A Bumpy Start Through France
“Stop accelerating, the wheels are just spinning deeper!”
It was the kind of thing you see happen to others, a classic amateur mistake. We were stuck in mud, and our mototorhome wheels were covered in a thick, slick layer which meant they were just digging a deeper mud hole every time we tried to get out. In our defense we were exhausted, at the end of a looong day of seemingly endless little miss-haps and just hadn’t expected the ground to be that soft. Plus we were carrying those plastic ramp-thingies that are supposed to get you out of exactly this situation, but they weren’t making a bit of difference.
Why hadn’t the lady at the check-in desk warned us about the ground??
Argh!! We were utterly defeated. Paul put the rig in park and then went off to find the grounds manager while I slumped back in my chair and closed my eyes, wishing the day away. 20 minutes later with several guys pushing, guiding and swearing, LMB finally got out. Yeah for strong, helpful men!
We found another spot with a concrete base (very unusual in Europe) and gratefully drove in. We didn’t care that it was raining, or that we were both covered in mud. We would not be doing anything or moving another inch today, not even to the on-site restaurant for a beer.
Some days, travel is just a real b**ch…..
We Were Just Trying To Make Some Miles
Miss-haps often seem to happen at the worst possible moments, the moments we let our guard down or when our minds are focused elsewhere.
In this instance we were just trying to making some miles.
We’d left home the day before and we had around 1,900 km (~1,180 miles) to drive until we got to the Danish border. Each day was meticulously planned with ~4 hour drives and comfortable overnight stops. That may sound pretty casual to most folks, but for us (and especially dear old Polly) it’s about the max speed and number of hours we can handle these days.
We’ve never been speedy travelers, and even less so now.
Our motorhome was ready for it too, or so we thought. She’d had a full engine service just a few months ago, had been thoroughly washed before departure (not that that really makes any difference, but I always feel she drives better when she’s clean) and had full diesel and propane tanks.
What could possibly go wrong?
Our First Night Went Swimmingly (Pontgibaud)
Our first night went swimmingly, apart from the usual body aches and pains that come from adapting to a small space and different beds. The drive was easy, parking was easy and we didn’t even worry about the rain that seemed to be falling almost non-stop.
Paul had found a lovely little municipal campsite (Camping Municipale La Palle) near the ancient volcanic crater of Puy De Dôme, and our site was just perfect. We had a huge, spacious green spot all to ourselves, walking distance to the lovely little town of Pontgibaud.
This little corner of France is actually a fascinating place to explore too.
The 1465-metre tall Puy De Dôme was created by a Peléan eruption, around 10,700 years ago, and is one of the youngest volcanoes in the Chaîne des Puys region of the Massif Central in France. It’s a scenic spot, criss-crossed by miles of trails (all dog-friendly of course), once revered as a sanctuary of Mercury. It’s well worth the effort to go.
This time around we didn’t have the time to explore, so we just focused on the nextdoor town, taking a quick walk along the river-trail the morning after we arrived during a brief break in the weather. We perused the open-air market, ogled the old buildings and picked up a warm chocolatine from the local boulangerie. A lovely, classic French camping experience despite all the rain and grey.
That’s When It All Went Downhill
The warning light popped up on the dashboard as soon as we fired up the rig.
It was the orange triangle with an exclamation mark which meant (so we gathered) that we had a “general” fault, anything from blown lights to injector problems in the engine itself. We checked the basic stuff (lights, fuses etc.) and couldn’t find anything obvious, which left the engine as the most likely culprit. That meant we had to find a garage.
Arghhhh! This could end up being our shortest trip ever….
We parked up and I started the tedious process of calling around…..garage after garage after garage
“On peut vous prendre la semaine prochaine” (we can take you next week) offered the lady on the phone
“How in the hell does that help me today??” is what I really wanted to answer, but managed to check myself and squeak out a more reasonable “Merci, mais ce sera trop tard. Connaissez-vous un autre garage qui puisse nous prendre? (thanks but that will be too late, do you know of another garage that will take us?)
This went on for an hour, with me begging a little more earnestly every time I called. Around 30 garages later I finally found a place ~1 hour away willing (at least) to see us.
“On ne peux rien garantir” warned the receptionist “mais on peut vous voire” (we can’t guarantee anything, but we can see you). Yessss…..finally!
Engine on, warning light off.
Of course it went off, of course it did. Doesn’t it always? We decided to drive for 20 minutes just to be sure, but it looked like whatever had triggered the thing had definitely gone away. Perhaps we’d had a bit of bad diesel? Or perhaps Paul’s fiddling with all the fuses had fixed a loose contact? Either way everything looked fine now.
Oh well, trip-cancelling disaster averted?
I called the garage to tell them were OK, and then attempted to relax. Surely this would be our only issue today?
Then The Campground In Dijon Was Full
Mid-week we rarely worry about campground availability even during the holiday season, but the way this day had started my Spidey-sense was on high alert.
It’s just the Universal Law of Traveling Miss-Haps, otherwise known as “it’s not over yet”. When a day starts off on the wrong foot, the Law dictates that things will happen in threes, and so far only one had occurred.
The campground in Dijon was a spot that we’d been looking forward to staying at for months as it was perfectly located, walking distance along the river to the wonderful downtown. This of course also made it perfect fodder for the Law. So I called, expecting the worst.
“Désolé, nous sommes complets” (sorry we are full) chirped the lady in a much-too-happy voice “On peux vous prendre demain?” (we can take you tomorrow?)
Of course they were full, of course they were. Oh well, no Dijon then?
We decided to stop and regroup for lunch at a lake that I found on Park4Night. More planning, more calling around and finally another spot found. The latter was a bit in the middle of no-where, but listed as a good overnight campground with large, green sites.
That should work, right?
A Good Drive
The drive through central France was actually lovely, and there’s lots to see in this area, if you have the time.
The wine region of Burgundy is here, renowned for some of the rarest and most expensive wines in all of France including the super-exclusive Domaine Romanée-Conti. It’s only a narrow strip of land around 60km long, and the best vineyards are concentrated along a teeny swath less than 2km (~1.2 miles) wide. We could just glimpse them in the distance along the soft-rolling slopes of the valley as we drove past.
Then there’s the town of Vichy, known for it’s spas and eclectic architecture, as well as several large natural parks (Parc Naturel du Morvan, Parc Naturel De Forêts) that I have yet to figure out. Honestly you could spend years just motorhome traveling around France itself.
The Final (French) Stop In Bourg
Our final campground in France (Camping La Croix D’Arles) was actually a super-cute little place.
A large, green park with lots of shade, an on-site restaurant, mini-golf, sauna (!) and all kinds of cutsey little touches. We were relieved to get there after our long day, and pretty happy to find the perfect-looking site…until the mud incident of course.
We were all exhausted that night, Polly too.
The first few days of travel are always a massive adjustment for anyone getting on the road. You feel cramped and uncomfortable and you ache in places you didn’t even think you could. Your bones hurt, even your a** hurts LOL. Plus you’re still trying to figure out your rhythm and how to move around each other in your teeny home. Polly was a little stressed too, poor girl. Road travel is tough on an old dog with arthritis and country habits, and it took her a while to settle down. The second night she finally found her groove and relaxed into a deep, snoring sleep. Dear old girl!
So a bumpy start, but not really a bad one all-in-all. Just a day of small challenges as so often happens on the road. We knew it was coming, but just hadn’t expected it so soon! Either way we were past it now (fingers and paws crossed) and a new country was in our sight.
Tomorrow we would leave France and take LMB into unchartered territory. Perhaps the rain would finally stop and we’d rest an extra day, if we found a spot we like. Or perhaps the road would throw us a few more obstacles, just to keep us on our toes. We’d find out soon enough.SPONSORED LINK:
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