RV.Net Open Roads Forum: Trip report: Dolomite Mountains (and 5 other countries)

RV Blog

  |  

RV Sales

  |  

Campgrounds

  |  

RV Parks

  |  

RV Club

  |  

RV Buyers Guide

  |  

Roadside Assistance

  |  

Extended Service Plan

  |  

RV Travel Assistance

  |  

RV Credit Card

  |  

RV Loans

Open Roads Forum Already a member? Login here.   If not, Register Today!  |  Help

Newest  |  Active  |  Popular  |  RVing FAQ Forum Rules  |  Forum Posting Help and Support  |  Contact  

Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Truck Campers

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

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

Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 7  
Prev  |  Next
Sponsored By:
crosscheck

Coldstream, BC

Senior Member

Joined: 12/14/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 07/01/14 12:11am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Your video captures the essence of the the trip from England to the Dolomites and beyond.Both of you must stay up late at night discussing what will be the next fun thing to do in our TC.
Grossglockner, Passo di Stelvio are pretty impressive passes, both the climbs and the descents.

Look forward in hearing more of what's to come. The Alps are one our favorite areas of Europe.

You always give your truck and camper a workout when ever you travel.

Dave


2016 F350 Diesel 4X4 CC SRW SB,
2016 Creekside 23RKS, 490W solar, 2000W Xantrex Freedom 2012 inverter, 4 6V GC-2 (450AH)
2006 F350 CC 4X4 sold
2011 Outfitter 9.5' sold
Some Of Our Fun:http://daveincoldstream.blogspot.ca/

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 07/01/14 12:19am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OK, I've had a bit of a sleep and some Bircher Muesli and coffee and a strange fruit juice, so I'll try to write-up another day's truck camping before I have to wrestle the car off the valet parkers and head for the office.

Day 3 (Saturday)

Surprisingly the woman with children who arrived at 2am was up and going for a walk before we were. It was a beautiful morning though. A quick breakfast outside in the sun and then we headed down the mountain, stopping for a quick walk by a lake and dam on the way down:

[image]

We descended into the flat planes of the Alsace heading bast Mulhouse (where that fantastic Bugatti museum is) and then crossed the Rhine into Germany. If you start the count in the UK this made country 3.

As with many border crossings in Europe there was little more than a small sign to show you crossed, and we were too busy admiring the Rhine to notice. Only the other side did I notice the GPS was reporting a different speed limit and looking at the road signs the language had changed. Our speed limits are pretty similar all across Europe, usually varying by maybe 10 km/h here and there. One exception is parts of the German autobahn system which have no limit (until you approach a city and suddenly find limits and speed cameras). Not that this makes much difference to us, travelling at an indicated 60mph (actually 90km/h if I look at the more accurate GPS speedometer).

We weren't in Germany long before crossing into Switzerland at Basel. Since we would be using Swiss highways we needed to pay for a vignette - their tax for their divided highways, which are all in a sense turnpikes. Unfortunately you have to buy a year's vignette, which is a bit of a ripoff when you only need it for a couple of days. I had enquired about buying a vignette while in Geneva for business, but an acquaintance there said "just buy one at the border, the queue for buying a vignette is much shorter than the queue for entering if you already have one". He was right. The 2 lane road divided into cars with vignettes on the left, and those needing to buy them on the right. Since almost everyone had a vignette our queue was very short and we were soon met by a friendly young Swiss woman who sold Sally the vignette and even affixed it to the windshield for her. Note I says Sally, since my truck is right-hand-drive, so all the toll booths, etc. are all on the passenger's side when outside the UK.

I'd never been through Basel and it looked very industrial - but we just skimmed over the top on the elevated highway. Heading for Zurich there was a hooting of musical car horns and Sally looked out to see a group of British guys in cheap old cars festooned with sponsorship stickers. They wanted to know if we were going their way. They were on one of these sponsored road trips, where you have to buy a wreck of a car for a few hundred dollars then drive it across Europe (some even go into Africa), raising money for charity and having a huge laugh on the way. These guys were heading for Monte Carlo:

[image]

A lot of the northern part of Switzerland is industrial. You think of Switzerland as mountains and cuckoo clocks, but there is a heck of a lot of engineering industry based there. As we headed east we started to see signs of the big mountains - we would be skirting north past the Eiger, but would save visiting that for another vacation:

[image]

We stopped at a rest-stop for a sandwich. The previous night we hadn't been able to dump our grey water, so I had ratchet-strapped it to the roof. We found the rest stop had an excellent dump station and we could also fill up with drinking water too:

[image]

[image]

We carried on east across Switzerland. I had marked a waypoint for a campground by a nice lake in eastern Switzerland. It was in a great location, but when we arrived not only was getting to the campground a nightmare of narrow streets and height limits, but the campground appeared crammed with vacationers and children everywhere. It was a sunny weekend in summer, so I guess that was no surprise. Sally said she didn't want to stay there so we headed on. The area was beautiful though:

[image]

Notice the folded rock on the mountain the other side of the lake.

So we headed for the tiny country of Liechtenstein on the border with Austria, Pretty much the whole country is on the side of a mountain (certainly the main city is). There is a natural bowl surrounded by mountains that you can drive to, so we headed up there. It was a real surprise to find ourselves crawling up tight switchbacks in the middle of a city - normally you find these things in the middle of mountain passes in the countryside, but here they had built their city up the switchbacks. Eventually we reached the tunnel that gave us access through the mountain to the centre of the country:

[image]

We continued to drive to the end of the road - again, very steep, until we came to the skiing village at the top:

[image]

And the chance for more ice cream:

[image]

We asked about camping, but no-one knew of any, other than a campground I had marked on the GPS in advance, down by the Swiss border. A check on the GPS showed the country only had only one campground, so we headed for it:

[image]

It wasn't cheap, but was in a good location, and is the only time I am ever likely to stay the night in Liechtenstein.

OK, I better head off to my customer now. I'll add some more updates tonight. Stay tuned for Italy...

* This post was edited 07/02/14 12:06pm by sabconsulting *


'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


RobertRyan

Australia

Senior Member

Joined: 03/16/2008

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 07/01/14 01:47am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Steve looking forward to your photos of the Hill Towns of the Dolomites in Italy. Fascinating stuff, some of the best parts of Italy.

Mote

Hoosier State

Senior Member

Joined: 05/25/2005

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 07/01/14 04:26am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We enjoyed the video and your pictures. Would love to make it over that way sometime in the future.


2005 Dodge 3500
2001 Lance 1030
2006 Cougar 29RL


sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 07/01/14 02:07pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Back from a day in the office (or rather someone else's office), full up after a very nice curry, so time to get on with the story.

Day 4 (Sunday)

More eastward travel today, heading into Italy - country number 6.

First we head for the fashionable spa town of Bad Ragaz in eastern Switzerland. There is a gorge I want to walk down that is accessible fro the town (I'm less interested in the town itself - more of a country person). When researching the trip I had found the location, but struggled to see where I could park. Just outside the town, on the highway, are the Hiedi-land services, so I thought we could park there easily and walk into town. However, after pulling up at these crowded services I noticed they were surrounded by a high fence, so accessible from the highway only. Probably to prevent crime, and possibly also people using it as a free car park as we intended. So we carried on into the town itself. There were various places marked with the blue P sign, but they all appeared pretty empty and on closer inspection were marked as private. I didn't want the inconvenience of parking somewhere and finding my vehicle wheel-clamped on return because I failed to understand the small print of some notice written in German. We drove onto the town centre, but the parking there was conveniently underground - not very camper friendly. In the end we turned out of town and headed up the narrow road that wound up the edge of the mountain and then parallel with the gorge. At the top we find parking near the fire department in a small village and there is clearly a trail leading to the edge of the gorge.

We follow the trail and it starts to descend steeply the entire depth of the gorge. I worry that this was a poor decision. Sally twisted her ankle badly a couple of months ago and is still having problems with it. I am fearful she might slip on the descent, re-twist the ankle and that will ruin all the activities we have planned for the vacation.

[image]

We get down safely. At the bottom there is a nice wide flat dirt road leading along the gorge. People are strolling happily along with baby strollers, oblivious to the descent and climb from the top. We walk a short way along the gorge, but need to turn back - we have burned up enough time already and need to get on our way to Italy.

Actually the trip back up wasn't too bad - these days I prefer climbing than descending - the former is much kinder on knees and ankles and much lower risk.

A lot of Switzerland's road system seems to be underground - lots of mountains to tunnel through. I can see why they need to charge to use it:

[image]

We headed further south east for Davos. Before Davos all sensible traffic either stays on the divided highway for an easy crossing into Italy, or takes the train from Klosters that goes through the mountain (much like the channel tunnel we took a few days earlier). Not for us that, we have a truck camper. We stop at Davos for a snack by the lake (we don't bother going into Davos itself, again, we need to get miles under our wheels today). The car park was tight, but putting the truck in low ratio 4x2 makes these maneuvers much easier - I can leave the truck to inch along at idle avoiding revving the engine and slipping the clutch - not quite as easy as an auto transmission, but bridges the gap.

[image]

From Davos we turn east again up a steep minor road that is in the process of being reconstructed over the Fieula pass. Eventually we reach a small village where the road is only just wide enough for our camper to squeeze between the buildings. Not helped by a motorbike and camper coming in the other direction. We squeeze past and turn right up another narrow road. I've changed down into low ratio so I don't burn out the clutch on these steep hill-starts. We carry on up the hill in low ratio. This is a very minor road up Umbrail pass - it barely shows on Google maps. It is very steep and has extreme switch backs, in places not much wider than the camper and often with no protection if you stray too close to the drop on the edge. Having a right-hand drive vehicle is a benefit here because I can see where the edge of the road is and get my wheels right up to it. The switchbacks also need careful judgement to get around them in one go because they are tighter than the turning circle of my truck (which in turn is tighter than a full-size truck's turning circle).

Can't help thinking of the Italian Job while driving these roads.

Motorbikes are becoming more prevalent as we get closer to one of Europe's favorite biker roads. Insanely there are almost as many cyclists. This is extremely tiring to drive, let alone cycle up. Plus many sections of this are dirt road where it is under maintenance.

At the top is a frozen lake and a cafe full of bikers (the cafe, not the lake - well, I assume not):

[image]

On the road we pass a sad casualty of the extreme climbs. for 2 weeks we will be driving continuous mountain passes with grades of up to 24%, maybe steeper, and we are fully laden, carrying probably 2500 lbs. Our truck is pretty tough, but even I start to detect an increasing vibration around 10mph indicating a drive shaft UJ is probably on its way out (the conditions in the Sahara the other year probably sealed its fate). It will last until we get home. Unfortunately for this family that wasn't the case - the father hugs the crying daughter as the family expedition vehicle is winched onto a recovery truck. I've owned Land Rovers before and as much as I love them I don't trust their drive-trains - one more worry I don't want to have when travelling long distance in foreign countries:

[image]

Just before entering into Italy:

[image]

We now start the climb to the top of the famous Stelvio Pass:

[image]

Again, the top is rammed with bikers. They are everywhere on every type of motorbike. We pull in just after the restaurant at the top. We can't park, but managed to stop to take a quick photo - this is what awaits us going down:

[image]

You can only see a fraction of the switchbacks in this picture.

Again, more cyclists battling up. Actually battling is the wrong word. We are at altitude and they have just cycled non-stop up thousands of feet of extremely steep road, and the buggers aren't even out of breath! That is just wrong - I get out of breath cycling to the shops, and that is on the flat.

[image]

I have drum brakes on the rear. Even if I had powerful all-around disks I wouldn't want to burn through my brakes riding them all the way down this lot. So I went down in low ratio 2nd, changing to 1st on the switchbacks, blowing the air horns on entry to warn opposing traffic that I would be swinging wide and taking the whole road.

I kept checking for bikes and sports cars in the mirrors and when I saw them would indicate and slow right down on the short straight bits so they could power past - everyone else on the road had come to challenge themselves against its turns at high speed, not to follow an old truck camper as it crawled down.

There was some mad passing though. Typically where a group of 3 or 4 riders were together. The first rider would pass safely, the second would cut it fine with the approaching traffic, and the third, in a suicidal bid to follow his friends would accelerate, swerve out and just miss the oncoming vehicle as he swerved back in again. One slight mistake would have meant instant death, probably crushed under my truck.

We stopped at a restaurant to buy a sticker and some more post cards, and use their toilet. We could smell the burning brakes of those drivers who didn't understand brake fade, and watched as someone in a class B attempted to climb one of the switchbacks, all slipping clutch and revving engine.

Down in the valley we could finally change up into high ratio - the diesel engine on my truck owes more to sports car engine design than classic truck diesel and fantastic as it is to drive its engine braking is useless, hence low ratio going down hill.

Down in the fertile Italian valley at last we can see the vinyards and marble quarries. Driving along we spot a sign for a campground and go to investigate. Expensive, but one of the best we've stayed at:

[image]

A beer or two was definitely needed after that day's drive.

Stay tuned as we next head into the Dolomites...

Steve.

* This post was edited 07/02/14 12:09pm by sabconsulting *

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 07/01/14 02:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 5 (Monday)

I get some more Euros out at the local bank in the village near the campground. There is white marble everywhere, a by-product of their local quarrying.

We have a relaxed breakfast and hit the road, heading east again, this time further into Italy towards the Dolomite mountains. For the moment we have the luxury of level highway, and it is a nice relief to be in the valleys not climbing or descending mountain passes - this won't last long.

We navigate some short sections of Italian toll road - Autostrade, before climbing back onto another twisty mountain road heading up into the Dolomites. Part way along we decide we need to buy some maps, so we stop near a cable-car station. There is a town, Cavalese, on the hill opposite. I know it will be narrow streets and difficult parking so I search the GPS for parking in that town and set it to navigate there. On the way out of the cable car station car park we see a sign for white water rafting, that gets Sally all excited.

We climb up to Cavalese - the first car park doesn't look camper compatible, but carrying on through the main piazza we find more parking by the town sports complex. The parking seems to have a forest of different signs all indicating different parking durations allowed, and it is not clear which applies to which parking space. Stuffed between the dashboard and the windshield I keep a fading plastic parking disk purchased in France years ago - you set the time to indicate what time you arrived. I assume the Italian parking attendants (if any are working today) will accept the French parking disk. We walk in the direction of the town centre and find the tourist office. They are very friendly and speak excellent English. They don't know where the nearest white water rafting is though and have to look up a phone number. I.e. they don't know that if you take the cable car just below their office it leads to a rafting centre, or that (as I discovered later) that rafting centre's office is next door to the information centre.

We carry on and find a map shop. I spend ages trying to find maps of the ares in the Dolomites we want to walk in. Sally gets frustrated, but I know we will be more frustrated later if I have the wrong maps. Sally wanted to stay for an ice cream, but I was worried about the parking - I had wasted more time than I expected looking at maps and was conscious some of the parking signs said 30 minutes only. It is a pity, because it looks like a nice place to spend some time:

[image]

We hit the road again heading further east and soon see the distinctive bare shapes of the Dolomite mountains rising up above the forests.

I have put waypoints in the GPS for the major places we want to go hiking / climbing and 3 campgrounds that look like the type we will enjoy. We stop to have a look at the first one, up a forested valley. It is cheap, but Sally isn't overly impressed. She says it will be fine if there is nothing better, but insists we should try the next one on the GPS.

The next one is more central to our destinations and is on the door step of the actual Dolomites just above the village of Pozza di Fassa. Many of the buildings have lovely murals painted on them - we notice this throughout the region in the coming days, including in Austria and Germany:

[image]

The campground is very high quality, with an Italian restaurant and a health spa and pool on site:

[image]

We walk the site and pick a spot - we will use this as a base for the next 5 nights:

[image]

I can now relax knowing we have made it to our destination unscathed. Even if we have problems with the truck now, we have the time to arrange for local repair and can take a taxi or bus to visit the things we want to see.

Stay tuned for more of the Dolomites tomorrow...

Steve.

* This post was edited 07/02/14 12:11pm by sabconsulting *

Tiger4x4RV

Inland Empire, Southern California

Senior Member

Joined: 03/14/2007

View Profile



Posted: 07/01/14 04:39pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I wish there were a way to go where you went on this trip without being on those roads! Narrow, steep, crowded, so scary. I can cross the Sierra Nevada on any of the passes without problems, but don't think that my acrophobia would let me complete that road down from the Stelvio Pass. Your photos and narrative make it all real. Thank you for sharing!


2006 Tiger CX 4x4, 8.1 L gas V-8, Allison 6-speed


whazoo

Idahome

Senior Member

Joined: 10/12/2007

View Profile



Posted: 07/01/14 05:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hello Steve, There are a few trip reports I consider to be at a professional level. This one, and all of yours, are at that level. I just wish more people could see and appreciate them.

sleepy

Oak Ridge,Tennessee

Senior Member

Joined: 04/07/2003

View Profile



Posted: 07/01/14 10:14pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks Steve... you have set a new standard for trip reports that all of us should try to achieve. The video is a very nice touch... but your pictures with your written words are fantastic... and I have the time to absorb the details... both spoken through your written words and photographs.

We have a day away from the doctors tomorrow... Janet will have a chance to enjoy your trip... she will be Wow'ed and terrified from all of the narrow, high roads.

I sent the link for your video to our grandson and his wife in England... it will give them an idea what they might do sometime over the next few years. It won't be in the near future though... she is about to bless us with our third great grandchild during July.

Looking forward to more of your trip

Sleepy Chet (it's after midnight)


2003 Lance 1161,/slideout/AGM batteries/255W Solar/propane generator/Sat dish/2 Fantastic Fans/AC/winter pkg
AirFoil, Trimetric, LED lights, Platcat vent heat

2003GMC K3500 LT/Crewcab/duramax diesel/allison/dually/4x4/OnStar/front reciever mounted spare

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 07/02/14 12:13am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for the comments guys. I'll get back to everyone at the end of the report, I promise.

Day 6 (Tuesday)

We had a good night's sleep and it was lovely to be able to lie in bed late in the morning not having to drive anywhere. We both agreed we wouldn't move the camper today. Instead, with the aid of the maps I bought we located a high-level walk we could do with the aid of a cable car from the local village in the valley below.

We walked from the campground down into the valley, this being a ski resort in winter there are multiple cable cars heading up the various valley walls. We planned to take one that heads up the mountain above the ski resort and terminates close to a chair lift that then takes you to a point where you can hike along a ridge line in the direction of the high peak of Marmolada, possibly the highest one in the Dolomites. However we learned that the chair lift wouldn't be opening until next week as it was currently the gap between the ski season and the summer season, evident from the huge amounts of maintenance being done everywhere during that small window when the resorts are quiet.

We took the cable car up (those small gondalas in fact). Then proceeded to trek up the dirt road leading to the top chair chair lift station. That was a tiring climb, but the views were worth it:

[image]

Sally's ankle was holding up, but painful, so she kept having to rest. The doctor said she should have a stick to help support her when walking, so that was next on the shopping list - should have bought one before we came out really.

At the top cable car station we needed a cool off:

[image]

We reached the summit of this particular peak, climbing along the ridge and sat down for a rest and a cup of tea from Sally's flask she takes everywhere - plus a bit of mountain-top yoga - for Sally that is, I don't think my body bends quite well enough for "downward facing dog" yet, more "sideways reclining hippo":

[image]

Looking towards Marmolada Sally asked if we should hike any further along the ridge. If the upper cable car had been running then yes, but given I was pretty tired already and we would have to descend considerably to continue along the ridge line, a descent we would have to repeat in reverse on return, and Sally's ankle was playing up, I decided we would turn around at this point - no point injuring ourselves (or specifically Sally) so early in the holiday:

[image]

Close up you could see the pink rock:

[image]

And the alpine flowers were lovely:

[image]

[image]

We descended the way we came, and then walked into the main part of the village for a coffee and ice cream, followed by some shopping. Our timing wasn't great since they have a siesta and we had to wait until 3:30 for most of the shops to open. We picked up some local food and a bottle of something strange for a friend's birthday party (I'll cover that later in the report). We also found a souvenir shop that had some cheap trekking poles for sale, so we bought a pair. Sally didn't want both, so I took one and she took one - seemed to really help on the walk back up hill (in the rain) to the campground, especially since my back pack now weighed a ton, partly my fault for buying 2 litres of Italian beer alongside the other groceries.

The heavy rain that swept in confirmed that we chose the right time to descend the mountain. Throughout our stay in the region we would find the weather would deteriorate after lunch, so it was important to get off the mountains early - you wouldn't want to be stuck up a mountain when a lightning storm starts.

Stay tuned for other mountain activities to come...

Steve.

* This post was edited 07/02/14 12:13pm by sabconsulting *

Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 7  
Prev  |  Next

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

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

Search only in Truck Campers


New posts No new posts
Closed, new posts Closed, no new posts
Moved, new posts Moved, no new posts

Adjust text size:




© 2021 CWI, Inc. © 2021 Good Sam Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved.