A holiday that didn't start so well

Büssli

Our camper van suffered three ripped cooling water hoses in the last two months. Together with my brother who is the engineer in charge of maintaining our vehicles, we looked for the source of the troubles. Although not entirely sure, after a test ride I was confident that we found and fixed it. We even exchanged some hoses that looked worn as a precautionary measure.
So my wive and myself stuffed everything for our holiday on the Italian island of Elba into the van. Rather than at 11pm as initially planned, we left already at 4pm. That should give us some comfortable reserve to reach the ferry the next morning. Unfortunately, the cooling water warning light forced me to drive to a service area after only 30km. It was a ripped cooling water hose again. The guy from the breakdown service replaced it and performed a series of tests to make sure the cooling system worked properly. He told us we could move on, but we didn’t trust our Hippie Bus enough to drive all the way, after what happened.

XJS

So we returned home in order to perform another episode of How much luggage fits into a vintage grand tourer. With the Jaguar I drove trough the night. I did a few stops for drinks and toilet. After one stop in the early morning, not too far away from the port, the engine wouldn’t start. Oh shit, I had this a few years ago, and remember just too well, that the highly compressed V12 engine wouldn’t start with an ordinary bridging cable. Back then, the TCS guy had a super thick cable and I don’t know how many batteries in the trunk in order to kick start my car. So this time as a first measure, I bought a 500 Amp bridging cable at the gas station. We tried it with a couple of other cars. But through the narrow contact area of the clamps, there would just not come enough power to start the engine. So I called the breakdown service again. He came with an ordinary booster pack, and wouldn’t believe that an engine could require more energy to start than his booster pack could provide. So he brought us to his plumber shop. I asked them to install a charged battery. But they insisted that the problem must be somewhere else. So he carried us 20km to the next Jaguar repair shop. After a while they fitted a new battery, and all was well again. We could continue our journey with a six hours delay. We missed the ferry we booked, but it was no problem to take another one.

Elba

The time on Elba was great and without trouble. Water and air temperatures were very nice. It was the first time at the sea for Noah. He insisted on bringing his best shirt: “Mom told me it is only for special occasion. I’m going to see the sea for the first time. That is very special to me”. With Levin we were at the Dune du Pyla when he was 19 months old. He only remembered what we told him, and the photos we showed him. The water was super clear and flat for the most part. Only the last two days we got some small waves. To see all the beaches and caves, we went on a full day boat tour all around the island. A couple of times the boat stopped, and we could go for a swim. Another day we visited the oldest city on the island that we still remembered from the last time 8 years ago. But for the most part, we enjoyed the beach. The guys that were next to us at the camp side told us that every time we were away, people would take pictures of our hippie bus tent. Also when I was driving the Jaguar around in Italy or parking it, I often heard remarks containing words such as “belleza”. Somebody liked it so much that he wanted a souvenir, and stole all four tire valve caps.

Trip back home

The drive home was mostly smooth. Only once we had some worrying moments. That was when I climbed a small hill on the highway, and right in front of me there was a plastic gas canister on the road. It would have been too risky to perform an avoidance maneuver. So I centered on it, and hoped it would slip under the car. Instead we dragged it along. I was releaved that only one hundred meters ahead was an exit. By driving the right wheels on the sidewalk for a moment I could get rid of it.

VW Bus Treffen Schwarzsee

Last saturday we went to the vw bus gathering at the Schwarzsee. There were more than 460 VW Busses present from all different types. I had the impression, to see less vehicles than last time, but comparing the pictures from 2009, I’m not so sure anymore. It’s amazing in how good a shape some of the vintage hippie mobiles still are.

By accident we discovered a DVD of “The Bus” movie on the bugbus booth. It was apparently crowd-funded by a kickstarter campain.

Of course I went for a short flight, to see the event from the top, while Mirella and the kids listened to a “Guggämusig”.

The drive there was a good opportunity to test the SPOT Connect that I got for my birthday. [map link] Contrary to my previous understanding, It doesn’t provide internet connectivity, but allows to send custom messages to pre-defined phone numbers and eMail addresses. As the simpler SPOT devices, it contains a transmit only unit for the GlobalStar satellite network. The very bad thing about it, is that it was hard to perform the required firmware upgrade. They provide the upgrade program only for Windows and Mac. But communication afterwards seems to be better, as lined out by this blog post.

Enough blabbing, pictures tell more than words:

Chiemsee Holiday

Like for most people around here, summer holidays for us usually means going south. And that is what we usually did in the past. This year, we wanted something new. The countries north of Switzerland were unexplored territory for us in regards of holiday destinations. We had ideas to go to the netherlands, Belgium or the Provence. The Nordic countries, we wanted to save for later, for a bigger trip when the boys grow older. After some brainstorming and discussing, we settled on the north sea cost of Germany. It would be a long drive, but manageable wit the current age of our boys. Then we found out that Levin is still allergic to fish. So we figured, that going to the sea might be not such a great idea. At least a lake we needed so that we could do some kayaking. Thus, the next best thing was the Bavarian sea: the Chiemsee.
We both didn’t know the area. The closest I was before, was Berchtesgaden, where I was competing in the 2005 German paragliding championship. Lots of people told us that it is a very nice area. So we looked forward to it.
The day we drove there was full of postponings. We left only in the middle of the afternoon, and so we didn’t make it in time to check into the camping. Consequently, we had to sleep the first night parking in the driveway, with all the luggage still in the camper.

Our first canoe excursion was not so pleasant, as Noah didn’t sleep enough, and so he complained all the time. The area was nice indeed with lots of activities for the kids. Definitely the highlight was the fairy tale theme park in Ruhpolding. It is a paradise for kids, full of ingenious playgrounds and stuff to explore. Neither the flyer nor the homepage can describe how good it is. If you’re in the area with children, you have to go there!

The Chiemsee is on the flat land but very close to the mountains. As it’s on the flat, the underground is all mud. I had heard of two nearby flying sites before: Hochfelln and Hochries. One day we wanted to go to the Hochries, but the easterly wind was not suited for flying there, and the one person chairlift was a no-go for Mirella anyway. So we went to Kössen just after the Austrian border. I was very positively surprised of the flying area. It was well protected from the prevailing wind, and had enough room for many paragliders on takeoff and in the air. It reminded me a lot of Gstaad. After about an hour flying in the gentle thermals above takeoff, I decided it’s time to look after my family. Then I found out that landing next to the cablecar was the trickiest part of the flight. There were lots of small thermals close to the landing area.

One day we took the boat across the lake to have a ride with an old steam train. The boys were totally excited by the ancient technology. Next, we visited the castle on the main island. It was built for the fairy tail king Ludwig the second, who also built castle Neuschwanenstein. The castle on the Chiemsee island is a copy of the french Versailles palace, and although not finished, full of excessive splendour.

On the way home, we stopped in Munich to visit the BMW world with our two car fanatics. From every model sold in the BMW group, there was a piece in the exhibition. The kids could sit into all but the Rolls Royce. We had a hard time to get them out again.

Variable fan speed for the camper

The T3 VW camper vans came with a three step fan speed switch. Maybe it broke just like that, or maybe it was due to the kids playing with it endlessly. No matter what, the broken switch was a good opportunity for an upgrade. I ordered a 15A PWM motor speed controller which I thought should be big enough. Its potentiometer was broken on arrival, so I got a more rugged one from the local shop.

Connecting it was more complicated than I thought. With the original three step switch, the motor was directly connected to ground, and the highest tier connected it directly to 12V. The other two tiers had resistors in series. My naive expectation was that the ground would be common between source and motor, in the PWM unit as well. But instead the plus was common and the minus was PWM switched. So I had to search the connection from the motor to ground and cut it.
In the end, it works like a charm…

Refurbishing our VW Bus camper van

Refurbishing our beloved VW Bus camper van that served us so well on our great adventure in south america was long over due. After lots of offers and some setbacks, it’s finally going to happen before the rust wins.

Last week, I spent two days tearing everything appart.Removing bumpers, windows, lights, mirrors, trims, bike and kayak carrier, fridge… Scratching on every bit of rust I could spot.

Now the pro’s will handle the rust and give it a new paint. And in two weekt, I will put everything back together. Here are some Pics of how it looks at the moment:
VW Bus torn appart