On yer bike!

Earlier this year we bought a pair of e-bikes to take touring with us. To further that end, we also bought a tow-bar mounted bike carrier. We haven’t actually taken the bikes anywhere at all due to being unable to find a cover that fitted them properly and then because we agreed the part-ex of the Hymer and couldn’t add any miles to it whilst waiting for the new van. We did go out cycling locally, the once…

Fast Forward: >> the new van has of course got rear doors and it seems that even if we fitted a tow bar that the carrier we have won’t work for us because it wouldn’t drop down far enough to get those doors open.

We looked at an alternative solution. As the bikes are too heavy for a door-mounted bike carrier we considered a very swanky arrangement of a bike carrier that is chassis-mounted and swings clear before the doors are opened. Very expensive but even more problematic was the payload issue. They are very heavy bikes.

Fast Forward a bit more >>>>> we decided to buy folding bikes that we can carry in our luggage space.

After intensive research, Mr Snail elected to purchase a pair of Gocycles. He found that the main French dealership in Nantes had a couple of lightly-damaged ex-demo bikes at a slightly advantageous price. He bought them online but travelled over to Nantes last week to collect them. We had intended to go away for a couple of nights but the heat and pet issues led me to stay home with the furries and he went for a single overnighter and returned next day with the bikes.

Mr Snail’s is grey and mine is white

We have been out on them twice and found them serviceable and also manageable on some of the rougher surfaces around our home. We have also been out on the earlier purchases because we now have to decide whether to sell them or not. We have the option to retain the sturdier bikes for riding around the lanes at home and just keep the folding bikes in the van for use when we are away. So, comparisons and evaluations are needed. There’s also the old price/usage consideration to factor in to the decision-making process. Not to mention the depreciation on a pair of only-used-twice bikes!

Both bikes had around 500 Km on the odometer when we bought them and we have added 25 Km to that on a couple of local rides.

Decisions have been deferred until we return from Italy. We shall have to see how much use we make of the folding bikes once we are out on the road.

The big selling point for us were the docking stations – the wheels were a surprise but are actually very useful for manoeuvring in and out of the van
The fact that the docking stations have a zip-on protective cover came as a happy surprise for us
A pair of bikes fits happily at the rear of the boot…
…with sufficient room left to stack a couple of 42 litre Really Useful Boxes

Doesn’t appear to be much space left for the hoped-for Cadac…

We are busy packing for the Italy trip. I shall report back when we return.

I have a couple of local short trips to complete writing-up. I hope to get these done before we leave.

Van Nessa : Her Leak

Home from Melle, we set about cleaning the van in preparation for going out again. At the moment we are hoping to go out for at least one night every week in continuing efforts to break the cats in (or down!)

Mr Snail was cleaning the bathroom. Although we haven’t used the shower we had of course been going in and out and the cat tray is kept in there and is subject to dispensing flying cat litter…

There was water leakage.

We were downhearted and resigned to returning the van to the dealer for investigation instead of setting off for Charroux, as we were planning. Then Mr Snail found an access panel and elected to try an idea, which turned out to be the right idea. The water inlet to the shower head simply needed a little tightening.

Everything seems okay now but will likely get a proper testing in Charroux, where there are no sanitaires and we must rely on our own facilities.

August, 6-9th, 2019

Deeply disappointed by our early return from the Dordogne and buoyed up by slightly cooler weather we effected our plan to go out “little and often” in an attempt to train the cats for living in the new van.

Melle, Fontaine de Villiers

Trip the 2nd for Van Nessa.

GPS Coordinates : 46.231778  -0.143972

https://campingcarpark.com/en/shop/parking-areas/camping-de-village-area-of-melle/

Another former Municipal campsite, smaller than the one at Tauriac and less formally arranged. Sanitaires again – just one toilet and one shower, and again rather basic. They don’t look very nice and could do with an upgrade but that shower performed fantastically well, with plenty of hot water on tap.

We chose this site for the same reasons that we chose the last one – good shade from mature trees and a safe area in case of cat-escape.

The weather being cooler and the cats being less hyper, we managed to stop out for our planned three nights. Melle offered plenty to keep us occupied and although I took many photographs on our wanderings I actually failed to find the time to take photos of the site, sorry.

An extensive network of footpaths can be accessed directly off the site. Much of the walking forms part of an Arboretum, with 1,800 different types of trees and 300 different roses. Three National Collections are held. There is an additional Forest Arboretum opening off the Discovery path, and a cycle route on the former railway extends to almost 15 km (linear route). Some walking routes are entirely off-road but others cross parts of the town

In the town there are three lovely Romanesque churches to visit, a market hall, a motorbike museum, and some historic silver mines to see. Good eating possibilities, with two Michelin-recommended establishments within half an hour’s stroll of the aire and plenty of other eateries available. A particularly lovely Lavoir is sited right by the aire. Children’s play area faces the site. Friday market.

The Verdict

I am going to give this one 4 stars also, mainly based on its fit with our preferred lifestyle.

We enjoyed our stay and plan to return in the future.

Van Nessa

We ate out twice and made a salad on the other evening, so cooking facilities remain untested.

Having twice been to a site with showers, the bathroom remained untested also (but see forthcoming post…)

The bed remains comfortable and we slept transversely again.

The Cats

Dusty and Chloé behaved better than we might have expected. Dusty was a bit rowdy on the journey there, Chloé elected to travel on the bench seat and snooze her way through the journey.

Dusty was less inclined to sit outside this time, due possibly to this site having become quite busy whilst we were there – he’s nervous of other people and vehicles. I put him out on a line but he chose to return inside.

I also tried Chloé on a line but she got in a bit of a guddle with the washing up bowl, scared herself and managed to back out of her escape-proof jacket. Fortunately she did not run off but went up on the axle somewhere similar and when she emerged, she also chose to go back inside the van.

Overall I believe that she is now pretty much bomb-proof in this respect, seeing the van as her safe place. We have concluded that she learned her lesson in Viviers and is now minded to stay close to home. We also believe that her stopping out for three nights was probably not of her own choosing.

Those may be filed under “famous last words” I expect.

Being on mains hook-up we plugged in a Feliway diffuser and nights were fairly calm. Dusty was far quieter on the drive home, though a long way from actually being silent. Chloé popped up into the over -parcel shelf and didn’t come out until we were parked back at home.

Overall I am leaning towards finding a tethering solution for travelling with Dusty in preference to putting him in a carrier. He’s far too active to allow him to be loose when we are driving but may complain less if not boxed. Mr Snail finds driving along to a cat’s chorus to be very stressful.

Our next task on the van will therefore be to fit an appropriate fixing point for the cat’s harness.

July 23rd 2019

Trip the 1st

It was mid-canicule and powerfully hot at home so Mr Snail thought now the new van had arrived, the thing to do would be to go in search of cooler weather. He found some, down in the Dordogne and we packed up and took off .

We had chosen a CCP aire on an ex-municipal campsite that had good tree cover for shade and was away from roads (thank you, Nevilley) in case of cat escape.

Tauriac, Le Mas de la Croux

A nicely tended former Municipal Campsite. The trees are mature, as are the privacy hedges between pitches. The pitches themselves are spacious and unexpectedly feature flat concrete pads for parking.

A Plan d’Eau adjacent to the site features a small beach, supervised swimming (in season and in fixed hours) children’s play area, crazy golf and a bar/restaurant. Naturally, some noise is generated until late hours when the weather is clement.

The site is also bordered by a shallow and slow-running arm of the River Dordogne. There are smaller, unhedged pitches on concrete pads overlooking the river, lightly shaded by trees.

A rarity for motorhome aires – there are Sanitaires. Somewhat basic but better than no facilities at all. These are seasonal. Also the aire is shared with tenters and tuggers in high season.

There is no commerce in the village other than at the Guinguette but shops may be found at the next village, about a mile away. These remain untested by ourselves.

The site is very pleasant and we might have stayed there quite happily (and will probably return sometime) but the weather, although 7 degrees cooler than at home, remained too hot to be at all comfortable.

https://www.google.fr/maps/@44.9057863,1.7727134,17z

Cats escaped.

Tempers frayed.

It was too hot to do anything other than to sit outside with a cooling fan running to generate some breeze – which is why I have no photographs to share.

We packed up early the following morning and fled home to our stone-flagged floors and air conditioning units.

The Verdict

Taking this under consideration as an Aire rather than as a Campsite, I think that we might rate it as a 4 star stop. Bear in mind that we did not explore the area at all, for fear of expiring from heat exhaustion.

Van Nessa

Performed well. We had a comfortable ride of three hours there, and thoroughly appreciated her efficient cab cooling especially when we encountered roadworks in Limoges en route.

It is the season for roadworks in France, Deviations and Routes Barees abound.

We did not cook, only prepared a salad.

The bed proved to be capacious and comfortable – we slept in a transverse configuration.

So far we are having trouble in adjusting to the more cramped conditions.

The Cats

Importantly, we had failed to register how much more difficult it would be to deal with cats when we have a wide sliding door rather than a narrow hinged one.

Dusty seems quite happy to be attached to a line and to sit under the van in the shade, watching the birds.

Chloé popped outside for a look but fundamentally prefers being inside. Not a good choice in that extreme heat.

A brief update/small upgrade

Nessa had another upgrade today and has been fitted with a Cruise Control. Diagnostic tests have been done and all is well but a test drive is now required.

On the Good News front, we finally became brave enough to examine the damage done to the flyscreen when Dusty escaped… and there isn’t any! The fact is, the screen is not secured at the bottom and any errant cat may simply slide under it. When seen in the dark it appeared wrecked but must in fact have only been a little rumpled. It’s fine. But, now that we know, we shall have to keeper tighter control on Dusty.

We bought him a straitjacket…

I still haven’t taken any photos of the van, been waiting for work to be completed and tools put away. I shall be packing the van tomorrow so hope to take that opportunity to take some beauty shots.

It came!

I said that she was coming and indeed she did. We collected Nessa from Naintré on the 19th of July and got her home in one piece, though not without a few hiccups – just a few rattles to sort out and an unfamiliarity with the Automatic gearbox arrangements.

The following day we took Nessa shopping and fitted her with a couple of gas cylinders at SuperU. Then we came home and set about moving everything that we had moved out of Heidi, into Nessa.

It did not take long to pack her, though it felt like an eternity in the extreme heat (we were experiencing a Canicule.) It was in fact that heat that sent us on our way sooner than we had thought that we might be off, not to mention to a further destination.

Mr Snail picked a destination based on where we might find a significantly lower temperature and off we went on the Monday, planning to stay out for up to three nights. In the event, we were home again next morning.

It was just too hot and the cats were troublesome and the two factors combined to drive us home.

Mr Snail appeared to enjoy the driving (3 hours or thereabouts) and things look good for covering greater mileages than we felt up to in Heidi Hymer. I certainly felt it to be a more comfortable ride. Nell liked travelling on the bed and the cats… well…

The bed proved to be very comfortable and I enjoyed the ease of getting in and out via the built-in steps.

Neither the cooker nor the shower were tested.

The fly screen on the sliding door is now broken, courtesy of one escaping feline.

Since we came home, the cat problem has been addressed – though we don’t yet know if we have found any actual solutions. Our next trip will be informative. We continue to seek a new home for one or both of them as this travelling life really does not suit – Dusty especially.

Also since arriving home Mr Snail has been making some changes (upgrades) to the van, which now has a second leisure battery plus some extra power sockets and a new controller for the electrickery bits.

I’ll write up the actual trip soon. I will also take some Nessa photos to share.