Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Jim enjoys being home

Since we arrived back in England last year, we've covered a couple of thousand miles in Jim. Over the course of our trip through America and Mexico we got an average fuel economy of 9.96 miles per UK gallon (8.29 mpg US, 28.35 l/100km), but Jim seems to have rewarded us for bringing him home by giving us some his best fuel mileage to date. Much of the driving has been at 55 mph on the motorway, but the journeys have taken us through the rolling UK countryside and occasionally up some steep grades on A and B roads in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. Since coming back to the UK,we have average 11.40 mpg UK (9.50 mpg US, 24.77 l/100km), still not great, but closer to what I expected when I bought Jim back in 2007.

To thank him for his kindness, we took Jim to the Adventure Overland Show in Stratford Upon Avon, to hang out with other trucks and make some friends.

The weather was perfect and the show was great fun. We got to meet a lot of interesting people, check out some awesome vehicles, and listen to talks from people who'd done many of the things I'd like to accomplish before I shuffle off this earth. Even Boris had a good time, meeting other well travelled dogs, and walking along the nearby Stratford Greenway walk. I'd heard mixed reviews about the show from previous years, but I'm glad we went along, not least as we had the chance to bump into a fantastic couple that we first met in Guanajato whilst they were travelling south in their Wesfalia Sprinter.

Whilst in the area, we also took the opportunity to visit Stratford Upon Avon itself. A picture perfect quintessentially English town.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Jim gets some exercise in Cornwall and Dartmoor

For the last nine months Jim has been acting as little more than a glorified spare room. He’s proved useful on multiple occasions, but you don’t need 230 horsepower in a garden guest room, and so both he and I have been a little frustrated. Thankfully I had a couple of opportunities to give him some exercise recently.

The first jaunt was a trip down the M3 to Winchester for a last minute trip to the Boomtown Fair music festival. I was working at the festival and consequently was allocated a space in the crew camping field. Most of the crew had been on the site for several days, if not weeks, and so when I arrived on the day the festival started, there were few spaces left in the field. This normally would not have been a problem, but the last remaining spaces were at the top of the field, which required me to navigate a steep slope that had been left muddy and slick after a day of heavy rain. I should have known I’d have problems, as before I’d locked the rear diff, I’d been sliding around the muddy access track down to the security gate the moment I’d left the tarmac.

On the first attempt to ascend the slope, I crawled up with the rear diff locked and made it less than half way up before motion stopped and the tyres began to chew up the field. I then tried a second time with a short run up, and made significantly more progress. On the third attempt I thought that I’d made it to the top, and slowed down to look about for a space, when I tried to pull forward I realised that my jubilation had been premature as my wheels span uselessly in the mud again. I was reversing back down the slope for a fourth attempt, when Jim began to slide sideways off the path, into a pristine VW camper parked adjacently. I managed to bring him under control but it was at this point that I realised that hooning an 18 tonne truck around a muddy field surrounded by drunk revellers and expensive motorhomes was potentially perilous, and looked for an alternative space to park where I wouldn't block access.

My options were limited as I couldn’t drive more than 10m forwards or backwards before hitting a slope and losing traction. There was one lane with space at the end but the slope was even steeper than that I’d got stuck on. Thankfully this path still had grass on it as it hadn’t been chewed up by spinning wheels, and so it provided sufficient traction to allow me to make it safely to the top without ruining anyone's pride and joy. The main issue with the spot I’d made it to, was that it would mean being parked at an absurd angle for the next few days.

I’ve parked Jim at some wild angles before, but this was certainly the most extreme. The shower tray overflowed before the water reached the plug hole, the kettle slid off the hob and needed to be held in position, and I woke up each morning pressed into the wall of the bedroom. Nevertheless I slept well and enjoyed the comfort of a good bed, and a hot shower and cooked breakfast each morning. By the time I came to leave the festival, the site had dried out, and Jim drove out of the field without hesitation.

The next week, Jim, got a second outing, this time all the way down to Looe in Cornwall. If I’d had more than four days off work, I would have preferred to have taken the A303 to Exeter; partly because it shares its name with the classic Roland synth that spawned acid techno, and partly because it takes you through some beautiful parts of the country. Instead, we took the boring trudge of the M4 and M5, passing such national treasures as Reading and Swindon. The drive was straightforward and reasonably fast, although it’s these long motorway jaunts which make me wonder whether something faster and more efficient than an 18 tonner might be more sensible.

The A38 from Exeter going west was easy going, and it wasn't until we turned off onto the smaller roads to Looe that things started to get interesting. I take a kind of morbid pleasure in taking a totally unsuited vehicle to places I really shouldn't, and I can’t deny the enjoyment I got from crawling along the steep and narrow Cornish back roads at 20mph, with a tail of frustrated tourist behind me. There were a couple of grades that had us down to second gear, and there was more than one occasion where I saw a look of undisguised fear on the face of a driver having flown around a corner to be confronted by Jim. The weather had got progressively worse as we headed west, and by the time we arrived at West Wayland Caravan Park we were firmly inside a cloud.