2015
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  The Bright Side
Sun 2nd August 2015   
If there's one thing I've learned from the Monty Python, it's definitely to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

I had my share of crapy moments, but it's important to try to put it perspective within the grand scheme of things.

Prelude

These summer vacations pretty much sucked. It actually started to suck before they even started!

Last year we had a pretty awesome trip around Sweden that went pretty much perfectly on all fronts, with the only annoyingness behind a mechanical failure on the last day just before driving back to Oslo.

We were hoping this year would be similar, and perhaps even better thanks to my dad driving up from France in his own camper van and bringing a much needed awning for our own camper.

Additionally, building on last year experience we bought some additional things to improve the overall life quality inside the vehicle.

Rusty springs and bearings
Rusty springs and bearings
Unfortunately thing started badly with the visit to the repair shop taking one and a half month because of changes to the EU Kontrol rules:

The number of control points have increased from 85 to 150, meaning that we would not pass the control because of the rust in the lower body.

Additionally the mechanic found out that one of the dampers anchors had broken and that the rest of them were pretty rusty, so ultimately they were all changed, as well as all the wheel bearings.

As a result we retrieved the car on the last Thursday before the holidays started, no time to install any of the things we had bought before Solskogen started.

How it went

Fortunately after Solskogen I had two days available to work on the car, so ultimately I managed to install the tv screen and digital antenna, as well as all the required transformers and switch connections.

Because of the weather I was not able to install either the battery charger or battery coupler, which mean we would have to rely on the solar panels for keeping the batteries charged. Last year that was not a problem, but looking at the grey sky...

During these two days we also managed to collect the new spring-loaded blinds, an inflatable Kayak, some steps to facilitate the access to the car, and some lightweight storage unit to put our cloths and toiletry

On wednesday we were on the road, direction Larvik, to pickup my dad and his wife at the ferry from Denmark.

Surprisingly enough the weather was very nice, giving them a pretty good first impression: At least they could say they have seen sun in Norway ;)

Renault Eriba vs Volvo Feltvogn
Renault Eriba vs Volvo Feltvogn
After the mandatory welcome, we decided to go to one of the many campings along the coast.

The first one was full.

The second one was full.

The third one was full.

The fourth one was full, and I asked the guy if he knew of any place where he think we could go?

Following his indications we found the nice Guslandstranda camping which indeed had some free spots for us1

Let's camp

The camping was actually quite nice and gave us a perfect opportunity to discover how to mount our brand new awning.

Multi-jointed
Multi-jointed
It took a bit of reading, and a bit of trial and error, but we ultimately found a way to install and secure it faster than it took for my dad to get his own camper's awning out.

The whole concept of the Khyam awning is that the frame is pre-installed, and all you have to do is to deploy it by locking into position the many automatic joints that connect the giant contraption.

If you do it correctly and in the right order, you can pretty much get the tent out of the bag and standing by itself under a minute.

Then we slide three of the "figure of 8" connection strips on the tent strip, and lock the connection in the vehicle's rain gutter.

Done.

Packing up is about as fast after you figured out how to refold it before rolling it into the bag.

Jury rigging

The camping was actually quite nice and after a visit to Stavern we spent some time installing a missing windshield locking strip.

The funny thing is, we asked the repair shop who kept the car for one and a half month, among other things, to fix some leaks in the windshield.

They did replace one of the seals, but they did not notice that the main seal around the windshield itself had not been properly mounted and was missing a small rubber bead that is supposed to ensure that the seal is tightly compressed between the glass and the metal frame.

Fail.

Men vs rubber, the epic struggle
Men vs rubber, the epic struggle
So with my dad's help, we installed it.

That was supposed to be a super easy job, just make sure the seal is clean, use some detergent as a lubricant, and in five minutes it's done.

Muhahahahahahaha.

Laugh. Cry. Scream.

Well, let's say that we were three doing it, alternating because of sore shoulders and painful fingers, but ultimately it took probably less than four hours.

So yeah, you don't want to do that by yourself if you don't have the nifty little tool designed specially for that.

On the positive side we discovered that the windshield could be open in a multiple number of creative ways: And suddenly I understood what all these weird metal thingies I removed were for2.

Weather change

Det regner, det regner, tidelibom
Det regner, det regner, tidelibom
Unfortunately the weather changed, and until the final day we pretty much rain every single day, which made the experience less than optimal if the plan was to discover the beautiful landscapes of Norway.

As a side bonus, installing a tent when it rains kind of suck, and packing-up a tent that has been in the rain and muddy ground for hours sucks even more.

On a positive note, the water leaks have significantly reduced compared to before we did our repairs, so that's a definitive win.

Since I did not have the time to install the battery coupler, with such a crappy weather it was only a matter of when we would run out of battery.

I've got the power!
I've got the power!
When we reached Egersund we were starting to be dangerously low on juice so during a short period without rain I decided to try to plug the battery charger.

Nothing like playing with 220 volt appliances connected to large battery banks when it can start to rain at any time.

Fortunately I was able to connect everything, using one of the rubber mats as an insulator to avoid shortening anything, close the door, and the next morning we were back in business.

Explosion engine

Last year we had the top of the engine changed to allow us to use unleaded fuel directly without to use additives.

So far it had worked well and we had used both 95 and 98 octane fuel without a problem.

Unfortunately at some point we refilled the tank at a Statoil station with E95 fuel, and it did not seem to like it at all.

We had been driving for few dozens of kilometers when suddenly the car started to produce violent explosions.

We had a Jerrycan full of 98 on board and used it to refill the car, which considerably improved the situation.

After refilling with entire tank of 98 we did not encounter any other issues after that.

So note for later: Don't use Statoil E95 in the Valp.

Road trip

That's not wide
That's not wide
After, still under the rain, we drove until Stavanger and the continued to Hjelmeland were we stopped for the night in one of the weirdest campings I've ever visited3.

The ground was so saturated in water that when walking on the grass we could see the water moving up the shoes, and the next morning the removal of the pegs was accompanied by a loud suction noise...

The next day we took the ferry and continued in direction of Røldal where the roads became significantly mountain-ish, which is ok with the Volvo but my Dad some scarily close encounters with some third parties caravans.

Extreme Off Road!
Extreme Off Road!
The plan was to drive as far as possible so long as the weather was crap, but to stop to any nice camping in the vicinity if it looked like nice weather appeared.

After noticing an area of blue sky, we decided to find a nice camping.

It's a good thing we had some paper version of the maps and list of campings, because the GPS had decided it was the best time to lose all connection with the satellites.

Kayak

We managed to find a camping bordering a lake.

Extreme Off Road!
Extreme Off Road!
To get the access to it we had to park quite far from the utility buildings, but that was acceptable4

Anyway, the sky was blue, so we decided to try the Kayaks.

I believe the last time I used one was in England when I was 14 so I was a bit rusty.

Fortunately the thing was stable and not too complicated to use, so I managed to get on it and take some photos without actually getting too wet.

Since the place was nice, we decided to stay there a second day if the weather was nice.

As on clue, it started to rain in the evening, rained during all the night, rained in the morning, and it was still raining when we started packing the tent.

Bergen

Nice view
Nice view
Considering the weather, there was no point trying to see anything, so we decided to take the shortest road to Bergen, through the Jondal tunnel under the glacier.

After few hours of mechanical torture for the breaks and the clutch and passing by a very large number of waterfalls, tunnels, bridges and ferries we finally arrived in view of Bergen.

And you know what? It was almost sunny in Bergen.

After spending 15 minutes trying to find where to park a 7 meter long camper in the center of Bergen, I finally left my Dad and his wife visit Bryggen and the rest of the area while I tried to find a shop to buy the missing cable I needed to install my battery coupler (yes the batteries were getting low again).

Warning!!!
Warning!!!
I did find the cable, and also some rolls of self-sticking protection tape designed to protect doors to hit the concrete in parkings.

I decided to give a try and see if they could help solve the condensation problem we had during the night when the outside was much colder than the inside.

Waking up at 3 am because of a drop of water on your forehead is not nice.

I will be the first to admit that it does not look super pretty, but it actually works. By covering the exposed metal of the beams with the foam we suppressed the thermal bridge, no more condensation sticking to it, no more water dripping down.

Epilogue

Gearbox oil change
Gearbox oil change
Our original plan was to continue the trip toward the north, in direction of Kristiansund.

That would have allowed Miriam to see her familly, and by going through the Atlantic Bridge my Dad would finally have visited this famous place.

Before continuing I wanted to make sure we could reach the place, so we did some oil level fixes, including the gearbox which was starting to do some unwanted noises in low gears.

And then we leave Bergen, petrol tank full, all levels checked.

First roundabout to the right, we are on the road full steam ahead...

Well, it's a Volvo after all
Well, it's a Volvo after all
...and then the engine stops.

I let it roll until the road enlarges and park the car there.

We called the road assistance and one hour later the car was left at the Bergen Volvo repair shop.

Then my Dad drove us to an hotel, where we spent two days doing exciting things in rainy Bergen while my Dad continued his visit of Norway.

We then took the plane back to Oslo and tried to relax as much as possible before starting work again.

This happened the 22nd of July, and today is the 2nd of August.

The car is still in Bergen at the Volvo repair shop, and the plan is to get it shipped from Bergen when the repairs are done.

Conclusion

So I said you should try to see the bright side even when things suck.

Sure it's not easy, but if you think about it, things are not *that* bad.

If you are reading this you are probably not dying from hunger, you are not living in a country where rockets can obliterate you, you have internet and a some electronic devices, you have clean water, you have affordable healthcare.

Heck, to have sucky holidays and a broken car means that you are among the lucky persons who can actually have holidays and afford to have a car.

So yeah that was probably the worse summer holidays I had in a long while, but:
  • I've seen some areas of Norway I had not seen before (I can now say I have been to the southern point of Norway)
  • I have a super cool tent for the car (despite it having been folded wet in its bag more than a week ago)
  • all the stuff I installed actually worked when tested
  • the windshield is mostly repaired and we discovered new usages for it
  • even if it was expensive we have some important parts of the car now brand new and guaranteed safe
  • we used the forced stop in Bergen to have nice restaurants, visit the aquarium and go to the cinema

And thanks to losing my dental crown I finally took an appointment to the dentist: What we paid for the car problems palled in comparison to what I will have to pay for my teeth!

So well, it's all in the attitude I guess, and later the events tend to lose their nastiness and become funny anecdotes :)




1. The fact it was the most expensive of all the campings where used probably explains why it had available spots.
2. Good thing I did not throw them away, next time we have a warm summer we may be able to drive with the windshield open to get some fresh air.
3. Weird people, smells of dog, full of cats everywhere, horrible horrible showers and toilets
4. Miriam disagrees
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