Tuesday, May 31, 2011

All Roads Lead to Rome May 31

I was awake before the alarm went off this morning. So laying there seemed like sleeping in. Eventually I had to open the sleeping bag and crawl out into the morning chill. The heavy dew had stuck the popular fluff down which was nice as there was a lot of it.

The road down to Rome from Taglicozza was 133 kms with 1469 meters of climbing. The total climb doesn’t sound like much but the first 10 kms had 750 meters. So it was a steep climb to the top. I was determined to get over that climb early in the day. The views were just incredible. Little villages perched on impossible cliffs, green valleys, olive groves, and lots of vine yards.

I was riding by myself this morning as I had gotten away early. It was so nice just gliding along without a care in the world. I was almost sorry when the lunch spot came up at the 58 kms mark. It kind of spoiled the moment. The lunch spot was about half way up this really steep climb, overlooking this huge reservoir. It was so beautiful.After lunch the remaining climb seemed impossibly steep with a full stomach. I was gasping by the time I made the summit. I cruised along for another 30 kms before I caught up with a large group of riders who were coming out of a Gelatto shop. They were all following Franc who has a programmed GPS.

It looked like a good group to follow. There were still 43 kms to go and a lot of turns. So I got in line and followed them in. It isn’t very much fun riding in a line but the road was rough and the traffic was getting worse the closer we got to Rome. It was a quick ride which took about 90 minutes and would have taken me close to 2.5 hours with all the navigating.

Here we are on the out skirts of Rome with 2 days off. Tomorrow I will catch a train into Rome to see the sites.

What The? May 30 2011

It was totally amazing to wake up this morning and look out the window and see the Mont Cassino. To see such a famous sight from your hotel window in the morning was really something else.

We were to have a group ride out of town as it was pretty confusing but some how it never happened. I stood around until well after the group ride was to leave and was the only one left so I pulled the plug and left.

A few Kms out of town I came up on the a small group of riders who had left earlier contemplating which way to go so I joined them in the decision to ride up the busy road. I called it the freeway but was corrected. It was just a busy road. About 15 kms up the road we pulled off the busy road into a little town called Belmonte Castello. The road was a shady lane with no cars and beautiful smooth pavement, but the road was over 11% grade. The busy road was less than 3%.

A few kms up the road we pulled into an amazing village where there was a farmers market. The town center was probably over a 1000 years old. I bought this huge bagel which had to be 10 inches across for a Euro. I shared it with the three riders I was with. Walking through the town center was just amazing.

I was riding with four other riders and we were having a lot of fun cruising along this country lane. It was a real pleasure not having cars honking their horns at you. There was no diesel buses passing you and blowing black diesel exhaust in your face. The pavement was the smoothest we have ridden on this tour. The road totally tree lined so we were in the shade most of the time. There were lots of curves and gentle rolling hills. The tail wind was a total bonus. The scenery was postcard perfect. All I can say is “WHAT THE??”

After lunch we continued down the road to a town called Capistrello. Our bike computers were off from the mornings missed road so we were not sure of where we were and I got talked into riding up this huge hill. It was about 7 kms up a 6% grade. At the top it was obvious we were in the wrong place and so we rode back down. This little misadventure cost us about 90 minutes. `

Back on the right road we still had one major climb to complete, so we found a fountain, filled our bottles and were back on the road. We rolled in close to last. However we didn’t miss supper which was great. It was my favourite – steak.

Tomorrow is Rome. I cannot believe that I am riding my bike into Rome. But then “All roads lead to Rome”


Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Longest Ride of the Tour May 29

Today was 155 kms from Pompeii into Cassino. Cassino was the site of one of the major WWII battles in Italy. During this battle 54,000 allies died and 20,000 axis died. The allies were held up in the valley by the German forces who were dug into the surrounding hills. But then you can Google it and read all about that. This is about important stuff like biking.

Jaap who is one of the cooks made a huge omelette for each table. They were great. Nice and salty. Then everyone pitched in and cleaned up dishes and breakfast. Rob the tour leader lead a group ride out of town. The route was extremely twisty, and the road was terrible. The pavement was all broken up and there were a lot of pot holes. I was really glad of the group ride as I could never have found my way through the maze. Rob let us off at the 25 km mark and pointed us down the road.

Bruce the Auzzie and I decided were going to ride together. I would pull and he would navigate on his GPS. Then we missed a turn at the 57.3 km mark we missed a turn and wound up in this little town called Limatolo. They were having a big celebration in the town and an antique car show. It was really cool, There was an amazing a array of Alfa’s, Peugeot’s, Citroens, a few old Mercedes, and even a Model T. It was great. As we were only a couple of kms we were soon back on track after having seen a great car show.

Lunch was down at the 78 km mark and we made it there by 12:30. Richard the mechanic who also does lunches was making a Viking helmet out of a water melon. It was very funny.

The 127 km mark was the start of the big climb of the day. I stopped as Bruce had dropped off my wheel and I looked at the map. I notice that you can avoid the big climb by taking this other road and taking a tunnel. So I said to Bruce lets take the tunnel. He was in for that and we head down to the tunnel. The tunnel cut off a huge climb over a pass into Cassino. Bruce and I roll in to the hotel in Cassino happy.

It was a great day. The hotel room faces the famous Mont Cassino Abbey. Amazing!


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rest Day In Pompeii May 28

I was glad of a rest day today. It felt good not having to rush around and pack up the tent and get out on the road. However the campground is so jam packed that I was awakened early by the other early risers. I mistakenly thought I could catch a hot shower by getting up early but everyone else had the same thought, so it was luke warm at best

After breakfast I walked up to the ruins on Pompeii. The main entrance is less than a block from our campsite. I rented the audio guide so that I would know what I was looking at and that was a really good move as the audio guide was packed with info on all of the buildings. The actual site is some 67 Ha of which 12 Ha are open to the public. They have been excavating the site since 1715 when the then king of Italy ordered a dig. However that was more of a treasure hunt than a archaeological dig. At any rate the people knew that Mount Vesuvius was rumbling and there had been a series of earth quakes which wrecked havoc on the city years before the quake. I walked around the ruins for over 4.5 hours and had not seen it all however the sun was really beating down and it was time to go.

After I got out of the ruins I went for a pizza and a walk which was very interesting as we only get to see the neighbourhoods by bike and walking is so different.

Tomorrow we are on our way to Cassino. It is 155 kms and the longest day of the tour. So I better get a good nights sleep.


Friday, May 27, 2011

A Ride Into Pompei May 27

I was awake before my alarm this morning and got packed up in record time. A quick breakfast and I was ready to push back and take off at 7:20 Am. This is at least 40 minutes early. So I got in a great early morning ride in the relative morning cool.

The first 30 kms when by very quickly as it was dead flat and open country roads allowed me to average 27-30 kms/hr. Then I hit Salarno which is a huge crowded city. The traffic was unbelievable. You had to bike through a sea of cars, trucks, buses and scooters. It was 1-6 lanes wide. Nobody was in a lane and moving along in a straight line everyone was just cutting in and out. Scooters cutting around the vehicles. Total insanity! The exhaust was a killer. I was choking by the time I got to the other side.

After Salarno, It was on to the Amalfi coast. This area is famous for the buildings clinging to the shear cliffs which plunge hundreds of feet into the sea. There was a lot of neat climbs and descents on the road until I got right into Amalfi itself. Then there was more traffic and it was jammed. Two buses had gotten together and traffic was all bottled up. More exhaust!.

I came up to one of the staff and he had blown a huge hole in his rear tire. He didn’t have a tube or any tools and didn’t know how to fix his tire. So I fixed it. His tire was an odd ball size so I had to patch the tube but it was a ¼ inch hole in the tube. I put a cardboard boot in the tire but the casing was so bad it didn’t hold. So I fixed it 3 more times before I finally got it fixed. He was able to finish the ride.

By now I am at the tail end of the ride and come in close to last and all the camping spots are taken and the showers have nothing but cold water. So I crowed my tent in and had a cold shower (the second one in a row). Topping it off it was my turn on dishes.

Tomorrow is a day off so I am going to see the ruins at Pompei. We are camped right beside them.

A Fast Day Into Paestum May 26

I was up early and threw my gear into my bag and was down stairs to catch breakfast. Breakfast in the hotel was a bit disorganized but Bike Dreams had provided cereal and some food so I was able to get enough to eat. I left right away and was down the road as soon as I could. The weather forecast was for afternoon rain showers and I wanted to be well down the road.

The first ten kms was very flat so I made good time. Then I started the big climb for the day which was approximately 15 kms of 8% grade. The sun was out and it was getting hot. The best that I could do was about 12 kms. By the time I had gotten to the 10 kms mark on the hill, I was soaked and over heating. I was wishing for one of the Italian fountains. Then I turned a corner and there was one. The water was nice and cold. I drank my fill and poured water over my head. It felt so great. I got back on my bike feeling totally refreshed and just powered the hill. These fountains are the greatest.

Coming down the other side of the hill was a lot of fun. There must have been 10-12 switchbacks. Then lunch came up before I knew it. At lunch I took a look over my shoulder and could see the big thunder heads building in the hills. So I jumped on the pedals made for camp. By the time I was 10 kms down the road I could hear the thunder behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and I was only minutes in front of the rain. It was 66 kms form lunch to camp and I had to go as hard as I could. I rolled into camp without getting a drop on me. I threw my tent up and then the rain hit. Most of the other riders were hit by the storm. A lot of them had to be picked up by the van as the rain came down in such a violent deluge.

It was a fun ride and I feel really fortunate that I made it in dry,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25 bonus Pictures

To day was a great day for seeing a lot of really interesting sights. I also learned a new trick which is how to resize the pictures so they load fast. I hope you can see them.

Three Tough Climbs May 25

Today’s ride was from Sibrai on the east coast of Italy to Sapri on the west coast of Italy. This is the second time we have gone from one coast to the other. Every time you cross from one coast to the other you have to climb some hills and to day was no exception. In fact today we had three large climbs. The total ride was 148 kms and had a total climb of 2376 m.

I was determined not to get lost today especially with all the climbs. Getting lost would have been disastrous. So I said I would ride with a couple of other riders. However they were really slow getting ready to leave and we were the last ones out of camp. It was really frustrating as I am generally one of the first out of the chute. When we did get going we fell into a huge long pace line which we rode for the first 30 kms. So I didn’t get any pictures for the first hour as you need to pay attention to the bike in front of you and you can’t look around, or play with your camera.

At the first hill the pace line broke up and I was able to get some shots. It was a 35 kms climb up a 1000 meter hill. The sun was really intense and I was boiling in the sun. There must have been a dozen switchbacks and it seemed like each one was steeper than the one before. There was a tunnel at the top of the grade which took you to the other side of the hill. What a welcome sight it was.

We rode past this town of Morano which was built on this really steep hill side. On the top were the ruins of a medieval castle. It was really quite a sight.

The second climb after lunch was not as long or as high but it was just as steep. However there were lots of trees so I was able to ride in the shade a lot of the time which really helped.

When I got to the bottom of the second hill and was preparing to climb the third hill there were a lot of thunder heads banging away on the surrounding hills. However as the last climb was the shortest both in length and height I was determined to keep going. By time I got about half way up I was surrounded by this really thick fog/cloud. Visibility dropped to less than 10 meters. However the coolness made the climb easy and in no time I was heading into Sapri.

Sapri is right on the coast and the hotel is right on the water front. I guess that you would call it a 2 star hotel. Well maybe 1.5. However it is clean and the showers were hot. There is some sort of internet in the lobby. If the internet is any good I’ll post some pictures.


A Rest Day In Sibari May 24

I am woken up by the sound of rain on my tent at about 6:30 Am. I lay there dozing until about 7:30 and the rain had stopped so I got up and went to the showers. They were good and hot. I washed yesterdays cycling kit in the sink.

The camp we are in is a beautiful resort on the coast. There is a very nice beach, a very nice pool with nobody in it, good laundry facilities and hot showers. However there is no internet, and we are along way from any thing. There is a shopping mall about 2 kms from the camp where I got some food for my dinner.

At this point it looks like we are going to be short three riders. There was a very large Dutch fellow who tore a leg muscle and he and his friend left. Then John one of the Auzzies crashed on day 4 and has a dislocated shoulder. He has just gotten back from the hospital and they told him that he had stay off his bike for 40 days so he is headed home. It is always to sad to see riders not complete the tour.

It looks like it is time to have an afternoon nap.


Getting A Few Bonus Kms

When I got out of the hotel in the morning the heavy cloud and rain of yesterday had settled down on the mountain top. In fact the base of the clouds was just at the axles of the bike. We were headed down to the coast so I knew that it wouldn’t be long until I was out of the clouds.

The route were taking took us through a national park, which was very heavily wooded with huge pine trees. The guard rails were made of these heavy wooden timbers and there on top of one of the guard rails was a huge black squirrel. Xena my big black Bouvier just hates those squirrels, and barks at them every chance she gets. So I knew what to do. I started to bark at the squirrel, and jumped on the pedals. The squirrel turned and started running down the guard rail. I must have chased the squirrel 200 meters down the rail before the squirrel jumped off into the deep grass on the side of the road, I laughed for 30 kms.

Lunch was that the 75 kms mark beside this really pretty lake and I was down there in about 3 hours. However the dark clouds were moving down the mountain so I didn’t stick around. I jumped on my bike and was off down the road.

After lunch the route called for a left turn at this gas station in a town called Acri. So I made the turn but somehow go turned around in the maze of little streets. I rode around the town three times and there were four ways in or out of town and all the roads lead to Cesneza. I had seen this on the route sheet and one of the roads was down hill which was what we were doing as we were headed to the coast. As it turns out we were not suppose go into the town. I am on the wrong road and although I am headed north I am going in the wrong direction. About 35 kms I come to a little village which isn’t even on the map. So I stop and ask directions. A very kind lady points me in the right direction and I am off. Stop again and get more direction. I talk to a lot more folks along the way, a grandmother in a garden, a lady in a bar who refills my water bottles, a man in front of a gelato shop, a Fiat repair man, and a farmer on a tractor. Wallace the other Canadian is on his bike and I spot about 300 meters form camp. I wind up rolling into camp about 6:45 which was just before supper. In the end I had turned the day’s 133 kms into 195 kms.

It was a great adventure.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Really Tough Day up to Villagio Racise May 22

The rain started 40 minutes too soon this morning. If it had of held off just a little longer I could have got my tent rolled up dry. It only lasted a little while and by the time I was on the road it had stopped.

To ride today was 121 kms and was really two parts. The first part was along the coast which was very pretty and although there were a few rollers it was generally level. Yap tour guide stopped us at one point to tell us the road was out and we needed to take a detour down a dead end road and then go from there. What?? The second part of the ride turned inland into the hills At the 60 kms mark we hit the big hill which was a 7 kms climb up 650 meters. It was a real grind, However we were more than rewarded for our efforts. At the top was a little village called Tiriolo and lunch was in the main village square around the town fountain in front of the village church. There we watched the villagers coming in for Sunday mass. We were treated to a little slice of insight into how this mountain village works. It was magnificent. From there the ride when up hill for another 53 kms. It wasn’t really steep but it was insidious. It looked like about 4% for the majority of the climb. There were a couple of short little down hill sections of a few hundred meters or so but in general it was all up hill. When I got to the 90 kms point it started to rain pretty seriously. Now you are thinking heck I had only 30 kms to go, but with the up hill grade I am luck to be doing 13-14 kms/hr. So I still had 2+ hr to go.

The big treat was that we are in a beautiful hotel to night. This was such a welcome sight as I was soaked and freezing. Another night with cold showers would have been too much. The other thing which deserves mention here is that Bike Dreams always has soup after the ride. Today’s French onion soup was so great after a cold wet climb.

I think that not withstanding having no riding under my belt this year, my training is paying off as I feel pretty good on the bike and even managed a fourth to day.

Well it is bed time for Bonzo.


Up The Coast to Briatico May 21

Today’s ride was 76 kms with two climbs totalling 990 meters. Both climbs were rather short but were definitely in the steep category. The weather was over cast and just a little on the cool side in the morning so it was perfect cycling temperature. I set off with Bruce the Aussie. Together we are not the fastest but we don’t get lost and keep moving so we are always at the front.

As it turns out my bike takes very unusual spokes, The spokes are threaded on both ends. Most spokes are only threaded on the rim end and are hooked into the hub. Richard the mechanic did not have any of these type of spokes. So what he did was he took two spokes and made “S” bends in each one and then linked them together using a link of bike chain. It was a brilliant fix! It is strong and is supported by the spoke next to it where they cross. The wheel is totally true and runs great. I will still have to look for these specialized spokes next bike shop.

The ride went really fast and Bruce and I rolled in first of any of the riders. Everyone had gotten lost in Tropea which was this town about 15 kms back from camp. So as it was still early I went for a run which is the first run I have done since leaving Canada back on the 10th of May. It felt really great to stretch my legs out.

Well I see that the Kiwi’s have rolled into camp and are setting their tents up on top of mine. I just don’t understand why they always have to crowd me. It is a huge campground although not a very nice one and the showers are terrible. No hot water, and the nozzles are terrible.


Friday, May 20, 2011

A Ferry Ride To Italy May 20 2011

Today was the last day on Sicily. It was 45 kms from Taormina where we were camped down to Messina where we were getting on the ferry across to the mainland. It was gorgeous day. The weather was absolutely perfect for cycling, not too hot and not cold.

I was busy taking pictures of all the riders as we cycled along the coast. The sea was so perfectly blue. It was an idyllic ride. We were going to meet up at this little café just a couple of kms from the ferry depot and get organized. When I got there were a lot of riders there and it was very hectic as it was right on this very busy road.

After everyone got there we set off for the ferry docks in a large group. The road was extremely narrow and extremely busy. The best you could do was just push along between the cars. It definitely wasn’t for the nervous. It turned out to be 4 kms down to the ferry docks. Then just as we arrived at the docks I hit a pot hole and knocked my bag loose. It when into my spokes and broke a spoke. So I pushed my bike over to the van and our mechanic loaded it on his truck.

The ferry ride is only about 20 minutes across the straights between Sicily and the mainland. They really need a bridge. The loading and unloading takes a long time and is very frustrating for everyone as the line up to get on the ferry and get off is huge.

On the second half of the ride I rode in the truck which was very frustrating as it looked like a great ride. Stuff happens and you have to take the good with the bad.

I see that there are fresh cherries and strawberrys for supper, which have been purchased of one of the local vendors along the road. They look great.