Out on the Road
Finally everything came together. The truck was taxed, insured, plated, legal and I had leave. I bundled some emergency stuff in the back of the car ready to set off after my early shift. Overnight with a friend in London and collect a Yaesu transceiver then up to Bedford early Saturday morning. The plan was fairly straightforward – go up to Grantham on the Saturday morning and collect the truck, then to somewhere outside Spalding to collect a Sankey Widetrack that I had bought on eBay and back to Bedford. At Tony’s we would have a climb around underneath to make sure that there was nothing seriously amiss and that all the oil levels were about right. I had heard horror stories of the universal joints on the propshafts and steering being neglected and snapping so they were a priority. We also had a camping stove, tea bags and the means to make a brew so as far as I could see we were sorted.
Technology Let Down…Usual Summer Hazard
The first problem came about ten minutes after I left work. I had updated my satnav the night before so that we could be sure of avoiding any delays on the way down and for some reason it had got itself into a loop. It would not get past the opening screen so it was almost as if I was driving blind. In terms of navigation on the Friday it wasn’t a problem, so I carried on. When I joined the end of a queue that stretched from Ilminster to Stonehenge I realised that it was going to be one of those journeys. I do not really mind traffic, there is not much you can do and provided that I have some decent music to listen to I can be quite chilled. On dual carriageways I tried to spread the love by winding my window down and sharing the music, but there did not seem to be many who appreciated my taste.
Whereas I would normally expect to reach London by about half past six, it was half past eight before I arrived. The Yaesu seemed to be in reasonable condition so it was wrapped up and placed in the back of the car. The following morning I left early and was in Bedford for about nine. We went to Grantham and had tea with John from Grantham Truck Services. If I could put in a plug for these guys here, they were terrific all the way through the process and are genuinely nice to deal with. It was then on to Spalding. According to the chap from eBay it was about twenty miles from Grantham and dead easy to find. Not without a satnav it wasn’t. I know nothing abut that part of the world and the names and directions mean nothing. I was driving a very strange vehicle with marginal visibility behind which all added to the stress.
The RB44 is a funny vehicle. You sit very high up but the controls are pretty much the same as a Dodge 50. The first thing I noticed was that the speedometer did not work so it was difficult to assess my true speed. The second was that the gear gate is backwards, so reverse is where first normally is located. This became a bit of a theme for the next couple of hours. The brakes, despite all the adverse publicity, are not bad for a truck. It rattles and bumps and judders but the weirdest thing is that the power steering is very much engine speed dependent. If you take your foot off the throttle the steering gets heavier, which catches you out on roundabouts.
So, bimbling along the road towards Spalding at about fifty was actually quite relaxing. The gearchanging was almost impossible until you get to fourth and fifth, but one, two and three was like stirring gritty porridge. This was livened up for those behind me by random reversing at traffic lights. We managed to find the trailer out in the middle of nowhere and it went straight on. We didn’t have the correct electrical connector so there were no lights, but otherwise the brakes worked and it went fine. To a certain extent you did not notice that it was attached until you caught a glimpse in the rear mirror. Where you did notice it was trying to do a three point turn in between Lincolnshire ditches when we got lost. Boy did we get lost! After two and a half hours driving we were back at Grantham but heading North rather than South.
Finally we made Bedford. Once we had had a brew we looked as closely as we could over the truck. Apart from a few strokes with the grease gun it needed very little in the way of preventative maintenance. All the lights worked as they should, there were no major oil leaks so we felt that we were ready for the following day.
The trip down to Cornwall was remarkably uneventful. We went down the slower roads at about fifty and watched the world go past. The engine did not miss a beat and I gradually became better at the gearbox. The trailer followed along without an incident and apart from a few comfort stops we made steady progress. All in all by the time that I got to Cornwall I was quite convinced that I had made the right decision about the truck and that it would be exactly what I had hoped.
More to follow…