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Dan Morris: Dizzy heights and Donkmobile drama

There's a man with a van and his name is Dan.

I felt like an elephant walking a tightrope above a volcano while holding a pneumatic drill...
I felt like an elephant walking a tightrope above a volcano while holding a pneumatic drill...

That's right folks. While Bo-Jo has been busy saying "hasta la vista, baby" to the party of a lifetime, Messrs Morris Jr and Sr have been having a little fun of our own.

My father and I have, of course, not been indulging in the high-end good life that Mr Johnson and associates regularly drink deeply from the cup of. But we have, I think, been spending time in a more down-to-earth manner and on a pursuit more honest than would fit with a lot of Number Ten's reported shenanigans.

After months of meticulous preparation, fine-tuning and titivating, the Morris motorhome A.K.A 'Pop's Van', A.K.A, 'The Donkmobile' (I'll explain at some point in the future) was finally ready to hit the road last week, and we wasted no time in taking the brazen beast on its virgin tour.

With cupboards stacked with plastic plates and camping clobber, and a fridge replete with bacon, bread and Budweiser (other kings of beers are available), we rock and rolled all the way to Bala lake for a few days' worth of capers, kayaking and general kicking back.

Now at this point it is worth acknowledging that for some of our readers on the Shropshire side, there is no 'all the way' to Bala – the North Wales lakeside town is just up the road. Yet for those a little further from the Welsh border, including myself, it's a wee bit of a trek.

Still, he who dares, Rodney! In we piled, along with Frank the Tank (our faithful black Lab), and set off on the odyssey that would lead us to a shining lake shore at which to park our shining four-wheeled abode.

The first leg of the journey (the one during which my father was behind the wheel) went as smooth as silk. We were a trio of troubadours basking in the glory of the open road. In the immortal words of Bob Marley, the sun was shining; the weather was sweet. I didn't quite risk moving my dancing feet, but the temptation was certainly there.

As we devoured our route mile-by-mile, I sat back and admired the beauty around us, and, indeed, that of the situation. My two favourite male companions in the world were beside me – one occasionally barking at me with a runny nose, hanging tongue and wide-eyed grin (and then of course, there was the dog). The simplicity of what we were up to was perfect – the planning and execution thus far having been effortless, and the journey incredibly calm.

The scenery was perfect, with the roads becoming ever more winding, signs of civilisation sparser, and the hills steeper.

And then I double-took. The roads were becoming more winding, buildings were fewer, and the hills were now in fact mountains. And, naturally, it was time for me to drive.

I'd been looking forward to giving the 'Mozz-mobile' a whirl, though in my own rather ridiculous brain I hadn't considered that doing so on the second leg of a journey to Wales may involve a tightening of the highways and an increase in altitude. Both were to occur in abundance, just in time for to take the proverbial reins.

As I assumed position in the Captain's Chair and my father switched to co-pilot, I felt confident. Visibility was great, and the power was there. It'd been a while since I'd driven anything quite so large, but I'd spent my latter teenage years behind the wheel of a pick-up, and you never really forget.

Off we went, and despite a few teething troubles with the gear stick and its willingness to behave for me, all was well. But then we started to climb. Into the stratosphere.

Acrophobia, or fear of heights, is a well-documented weakness of mine, and one that so far (though not for lack of trying) I have been unable to shake. Having already had to squeeze my father's pride and joy of a new toy between an abandoned lorry and a sharp stone wall in the short five-minute spell I had been behind the wheel, my nerves were already a little high. And then, as our altitude increased, it did so in devilish tandem with the narrowing of roads, an increase in the extremity of their curvature, and – worst of all – a marked decrease in the presence of protective barriers just as we began to travel in parallel with a steep valley's edge.

We were a very long way up, and the shaking vertigo veteran that is me was having to pilot a top-heavy wobble-box along the most narrow of tracks when the slightest twitch on the wheel could have spelt our doom. I felt like an elephant walking a tightrope above a volcano while holding a pneumatic drill.

Just as my panic got the better of me and my natural tremor went into overdrive, my father – ever calm in any crisis – agreed it would be better for him to resume his position as pilot, and save me from plunging the three of us (along with his prized camper) to a grisly end. And it was a good job he did, for that road got thinner, the climb got steeper, and the barrier disappeared entirely.

By the time we arrived at Bala I was a sweaty mess, in rich need of a cold shower and an even colder pint. The former, I skipped; the latter, I certainly did not.

While imbibing said beverage though, I leaned back and smiled. It hadn't been the first time that that man had calmly helped me away from the edge of a frightening precipice, and I'm glad he's still around to lend a hand with them.

Three decades on he's still being a hero to the little boy who once froze at the top of a sky-scraping Spanish water slide – between then and now having saved me from every cliff edge (literal and metaphorical) that I've ever faced. I don't say it enough, but thanks Pop – for everything.

Suffice to say that the rest of our stay was a bit more relaxing for yours truly, and certainly got me hungry for the next van plan.

Here's to the adventures to come, and all the dizzy heights therein. With my father beside me (and not forgetting Frank the Tank), I think I can handle them all.

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