We’re so often ‘on the move’ that we rarely stay in any one location long enough to ‘make camp’ – so our Omnistor wind-out awning attached to the side of the Knumptywagen rarely gets to see the light of day.
So it was a rare treat to wind it out and enjoy a warm summer’s evening during a one-night-stand at a small site close to Winzer in the parish of Deggendorf, Germany. A morning’s worth of travelling meant we could enjoy a full afternoon exploring the surrounding wide arable valley of the River Danube, which flowed close by, as we were told by our motorhoming British neighbours. They knew this because they’d spent the last 9 years cycling along it – not (as I’m sure you’ve realised) – continuously, but as an ongoing year-on-year retirement project, moving onwards every summer as their annual journeys progressed.
In passing conversation, they also pointed us towards a hidden but highly agreeable swimming lake, where we enjoyed a refreshing dip during our exploratory cycle ride, before returning to the Knumptywagen – where we set about enjoying an evening under the awning.
It was here, in the gloaming, that we were also visited by a newly-arrived and socially-gregarious German neighbour, who had spotted our GB number-plate and therefore consolidated our national stereotype by arriving with three cups of freshly-brewed tea as a means of introduction. Again, our lack of any language-skills (other than Brummy-with-a-taint-of-Scouse) would have been embarrassing had we found any gap in the ‘conversation’ in which we might have interjected. In perfect English, our new visitor, Linda, volubly explained how she and her husband had been travelling for 12 hours non-stop (from which we could only deduce that they’d clearly not spoken to each other for the last 11) and she had tales to tell. Tea was slurped; a pair of small dogs was fetched for our admiration; family history was expounded and stories of past visits to the UK were retold.
At one point, husband sheepishly came to find her; was universally ignored and eventually roamed off again, saying he had to dry his hair (I kid you not!) So, by the time Linda and the dogs took their leave, night had fallen and we opted to pack up as best we could to facilitate another of our speedy early-morning flits onward to pastures new.
Table and chairs were cleared, cycles were racked – all in a swift, efficient and now well-practiced waltz, which sadly ground to an unexpected halt when we tried to retract the awning.
Click, click, click. Lots of winding-type noises accompanied very little in the way of winding action, as the damn thing stubbornly refused to wind back in. It would happily continue to wind out with ease but when we tried to retract it, it continued to click as if it was slipping a cog.
Cursory inspection exposed nothing – other than my sad delight in being able to don a headtorch, kept onboard for just such an emergency (and used about as often as the damn awning) so we optimistically decided it would have sorted itself out by morning, and retired to bed. Here we were able to contemplate the irony of our situation, where – after almost 3,000 miles of travelling – during which the mechanical and myriad complexities of our 10-year-old Fiat Ducato engine faltered not once – we were now rendered completely immobile by a failed sunshade.
The following morning, the camp-site’s wobbly aluminium stepladder was extracted from a nearby hedge and closer inspection of the winding mechanism ensued. With very little in the way of visible mechanics, we tried various methods of retraction, until the Aquanautical Navigating Chief Petty Officer suggested I apply screwdriver leverage while she wound the winding handle. Click, stop, click, grunt, click and little by little the awning disappeared back into its casing. Stifling an overwhelmingly British desire to cheer loudly (not done at this time of the morning, old boy) we celebrated by taking breakfast under an open sky, packed up and slipped our moorings to get back on the road.
Footnote: Further investigation once home resulted in the whole 3m-long awning being removed from the van (2-man job, unwieldy and surprisingly heavy – the awning, not us); the business-end being thereby dismantled and a new nifty-looking, solid-state manual gearbox ordered off t’internet. Fully exposed awning fabric laboriously scrubbed on the lawn (until I discovered a highly-effective bleach-mould spray which will simply add to the sorry state of our parched grass as it’s rinsed off) and a glimmer of hope that it’ll all go back on again in the right order! Grateful thanks to Mark at Carafix Midlands – and to Gordon, of course!