The original idea was to start by Sweden, but we had to change the plans and spend the first week in Kristiansund.
This was a nice way to test the car's ability to run fine on a long stretch of road!
KristiansundThis Monday is the 14th of July, France's national celebration day!
We start the inverter and fridge, fill the car with all our stuff, and make sure everything is safely anchored: We start the trip with 77536 kilometers shown on the dashboard.
The first part of the trip is pretty event-less, mostly trying to negotiate through road works and reduced speed sections.
The positive thing: We are not the slowest vehicle on the road!
After about 100 km driving at a snail's pace we decide to have a stop at Bolleland, a Shell Station which is famous for its Espa-Boller1.
We continue toward the north, with the sky getting more and more menacing.
Then the rain starts, and we discover that despite all our previous fixes the wind-shield seal is still not water tight.
Water drips from many places and threatens to enter the 12v outlet powering the GPS.
We start a team effort, involving pushing and replacing batches of paper towels around the wind-shield.
Definitely not fun.
That was a reason good enough to take a break.
We considered trying to put duct tape all around the wind-shield, but that would probably not have helped much.
It's kind of a shame that the weather was that bad, because there was some pretty nice photo opportunities, including random point and shoot from the roof :)
2 is long, sinuous, and packed with caravans and campers.
For some strange reason, every time we stop somewhere, people are looking at us :)
The worse of the rain has passed, and we are now able to drive in much better conditions.
Next stop: Molde.
Few tunnels and bridges later we finally reach Kristiansund.
I will not detail what we did there, but basically we visited family and friends and had a good time :)
While we were there, we tried to get the wind-shield fixed at a local bodywork and glass repair specialist, but they did not have the necessary parts and were not able to do anything.
3 stash of Legos :)
I'm not quite sure about what we will do with them.
Build a miniature replica of the car?
Create an automated vaccum cleaner?
A toy for the cat?
Bring them at work?
Time to leave for our first real camping event!
NidelvenIf there's something to say about the road between Kristiansund and Trondheim, is that it does not lack of tunnels.
That was the first time we actually drove with somebody in the back, which at first is a bit unnerving considering there are no seat belts, but all in all it works pretty ok4.
(This vehicle is street legal with up to seven persons on board)
We were originally planning to sleep in a camping in Trondheim, but when we arrived there it was closed, so we had to find another one.
Since the GPS apparently knows all about campings, restaurants and other points of interest5, that was not much of a problem.
The camping is at the end of a very tortuous and narrow road.
The place is tidy and tiny, it has all the necessary appliances (showers, internet, ...) and it's possible to swim in the river that passes along... if you can handle sub-zero temperatures!
I tried, and all I managed was to get into the water up to my thighs, before leaving the water defeated :p
This first camping stop also allowed us to test if it was physically possible to have 2 adults and a child sleep in the camper.
It's possible, but definitely not optimal!
Tomorrow, we cross the border to Sweden :)
ÖstersundAfter a less that optimal night, we take our breakfast in the sun, get showered, and then we leave for our next destination; Stjørdal, where we will leave our little third passenger for the rest of her holidays.
I can now sit in the front again, which is definitely nicer considering it tends to get warm fast in the back.
We continue on the road in direction of Åre, "one of Scandinavia’s best mountain resorts".
The closer we get from the Norwegian-Swedish border, the higher we climb, the drier the landscape become.
The road itself is pretty relaxing, we barely see any vehicle, and we happen to cross the border almost without noticing it!
It looks like a very nice place, which probably explain the large number of Norwegian licence plates on the cars all over the area :)
Continuing toward Östersund we pass over Storsjön (The Great Lake), the fifth largest lake in Sweden6, and home of a monster sea creature called Storsjöodjuret (The Great-Lake Monster).
I did not manage to take a photo of the monster, but I do have some highly detailed macro-photos of insects colliding at high velocity with a transparent surface.
Few dozen kilometers later we finally arrive at Östersund, and we stop by the city center to indulge ourself in a delicious
Östersunds Stugby & Camping, which despite its four-star rating is definitely the most boring place we have been during all the trip.
The location of the camping is not particularly awesome, but it's one of the largest in Sweden, and it has everything you can think of, including cable-tv and aquatic park.
The most interesting thing was the sheer number of custom made campers: Converted buses and trucks (complete with color matching trailers for the motorbikes or quads) as well as American vans with chromes and custom paint jobs were all over the place.
All in all, definitely the less interesting part of the trip.
Next stop, the Baltic Sea!
SundsvallThe road from Östersund to Sundsvall gives us a first glance at what nice roads looks like!
But now we had these nice roads, with up to 110 km in some areas, and large areas to pass over cars.
The roads goes fast, and we soon arrive at Fläsians Camping & Stugby.
From where we park the car, we have a direct view on the Sea, it even smells like holidays!
The bottom line is: Do not trust the number of stars the place is given; the most boring place will get full stars if it's clean and provide all the right facilities.
Another interesting thing was that there was almost no mosquitoes or other types of blood-sucking annoyances.
In the evening I met two couples (from France and Belgium) going to the North Cap on motorbikes, they seemed to enjoy their trip so far and asked me plenty of questions about life in Norway... I may have been too negative in regard to my judgment of French people abroad ;)
If you plan to go there yourself, be aware that the access to the camping is kind of rough: You have to go through a small road which is both quite steep downhill and with a tight curve.
That may be a problem for very long campers or caravans.
What's sure is that I enjoyed my time there, the water was nice and warm, and the barbecue was tasteful!
Hopefully the next camping tomorrow will be as nice as that one.
ÄngskärNext morning, we say good bye to Fläsian and start our journey toward the southern part of the country, following the coastal road.
The sun is shining hard, and we have to do few stops along the way to buy fresh drinks, and at one of the service station we meet a dutch couple in their camper and then drive off again.
They were driving down from the north cap and will end up to be our neighbors in the next camping.
We originally planned to stop at Gävle, but decided to drive a bit farther to another coastal camping, Ängskärs HavsCamping in the protected natural reserve of Bondskäret.
The camping was fully renovated during the previous year, with all new sanitaries, mini-shop, and snack area.
As in Fläsian it provided a blend of forest and sandy beaches.
Parked in front of us was a beautiful 1965 Volkswagen Kombi.
I had a conversation with the owner on how he managed to connect an awning, and was allowed to take photos of his ingenious system, we are definitely going to do something similar at some point!
Close to our car was a bright yellow Corvette, and a bit farther was an old looking caravan attached to a brand new shiny black Hummer H3 pickup!
More swimming, more barbecuing, some talking with our Dutch neighbors and it was time to go to bed.
Tomorrow, destination Stockholm!
StockholmUsing the GPS, we found out that the best way to reach Stockholm is to drive to Tierp and then follow the E4 highway through Uppsala.
And there we go, on roads not large enough for two cars to pass at the same time.
We cross even narrower bridges, path through farms, and finally reach a scenic road with two lanes.
Everything look so tidy: No trash, mail boxes are straight, the grass is cleanly cut, all the houses look like they were freshly painted.
After a while we reach the E18, and it definitely feels like we are going back to civilization: We actually saw our first Ikea shop in Sweden :)
At this point I have to say that the road is quite boring, like most large cities the area surrounding Stockholm is nothing to talk about; mostly industrial areas and highways and bridges and exit lanes.
Our wish was granted thanks to Långholmens Husbilscamping, which really is just a parking for camping cars with minimalistic showers and toilets installed.
Still, the place is worth knowing, because location wise it's perfect: Just cross the bridge and you get access to the Hornstull Metro station.
One important note though: You cannot just come unannounced. If you plan to stay there you absolutely need to contact them first by either phone or email.
Unfortunately we did not start our visit of Stockholm by the touristic venues, we had to find a 15 meter long electric cable to connect to the camping power.
We had to get plugged if we wanted to have a chance to go back to autonomous solar power.
Fortunately there was a Clas Ohlson not too far away and we were able to solve our issue.
Time to visit the city: First, Gamla Stan (The Old Town)
There are shops and restaurants almost everywhere, and we found our paradise place: Science Fiction Bokhandeln!
If you are a fan of science fiction movies and books, LARPG7 and Cosplay, board games or miniatures, it's all there: It's like Outland8 on steroids.
Time to see the real Stockholm center.
We take the metro to T-centralen and arrive to an area full packed with people listening to a speech organized by a Pro-Palestinian group.
So more walking, photo shooting and it's time to go back to the camping.
When we arrive, the owners of the mini-van next to us are taking the aperitif and point at the car saying it looks cool. In German.
It's a couple from Dresden who's doing a tour of Scandinavia, they only speak German, so they had to use a translation app on their mobile phone to communicate.
Must be very difficult, but apparently they managed.
Then another German tourist comes and ask (in English) if he can take photos of the car with his iPad, and he ask me if I can take a photo of him in front of it.
We start discussing custom vans, he shows me photos he took in Holland of a Peterbilt truck camper with turbo jets installed at the back9, I show him the VW camper photos :)
On the way back from the showers I notice a rental camper with French plates from my home area!
It was a family from Maine et Loire moving up to Cap North (looks like everybody's going there this year), that's a 9000 km trip in total.
Time to go to bed, tomorrow we move back west.
ÖrebroOur plans for the day were simple.
Take the E20 road in direction of Strängnäs and visit the Försvarsfordonsmuseum (Military Vehicles Museum), then continue to Strömsholm to visit the local castle, and finally stop in a nice camping at Kristinehamn on the shores of the gigantic Vänern lake.
The road is quite boring, it's basically just an highway without anything interesting to see, but soon we arrive at Strängnäs and stop at the museum.
We notice a Volvo TGB3010 and decide to park next to it.
The exposition is quite impressive, ranging from very primitive troops transports cars to modern armored vehicles used on UN missions around the world.
They mostly have Swedish vehicles, but they also have a German Tiger11, Russian T-38, Willies Jeep, Radio Communication bus, Artillery pieces, Half Track, Cold War period Trabant car, ... a lot of stuff.
The exposition has a Volvo 144 (A civilian car which has a B20 engine), a C303 with a Rocket Launcher, and an amphibious variant of the TGB30 with roof mounted exhaust and propeller blades at the rear.
When leaving the museum, I ask to one of the employees if he would know where to find parts for our car, and he pointed us to a place which happen to be red herring.
Strömsholm is only at 60 km, we cross the Galten lake, and there we are.
I was expecting a fortress, but it's more like a palace, and it appears to be owned by the Swedish Royal Familly.
We decide to do a last stop in a very posh restaurant (very tasty food), and we are back on the road in direction of Kristinehamn.
Everything is going pretty well until almost 1 kilometer from Karlskoga we ear a loud bang.
I manage to take a side road and stop the car.
It does not want to start anymore.
There's no particular leaks on the ground, the water level is fine, the oil level is fine as well, the starter engine is working as well.
Ultimately we had to call the road assistance which took about one hour to arrive from Örebro.
The driver followed is usual checklist and tried to get the car running, but after almost two hours, calling his colleagues for advices, he finally gave up and decided to bring the car to their office at Örebro.
We enter in probably one of the least impressive hotels I can think of.
They are renovating it, which means that some things are not working (no air conditioning in the room), there's no tiles on the floor in the restaurant, the door of the lift does not close property, there is noise as well.
On the positive side, the free Internet line is working fine, and the restaurant food is good12.
The stress, the heat and the noise all combined resulted in some pretty bad sleep.
Hopefully they will be able to fix the car fast, else we will have to leave it here and take the bus or the train to Oslo: I'm supposed to be back to work on Monday.
EpilogueThis one will be short.
We took our breakfast, and then at 10 am we called the workshop to ask what was the status regarding the car.
The culprit was the distributor cap (the orange cover on the photo).
For some unknown reason, it happens that it was not the correct model, so it did not fit tightly.
With the vibrations, over time the cap moved and managed to break the connection between the breaker arm and the capacitor.
News of the Norwegian borders being potentially closed because of potential terrorist attacks reach our ears, but we manage to pass the border without anything else than a raised eyebrow from the police officer.
The kilometers pass, and we finally reach Oslo, tired but happy.
We now have 79916 kilometers shown on the dashboard.
Total distance of the trip: 2380 kilometers.
1. A Norwegian pastry, kind of rounded brioche with raisins, chocolate or caramel stuffed in it↩
3. Some normal bricks, some Duplos, the complete moon base with the shuttle train, gears and hydraulics, engines, control boxes, ...↩
4. With the bed set-up in 'desk mode' I was even able to use the laptop with the 4G mini-router, all plugged on the 220v so I did not even empty the batteries :)↩
5. This definitely makes travelling a lot easier for us than for the previous generations!↩
6. It has an area of 464 km² and a greatest depth of 74 m, thanks Wikipedia!↩
7. Live Action Role Playing Game↩
8. Norwegian equivalent↩
10. The six wheeler volvo car that looks a AT-AT out of Star Wars↩
11. It's a reproduction, and was used in the Død Snø movie↩
12. The service was absolutely appalling, we thought for a while that it was for a hidden camera show↩