Introducing…Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, RUBY..(ahhaaaaaa aaa)

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Friends. Meet Ruby! Our new (well new to us!) Camper van. We are thrilled! Before I fill you in on how we found her, let me show you around.

Ruby is a VW T5 LWB (that a Volkswagen Transporter 5 Long Wheel Base- I had no idea how many versions of a VW camper there were before this process began!!) She was registered in 2005 and has done a rather petrifying 175k miles, although apparently this isn’t a problem, she got a thumbs up from our two mechanic friends and also had an encouraging once over at the garage today. She’s had her gear boxes, clutch, cam belt etc replaced and has a full service history.

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Jazz is officially now a VeeDubDaaaawwg ! Complete with Addidog hoodie!
She’s got 3 belted seats up front, the passenger pair swivels round to make the living area into a cosy 4 seating dining area. We’ve got a fridge, two ring hob, two seater sofa that converts into a quickly into a bed, porta potty with buddy seat which also doubles up as foot rest. We’ve got some cool LED lighting and INSANELY enough storage to put the entirety of Blubell’s bits and bobs in without touching the side wardrobe space!

To pop or not to pop up. For some reason (happily) Keith has over an inch of clearance above his head when he is in “lounging mode”- which was surprising as every other T5 we sat in that weekend he couldn’t sit up straight in. I think its to do with the seat choice being perhaps lower. We don’t have a pop up at the moment, but it is something that we may look into adding later on, we will have a go for a few months without and see how we go.

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Surprising head room for Keefy!
Storage wise, and Ruby is a TARDIS. Wow, we are properly converted to the VW way of thinking. There was me panicking that I would have to sacrifice my hair straighteners and my moules pot- but oh no, they are packed and ready to go! The whole of the back floor space is storage and goes all the way under the seats and bed (even when in bed position) There is storage for pots and pans under the seat AND we can keep our double duvet and pillow on the parcel shelf- no having to go to a sleeping bag for us! Hurrah!

The space under the seat/bed is perfect for an underbed storage box and this houses all my kitchen bits and bobs including cutlery and plates/bowls etc. Dried food will go into a couple of wooden wine boxes that we have left over the wedding and will sit on the parcel shelf and move to the front seat when we go to bed. Beer and wine will sit in the bottom of the wardrobe!

A really cool feature of Ruby is that she has a double sliding door- this means we can open both sliding doors, so if its really hot and I’m cooking I can have the door behind the hob open! We can also remove all seats so we can revert to a van – handy for big set ups/ tip runs etc.

We measure in at only 2m high so can fit in car parks with barriers etc. We are selling our car so Ruby is going to be only vehicle! Yay to cups of tea in between schools! LOL

The only thing that is missing is a bike rack, so we are going to add a tow bar and get a bike rack that fixes onto the tower and allows you to open the tailgate with bikes still attached.

Finding Ruby felt a little bit like being in the right place at the right time. We’d just started our search and were feeling positively overwhelmed by the choice and the distance between the vans on sale! Then randomly we found one that somehow we had missed and well I’ll be blowed, it was in Norwich! Viewing was arranged and then nearly cancelled as we were sure we would need Pop up and it didn’t have that. But then we felt bad as we didn’t want to mess the guy around by cancelling so we decided to go anyway. On the way we came up with the idea that if it ticked all the other boxes then we should go for it as pop up can be added. And it did. So here we are! We’ve managed to book a little trip away later this week, but tomorrow we are going for a drive out and lunch somewhere pretty hopefully. Very excited.

Will take more pictures tomorrow- and can’t wait to do our first trip blog from Ruby later this week!

 

PS. You may remember that we were going “on tour” with Dad and Jenny this weekend to their place in France. Sadly Dad got a really nasty chest infection last week which knocked him out, so we postponed the trip- happy to say he is much brighter now – but  still, Get Well Soon Pops!

Until Next time

Lx

On the hunt for our new wheels

We’re eager to be back on the road and therefore rather than sit feeling sorry for ourselves that we’ve parted ways with Bluebell the motorhome we’ve thrown ourselves into the big hunt for our new set of wheels, and boy, is there a lot to consider!

A lot of people have taken the time to write to us to offer advice- thanks very much- its always good to get some outside advise, and many of you telling us about your own downsizing to T5 or similar journeys has given us the confidence that we are not completely out of our mind!

Between us we’ve discovered the difference between a Rock n Roll bed and a Rib bed, how high the standard height barrier is (its 2.1m if you’re interested!) how many MPG a Japanese car with its engine NOT in the bonnet does and that Pop up’s on camper vans can be in a vast selections of colours!

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6.5 years of motor homing – my face after a weekend of learning about camper vans!

Thursday

We had an interesting afternoon having a look around a Vauxhall Vivaro in Thetford. It is currently being lovingly converted by Simon at http://www.buildacamper.com into an immaculate and surprisingly spacious campervan- a very similar interior style to a VW T5 although the Vivaro is slightly bigger in dimensions to the T5.

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Vauxhall Vivaro Campervan Conversion

First impressions were good- although I was fairly sure this wasn’t the same dimension as the VWT5- it felt much larger, almost builder’s van like and I was worried about how easy to drive day to day it would be, bearing in mind most of the week we are crammed into school car parks!

Budget wise, at top end £12,000 it was coming in well under and would be built to our spec- inclusive of bike rack etc. Having had a good chat with Simon about our requirements we left feeling excited. Was this our next van?

That evening further investigation showed the dimensions were slightly bigger. It was still lower than the standard height barrier but to me it felt too big.

Vauxhall Vivace 

Pros: Plenty of storage, no need for a pop up as the living area was more than high enough for Keith to relax in, customised to our exact requirements, well under budget so some dosh left in the bank afterwards

Cons: A bit big for day to day use (in our opinion based upon our daily usage), Perhaps wouldn’t hold it’s value as much as a VW T5

Friday

We were up bright and early and off to Norwich- this time heading for Andy’s Imports – a specialist Bongo importer and converter. Andy had around 30 different vans all in our budget so we were quietly optimistic. Having never sat in a Bongo before all the pics we had seen online implied that the layout was T5 based. Our friend Annie warned us they were small. She wasn’t lying! It didn’t put us off- we are going into this process with the realisation we have got to make compromises.

The Bongo’s at Andy’s Imports had two layouts – an end kitchen with bench style seating as above or side kitchen as below. The engine in a Bongo is not under the bonnet, its half way down the vehicle, preventing you from accessing the living area from the cab seats and also means you can’t have a swivel captain chair. This meant we would only have two liveable seats and it was a bit narrow for us two!

Mazda Bongo

Pros: Definitely small enough for use as a day vehicle, Japanese engine – reliable and hassle free, Beautiful Conversion 

Cons: Petrol – Japan stopped making diesels years ago, not ideal for our only car. Very small- would have to have Pop up top, which Keith would prefer to avoid. Limited Storage on board- really only suitable for one night away. No fridge – 12v coolbox installed instead.

We were then showed a Toyota Reigus, also imported from Japan and another beaut of a conversion.

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The main difference was the swivel passenger captain’s seat which opened up the living area no end- it made it feel much more spacious despite being no wider a base vehicle. There was a small fridge which I was happy about, and also it’s also a higher ceiling meaning we didn’t have to have a pop up (Keith became a little obsessed that he didn’t want a pop up- not really based on anything may I add…) One thing it did have was a huge sunroof which was fabulous, my goodness the light was wonderful.

Keith fell head over heels in love with it, although I was a little more cautious. Whilst he was admiring the sun light through the roof I was frantically trying to find some form of storage. There was minimal. I mean, I’m a creative thinker and I could not even begin to think where our duvet would go let alone our walking boots.

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The only storage in the Toyota Reigus

At this point we randomly bumped into Sue, one of Keith’s piano students! She was talking to them about getting a bongo specially converted! We decided to take the Toyota out for a test drive and Sue came along for the ride too!

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The ride was certainly comfortable, the Japanese really do know how to do luxurious, even in this older vehicle. But, it was petrol and that still gave me some concern.

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Very dinky Toyota next to our car.

Toyota Reigus

Pros: Excellent use of a sunroof, felt amazingly roomy for a small vehicle, definitely able to use day to day, Swivel captains chair, fridge.

Cons: Petrol, Minimal Storage, Possibly wouldn’t hold its value.

Keith at this point was discussing trade in prices for our car, and we were negotiating bike rack prices. Thankfully, Keith had forgotten his wallet – so we were unable to put a deposit down there and then – I don’t think we would have, but it was getting dangerously close. We told Andy we’d go and have a think about it and call him with a decision later.

On the way home we dropped into see one of my flute student’s Jackie and her husband Richard’s lovely VW T5. I knew immediately, it was more suitable having MUCH more room for storage. I expressed my opinions re the storage to Keith and we had a little discussion about whether we could cope or not with next to no storage. He had clearly left his heart on top of the Toyota roof when I closed the sunroof as he was adamant we could manage. Ahem. Wasn’t this process meant to be fun!

Saturday

Having spent a large part of last night discussing the pros and cons and me harping on about the storage – Keith woke up having possibly had a change of heart. He was concerned about having to have a bike ride as a tow bar because of the hatchback/spoiler combo. We agreed to go and have another look in the fresh (and rather hungover state!) We agreed to look at hiring a VW T5 camper van for the end of Feb half term and quickly found a local company near to Andy’s Imports so arranged to go up and have a quick look at their T6. From the minute we stepped in side, I knew Keith had been won over. The pop up top he could see was tick rather than a cross, and the layout and storage combination was just inspired.

Inspired storage solutions – particularly LOVED the front of the fridge storage

We fell in love with that van and at that point knew we didn’t need to hire one as we would make this new style of being on the road work for us -( if you need to hire one though I couldn’t recommend Capricorn Campers enough, the van was stunning and at this time of year only £49 per day!) There was one problem though- Keith’s vision was blocked in driving position and we could not work out why. We put it down to the fact that perhaps the cab design was slightly different in the T6. We have now solved this mystery which will be explained in due course I promise..

On route back to Andy’s Imports and Keith admitted that he hadn’t looked at Jackie’s T5 seriously as he wanted the Toyota – naughty!! We went back for a second look at the Toyota and I’ll be blowed, the first thing Keith said was ‘Oh, it doesn’t feel as roomy today”. Give me strength. I fired a quick Hallelujah text off to Annie and thanked my lucky stars he’d seen sense!

A quick check of the Mazda’s with pop up and they were still just too narrow. It was becoming obvious that the VW was a good solution or the Vivaro if we could get around the size.

Our next step is viewing some T5’s and possibly another Vivaro, seeing if we can find “our van” – we feel confident that we are making the right decision having viewed a selection of other vans- but realistically, even if we have made a mistake we know the VW’s hold their price.

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Sunday

Stay tuned for part 2 which will hopefully come in a week or so….;-)  We don’t want to jinx anything so are keeping our lips sealed for a few days………

Until Next Time

Lx

 

Bon Voyage Bluebell the Motorhome 😢😢😢

The last couple of weeks have been tough in Bluebell towers. You know when you have to make a decision that is going to change your entire way of life, one that you know is the right decision but it tears your heart apart even saying the words out loud. A decision that is going to temporarily ground you, yet you’ve got a list as long as your arm of places you need to go. Well that’s been us. Ten days of sheer agony, not knowing what to do for the best. 

We’ve had the “it could be time to sell Bluebell” conversation. 


It started with the MOT. Let’s just say it didn’t go quite as well as it could have and therefore left rather a large hole in our pocket. To be fair to Bluebell she’s sailed through every single one so far with no problem. She didn’t owe us anything, but it did highlight to us that she is no spring chicken anymore. She looks good for her age but underneath she’s starting to show signs of becoming an older lady. 

We had two options- keep Bluebell and accept that the likelyhood would be things starting to go wrong over the next few years and then loose a large part of our investment in her. Or sell whilst she has a full year clean MOT and look for a newer vehicle. 

After an awful lot of tears, list making and internet research option two became in our opinion the way forward. How on earth can two adults become so attached to a vehicle? It was ridiculous. I felt like I was grieving! I tried to give myself a ginormous kick up the backside which eventually worked and sure enough we got a sale from a dealer who collected yesterday. 

Bye Bluebell, we will miss you 😢

So what next?

Well- we will be back on the road before you know it (we hope!!!) For a while now we’ve discussed the option of downsizing Bluebell, selling the car and having one vehicle we can use for day to day but also as a campervan. So vehicles like a VW T5 or Mercedes Vito appeal to us. We realise going down this route may not work- for a start we are going to loose a lot of living space! Keith’s 6’4″ – is this going to be practical? We would prefer to get rid of our storage space and have a vehicle we can keep at home. We no doubt will miss the shower room, but have found in more recent trips we’ve enjoyed being on sites with shower/toilets so maybe we can make this work? Who knows. 

Could this be our next van?

In the coming weeks we are going to be acting like business as usual. We are going to view loads of vans, big and small, we are going to try some Air B and Bs- visit some sites – maybe even hire a campervan for a couple of days. Next week we are road tripping to France with Dad and Jenny in their luxurious A Class Rapido motorhome.

One thing is for certain, this is most definitely not the end- just the beginning of chapter 3.