Trip Diary
Pictures
O2K Home
Odds and Ends
Contact
Links

Italy
Previous | Next

03/24 Bari, Italy to Alberobello, Italy

The ferry ride across the Ionian Sea from Greece was very nice. The cabin was nicely appointed. The bathrooms were spacious. The water was hot.

We could tell the ferry was not managed by TK&A by two major occurrences: First, they left and arrived on time; and second, the food was served on time, and it was quick and tasty.

Immediately upon disembarking, we were challenged by the language barrier -- we spoke little Italian, the Italians around the port spoke no English. We were able to find one person in a bank that spoke a little English. He gave us directions to the airport where our rental car was waiting.

We took of on our bikes and headed for the airport. Soon we were lost. An older man rode by on an old bicycle. I asked him if this was the way-to the airport. He talked and gesticulated and pointed. Finally he indicated to follow him. How kind that was!

He took us round and round through the city center, then pointed to an "Aeroport" sign and said follow that road. We did that, for awhile. Then the road turned into a freeway, so we bailed.

Of course we were in the middle of nowhere, so we stopped a car to ask directions. The second driver said, when we told him "bicycleta, we can't ride on the freeway," again said, "just follow me". He had his mother and a baby with him in the car. Never the less, he led us on back roads, along a very circuitous route, for about half an hour, stopping often to wait for Joan to catch up, to the entrance to the airport. He would accept nothing except our thanks for his efforts.

Since I seem to be coming down with a cold, Larry and Joan rode today. We went on ahead to find rooms for the night. To make a long story short, most of the streets in Alberobello are narrow and one way -- and they're laid out like a splash of pickup sticks.

Needless to say, we got lost again looking for a recommended hotel. We asked a man on the street. AGAIN, he said, "uno momento, just follow me." He ran back to a parking lot, hopped in his car, pulled along side us and motioned for us to follow him.

Of course we did, and we found Hotel Didi -- a tiny, very nice hotel with VERY tiny rooms. They had everything, though, including a complete bathroom -- even though one had to back into it.

Dinner was a fiasco, again. The word was the vendor didn't know for sure that we were coming until sometime this afternoon. As a result, dinner was very late

After an hour and a half of waiting, we invited Joyce and Gary, (WONDERFUL staff members) to join us and went to a local restaurant for pizza. We heard later that dinner didn't start until 8 o'clock, then the food trickled in.

An unusual thing about this area is the "Trullis" -- a type of home that was built in the 1500's. It is constructed with native stone, stacked, with no mortar. The walls are built wider at the bottom to make them more stable. The truly interesting feature is the roofs. They are also built of stacked rock with no mortar. As a result, they look like dunce caps on the square buildings.

We heard two stories about why buildings were constructed this way.

The first is a practical (but perhaps not realistic) reason. There was nothing available to make mortar.

The second is more romantic sounding. The taxes were based upon the area of the flat roof of the building. The dunce cap construction made for a very small area of flat roof, thus, minimizing taxes.

Love to all, David and Lisa


03/25 Italy -- Alberobello to Lido di Metaponto

What a delightful day!

120 km's on mostly quiet country roads. This is what we imagined the Odyssey ride would be like when we signed up.

Along the road, we stopped, talked with, and photographed, a goat herder.

A little farther along, a well dressed couple stopped their car in the middle of the road in front of us. The jumped out and started talking to us in rapid Italian.

"Non capisco," we said.

"Oh, non capisco" she said, then continued to speak rapidly in Italian.

Then her husband came in with some English to supplement the Italian. They were from Rome and were going to a wedding in Matera. They were asking us if this was the road to Matera and how much farther did they have to go. And what do you know, we were able to help!

They were asking all about us. When we told them we were going to Rome, they said, "you must be flying." They were amazed when we told them we were riding all the way. They couldn't even comprehend that we had been riding since January 1 and had ridden all the way from California.

Later, when we rode through Matera, we were caught in the middle of the wedding traffic. Because of that heavy traffic, we took to the sidewalk.

While walking, we were stopped by a woman who asked about our group. It turned out that her husband was with the embassy in Rome, and they were touring the area. She told us of a restaurant that she and her husband had enjoyed last night. We followed her general directions. We came to a charming Piazza where a wedding was going on.

We saw a sign to the restaurant pointing to a VERY narrow curvy, twisty alley. We walked up the alley a bit and found a doorway through the wall with a sign for the restaurant over it. We looked in and saw stairs leading down to a landing at a wall. We walked to that landing and looked around the corner -- more stairs leading to another landing at another wall. We walked down to that landing and looked around the corner -- MORE stairs leading MUCH farther down. That turn also opened up a view of a whole canyon full of houses on each side. At that point, we marveled at the view -- and stopped looking for the restaurant.

The ride continued through more countryside, and eventually to Lido di Metaponto, a beach town on the southern coast (the bottom of the foot) of Italy.

The day's destination was changed during the day. Instead of staying in a campground as originally planned, the riders had to camp in a parking lot behind a very remote restaurant. (We stayed in the local hotel.)

Why the last minute change?

We don't know, but probably either TK&A failed to confirm arrangements that were discussed more than six months ago, or, TK&A wanted the owners to cut the rates too low or give TK&A some freebies. Both have been typical happenings on this trip.

After camping in the cow pasture in Barilouche, and enduring time after time when the food vendors were poorly equipped due to late or no notice, nothing surprises us any more.

Love to all, David and Lisa


03/26 Italy - Lido di Metponto to Scalea

Today was a long and easy day -- 155 km's across the mountains in the instep of Italy.

We went from a beach town on the Ionian Sea to a beach town on the Tyrrhenian Sea. (I had never heard of the Tyrrhenian Sea before, but our map shows it as the part of the Mediterranean Sea that borders the west side if Italy.) Unfortunately though, it's not "beach" season in Italy. Even though we're pretty far south, it's still cool in the day and cold at night. We're told the warmer weather doesn't usually start until May.

The first 30 km's followed a busy coast highway. It was fast but sparsely populated and pretty boring.

Then we turned inland to cross over the mountains to the other coast. The next 89 km's was gradually uphill -- still pretty fast.

For a while we went through acres of trees covered with pink blossoms. For a long while we followed a river flood plain and a large pipeline. The road went through many, many tunnels and over many, many, many viaducts.

The first tunnel was the worst. It was long, curvy and VERY dark -- which made it VERY scary. There was a guard rail along the edge of the road inside the tunnel, but I couldn't even see it! We had our rear flasher on though, so cars could see us and not run us over. After that, the tunnels were either short or lit, so they were not a concern.

The rest of the ride was steep, fast downhill. Though we love downhill, we could not do them because we had no rear brakes. The brake shoes on our hydraulic disc brakes are worn out and have no stopping power.

The little town of Lauria was at the start of the downhill. At the entrance to the town, a rock cliff went straight up on one side of the road, while the walls of buildings hugging the hill were on the other side. Very picturesque.

Scalea is another small town on the beach. Unfortunately, most services are closed since it's off season. However, we have a layover day here. Time to rest and time to do laundry.

Love to all, David and Lisa


03/27 Scalea, Italy

Today is a layover day. That means wash clothes, clean the bike, rest and sight see.

This day started with arising naturally, sans alarm. That was followed by a very nice surprise -- a Happy Birthday phone call from Lauren, David and Sara.

At breakfast, we found out there were two laundries in town -- but both had been overwhelmed by laundry from Odyssey riders. So we went back to our room and did our laundry in our sink, then hung them out on our porch to dry.

At breakfast we also found out that Joan's aunt is very sick. Joan is pretty worried, so she and Larry went to a travel agent to see how she can get back to see her aunt.

After breakfast I checked for mail. There was a package there for me -- also from Lauren. Inside were great new bike gloves and wonderful, hand made birthday cards from the kids.

Sara's had a picture of a serious tandem drawn on the outside -- and a FUN tandem drawn on the inside. (She knows how WE like to ride.)

David's card was a complicated creation constructed from maps. It had a tandem bicycle that could be moved along the map, depicting, of course, our current travels.

After doing the laundry, we explored the town. We headed for an old castle that was indicated on a town map. On the way there, we discovered that below the castle was the "old town" of Scalea. Apparently it was part of an old "walled city" under the fortress that protected it.

We walked up old stairways and pathways and alleyways that led into, around and through these very, very old buildings. In fact the buildings could almost be called ruins if it weren't for them having real doors, windows and laundry hanging from porches.

As we wandered up and down the twists and turns of hidden stairways, we would see new doors in the old walls. Each door had a house number -- some even had door bells -- so it was obvious they led to someone's home. In fact, occasionally one would be open so we could see in. They were all nicely furnished and well kept inside.

What an anamoly -- the outsides of the homes looked like 18th century ruins, while the insides were so well appointed and 20th century looking.

At about 1:30, we started looking for a restaurant or pizzeria for lunch. We met lots of other riders on the same quest. We ran into Joan and Larry. Their travel agent told them that just about all the businesses close from 1 to 4 -- including restaurants.

There was, however, a bakery/ice cream shop open across the street. Since we had found that delicious spinach and ricotta pie in a bakery just the other day, we decided to check this one out.

We arrived at the counter at the same time as another Odyssey rider, Drew, (from New York's upper west side) who was also looking for food. We all shared what little real food the bakery had -- two small pizzas, four ricotta filled pastries and one Kiwi. Then we all had ice cream for desert.

With our appetites sated and our tummys full (and because all the stores were closed), we went back to our room to read, check on the laundry and nap.

At dinner, Larry and Joan presented me with a bottle of sparkling chardonney for my birthday. I shared it with the table, then shared some with Merlin (the bike mechanic) whose birthday is today. Then I found out that Valerie Olson's birthday is tomorrow, the same as mine. We agreed to celebrate together.

We got some bad news at dinner. Joyce and Gary, perhaps the nicest and most caring people on TK&A's staff, are leaving. Gary has been sick for about a month, unable to fully recover because TK&A would not let them take any time off. They decided their health was more important than this job, so they have rented an apartment here and will be staying for two weeks so Gary can recover.

They say they will not be rejoining the TK&A team. (They have shared with us before that they have a very hard time treating the riders the way TK&A sometimes insists that they do.) They plan to tour Europe for awhile, then . . . who knows where life will take them.

They will be sorely missed by both staff members and riders.

Love to all, David and Lisa


03/28
Happy Birthday, Dad!!

Italy - Scalea to Marina di Camerota

The route today was only 81 km's -- but with LOTS of ups and downs. The entire route was along the southwestern coast of Italy bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea. In profile, the road is much like the Big Sur coast of California. A big difference is that most of this road seems to be notched out of the sides of the cliffs that drop down into the sea.

Unfortunately we were not able to ride today. We still haven't been able to get our disc brakes fixed.

Larry and Joan did not ride either because they are getting ready for Joan to go back to Boston. She leaves by train tonight for Rome. Tomorrow she'll catch a flight to Boston.

I asked Merlin yesterday afternoon about installing new brake shoes. He said he couldn't then, but he could do it at the midday check point tomorrow.

This morning I saw Dave (the other bike mechanic) working on a bike. I asked him if he might be able to install the new brake shoes. He said sure, but not until tonight. He had to get ready to leave right then.

So Lisa and I packed our bike on the car rack and headed down the road 63 km's to the check point. With the road being so curvy, we didn't get there until 10.

Merlin tried to install the new brake shoes, but couldn't get the calipers to retract enough for the shoes to slip in. He reinstalled the old shoes and recommended we not ride the bike until we get the new shoes installed. He suggested that we go to a good bike shop in a large city to get the work done. (Unfortunately, that means Solerno -- more than 100 km's away, and all on narrow, curvy roads.)

So, about 11 we headed back to Scalea to see Joan off and pick up Larry. Then we drove all the way back to tonight's stop. Of course, we missed Dave, but we did arrive in time to have a very good Italian dinner at a restaurant.

I was glad to see Val and Randy at the restaurant so I could apologize for missing them earlier. (We had planned to go out to dinner together tonight since it was both Val's and my birthday today.) We went for ice cream together and agreed to have our birthday dinners together some other night soon.

At dinner tonight I spoke with Dave (the bike mechanic) about the problem Merlin had. He thought he could solve it and said he'd look at it tomorrow morning.

So we'll try again tomorrow. If Dave can't get the shoes in, we'll have to make the trip to Salerno.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Love to all, David and Lisa


03/29 Italy - Marina di Camerota to Paestum

ANOTHER beautiful day along the southern coast of Italy -- and ANOTHER day that we can't ride for lack of a rear brake. Dave spent 3 1/2 hours figuring out how to install, and then installing, the brake pads. But when he was finished, still no brakes.

Dave and I both thought there was air in the line, but we didn't have time to bleed it. We agreed that Lisa and I should take the bike to Salerno to have it worked upon at a good bike shop. (Also, I'm aware that the mechanics had messed up the pad adjustment screw and that needed to be repaired.)

Tim and Karen-Ann acted way out of character this morning. They both showed inordinate amounts of caring about our brake problem. Tim even said he was going to Rome and offered to pick up brake pads. Nice change!

At 11 a.m. we left camp to tell Larry that we were going to Salerno to find a bike mechanic who was familiar with Formula disc brakes. By 1:30 we caught up with him. Then we took off for Salerno.

As we headed out if town, we were flagged down by three Police Officers -- one carrying an Uzi and wearing a bulletproof vest. Two of them took the car registration and my International Drivers License, while the one with the Uzi watched us. After a long while, they gave us back our documents and wished us a good trip.

We got to Salerno about 3:30 and started looking for a bike shop. Of course everything was closed until 4, but that didn't bother us. It took until four for us to find a quality bike shop.

Finding the shop was quite a chore. We first asked a Police Officer. He kind of directed us -- in Italian -- to a shop close to the shore. We didn't find it in the midst of all the one way and dead end streets, so we asked another cop. He told us (in Italian) that it is just around the corner.

He started to give us directions, then realized, with the one way and dead end streets, it would be very hard to drive there -- so he said to follow him. He held up traffic while we backed up half a block. Then he led us against traffic up a one-way street. Then he had a car move to make room for us on the dead-end street where the bike shop was located. then, he helped explain to the shop owner what our problem was.

The owner couldn't help us, but the cop and a local Italian rider knew of another, higher end, bike shop that might be able to help. The cop started drawing a map, but the Italian bike rider said that was too complicated. He would lead us to the other shop.

So we followed the 50-ish Italian rider in a fancy Lycra biking outfit riding a high end, skinny tired, expensive bike through the narrow, busy one way streets of Salerno about two miles to another bike shop.

Unfortunately, that shop owner couldn't help us either. We thought maybe, just maybe, we just needed to break in the shoes. So we spent the next hour riding up and down the beach trying to break in the shoes. But still no brakes.

We decided to call Santana, the bike manufacturer. But it was too early in California, so we decided to head back to Paestum, get a room, and call from there.

On the way back, we saw a strange thing. We drove along the shore through an area full of campgrounds and resort hotels. It was dark. We saw that at almost every driveway to a resort or campground there was a small flame -- like a three pound coffee can had a flame in it.

Then we noticed that every small flame had two or three women standing near them. When we looked closer to try to figure out what was going on, we saw that they all wore either tight short shorts, tight miniskirts, or very short coats with only legs, mesh stockings and high heels showing. A strange sight.

We called Santana from Paestrum. We ended up talking to Bill McCready, the founder and owner of the company. He was VERY nice. As soon as he heard that we were calling from Italy, he asked for a number so he could call us back and talk on his nickel. Unfortunately, we were at a pay phone that couldn't be called.

Anyway, he helped diagnose the problem (air in the line). He offered to explain it to our mechanic -- in a call on his nickel. He suggested we could call the Formula factory in Italy and talk to their mechanic. And he suggested that when we were closer to the Formula plant in Florence, we could call and tell the owner our problem. He is sure that she (the owner) will send a mechanic in a truck to meet us and fix the brakes on the spot.

We decided to have our backup braking system installed tomorrow, then to call the factory when we get closer to Florence and have them rebuild the original system so we'll have a spare again.

Love to all, David and Lisa


03/30 Italy, Paestum to Pompeii

What a day!

129 km's, through Salerno, along the famous Amalfi Coast, through Sorrento and through downtown Pompeii.

We started the day by replacing the hydraulic brake system. Dave (the mechanic) and I stripped off the old brake system and installed the backup system that I had brought along.

SUCCESS!!!

The brakes worked perfectly!

Then we drove the first part of the route to catch up with Larry. We found him just outside of Salerno. We gave him the car and we rode the rest of the route.

And what a route! It followed the coast -- including the Amalfi Coast -- most of the way. And when I say "followed," I mean that the road went up over mountains and down into the beach communities on a narrow trail that has been notched into the sides of the mountains that stand in proud watch over the sea.

We took many photos of the picture postcard coast line and of the many small buildings cascading down the hillside to the sea.

And we saw many restaurants and hotels that seemed to be barely clinging to the cliffs. Some were perched high up on the cliffs over the roadway. They had stairs, elevators or both leading from a roadside parking lot or doorway.

Others were hanging somewhere below the roadway with only a sign pointing to a doorway going into a vestibule on a rock outcropping, or steps just leading down the cliff to a building hanging somewhere below.

We stopped in the town of Amalfi for lunch and sightseeing. Very quaint, but also very touristy. (And lots of tour busses -- mostly full of kids with backpacks. Why? We don't know.)

Lisa was very interested in visiting a very inviting perfumarie, but, unfortunately, it closed early (before we got back there at 12:45) for the usual 1 to 4 afternoon break. Oh well. There'll be others.

The roadway along the coast was narrow and narrower. In the U.S., the standard (narrow) road would be coonsidered one lane. But never fear. Any Italian worthy of the name can get at least two cars into one lane.

The challenge is in the "narrower" lanes -- the ones that busses can barely fit through. Easy to fit two Fiats on them; a little tight for two full size BMW's, VW's or Mercedes; virtually impossible for two trucks or busses to pass -- but they try anyway.

So what does that mean to bicycles?

Most of the time, if the bike rider has enough guts, bikes can fit on any lane with any vehicle -- but it does take guts.

Actually, just being on the street with Italian drivers takes guts.

Larry had a couple close calls today as he was driving. Both occurred when another driver tried to make three lanes out of two. In one case, a driver coming at him pulled out to pass, saw he didn't have enough room, hit the brakes and slid into a wall. In the second, a car passed him, didn't really have enough time or space, swerved up on two wheels, then landed back on all four and took off. No damage done, but Larry was really shook.

We finished our ride at Pompei around 7 p.m.

Love to all, David and Lisa


03/31 Italy, Pompeii to Sperlonga

The ride today was 144 km's. Unfortunately, most of it was through very congested, cobblestone, city streets.

We teamed up with Linda, a school teacher from a little town in Virginia, who wanted to visit the ruins and who did not want to ride today. Larry arranged for her to ride with us for a small price to help offset the car costs.

We walked over to the entrance to the ruins. Some other riders asked us if we wanted to share the expenses for an English speaking tour guide. We jumped at the chance. There were eight of us in the group. We visited the ruins of Pompeii for an hour and a half with the tour guide, then another hour on our own.

We saw many things that we had missed in our first visit three years ago. Most notable were a lot of beautiful frescos on the walls, including still life's, scenery, designs and people.

Another notable thing had to do with the people who died in Pompeii. They all died of suffocation from the noxious gas spewed out by the eruption of Mt, Versuvious -- all in the act of doing some day-to-day activity. Then many feet of volcanic ashes covered their bodies. The ash solidified rock. Then the flesh rotted, leaving bones, teeth and fingernails inside hollows in the rock.

When archeologists discovered this phenomena, they started to probe for the air pockets formed by the rotted bodies. When the found one, they inserted two tubes into the pocket. One was for injecting plaster in, the other for allowing air out. After the plaster set, they would remove the surrounding ash, leaving a cast of the body of a person who died from the eruption. Some of these even have the teeth and nails intact.

According to our tour guide, the items of most interest to tourists are: the brothel and the "bad boys house." Both have erotic frescos still visible on the walls.

The brothel has five small rooms, each with about four-foot long beds carved out of rock. (The Pompeians were short people.)

At the "bad boys house" the frescos (and a statue) showed men with way oversized penises. Legend has it that three young men from rich families (the bad boys) bribed the painters and sculptors to create these images for them. No reason why was given.

We visited the "Villa of Mystery" down the hill from the main part of Pompeii. It is a very large and complex home with many intact frescos.

We (Lisa, Linda and I) left about 11 a.m. to drive the route. We thought we (Lisa and I) might ride a little, then we would all pick up Larry around 4 o'clock.

LITTLE DID WE KNOW!

The first 50 km's were through very narrow, crowded and congested, cobblestone, city streets. They started in Pompeii and ran wall to wall to the outskirts of Naples. Many, many times we missed cars and trucks by less than 6-inches. It took us about 5 hours to navigate that first 50 km's.

The Italians continue to put three or four cars abreast in one lane and a shoulder -- and most drive like frustrated grand prix drivers. And the motor scooters are worse -- MUCH worse.

Motor scooter drivers pass on either side, cut cars off, drive on sidewalks, go the wrong way on one way streets, and generally ignore both traffic laws and reason.

We finally caught Larry at 5 o'clock. Needless to say, Lisa and I did not get to ride today,

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/01 Italy -- Sperlonga to Lido di Ostia

WE'VE FINISHED ONE FOURTH OF THE ODYSSEY! WOW!!!

134 km's today -- mostly flat road along the beach on the way North to Rome.

The day started out to be a little overcast, quickly turned blustery, then rainy, then clearing, then sunny.

For most of the first 50 km's we were bucking fierce headwind, getting our faces burned by blowing sand, getting wet from intermittent rain, plowing through sand drifts across the road, and getting colder.

We experienced an unusual thing at about 40 K out. We were cruising along at about 22 kph, bucking the wind, and plowing the sand drifts, when a team of six men on roller blades went whooshing by. All were skating in unison, one hand swinging, bent into the wind, smoothly sailing along -- even jumping the sand drifts in unison.

At the midday checkpoint, Lisa got a chill. We lingered quite awhile for her to try to get warm, but to no avail. She was still cold when we started out again. We worked hard trying to warm up for 15 - 20 km's, but Lisa still wasn't getting warm -- so we sagged in with Larry.

By the time we got to camp, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining -- but it still wasn't warm. Lisa bundled up to keep warm.

We rented a small house trailer for the night rather than set up our tents. It has a small living-dining space, a very small kitchen, an even smaller bathroom, and two very, very small bedrooms. Ours has a double bed that fills most of the room. There is 6-inches on the end and one side, and 12-inches on the door side. But it's fine. We're only sleeping here for one night.

Tomorrow we'll be in Rome.

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/02 Italy -- Lido di Ostia to Rome

This morning we [Lisa, Larry, Anita, (age 76 from Michigan) and I] rode over to the Ostia Antica ruins and castle. The are reputed to be the largest and best preserved ruins in all of Italy.

As we walked in to the site and were looking at a site map, an Italian woman struck up a conversation with us. It turned out that she worked for the Vatican, spoke several languages (including English), and loved these ruins. She visited the ruins often, so she was quite knowledgeable. She told us a lot about the ancient city and told us of the best places to visit.

Ostia was the site of a thriving commercial center on the Tiber River between the Mediterranean Sea and Rome. Ships coming up the river first encountered the castle. There they paid a toll for the local emperor before they could sell their goods in the city.

In Ostia, there was a very large market place of small shops built around a very large square -- much like the town square in Sonoma. In the center was a small temple.

Each of the shops was open on the side facing the square. In front of the shops was a very wide sidewalk. Both the shops and the sidewalks in front had mosaics depicting the shipping company whose goods were handled there. The mosaics were in astoundingly good shape.

That visit took longer than we had imagined, so we pedaled right back to the campground to get the car. We gave Anita a ride to the campground in Rome. From there, Lisa called a hotel that was recommended in our "let's Go, Europe" book. She negotiated a room for three for only 80,000 Lira per night. That's only $40 -- and the hotel is located right in the center of Rome. That sounded too good to be true, so she checked and double checked with them.

By then it was dinner time, so we had dinner at the camp before leaving. The dinner was at the restaurant at the camp. It was quite good. In the Italian way, it started with pasta, then had salad, then chicken, then Tiramisu -- DELICIOUS Tiramisu!

Larry drove us into the center of Rome to the hotel. The aggressive Italian drivers drove him nuts, but we made it without any great problems.

We found the Hotel Azzura where Lisa had made a reservation. It is on a very short, very narrow, one-way street off two other narrow, one-way streets. Once we found it, we had to back the car up the street to get to the front door.

We had to park in a handicap zone to unloaded our baggage. It was now dark, it had started to rain, our room was on the third floor, and the elevator was tiny and had three small doors that ALL had to be opened at one time to allow access.

When we got into the room, there were supposed to be one double bed and one single bed. Instead, there were four single beds side by side. But they said they would make two of them into a double bed.

Fine, I said. Make the two on one end or the other into a double bed.

Then we all went down to park the car. (The garage was only 200-300 meters away, but it took about 40 minutes due to the one way streets.) When we returned, the owner was having the maid turn the two center beds into a double.

No, that won't do, we said, whereupon the owner started talking fast in Italian, saying, essentially that it didn't matter - that he wasn't going to change it - that there was only three of us - and what's the difference, anyway. We, and the owner's son, Fabritzio, finally prevailed.

Then Lisa went to finish registering. We got a shock. The owner insisted the rate was 80,000 Lira PER PERSON. A long, sometimes hot, discussion followed. We finally settled on 150,000 Lira per night for the room.

Another tiring day!

Tomorrow? A laid back day.

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/03 Rome, Italy

Hotel Azzurra is a basic, VERY basic, one-star hotel. Bed, bath, dim lights, a TV that we haven't tried and a phone that doesn't work -- and it's located right in the heart of Rome. Actually, it's everything we need -- except, unfortunately, the beds are VERY uncomfortable.

Oh well. That means we'll have to stretch more in the mornings.

Our goals for this day: to find a bike shop where we can get our Shimano Flight Deck computer fixed and get a new front wheel built; to find the leather shop where Lisa bought her best-ever purse 3-years ago when we were in Rome; and to find the bakery in the Jewish Ghetto where we had some SUPERB cheesecake on that visit -- all while we are enjoying the sights and sounds of this wonderful city.

Our first stop was the leather shop. We remembered that it was close to Trevi Fountain, so we headed in that direction. As luck would have it, we walked down the street headed for fountain, and things started looking familiar. Then, we saw it! The very store. Unfortunately, it was closed until 3 p.m. So we resolved to return later.

Next we headed for the Di Rococo Romeo Cycling Shop -- the only one on downtown Rome, we are told. After getting lost several times, we found the shop. Unfortunately, they weren't familiar with the Flight Deck, they didn't have any 40-spoke wheels, and they offered no service. It was only a merchandise sales store.

Next we headed for the Jewish Ghetto in search of the bakery with the WONDERFUL cheesecake. After getting lost several more times, but seeing several beautiful piazzas*, we found the bakery. It, like the leather shop, was closed. So, we vowed to come back tomorrow when we will visit the oldest Synagogue in Europe, just around the corner.

    *(The piazzas included: of course, the Piazza di Trevi, with the beautiful Trevi Fountain; the spectacular Renaissance piazza, Piazza del Campidoglio, with a Michelangelo-designed courtyard and a bronze statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback, and the Torre Campanaria (Renaissance belltower); the Piazza Naverone with it street performers; the Spanish Steps; the Cordonata, the Michelangelo-designed steps leading up Capitoline Hill; and the Piazza Venizia fronting the capitol building with much statuary.)

By the time we left the ghetto area, it was 3:30 and our feet were tired, so we headed back to the leather shop.

They were open. Lisa found another beautiful purse but put off buying it until we could determine how to send it home.

On the way to the hotel, we passed a UPS office. We found that we can send a package large enough for her purse for about $50. Hmmm... seems like a lot, but the purse itself is such a good buy, compared to what you'd pay in the U. S. We'll probably send it tomorrow.

Tonight we had dinner at the Olympia Pizzeria and Restorante. Fabritizio recommended it as moderate priced, good food and popular with the locals. We couldn't agree more. WONDERFUL food, moderate prices, and, by the time we left there was a line of locals extending down the block.

Oh, by the way, you may be wondering why we got lost so much. Let me explain something about the streets in the center of (ancient) Rome. They are mostly short, narrow, one-way streets. They are mostly not straight so you can head North on a street and, before you know it, you are going West. They mostly run from piazza to piazza. And they seldom have the same name for more than a few blocks. On top of that, it was overcast and rainy all day so they was no sun to get a direction reading from.

Hopefully it will be sunny tomorrow when we set out again.

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/04 Rome, Italy

This morning the three of us went to a local "Bar" for breakfast. (A Bar is what we would call a cafe. It has sandwiches, pastries, candy, ice cream, coffee, espresso, and hard liquor. The Italians frequent these for light breakfasts or lunches.) Bars are unlike cafes in another way. You place your order from the standup counter. Then you have another choice -- whether to stand at the counter and enjoy your fare, or to sit at a small table.

What's the difference?

A cover charge. It's free to stand. It costs extra to sit.

We learned that the hard way. We ordered two cappuccino's this evening. The menu price was 2,000 lira each. The shop owner invited us to sit down. We did. The bill was 10,000 lira.

As they say, live and learn.

When we came out, it was raining pretty hard so we got our cycling rain coats and umbrellas. Then we headed for the Jewish Ghetto to visit the synagogue and to see if the bakery (with the wonderful cheesecake) was open today.

The "Sinagoga Maggiore" was open when we arrived. We visited a small museum and then took a tour. I was both awed and appalled by what I learned.

The Jewish community of Rome is the most ancient in Europe. The first Jews arrived in the year 161 BC. Many more followed because of the favorable trading position on the Mediterranean Sea. They brought with them rituals and traditions which are known to this day as the "Italian tradition."

The Roman colonization ended in 70 AD when Emperor Titus destroyed the temple. With that, the Jews fled in two different directions. One group went to the Mediterranean area and are called "Sephardic' (Spanish) Jews, while another group went to Northern Europe and are called "Ashkenazi" (German) Jews. Titus brought a third group as slaves to Rome. The became known as Italian Jews.

The history of Jews in Rome was characterized by discrimination, separation and isolation from the general population. In 1215, the Roman Catholic Church forced the Jews to wear a distinctive device on their clothes.

In 1492, Isabella the Catholic and Ferdinand of Spain expelled the Jews from Spain, Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia. Pope Alexander VI allowed these Jews to live in the Vatican. In 1555, Pope Paul IV decided that the Jews should not be mixed in the general population, so he established the Ghetto in Rome for the Jews.

The ghetto was next to the Tiber River. It was very small, flooded in winter, was walled, and had five gates. Jews were allowed outside the ghetto during the day, so long as they could be recognized as Jews.

The Ghetto was demolished in 1870 after the Unification of Italy. The Jews became Italian citizens until 1938 when the Italian Racial Laws were adopted. During the German occupation (September 1943 to June 1944, 2,091 Jews were deported, mainly to Auschwitz. Only 16 survived.

In 1982, the Synagogue was the object of a terrorist attack. A 2 year old boy was killed. Many others were injured. Since then, the Italian Police has provided security in the form if uniformed guards sporting uzi's and bulletproof vests.

The bakery we found yesterday was open. It looked kind of the same and kind of different so we just weren't sure. We're positive, though, that the cheesecake was not the same. It was not as good and much more expensive. We were disappointed!

Next we walked across the Tiber into the Testevere neighborhood. We had heard there were lots of great restaurants there. It was an interesting neighborhood -- much like neighborhoods in San Francisco and New York.

We opted for a snack in a Bar because Larry was anxious to get back to the room to get caught up on his record keeping, and we wanted to visit the Avantine neighborhood and find the "Keyhole." But on our walk across the Travestere, we found several nice, folksy-looking, neighborhood restaurants.

In the Aventine neighborhood, we found the famous "Keyhole." It's in a big door in the building housing the Order of Malta. When you look through it, you are looking down a tunnel of shrubs that frames the dome of the St. Peters Cathedral. Apparently, these buildings were constructed so that the walls are on radial lines from the dome.

Unfortunately, when I attempted to take a picture looking through the keyhole, the batteries in my camera died.

After that, we were tired of walking, so we took the Rome Metro (subway) back to the Piazzi Berberi and our hotel. The subway is clean, fast, efficient, cheap -- and usually crowded. This time the A Line was just full, while the B Line was packed.

Did I say that our hotel is only a few blocks from the hotel we stayed in three years ago? The nice thing about that is we are somewhat familiar with the neighborhood.

Next a nap, then dinner. We asked Fabritzia for another recommendation. He was really promoting Chinese, but we said no, we didn't come to Rome to find a Chinese restaurant. He recommended a pizzeria close to the Trevi Fountain. It was great!

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/05 Italy, Rome to Assisi

163 kilometers today. Heavy traffic coming out of Rome. (Roman drivers are very macho and very aggressive, so heavy traffic is a concern.) After about 30 Km's, the traffic got lighter and the views became more bucolic. After about 70 Km's, we were riding in beautiful, rolling countryside.

We saw our first castle. It sat on the top of a hill. Of course, we took a picture.

We went through a walled city called San Gemini. It was pretty interesting. We went through the gate and down a narrow street. First we came to a piazzi in front of a large church. Then we went down a VERY narrow street. It was lined with homes and an occasional store.

About 5 p.m. we pulled up to the finish. It was at a hotel run by Franciscan Monks called Hotel Cenacolo Francescano. It is right outside Assisi.

Dinner was at 6 at the hotel, and very delicious it was. Particularly noteworthy was the soup. (Lately we've been on the lookout for good soup.) It had three kinds of beans, peas, onions, carrots and potatoes. Really good!

Larry decided to stay in Rome today and tonight so he would be there in the morning when Joan's flight arrives. They'll catch up with us tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning we'll be leaving early. Did I say that when we told the hotel owner that we would be leaving early in the morning, he wanted us to move out tonight. He said he didn't want us to disturb his other guests. In our book, he'll never win the award for "the host with the most." He was markedly grouchy and unfriendly during our entire stay.

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/06 Assisi, Italy

After a wonderful ride yesterday, Lisa feels like she's on the edge of catching a cold -- so she slept 'til 11:30. (I hung in 'til about 10.)

We walked to town (St. Maria Deglia Angeli) and found a local pizzeria for brunch. Again, we found a wonderful soup. It was their version of minestrone, but it was unlike any other that I have had. It was thick with vegetables and pasta -- and the pasta was al dente!

From there we walked to the local basilica. It was constructed between 1569 and 1679. As we approached, the sun came out. We thought, "maybe we should go up to Assisi now, while the weather is good."

We caught a bus for the ride up the hill. We were there in fifteen minutes. We started the walk through town from the bus stop at the top.

Assisi is a very old, walled city. Most of the significant buildings were constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Our tour started with the Cathedral of St. Rufino. It dates back to 1140. It contains the original baptismal font where both St. Francis and St. Claire were baptized.

Next we visited the Basilica of St. Claire, an example of Italian Gothic architecture that was constructed between 1257-1265. It contains the crypt of St. Claire.

Then we walked over to Roman Temple of Minerva, dating from the 1st century BC Then down to the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, the first cathedral of Assisi.

From there we strolled through the narrow, steep, curvy streets of this quaint little town. We stopped at a bakery and bought some snacks that were "to die for." We visited several small shops looking at jewelry, dresses, watches, souvenirs, candy, etc. We looked up and/or down several really small alleys. We finally ended up at The Basilica of St. Francis -- the main attraction in Assisi.

The basilica complex is composed of two churches built one above the other, with the crypt housing the tomb of St. Francis underneath it all.

The lower basilica dates from 1228-1230 and the upper one from 1230-1253. The crypt was dug in 1818. The Lower Basilica was decorated by the greatest painters of the 13th and 14th centuries: Cimabue, Giotto, the Lorenzetti brothers and Simone Martini. The stained glass windows are especially beautiful.

The upper Basilica is adorned by Giotto's frescos illustrating the life of St. Francis. There are also works by Cimabue, Cavallini and Torriti.

By 5, Lisa was feeling tired, so we caught the bus back to town. We had dinner, then Lisa headed for bed.

I needed to contact Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos to order a replacement front hub. (Our front hub has scarred bearing races because it was not properly lubed when we got it. In fact it was not lubed at all.) Unfortunately there was only one touch-tone phone in the whole two-hotel complex. There was a caller on it when I got there. I waited over an hour for her to get off, then made my call. Bicycle Outfitter will try to have a Phil Woods front hub delivered to us at our next mail stop.

I finally got to join Lisa about 9 o'clock.

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/07 Italy, Assisi to Urbino

109 km's of scenic country riding. Very mountainous (lots of long uphill and lots of great downhill) and very cold (snow on the mountain tops.)

The ride started with a climb of about 10 km's up to Assisi, then continued climbing for another 15 or so. That was, of course, followed by a long, smooth downhill.

The route then went for a long way through a canyon, paralleling the main highway. The "old" road was very curvy and very quiet since most of the traffic was on the main highway.

Finally, the route climbed, and climbed, and climbed until, finally, we reached Urbino.

The group was split between two hotels. Ours was the Hotel Tortorina, a 3-star hotel. Nice room with bath, although the shower is one of the "shower head sticking out of the wall" variety. Also noteworthy is -- no bidet.

There were a few more injuries in the last few days. Dahlia crashed while riding into Rome. She hurt her elbow, smashed her helmet, and broke her clavicle. She is back with us now, but is not riding. She'll probably be off for 4 to 6 weeks.

Tim Mo fell while riding out of Rome. He suffered multiple fractures of his hip and also smashed his helmet. He and his wife, Ann, hoped to be on their way back to the US by today.

Finally, Susan tripped and fell in some gravel while walking around the steep streets of Assisi. She landed on her face. Today, her face looks like something out of a horror movie.

So far, our injuries have been minor -- and we plan to keep them that way.

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/08 Ubino to Firenze (Florence), Italy

We talked with many other riders about the long, hilly ride out to San Mareno. The general consensus is that the out-of-the-way loop through San Marino is only being done so that TK&A can say the Odyssey included 45 countries, rather than 44. We, along with MANY others, decided we'd rather have an extra day in Florence. So, we loaded the bikes on the car and drove directly to Florence.

Before we left, though, we visited the walled city of Urbino. Of course, it's on the top of a hill, as it seems are all walled cities. This one has two unique peculiarities, though. One is a castle that is reputed to be the best preserved in Italy. The other is that nonresidents are not allowed to drive cars either into or in the city.

We walked up into the city. As with all the walled cities so far, we found the narrow cobblestone streets and even narrower cobblestone alleys to be very interesting. You never knew when you would happen upon a store or shop of some kind.

We first walked up streets to what seemed to be the top of the hill. We were at the back of the castle, at a museum entrance. Then we walked around the castle to the front. It was INCREDIBLY imposing, with VERY, VERY HIGH turrets. The face of the front wall of the castle had to be at least twenty stories high. And, as advertised, the castle and all of it's appurtenances are in very good shape.

About 10 a.m. we walked down the hill, out of the walled city, to our car. We hoped in and headed for Florence. We passed dozens of "yellow heads" on their bikes who were also headed for Florence.

Just outside of Florence we stopped at a turista information office. They got us a room in a 2-star hotel, Hotel Arno, located along the Arno River just a few blocks from both the downtown and the TK&A campground.

Joan and Larry dropped us with our bike and luggage at the hotel. They headed to Siena, a town about an hour's drive south that they had visited about three years ago and wanted to spend some more time in.

By the time we checked in and unpacked, it was 5 o'clock. We reviewed the guide book and headed out to dinner. We went to one of the recommended restaurants, Le Colonine, for dinner. Lisa had gnocchi that she said was the best ever. I had Tortellini Ragu -- it was delicious!!! Then we shared a Melanzani (eggplant) Parmesan. That, too, was good.

The only downside to the restaurant was one shared by the whole city -- it was spring break and everyplace was mobbed with students on holiday.

The Hotel Arno is a 2-star, like the one in Rome. However, this one is very nice and has very customer friendly management. The room and bath are very large, clean and pleasant. And, it's only a short walk to TK&A's proposed campground and to the cultural attractions.

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/09 Florence, Italy

Late last night we received a message from the desk that I had left my credit card at the tourist bureau when we booked our hotel room. The bureau representative, Sylvia, had called and said she would be at the tourist bureau office at the train station today if we wanted to pick it up.

So, after our continental breakfast at the hotel, we took a cab to the train station. As promised, Sylvia was there, and I got the card back. It was a pleasant ending to an unpleasant event.

We walked from there, back into town. Our first stop was the Accademia Center where the original Michelangelo statue of David is on display. When we got there, we found a very large group of students with tickets on one side of the door, and on the other side, a ticket line that stretched for at least four long blocks. We decided to come back just before dinner or first thing in the morning.

From there we walked to Cathedral Square. We walked around the "Duomo" or dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the "campanile," Giotto's Bell Tower and the "Battistero," which is the Baptistery of Saint John.

We decided to tour the inside of the Battistero. What a beautiful building! It is built in an octagon, symbolizing the "eighth day" -- the time of the risen Christ, beyond our earthly time measured in units if seven days.

The first baptistry on this site was built in the 5th or early 6th century. It was replaced by the current baptistry starting in the mid-11th century. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the monumental dome and the rectangular apse were added and became an object of civic pride. From the 14th to the 16th centuries, the famous three sets of bronze doors and the marble statuary above them were put in place.

The oldest doors, on the South side, depict the life of John the Baptist. The were fashioned by Andrea Pisano in the 1330's.

Next are the North doors, executed by Lorenzo Ghiberti between 1402 - 1425. They depict the life of Christ.

Last, and most famous, are the East doors. Called the "Gates of Paradise" by Michangelo, they were modeled and cast by Lorenzo Ghiberti between 1425 - 1450. The ten panels depict stories from the Old Testament. They are: 1 Adam and Eve; 2 Cain and Abel; 3 Noah; 4 Abraham; 5 Isaac and his sons, Esau and Jacob; 6 Joseph; 7 Moses; 8 Joshua; 9 David; and 10 Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

The octagonal dome of the baptistry is all done in intricate mosaics. Three of the panels represent Christ and the last judgment. To Christ's right are the souls of the righteous. To His left the souls of the damned in Hell.

The other five panels tell biblical stories of: Saint John the Baptist; Christ; the Patriarch Joseph; and the beginnings of human life, including Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah and his family.

Leaving there, we visited and fully explored the Museo Nazionale in the Bargello. The Bargello is a 13th century fortress that once was a brutal prison that held public executions in it's courtyard. Now the Museo houses a great many art objects, including Donatello's bronze David.

Note that there are many different representations of David done by many different sculptures. And they are done in many different sizes. All of the versions that we saw were in either bronze or marble, and all represented David before, during or after his fight with Goliath. The most famous -- and most copied -- is Michelangelio's marble version.

The Museo also had a great many different suits and helmets of armor. Even when seeing these suits, it is hard to imagine fighting -- or doing anything -- while wearing one.

The same area also displayed many personal weapons of fighting, ranging from the medieval through the ancient into the 18th century. There were many different varieties of knives, swords, long bows, cross bows rifles and handguns. Quite a collection.

When we left the Museo, we were hungry so we looked for a restaurant. As we passed one, Ken popped out the door to invite us to join them. (Ken is from Oakland, his wife Emily is from Long Island. The met on the beach in Hawaii and now live in Portland, Oregon.)

We found out that Ken just got out of a hospital in Rome. He had a prostrate problem (he couldn't urinate for five days) brought on by the excessive time on a bicycle seat. His prostrate had swollen and blocked the urethra. At the hospital he essentially had his urethra and prostate "reamed out" to enlarge the passageway. (Doesn't sound like much fun to me.) He won't be riding again until our return to Europe in June.

Following lunch, we walked down the Via del Calzaiuoli, one of the cities oldest streets, now filled with chic shops. We did some window shopping before arriving at the Piazza Della Signoria.

Right next door is the Palazza Vecchio where we saw a full size replica of Michelangelio's David as well as Ammannato's Neptune. Next to the David is the graceful 14th-century Loggio del Lanzi. Built as a stage for civic orators, it now contains an eclectic collection of sculptures.

Then we walked through the court yard of the Uffizi, originally an office building but now houses more first-class art per square inch than any other museum in the world.

Then we walked to the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), the oldest bridge in Florence, dating from 1345. The bridge had butcheries and tanneries until the 15th century when the Medici's kicked them out and replaced them with goldsmiths and diamond carvers. Now the bridge is full of jewelry shops.

After window shopping, we walked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo where a larger than life size copy of Michelangelio's David stands, looking over the city. As we walked around the piazza, we ran into Hewes on his tandem. (Susan had sagged from checkpoint. Hewes road the tandem solo to the campground. He said it was downhill all the way.) He gave us directions to the campground.

On our way there, we ran into Nancy (as in Arnie and Nancy, another tandem couple) who told us dinner was in town. So we turned around and headed back into town.

Dinner was in the beautiful Villa Borgese, the villa of Napoleon's sister. What a lovely place! After walking through several well-appointed rooms, we came to a dining room. It had several chandeliers, several sculptures (all demurely covered) and wonderful frescos on the ceiling. The dinner was marvelous -- one of the best so far in Italy.

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel in the rain. Yes, the "El Kneeland effect" weather had caught up with us. (We note here that yesterday was beautiful and sunny. Today, TK&A rolled in to town. The morning and all day was overcast -- tonight it rained. That seems to be standard weather so far for the Odyssey.)

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/10 Firenze, Italy

Today our primary goal was to get our hydraulic disk brake system repaired/ replaced. Our second goal was to get laundry done. After that, we'll see.

First thing I called Danielle, owner of the Formula Brake Company. (They are located right outside of Florence.) They agreed to drive over, pick up our bike and the spare brake, repair them, and return them either tonight or first thing in the morning.

Great!

The Formula driver picked me and the tandem up at the hotel, then drove me to the camp to get the spare brake set. Then he dropped me back at the hotel.

Meanwhile, Lisa found out where the neighborhood Lavendaria was so she could do (or have done) our laundry. I caught up with her after she dropped the clothes off, and we headed out walking to explore another part of town.

One interesting thing we noticed: The vast majority of the many bicycles we saw around town were old clunkers. And of course Italy manufactures the best bikes in the world. But the really good bikes are apparently purchased only by "serious" cyclists, not by people just wanting to pedal around town. Compare this to the United States, where everyone seems to always want the BEST, most high-tech, newest version of everything, whether or not they really need it.

Our walk took us to the "Oltrarno" neighborhood. It's South of the Ponte Vecchio. The neighborhood was historically disdained by downtown Florentines -- sort of "the other side of the tracks." With the exception of the area just across the bridge, it looks like a simple, middle class neighborhood. We're told it's more modestly priced than the down town.

However, the exception I mentioned (just across the bridge) is very touristy and quite expensive. Without thinking, we had lunch there. The lunch was VERY, VERY tasty. But it was also the most expensive lunch we've had in Italy. (For the record, though, we had a bean and bread soup that was so good, Lisa said to remind her when we get back so she'll remember to make some.)

We walked around the neighborhood some more, then across the Ponte Vecchio into downtown while we looked for a new note pad for Lisa. (Hers got wet in the last rain we rode in. It's hurting pretty bad.) No luck, though.

Dinner tonight was at the Villa Borgesse again -- and it was another outstanding affair. This time we sat in several dining rooms and were served. Probably the nicest ambiance we've had for dinner so far this year.

Liz (young Elizabeth, from Boston) sat with us for dinner. We learned many interesting things about Liz and her past. We discovered something we all had in common. We all attended college in the Chicago area. Liz attended Wake Forest College, Lisa attended Northwestern University, and I attended University of Illinois at Chicago.

Liz shared with us that she liked to run and that she had found some Teva running sandals in town that were quite expensive. She wasn't sure if she should buy them. We opined that sandals that could be used for running were pretty unusual and that we might also be interested in buying a pair. Could we go with her to the store?

We left the villa about 7:20 to hurry over to the store because most stores closed at 8 o'clock. Unfortunately, this one closed at 7:30, so we missed the opportunity. We'll keep our eyes peeled, though, now that we know they exist.

Leaving there, Liz took a taxi back to camp and we walked back to our hotel. On the way we picked up our laundry. This time everything looked and smelled clean -- and we weren't missing anything.

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/11 Italy - Firenze to Pisa

86 km's today -- and fairly flat. We thought it would be a nice ride, but first, we wanted to see the original of Michelangelio's David.

Larry decided not to ride because he's not feeling well yet. Joan is also not yet over her illness, but she wants to ride -- just not in the city.

With those mindsets, we decided Larry would drive. Lisa and I would go to see the "David," then Larry would drop Joan, Lisa and I at the outskirts of the city to ride to Pisa.

But you know how the best laid plans go. The first thing that happened is the line to get in to the Academia to see the "David" was more than three blocks long. We were in the midst of a group of 91 students from Barcelona who were here on an educational outing. In spite of my befriending one of the teachers and convincing him to let us go in front of his whole group, it took us more than 2 1/2 hours to get in!

I (David) was awe struck when I first saw the David. I had always thought the original would not look much different from the identical copies.

WRONG!

You must realize, however, that the copy that is identical in size and shape is outside in a piazza, exposed to weather, pigeons and tourists, while the original is inside, shiny clean, precisely lighted, and subject only to the flash from cameras. I'm sure that was a major factor contributing to the different appearance.

None the less, I could hardly believe this smoothly shaped, exquisitely detailed, finely balanced piece came from a block of marble. The hands and arms, feet and legs, and head are all very well proportioned to the body.

(Some might say his hands, feet and legs are a bit large. But when I look in the mirror, I don't think so. :-) )

The details of the veins under the skin in the hands and arms, the muscles in the arms and legs, the face, the fingers and toes, even the toe nails, is unbelievable. Even the balance is astounding. David is standing primarily on one foot with only balance provided by the other -- and he LOOKS perfectly balanced.

What a piece of work!!!

I do not regret taking the time to see it.

The next wrench in the works was rain -- it started raining while we were in line. By the time we got back to the car it was late, and it was pouring.

We decided to drive directly to Pisa.

We arrived in Pisa about 4. It was still raining hard. We talked to some soggy Odyssey riders and found out that the gear trucks were not yet in camp. That meant no one had there tent to set up to get out of the rain. Worse yet, no one could get to their dry clothes.

That's pneumonia time in the making.

We found a hotel where we can be warm and dry.

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/12 Italy, Pisa to Levanto (via Lucca)

The ride today is 148 km's. It was overcast and rainy at breakfast at the camp. There were only 35 tents in camp last night. Many, many riders chose to hotel it last night. Many riders are taking a train today rather than ride in the very changeable weather.

We took today one step at a time. First we went to see the leaning tower. It is seven layers high -- about 40 meters-- plus a bell tower. It was constructed in three phases over a period of several centuries.

The first layer was begun in 1173. After three layers, the work was abandoned. A hundred years later construction was resumed. After completing two more layers, engineers noticed the tower was starting to lean. Work was halted.

Almost another hundred years passed before construction resumed again. The builders canted the last layer to make it closer to level on top of the tilting tower. Some time later, the bell tower was added. It, to, was built to be vertical on top of the leaning tower. The adjustments made in the top two layers give the tower a noticeably vertical curve.

The tower has continued to sink at a rate of 1-2 mm's per year more on the South side than on the North, thus increasing the lean over the years. In recent years authorities have been concerned that this national treasure will eventually fall over, so civil engineers have been hired to determine why the continuing lean and how to correct it.

One of the recent attempts was to add weight to the North side. Hundreds of lead bricks weighing thousands of pounds were stacked on the North side of the base. There were two thoughts for doing this. One was simply to equalize the rate of settlement by putting unequal weight on each side. The other was simply to keep the center of gravity of the tower within the footprint of the base. That keeps the tower from falling over of it's own weight.

Currently, two sets of multiple cables, anchored about 100 meters away, act as safety guys. They prevent a sudden toppling of the tower while contractors and engineers work on other fixes. Right now, contractors are trying to stabilize the tower -- with just a little less lean -- by sucking soil out of the firm side and injecting into the soft side.

They say two more years of work before the tower will be stabilized. We'll have to watch and see what else they do.

Next we stopped in the walled city of Lucca. There are several unique things about Lucca. One is that it is COMPLETELY walled -- and it has a bicycle/pedestrian path on top of the entire wall.

Another is that MOST of the streets in the city are closed to motor vehicles. Only pedestrians and bicycles allowed.

A third is the piazza/amphitheater in the center of town. The piazza is shaped like a colliseum with buildings instead of seats around the outside the center area. The buildings all have businesses on the ground floor (opening to both the inside and the outside of the ring) and living quarters on the upper levels.

As we drove North and West along the coast, the weather cleared, the hills got MAJOR steep, and the views got beautiful. We passed many riders really struggling to make it up the hills -- some walking.

Levanto is Patrice's (an Italian volunteer staff member who has been with us through Italy) home town. Her father is a master chef and he prepared supper tonight -- it was DELICIOUS! Lisa really loved the pesto lasagna and a calamari dish describe for me.

Patrice and the Levanto Bicycle Club hosted a party for the Odyssey riders after dinner with music, dancing, wine and talk -- mostly wine and talk. We only stayed for a short while because dark clouds and a storm were moving in.

Love to all,
David and Lisa


04/13 Italy - Levanto to Genova (or Genoa)

What a day this was!

The scheduled ride from Levanto is 106 km's with the first 76 VERY hilly and the last 30 through the heart of the industrial city of Genova.

However, the town of Levanto is a lovely little town on the Italian Riviera, that was established in the late 15th century. It also happens to be the primary kickoff point for visits to the "Cinque Terre" on the Italian Riviera. The Cinque Terre are five, isolated villages that are right on the Mediterranean Sea. They are accessible only three ways. By sea, by foot and by train. Those are also the only ways of traveling from one to another.

After a little walk around Levanto last night, and a little drive through this morning, we decided to take the train to Rio Maggiore, the southernmost of the five villages. Since the five villages are linked by a footpath along the sea, we thought we could then walk to each as we headed back to Levanto.

At Rio Maggiore, we had a light lunch (another DELICIOUS soup and a pizza) before poking around the quaint village. Lisa even bought a new fanny pack that was more to her liking than the one she had. Then we walked (more like strolled) the 1.5 km along a paved, cobblestone path to Manarola, the next village up the coast.

Because the time was fast passing us, we decided we couldn't walk the whole way to all the villages. So, after poking around Manarola, we hopped a train to Monterossa, the northernmost village, with the intent of walking back two cities.

WELL, we were seduced into complacency by that first walk. The walk from Monterossa to Vernazza, the next village south, was a real bear.

It started and ended nice -- with about a half-block of paved, sidewalk-type pathway. But then it turned tough.

The path was mostly muddy trail connecting stone steps. The steps were either cut from the cliff walls, or built with native rock. The steps took us up, up, up and then down, the sides of several heads, where the cliffs rose right out of the sea. The views of the sea, the coast, and the villages was more and more beautiful with each turn.

The trails took us around several cuts where streams rushed, flowed or tickled into the sea. In between we trekked through olive groves and vineyards -- some being tended by the owner as we passed.

The entire hike took us more than two hours. When we got to Vernazzo, we decided it was too late for us to walk to the fifth village, Corniglia, so we decided to catch a train back to Levanto.

We weren't surprised when the train was 20 minutes late. After all -- this IS Italy.

As we were driving out of Levanto, we came across Randy, the only male masseuse. He told us the gear trucks had not left yet because they just found out that they do not have valid Italian insurance, and they can't be on the roads without insurance. That meant, of course, all the riders tents, clothes, medicines and other gear would be in the gear trucks in Levanto when the riders got to Genova. What a bummer! TK&A is really going to have to scramble to solve this problem.

We arrived at the campground outside of Genova about 8 o'clock. The gear trucks were not there, but there were three large busses sitting on the highway outside the camp ground. Most of the riders were either standing around camp or finishing eating in the campground restaurant.

We found out that TK&A was providing rooms in two hotels in Genova for everyone -- either the Holiday Inn or the Sheraton. We ate dinner and then followed a bus to our hotel, the Sheraton.

The Sheraton is a very nice hotel -- but it's another tough hit in TK&A's budget. Oh well . . . .

Love to all, David and Lisa


04/14 Genova, Italy to Mentone, France

The ride today was 144 km's, BUT TK&A still hasn't got insurance for the gear trucks. We heard that the insurance policy covering the trucks while they're in Italy expired and the insurance company declined to renew. So the trucks are still stuck in Levanto, Italy. They have all the TK&A gear, all of the riders' gear, and some of the riders' bikes in them (people who have been sick or injured). Tim K. is scrambling trying to get insurance, arranging for food, and arranging for lodging until the riders can get their tents from the gear trucks.

Meanwhile, with the bad weather and the uncertainty of support, the four of us decided not to ride today. Instead, we hopped in the car and drove straight to Mentone.

Mentone is a beach/resort town on the French Riviera -- about 30 km's from Nice. The campground is on top of a high hill overlooking the beach.

On the way to the campground, we found a very small, 2-Star, hotel, Hotel Christie. We took a kind of two room ?suite? with a lovely, large patio and a beautiful view of the city, the beach, and the Mediterranean Sea.

The ?suite? has two rooms, each with beds, that's true. The ?? part is for the bathroom arrangements. The door to/from the patio enters one room. It has a bed, and it has a toilet around a corner in a short hall -- no door. There are two doors in the room. One leads to an unfinished, exterior area that is full of debris. The other leads to the second room.

The second room also has a bed. Off that room is a toilet room -- with a door-- and a sink and shower room -- without a door.

This setup makes the toilet in the one room, and the shower in the other very public.

We unloaded the bikes, then went to find the campground. There was no sign of yellowheads.

We decided to have lunch, then unload the car. Then Larry and Lisa headed back to San Remo (a border town in Italy) to return the car. I took a nap. Joan composed e-mail messages.

At 6 o'clock, Joan and I decided to walk up to the campground to see what is going on. We found Michelle, one of the TK&A staff masseuses, sitting on a curb at the entrance to the campground. She told us that Karen-Ann was collecting riders at the 140 km place on the route and that they would be bussed to a hotel. She didn't know what hotel, she didn't know how to get to the 140 km spot, and she didn't know if or when she would be picked up.

She DID relate that had not yet been able to get insurance, that staff was cutting the locks off the gear lockers, and that they would, somehow, haul the stuff here for everyone.

With that news, Joan and I left to try to find the pickup point. We went down the stairway that Michelle directed us to. It was a dead-end. We went back up. She pointed to another stairway that she thought might be the right one. Wrong again. We asked a camper. He directed us to another stairway. That one led down the hill.

We wandered around a bit to no avail. We found nothing. As we were standing on a corner wondering which way to go next, Lisa and Larry came walking down from the train station. They had just returned from San Remo and were headed to our hotel.

We joined forces to continue the search for the pick-up point. After getting a clue from Ken Anderson (who was driving by) we found the pick-up point with Tim, Karen-Ann, Brit-Simone, other staff, a bus load of riders and s truck load of cycles.

It turned out, TK&A was bussing everyone to two hotels in Nice because he couldn't find any other lodging. He got a total of 140 rooms, each with one double bed. Unmatched pairs would have to figure out suitable sleeping arrangements.

One hotel will serve dinner about 8:30 (it was about 8 o'clock when their bus left), the other will not. Riders in that hotel will have to get their own dinner. TK&A will "try to find a way" to give them credit for their dinner expense.

Meanwhile, all the gear and all the bikes will be delivered to one of the hotels -- probably early tomorrow morning. Riders in the other hotel will have to find a way to pick up their gear and bikes. (The hotels are "only" 3-4 miles apart.) "Maybe you can take a taxi or something," Tim said.

What an adventure! I wonder what new and wonderous things will come up tomorrow?

Love to all, David and Lisa


Previous | Next


Comments or questions about the web page? Contact Douglas Valkenaar