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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Trip report: Dolomite Mountains (and 5 other countries)

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sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 06/30/14 12:34pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It's about that time of year - time I did a big trip report for an annual big trip.

Sally had been watching TV programs about the Dolomite mountains in northern Italy and was dead set on visiting them. I had seen pictures of impressive mountain passes, so thought this would also be a cool location to take our little truck camper.

I maybe putting the cart before the horse here, but I have already edited a little video with some teasers of the trip, so before I get into the big narrative and photos I'll share a link:

Trip report video thingy

I've tried giving a bit of a voice-over on this one rather than just music, I'll let you judge if that helps the video at all.

It will probably take me a few days to put together the whole trip report from my hotel room here in Cape Town, so you'll have to hang around and look out for updates.

Stay tuned for the actual trip report...


'07 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab diesel + '91 Shadow Cruiser - Sky Cruiser 1
'98 Jeep TJ 4.0
'15 Ford Fiesta ST
'09 Fiat Panda 1.2


sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 06/30/14 01:00pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 1

OK, so you've watched the video (or got bored and hit the fast-forward button), and I've probably ruined any anticipation you might have, but there will be pictures here of stuff I didn't bother filming (or stuff that was so shaky it just ended up on the cutting room floor). Anyway, enough with the video tape / film phrases that will mean nothing to the latest generation of digital only campers, and on with the trip.

As I do when I can I effectively worked an early shift so I could finish up as early as possible on the Thursday afternoon, eyeing the camper sat outside ready to go:

[image]

Time drags, but we are soon on our way:

[image]

We haven't booked any campgrounds on this trip and are relying on some that I have researched ahead of time (as looking like our type of campground - i.e. quiet) and marked on the GPS, and a number of guide books we have bought. One is for restaurants, farms, etc. which allow campers to park on their land for free for a night, on the hope you might buy some of their produce. Another is a guide to French Aires - rest stops near villages, some free, others costing a few Euros a night. I need somewhere accessible where we can get these and the related maps, so a quick hunt through the garage revealed a small cardboard box which I modified with some duct tape to make a cheap and cheerful book shelf to lodge between the driver and passenger seats (some days I surprise even myself with my cheapness):

[image]

We head off around London and through Kent to the channel ports and the Eurotunnel. In the past I have found that you can book a time, but then turn up early and the staff will tend to put you on the next train. This time though we arrived early at check-in and found they had computerized it. It recognized our license plate and gave us the option of the crossing we had booked, the one before or an $80 option of going 30 minutes before that. Given my money-saving cardboard box and duct tape cabinetry I think you can guess how keen I was to spend $80 to arrive 30 minutes early!

Onto the train:

[image]

An uneventful journey and we are soon in France and on the Autoroutes heading south east. Having the decent looking campgrounds in the GPS means I can flick through them and it will give us an estimated ETA. I therefore select one we will reach before 7pm - an Aire on the edge of a village, the first time we had tried staying in such a location. We nearly missed the small sign:

[image]

We got the last space:

[image]

It actually had free electric hookup, but we didn't need it. Plus it had a dump station too and free drinking water.

The sort of people who use these tend to be retired campers travelling for longer, so they are looking for a cheap (free) stop-over and won't be making a noise or a mess. Plus the rules stipulate that you aren't allowed to set-up camp so to speak - i.e. no putting out tables, chairs, awnings, etc. It is also for campers only, no TTs, 5ers or tents. The only downside is the retired campers tend to have more travelling time so arrive much earlier in the day meaning you could turn up after 6pm and find all the spaces taken.

We went for a walk along the canal below the aire and then through the village, looking unsuccessfully for a shop that might be open in the evening.

The location turned out to be very quiet and we got a pretty good night's sleep.

Stay tuned for day 2...

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 06/30/14 01:56pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Right, bit of a break there while I unsuccessfully combed the mini-bar in search of chocolate. On the plus side I found a couple of small fancy looking chocolates I had previously not noticed in the fruit bowl. Fortified by sugar and cocoa I will continue:

Day 2

Whoa, that chocolate had a strawberry center, nice. Sorry, getting distracted.

So after an uneventful night I checked the GPS. I knew it would try to send us down some fast but boring (and toll-laden) autoroute. So I had already set a couple of intermediate waypoints for the day, the first being a nice picnic spot in the hills east of Champagne country that my friend Phil had recommended some years ago. The next was Vittel, where the bottled water came from.

One thing I do like about the GPS is its inability to accurately judge what would be a fast road from a slow one. It sees many rural roads as equal, and so it was as we pulled out of the village. I knew the fast route was to go straight on and turn right at the next roundabout, the GPS suggested turning right up a steep and narrow track. I think the GPS has a sense of adventure, so I followed it, and before long it came to a World War I allied cemetary; very appropriate since we were pretty much 100 years after the start of that particular war:

[image]

The route got even better, turning into a dirt track immediately after - that GPS really knows the stuff I like.

However, soon we were back on autoroute (divided highway, 2 lanes each way). Here we stopped for a toilet break. This highway rest stop is also called an aire, but these have a bad reputation for crime over night so aren't recommended for camping. Plus they are close to a noisy highway (80mph speed limit) and you may find yourself camped next to commercial rigs coming and going all night and running their diesel refrigerator units all night:

[image]

The look of a happy man going on vacation:

[image]

Come lunchtime and we arrived at the recommended picnic spot - we have used this spot before - I wonder if anyone ever boondocks here?

[image]

After a nice lunch of French bread and English cheese we head off east using Vittel as a waypoint to ensure we stayed off the bigger autoroutes. Note that Sally isn't really into navigating, hence I prefer to set some waypoints in the GPS and navigate myself with the aid of that to avoid falling out on route. I did drive around Vittel, but it was a bit disappointing, dominated predictably by a huge bottling plant.

It was also here we started noticing the large numbers of 3,5t signs indicating (with the European use of , as the decimal separator not .) that many roads were restricted to 3.5 metric tons Max gross weight vehicles. I asked Sally to make a note of how many of these we saw since I suspected this would be a big factor in our future vehicle decisions - i.e. do we move up to a much larger 7.5 metric ton vehicle? Jumping ahead we found these signs everywhere - they would clearly make navigating unenjoyable. Further we discovered that entering Austria with a 3.5 ton vehicle meant we paid about $8 for 1 month vignette for highway use, where-as with a vehicle over 3.5 tons we would have to buy some pay-as-you-go electronic box that could cost hundreds in road tolls (taxing you as if you were an 18-wheeler).

Sorry, another diversion there - so back on the road after a disappointing Vittel and we headed for the Vosges mountains. You may remember a trip we did there a couple of years ago. This time I picked a restaurant at a high mountain pass that offered free camping. On the way we climbed up one of the major hills we hadn't visited before - Sally inspects a status of Joan of Arc:

[image]

We drop into the tourist shop and Sally buys a load post cards and stamps. I have to point out to Sally that she'll be busy writing post cards tonight because we leave France tomorrow and the French stamps won't be any good in a Swiss mail box.

The campground is great. OK it is just a flat parking area with no facilities, but the views are fantastic:

[image]

We take a small walk and drop into the restaurant for a coffee and cake, or in Sally's case ice cream since she has learned she is wheat intolerant, so she has to watch me eat cake instead!

[image]

We slept well, disturbed only by another RV turning up about 2am! They shoudln't really have done that - the rules for these free campgrounds is that you turn up and go and say hello to your hosts and ask if they have camping available, rather than just driving to their camping area and setting up camp.

Stay tuned for day 3 (Saturday)...

cewillis

Tucson, az, usa

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Posted: 06/30/14 02:40pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Quote:

(some days I surprise even myself with my cheapness):

Great line, Steve. And the start of another great trip.


Cal


silversand

Montreal

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Posted: 06/30/14 02:45pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Steve & Sally:

Glued to "the tube" for this one! We had a few "teaser" photos from you on the road; now looking forward to the whole story [emoticon]

Cheers,
Sand & Dunes


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silversand

Montreal

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Posted: 06/30/14 03:03pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Just finished watching your video (nicely edited!): and Thierry's birthday party was something else! It appeared that the entire town was celebrating !

RICKIM

The Ocean State

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Posted: 06/30/14 03:36pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Fantastic journey! Can't wait for the rest....

Love the video, gives the TR a whole new perspective.....

I'm subscribed......both here and YouTube!

Safe Travels,
Rick


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whazoo

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Posted: 06/30/14 04:13pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Heck Steve, you've given trip reports a whole new direction, one that I won't try to follow. Great narration by you both in the video and a super adventure overall. And a big Happy Birthday to Thierry, who looked darn good on that bike. A great great trip Steve and Sally, thanks to you both!

Bigfoot85

The Great North American West

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Posted: 06/30/14 07:28pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great video ... that roasted pork looked mighty good!


Simply.Living.Well.
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Honda-50

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Posted: 06/30/14 07:38pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Really nice video. I have been over the Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße and Passo di Stelvio but only on a motorcycle. My Lance & F250 would not be fun on your route . . . at least for me. I look forward to the remainder of your report. ~Mark

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