Matthew Lorenzo test drives a motor home. And rather likes it.
The thing is I normally do football.
Not play it, but talk about it, write about it and make films about it.
But when someone offers you a free holiday in return for a few hundred words, it’s worth expanding the skillset. The last time this happened I’d been offered an island break by a major league PR agency. The island turned out to be the Isle of Wight, which was fun in its own way but not as much as fun as, say, Barbados.
This time the bloke from Lusso rang up. He specialised in trips to places even more attractive than Barbados. And he did road tests of Ferraris and the like. So quite how I ended up in Grimsby being given the keys to a motor home is still cause for concern.
But my wife said it would be fun. Which is why I took Auto-Trail up on their very kind offer.
Steve, the company Development Manager, drove up to reception in something that looked like a cross between a space shuttle and the Ark Royal. My wife said a very rude word and straightaway we were beginning to doubt the bit about fun.
But Steve was very laid back, and spent ten minutes talking us round the vehicle, with its two double beds, luxury living area, TV, cooker, air conditioning, fridge, separate WC and walk-in shower. We struggled to take the briefing in. We could handle the outside bit, but how were going to move the rest?
Steve asked us where we were going first. I was tempted to say “Out of Grimsby,” but mumbled something about having booked a nearby campsite, just so I could get used to the thing – at length and in daylight. Steve had a better idea. As it turned out a much better idea.
He got me to download an app which listed pub car parks as well as campsites. Being near a pub had been one my prerequisites, and so it was that we booked ourselves in Steve’s recommendation, The Crown at Hutton-le Hole, a village I later discovered has been voted one the 20 most beautiful in the country.
Then all I had to do was impress Steve with my ability to drive and wave, not hit another one of his motor homes, and disappear from his view without hitting anything else.
We spent the next two hours nervously making our way up to the Yorkshire Moors via a combination of dual carriageways (easy), country roads (borderline terrifying – at first) and a shopping centre car park (didn’t spot the height barrier and cleared it by all of two millimetres.)
Hutton-le-Hole is a tiny 18th century village built around a stream which runs through a picture postcard valley. Sheep roam freely – they’re cheaper than lawnmowers. And one of them formed the basis of an excellent evening meal. A couple of real ales later we were back in the van, working out how to get the bed sorted. There ls a fair bit of furniture moving, unscrewing and switching to be done but we got the hang of it. She took the double bed downstairs and I clambered into the one that somehow emerged from the ceiling.
The ale might have helped but I slept perfectly. Although Sue had a more fitful night. Mainly because she was wondering when I’d fall off my bed and land on hers.
Rested and anxious to get on the road, I took a shower. If anything, this shower was bigger than one at home. But unlike the one at home, it emptied at least half our water tank in one swift go.
Joanne put us straight on taking on water, and, handily, getting rid of wastewater. She runs the Westgate Carr Farm camp site, our next stop. Set on a farm and surrounded by fields and trees and great views, the site is a haven of peace and quiet. And no shops. Or restaurants. Unlucky really because our provisions comprised two bottles of water and half a packet of Haribo.
Rather than take the Michael, Joanne drove us two miles to the supermarket. It had taken my cynical London brain time to realise that people in this world are genuinely friendly. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe it’s because they were all doing their own thing, escaping the norm, ignoring the rules of the package holiday and setting their own agendas.
I used the app to find another pub for night number three. I called The Cross Keys, a 16th century Inn with a five-star rated restaurant, and was delighted to hear they had a pitch free. By now the Ark Royal and I were getting on famously and we set out for the other side of the country. We arrived at the pub to find they had no record of our booking. But they had a table free. The food was good and once again the ale flowed. While that was happening my wife decided to compare the pub’s phone number with the one we’d called that morning. They were different.
We were in the wrong pub. Same name, but wrong pub. And the right one was nearly 80 miles away. And in a different county.
I had ballsed up. Worse than that, I couldn’t correct the mistake, not even by eating two meals, because I’d drunk too much to drive.
Under orders from my beloved, I bounced up to the bar and explained our situation to the landlady. She laughed, accepted I was an idiot and graciously allowed us to spend the night in her car park. In that moment we became proper motor homers. We’d picked our destination (albeit the wrong one), ignored the attractions of a room for the night and set up just outside one. What’s more we had introduced The Cross Keys, in Whitechapel near Preston and not in Cumbria, to the motor homing map. We’d claimed it as a jolly nice stopover for motor homers everywhere.
Soon afterwards we completely broke the rules. My mate lives in a lovely house overlooking Coniston Water. We made our way there (although the last bit was probably better suited to mountain goats than space shuttles on wheels) and parked up on his drive. So the on-board kit gave way to a real loo and bathroom. And my friend’s dining table, fridge and wine rack. But we stuck to (at least a bit of) the brief and used the van to sleep in.
We hadn’t bagged a week on a beach. But I reckon we’d had more laughs in our van than we might have done in flying halfway round the world, getting jetlag and maybe facing ten days in quarantine. There were challenges every day but they were all part of the fun. And a combination of freedom and finesse has an allure all of its own. Luxury meets life on the move. It’s a winning formula and we’ll be back for more.
And we’ll take one abroad next time. There has to be a Cross Keys on Barbados.