It was a cold night. There was a light drizzle when I woke at 7 am and it was still dark.
Leaving the aire I rejoined the motorway and continued towards Calais. The weather was fickle, one minute sunshine the next rain. The wind picked up and the sky turned more and more cloudy as the morning wore on. I saw a sign along the motorway showing a picture of a lifting canal lock and decided to go take a look. There were apparently four locks and I was at number four. It was quite a feat of engineering as the difference in height between the lower and upper canal sections was around 30 metres. There were two lifting sections one each side of the main building, one at the lower level and the other at the high level. The lift worked by having barges and other vessels move into one of the lift sections, depending whether they were going up or down the canal. When the barges were secured the lift would start, one side counteracting the other. Although I didn’t manage to see the lift working I reckon two large barges at least could be carried up or down at a time. When you consider the weight of at least two loaded barges plus the weight of the water needed to keep them afloat, the lift mechanisms must be massive.
Continuing on I crossed into France not far from Lille, The wind had picked up to what seemed like gale force, the camper buffeting about in the gusts. Every now and again the rain would stop and the sun would shine brightly for a few minutes which made for a surreal driving experience. When a truck passed the standing water would be blown by the wind horizontally across the front of the camper, the sun would catch the water droplets and create a rainbow effect and it appeared as if I was driving along a rainbow, really weird. I never got to the end of the rainbow though so never found the pot of gold!
Needing to get onto the internet to book a ferry I stopped at a McDonalds in Dunkirk. I booked a ferry with My Ferry Link for 07:30 tomorrow morning so will stay at the Ferry terminal tonight. Hopefully the strong winds will ease up or it could be a bumpy crossing.
The wind had died down by the time the ferry left Calais, the crossing was fine and passed quickly. I took the A20/M20 to the Dartford Crossing and continued on the M25 and A1 until I reached Bedford, where I planned on staying at a small campsite a few kilometres from the town.
I booked Lottie in to Young Conversions to have a new fridge fitted, the existing one only seemed to work intermittently. I suppose you cannot complain, the original fridge is 23 years old and was fitted by Young,s when they first built the camper back in 1991. Times have changed and so have the rules and regulations when it comes to fitting equipment. Back in 1991 the fridge was fitted with just an exhaust outlet for the gas operation, no air vents were fitted, which means the fridge is working much harder to keep cool. These days the fridge manufacturers stipulate that two air vents must be fitted, which must be cut into the side of the vehicle. No one was prepared to replace the fridge without putting in the vents and I thought it would be a good idea to take it back to Young’s as they knew the vehicle well. It took all day to cut the vents, fix the grills and change over the fridge, Rob of Young’s made a great job of it and although I could have done without the expense, I knew the job had been done properly.
It was interesting talking to Rob’s father Mike Young who had started the business back in 1989. Mike and his wife were teachers and loved the campervan lifestyle. Not finding a conversion that really suited them they decided to convert a van themselves. After lots of positive comments and having been asked to built another one by an interested couple, the idea of a business came to them. Having given up teaching and setting up a full time conversion company they went from strength to strength. They liked the Volkswagen LT vans and quickly became one of the leading convertors of this model. Lottie my own vehicle was the 9th van they converted and its a testament to the quality of their workmanship and design that Lottie is still going strong, with all her original equipment, apart from the fridge and the boiler, today 23 years later.
I spent another few days visiting family and friends, enjoying fish & chip suppers and curries, which I don’t get very often when travelling and buying a few bits and pieces I needed. Although the weather in England was unusually mild for the time of year I knew it wouldn’t last, so was keen to set off and find some winter sunshine.
It seems I've been travelling all my life. For the past eight years I've been following a simple, nomadic lifestyle full time touring in a camper van and meeting with other like minded travellers.
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