blinked out at us from the dash. Oh no! What now?
With feelings of utter panic and dejection Jay pulled over while I grabbed the Fiat manual from our “Iggy” cupboard. A quick fumble through the contents and we identified the strange, ominously red symbol, as the injector warning light. The manual said we could still drive – particularly as the light was just popping on and off – but it didn’t bode well for the start of a six week, 6,000 kilometre drive! Definitely time for a mechanic!
Back into Knowepark to get the address of the nearby garage who do the engine work for them. Feeling sick we drove the fifteen minutes to the garage praying they would be prepared to look at Iggy for us. And that they could fix him on the spot!
It has to be said the guys at the garage were absolutely great. They were chock-a-block with work, but very kindly pulled a mechanic free to have a look at Iggy. Result!!
“Ummm…Where’s your diagnostic plug?” questioned a puzzled, time harassed, oil splattered mechanic, from the floor in front of the driver’s seat.
“Our what?” Jay and I responded in perfect, synchronised, cluelessness.
“Should be under your dash mate. This plugs into it.” returned the frustrated, but still polite young man, holding up what we came to know as a diagnostic tool. “Tells us what’s wrong.”
“Errrrmmm….I’ll just ask the guys on the Hymer group!” I squeak, “We only got it a few weeks ago. Hang on!”
Much frantic Facebooking later I am able to inform the (now three!!) mechanics prodding the darkness under Iggy’s dash that as Iggy has an early 2002 Fiat Ducato JTD engine his diagnostic plug is not in the dash. Oh no indeed! If he’d been a late July 2002 model he would indeed have had the standard, modern pin set up, under the dash. But our old gent had a two pin plug under the hood, next to the air filter. Thank you Hymer Owner’s Group!
Tense with hopefulness we held our breath as the Elder of the troupe of engine magicians disappeared under Iggy’s bonnet, and returned, holding a length of wire and small attached plug triumphantly in the air!
“Nah sorry love. Nowt we can do for you. Don’t have a connection for this. Too old.” He grimaced apologetically, and the triad of wise faces looked downcast. “Don’t know where you’ll find one. Have to go to a Fiat Commercial place I expect. I can give you the number for the one in Glasgow?”
With the growing fear gnawing in my stomach that I’d bought us a wrong ‘un I dredged up a smile for the helpful mechanics and thanked them profusely as I guided Jay and Iggy out of the garage – the new phone number clutched numbly in my hand.
There followed a frustrating, and increasingly disheartening, hour of phone calls. Garage after garage suggested a new place to try while apologising that they did not keep equipment for older vans. Every stone was overturned, and our happy train journey to collect Iggy that morning was a lifetime’s distant memory ago. Our trip to Portugal looked sure to be cancelled, and we turned disconsolately back towards Edinburgh.
“What about our old mechanic for the car?” said Jay. “I know he doesn’t have space to work on it, but he might be able to tell us what to do?”
And so a quick phonecall and a half hour drive later and Gary was prodding Iggy, revving pedals and listening to engines. With one, easy shrug of a shoulder he told us the joyous news that we should probably get away with the trip!
“Nothing wrong with the engine,” he predicted “Sounds fine. You need to get the diagnostics done to find out why the light’s coming on, but your engine’s okay. I’d just go for it. See what happens. If it does start to play up you’ll get it seen to over there as easily as here. But your engine’s fine.”
Hallelujah! Oh my giddy aunt what a relief! Thanking Gary profusely, and grinning like things that have had grins surgically implanted on their faces, we trundled Iggy down to Ocean Terminal for a well earned beer and a rest before the wedding in the morning!
And now, at last, here we were. The 23rd of April. A goodbye, bacon butty breakfast from Greggs and a final pre-flight check and we rumbled Iggy through the sunny, Sunday morning streets and onto the A1 – Southbound. Four hundred and seventy-eight miles away Dover’s white cliffs were waiting to bid us adieu, as we caught an early morning ferry to Calais. If our grins got any wider we’d be in danger of our heads falling in half!
The drive down was, without doubt, one of the happiest days of our lives. Even DM was chirpy from his shotgun seat up beside Jay. The dreaded light flashed on once in a blue moon, but was mostly quiet. The sun was streaming, the roads exceptionally quiet, and we stopped every couple of hours for a break. We didn’t want to reach London before midnight when we should get plain sailing round the dreaded M25 and over the Dartford crossing.
Iggy ate the miles! It was all still so new to us, but as the road turned under our wheels we grew more and more relaxed. The high up view from an A Class motorhome windscreen is superb. The ride was easy and quiet, and we were so exhilarated from being here that we never grew tired.
It really was the most perfect of days. We floated through the darkness and into the night light of London. Iggy a silent white ghost, gliding through the beautiful emptiness of the sleeping city. And on, on to Dover, and Calais, and dawn.
Our ferry out was booked for 06:40 and it was only around 3 a.m. as we slid past the famous cliffs and into the quiet port. As hoped they waved us straight through for the next departure and Iggy had only a few minutes to wait before Jay nervously drove him up the ramp and onto the boat.
I don’t know how we didn’t burst! Right there and then as we locked the door and made our way up and onto the deck! Just fourteen months ago we sat in a cave house in the mountains near Granada and decided to get a motorhome. And now, here we were, watching Dover’s ever symbolic cliffs being swallowed by the night as we moved out into the Channel.
An hour and a half away lay France, Calais. A few hours sleep and then the first day’s journey through Continental Europe. We were here. We had done it. We had really done it!
Hands held and eyes wide we went inside in search of coffee.