I have been happily illustrating and writing about the cycle ride for 25 days now. Only a quarter of the way in distance – which gives you an idea of how long the long distance ride was. After some thought I’ve decided the story can be divided into three parts to prevent OVERWHELM. lol.
Part ONE being the ‘Italy and over the Alps’ section, The Rhine river and crossing through Germany to the North Sea will be the second section, and then Scandinavia the third.
So I thought this a good moment to take a little break from the writing. My house is rather neglected and Simon has invited me to go for a bike tour with him next weekend in the Rome region. That means a small interruption in the long distance story, although in reality it was never interrupted.
Thanks for all your dedicated reading, and all the wonderful comments and encouragement. All most appreciated and motivational in getting this story written down.
I will be back on the 3rd June for PART TWO. That’s our official end of quarantine in Italy. An auspicious day to continue with the bike tour. Until then I will be painting and preparing the illustrations. Putting the “Lockdown” blogs into a book, and getting my summer clothes out.
Looking forward to seeing your escapades on facebook and Instagram in the meantime.
The air is cool under dark clouds today. There is nobody around. It is my father’s eighty-first birthday. I wish he was here to see this beautiful view. The only sound is the chug of a small boat in the distance, the sound bounces off the rocky cliffs. Layer upon layer of blue mountains slip into the lake. The Alps have hardly begun, but the ride into that realm begins now.
Luciana gave me delicious scrambled eggs and fruit salad for breakfast this morning. The ride started peacefully pedalling along the lake edge. Not much reflection, just deep dark colours. Then a turn up a particularly steep mountainside. I snigger proudly past a young man struggling up on his mountain bike. The e-bike advantage is enormous in this terrain. Karma takes immediate effect by making me miss the sign for the cycle track, so I ignorantly take the high road.
The high road is for quarry lorries. There is no shoulder for a bike. The lorry drivers gesture wildly at me as they bear down. I am caught between the raw stone wall of the mountain on my right shoulder and the wheels of large trucks on my left. As they pass they leave a gap exactly wide enough for my panniers – give a millimeter or two. There is nothing I can do but go on as fast as I can, making a lot of small screams as the giant wheel-hubs spin and thunder at my ear. Those drivers certainly know their dimensions.
After about ten kilometres later, at a small town in the valley between Riva and Trento, the cycle track reappears and whoosh! What an incredible ride! It’s the first ridiculously perfect cycle path so far. A mini highway just for bikes. Lines and signs keep us on track. Suddenly there are other bikers around, and we shout greetings.
At the village of Sarche black clouds came over the mountains and the rain rushes down in torrents. A couple of road maintenance men point me to a hotel. Sitting comfortably in a nook with a cup of coffee… then cappuccino… then tea…eventually I give up waiting for the rain to pass and put on my plastic suit to go. From then on things become very soggy, including my bladder. There is very little chance of a roadside pit stop, being a lady. So I go on. The track leads to roads and a system of bridges and tunnels leave me feeling dumb. Some locals tell me I can go through the tunnel, but it is long and very-very dangerous and illegal for bicycles. My confusion is complete. I phone my family for directions but nobody picks up.
In desperation I take a smaller road, pressing aimlessly on, checking google maps on my phone but not actually finding the way. It would probably help if I knew where I wanted to end up. At a weird intersection leading onto another truck-filled road, I get off the bike and just stand there like a cow chewing cud. Like the weather, a grey mood descends on me and the Catastrophic voice goes mute. To tell you the truth I would rather push the bike through a forest than go on another ‘high’ road after the experience this morning with the quarry trucks. I scan through the grey matter of my brain and find only fog. A small red car comes along so I wave, it slows a bit then roars off.
But not all is lost, suddenly my imaginary team comes to the rescue. My kids voices pipe up in my head and I listen while they discuss the problem amongst themselves before leaning over to me and say “Mom, just go up this road to see what’s at the top of the hill”. So I go. Turns out the cycle track starts right there. I giggle-cry a bit and carry on.
Two men are loading giant copper pots into a van. They give me directions: “Go here, then two curves further on, take the third track left for a few kilometres on farm roads until you see a fruit seller on the corner, then don’t take the marked track, take the one that goes to the left, then turn right almost immediately onto a dirt road, it goes up steeply but it’s fine, then at the fourth or fifth track on the right side of the big road, go down and up again, then cross over the highway at the end of that road…….
Miraculously I find the fruit seller sitting in his van with the window open. He has one precarious looking tooth. When asked “which of the four tracks go to Sopramonte?” He gestures vaguely towards a muddy track in the forest and grins widely. He leans out of his van window and hands me half an apricot to taste. I eat it in two snaps. It is as sweet as honey.
Something tells me to avoid the forest road, so I take one of the other options, they all merge around the corner anyway. The climb is huge, 1000 meters up to Candriai. I manage to find a loo at a cafe there, and the barista tells me I’m nuts to ride further up to Sopramonte.
Dropping 1000 meters down into Trento is exhilarating, switchbacks all the way down the raw orange cliffs. Trento lies flat in the valley, crusty and full of fuming industry. First a glass of Vermentino wine at a bar where the barman recommends the ‘Everest Hotel’. So I go there.
I must admit I’m falling in love with my bicycle. Seriously, after clinging to her all day there is a certain separation pang when I lock her up in the hotel Everest basement for the night. She looks so forlorn stripped naked of her panniers. In the morning I feel a wave of happiness to see her again. Going a little crazy?
I put vinegar on my pasta instead of olive oil at dinner by mistake. It’s apple cider vinegar, no more balsamic in apple country. I eat the sour pasta with long teeth.