Sunday, July 01, 2007

Holidays and gas-guzzlers

Large motorhome with small car on trailer, France 2005
Camping and motorhomes: Whilst on a car plus small tent camping holiday in the Western Isles of Scotland in June, I was struck by the sheer numbers of SUVs and luxury motor homes on the narrow roads. I know that SUV fuel economy is poor but I wondered about the massive bus-sized motorhomes. It's difficult to find information about fuel consumption of these energy-guzzling behemoths. Presumably fuel economy is not one of the considerations people who buy or rent them take into account. I did discover that smaller models appear to manage around 20mpg (similar to SUVs) whilst the larger monsters seem in some cases to clock up an abysmal 10mpg or even less. For comparison, my car achieves an average fuel consumption of 63 mpg or 4.4 l/100km. If that sounds a little 'holier than thou', it's not meant to be. I'm still using fossil fuel for my holiday and, as in the words of the Frank Sinatra song, you can't have one without the other.

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can't have one without the other

Or can you? Maybe the 'horse and carriage' bit hints at an alternative way to have a NoFF holiday!? There are certainly a few brave cyclists who carry all their kit in paniers and manage to survive their holidays. I'm full of admiration for them.

The 'real' world: Back to the 'real' world of motorhome holidays. I have in recent years noted a new trend. Apart from all the 'necessities' like satellite TV and central heating, some motorhomes have a small car attached to the back end, either towed directly or on a trailer (as in the above photo). That can't do anything good for fuel economy either.

Rough wild camping: Words fail me. I feel guilty car camping at all but now that I've reached the age of 60, I find backpacking in places that are generally wet and windy less than pleasurable. But I still do it: I had a week in May in the Scottish Highlands (what I have styled a NoFF week in an earlier post) which was hard work, given rather rough weather and mostly no tracks in my chosen wilderness (west of Bridge of Orchy which offers several high mountains like Stob Gabhar and Stob Coir'an Albannaich, not to mention the cloudmaker, Ben Starav). And yes, I got there by bus and train. I find a week of really 'roughing it' does wonders for making me appreciate all the relative comfort and luxury I have on my small farm in Wales. A hot shower seems like heaven after a week of washing in a billy-full of cold water between rain or sleet squalls. (Yes, it really was like that some days.)

More, more! More comfort and more "boys' toys" playthings (like jet skis) are the trend, it seems, even as the looming tragedy of climate change begins to engulf us: we still deny it's happening and seem to be increasing our energy consumption rather than reducing it. I don't blame anyone for this. Who doesn't like to be warm and comfortable and having fun? But I despair of anyone changing their ways until unpleasant circumstances force a change. We do seem to be trapped. What we enviro people hope for is a voluntary change in attitudes. Meanwhile, the climate-change-is-natural 'deniers' have a lot to answer for in the battle for hearts and minds.

"It's a long way to Tipperary" (in the words of the cheery First World War song) and we really do have "a long way to go".


Tim Weller said...

Brilliant blogs, Bry; well done!

I aim for 10/10/20 - 10 units of elecy/day on average over the year for the four of us adults; at least 10 miles/litre for my diesel car (12 year old Astra); and, absolute max of 20C for the rooms we sit in. We all switch the heating off at 20C and then no more fossil fuels until 16C is reached in our well insulated home.

Tim Weller said...

I'm very near to Bry's 60yrs and also go car camping, in my Astra. However, I sleep, cook, eat and even do my ablutions in the car, as well as using mountain streams and public toilets! I turn my car into a motorhome or hotel on wheels, so was suitably flabbergasted (and disgusted!) by the luxury, massive motorhome pulling the car on trailer photo!

For my mission to visit all the summits in Scotland over 2,500 ft, I also backpack using a tiny coffin tent or, bivy bag in dry weather.
My blog:

Tobias Thrash said...

Age does get the best of us, despite the fact that we love the outdoors and physical activities. We should all enjoy traveling to the fullest, while our body still can.

Tobias Thrash