Small Town, Italy

Well, I’m back on the road as I make my way over to the West Coast of Italy.  I’ll have a down day in Sorrento before hopping on a plane back to the real world.

This whole experience has been amazing.  It’s the perfect balance of solo travel and spending time with family.  What I am realizing is that I need more of this.  I even have more family out here that I didn’t get to visit this time.  So, next Spring, I’m coming back for a quick trip.  Sorry Kip, you’ll have to stay home.

I’m glad I chose to ride on this visit.  This has been a very challenging first self-supported tour.  The miles are not extreme and the elevation isn’t too bad but the heat and humidity have been exhausting.  What I’ll improve on for next time is the amount of crap I bring along.  My bags are sooooo heavy!

Yesterday was a great day of riding.  90 miles made for a long day, but most of it was along the flat coast with some beautiful bike parts.

I dipped my tire in the Adriatic Sea before cutting West towards the opposite side of the country.

I spent last night in a Bed and Breakfast in the town of Caramenico Terme.  I learned when you tell a small town hotel owner that you will arrive at 5pm, don’t expect them to be there at 4pm.

You might be wondering why Kip is laying down.  Well, the road is so steep that I didn’t want to lean him up against the wall.  But then, down this tiny alley, a car started driving up, so I had to remove the bags and get him propped up.  I had about an hour to kill, so I ate my Italian Hot Dog that I picked up earlier that day.

Everything in town is closed during the day and re-opens at night, so my ritual has become:  arrive, nap until 8pm, find food, sleep.

Tonight that changed.  I am in the TINY town of Pizzone, staying in an AirBnb.  It’s actually a garage that has been converted into a nice little apartment.  The town has one bar, so my plan was to rest and then go get food at 8.  Well, the bar is more like a cafe/gelateria/convenience store.  When  I asked about a panini, she tried to sell me a loaf of bread.  So, I had a gelato while making my decision.  The final choice:  2 peroni beers, salami and proscuitto and a bag of chips.  Enough food to get me through the night so that I can book it to the nearest town in the morning.

Today was a challenging day of riding, but it’s literally all downhill from here.  Only 50 miles but 5000 feet of be elevation.  It was CRAAAAAAZY!  I have two more 50 mile days before I arrive in Sorrento.  

I love spending my days on a bike.  I love the sights and the smells and the beautiful vistas around every corner.  I love using broken Italian to try and have a conversation with locals.  I love the fact that I’m traveling though cities that don’t see too many Americans.  I love that my bike Kip is an much as an outsider to this area as I am.  I’ve enjoyed sitting outside a bar enjoying snacks and watching the locals walk past him and examine his stickers and foreign look.   I’m grateful for everything that allows me to have these experiences and can’t wait to start planning my next adventure.  But, I still have a few days left!  

io sono in Italia!

It’s been one week since the first full day of riding in Italy and since then, a lot has happened.  I’ve arrived in my family’s town of Porto San Giorgio and have been overwhelmed with feelings, family, food, wine and memorable experiences.  

My cousins from Delaware arrived just a few days before me.  They are the sons (and daughter-in-law) of my mom’s brother (Peter). 

A little backstory:  my grandmother (Italian) is from this town.  Her maiden name is Petrelli and this family has a rich history here.  She married my grandfather (Polish) here, they moved to California for a while and after retiring, they moved back to Porto San Giorgio.  My Uncle Peter ended up in Delaware and my Mom ended up in Texas. 

So, now, we have family and friends in this tiny town on the other side of the world.  It’s a beach town and in the summer the beach is completely packed full of people.  After traveling across this country on a bicycle and experiencing life as a tourist, it’s nice to be in a place where there are people that are excited to see you and to show you their little part of the world.

Right now I am in a car with my cousin Marco and we are headed to Ascoli Piceno, a town where my Aunt’s friends live.  They are so excited to invite us to their town to make dinner for us and to show us around.  More to come on this trip…..  I can’t wait to find out what they have in store for us!
But my Aunt Anna lives here too!  In another small town called Ceprano which is on the other side of the country.  I have cousins there too and will spend some time with them on a future trip.

This visit has been a whirlwind to say the least.  The daily life here is something that will take a while for me to adapt to.  The day is centered around meals, which is shared with family and friends.  Breakfast consists of coffee with either some sort of pastry or a plate of meat and cheese.  It’s not a lot of food at all.  Lunch prep usually starts right after breakfast and has consisted of a pasta dish followed by a main dish.  Today, we had ravioli followed by slices of pot roast with roasted potatoes and a mixed salad.  The salad part is new because for the first four days here I don’t think I had any vegetables at all!   Dinner prep begins right after lunch and is also a big meal but we have appetizers, extra food and coffee and dessert after as well.  It’s a lot of eating out here.  Dinner doesn’t happen until 8 or 9, sometimes later and then the entire town hits the streets.  It’s CRAZY out until at least 1am, which means we don’t go to bed until 2 or so, and then we are up at 7 to get the next day started.  

It’s exhausting.  So, last night I went to bed after taking 3 Zquils and closing the giant window shutters.  I aimed the fan directly at my bed and slept…. For about 9 hours.  IT WAS GLORIOUS!!!!  So I’ve determined that I just need balance in my life.  I found myself feeling tired, cranky and not enjoying my experience as much as I should have been.  

I love it here.  As my body adapts I enjoy this lifestyle more and more.  To see so many families out together in the evenings is very pleasing.  Socially entertaining is all about sharing experiences and time with one another.  They don’t rely on the TV or music from the radio to entertain, in fact my cousin pointed out that they don’t even have music playing in the background when hosting a meal. We eat, we share, we laugh.  

I have so much to share with you all.  But it has been difficult to write without taking away from the present moment.  I’m taking photos, videos and keeping notes for future blogs.  Eventually I will catch up but for right now I am enjoying my last couple of days with family before starting my 250 mile ride back to the West coast of Italy.  I’ll finish up at the Almalfi Coast before heading up to Napoli to catch my flight back home.  

Until next time, ciao friends!

Learning Italian

Every time I have come to Italy, my trip always begins with “I’m gonna learn Italian” but then it never happens.  More pressing issues take priority and then before you know it, there you are in Italy and “Non capisco l’italiano. Mi dispiace”

Google Translate has saved me countless times.  Pro tip:  you can download the entire Italian dictionary to your phone so that you can translate when you in airplane mode (or have no internet connection).  I find myself typing in phrases to prepare myself for whatever situation I’m about to find myself in.  It’s true, though.  It’s much easier to learn once you get here.  Especially since I’ve spent the last four days on my own, I’ve relied on my own tiny vocabulary and strategic hand gestures to communicate with the locals.  Today I practiced a phrase that I was looking forward to telling my AirBnb host.  “Primo, una doccia”  that’s me trying to say I want to take a shower first.  

One of my favorite things to do is throw myself in conversations with people.  I approached a cyclist outside a bar and asked him where he was riding and then tried to explain where I was going and why I was doing this ride.  I’m not sure if he understood the concept of “Bike the US for MS” but I gave him one of our business card/sticker combos, hoping he will stumble through our website and learn about our mission.  Everyone seems so impressed by Kip and all the stickers and bags on him.  I’ve only seen two other people that were traveling fully loaded like myself.  Last night I rolled through Tolentino with Kip all lit up.  I have the monkey-lectric lights that make the cool, colorful shapes on the wheels while I ride.  And it seemed like everyone was out last night – are around 10pm when I was heading back, people were cruising the streets and hanging out on patios.  

Another fun conversation was outside a different bar during a rest stop.  There was a group of 8 or so people hanging out, drinking prosecco and having a good time.  They had a dog with them, so I asked if I could give the dog a treat ( I always travel with dog treats, duh!).  She said he had food allergies and I said it’s okay, this is a natural food for dogs.  The dog was shy but I handed the lady the treats for the little pupper which he enjoyed.  They they started asking me where I was riding to, where I was from, etc.  I think it might be just as fun for the locals to try to talk to me as it is for me.  In these small towns, they are not so used to American tourists and it is very difficult to find someone that speaks English.  They always apologize for not speaking English.  What?  I’m in Italy — you don’t have to apologize!  I should be speaking your language!!  I’m fortunate that they have been very patient with me.  ????

So my advice for those traveling to a foreign country is to learn the basics before your trip.  These are the things I wish I learned before:

  • Numbers (for money, for road names, numbers of miles, phone numbers, etc)
  • Food.  I don’t have any food allergies but if I did, I would need to know exactly what I’m eating before bravely shoveling it in my mouth.
  • Directions.  North, south, east, west.  Left, Right.  Essential to touring by bike.

That’s all for now.  Gotta hit the road before it gets too hot.

TODAY I MAKE IT TO AUNT ALBA’S HOUSE!!!

Day 3, part 1 – Always ride with a helmet!

After having a really difficult day yesterday, I was ready to bounce back today and take control of this ride.  I can do nothing about the heat but I can drink more water, eat more food and take more breaks.  Apparently yesterday I did everything wrong!  🙂

I also have the choice to leave earlier.  So I did just that.  Didn’t sleep very well last night and was up mostly from 2am on.  So by time 5:00am rolled around I was ready to go.  Packed all my things and made my way down to the prepared breakfast by the hotel owners.  They don’t live on site and there is no overnight staff, so after 11pm, that’s it until breakfast at 8am.  They were kind enough to leave a nice selection for me when they left for home the night before.

By 5:30 I had packed up the leftovers, loaded up Kip and was out the door.  Click.  The door locked behind me.  Time to roll.

It’s gonna be a great day, I thought as I walked Kip up the hill towards the road until I realized I was missing something pretty important.

My helmet.

The door was locked and I looked around outside I noticed there were no cars.  I was the only person at the hotel last night.

There is no telling when someone will finally show up!  I frantically tried every door I could find realizing this place was on lockdown.  Then I saw an after hours emergency number.  I texted it.  Waited.  Called it.  Waited.  Texted again.  Nothing.

That’s when Ernie texted me out of the blue.

E:  “Following you along you’re ride. Don’t forget about the fresh bread every morning with cheese and coffee. ( real coffee). Enjoy the moments but beware of Italian drivers they are CRAZY!”

M:  “Good morning Ernie.  I got up early to leave and locked myself out of the hotel with my helmet inside.  I don’t think anyone else is staying at the hotel and the staff isn’t here.  Wasting away this cool morning.”

E:  “If it’s not one thing it’s another. Take it easy and the miles will take care of themselves. Go eat and have coffee. You’ll be able to ride all day just on the coffee. Watch the Tour de France. It’s exciting. Following it every morning at 5am. Wishing I was with u. Oh the memories of riding in Europe back in the 80’s.  Try the window?”

That’s when I realized: Yes I tried the window, but I’m just sitting here waiting and complaining.  There HAS to be a way inside!  So, I walked all over the building and found an unlocked back door that led to the kitchen.  Walked through the restaurant to find the door to the hotel locked.  Tried every other door.  Locked.  Locked.  Locked.

Then I scoured the kitchen area.  There must be some keys somewhere….  In case of emergency or something.  I found about 5 different keys and started trying them.  Felt like a game show where if the key fits you win the car, or the house, or the million dollars in the bank.  But this was real.  I needed this key to work.  I could think of no other place in the tiny town of Ferentillo where I could find a bike helmet at 0630 on a Sunday morning.  This was going to ruin my 3rd day.  For a second I thought what if I just ride for a bit until I find a store that has helmets.  Haha, what a dumb idea.  Ernie said it himself, these Italian drivers ARE crazy..  there is no way I’m getting on any street here without a helmet.

Fortunately, the third key I tried worked.  I ran up the stairs, grabbed my helmet, threw the keys on the counter and bolted for my bike.  Only an hour off schedule and I was on my way.

This guy sent me on my way.  Check out that helmet.  ????

Motivation is right in front of me

Lots of great words that I’m thinking about today.  Here’s a snippet as I relax at my first rest stop at 20 miles.  

Elizabeth:  One day at a time, one hill at a time, one rotation of your wheel at a time.

Kaylyn:  YOU’VE GOT THIS. You can so do this- and you’re not alone! We’re all with you. And it’s super hot here in North Dakota… so I’m going to close my eyes and pretend we’re all in Italy together. Eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty! That’s a must.

Mr Heiser:   Remember: you didn’t go to Italy to walk the hills. Love ya man and nothing but respect for you and your mission.

Also yesterday someone posted about being discouraged in the bike touring subreddit and these are some of the responses that resonated with me.

/u/Congleton_Sandback:  You can’t have the great days without the difficult ones. Normally you get a good amount of enjoyable days on the bike to counter the eventual poor ones but it seems like things are harder than normal early in your tour. Keep going – things will improve. Then in a few years you’ll be saying “Man, those first days of my tour were tough but I’m glad I kept cycling cuz it got a lot easier”. Trust me.

/u/permanent-throaway:  You might be experiencing what’s called Type B or Type 2 fun, difficult at the present moment, but fun and rewarding in retrospect. I’ve only gone on a couple of tours and very unpleasant and unexpected things happened in both of them. Injuries, accidents, misplacements, separations, everything became part of the experience. I guess all I’m trying to say is even if you’re uncomfortable, it’s better than sitting at home watching a screen or at work behind a desk. Do it for the story. Safe travels. 

/u/NotYouDude:  I know that feel. Keep going. You’re not out to there to feel comfortable. You’re climbing a mountain, not watching your favorite netflix show in bed.  Re-Orient your mind. This is a challenge, not a vacation.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Break is over.  Time to roll!

Day 2, I made it.  Barely.

Perhaps I over extended myself.  This heat is ridiculous.  I can’t drink enough water and I haven’t felt like eating because of the heat.  Today was the toughest day I’ve ever spent on a bike.  10 hours out in the heat!

Fortunately there is access to fresh water for free in pretty much every town.  I’ve had a fun time playing “where is the water fountain” because there are no signs and it is very discreet.  It’s kinda like a scavenger hunt.  So I never ran out of water, but I just got to the point where I couldn’t drink anymore.  

 


It’s so bad that I didn’t even get any gelato today.  But I did have coffee and I think that had something to do with the shit storm that was today.  Tonight I’m drinking water and participating in the 5 course dinner at my hotel.  Tomorrow, no coffee, just water and food.


As you can see, I had access to plenty of food today.  But I got to the point that I didn’t want water or food and had to force myself.  

But the views are incredible.


But I’m reminded why I am doing this.  There is no shade or amount of water that can make Aunt Alba’s symptoms go away or make her hard days better (Thank you Kaylyn) so I will press on because there is no other option.  I had a tough day so what will I do different tomorrow?

I arranged to have my breakfast ready at 0530 so I can leave right at 0545 and get an early start.  I’ll avoid coffee and drink more water earlier.  I’ll take longer breaks. I’ve been drinking water all evening and eating a good meal.  Going to bed at 1000 to get more sleep and taking a zzzquil to make sure that happens.

Telly’s button says it all.   Tomorrow will be different.  Ciao!  ❤️  

Day 1, short and sweet

I can’t believe it’s finally here.  I’m riding my bike.. in Italy!

I’ll start with something I learned.  It was suggested to me that all I really need to know is how to ask for the bathroom.  Dové il bagno?  But the problem with that is they will tell you where the bathroom is….. In Italian.  And if it’s not over there “qui” they will give you instructions which you won’t be able to follow if all you know in Italian is “dové il bagno” and “una birra per favor”.  Note to self:  Learn Italian!!  

Today was fabulous.  The flight was great.  There were no screaming babies.  And that, to me, is a great flight.  I had one of those “extra” seats that didn’t have a seat in front of it.  And it was wonderful.  I don’t care that we left 90 mins late and arrived 40 minutes late.  All I wanted was for Kip to arrive on time and undamaged.  And that’s exactly what I got.

I found a quiet corner in baggage claim to put him together and started my adventure.  The Rome airport, Fiumicino, was a traffic nightmare.  I’ve been in crazy traffic before but not like this.  I’m not sure what the rules are but I’m pretty sure no one follows them.  But the crazy thing is that they seem more alert and attentive than American drivers.  I think with all the scooters and bikes zipping around they have to pay attention.  Here is one of the crazy mergers that I found myself in today:

Not sure how I got through that one alive.  

But after leaving the airport I found myself on some very quiet country roads.  But also some crazy busy city roads.  I’m sure tomorrow, my first full day will be up and down, with elevation and with busy vs quiet roads.  Speaking of elevation, I have 5000 feet tomorrow with a full load.  Slow and steady is all I can say.

After watching these kids drink from this water spout I felt brave enough to fill up my water bottle.  

Then I passed some sort of military zone.  I wondered if there was a military band back there somewhere.  Probably not.

Then I met my first dog

And my first cat

Then I arrived at my destination and one of the house cats inspected my pannier bags

Now….. Dinner.

I’m navigating the language thanks to Google translate.  I even asked some locals where I should go… So here I am.  

Tomorrow… Is…. Gonna… Be… AWESOME!

1 2 3