Seeking the Sun Tour 2011

Seeking the Sun Tour 2011

The sun having been pretty much absent in the Netherlands this summer, or at least well hidden by clouds and rain, we decided that the sun was the object of our inaugural trip in our new green camper van. And when I say inaugural, I mean, we hadn’t even taken it out for a weekend, or even taken the kids for a ride in it yet. But here we were, heading out on vacation.

We bought the bus on July 2 – here it is then:

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However, there were a few important items we needed to add to it before we could go, namely a bed for Sprocket in the roof and a three point seatbelt. The seatbelt involved a day-trip to the Reimo store in Germany, Reimo being another company that builds camper van interiors, including ours. The bed we put in ourself and we’re quite pleased with it. It wouldn’t sleep an adult, but it’s huge for a three-and-a-half year old. Here’s Sprocket demonstrating it (without a mattress):

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And the front attachment – we put in one layer of wood, and attached it to the existing wood – then we added a movable piece with a protector ridge – secured it in the back with chain locks (think old suspicious women opening the door to see who it is), and in the front so (see the bumpers that hold it in when it’s down too):

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But we didn’t finish getting it in until July 24, after long discussions about how best to secure it, and a lot of time in hardware stores:

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This was one day before our planned departure date, which was to be Monday July 25 in the morning. In our typical fashion, we left Tuesday July 26 in the afternoon. In our defense, I had some stuff I needed to take care of first.

Silly cat thought he could come too:

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And Sprockette helped to pack the toilet wipes:

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The first thing we did was let DutchBoy’s family see the van, and of course we stayed for dinner. Which meant it was bed time when we were ready to go – OK, kids into their pajamas:

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So we made it just over the border into Belgium for the night. At least we avoided the trap of staying with family and delaying our start in the morning even more.

And that’s where the cool thing about having the van came in. While in Germany I’d picked up a guidebook to RV camping areas, many of which are free. So we found ourselves in a parking lot by a tourist farm and slept our first night in the van, for free. It was great, except the bed had one hard spot and Sprockette didn’t sleep very well, adjusting to her tent camping bed, which of course she hadn’t used before (we bought it for Sprocket when he was a baby). And packing up was faster than camping in a tent and even than schlepping stuff in and out of hotel rooms. Very cool. Here’s where we spent the night:

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After packing up, we headed out back on the road, making a stop at the huge Carrefour for a few things we’d forgotten, mostly things we’d forgotten to switch from one vehicle to the other (mandatory things, like a safety triangle, fire extinguisher and safety vests – I’m not used to needing to have these so forgot about them). And where are we going anyway? We knew that we wanted to see if the sun was hanging out in Slovenia, but how to get there? We decided to head through Switzerland, based mainly on the fact that the van came with a 2011 Swiss highway sticker. And we thought we’d head through Luxembourg because Sprockette hasn’t been there yet. So, we did. Random Luxembourg:

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We stopped at a empty/abandoned works lot to eat lunch and let the kids play. They demonstrated that they really don’t need toys to amuse themselves, Sprocket building a spider-trail from rocks and Sprockette filling an empty cherry container with rocks and making a shaker – here’s Sprocket taking a picture of her doing so:

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The pile of stones also provided a lot of possibilities:

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I’ve given Sprocket my old digital camera, one that I bought in 2002 and couldn’t kill. I haven’t uploaded his pictures yet, we’ll see what he gets.

We stopped for dinner at a rest stop in France – just needed to heat up the beans. Sprockette taking Papa and her doll for endless walks:

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I also surprised them with a chocolate cake I’d bought in Luxembourg. Of course, Sprockette stole DutchBoy’s first piece, little greedy guts:

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Then onwards to Strasbourg to spend the night in another parking lot. Of course, the exit we needed was closed so we had a long detour through the city to get there, and I was blessing the GPS. We eventually found it, pulled in, set up and slept there. For free.

And then the kids were entertained by the horses who lived next door while I packed up the van. After two nights without a shower we decided to head to the swimming pool, which we knew the kids would love, and we’d get clean! The GPS led us there, through a really complicated route we’d have never found otherwise. Again I expressed my happiness with the device.

We ate breakfast in the van before we went swimming. Here I’m telling the kids to sit down, and they’re being cheeky:

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Planning more mischief:

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The swimming pool was interesting – DutchBoy had to borrow speedos as his swim trunks were not allowed – nothing baggy is. And after the pools in the Netherlands which are mostly oriented for fun and family, with slides and wave pools and obstacle courses and other play areas for the kids, this French pool was utilitarian. One big pool for swimming laps, no kids under 6 allowed in there, and one small shallow pool for the kids. And men and women had to go in separate areas to change, no family rooms as in the Netherlands. But the kids really loved it, we had fun playing with them, and clean and refreshed, we were ready to hit the road again. Except for one small thing, but I’ll get into that next post.

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