Luxembourg Stuck in the Mud (Road Trip to Paris, Part 1)
As we mentioned in the last post, we took possession of the RV on Thursday afternoon after getting to know the fundamentals of how the vehicle works. Of course, this was a lot to take in and so we videoed a bit of it and that has proved to be very helpful. The chemical toilet is surprisingly easy to deal with but the first time you pull it out can be a bit intimidating; you don’t want to make a mistake with a giant container of black water!
The guys at Durrwang were super helpful and they have space at the lot for overnight stays, power included. We spent Thursday night at the lot as we wanted to get familiar with the vehicle and ask questions on Friday morning before we took off towards Paris. At this point I still hadn’t even really driven the camping car. There was water and a grey water dump area and so we got to practice filling and emptying the tanks before we actually got on the road, so that was nice and helped boost our confidence a bit. There is certainly some trepidation involved in buying a nearly 3.5 ton RV and headlining off onto the small roads of Europe.
Our first shakedown trip was to Ikea to get some more of the essentials for our camping car. By this point we had gaffeled together some sheets and towels but that was about it. Sebastian has developed a bothersome bit of separation anxiety and we didn’t know what would happen if we left him alone in the RV so we had to take turns going in and getting the items on our list. We actually did this in Cologne as well, but that was solely a recon mission, each taking pictures of what we thought we needed for the RV. I know, this is not what normal people do, we get it. At any rate, we took turns in Ikea. Of course, there was torrential rain, which made the driving and the shopping a very wet experience (we parked the RV out in the middle of nowhere as to avoid hitting anything on our first mission).
Fitted with the bare essentials for camper van life, our next mission was stocking up on food and wine for the journey south. Fortunately for us, there was a grocery store just a few kilometers from the RV dealer and after our Ikea run that was a walk in the park. Our Hymer has a pretty big fridge and separate freezer which is really convenient and was high on the list of must haves. We have been pretty far from fully filling it up but I’m sure that will change with time. We’re still in the process of figuring out where to store things and the most efficient use of our space. So far, all of our stuff fits and we have a fair amount of free space still, so that’s nice!
On Friday morning we had a few questions for Marcus, our sales guy at Durrwang, and after we got some things sorted out we were on our way. A critical piece of paperwork had to be filled out in French for the registration in France and Shani and I had spent the evening trying to figure it out. Marcus was a champ and stamped and signed 3 different versions for us, just to be safe, as we didn’t know what we were doing! He was confident that we had all of the required paperwork, but us, not so much. We just had to hope that between he and Phill (our French agent) we would get it all worked out once we got to France.
We also figured out how to change the navigation from German to English (after several tries) and that was essential but she is about 100 meters off which can present a bit of a challenge! We’ve missed a few critical exits as a result so we need to try and re-calibrate to see if that helps as U turns in a 21 foot vehicle are not fun! We headed south from Dortmund with our goal of spending the night in Luxembourg. It was a relatively uneventful drive which was good! We were actually blown away by the beauty of both the Belgian and Luxembourg countryside. We had no idea the landscape was so amazing! One of the highlights of the trip was a stop for some French fries at a roadside frites stand in Luxembourg. Those were some good fries!
At the camp site in Luxembourg Shani was checking us in and the manager mentioned that we should take care in choosing the pitch as all the rain was making them quite muddy and people were getting stuck. Mindful of this we looked at a spot that seemed ok and I was supposed to pull slightly forward into another spot and reverse in. Which is exactly what I did. Except I didn’t. I pulled too far into the pitch (keep in mind, this is my first time really driving the RV and backing into a space, let alone a muddy one at that). And just like that we were stuck. Stupid front wheel drive! So there I was, stupidly spinning my wheels in the mud, just like I had been warned against.
Seeing our plight, some of our fellow campers came over to lend a hand which was awesome of them and we were so amazed at the kindness of strangers. The first gentleman brought over his mat to stick under our wheels and tried to coach me on reversing out of our predicament. This didn’t really work. Then a nice lady came over with mud traction mats that she had for her RV. Her advice, which has become our mantra now, was “Gently, but with great enthusiasm!” (and sometimes “Slowly, but with great enthusiasm!”) But alas, nothing was working to get us unstuck and finally we needed to get the manager and his tractor to pull us out. And tractor here is a loose interpretation, it looked more like a riding mower but it had what it took to get us out of the mud. As we found out, most of our camping neighbors had also needed the tractor and as we thanked him profusely he mentioned we weren’t the first of the day and probably wouldn’t be the last. Lesson learned, we parked on the tarmac road for the night.
And with that, our first true night living in the camping car was in the books. Quite a way to start! Stay tuned for our next post as we road trip and spend the night in Belgium and head into France where we break some rules and disrupt a running event on our way to camping car Disneyland.