good/bad news on a road trip

Journeys destination

It was a nice feeling to have finally arrived in the Outer Hebrides and to be back at the Small Mission Hall again. A different kind of road trip experience this time with an actual destination to go to and stay in. However, before you get carried away thinking I’ve ideas of grandeur and luxurious living on this trip, let me stop you right there.

road trip destination the Small Mission Hall
road trip destination the Small Mission Hall

The Small Mission Hall now after many months of chasing, finally has electricity, but that’s it. No running water or services. Loose windows, a front door that lets water in underneath and an overall ability to feel way colder inside than out! So basically I’m just camping in my tent within the building. Yes, it all seemed like a good idea at the time!

Ingenious interior

Those of you who follow me on the vdubxs website will know that I have what I call an interchangeable interior for my Splitty and the T4. Sounds fancy, but it’s not. ‘Interchangeable’ in that the camping components are not fixed and get swapped into whichever vehicle I’m using. This has now developed one step further forward. The same items now also get used within the Small Mission Hall as well, just with the added luxury of electricity.

great to finally have a usable table in the camper at last!
great to finally have a usable table in the camper at last!

OK, so mine might be a little too minimalist for some, but it does the trick for me. The sheer amount of built-in storage options that get crammed into some buses and campers. It’s like people want to take their entire home life with them on the road. Embrace the differences and just take less, it’s way more liberating.

What weather

Scotland of course is famous for its weather. Or is that it’s infamous for its weather? The classic truism is that

If you don’t like Scottish weather, wait 15 minutes, and it is likely to change…

The Isle of Lewis in Outer Hebrides is of course no exception, except maybe for the wind. The Butt of Lewis, which is a couple of miles up the road from me on the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis, is renowned for its wild and windswept landscapes. This remote location has witnessed some of the strongest winds ever recorded in the United Kingdom. In 1962, the Butt of Lewis played a significant role in setting a world record for wind speed.

beautiful winter sunrise
beautiful winter sunrise

The World Record Wind Gust: A Historic Event; On January 1, 1962, an extreme weather event struck the Butt of Lewis, bringing with it an unprecedented display of nature’s power. A wind gust with a remarkable speed of 133.6 miles per hour (215.9 kilometres per hour) was recorded at the weather station located on the tip of the headland. This extraordinary wind speed established a world record at the time and remains one of the highest wind gusts ever recorded in the United Kingdom.

Watching the waves come rolling in
Watching the waves come rolling in

One thing it’s made me realise is that you do need to make the most of all opportunities as and when they arise.

All the seasons

Some days are sunny, some days, not so much. It is winter, after all, so really you wouldn’t expect anything else. It seems that the wax coating I gave the bus before setting off is earning its keep. Good to see the rain simply beads on the protected original paint.

patima perfection – original paint protected from the elements
patima perfection – original paint protected from the elements

So if you prefer the wisdom of Billy Connolly, then

There are two seasons in Scotland. June and winter

Now I’m not saying it was cold last night, but I woke up to 4.2º inside the building. The windows were frozen on the inside, however, it did make for a beautiful pattern!

not saying it was cold last night, but the glass froze on the inside
not saying it was cold last night, but the glass froze on the inside

Opps

It’s not always sunshine and blue skies on a road trip. Sometimes you get taken out of your depth or comfort zone. Like have you ever had that ‘opps’ feeling when you were out and about driving? Unfortunately, I just did. Out and about exploring (fortunately on the way back to base) when the clutch pedal went soft and then basically dropped to the floor. I pretty much guessed straight away what the issue might be. The clutch cable had broken, at least that is what I thought could be the problem.

Flashback to my Hessisch roadside repairs. I’m no mechanic and a long way from home. These were not ideal circumstances, even if I did have the reassurance of a good insurance company with breakdown cover. No one likes having the breakdown trailer ride of shame back home!

as I feared a frayed clutch cable was the problem
as I feared a frayed clutch cable was the problem

I managed to nurse it back to the Small Mission Hall and get it off the road. That in itself felt like a bit of a win. I wriggled underneath the front end to see if I could spot the problem. Not sure how those who like their slammed buses manage to do that! Once underneath, it was clear to see the problem.

Good/bad news

Unfortunately, I was right. The clutch cable strands had broken at the end of the cable fixing. The good news, I was carrying a replacement cable. The bad news, I had never actually fitted one before! Every day’s a school day I suppose. After a bit of research, I worked out how the cable fitted and was attached at the rear gearbox end and the front pedal end. Of course, the theory about how to remove and replace the cable always looks simple. The reality never is!

broken end of the old clutch cable
broken end of the old clutch cable

Undoing the cable fixings at either end was awkward, but achievable. Then I needed some form of thin wire/cable to attach to the old cable before removing it. This I didn’t have. This is so when it gets pulled through the clutch cable routing tube you have something to help pull the new cable through with. This is pretty essential, fortunately, a new friend/neighbour here came to the rescue with some suitable chord. A valuable new addition to the tool kit right there. So with both ends of the cable undone, the draw cable attached I began to carefully pull the old cable out from the front end of the bus. All good until of course it got jammed halfway!

Community help

Turns out the threaded end of the cable had got struck in the curved conduit near the gearbox. That needed manipulating to help get it through, whilst someone else then pulled on the cable. Of course, I didn’t have that extra pair of hands in the toolbox to do this, so was proverbially stuffed!

Fortunately, I then spotted an unsuspecting angel wearing a pair of dirty overalls across the road. He very kindly offered to see if he could help. Between the pair of us, we managed to free the cable and pull it through! I was just so elated to have finally got the cable out. Until he gently reminded me that we still had to get the new one pulled through and attached – doh!

running out of road on the Isle of Lewis
running out of road on the Isle of Lewis

He very kindly stayed around and helped me get the cable through, attached and adjusted to a usable state once again. Seriously, I have never been so grateful or happy to have got this sorted and done. It could not have been done without the generous local help I received. Sure, I get that to many people, it might not be a big deal changing a clutch cable, but to me it was. Happy that the camper is back on the road again!

Saunas and ten-pin bowling

I have been struck by just how supportive and helpful people here have been to me. They truly have been amazing. So if you ever come up here (and I highly recommend you put it on your list of places to go to!) top tip. Make sure you check out and use Spòrsnis a Sports/Community Centre in Ness. It’s a very camper-friendly place to head to. Spaces to stop overnight plus facilities for chemical toilet emptying along with fresh water fill up. OK, I know that’s not the most enticing of selling points. Well, how about this? They also have awesome hot showers, a sauna, snazzy mountain/e-bikes for hire and probably the most northerly ten-pin bowling alleys in the whole of the UK!

the camper friendly Spòrsnis Sports Community Centre
the camper friendly Spòrsnis Sports Community Centre

The Isle of Lewis and the Outer Hebrides never ceases to surprise and delight in equal measure!

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