Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Wee Camping Trip In The Highlands Part 9 - The Glencoe Horror

As Pam unpacked the sleeping bags, I was working the thermostat and it wasn't looking good. Soon I was on the phone with support for the campervan company and they wanted me outside in the snowstorm, switching gas bottles. I was outside in the snow with a wrench in one gloved hand and my cellphone in the other while trying to figure out how to switch out the gas bottles. I am sure the horse was amused.  You'd think, given my life of camping, I'd know all about this, but it had never been my job before to handle the specifics of a motorhome. The good news was, the camper had a spare bottle..the bad news was it was empty! I was told to drive to the nearest place that sold LP gas and the company would reimburse me for my expense. At this point, my fear of being found like a couple of popsicles on the side of the road overcame my fear of driving in the snowstorm. In the meantime, it was the two of us in sleeping bags with a giant quilt on top....I did sleep very well.

I woke up Tuesday morning to snow everywhere. The horse was inside his old freestanding stall, barely looking out at me. I knew he had a blanket on his back, but even he knew this was way too cold for April. This time I knew it wasn't about curiosity or friendliness, he was just waiting for breakfast to be served. 

Something wasn't quite right in the van. It was cold, real cold, and I had the heater running all night. It was about 10 degrees C inside the van and there was no way I was going to be able to get Pam out from under the covers. You'd think I would have put on all of my clothes and sat back to relax, knowing that it was going to be a while before I had to get back out on that highway. I sure didn't want to find out if they had rush hour traffic in the mornings. But...I now had something new to worry about. I had been fussing with the control panel in the back and it was telling me that the Leisure battery was "Poor" and the truck battery was "Poor". If there was one thing I knew about diesel engines it's they need a really good battery to get started when it's cold.

I was looking at my cellphone and seeing that the special cellular card I had purchased for use in Scotland was about next to useless up here in the highlands. I had 1 bar, half a charge and didn't dare use the truck battery to charge it up. I'm not even sure that I could accurately describe where we were if we needed help. "Hi, I'm on the side of the road, looking at a horse, does that help?". I worried about it alone about as long as I could and then pulled the covers off of Pam so she could share the load. She wanted me to get the van company on the phone and then let her talk....we didn't do that. She was really sure that she didn't want me driving in icy conditions after our first day out...she didn't have any fingernails left to chew.  Fortunately, the van cranked right up, and we headed on down the road, checking the indicator for battery health and making sure my phone was getting charged. 

We made it to Glencoe, and toured the museum there, while noticing campers were right next door. We had been advised to pull into a campground and plug in and make sure we got a full charge on the batteries. The museum was just okay, I could probably have gotten the same information from the internet without paying the hefty entry fee...but we were newbies on this trip and didn't mind too much. They had a café, staffed by wonderful people serving food like you would expect from 7-11 in the States, with the exception of some world-class coffee. They had the machine and knew how to use it. We ate more there than I would have liked, but I wanted to pull right into that campground and stay until the batteries were topped all of the way up. I was hoping for a bottle of gas, but that was not to be found. There was a really cool guy that ran the campground. He was quite a character. He was very proud to show me his giant camper bus that came all the way from Texas! Why in the world somebody would want to drive something like that up through Loch Lomond, I have no idea. His motorhome, while quite ordinary in Florida, was a real standout there in Glencoe, populated mostly with VW popup vans and small vans like mine. He was also great at showing me how to get everything working on the van, how to fill the water, how the drain the grey water, etc. It was during this time, while the sky was turning greyer, the snow seemed to be coming down harder, that he told me the tale that changed our trip for good.

He told me, that compared to Florida, Scotland's a pretty safe place. No alligators, no sharks, no giant pythons, just those Eastern Europeans. I wasn't really sure what he meant, but I thought he was referring to gypsies. He then went on to say that a few months back, there was a English family of four, with two young children, enjoying their holiday, camping in the wild of the highlands.  Scotland allows you to camp just about anywhere as long as there isn't a sign prohibiting it. They call it 'Wild Camping'. You lose the safety net of a of having other campers all around, but you save about $35 a night and get closer to nature.  It was a beautiful night with a clear sky and a full moon. The family had enjoyed roasting marshmallows over a small fire and had finally gone to bed for the night, not knowing that danger was lurking nearby. A group of those 'Eastern Europeans',  snuck up on the motorhome and sprayed carburetor cleaner in the air vent, effectively knocking them all out. They broke in and leisurely stole everything the family owned.  Upon waking, the people found the door open, all of their money gone, cellphones, toys, their clothes, everything! To top that, they took the keys to the motorhome. Happy Holiday...

And I was just starting to like this place....

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