OK, OK, I weakened. I’ve been going along fine for months without shore power, but Sharon was intent on sitting in one particular riverfront spot for days – under a tree, of course, so we got no solar – so I had to figure something out about the electricity. I can sit for a day or three on the full battery charge I get from driving, but it won’t last forever, and I can’t idle my engine in a crowded campground, so it was time to hook up to shore power.
Before we left I had installed a small dual voltage (110/220 volt) charger and wired it into the coach battery. I had an adapter that changed the North American type two blade plug to the European Shuko two pin plug, but, as in North America, the European campgrounds have a special RV type plug, called a CEE17. Everyone here just calls them blue plugs because that’s the color they always are. You can’t just plug a regular European two pin plug into the campground electricity, so you need yet another adapter. Luckily, there was an RV place nearby, so I drove down there to see if they had one.
It was hilarious – as I drove in, one of the salesmen was talking to two customers, but he was transfixed by the sight of my CS Adventurous. He had never seen anything like this in his life – this RV place sold mostly Westfalia campervans. He wandered toward me in a daze, and after giving him a brief tour, I explained my dilemma. No problem he said, and quickly supplied me with the correct campground plug to regular plug adapter. I got my adapter, he got a Roadtrek sales brochure that I keep a handy supply of, and we departed with everyone happy. The saleman wasn’t too impressed with the technological side of my Roadtrek – boondocking capability is a curiosity in Europe, where you’re pretty much limited to campgrounds with electricity and water. What wowed him was the appearance. European campervans are kind of clunky. Mine, with its no-awning, no-porchlights look, slider windows, and fancy one-color ABS molded ground effects, was a swan among ducklings in this salesman’s opinion. He said he could sell all he could get.
Now I had my adapter, but I had to figure out this electrical pedestal in the campground. It’s an electric vending machine – you buy these tokens for 1.5 euros, and they give you three kilowatt-hours. Pick an empty plug, note the number, toggle through the 10 different plug numbers until you get to your number, put in the token, and presto – your electrical balance goes up from zero to 3000 watt-hours. There is a pedestal every 30 meters or so throughout the campground, and everyone has these very long extension cords on reels that they use to reach the pedestal from two or three campsites away. I have maybe 10 meters total length, so I had to be close to a pedestal to hook up.
I had a couple of short US-style extension cords, so the power went through the campground-to-Schuko adapter pigtail I bought from the RV place, through the Schuko-to US blade plug adapter, through the US extension cords, and into my charger. The light on the charger came on, it started humming, and I was getting a steady 12 amps at 12 volts into my coach battery. at 144 watts, that means my 3000 watt token bought me almost a full day’s worth of electricity, not bad for a euro and a half. We could sit under the tree for days, just like I do when I’m driveway camping at my family’s place when I visit them every winter. And after three plus months of wandering the continent, I was finally hooked up to the grid here in Europe.