Notes from a road trip: part one

Novel references: 1 – Black Beauty. All those wild horses had the theme music stuck in my head…

Shower facilities: 2/10 – large oily black hand prints on the tiles meant it was impossible to forget we were showering in the men’s toilets in a service station

Self-timer photos taken: 1P1010153

Food and drinks consumed beginning with the letter C: cake, cider, coffee

The story: Remember when you were a little kid and you used to pretend to drive cardboard boxes? You always turned the imaginary steering wheel even if you were travelling in an imaginary straight line…

They say driving a VW van is getting back to the basics of driving – no assisted braking or power steering – but I didn’t quite think we’d be going back as far as the pretend driving of my childhood. To drive in a straight line you did literally have to keep wiggling the wheel. To change gears you had to really push them into place. To move you had to really rev the engine. This was going to be great lo-fi driving fun.

We headed from Brighton to West Witterings on Chichester Harbour to get our bearings and make a vague plan. And a vague plan was all it was – we would strike out west and see how far we got before we had to turn around. With no campsite listings and the light rapidly fading we hunted out food and then drove into the New Forest.

All the campsites were closed for the season so we pulled into a parking area near-ish to a pub and trusted that in the inky darkness no one would spot our bright green van and move us on. I felt like a proper vanner, parking and sleeping for free. The only issue is that the open air doesn’t have all the facilities of a fully comprehensive campsite.

The next morning we realised we’d parked next to a golf course, with no real ground cover to hide behind for a wee. And obviously no showers. So we hit the services on the M27 motorway to make use of theirs. One shower in the men’s toilet.

‘Are you lady truck drivers?’ I was asked by the barista in Costa…


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