Friday, March 29, 2013

Moments to Savor

If we could only halt the clock and relish those fleeting moments and hold them close. It happens while I'm with friends, my husband, even when pedaling alone. Some events repeat themselves—thank goodness—which may be the sole reason why many of us ride. I'm thinking of more than obvious health benefits or transportation, but to capture the sublime instance that—though it may not linger—makes riding a bike worthwhile.

Lake Champlain sunset.

1. When the sun kisses the Adirondacks. 
Sunsets are special on Lake Champlain. I make it a point to ride along the waterfront on summer evenings so I can pause, put one foot on a rail or straddle my bike, and watch the ball of gold, orange, or even red if it's an especially hot day, slide down the New York side, glimmering across 10 miles of water. Sunsets the world over hold the power to entrance, but the view from Burlington is poignant. There are very few places in hilly Vermont where uninterrupted views stretch that wide. Lake Champlain, provides a sense of serenity; its sunsets are to-die-for. Lucky me.

2. Late morning in Provence.
After riding in southern France last year, I've come to appreciate the sun-worshipper's' paradise, which is Provence. It's a dry climate, full of luscious fragrance and harvests. I loved pedaling late morning. Muscles are warmed. It's not too hot. Olive trees are sage-colored with distance hills shining in purple pastels. There is always a breeze. It's the moment when I feel like I could pedal a 100 miles. Throw in a row of plane trees and I'm in heaven.

3. Enough nourishment and a camping spot within grasp.
Food has special significance to a touring cyclist. I daydream about food while I'm pedaling and especially strawberry daiquiris when it's humid. And more often than not, by early afternoon I want to know where we will spend the night. Given my normal tent travels with flexible mileage, or—heaven forbid—throw in a major bike problem, locating a campsite and food before dinnertime can be a monumental task. But occasionally things work out without a hitch and it's all the sweeter because I used my two legs to power my adventure. If I'm lucky there might even be a place to buy a beer. I have, however, given up on the idea of a daiquiri.

Sorry, no photo of husband with steaming mug. I made this brew on a solo trip last summer.
4. Waking to hear someone lighting the stove.
I could name many special sights on our worldwide travels (Taj Mahal, Himalayas come to mind), but nothing is as comforting as waking in a foreign land to the sound of  a hissing stove. It means my husband has risen and is heating water for coffee. Sure, he rattles pots. Nor do I mind that it's dawn on a hot day. It's the ceremony that counts, a bonding agent that means "drink the familiar, then let's pedal and see what's around the bend". Most days, even 20 years later, my love thoughtfully hands a steaming mug to the tent door. Or, maybe he's just trying to wake me up. But as a woman, I'll pretend there's more to it than that.

5. Feeling strong and forgetting to turn into my workplace.
I relish that sweet spot every Spring when my legs have acclimated to commuter riding. It means my mind can now wander and ponder all the things I've been meaning to think about that only happen when I ride a bike. Like bike overnights. I wonder where that bird spends the night. Or, what to do about a problem child. Heavy or light subjects—doesn't matter. Is it time to look for another job? Speaking of work, why did I just pass the turn?

What bicycle moments would you savor?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Overdressed for Spring?

It was nearing 37 F. when I pushed off on my bicycle to shop for our sons' Easter baskets. But with a chilling north wind and snow on the ground, I've learned to overdress just to be on the safe side. It can be the difference between enjoying the ride or wishing I stayed at home.

I donned long underwear, capri length pants, shirt, fleece hoody, and windproof insulated coat, plus headband, and the warmest gloves I own. I could battle headwinds and dropping temperatures, however, I left the hand and toe warmers at home. Brief stops would warm up nippy feet. I was very comfortable, even downright hot when I later met my boy at his school. I'll take that over dancing with a brain bucket like I need to use the bathroom, trying to stimulate life into frigid limbs while my child takes what seems like hours to part with his friend. When we arrived home I was shocked to discover the temperature had risen into the high 40s F.

Packing pannier with goodies from the dollar store. Kids will love
 the microwave popcorn, Mac n' Cheese, bubble gum and boy toys
 (caps and  body-noise gadget).
Spring is definitely on its way. I take my cue from the Canadian geese who've made their first pass over Burlington only yesterday, honking and flying northward. A most welcome sight!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Italy - Montagnana is a Gem

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Andy enters the city walls of Montagnana beneath the hostel.
54 miles - Saturday, October 8

A chilly 48F greets us as we crawl from the tent. It’s sunny however, a beautiful start to the day. Andy and I are confident that we’ll make it to Florence or possibly Rome now that we carry camping and hostel guides.

Heading southwest from Venice we pedal along the Brenta canal. Sprawling brick and stone houses line both banks. We presume they're inhabited by old money families or are farms, or could be second homes or retirement places for the wealthy. We maneuver through Mira and eventually through the Padova's city center. We slow down, rolling over the narrow cobblestone streets while gazing at 3-4 story homes with shops at street level. Fountains spout water beside cherubs or curly-haired Roman statues. The old cities warm my heart. We've only been in Italy a few days, yet the atmosphere makes us want to read Shakespeare plays, and delve into Roman history.

A bump on the hazy horizon surrounds Teolo, a village on Italian cyclers' training route. We wave and try “Ciao!” to greet skinny Italians in lycra as we spin in low gears over the summit. Unfortunately, most are non-responsive. We joke that they are breathless, concentrating on hills and speed.

A snippet from my journal. The hostel has their own stamp.
Once on the flat plains again, we pedal through Noventa then aim for Montagna where a hostel becomes our goal for the evening and according to our guide it's supposed to be inside a castle. By 5 p.m. a stone wall appears on the horizon. Andy and I look at each other as a kilometer later we move through an arched opening, entering an astonishing city - completely unexpected. We head for the piazza (central square) for directions. It's too good to be true. The hostel is inside a multi-story structure above the same opening we'd entered the city – a castle turret attached to the walls.

View of city from rooftop.

The kitchen in the hostel.

A drawing from my journal, showing the hostel attached to the wall.

View of buildings within the walls.
We are grinning as the hostel host hands us sheets and we follow him up black spiral stairs to our room. The private room has two new pine-smelling bunk-beds, whitewashed walls, with two keyhole-shaped windows with custom metal- framed glass. It's not easy to gaze outside, however, as the openings are authentic and deep silled, better for protecting against 12th century weapons. The kitchen room opens to an exterior circular courtyard for views of tiny Fiats and Renaults buzzing below us through the arched opening. One flight above, always climbing or ascending the spiral staircase (it's a narrow building) Andy and I emerge outside on the roof. It's a gorgeous view of the red clay-tile roofed dwellings. This little city is unique, a dreamy village all within walls.

Another view of the hostel.

It's a gem of place - only a sign identifies it as a hostel – and by far the most interesting stay of our trip. It has all the ambiance of Roman castle with hostel comfort. In the 1960s the interior was renovated to house 60 beds. It only set us back 26,000 Lira (18.00 USD). Andy and I are smitten. We'll explore more of Montagna by daylight.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shifting Within the Spectrum

Shorter adventures fill my wanderlust these days compared with lengthy trips in the
 80s and 90s. Notice, the Trek Antelope held up on a long tour and is still in use
today (left photo, 2012).
The 1980s were a blur of cycling across the country, working briefly in Houston, then settling in Oregon and getting married. It was a time of high energy, high adventure in the Cascades: back-country skiing, climbing volcanoes. Occasionally we went on long rides: my first century (on my own in the hills near Mount Saint Helens), several double centuries (back to back 100 mile days), and an organized tour with Cycle Oregon on the Oregon Trail (400 miles across the state).

This life carried over through the mid-90s until the move back to Vermont. Then children provided an extra challenge. But little by little, the adventure is coming back. I'm learning to make the time away from home count. I appreciate the shorter tours. I'm confident going solo. I've learned to lighten the  gear I haul. Bike overnights, especially, have a charm all their own. You can carry more: bottle of wine, leave the stove at home, pack a pillow, eat breakfast at a restaurant because—what the heck—it's only for one night.

Always a constant, since my teens, remains bike commuting. It's my freedom from the car. It keeps me fit. I commuted year-round in Portland, Oregon—rain or no rain. And now, I'm back to at least 8 months of riding—all except the coldest, iciest days. It's my daily salve. I can't imagine life without it.

And maybe, if our health holds, my favorite touring partner and I will be back on the road someday, on an extended trip in some foreign land. In the meantime, we carry on, squeezing in those little trips that are oh so important, keeping the fire alive.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Of Commuting Dreams and Snow

Trees haven't begun to leaf out in mid-March.

Dreaming of bike commuting, I gain fitness pedaling around town. Sweeps downhill to the waterfront to contemplate water and summer loops around the lake. I ponder a bike trip south in late September. Bike juices continually flow. 

From my blogging office, outdoors looks monochromatic, especially when fat snowflakes drift down, dusting our neighborhood. Smoke curls from chimneys. 

After the heavy snowfall.
Teased with three days in the 50s F., days grow colder again and on Spring's eve eight inches of wet snow covers the ground. It's quite beautiful, though I'll start the work commute much later this year. It's okay. There are some things we'll never be able to predict or control.

Snowy Spring in Vermont. Oh, the joy!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mud, Sweat, and Gears Book Review

A neighbor gave me the book, having zero interest in bike
 adventures—or bikes, period. Lucky me!
I'd heard of the Metal Cowboy (Joe Kurmaskie), but never read any of his books. I enjoyed his humor, his fun-loving boys, and the guts it took to endure family 24-7—all while on a bike. Joe is an animal when it comes to pumping a bike train, toting two boys and a third in a trailer. But just as gutsy is his wife, Beth. What's truly a delight is her transformation into bike-loving touring mom. Beth adds her own quips in the form of footnotes, which tickles and teases Joe's presumptuous male perspective.

The tag line "A Rowdy Family Bike Adventure Across Canada on Seven Wheels" led me to believe I'd hear something about each Provence. In reality, most of the book takes place in British Columbia with a brief mention of the end in Nova Scotia. A simple map would be a good addition too. Aside from that, and a diversion into Joe's and Beth's relationship, it's chock full of rollicking bike touring adventure. Give it a whirl.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Italy - A Day in Venice

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Click here for the Introduction.

Close-up of architecture in Saint Mark's Square.
Friday, October 7

Viva la Venezia!

Andy and I caught the local bus into Venice. Amidst morning rush hour we followed the crowd up and over an arched bridge onto one of the many Venetian islands.

I was immediately smitten with the narrow alleys. Some emptied into the canal; others connected with another or emerged into a sunlit square. We wandered for two hours, guided by curiosity. Surprisingly, some passages are only 3-4 feet wide. I wondered whether the inhabitants craved sunlight. We were chilled after a while. We got a cappuccino to-go and cradled it in our hands near a sunlit canal. Later, raging hunger overwhelms us. We try the olive bread, packed with black or green olives - take your pick - (my favorite), pizza squares, and pastry.

Venice is sinking as noted by the leaning tower. No bike riding here.
Italians take pizza and pasta seriously. Pastacerrias line nearly every street – an exclusive store selling items for a pasta meal. After parting beaded “doorways”, reminiscent of 1960’s bohemian dens, I was nearly clubbed by two-foot high suspended garlic braids. Among other necessities for sale are: yard-long packages of “funghi” pasta (mushroom), several types of olives, tomatoes, and peperoni (sweet peppers). I’m awed. What must it be like to twirl 36” of noodle on a fork?

Gondoliers mostly remained docked; October was well past main tourist season. We declined their proposition. Even drivers donned navy wool coats with the typical banded straw hats. But oh, I loved the boats. Gondolas are sleek machines, their stern and bows pointing skyward, curving like a whale’s dorsal fin. The boats interior is lined in gold and red velvet. We watched the standing drivers maneuver through narrow waterways. A fist-shaped hook holds the oar’s neck, allowing easy removal for tight clearance.

Andy along main canal.
And yes, the city is sinking. Long 15th century columns rise up from splashing depths. Lower stairs are submerged in murky water. It was sad to see several church towers leaning, seeming like a builder’s blunder. To preserve historical Venice must be a monumental task.

I fell in love with the pedestrian aspect. To get around, whether as a tourist or local, one must walk or use waterways. There are water taxis. For commerce, canal boats supply the islands, then men offload goods onto handcarts for delivery to individual markets. Andy and I step aside when we hear the rumble-bump of handcarts as loads are dragged up stairs and over bridges. A walking delivery route is not for the faint of heart.

Shiny gondolas.
I wasn’t aware of it at first, until we spied kids playing soccer, or an 8-year-old running the streets alone, that Venice lacks greenery. Stone and cobbled alleys abound, but the only things growing are in flower pots hanging from windows. I wondered what it would be like to grow up amidst an old city without the hustle of automobiles, yet also without trees and parks.

Saint Mark's Square.
Venice has charm and character. Saint Mark’s Square, towers, ancient churches. It’s the little things that define a place for me. Venetians hang laundry, smartly double-clothes pinned on lines above the canals. Artists sit cross legged, engaged in sketching or painting; they are not surrounded by art for sale. And, above all, garlic permeates everything and most likely the pores of all Italians. There is no place like Venice.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Deal on Bicycle Cards

I wasn't searching for bicycle cards per se, but when I spied one package in the clearance bin, I figured it was my lucky day! I dug around for more and came up with 18 lovely cards—all for 1.50. I couldn't print my own for that price.

There are rhinestones fore and aft with broken up print that talks of celebrations, candles, and birthdays. I imagine it's likely filler copy for style. The wings are an appropriate metaphor too. Riding a bike gives flight to freedom, wanderlust, or that smiling satisfaction when fitting groceries into panniers.

On the flip side, a miniature emblem tucks into the corner, ready for take off into the sky. It reminded me of the sweet book: The Man Who Rode His Ten Speed Bicycle to the Moon.

In this techno-age I take any opportunity to pen a message to family and friends so I'm tickled at my find. It also made me feel better after my youngest boy kicked my front wheel. Hearing the crack, I looked down in time to watch the reflector skitter through the spokes and fall to the sidewalk. Gee whiz.

What kinds of bikey things have you scored in bargain bins?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shakedown with the Hub, Donahue Sea Caves

It was a miracle March afternoon. The sun felt warm and I cleared the debris from the bulbs emerging in my front gardens. Our boys' birthdays are three days apart. (I know, I know, however did that happen?) They were getting along, excited for five teenage boys that would descend on our house for a sleep over. After the previous weekend's party with 11 year old rambunctious boys in our basement, I wasn't in good mental shape to endure another party without some time outdoors. I begged The Hub for a ride alone—our first of the year together—before the wild evening ahead.

I let my partner choose the route. He suggested we stop at Donahue Sea Caves. It's a park we've meant to explore for three years—silly, really—as it's only three miles from home. I frequently pass it on rides around town and realize, dang, I need to stop and find out what's down there. I'm glad he made the decision.

We walked the bikes down the gravel road and locked them together. To access the cave—I believe there's only one, contrary to the word "caves" on the sign—we scamper across an icy pond to the entrance. Winter is the ideal time, obviously, for an easy trip.

There is thin ice near the edge, but the water isn't deep. With boots you could probably wade the fifty feet and explore the back reaches. We plan to return in summer with our kayaks, paddle among the pond's cattails and see what it's like inside the cave.

To skip ahead, we returned the following day by car with our oldest boy, who was obviously lagging after a late night. The temperature had risen to 50F, not ideal for moving across the pond's surface, which had turned to slush overnight. I quickly moved to the opening.

He was fascinated with the rock. He made this mom nervous, of course. But boys will be boys and, fortunately, he is the cautious one.

By then I found out Donahue Sea Caves are limestone dolomite, formed by waves when Lake Champlain was part of the inland sea over 10,000 years ago.

Our boy climbed to a keyhole view. He was scared to descend. My husband coaxed him down the frozen, mossy chute and his pants were a muddy mess. He was a trooper though, and despite his grogginess went on to walk another two miles of trails behind the high school.

To get back to our bike ride.. We checked on camp—er, I should say he checked on camp after his gander across the lake. I spent time on the shore, marveling at the snow waves and expansive beach—unusual for this time of year.

Our hour away from our sons turned into two. But such is life on a bike. Often I want to keep riding, until reality begs me homeward.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Snazzy New Seat for the Ross

There was nothing wrong with the current saddle, function wise. It's had a slight wobble, something inherent in the structure and not fixable. But that wasn't the issue. It would hold up for years, had I decided to keep it. Wanted to keep it. But I couldn't put up with the heavy, clunky looking saddle any longer, especially after spiffing up the tires last fall. Seat, be gone!

Enter Nashbar's AR2 saddle. I immediately fell in love with its sleek design. I must admit I eyed the black version with white trim, but it wasn't on sale. The white color, however, grew on me, especially after enjoying the white saddle on the rental bike in Provence. This new seat has less padding than the old touring saddle, but the lower tire pressure should make up for any discomfort.

Yes, those are more bikes stored on the sleeping porch.
Wrenching in the kitchen, once again, saves the day for quick maintenance.

What is so difficult about photographing seats? It took several shots to get
this to look halfway decent and not like a shriveled apple or something phallic. 
The new saddle is too narrow to reattach my license plate in the same manner. The laminate is also coming apart, so after I fix it, I may zip-tie it to the rear rack.

After riding with the shifting cables above the bar I discovered I needed an alternate hand position. I moved them so the cables route under the bar. Then I'll be able to grab the bar near the stem. With the stem at maximum height, the secondary hand position is significantly more elevated than the grips. I need the extra height. I may eventually want to cover the bare metal, but as always I try out the changes before further customization.

Much more hand room! I also moved the mirror further toward the brakes.

Of course the green bag may not be a good fit now. The buckles tend to slide a bit and ring the new silver bell that I'm trying out. But not to worry. I've an alternate handbag that I'm just dying to fix up—with a bit of anniebikes flair of course—that should suit the Ross.

Ta da! The saddle makes the Ross quite sporty, exactly what I was after. And she's itching to be ridden.

The old saddle will find a new home. It's a classic leather Selle Royale Tourist M, probably from my husband's 70s Peugeot that he stripped years ago. He recently mentioned that he needs to replace the seat on his Bridgestone MB-2. So I piped up,"Hey, have I the seat for you!"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Italy - Lizard, Railroad Crossing and Perfect Riding

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Old home near Santa Maria de Sala. Photo credit: 

52 miles – Thursday, October 6

Roads tend to be narrow and traffic is fairly heavy, but we are close to Venice. Otherwise, the sky is a cloudless, enchanting blue. It’s a perfect autumn day. We pedal through delightful small farming communities, like Piazzola sul Brenta, Borgoricco, Mirano, and busier Mestre, arriving at a campground by 3:30 p.m. We feel like singing operas and reading Shakespeare out loud, but of course that doesn’t work too well on a bike. This may well be our favorite country.

A tiny, four inch lizard, its mouth clamped on a piece of bread, ran in front of my front tire. Having a similar reaction to Italian drivers, the creature zigzagged and in desperation scurried in a complete circle by the time I passed by. I wonder if he ever made it safely across the road.

During a quiet stretch of road one brown leaf skidded to the pavement. That simple, solitary act jolts daydreams back to the present. I laughed. Seasons change before our eyes. Miles tick by; one country fuses into the next. Each landscape and culture a fresh reminder of why we love bike touring: to experience what’s lies ahead.

Photo credit: john doogan photographer
Much like Holland and parts of France, it’s the older Italians that ride bicycles for transportation. Men sport 1940’s wide brimmed hats; women ride in dresses and long coats. Today, a woman was further ahead, riding a three speed. A railroad crossing light flashed and warning bell rang. The woman halted just as the protective bar swung down. She looked over her shoulder at us, sputtering, presumably annoyed. We smiled, not knowing how to respond. She eventually turned her attention back to the tracks. We waited patiently. We knew it could be 5 minutes before the train arrives. Vehicles behind us turned off engines. But the woman was a sight: her face scrunched, thick ankles showing above her flat shoes. She moved closer to the bar, with one foot on the pedal, ready for a jackrabbit start. I chuckled to myself. Her impatient was precious. If only I dared take her picture.

At the campground just outside Venice, Andy and I make garlic tomato sauce with fresh spinach to pour over pasta. The wind whistles and evening rain begins. We hurried with our hot bowls to the tent. Inside we share the remains of yesterday’s Chianti and have dinner.

Later, all snuggled in our sleeping bags, I suddenly realize it’s a special day. Ten years ago, Oct.6, 1984 we left my parent’s home in Vermont; the start of our cross country bicycle journey and year of getting to know each other really well. And now we’re married, nearly halfway around the world, ready to explore Venice in the morning. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Waiting for the Robin's Song

Pomeroy Hall, University of Vermont
Photo credit: UVM
One moment I'm trudging through crusty snow; the next I'm pleasantly overwhelmed by unusual sights and sounds. It's what I love about Vermont: we go along for the ride, and bam, we're cruising into the next season.

Last week two large birds perched atop the circular "fencing" on Pomeroy Hall's spire. Walking with my son home from school, I insisted we stop for a moment to figure out what they were. We shielded our eyes from the sun's glare, trying to get a better view. With broad shoulders, the birds were hawk-like for sure, but only their heads rotated, almost mechanical. Nothing else about them seemed natural. My eleven year old (who has an answer for everything) said, "Mom, they're not real! Don't ya know, it's one of those fake birds!" He meant those contraptions that are posted in berry fields to scare off scavengers. He was anxious to go home. I humored him and gave up the bird-spotting  But still, I thought I'd have noticed these birds before—if they were fake—as we always take the same route home. Sure enough, later the birds were gone. I learned that hawks start their mating ritual in late winter. What I saw were most likely our common red tailed variety.

Mourning Dove. Photo credit: Wikipedia
It's my pattern to blog early morning with a birds-eye view from our bedroom overlooking our neighborhood. I clearly heard mourning doves cooing—though not observed—and mentioned it to my husband, who understands my longstanding nemesis with these birds. Despite their beauty, their call has always bothered me—I can't back to sleep if their sound wakes me too early in the morning. Doves do not winter over in Vermont, as I discovered, so I took it as another harbinger of Spring.

Roosting crows.
Photo credit: Last Word About Nothing
A couple of days ago during my early morning walk with my husband to his bus stop, a crow ruckus descended on downtown Burlington. It was like a scene from Hitchcock's The Birds. Tree silhouettes appeared fully leafed when in fact they were covered with crows. The cacophony was overwhelming, drowning out any other sound. Were the birds directly overhead I would've covered my head; I've seen what their feces can do to sidewalks. This bird riot is a normal pre-nesting ritual, another sign that we're entering Spring.

And so, hallelujah, it's my season to start riding. We set our clocks ahead this weekend. If the weather holds the driveway at work will continue to improve—it's currently clear of snow. I have maintenance tasks to take care of on all my bikes, but they're relatively minor. Some are purely cosmetic. I'll tackle one bike at a time.

This weekend's weather promises to be in the 40s F. That's styling for us northerners still wearing our plaid woolliesindoors. I'll get in a few miles on the bike, building leg muscles, with one ear listening for the robins' song.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Re-Tired in Time

I went to an art exhibit, specifically because it was geared on items normally destined for the landfill but turned into art. There was the usual plastic bag clothing and metal scraps tuned into sculptures. Then I spied a fully functioning clock, molded from round pieces.

Upon closer inspection, the circles are jar and milk jug tops, numbers are wire, center gold piece is a CD, and the frame a knobby bike tire. It reminded me of what Randy did with a tire, except his wife refused to let him keep it on the wall.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Italy - Verona, Arriving in Vicenza After Dark

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Click here for the Introduction.

Piazza Duomo, Verona. Photo credit: Dreamstime
50 miles - Tuesday, October 5

Andy and I eat the hostel’s two-roll breakfast and are still hungry. We head across the River Adige for Verona’s Roman core and stumble on an outdoor market. After buying more bread and fruit we relax on cement steps. Stands are opening. One woman deftly peels artichokes, dropping the hearts into 5-gallon buckets. A flower vendor’s pet is a drake. The duck waddled around his setup, gingerly stepping on granite cobblestones. A church is the major feature of the market square with statues leaning out from its roof like soldiers in guard towers.

Roman Arena. Photo credit: Rodrigo Siqueira, Postbit
Reluctantly, we move towards the Roman Arena. There are two story arches, all grey and black; it’s sharp edges worn smooth from 2,000 years. I long to visit the interior, but it’s too pricey for our bicycle budget. A wonderful backdrop - I imagine, from the brochure pictures - for concerts and operas that are held there in summer and fall.

Typical balcony in Verona.
Photo credit: Rodrigo Siqueira, Postbit
Needing to continue on, it’s a quick tour of the city, viewing Juliet’s Balcony and the Forum. Verona’s buildings are famous for their balconies, decorated in iron rails and potted flowers. Very quaint and old worldly.

We locate a bike shop, replace Andy’s shredded bike gloves, stock up on lubricant and new chains, then set off eastward for Vicenza. We follow the back roads initially, enjoying the solitude of vineyards and apple orchards, but we’re behind schedule. We must make it to Vicenza by nightfall for accommodation. Andy and I ride on a busier highway.

Verona's narrow streets and alleys.
Photo credit: Rodrigo Siqueira, Postbit

In Vicenza we confirm the campground with tourist information center and set off for the several kilometer ride, only to discover, at the entrance that the road is blocked. My heart sinks. It’s growing dark. We check at a hotel and discover camping had closed 3 days before. The clerk wrote down 3 ostellos (hostels). We scamper as fast as we can, but two had closed and the third wasn’t even a hostel. By now darkness settles around us like cold eerie fog. I am exhausted. Lights on vehicles are like shiny arrows in my mirror and I cringe every time at car darts by. We don’t have the best lights. I hope drivers can see us.

By now we must find a hotel. We get directions and by 8 p.m. roll the bikes inside the lobby, past the bar, into the kitchen, and outdoors into a courtyard by a – fortunately friendly – Doberman. It’s the Alpine Hotel, rated 1 Star, and relatively cheap: 60,000 Lire (roughly 40.00 USD) – just our style. I’m thankful to be somewhere.

Andy and I sit on twin beds, facing each other. We sip a $2.00 bottle of Chianti in our usual “classy” plastic mugs. In lieu of our standard pasta dinner – it’s not safe to light a stove – we eat the remains of lunch: rolls, fruit, cheese plus bowls of cereal.

It’s imperative that we locate a campground guide, either that or take a train south for warmer climes where camping is not a problem.


*Please excuse the lack of personal photos. After all, this was the film camera era and we were on a budget, stretching our resources to travel for a year.