Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Police and MacGyver

Duck tape did not solve the problem.
We parked our car and trailer on the roadside, in Kiel. It was time to say goodbye to Nikolas and his wife Flora, have a cup of coffee in their apartment, and move on. We had found out that we have to be Nuremberg a day earlier than we thought, so we had a lot driving to do. As usual, we checked the caravan and the car. This time around, annoyingly, we found that everything was not OK: the cable that connects our caravan to the car was damaged, badly. It is too long and part of it had dragged on the ground, so part of it has just disappeared. Not good. The lights in the caravan still work, so we’ve decided we can still go on. After our coffee.

Sleepless on a motorway

We drove several hours after the coffee I got in a Moomin mug (Oh, how much I miss my Moomin mugs…), eating a Döner on our way. Around 8pm, somewhere on autobahn number 2, we turned to a “rastplatz”. Germany is full of good parking places by the road, some of them even have toilets and places to cook. There are usually many trucks - I think this is the only way to tell if the place is any good. Our parking place had no facilities but we just needed a place to sleep.

Our heater didn’t work. The temperature in the caravan was 13°c and the night was going to be cold. Timo checked the batteries. They were ok. We still had gas but not that much. Had the damaged cable had any effect? We had no idea. I was ready to sleep under extra blankets, but Timo wanted to find a new gas bottle  - or a place with electricity. So we started up again, Väinö half asleep on the back seat. Half of the lights on the caravan were out, and of course it was raining.

We stopped at three different gas stations with no help. I tried to Google all possible locations that might be helpful. We took a turn into a caravan site, just to find out it was not open. I was getting desperate. Right then we spotted a police car. In a dark and otherwise empty parking-lot of an Aldi supermarket.

Police inspection

We drove up next to the police car and I went to talk. The policeman on the driver’s seat opened the window and I found out I was disturbing their evening meal  - Döner, of course. The police officer talked rather good english and suggested we should go to a gas station near by. That place had a huge parking space for trucks, and it was open 24/7.

We drove to the gas station and Timo went to ask for gas, electricity or any kind of help. Soon I noticed that the police car had driven to the same station. Perhaps they had noticed the illegal lighting - or lack of it - on our caravan, perhaps they were just friendly or had nothing else to do. They came to check that we got help.

With help translating from the police officers, we managed to buy a new gas bottle. While Timo was installing it, I showed the caravan to the officers. Because they asked, and you don’t say no to a policeman. “It is soooo big!”, they said. I’m sure they had a memorable night shift.

My darling MacGyver

The new gas bottle did not help with the heating, though. It was way past 10pm. I was exhausted. Timo checked all possible components with a multimeter. If you go on the road for a year, you MUST have a multimeter. And some knowledge of how to use it. We also have the manual for our heating system. With their help, Timo discovered that a fuse in the heater was out. A tiny little tube of glass.

Fortunately the gas station sold glass fuses. With that little piece, the machine started. We had heating!

At half past eleven we were able to go to bed. On a parking-lot of the gas station. A noisy motorway next to us. At least it was warm. And we were in our own beds.

The only downer was that I had lost my tablet. The one where I read my morning paper and nice book in the evenings with the Kindle app. I hadn’t used it during the day. We searched everywhere. The only strangers we had in the caravan were the police officers. I don’t think they took it. It is just misplaced.

I downloaded the Kindle app and our family library to my phone. One chapter of wizard Dresden’s adventures (Butcher’s Dresden files, highly recommend)  was exactly what I needed after a day like this. His life is also quite messy. But he doesn’t have foreign police officers as friends, and a clone of MacGyver as a husband.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Pit-Stop For A New Start

We stopped in Luleå and Umeå. In both camping places parking was easy... 
I woke up to a beeping noise. It was the computer UPS: we had lost electricity. Or I had. Timo and Väinö were at the Umeå swimming hall. I was having a nap due a bad migraine. My migraine and not-so-nice snowy weather were the reasons why we had stopped in Umeå instead of driving 300 km further to Sundsvall, as we had planned. I sent a WhatsApp message to Timo: “Electricity lost, don’t know what to do”. We had a similar issue previously but I just couldn’t remember how he fixed it.

Of course, this would happen when I’m alone. It’s Murphy’s law. The very same reason why our mail server decided to stop working right when we left Finland. We seem to be Murphy’s favourites right now.

Prepared - But Not Well Enough

It was a memorable moment when I locked our home door knowing it will be almost a year before I open it again. I shed a few tears when driving - south, below the arctic circle, to a whole new way of living. On the last morning I woke up at 6, gathered the last few items in a pile in one room, collecting the random stuff I thought I might need during the year into some bags and threw them into to van. I phoned our tenant and apologised that we didn’t have time to clean up. Later I got a picture from her of a fully organised collection of spices. Our house will be in good hands.

Voting for a president before leaving the country.

We stopped in Rovaniemi for some final repairs to the caravan. And to fulfill our civil duty: voting. In Finland we have a presidential election at the moment. In the Finnish parliament system the candidate who gets the most votes wins. (Unlike in some other countries...) If there will be a second round in this election, we will not be able to vote. We will be at the Nuremberg Spielwarenmesse.

When we crossed the border to Sweden, the snowing started. Have you ever tried to drive while towing a 9 meter long caravan on an icy road? The draft from cars overtaking your slower vehicle gives some interesting wobble to the van. I usually have low blood pressure, but I can assure you, there were some really high peaks then. I know where the migraine came from.

There have also been other sources of stress lately. While we were packing everything for the tour, we also had to finish materials for the Kickstarter campaign of Darwinning!. The hours we had in a day were not enough. We ended up doing just the mandatory stuff. Not everything we knew was needed, not everything we are capable of doing. We hoped for the best, and right after the Kickstarter launch we knew that hope was false.

Laundry, Cleaning and Second Start

The electricity loss in Umeå was easily solved: the fuse of the electrical outlet was blown. My migraine eased with medication. We repacked the caravan to get better balance and the wobbling decreased. After two days of driving I was able to relax in the car. But I let Timo do the driving.

What we were not able to solve on the road was the mail server issue. We are still not sure what is broken and why. We cannot read company emails and that is a major problem. It was necessary to make big decisions. We cancelled the Darwinning! campaign because it obviously needed more marketing and at the moment we don’t have the resources to do that. We will make a fresh start with Darwinning! in February.

Closer to Stockholm: less snow, more sun.
We did eventually reach Stockholm and we parked up at Ängby Camping. Nice, small place with a surprisingly large number of caravans, obviously in use for full-time living. We will stay here for a few days. I have time to investigate what on earth I threw in the bags before leaving.

Luckily we have a friend in Stockholm with two laundry machines and a sauna! Even though we have been on tour for less than a week, this pit-stop is really needed. It is nice to have dinner in a kitchen were two people can move at the same time without walking into each other.

But our son voiced my thoughts during breakfast this morning: this caravan is starting to feel like home.

Väinö making pancakes - just like at home.