In September 2012, Dave Johnson, then trade counter coordinator at HPP decided to take early retirement for the chance to tour the UK and Europe with his trusty motor home 'Mo'. 16 months later, we catch up with Dave to see how his tour went, and to hear about his return to HPP where he's currently helping launch the Avanti range of stock doors.
Q. So Dave, tell us about your journey and how it all came about.
I was coming up to retirement age (early I might add!) and thinking about what I would like to do. One thing that had been high up on my list for years was to buy a motor home and travel much of the UK and Europe to see the sights, soak up some of the culture, and just to enjoy the freedom of being out on the open road, with a chance to park up somewhere totally different anytime I liked.
With the kids all flying the nest and nearing to retirement, I bit the bullet, retired, rented the house out and bought 'Mo', a 4 birth, 2 double bed motor home, with all the luxuries you could ask for, from central heating, separate bathroom, toilet and shower, air con and even HD TV.
Q. Where did your journey take you?
I took the 7 metre beast 'Mo' around the UK to start with, touring up to Scotland, back down to Cumbria, and finally ending the journey in the Midlands to meet up with my daughter who had recently returned from New Zealand. After spending some time there, I decided to make the trip to Europe, which saw me boarding at Portsmouth on the Journey over to Bilboa in Spain, which is where the main trip started really.
After a couple of great days in Bilboa, I made a varied trip around Spain seeing the sights and taking time out on a pedal bikes to explore the various places in a bit more detail, stopping in locations such as Salamanca which was particularly nice with friendly people and a great atmosphere.
From there, I headed through Spain to La Linea de La Concepcion which is an idyllic little town near the border to Gibraltar. The place is fairly traditional and very scenic, with a great coast line and bay. I stayed there for a while too, and yet again got the pedal bike out to take in some of the fresh air and scenery, I wasn't sure if I would leave!
Eventually I did move on though, with the tour then seeing me moving on from La Linea de la Conception over to Portugal, where I had planned to stay for a night in Armacao de Pera, and actually ended up staying 11 weeks! I found the place a great location to be, and was joined by other British travelers, doing the same thing as me. I made some fantastic friends during that portion of the trip and still stay in touch now.
After my extended stay, I decided to move up the Spanish Coast near the end of February 2013 to Cadiz Carnival which was outstanding. The carnival was full of fun costumes, music and was generally just a fantastic atmosphere to be part of. Once I'd recovered from the fun of the carnival, I carried on through Spain and ended up in Oropesa Del Mar around Easter time before visiting Barcelona for a day and then crossing the border to France, visiting plenty of towns, villages and cities along the way, including the home of the Catalan Dragons Rugby League team, where I played a match on their pitch in my earlier years whilst playing for Oldham Rugby as a 15 year old.
I couldn't visit France without a full tour of Normandy, where I'd seen the beaches, and Porte Du Hoc, which still has signs of where the allies bombed the Germans all those years ago, which is absolutely fascinating.
A major highlight of the trip was visiting Luxembourg where I managed to buy diesel at just £1.00 per litre, if only we could get that in the UK! I spent a few days in Germany, visiting Luxembourg, which looks surprisingly like Manchester, before heading back to Belgium, Holland for some more biking, and then France before sailing from from Dunkirk to Calais.
Q. Once you were back in the UK, what did you do?
My tour didn't stop once I got back to the UK as it was late July when I returned, so I made the most of the summer and toured the south of England, seeing sights from places like Maidstone, Longleat, Devon and Cornwall, where I actually had a job on a camp site as the site Warden for just over a month. It was great doing this as a change and it also allowed me to live on site absolutely free of charge which was a great bonus!
Q. What are you doing now?
In late September 2013 I heard that HPP were in the process of launching a new range of stock doors, and whilst I liked the retired life and touring the world, I love the buzz of a busy workplace and the rewards that brings too, so I spoke with the team at HPP and was offered the job of Stock Doors Coordinator which has seen me so busy in getting thing prepared for the new range; I feel like I live here sometimes!
Q. What were your biggest challenges whilst on the road?
There were only a couple of stumbling blocks whilst I was touring, the main one being 'Mo's' gas regulator getting 'gummed up' (I believe that's the technical phrase!). It stopped me in my tracks and had me waiting for the new part to arrive, which was soon followed by the entrance door not locking too. Luckily I had a great Mechanic in Spain who took care of both the faults and got me back on the road relatively quickly.
A couple of wet days along the way also saw Mo stuck in the mud, and on one occasion needed a truck to tow me out of the mess, it's certainly not an easy job trying to push a motor home out of a soft patch on a camp site!
Q. How many miles did you cover on your journey?
In total I covered 10,246 miles in just over a year, which saw me getting 35.6mpg (better than some cars!), and helped me see some of the most interesting and picturesque places in Europe today. Mo served me well, and i'm looking forward to taking another tour sometime in the future too.
Q. And finally, how are you settling back in at HPP?
I'm well and truly settled back in at HPP, and have had to hit the ground running so it's probably a good job I had over a year to recharge the batteries as the new Avanti range looks set to be big, and should certainly keep me and the rest of the team busy during 2014!