Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

1994 Autosleeper Trooper Campervan

First Steps to a Motorhome Life

VW Autosleeper Trooper 1994We had never used a campervan and it was 20 years since Alison and I had last stayed in a, static, caravan. We like to travel slowly, to explore the back roads and hidden places, and enjoy the best of local food. Travelling by car had not worked.

We had found several problems. Bed and breakfasts are much less visible by the roadside than they used to be, they are increasingly attuned to advance internet bookings. Hotels are more accessible but during the week they tend to be full of business travellers. Our overriding frustration as foodies and keen amateur cooks has been that when we travel, especially in France, we see fabulous local produce in the markets and can do little with it.

In the end the only solution we could see was to buy a campervan, a caravan is too restricting; we need to be able to park up anywhere, wild camp if necessary. A campervan made most sense as we like to travel in France which appeared to be very campervan friendly. We thought about hiring a campervan to test whether the motorhome life worked for us but we felt we needed more than a week or two to properly decide whether we would enjoy the lifestyle. In the end we bought a 1994 Autosleeper Trooper based on the Volkwagen Transporter T4; VW buffs tell me that at 200,000 miles the 2.4litre diesel is only just run in, that engine is good for 400,000 miles or more.

As now, Autosleeper were at the premium end of the market so our Trooper is well equipped for its age. Most importantly it had a hob and grill to give us more scope with cooking; even more important, as it turned out, it has central heating. For our first trip we did not go far, about forty miles from home, in case of disasters we could get back easily. It was the Jubilee weekend, very wet and unseasonably cold for June. It turned out that as we had taken insufficient bedding the heater was a godsend. At least the first trip proved our ‘van was watertight.

Being Prepared and Reducing Risk

Before that first trip we had done a lot of simple preventive maintenance. With a patchy service history we felt it prudent to change all the filters (air, oil and fuel) and both engine and gearbox oil; the gear change was transformed as a result. The tyres were not properly load rated, were old and lost pressure; we replaced the tyres all round and had the alloy wheels refurbished. The timing belt had only done 40,000 miles so we just had it inspected. A gas service completed the essential jobs but for our first trip we were waiting for parts so the refrigerator did not work on gas, not a problem as we had mains hookup. We also flushed a couple of tanks of water through to freshen up the tanks; for the first tankful we used Milton sterilising fluid and let it stand for a few days to be on the safe side.

The good news was the wet weekend did not put us off campervanning. If we had been in a hotel we would have sat in our room, or the lounge, and read. No different in the campervan except we could change the view from our “hotel” window. Despite the weather we really enjoyed the flexibility and found out more about our home county as well.

The result was a decision to go to France in our aged campervan for two weeks. Our exploratory trip had allowed us to create a list of jobs and things we needed. The ferry booked, we had a month to prepare.

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