When unexpected things happen
You get a story
Is it really an adventure if everything goes according to plan ?
You’ll see some really pretty places, eat fabulous food, visit interesting sites and shop the shops. The real stories that make you laugh and cry and hold your breath happen when things don’t go the way you had intended them to be. Or so I am told.
Last night Gus and I were parked in a beautiful walnut grove. We’d had a long chat with the lovely owner about everything under the sun, made a delicious supper, got some work done, enjoyed the sound of the rain on the roof overnight. And woke up to a battery showing a 0% charge. What ? but how ?? It had never gone below 99% the whole time I’ve been on the road. Even when I spend the whole day on my computer drawing a charge. Now, nada, zipster. Luckily Gus has a house battery and a seperate engine battery. And the engine battery was fine. That is my worst nightmare. Well one of them anyway. After the 2020 lockdowns back home, not using my car for over a month, the battery used to die all the time, and it was OK, I had a charger and mains current on hand. Here in the middle of nowhere sometimes… So, something must have got disconnected... Maybe a walnut fell on the roof and snapped a cable ?
My plan for the day had been to spend the afternoon at a picturesque pond under a chaos of mountain rocks on the Drôme River called The Claps. I wanted to do some more work before arriving at an Aire for motorhomes in a little town further on. But this one doesn’t have electricity on hand. I didn’t mind that then. Now I do. So before my cellphone battery died too I spent lunchtime at another picnic spot in the split of a hairpin bend on the mountain deciding where to go that does have electricity.
At this time of year, it’s the end of October now, most of the camping grounds have closed or are about to close for the winter. There are very few that remain open all year round, and they’re not going to be in the mountains where it gets really cold, here in the South East of France. And there aren’t very many good Aires either, as there had been on my way down the west central route. Although someone I met on the road had said there would plenty… Maybe I’ve taken a different route to them. So we have to rely more and more on autonomy, solar panel power and full tanks of water. The one service that needs attention the most often is the toilet box, but if we can make it five days between Aires, we’re good. Electricity wasn’t supposed to be an issue. At least not until the clouds cover up and the sun disappears for long periods of time…
I highly recommend being handy at the electrical and mechanical subjects pertaining to one’s vehicle and living quarters. Something I am assuredly not. I understand how stuff works, mostly, but getting my hands in there… I’d rather leave it to the pros… Like the day when my one and only 12V plug stopped working… I went to the nearest motorhome concession, which by a stroke of luck was just around the corner that day, and blabbed on about panicking that I had lost my autonomy and I know I should have a more robust system etc… and the guy took one look at it and changed the fuse and said “There you go !” What I do need to do soon is to learn how to fix these things myself hahaha !
Back to my hairpins. I found two campsites in the area that were still open, and set a course for the one nestled in the crook of a valley. What a marvellous, tiny road to get there, driving along between the foot of the colossus and a stony riverbed. The grassy spot I was sent to covered with autumn-coloured leaves, and horse poop, and the sun still shining on the orange and brown oak trees lining the camp. Perfect silence, broken only by gentle bird song, a whizzing fly, or the occasional clopping of the hooves of the owner’s old gelding, the only other occupant of the site. Then an army plane roars between the mountain giants and sends a cat scuttering to the safety of a clump of bushes. While my battery slowly charges, plugged in to the 230V behind the horse poop. They have no water today however, so I offered to give the owner a bucket of mine to hold her over until the plumber finds his way here. But she’s happy to just bathe in the stream. Hardcore people here in the mountains ! There isn’t any data network here either. Not even a trickle. So there will be no work done today. I think I will end the afternoon with a bike ride.
Dot the bike takes me along a stony mountain path - suitable for daring cars, well-shod feet and sturdy mountain-bikes. None of which we can call ourselves. Dot is a foldable city bike with small wheels, and lots of things that can come loose on this stony bumpy ride. But we don’t care. Don’t care either that my front brake handle, having snapped in two, is holding on with a cable tie. Why ? because a tree stepped behind Gus while we were reversing out of a campsite the other day. The nerve of that tree, really. I heard a loud crack, and startled, got out of reverse and drove off (forward) before anybody around had time to notice anything embarrassing had happened… Later I discovered the second bike platform on the rack was bent in two… But it’s OK, I’ve only got one bike. My rack doesn’t look like anyone else’s now, so.
Back to Dot and the stony mountain path. No story there. Only the bit where we decided to turn around and head back to camp. Well, wouldn’t you do the same if three huge, white, scruffy, sheep-protecting dogs came racing down the hill barking at you as you passed the herd of sheep grazing peacefully with their bells clonking and nothing else to be heard but the occasional call of a crow ? I stopped dead still as they approached, hoping that if there are any gods in these mountains or anywhere they would be kind enough to still these mutts for me. The dogs surrounded me, trying to figure out what sort of intruder I was, so I spoke to them in English, in as friendly a tone as I could muster, “Well I guess this is your spot then, so I’ll be off, no worries at all, cheerio then !” and started cycling back. And they stayed where they were. And I cycled back as fast as the bumps would let me, grateful for my odd skateboarding helmet, in case I should find myself flying off course.
After recharging all night on mains power, my batteries came back up to 100% and stayed there. I have no idea what happened. Sometimes being like an ostrich and keeping your head under the sand works out ! Not that ostriches actually do that, did you know ?
And. It turns out those three shepherd’s dogs on the mountain regularly do go after hiking or biking visitors, causing lots of scares and worries but luckily never any real damage. I wish I’d asked before going exploring willy-nilly. Mind you if I had, I wouldn’t have a story to tell…
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I found out later that I was quite wrong, as many campsites are indeed open in winter, precisely because it is cold: for the pleasure of winter sports - a concept that is quite foreign to me, I assure you.