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di Camerota to Paestum
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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