- Eureka moment
In August 2006, Liz & I were sitting down to work out what we were going to do with our futures. It was clear that we were spending about half our time and about the same proportion of our income in just maintaining our home at Sowood, Halifax.
We had lived in the house with a three-quarter acre Pennine mountain garden for 26 and 37 years respectively. The clothes dryer had broken quickly followed by the washing machine; the dishwasher was beginning to crumble; the gas fires all needed a major overhaul; the mowing machines were in for repair yet again…
Liz suddenly pointed at the 19 year old motorhome sitting outside the house, resting as it did much of the time between annual holidays, and said “Why don’t we sell up and go travelling instead?”
We did the sums. We read the magazines and the blogs. We ogled the big American RVs; visited a lot of motorhome dealers and even got on a plane to visit the Duseldorf Motorhome Show. Clearly we needed a big 25 foot Frankia. But there were so many things that would need to be done to it to match the changes we had made to our 19 year-old, 18 foot Pilote R470… We gave a German dealer a list. He looked at it and got confused. He gave his calculator a good bashing. It would take three months and well over £100,000 to build.
Then we looked at the risks. What if we didn’t like being permanent Gypsies? Would we get a good price for it if we sold it after 6 months on the road? We heard stories about restrictions on access for big motorhomes in some towns.
While we were worrying about all these details about our future home, we became aware that a good deal of tidying up of our deeds would need to be done before we could sell in one piece the house and land that we had bought bit by bit over the years. Seven bits, to be exact. Quite a few of these deals had been moneyless swaps and in at least two cases had not had the blessing of a lawyer.
And, of course, it would sell better with planning permission. All in all, the process was going to take time.
Around about the 12 month mark, Liz had another idea.
- Build, Buy or Renovate?
Why don’t we start off with the motorhome we have got and see what we really need before buying a new one?
The result of this notion was a complete DIY refit.
See post on The Refit in Technical Matters
- Smart Toads
As solicitors and estate agents ploughed on, we considered the matter of the “Toad”. That is a small run-about to tow behind the motorhome, for the unitiated!
We already had a Smart car. Clearly that was the answer… Simple.
Then we started to do our homework on that topic and quickly discovered that it would be anything but simple.
To the best of our understanding, Smart don’t like Smarts to become Toads. Only the British think it is legal on an A-frame and even we are not that sure. By the time we looked at a purpose-built trailer for it to sit on, the weight for our poor little 1.9 litre petrol engine seemed a little excessive at around 1.25 tons.
I looked at Qpods and Quadzillas. After all, if the sun were not shining we would be moving to wherever it was. We even went for a drive in the rather strange Qpod. “Fun”, Liz said but too cramped, uncomfortable and embarrassing to be seen in.
Then, as we were driving back after a few days away visiting Delphin Designs to talk about fitting a larger diesel engine, Liz had another left field thought; perhaps a quadzilla might be a good alternative.” I kept my mouth tight shut at this point and within 50 miles, she suggested we go and have a look at one at Great Northern Cars in Keighley. And so we did.
At a mere 300Kg including the bar fitted on the front to hitch it on to the motorhome, we decided that this would be our Toad.
- Weight Watchers Unanimous
Weight had definitely become the principle issue. After making the mods to the van, it weighed in at 2,860Kg with only me in it and no water. The plated gross vehicle weight plate under the bonnet said 2,900Kg. This was not going to work!
Someone on the Motorhomefacts.com forum mentioned SVTech in Leyland. They asked for details of the van and told me that they could “re-plate” it to 3,300Kg without even needing to see the vehicle – just fill in the form, pay £235 and the job is done!
- Now we’ve done it!!!
Great relief as the house was sold in March and so we were committed to the scheme by this point. In reality, it took till the end of July to get completion. Considering that the bottom dropped out of the housing market in April, we didn’t complain too much but there were a number of things which we would need the house sale money before buying, the buggy, the satellite broadband dish and the new quad-processor computer being the main ones.
Finally, on Saturday August 2nd, we drove away from our home for the last time and became travelling folk!