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On those rare occasions that my human leaves me to sit in another location, there is nothing nicer than mucking about on boats!  I thoroughly enjoyed the views across the Saar river in Saarland, Germany on my latest boat trip…..

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Trekinetic wheelchairs are all about adventure!

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I woke up this morning to a new year…in fact, my 53rd year, therefore a birthday outing was in order.  Hubby and I had planned a trip to Saarbrucken for the day but for whatever reason whilst I couldn’t sleep properly last night I had plenty of opportunity to think about what I have enjoyed this holiday, and therefore would love to do for my birthday.  I realised that a large number of my best memories have been wine tours and vineyards, so surely that was the better option for my day out – hubby probably wouldn’t mind either! 🙂

I planned a return trip to the Bad Durkheim region which was a couple of hours away, but during my route planning the points of interest on my satnav showed a huge tract of land a much shorter distance north of us which also has a wine region – who knew!  Exciting new vineyards to explore on the Moselweinstrasse.

When hubby woke, I posed the question about whether he would mind skipping our original plan for a wine tour – guess what his answer was?

We headed north towards Trier and hoped to find somewhere nice for breakfast on the way.  Not 20km later we noticed signs for Villeroy & Boch…and then some more….they were following us, and it would appear rude not to follow the call of the famous pottery works.  It turned out to be a great decision because the town of Mertzig is on the Saar river, and has Villeroy & Boch, and boat trips, AND great places to eat – what’s not to love.

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Breakfast consisted of all sorts of beautiful and fresh continental goodies – a real treat….IMG_4552

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We decided to go on the boat trip tomorrow as I had my heart set on the wine route today.  It was a lovely drive through valleys along the Saar and Mosel rivers and into more vineyards than I have EVER seen in my life – and that’s saying a lot from a girl who has lived in South African wine country.

The scenery was magnificent….

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Then we stopped at the gorgeous village of Trittenheim on the Mosel river.  Here we met a third generation wine farmer who has scaled down his operation to a mere 10,000 bottles of wine per year in his later years.  What wonderful stories he had for us, and what wonderful wine hubby tasted.  Needless to say, we came away with another 8 bottles of wine; but more importantly, with wonderful memories….

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Happy and satisfied with another wonderful day in Germany, we headed back to Campingplatz Siersburg…..

…and the question of whether I’m any wiser now that I’m a year older? Perhaps not nearly as wise as I would like to be, but definitely wise enough to know that spending a glorious day with my amazing hubby is priceless!

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….eat chocolate – LOTS of chocolate!

Our second day in Switzerland was dedicated to more eating – this time of the sweet variety.  Switzerland started the eating chocolate craze and continue it in style to this day.

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We were on the doorstep of the oldest chocolate factory in Bros – the Cailler chocolate paradise.  We absolutely had to go on the tour, and it was one of the best tour experiences we have ever been on.  It was a bit like a theme park through the history, the manufacture and then the tasting of chocolate – WOW!

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You get to try all sorts of chocolates and as long as you don’t take any out of the factory tour, you can eat as much as you like…

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…and I for one definitely had my fill – hubby on the other hand had to be dragged away with the promise of a cup of coffee in the restaurant.  They obviously specialise in great hot chocolate, but by this point I had admitted chocolate defeat and settled for a Latte and an amazing Frappelatte…

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Now fully sweetened up, we went for a wonderful drive down to Lake Geneva and the town of Montreux – made famous by Deep Purple’s, ‘Smoke on the water’ – or so, hubby informed me because although I had been singing it for years, I had not made this association.

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The drive back was a bit of a hair-raising affair as we traversed rather high mountains in search of the more scenic route!  Boy, we certainly got that in buckets….and did I forget to mention that we encountered MORE vineyards? They are following us around on this holiday 🙂

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Wow, the skills of these tree fella’s (get it….tree fellers?, oh never mind!)…DSCN6578 DSCN6585

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2nd Oct 2015

After one night in the previous campsite we moved onto Alte Saghmuhle in Sulzburg; only a couple of miles away in distance, but a million miles away in beauty and tranquility!  Saghmuhle means sawmill and this area is clearly BIG on timber.  The old sawmill wheels have been re-invented as water features on the site next to the main house….IMG_4276 IMG_4287 IMG_4293 IMG_4294

Our type of campsite is rural and we got this in spades….DSCN6417 DSCN6422 IMG_4313 IMG_4315

Amongst the magnificent trees and scenery of the South Black Forest, this campsite is deceptively large because so much of the terraced camping is hidden amongst a very old and established forest on terraces which are hidden from each other by vegetation.  This is our idea of paradise, and despite it being beautiful, remote and picturesque it still has all the facilities that we need with bathrooms, washrooms, laundry and electricity.  

Across the road, and where the majority of the sites are situated, is a very old Jewish cemetery set against the hillside in the forest.  I wasn’t able to go up these stairs, even my hubby puts his foot down at certain inclines, but hubby got some lovely pictures for me…DSCN6407 DSCN6413 IMG_4293

Next let’s talk about wood piles.  Not something many of you will get too excited by, but when your home has 3 working fireplaces (and 5 others to uncover) then you may begin to understand my wood pile envy!  Obviously in The Black Forest there is no shortage of wood for fires and wood piles are equally aplenty in back yards as well as farms, but here at Alte Saghmhule we have a pretty impressive woodpile by anyones standards…IMG_4321 IMG_4327

For me, forget all those other 5 star campsites with their swimming pools and restaurants, I would happily spend a few weeks here and tour the region, visit the vineyards, or sometimes just sit around the campsite.

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4th October 2015

We headed off through Basel and down towards Gruyere.  An easy couple of hours on really good roads so we arrived in plenty of time to do a bit of sightseeing, and what better place to start than at Castle Gruyere.  A stunning town set on a mountain top with a castle at the peak.  We watch a short film on the history of the castle before going off to get some beautiful pictures of the building and surrounding countryside.  This place is wonderful, but a REAL challenge in a wheelchair!  My Trekinetic was a lifesaver and without it I wouldn’t have even got to the gates of the castle.  I wasnt able to go inside the castle but they didnt charge me an entrance fee but I still managed, only just, to get around the grounds and outer yards.

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Next on the agenda was the factory visit to the Gruyere cheese board.  Very nice, but very commercial, so we didn’t stay too long before heading off to find Camping Haute Gruyere in Enney.

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Dinner was an obvious choice because our campsite cafe offered cheese fondue on the menu.  Hubby is definitely a happy camper….

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Today’s blog post is a review of our final camp site in Germany by my hubby….

The river Nied runs gently through Campingplatz Siersburg and the river front pitches are large and spacious with lovely views; all very picturesque.

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We decided to choose a pitch with a great view of the river, but this did mean we were at the furthest point from the ablutions. The ablutions are very clean and have all the facilities you need when out camping.  Access for toilets and showers for wheelchair users is in a separate space at the main restaurant and office complex and I did not make use of these am unable to make any comment, but the brochure does say they have heated shower and toilet facilities for the disabled.  

Our camper was on one of the larger pitches which had a hard standing which was level – rather nice as we have not yet had the chance to buy chocks for the wheels to level the van.

We arrived in the first week of October and by then the site was entirely empty of families as they had returned for the new school year.  The only other campers were touring couples and a few semi-static caravans which had not yet departed for the end of season.

Generally the campsite is neat but as with all German campsites we have been to so far, there is a large number of semi-permanent caravans left on site all year and these were sometimes a little untidy as they were filled with a years worth of camping and holiday paraphernalia, but this did not detract in any way from our enjoyment of the site.  

Internet access on the site is excellent and available all round the site for a very reasonable cost per day.  A real bonus when you are attempting to blog about your travels.

The restaurant and bar served us an excellent takeaway meal last night and the owners are very helpful and friendly.

We were very happy to have stopped here for the three nights at the end of our holiday as it is quiet and comfortable with great access to the wine routes in the Rheinland.  We are also within a 4 – 5 hour drive of the ferry in Calais which makes it a good alternative to the other great camping site we stayed at previously in Luxembourg.

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3rd Oct 2015

Today was unification day, and an official holiday in Germany so we were not entirely sure what to expect apart from being told that all the shops would be closed.  When we set out on our tour of the countryside, we never expected too much, but we got WAY more than we could have hoped for.

Firstly a lovely drive through the Black Forest.  Then off to Staufen for a walk about followed by a pitstop for cake and coffee whilst we watched the local races around the town.  Different distances and age groups participated, but generally most people got involved and we notice that the Germans are a very active nation and they start them very young which is admirable.IMG_4373 IMG_4385

From Staufen we headed off to the wine route near our campsite because they were having a Weinwandertag, or wine-route-meander today.  We had expected to amble into the village and see what was going on, but we were immediately caught up in the local excitement of wine, food and a bit of fun in the sun, and decided to join in.  Firstly hubby had a glass for the road accompanied by the local German band in full swing, and then we grabbed our map of the route and struck out for the vineyards.  IMG_4435

I will admit that it was very hard work, especially for hubby, as these vines like to grow on hilly ground and therefore the route was up and down and all around!  Thank goodness for my trusty Trekinetic K2 because otherwise this amazing activity would have been beyond us.  This may well be the first time any of these folks have seen the route completed by someone in a wheelchair…and almost definitely a first for Trekinetic….Thank you K2!

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This Weinwandertag is brilliantly organised each year by the Britzinger winery with very well stocked food and drinks stations along the way.  We opted for Rosenberg route 2 because it is apparently not quite as taxing as route 1 – I cannot compare them but boy am I glad we didn’t do more difficult one!!!

After a kilometre or so we stopped at the first station with tents, table and chairs and plenty of food and drink to be enjoyed before the next stage.  We forged on without stopping and after a wonderful walk through the vines we eventually arrived at the next station where we thoroughly enjoyed our refreshments.  We decided to skip out a number of the stations because we had started so late in the day and really wanted to be back to enjoy some of the food, wine and music on offer at the Britzinger winery.  The next stage was a bit of a killer, and hubby and I huffed and puffed up a number of very steep tracks and roads before getting back to the starting point.  Oh boy, that was a workout and after 6kms we definitely deserved that fat port roast roll and new wine.

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Seriously, this has to be one of the best days out you will ever enjoy.  If you are ever in Germany during early October, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Satiated and tired we headed home to pack up our campsite ready to leave for the next stop on our journey…

Switzerland, you have a LOT to live up to!

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1st Oct 2015

A quick 60km north and we arrive in the city of Freiberg, and the old historical part of the city definitely doesn’t disappoint.

The Munster is set in a very large square and despite some scaffolding covering parts of the spire, it is magnificent….DSCN6346 DSCN6381 IMG_4255

Outside on the square and in the surrounding small streets are the most exquisite buildings which are grandly painted…..DSCN6341 DSCN6386 DSCN6391

…and the most historic looking McDonalds I may have ever seen….DSCN6388

In this city, even the gutter covers are beautiful…IMG_4268

This is definitely a city that should be visited because it isn’t just the Munster and town centre that are lovely, but the bridges along the waterways are each a work of art as well.  

My trusty steed, the Trekinetic K2, did an incredible job once again, and made short work of all the cobbled streets.

Back to Sulzburg for a bite of dinner.  The village has an Espetata restaurant which is amazing!  The food was simply superb and we may have to visit here again.IMG_4272

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1st Oct 2015

Today was meant to be our shopping in a big city day.  We don’t usually do this on our holidays as I detest shopping so much, but we did need a few bits and pieces and therefore agreed that we should head off towards the Rhine and do a bit of sightseeing, a boat trip and then a quick shopping trip.  

The plan was to go into Basel which is at the junction of three countries – Germany, Switzerland and France – and therefore should be of significant interest.  For whatever reason we had assumed Basel was in Germany – WRONG!  It is in Switzerland and we realised this as soon as the border crossing appeared on the motorway and a guard demanded 40 Euros for road taxes!  We had expected this as we were heading off to Gruyère in Switzerland in a few days anyway, but this was not the plan for today.  Luckily the road tax is for the entire year and we wouldn’t have to pay it again, but this place is huge, and industrial, and not what I had in mind so we turned around and headed back into Germany.

Fortune was on our side because the route back was via Wein am Rhein just inside the German border and this is when we stumbled across this….DSCN6274 DSCN6336

…the VitraHaus showrooms, factory and museum.  This site is an architect and designers heaven because it is full of iconic and famous architectural buildings and design pieces.  The current exhibit has just opened for Bauhaus and it seemed appropriate that whilst in Germany we should experience a bit of German design culture.  

My favourite building was completed in 2013 and designed by a famous Japanese architect firm that escapes me.  This is one of the VitraHaus production facilities and is housed in a round building beautifully clad in white glass fibre with 400mm internal concrete walls.  All of which reminds me of a super-charged water reservoir.  (and yes, that bunch of crazies rubbing up and touching the outside of the building are a group of architects and students 🙂 )DSCN6303 IMG_4231 IMG_4232

Inside the VitraHaus showrooms Mark thoroughly enjoyed testing out all of the Eames, Bauhaus and VitraHaus furniture….IMG_4246

….I know a certain Dave B who would be very envious of this place and all these designs!

…and then one of the amazing sales team offered to make us a Nespresso coffee….it would have been rude not to!DSCN6328 IMG_4248

A tour around the facility and the museum was a real treat, and we are very happy we stumbled across this little gem.

A 1950s French gas station…a first in ready assembled roadside gas stations that would lead to what we all see today on the motorways…

and a 1950s Detroit motor showroom in the brand new geodesic design.  A few of the interesting buildings around the site …DSCN6283DSCN6329

Next we needed something a little older and set our sights on Freiburg a little further north; perhaps here we will find some nice tourist sights and a bit of shopping too.

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30th September 2015…..

The mornings have been rather chilly on our holiday and there is nothing quite as nice as that first hot cup of tea.  We have an adorable little pewter tea set in our camper van but it was missing a tea cosy to keep the tea lovely and warm while it brewed.  Luckily I had brought a small bag of yarn and my trusty crochet hooks with me – mostly in the hope that I would come across some beautiful German wool to buy and turn into a blanket.  

The only yarn I had were a few odds and ends left over from various projects, and those would have to do.  This particular purple was once created into a Minion hat for my granddaughters and it was doubled up with a few other bits to create a nice double, double yarn to ensure maximum warmth for the brewing process.

A very worthwhile endeavour on a quiet camping night, and an hour later here it is….IMG_4213

…it most definitely not going to win the prettiest tea cosy prize, but it certainly does the job…and it will hold many fond memories of our trip to Germany.

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We packed up fairly early this morning and headed out on the hunt for some castles, or schloss in German.

First we drove through our new village to see if it had a tourist information centre..it didn’t, but it does have quite a few pop-up wine bars during grape harvest, and everywhere are the loveliest Autumn displays (I definitely need to bring some of these pumpkins home!) IMG_4097

Our route took us through the heart of the German winelands, and along the way we stopped to admire the grapes and the skill of the grapes pickers…IMG_4103 IMG_4101DSCN6230

An added bonus was that this region is full of fruit trees as well! I could live here very, very happily!  On the road opposite the grapevines was a huge espaliered apple tree orchard….two of my favourite things next to each other. DSCN6232 DSCN6234DSCN6229

Heading back on the road we stumbled across a beautiful ruined castles and then the town of Badenweiler. To me, this is the German equivalent of Bath in England. Very wealthy and you come here to the spa and recuperate from whatever ails you. Apparently a great treatment is the imbibing of much Neue Wein…probably because after a few glasses of this new wine, you don’t remember what was wrong with you in the first place! IMG_4112 DSCN6254 DSCN6253

Time to head back to our new campsite in Sulzburg.  Kamping Alte Sägemühle is a beautiful little place with a water wheel, forests and camping under apple trees…IMG_4124 IMG_4128

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4th October 2015

We left Kamping Alte Saghmuhle with a bit of sadness because she will be missed.  We did however make a slight deviation from the route to stop and get a ‘not so little’ memento of our time in the Black Forest….meet Wald – that’s German for forest – because Wald is a log which used to be a member of the Schwarzwald or Black Forest.  Hubby thinks I am mad, but I wanted a reminder of our wonderful times in the forest and I also needed a log for chopping my kindling for the fireplaces at home.  Here’s Wald doing a magnificent job of hosting the camping kettle…

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…and here, the flowers from the camper van….IMG_4518

…he wasted no time at all settling in to camping life and making himself useful!

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…and we’re off! 

Okay fellow Englishmen, you should all be thanking us for going to Europe for a few weeks to find some much needed, and scarce sun, because now that we have left it is going to be the most beautiful Autumn weather!  Typical!  We decided not to chance our first holiday in years to the flakey English weather and when we depart for Dover it is GLORIOUS outside. 

Enjoy it, and let’s hope for the same on the continent because we are now committed to our European adventure.

Happy travels and we’ll post again at our next wifi hotspot across the channel and on another continent.  

   

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It has been too long….3 1/2 years too long in fact, since hubby and I have been on holiday. That is about to be rectified with a trip to Europe in search of rest, recuperation and hopefully a lot of sunshine. However, being a realist, and a British citizen, we understand well the vagaries of the weather so I am taking no chances that my Trekinetic K2 will get wet at some point on our route.

Having modified my mobility van into a camper, I didn’t want my wheelchair to take up precious space on the inside, so we purchased a Bak-Rak for it to go on the outside. A great plan for perennially sunny countries, but I was taking no chances with my mobility and therefore it needed a rain cover.

  
I was lucky enough to have found a bolt of ripstop fabric when I was last at Abakhan and brought it home with the intention of making an awning for the campervan, but it struck me that it was also the perfect material to make a cover for my wheelchair …. and that’s exactly what I did.

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It isn’t a tight fit because that would make it too difficult to get the cover closed, but it has the general shape. The cover is placed onto the Bak-Rak and my K2 is placed on top of it.  The wheels are clamped down to the base and then the zip is closed over the entire wheelchair.

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Time and travel alone will tell whether this is a good design or not, but hopefully it keeps my wheelchair dry and therefore my bum dry for the duration of our holiday 😄

 

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It was a VERY busy couple of weeks and in our haste we didn’t manage to take many pictures of our progress, but here is what we did….

Boxes built by hubby…..

3 at the back of the van; 2 towards the front of the van and at the foot end of the bed, and another additional smaller box built because I realised the distance between the boxes on hubby’s side of the bed was far to wide and would collapse!

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Bed slats installed and held in place on top of the boxes using dowels and holes drilled through a few of the bed slats….

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The kitchen – my favourite part of the camper van – it holds all of the kitchen gear and a crate underneath contains all of the dry foods ….

mmmm, no picture, but I will add one while we are on holiday instead!

Roll up blinds custom-made to fit each window and held in place by hooks on some windows and magnets on others…..

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The mattresses were cut into various sizes and shapes to allow them to be used during the day as seating and then re-arranged to make a full mattress for sleeping.

I was very fortunate that a friend had given me a few rolls of upholstery fabric in exactly the right colour to go with the curtaining I had chosen from the stash in my sewing room.

Add in a matching tablecloth, table mats and flowers and you have a lovely English breakfast in the sun….

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Our first weekend test outing was a resounding success and apart from a couple of changes and additions we are very happy with the results.

Really looking forward to a proper holiday soon.

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We used to own a rather large motorhome, When we moved to our new home, it was the one thing that had to be sacrificed due to the enormous ongoing costs, but it is something that I have missed so much over the last four years.

I love to be out and about touring, but with my aching bones this is easier said than done and tenting has not proven to be an option with cold floors, hard surfaces, getting to the ground and back up, and rain…..nightmarish!  Something else had to done.

Being a constant thinker, it struck me a few months ago that when we had bought our Mercedes van for my wheelchair, I had mentioned to hubby that one day we should convert it into a camper van – after all we already owned it and the outlay could be minimal if we did the work ourselves.  Life happened and it wasn’t until more than a year later (and summer arriving) that I remembered my idea and began to seriously consider that this was the best and cheapest way for us to go camping but without completely roughing it.  Hubby was oddly reluctant at first, but with lots of planning on SketchUp he slowly warmed to the idea,

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Our aim was to not make any permanent changes to the van, but rather to create units that would fit into the van when we wanted to go camping and be easily removed on our return.  This is what I came up with….

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Not the best drawing, but it gave us the dimensions and a good idea of how it would all fit together.  The design was based on small wooden boxes – just like those we made for our wine racks in the cellar (but without the Illy tins for the bottles!); if you want to see these you can find a blog post about it here)

Each wooden box was sized so that it would fit an inner box or crate from Ikea – the DRÖNA, or similar.  These would form the base of the bed and hold all the camping gear.  In addition I wanted a free-standing kitchen which could stay inside the van or be removed and stored in the tent during longer camping trips.  The HINDÖ outdoor cabinet was just what I wanted and fit into the space behind the passenger seat, and would hold all of the kitchen paraphernalia.

Then came the bed.  It needed to be long enough for my 6’2″ hubby to lie full length and be comfortable for me to sit or lie down when I needed to rest.  Moving the boxes around allowed us to reconfigure the layout and insert a slatted mattress base which we already had at home.  Top this off with two mattresses which we had for guests (sorry guests, we will replace them), and you have a bed….one side 200cm long and my side 160cm long – each just the right length for hubby and I.

Lastly, curtains and cushions for the interior would be custom-made by myself; so hubby and I measured up the windows and made templates to get the shapes right.

The wheelchair would be transported on our newly purchased Base-Rak from Bak-Rak so that it didn’t take up any space inside the van.. a bit nerve-racking having my chair on the back of the van rather than on the inside, but I am sure I will be happier when we have done it once or twice!

All that was left to do was buy the supplies….

2 sheets of 18mm plywood, the inner boxes and the kitchen cupboard.  I already had the material for the curtains and the upholstery for the cushions.

We had a plan and now we needed to get stuck in because we only had 2 weeks until our planned test trip.

In the next episode we will show you what we built and hopefully a few holiday pictures….if it all goes well!

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Having not been very well recently has affected my usual get-up-and-go (and my blogging apparently!).  In order to get away, even if it was just for 2 days, we headed off with the family to try a little camping.  It has been so long since we went away and back then we had a huge motorhome which is now a thing of the past.  The aim of the weekend trip was to see how we managed with a tent and me in a wheelchair.  The campsite we found was absolutely beautiful and so peaceful.  It had just the right amount of facilities with a couple of toilets and showers and a little cleaning area.  Only 10 tents allowed which made it peaceful and quiet (until our grandsons arrived that is!) – just what we needed.

My Trekinetic K2 was ideally suited to this location as it was quite hilly and the toilets were over the grass and up a stone driveway.  No problem as hubby provided the necessary propulsion because of the injury to my shoulder.

On the Saturday afternoon we took the family down to the little stream (or beck as it is called in Cumbria) along the farm ‘roads’.  Going downhill is always fun, but coming back uphill is a much bigger challenge.  Now for the confession – on this trip, the pictures of me are a little staged because coming down the hill I managed pretty well with some assistance but I needed both hubby and my daughter to give me a push back up again!!  I was quite useful though in shouting warnings of any impending dung heaps which they tried valiantly to avoid – not always successfully. Oh well! what else can you expect when out bundu bashing and enjoying the countryside.

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And by the way, how come I always seem to have a child hitching a free ride??

Camping proved to be wonderful in the great weather; I think we had better try it a few more times before we decide if we can camp around Canada though.  I must say though that I think without the Trekinetic K2 a lot of campsites would be much more difficult.  Now all we need is to find a more comfortable bed and I think I could do this more often.

Definitely a worthwhile weekend experience; and here’s to many more happy camping holidays!

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