Saturday, 7 July 2012

Billie Becomes an Uplands Boy.

Thinking about a brand new radio, for a brand new van is a bit extreme I admit. We pondered on this for some time before taking the plunge.

The music system that came with the van was the standard bottom end van system that came with a Peugeot cab. It looked quite neat and played OK, the controls were wired into the steering wheel, presumably so "white van man" could control things as he happily sang along to the latest hits! Peugeot, in their wisdom, had decided that "white van man" was incapable of turning his music on and off and that 20 minutes at a time was enough singing for anyone! To prevent the battery flattening and consequentially late deliveries and ( I suspect to reduce the lunch break,) when the engine was off, after 20 minutes the radio turned off too. Fine, for "white van man", highly inconvenient for owners of motorhomes. After spending the weekend jumping up and down turning the music back on, enough was enough and we decided to update.

When we were decluttering we had culled the CD collection. We then loaded all our music onto an Archos media player. We now had a whole cupboard which was bare and all our music safely on one little gadget. Infact , enough music to drive around Europe and back without changing a CD. We wanted a system that would easily let us plug the Archos in and as a bonus ( for future basing and all that!) also to use the iphone, handsfree. We wanted a radio that did not turn off after 20 minutes and we wanted the whole lot at a reasonable price, fitted this week. Not much to ask!

Using trusty old Google, we narrowed the search to Uplands Radio based in Taunton.

Uplands had helped Jamie at Chipping Sodbury fix his van radio, so they knew about motorhomes. Following a few phone calls and chats to very helpful Nick at Uplands, we set a date for the fitting. Yes, they could do it this week. No travelling for Billie, Uplands provide a fitting at home service. The deed was done, the deposit was paid and the radio ordered. Friday afternoon, the rain and the Uplands man, also called Bill, arrived on time to fit the radio.

Great service and no travelling, Bill from Uplands arrived in his fully equipped van to do the job.

For the technically minded, we went for a Clarion CX501E radio with steering controls and new fascia. This would be rewired to stay switched on. We would be able to connect the Archos directly with a phono lead and use the iphone with bluetooth.

The initial system as fitted by Peugeot.

The super new system, pretty when lit up and ranges different colours through the rainbow display. Now works with the steering wheel controls. Also connects with my iphone, for hands free!

New system with the Archos connected ( that's the little square thingy in front.) The Archos will sit on the dash tray when driving.

Connection for the iphone to charge on the go, through the USB lead, neatly hidden in the dash tray.

All music systems are really "horses for courses" and a matter of personal preference! We are now very happy with our new system. Uplands did a brilliant job. Bill the fitter really gave  a brilliant service, giving loads of his own time to ensure that the job was done really well and that the bluetooth connection worked! The best part of his Friday afternoon off, was taken up getting our system to work well. Many thanks!!!

Nick at the Uplands office also did a stirling job, with phone calls to all and sundry, to find the information Bill needed to get the bluetooth connected. Hope Uplands realise their employees do go the extra mile when needed!

Now Billie is all set up for his first venture to foreign parts next week and music to sing along to.

Anyone want to buy a nearly new Peugeot van radio??

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Brean, Weston-Super-Mare and Country Music.

A strange combination you may think and you would be right. An action packed weekend with sunshine, showers,loads of walking, piers, chips and cowboys.

We decided that with a ferry to France booked very shortly, we really needed to try out Billie and the trailer. We waited until Friday afternoon to book a pitch at our old favourite, Unity at Brean. We waited for the weather to cheer up and finally on Friday afternoon decided to go for gold! Following the school run, we knew we could not get away until around 5.30pm. So as soon as Den got home, we loaded the van and pulled out the trusty trailer. Smartie had been buffed and preened and was ready for the weekend away. Billie didn't know what was coming, but was soon ready with his towbar in place!

With Smartie safely on board we were off. Towing proved much as usual and soon we were on the M5 heading South. Billie towed smoothly with little puffing, panting and the odd sway. As long as Den watched the corners, we cruised along arriving at the campsite around 6.30pm. Safely on the pitch with Smartie unloaded and the trailer safely stowed behind us, over Fish & Chips from Alan's Take Out, we planned the weekend.

The following morning we were off for a little exploration further afield. We had driven through Burnham- On -Sea, but sadly never stopped, so now we set off to Burnham and breakfast. A nice surprise greeted us, a pretty prom and nice beach with loads of parking. We parked in Morrisons and did a bit of shopping which paid for the parking! Good tip for any visitors, motorhome parking in Morrisons car park, there is a dedicated motorhome bit, though no overnight parking! It looked like some motorhomers couldn't read.

Smartie on the prom at Burnham-on Sea. All alone.

Across the sea- front at Burnham. The beach was deserted and the sun came out, we wished we had brought a picnic!

Following breakfast at a local cafe, brilliant value at well under a tenner, we headed back towards Brean. The sun was still out and we drove all the way out to Brean Down, parking in the National Trust car park ( that was £3.00 off our membership for this year), feeling smug, we headed to the beach. The scenery here is beautiful, we climbed the steps to the top of the downs to survey the scene and then the rain came down, hard and very wet!!

 The beach at Brean.
 Yes , we did climb to the top and the view was worth it!
This was just after the rain storm.

Fired off by our new expertise in mountain climbing and hill walking, we decided to go to Weston for a bit more "seaside" The drive was lovely, around 8 miles by the scenic route, we were glad we were in Smartie and not Billie. We arrived in Weston and did what all Brits do, went for a refreshing walk along the prom. We checked out the new pier inside and out, visited the marine lake and ate chips in the rain! We drew the line at paddling in the sea, going on the donkeys and making sandcastles, but loads of other vistors did just  that, despite the weather. 

 Inside the new pier. Beautifully done and very busy.
 The donkeys looked so much better fed than I remembered!

 "We will have a paddle come what may."
 "What's a bit of driving rain and freezing wind? "
"We've all got our umbrellas and macs."

Weston Pier and the great British Summer.

We had a great day out and went back to the campsite for a night out. Now, most of our great nights in are usually sleeping in front of the telly, however I was determined we would take advantage of the "entertainment." At around 9pm following all that sea air, we headed for "The Tavern" and  Country & Western Night. The Country & Western theme should have alerted us to what was going on, after all there was evidence around the site of cowboy & cowgirl, things happening. The queue at the bus stop left us feeling very under dressed, but we were not expecting what we found, when we got the "The Tavern". The room was packed with ( shall I say politely) people of "senior years" having a YeeHa time! The boot bill alone would have paid for a few weeks in the South of France. There were hats, tassels, waist- coats, legs, bulges and rhinestones everywhere. All shapes and sizes were squeezed into or out of, every kind of wild west outfit, complete with guns, feathers and swagger. Line dancing was the order of the day.

The question I wanted to ask was, how did they know which dance to do? The whole thing had a macabre facination about it, but everyone was having a great time and the music was good. There was a strange quasi religious moment in the middle where everyone sort of stood in a cirle around the flags, while Elvis was played singing Dixieland. What that was about we had no idea, but it seemed to be taken very seriously, all the men took their hats off! Mmmm......very odd. Some kind of patriotic salute to something maybe? The problem is this is the UK not the USA, although I don't suppose anyone cared that much. Still, a good excuse for a sniff and the chance to fire their pop guns and have some fun!

 We had a few drinks, tapped our feet and then went home to bed. September is the next Country and Western event, we may go back ???

Billie has a Bath & Extras Again!

We have been very quiet recently and because the weekend weather has been so dismal, after Moreton -in- Marsh, we have had two weekends at home.  For those who may be slightly interested, Billie also had his first bath. Like every good parent we made sure it was a warm day, not too much wind and no chance of a shower. The bit about the shower and wind was crucial, as I love my husband too much, to have him washed off the roof, or like Incy Wincy, washed down the plughole! A squashed spider would mean, no holidays and trips out for Billie and "nursing duties" for me instead. We checked, well I checked, with Chipping Sodbury Caravans first, to ensure it was safe for the spider on the roof! After all, falling off was one thing, falling through a self made hole in the roof could make dealing with the insurance company, well......difficult!

I hold the ladder and give instructions. Den, dances about on the roof with the mop and bucket. I feel better if I hold the ladder and pass the hose around and feel less guilty because, at least I appear to be "helping". Finally, after a lot of reeling and unreeling of hoses, Billie was back to his clean and shiny self and then it rained! Generally speaking not too bad to clean and the reduction in silicon sealing means, not so many black marks. We will save the polishing for another day.

Time to reappraise our "extras". We had a number of "bits & bobs" fitted onto Billie to make him happy and well turned out and us comfortable!

Air-con: Essential for hotter climes Spain, South of France and the UK if the sun shines. We gave up one of the inside roof lights for this. Makes very little difference we feel to the inside, we used the sklight over the kitchen area.

This unit works really well it blows warm as well as cold air. We have tried it out and it appears fine, will report back when we have had extended holiday use.

Ladder : Essential to get spider and husband onto the roof. This is a Fiamma one which we had fitted to the rear of the van. It fits neatly next to the bike rack.

Gaslow system: We had two bottles fitted a 6kg & an 8kg, as these fitted neatly into the locker. The plastic stand was taken out. The filler was fitted neatly into the side of the body near the locker. All done by Van Bitz.

The gauges make life so much simpler, as we can now see when we need to fill up. A plus point is that if we ever change the van we can take the expensive kit out!

Satellite TV: A real luxury and one we could have managed without! Easy to tune in and a very neat job on the roof. Nestling happily next to the aircon unit. Another trip hazard for the spider. Van Bitz again!

Towing Trailer for the Smart. I will take a picture of Billie and Smartie together when I get a moment. In the meantime, Billie and the trailer.

The Smart trailer tows happily behind Billie and loads and unloads without too much stress. Toad or tow may be a topic for another day. We braved the road this weekend and Billie had his first tow. Smartie enjoyed it ;)