So what happened last Friday? Why did we skip a week with a new post?
Getting ready for a 3 week trip
It was such a hectic week. We both had a lot of work to do and the truck also had to be made ready for a 3 week trip to Belgium-Netherlands-Germany: Clothes, food and office material needed to be packed; water and vent pipes had to be installed, seat cushions were ordered, 2 new storage boxes had to be mounted on the chassis, and a lot of other small things which eventually took up more time and energy than we had imagined.
So when we called it a day Friday evening, I still needed to write your post. BAD PLANNING on my part!
And of course that is when sh*t hit the fan (for non-native speakers, this is an expression). The truck had no torque. It accelerated very slowly. Not such a biggie, if Elmer didn’t had to work that next day and I hadn’t a 5-6 hr drive a head of me with more than enough steep hills.
So we parked the truck on the airport parking lot -where I planned to pick it up the next day when dropping of Elmer for work- and started investigating. Well Elmer did, I was more his lovely assistant. Luckily Elmer had a Defender for 10 years, so he has some experience with fixing things. Since the STEYR 12M18 does not have a lot of technology, you can almost be certain it’s mechanical issue and not a malfunctioning sensor of some sort.
Not knowing that much of mechanics myself, I was rather impressed how quickly he found the culprit: tiny hair fractions in the housing of the diesel filter through which air came in.
Knowing the problem is one thing, solving it is something else. We didn’t have a spare part, and I have to admit I preferred a new housing above a temporary DIY-fix that we couldn’t test out before I was hitting the road alone. But finding a new diesel filter housing on a Friday night isn’t particularly easy; we could only think of one person who maybe could help us out. And he did. So on a Friday night we drove to Excap to pick up not one but two new filter housings. Thank you Stefan!
The next day I’m driving with 40km/hr on the Autobahn (German highway).
But this is not because of the truck. He or she (we have not decided on its gender yet) is driving suburb. I’m just temporarily stuck in a no passing zone and the truck in front of the line is having troubles getting up hill. Thank you Elmer for that not being me.
The first chance I get I make a move and plow the gas pedal. Even though a general benefit of driving this size of expedition vehicle is that you’re “forced” to take it slow, it’s nice that in certain situations you can drive a little faster than the other trucks.
Once I pass the heavy loaded truck, I have all the time to enjoy the beautiful scenery around me. This time of the year the fields are covered with the bright yellow flowers of rapeseed, which also smells like spring. With my windows rolled down, the sun on my sunscreen protected skin and my aerial view, I’m fully enjoying this drive.
When I’m near the Belgian border I double check if the green light on the OBU is on. Since April 2016 most trucks above 3.5ton pay toll on Belgian highways. Unlike the Netherlands and Germany that have exceptions for trucks like ours, Belgium does not. Since we are not an official camper on paper, we have to pay as well.
To comply with this law, we had to order and install an OBU – On Board Unit, which tracks your truck through satellite. Even when you find a way to completely avoid the toll roads, you still need to have the OBU installed. Argh! Luckily the whole order-delivery-install process went very smoothly.
Note: When you order an OBU you pay a €135 deposit. More information about the OBU you can find at satellic.be
In an attempt to pay as little toll as possible, I leave the highway as quickly as possible and do some “off-roading”, and surprise a few Belgian bike riders as well (the once with the padded bicycle shorts not with the leather jackets).
I had planned this escape route a little bit in advance. I knew I was going to take a dirt road at some point, but not much more.
Once I hit the end of the dirt road, I let the GPS tell me where to go. As predicted my GPS, even when set on “Lorry” mode, doesn’t realize that taking the one-lane country roads is not the fastest or the most optimal route for a truck like ours. But luckily it is the most scenic one. I drive through areas I have never been before, and the looks on people’s faces are just priceless.
But then I hit the Belgian government’s barricade and my plan to avoid paying toll dissolves in thin air. No matter which detour I take I hit a “+3.5 ton prohibited” road sign. So eventually I have to admit my defeat and return to the highway, but of course only as long as I really needed to.
Although my escape plan did not work, paid way more on diesel than I would on toll, and spend almost an hour more on the road, I had tons of fun!
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