You may have noticed that it has been very quiet here at Nomad Tales in the past year. It’s not that there hasn’t been anything worth writing about. We still live in Prague, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We still travel. In the past year, we have gone camping in three countries (France, Spain, and Portugal), fossil hunting in Germany, rafting in Cesky Krumlov (again), and visited relatives both in Ireland and the United States. Life was pretty good but something was missing.
I love all the camping trips we have taken so much that I spend the rest of the year waiting impatiently for the weather to be warm enough to pack the tent in the car and take off again. Facing the idea of spending another winter cooped up in Prague seemed unbearable. We looked for cheap flights to warm destinations. We talked about sensible, grownup things like budgets, responsibility, planning for the future, and saving for a house. And then I decided to heck with all of it and bought a motorhome.
Of course, it wasn’t that easy to make this dream happen. We don’t have the kind of money to be able to walk into a motorhome dealership and drive away with something shiny and new. Motorhomes are very expensive. When we looked at used motorhomes in our budget, we despaired of ever finding something that wouldn’t break down immediately. Finally, I found one where the dealer was offering a one-year warranty. I signed the contract and went home to buy the insurance and wait for the registration to be transferred into my name, all the while suffering from the worst possible anxiety attacks. I had a migraine that lasted 3 days. What had I done? Would I even be able to drive such a large vehicle through Europe?
A Very Steep Learning Curve
When setting off on a new adventure, mistakes are inevitable. Our first two weeks in the motorhome brought a few challenges but I think we are getting the hang of things now.
Mistake #1 – Not using a GPS designed for motorhomes.
All we wanted to do was drive the motorhome from the long-term parking lot, where we had left it the first night, to the caravan shop to buy a propane cylinder, and then park it at a campsite in Prague. It was a straight shot on the highway. It should have been easy. It didn’t go quite as planned.
I drove the motorhome while Micheal and Little Nomad followed in the car. We didn’t have a proper GPS system installed yet but I thought that the Google Maps app could manage a simple one hour trip down a highway. Oh, how very wrong I was. After making many pointless circles around the tiny streets in the centre of Prague, Google Maps did manage to finally find the highway. Unfortunately, it got very lost trying to find the caravan shop which was located directly next to the highway offramp. Instead, it sent me down a small slip road which turned into an even smaller trail. There was no possibility of turning around on this “road”, so I got out and walked 700 meters down the path to look for a place I could turn around.
Meanwhile, Micheal and Little Nomad are somewhere else entirely because Micheal has the CoPilot GPS app on his phone and it sent him a completely different route.
I got back in the motorhome and proceded carefully down the
road bicycle path until I could turn around on the edge of a field. A very muddy field, where the tires started to sink. I quickly reversed and proceded to bump into a small and non-threatening looking bush which managed to take out the brake lights on the bike trailer. Frack. I turned off Google Maps and made my way back to the highway. The caravan shop was next to the offramp. I have no idea how Google got so lost.
Propane cylinder safely installed, I decided to use the Waze app to navigate back to the campsite in Prague. Again, this should have been easy. It was supposed to be all highway until the final turn. It went horribly wrong.
Waze got very lost and sent me down many small streets in Prague 8. We live in Prague 8 but it is a huge area and I was not familiar with any of these side streets. Waze showed the campsite as being less than 4 kilometres away so I had no choice but to keep following it. It took me down a small residential street and instructed me to turn right. There was only one road on the right, it was the one-way highway offramp with cars coming off the highway! There was no possibility of backing up or turning around on the narrow street. The only alternative was to go straight instead, up a very steep hill.
I was sure the motorhome would not make it and I was right. Halfway up the hill, the engine died. I tried to start up again but every time I took my foot off the brake, the motorhome would roll backwards instead of moving forward. If I tried to give it enough gas so that it didn’t roll backwards, it would lurch forward and then die. Drivers behind me were honking which really didn’t help. No matter what I did, I could not get started and up the hill. I was terrified of rolling into one of the cars that kept coming up behind me before the driver would drive onto the sidewalk to go around me. Nobody stopped to help.
Micheal called to find out where I was but there was nothing he could do to help. Finally, someone tapped on my window. A man driving a delivery truck offered to help. I figured he probably knew much more about getting heavy vehicles up steep hills and gratefully turned the wheel over to him. He did. He had no trouble getting me to the top of the hill and even offered to follow me to the campsite. I knew the street that was at the top of the hill so I thanked him and continued on. I immediately stopped on a familiar street near the Ladvi metro and got out to let the engine cool down. My legs felt like Jello. I called Micheal to let him know where I was and then followed him to the campsite which was very close by.
The lesson learned here is to NEVER use a GPS not designed for motorhomes and caravans. Even the CoPilot app that Micheal had on his phone would have been better since it has a setting for caravans.
Mistake #2 – Not bringing enough coins.
After three nights at the Prague campsite figuring out how everything worked in the motorhome, we began our trip towards Spain. Our first overnight stop was in Wolframs-Eschenbach, Germany. We stayed at Stellplatz Waizendorfer Strasse, which is a fantastic parking spot for motorhomes that cost only 5 euros a night. It had electricity, showers, washing machines, and all the necessary motorhome service points. All of which required euro coins to use. We knew we would need them, but the Czech Republic uses its own currency, not the Euro, so we didn’t have a store of coins built up yet. We paid to park and put 1 euro in for electricity which lasted about 4 hours. Oh well, at least the WIFI was free and very fast.
Mistake #3 – Not opening both roof vents.
There are two roof vents in the motorhome. I had been cracking one of them for ventilation every night whenever it was not raining and opening it in the morning to let any condensation out. The other vent, nearest the bed, had an interior sunshade on it and I had just left it closed so that the morning sun would not shine on our faces. This was, of course, the wrong thing to do.
By the time we reached the south of France, I had developed a familiar dry cough that always means one thing: mould or mildew. I opened the sunshade to find that mildew had taken over the vent we had been keeping closed. Oops. After a thorough cleaning, I learned to always open both vents in the morning to let all condensation out. Works perfectly and even the driver windows clear up quickly when you open both vents in the morning.
And now we are spending the weekend at another motorhome parking spot near Perpignan, France. This is our last stop in France before we cross the border into Spain. The weather is a pleasant 19° C (66° F) and the beach is 900 meters away. Life is good.