Trip update: The first Sunday in Piane d’Archi (27 September) I was invited to join a charity ride. About 100 cyclists gathered in the rain outside the Bar 45 RPM to register and plunk down their €10 for the privilege. Marco Di Nella, the organizer, told me that they had 200 riders last year. So, in one morning, I met all the cyclists in the Sangro River valley who were dedicated enough to ride in the rain. By mid-October I was no longer l’amico della scozzese [the Scotswoman’s friend] but l’americano in bicicletta [the American on a bicycle]. Old men sipping their beers outside the cafés wave as I run my errands, and neighbours in their cars toot or shout as they pass. My Scottish colleague Denise Muir gets credit for bringing me to this friendly, pleasant town.
After settling in, I rode across the Apennines to Gaeta on the west coast, to visit Ron and Maria Lamkin. It took two days, as I climbed to 2000 m and back down again, then north to Cassino to visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery.
I could not find it, so I rolled on. In Gaeta I filed a police report about losing my wallet in Rome, which I would need to get a new Navy ID Card later. I had a sense of déjà vu filing the report in the Carabinieri station, where I had worked as an interpreter 42 years ago. Maria teaches Italian to Anglophones and offered to help me pinpoint mannerisms in my speech, which were causing people to ask me if I were English. In eight hours of conversation (old friends have to catch up), she nailed two British flaws that surprised me. I had expected Americanisms after 27 years living in the USA. The Lamkins invited me to share Thanksgiving with them, and I accepted.
On Halloween, I flew to Miami for the Annual Conference of the American Translators Association. There, I bought essentials that I needed in my flat and a big purple suitcase to carry them, along with the mail that Gio and Alan had saved for me. A big shout-out to the Lesters for the hospitality and the friendship. While in Miami, I got a new ID card at the US Southern Command.
Each trip has taught me something new about getting in and out of our pleasant valley. In Rome after Miami, I missed the train to Pescara by one minute, so I took the bus from the Tiburtina Station next door. I resumed riding daily into the hills to check out every medieval village looking down on our little town. The hills made me feel better and stronger each time I rode. It was also getting colder. By the time I was ready to return to Gaeta for Thanksgiving, it was icy on the mountain passes in the shade. I took the train to Caserta, because I wanted to visit the Reggia and see the Christmas crèche. Visiting that Presepio started the holiday season for me. I walked about 12 km in the rain, around the Royal Palace and the gardens, delighted to see so much more of the palace open to visitors. In Gaeta, the Lamkins introduced me to Maria’s cousin Nicola, who had just moved from the United States. Like Ronnie and Maria, Nicola and Boo-sun have chosen to celebrate Thanksgiving to stay connected to their shared American heritage. The were a dozen people from three countries at the table; it was as traditional as a Norman Rockwell painting.
From Gaeta, I took the train to Arezzo to see the Vasari house, which Cheryl and I had missed in September, and to dine with colleague Amber and her family. I rode to Florence, and stayed the weekend with Catherine Bolton and her family. Martino’s cousins from Rome were visiting. We walked to the Bargello and the Accademia delle Belle Arti, two places on my bucket list since childhood. The former housed the National Sculpture Museum, and the latter the famous David of Michelangelo. I have finally seen the most famous statues of the Renaissance.
I rode to Prato, took the train to Bologna, then rode to Ravenna to see the mosaics that we missed last summer. I preferred the ones in Monreale, but I enjoyed making the comparison personally. A quick ride down the Adriatic coast, stopping off to visit high school classmate Giancarlo Bartolacci, and I rolled into Piane d’Archi in time to celebrate Christmas with the Impicciatore family in our building. Colleague Angela Arnone and her family hosted me in Ortona to ring in the New Year, only 40 km from Piane d’Archi. I was feeling very blessed to spend the holidays with so many generous friends.
The new year started out warm and sunny, so I rode to the train station on the coast. I took the local to Termoli, then spent five days riding around the Gargano Peninsula. Cheryl and I had planned to do that this summer, but ran out of time. The Gargano was like a miniature Gaspé Peninsula or Cape Breton Island ride, with the medieval towns of Peschici and Vieste there to make it different. The off-season is the best time to ride around that beautiful National Park. I had the whole peninsula to myself.
Back in Piane d’Archi, I spent the rest of the month closing out the financial year (on a positive note!) and travelling to the US Naval Hospital to have my laboratory blood work done and my prescriptions refilled. I also rode to Cassino again and found the Commonwealth War Cemetery this time. In Formia, I looked at apartments, considering a move to the west coast. Now I am back. The weather has turned cold and very windy, but sunny and clear almost every day. Ideal riding weather with the right layering. Most days, I have been riding 44-km runs to the coast and back. Each weekend, I ride to a town that I have not visited, and that is helping make those weekend rides longer.
Through it all, I have been taking in translation work steadily. Using the phone as a WiFi hotspot has worked just fine when needed, and the affordable 3GB data plan on the phone has been more than enough.
Starting next week, the trip updates will not take up so much space.
Given the long trip update, this week I will quickly share a hodgepodge of online and printed resources that you may find helpful if planning to tour by bicycle. Some of these will apply to any kind of travel.
1:200,000 maps of the regions where you will ride. A national map for overall planning. Michelin are best known. Look for maps with (green) highlighting for scenic routes, which are usually better for bicycling, too.
Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook, by Stephen Lord
Distance Cycling, by John Hughes and Dan Kehlenbach
European Rail Timetable, by the former compilers of the famous Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable: www.europeanrailtimetable.eu
Lonely Planet guides
Michelin Green Guides
Online blogs and websites:
Adventure Cycling Association: https://www.adventurecycling.org/
Bikemap.net, a place to post and collect riding routes: http://www.bikemap.net/en
Crossing Canada: http://www.bikingacrosscanada.ca/index.php
Darren Alff’s blog on touring: http://bicycletouringpro.com/blog/
East Coast Greenway (USA): http://www.greenway.org/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FullyLoadedBicycleTouring/
Italy Cycling Guide: http://italy-cycling-guide.info/
Old routes and less-travelled roads: http://www.floodgap.com/roadgap/
The European VeloRoute network: http://www.eurovelo.com/en/eurovelos
Wandering Nomads: http://awanderingphoto.com/
Map My Ride: http://www.mapmyride.com/
Michelin planner: http://www.viamichelin.com/
Open Street Map: http://www.openstreetmap.org/
I created this list from the bookmarks in my browser. I have dozens more, including specialized ones for supplies, lodging, and regional organizations and resources. If you are looking for an organization in a particular region (e.g., New England, Texas, Italy), ask in a comment here in the blog, so that I can reply with what I have, and we can share the answer.
Next week: another sea story. Until then,
Smooth roads and tailwinds,