Bryony SymesSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Bryony Symes
Touring is a lot of fun and always an adventure. In my career as a caravanner, I've encountered many an obstacle, whether it be getting lost down Cornwall’s narrow lanes or having the jockey wheel fall out, tipping the caravan onto its nose. And on my most recent trip, I had more weather-related difficulties than I'd envisaged – luckily, I relish a challenge!
Last month, I embarked on my first trip to Germany, accompanied by Practical Caravan colleague Claudia Dowell, and our destination was the beautiful and bountiful Black Forest. Our tow car was a Volvo V60 Cross Country, and our first stop was Folkestone and the Eurotunnel, before motoring across northern France on our way to pick up a caravan from the Hymer factory in Bad Waldsee.
Although I've driven abroad many times and am quite comfortable driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, what I had heard of autobahns made me very worried about taking the wheel in Germany. To set my mind at ease, I made sure I took the time to read about the various speed restrictions and laws, as well as the courtesies like moving over to let faster cars pass in the middle lane (especially if they flash their headlights!).
But, as I said at the outset, the weather was the biggest challenge as we encountered the nastiest conditions I've ever towed in. When driving to Bad Waldsee to pick up our Eriba Touring Troll 542, the constant rain was not a problem – until visibility dropped dramatically. Thankfully there weren’t too many high winds on the drive to Baden-Baden with the caravan on the back, and the aerodynamic shape of the Troll really helped to keep it stable whilst the lorries were being buffeted. I'm not afraid to admit I was very proud to make it. If I can do it, anyone can!
Yet the story does not end there. At the other end of our trip, on the day we were returning the van to Hymer's factory, we woke to several inches of glittering white snow. Now I love snow, so right away I was in an excellent mood – until it dawned on me that I'd have to tow in snow, something I'd not done before. However, emboldened by my earlier success and drawing on all my towing experiences, there was only one thing for it – take a deep breath and have a go.
However, first, we had to get ready, so I set about scraping all the ice and snow from the windscreen, windows, wing mirrors and roof – well, as much of the roof as I could reach! Then I attached the towing mirrors and set off. And, do you know what? It wasn't as bad as I thought. Of course I was being super-careful, but it was 'just' a case of staying in a low gear, braking gently and taking your time. After only a few minutes on the road, I surprised myself by feeling rather calm.
All of which goes to show that if I can do it, so can you. Low season touring might seem a little daunting, but with a bit of preparation, common sense and courage, I am sure you can do it, too.
Take the plunge, be brave and you will be well rewarded – just as we were. Touring Germany in January was a fantastic experience and definitely worth the extra effort. We enjoyed wonderful views and visited the many interesting towns of this culture-rich region. And we might have enjoyed a slice or two of delicious Black Forest gâteau. Read all about it in the April issue of Practical Caravan, on sale 25 February!