Home > European Vacation > Running out of gas, times three

Running out of gas, times three

July 23rd, 2009

Having left Geneva Wednesday for our sprint home to Antwerp, Belgium, we found ourselves searching for our final campsite of our madcap RV trip through Europe. We wanted it to be special.

But I was dragging. Driving through downtown Geneva had taken a lot out of me, in part because in the search for diesel, Miss GPS sent us down some harrowingly narrow streets. Everyone inside Mobi was assigned a window to look out of and declare how much clearance I had on one side and the other. We were measuring in terms of inches at one point, and the notion of knocking down a group of tightly parked motorcycles sounded more frightening than fun. Who knows why our computerized, satellite-driven tour guide chose to send us down such narrow streets — and, in the search for fuel, to deliver us not to a gas station but, instead, to a downtown farmer’s market.  GPS’s: You can’t live with ’em, you can’t live without ’em.

And so by Wednesday afternoon, with me growing weary driving down the two-lane highway, Daughter and Fiancé poured through the campground books, including one in only French, to see what was within striking distance. They selected a campground in a village we knew little  about, off a small, two-lane winding road far off the beaten path. We picked it because it was only an hour away and relatively cheap — 25 Euros, or about $37, compared to another campsite that was twice that expensive.

We found ourselves in the wonderful little town of Plombieres-les Bains, and at a quiet campsite up the hill where no one spoke English. (Fiancé speaks Flemish, French and German, so he comes in mighty handy.)

This was going to be a grand finale to our trip: discovering a little French town and a campsite among tall trees, alongside a cheerfully gurgling creek.  Daughter was preparing our last dinner — steak and salad — when she offered a plaintiff plea for help: Dad, there’s no gas! There’s no flame! What’s up with that?

We had run out of propane. Great.  The Mobi had two propane bottles and the dealership assured us that we had more than enough.  I checked. The second bottle was filled.  I had thought the two were somehow piped together like a daisy chain, and was doing a slow burn that it was malfunctioning. That’s when smarty-pants Fiancé pointed out that only one bottle was connected at a time. Duh. All I’d have to do is take the hose off of the empty propane bottle and attach it to the other.

But the second, full bottle had a frozen-closed valve handle, similar to our water-intake pipe cap. I couldn’t turn it for my life. Fiancé came to the rescue. He had a Leatherman, that same Super Tool that I had bought for the trip, and he turned his into a sort of pliers. That did the trick, and in a few minutes Daughter was cooking away.

The evening dissolved into a second bottle of wine and the logistics of Fiancé’s and Daughter’s wedding day (He had proposed to her just a few days earlier, in Vienna). Then to sleep, and being awakened in the morning by rolling thunder.

Before we left town, we walked around town — separating in four different directions and agreeing to meet at the  church an hour later. Somehow our cameras got switched among us — Daughter was using Fiancé’s camera, he was using mine and I was using Daughter’s. I’ve got some great photos on my camera — and I didn’t take them.

We were drawn to many of the same photo scenes, and I’ll post more later when I have time. But take a look and enjoy.

Next stop: Thursday night, back in Antwerp, in time to clean up Mobi and return it to the dealership by Friday’s deadline.

There’s a lot more to say, a lot to reflect on. Suffice for now to say that this has been a most amazing trip, with the theft of Fiancé’s laptop computer as the only casualty. By day’s end Thursday, we will have visited 10 countries in 17 days, and will have spent two days at the same campsite only two times — in Munich and in Vienna.

With Mobi due back at the dealership Friday afternoon, we are starting to run out of gas.

Comments are closed.