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11. Little Red Riding. (June 8)

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Once upon a time, Nonna rode her bicycle up a very steep forest road, to visit her Grandchildren on the other side of the mountain.
Her basket was full of energy bars and other goodies.
The people of the village said there were terrible things in the jungle, and that she should never ever go there. But the happy thought of seeing her precious children again, was so strong that she hopped on her bike and off she went muttering something like “who’s afraid of the big bad wolf…”

It was very-very steep, and she huffed and puffed. Up, she went, up a small winding road, passed wood-cutters and a hunter driving a fast jeep. Up passed the last house for a long long way. Suddenly there was a great loneliness, and mist came down over the tree tops and touched Nonna on her face, very gently.

Near the top of the mountain, where the trees were dark and tall, a “good wolfy-wolfy” moved in the forest and the birds screeched and flapped. So did Nonna.

Nobody came along in a little boxy fiat car. So Nonna pedalled and pedalled with all her might. Her battery was getting very low, and soon she would need to hop off her bike and push it.

But just around the corner the road went down, and she whizzed and zig-zagged at break-neck speed until she heard some bells ringing in the trees. There was a little cottage tucked away in the bushes and somebody was humming a song.

 

She stopped beside a boxy fiat car at the front door and called out to the singer, but nobody came out, so she got back on her bike and went on.
A small river gurgled along beside her and she felt better. She even began to smile. The sun shone through the trees and the road was smooth.
All morning she rode, waving to fairies and goblins who dashed around like butterflies in the greenery.

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Eventually she came to a blue lake in the hills, where she found some people, so stopped for tagliatelle al ragù and a little sip of red wine.

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After lunch, Nonna had a very full tummy and was feeling a big sleepy. That’s when she made a mistake and took the low road instead of the high road, because she didn’t want to pedal quite so much. She had no idea where it led, but took it anyway. All the way down the hill to Riola, a little town with two bars but no hotel. A lot of old men sat around playing cards. They all looked up in surprise to see a Nonna on a bike in this place.

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It was getting late and her batteries were dangerously low. So she called Tyrone on the phone and asked him to search the web for a place to stay. “Il mio refugio” sounded like just the thing, but it was a few kilometres up a mountainside. So with all the remaining oomph, up she went, higher and higher, into the cherry orchards. Zigzagging up a ridiculous hill, until the last drop of energy was all used up.

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It was a very hidden away place which took some extra effort to find, since she had taken the wrong road to get there in the first place. The big gate was chained up and all the shutters were closed.

Lesson 2.  Always phone and ask before going there.

Just then my phone ran out of battery, and the bike ran out of battery. I felt a sob welling up.

A man with black teeth and a difficult face came huffing up a road on his bicycle, and he said: “yes, you can go down this road to Marano, there is a bar”… so with huge relief I rolled down… but the bar was closed.

However a lady let me charge up my phone for a short while, and I pedalled back to Riola. This time I went into the old-man bar, and talked to the very exotic looking barmaid. She looked down at me in horrible disdain. My hair was pressed flat and my grey gloves were in tatters. I most likely stank.

She showed me a blackboard full of business cards and pointed out a random few. I called the number and Giuseppe happily offered to fetch me! He arrived with a silver trailer, loaded up my bike and drove me out of town. I had no idea where we were going, but I had photographed his business card, which I sent via whatsapp to Simon and Ty for a background check.
Giuseppe drove me up to the bed & breakfast at the top of another steep hill. He said usually he only has road workers to stay. The shower was ice cold.

He made the bed, and gave me supper in the kitchen. Tortellini soup with grana (Parmiggiano), followed by a plate of different salami and prosciutto, flat breads, cherries, two types of homemade cheese, home grown wine (fizzy)…we talked about Italy and it’s youth, and he drew a map of my route for tomorrow.

It was about 9 pm and I locked myself into my room and flopped into bed, completely exhausted. Just as I was going to sleep a blood curdling scream at my window woke me. I lay for hours trying to relax, but no luck.

This is how it looked in the morning. No sign of  blood. I forgot to ask Giuseppe what the noise was. Maybe just as well.

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1. Before leaving Rome (April 22)

“All roads lead to Rome”  – to be more precise… the Via Appia Antica will lead us into Rome and the Via Francigena will lead us straight out again. Very, very far out this time.

I am preparing to ride my bike from our home town, Marino Laziale, which is situated on the slops of a volcano at the southern edge of the eternal city of Rome, and head north to Oslo, capital of Norway.

Departure date is planned for May 26th, early morning, when the moon will be at her fullest. Which I hope will have some beneficial effects.

Below is a very nice image, thanks to Copernicus (Sentinel 3) where you can see a cloudless Europe…just point at mid-Italy, and go north!

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There is a secret feature on my bike……a battery!

It’s an e-bike you see …. a very smart CUBE bicycle. It arrived in a giant box with an operating manual almost as heavy as the bike itself: “General Operating Instructions Pedelec”.

Some say I’m cheating. And I admit there is a paradox involved.

I am doing this because I can only do it with the help of a battery – but sneer if they must.  Little pushes from my battery will certainly help to keep the grinding-grit out of my nonna knees.

The 80 page Bicycle User Manual is also a long read. Then there are the instructions for my onboard computer, and I need to download the smart phone map-apps, and setup a tablet to write this blog. This ‘over the hill’ grandmother is quite boggled by tech.. TBH.

(TBH means ‘to be honest’, for you other ‘over-the-hillers’.)

Simon will accompany me for the first week of the adventure, but then he has to get back to work, leaving me to figure things out as I go! Going solo is quite a scary challenge I must admit, I am a bit of a Simon follower when exploring unknown realms. Usually Simon takes care of the responsible stuff, and I dawdle behind with my camera, and paint box.

Mostly I have generous encouragement from Simon, my family and friends.  But my parents have, in their wisdom given me stern warning of the dangers.  So it’s a toss-up between lounging on my couch, or lunging around in the traffic seated precariously on a metal instrument, most probably lost. Certainly not overly safe, but I will do my utmost to avoid a dramatic end.

When one reaches what is commonly known as ‘a midlife crisis’, it is obvious a red sports car is not the way to go anymore, what with the environmental hazards it provokes. The new and revolutionary way to travel is by e-bike, going gracefully green is key to surviving difficult accusations from the grandchildren. Such as: why did you muck up our planet ? and: What did you do to stop global warming?

Midlife crisis is not the real reason I’m going on this trip… really. In case you thought it was. Actually there are other reasons, those being… I like riding my bike and going places. Something to do with my nomadic roots I suppose.

Alone on my bike in the forest, I might meet animals, or feel how the birds fly and know the slow opening of the yellow flowers in the morning.

 

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“May the force be with you”