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Italy


DAY 89

Marina di Camerota to Paestum

This was another spectacular day in Italy, perfect for bicycling, and the route along the coast was beautiful. But again I was sagging, still miserable with a cold and sore ribs. Another rider, Alan, offered to take one sagger in his rented car and the opportunity fell to me. It was sure to be a more pleasant drive than in a sag vehicle so I was pleased to go. Alan was driving and I was navigating, reading the directions from the DRG. We made it into camp in a couple of hours, but not before Trueheart! Of course he had left camp earlier than we did, but he was on a bike for goodness sakes. Every ride is race training for him, he is always first into camp, sometimes hours before anyone else.  Alan and I stopped only at Checkpoint so that I could sign in because Alan was in a hurry to do his laundry and get it hung to dry. I was sorry at all the wonderful photo opportunities I was missing but Alan said he had given up his original goal of one photo a day and didnít stop even once.

There was nothing to do in camp and eventually I took a nap in the sun awakening to find ants tickling me and riders arriving. Everyone was ecstatic about what a wonderful ride it had been. When the gear trucks arrived we all scurried to pitch our tents on a carefully chosen grassy spot in the sun without too many ants, and to take a shower before the hot water was gone. I just made it, my shower was lukewarm. My tent is pitched in an optimal spot, the beach only yards away, so again the waves will lull me to sleep.

Next I should have taken my bike to the mechanic to get the shifting adjusted. I had test ridden it last night for the first time since having the new chain installed and found that it would not shift on to the middle ring in the front which is the one I normally use the most.

But instead I gave into my curiosity about an ancient ruin near here, Paestum. Now that I have seen it I wonder how it could be that I had never known of it. Gudrun and Joan S. were walking to the ruins and invited me to go along so I gave up the idea of getting my bike fixed and went with them. It was really too far to walk in the time we had so Joan thumbed a ride  for all us and it was a good thing she did because it gave us enough time to wander through Paestum and to briefly visit the museum. We learned that the Greeks colonized and built Paestum beginning in 720 B.C. and they called it Poseidonia. There are three magnificent Doric temples still standing or that have been put back together that rival any Roman ruins anywhere. The ruins of the ampitheatre, the forum, the gymnasium, and homes cover many acres.  There is a swimming pool with a underwater labryinth to make the swimming fun. Poseidonia quickly became famous for it beauty and richness which led to itís downfall because the Lucans, Italic inland people, conquered and occupied it in about 400 B.C. They changed the name to Paistom. Later the Romans enriched the city with many large buildings. It is well worth a visit.

Ciao! Alice

DAY 90

Paestum to Pompei  

Another gorgeous day in Italy but this time I was riding! I had decided the night before that I would at least  start the ride, I could always quit if I needed to. It took me forever to get ready, I seemed disorganized after all those days of sagging. I had to wait in line for the mechanic too. I was nearly the last one out of camp but it felt good to be on the road again. The DRG led us right through the ruins of Paestum and there I passed other riders who were stopping to tour the ruins. I felt better knowing others would be bringing up the rear.

For some time the ride was through flat farming country. One of the major crops in the region is the artichoke. I passed a vendor who was roasting artichokes over a charcoal fire but I wasnít tempted to stop to buy one. I had tried the roasted corn in Swaziland and loved it, but eating a charred artichoke didnít appeal to me just then. The roadside farm stands were selling artichokes, lettuce, strawberries, oranges and lemons. Some  lemons are the size of grapefruit!  

Soon the gardens and greenhouses were left behind and we rode along the Amalfi Coast. It is a beautiful coastline and I got to ride along it for hours. There was a good mix of climbing and descents, many tight curves, and lots of traffic. It isnít tourist season yet but huge busses full of tourists were thick on the road. At some points a bus needed the entire width of the road to get around a curve. Vehicles approaching from the opposite direction had to back up to give the bus enough space to make the curve. Italian drivers in general allow room for a bicycle if it is side by side with the auto, but they also cut right in front and stop suddenly. Drivers open their car doors and step out without looking for bikes, pedestrians will step off the curb directly in front of a bicycle. But on the Amalfi Coast road there were no problems for cyclists, in fact we watched Italian cyclists training on the road. The road is so narrow and congested and the pull-off opportunities so few that doing that road on a bicycle is probably the best way.

The hillsides on the Amalfi coast are very steep yet houses, hotels, and restaurants are built all along it, clinging to the cliff sides. Where there arenít buildings there are terraces planted with orange and lemon trees. What a difficult job it must be to work on those narrow terraces. These tiny groves of trees were covered with green nets, but I donít know why. Perhaps there is a flying insect or a bird that damages citrus fruit. What amazed me was that with so many orange groves on easier to cultivate land, that it would be profitable to farm the small terraces. Italian oranges are delicious and weíve all been eating them at every opportunity.

Before leaving camp in the morning I had had the mechanic adjust the gears so that they would work properly. But on the first good climb I found that I could not use the smallest chainring in front, the granny gears, because the chain kept slipping from one gear into another. I knew I would not be able to climb the steep hills sure to come that day so I began to watch for a TK&A mechanic. I hadnít seen one yet when I came across Paula, one of the volunteers, with a sag vehicle. Her advice was to wait there for a sag to come by that could give me a lift to a mechanic, but as one never did, she eventually gave me a ride herself. It was very stressful for her to drive that big 9 passenger van on that narrow twisting road. With my bicycle dangling from a rack in front, the van seemed as wide as a bus. I would have been terrified. But she drove skillfully and successfully. We found a mechanic at Checkpoint and I had my gears adjusted once again. This was the third time since getting the new chain and you know what they say, the third timeís a charm! And it was, it worked! After a lunch of Italian bread, cheese, and fruit, I was happily on my way again but poor Paula had to drive back the way we had come looking for other cyclists in need. Our volunteers work long hours and have hard assignments and as the word volunteer suggests, all without pay. This trip would not exist without them. I think every rider tries to express appreciation as often as possible.

Late in the afternoon I had to stop with a line of cars to wait for road construction. Another rider, Ron of New Zealand, waited there too. When it was our turn to go we were directed to ride on the newly poured asphalt which flew up tarring our legs as we rode and made a lot of noise as the flying tar hit the fenders. I was afraid I knew what was happening to my tires and stopped as soon as I could once through that stretch. Sure enough there was a thick, black, chunky coating of asphalt sticking to the tires. Ron had the same problem. His tires were so thickly coated they stuck inside the fenders! So we set to work scraping the tar off the tires. I used the bottle opener in my Alien bicycle tool kit and it worked fairly well but it was a long hard job. How far is it around a bicycle wheel anyway? I was grateful to be wearing cycling gloves or Iíd have worn a blister on my finger. As we worked dozens of other riders passed. Some had had to ride on the sticky side and stopped to scrape their tires but the  luckier riders just expressed their sympathy and rode on.

Bicycling through the city of Sorrento was not going to be easy. There were many turns in our route, few street signs, and heavy traffic. It is hard if not impossible for some of us to read the DRG and watch out for everything else at the same time. I had the good luck to follow an excellent group of young riders, Susan, Diane, and Natalie through the city. It was a treat to watch the skill and ease with which they rode, signaling every threat to a bicycle such as holes, drains, glass and backing cars yet maintaining perfect control, never getting lost and keeping a good pace. We only stopped once or twice to confer about a turn whereas if Iíd been alone, I would have had to stop every couple of minutes and probably would have had to ask passersby for help. Those young riders graciously included me in their group for the rest of the ride into camp in Pompei so I made it in easily and in time to pitch my tent and have dinner. I was lucky. At 6 p.m. there were still 60 riders that hadnít come in and the volunteers like Paula had to be out there trying to find them.

We camped in the Spartacus Campground, just across the street from the entrance to the ruins of old Pompei. Most of the riders had come in too late to be able to visit the ruins. Many including myself were making plans to do so the next day.

Ciao! Alice


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