One month! That is how long we have been in this one location where we thought that we might stay for four or five days. We had wanted to do a little hiking in Triglav National Park. The phenomenal biking trails, among some of the highest mountains we have been in, have completely overtaken our hiking. The bike trails run through Austria, Slovenia and Italy. If we weren’t returning home shortly, we would probably have left here a few days ago and driven towards Salzburg. We will be flying out of Salzburg Airport in one week to return home to Canada for 10 days. We will be away during the highest priced camping season, which is the month of August. The price where we are now, is very reasonable. If we stay here, we don’t have to spend days looking for somewhere to store the RV when most campgrounds are packed and expensive. There is certainly enough to do to keep us occupied. A huge advantage is also that we are at an altitude of over 800 m or 2,600 feet. This means that our day time temperatures are much more reasonable and our nights are lovely and cool. The disadvantage is that we are 2 ½ hours, without delays, from the Salzburg airport where we have to be at about 5:00 AM in the morning. This means that I will arrive in Toronto having missed two nights of sleep in a row which isn’t good for me these days. Mike will sleep on the plane as per usual ☹.
It is interesting to see how our activities change from one place to the next. Instead of driving around and exploring all the little villages like we usually do, we are spending a lot of our time on bicycles. I read that Austria has some major biking paths that follow the Danube and the Drava rivers. We have started on the Drava route in the south and expect that we will bike along some of the Danube when we get to northern Austria. We are assuming that river routes won’t be too hilly if you ride in the direction of the flow. This part of the world is so well set up for bicycling. We have seen our first few e-bike charging stations on bike paths in Austria. They could charge 3 bikes at once. Of course, this means that you have to have your charger with you and a 220-volt plug, neither of which we carry when we bike. In addition, it takes many hours to fully charge our batteries. I am not sure how much good 15-20 minutes of charging would be.
There is an international cycle route called the Alpe-Adria which joins up with two other paths that cross by our campground. We biked to Villach in Austria a week ago and wanted to continue north on that route for our next ride. We took the train about 40 km north of Villach and stated biking back. We had gone about 7 km when my bike died. All the electronics quit. The problem could have been my battery, the controller or the wiring from the battery to my bike’s controller. To test this out we switched batteries between Mike’s bike and mine. We started riding again and in very short order Mike’s bike, with my battery, quit. Diagnosis: problem with the battery. We had no internet, but Mike thought he remembered that the train station ahead was closer to us than the one from where we had started . Since Mike now had the dead battery, we followed his preferences. For some reason, pedaling these bikes without the electric motor is much harder than it was riding our non-electric bikes in the past. I mentioned this before. I am not sure if this is due to the wider tires, the heavier bike or something to do with the electronic functions added. We got to the next station and it made me think of the old TV show “Petticoat Junction”. We were in rural Austria, there was no-one working at this small train station but there was a machine inside from which we could buy tickets. While Mike was trying to buy the tickets, the train arrived. I rushed outside to be seen and then, as slowly as possibly, walked my bike to the train to put it on, all the time sending mental vibes to Mike to hurry up with the ticketing process. It worked and the train waited for both of us. All told the two trains cost us $60 Cdn with no bike ride. We will still have to do this again another day. These short distance train tickets for two of us and two bicycles are starting to add up. [Note: we did get this ride in later and quite enjoyed ourselves.]
When we got back to the camper Mike plugged the battery in just to see if it had lost its charge for some reason. As he did sparks flew and a flame shot out about 6 inches. My husband is a little strange at times, and he thought this was a good sign. He got out his soldering equipment, disassembled the battery case, soldered some wires in the battery back together and appeared to have fixed the problem. He took my bike and battery out for a test. He did carry his good battery in the saddle bag in case he was being overly optimistic. He successfully returned having just used my battery. How nice it is to have someone who can see flames and have that lead him to a diagnosis and then be able to fix it.
I had mentioned that friends from Canada, Peter and Pearl, had joined us in this Triborder (Austria/Italy/Slovenia) camping spot. One day the four of us went into Austria and drove the panoramic Villach Alpine Road which is one of five premium alpine roads in all of Austria. I really must try and find out where the other four are ?. This mountain road had multiple viewing spots, each with a parking area. At the end of the road, we went on an easy one-hour hike to a fantastic viewing platform built out over the side of the mountain. From this one spot you could see three countries, Slovenia, Italy and Austria and many different mountain ranges. We could see roughly where our camper would be, except that it was hidden between two rows of mountains, one set in Italy and the other in Slovenia. It was great. We stayed dry and missed the predicted daily rain showers. We had a super day.
Peter and Pearl are in a Canadian camper, but they don’t have the luxury of a second vehicle to drive around in. They do both have new electric bikes. Pearl won’t admit to how many years it has been since she was last on a bicycle. In addition to the four of us sightseeing by car, we have been stretching Peter and Pearl’s comfort level on the distance that they can take their new bikes. They aren’t ready to join us on a 40 km ride yet, but we have biked into nearby towns and back a few times.
The front brakes on our car are shot. The sound when we use them is just awful. Although the Ford dealer would not even order parts for our North American built car, we found a service centre in Austria that will fix it for us next Tuesday. They don’t think that we should be driving the car. Mike drives with one hand on the emergency brake handle which he uses instead of the normal brakes most of the time. It is a little disconcerting. Next Tuesday can’t get here soon enough for me. [Note: YEAH, car fixed, and Mike isn’t driving with a hand on the emergency brake any more.]
I had a big concern on one of our rides in Austria. The path had more up and down inclines than we had seen recently and was largely gravel. Together with age, this helped our batteries run down quicker than normal. This was the first time that I had had my yellow warning light (indicating that the battery was getting low on power) on while I was riding. This came on about 10 km from where our car was. It was an uncomfortable 10 km, not knowing whether our bikes would die or not. Luckily, our bikes were good to us and they were still running when we got back to the car. At one point on the ride we saw about 10 swans at the edge of the river. I thought that was a lot until a few minutes later we came to a wider patch that had between 50 and 100 swans. They looked lovely.
We had been told recently about how spectacular the Dolomite Mountain range was. I read about the eastern extension of our route along the Drava river and that it went through the Dolomites. The drive to get there was longer than I would have liked but here is the internet write-up that changed my mind: “You’d never guess that any biking path in the Dolomite mountains in northern Italy could be easy. But the paved cycling route from San Candido, in the Sud Tyrol region of Italy, to Lienz, Austria, is 42km / 26mi of gentle downhill. It’s ideal for kids, rollerbladers, or anyone who wants to focus on the scenery and breathe fresh air – and maybe not get much exercise.”. Now while it wasn’t as super easy as this sounds, it certainly wasn’t difficult. Still you were pedaling for most of the 40+ km and your legs and your bum knew that at the end. When we arrived in Lienz we found out that there were special bike trains just to take passengers to San Candido so that they could bike back. Our train had four large carriages for people and two carriages just for bikes. I saw even longer bike trains later in the day. We were quite concerned that we were going to be biking in the middle of a crush of people but luckily that didn’t happen. We walked our bikes through the pretty village of San Candido, Italy and didn’t actually start riding until 40 minutes after we left the train. The ride wasn’t through the dramatic parts of the Dolomites, which was too bad, but it was a very nice ride. Most of it was along the Drava River with mountains in the distance. Sometimes you were in small forests or pedaling across wooden bridges. There were large wooden carvings every few kilometres on the trail. The carvings were mostly animals. When we got to Lienz Austria, we biked around the town. We will probably be back there once more for a short visit when we join up another bike path to this one. The town is worth more than just the few minutes we are giving it. It looked very pretty. It had a live rock and roll band playing in the square while we were there.
I mentioned earlier this year about seeing really small children on bikes without pedals. Recently, on a couple of occasions, we have seen a few, very tiny, children on bikes with pedals. The kids looked so little that you wondered if they were even stable walking yet. What a difference a parent’s interests make to a child’s life. We have also seen children on bicycles that were attached to their parents’ bikes. In one case the front wheel of the child’s bike was maybe an inch or two off the ground with bars attaching it to the bike in front. In another case there was no front wheel on the child’s bike. The child’s frame was supported by the back of the parent’s bike. In both cases the children were pedaling along thus helping mum or dad propel the bicycle. All very interesting.
My apologies to the non-bikers reading this but the scenery and the bike paths are the major attractions in this area. This afternoon we are going on a short ride from our campground to a mountain nearby. We will then be hiking about an hour or two up the mountain to a waterfall. Peter and Pearl did this recently and recommended it. The section of the biking paths that go past our campground are still the most beautiful that we have seen.