Archive for September 2009

 
 

30 Day Break-Away

An impromptu book exchange. A lone paperback discarded among the pulp magazines in a shallow leaf shaped wicker bowl. In English with heavily worn borders and a distressed, much opened spine. Paul Theroux; The Pillars of Hercules, A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean. Treasure Island takes its place. A timely trade.

Eight pages in and I have laughed out loud as many times. In some ways I am glad I knew of neither the author nor the book. This is an unexpected, surprising, and amazing find. His style, in many ways, is similar to what I strive for in mine. At least in the coverage of my travels. Mine are merely entries rather than his complete chapters. But, I found the flow of words, their meter and associations, familiar and engaging. They grasp me, sweeping me along.

His is a larger enterprise. From the Rock of Gibralter to Ceuta in Morocco. The long way. Not across the straight, connecting the ocean to the sea. A tour of the entire Mediterranean coast. North, east, and south. A vivid portrayal of the lands and cultures encountered. Of people and of food.

And at last. I finally remembered to take a picture of the Break-Away split in half and saving me money on the train. This level of disassembly takes no more than 30-45 seconds. One pinch bolt, three cable connectors, and the quick release on the front wheel. And a good 15 seconds of that is the front wheel due to the lawyer tabs. Lawyer tabs that will get introduced to a metal file when I get back.


2009-09-29a

A Day of Work

Not tons to write about unless I write about writing. A day spent creating entries. Recording words, editing photos, uploading videos. A day of catching up. Not enough space or bandwidth for my full set of films. Maybe I will add them at some point in the future.

Today I wore out my brain rather than my legs. Posted to the present. Aperitif, then, dinner, followed by a lamp lit walk. A bottle of white wine from foot squished grapes. Cultivated and produced within the neighboring town.

Lounging on the porch of the Tric Trac. A family affair. Owned by the grandfather, run by the son. The grandson being too young at nine. And too busy defending his title of regional age based road bike champion.

The bottle is done. A stroll along the foot of the citadel walls. To the aqueduct bridge basking in the incandescent flood. Fading into shadow before reaching the distant terminus.

Tomorrow is back to Rome. A final day in Italy. The trip is almost over. The month is nearly gone.

Spoleto

Another medieval town. Another fortress on a hill. Everyone living in these towns must have amazing calves. Continuous stair repeats.

A walk in the morning. Up to the citadel. Past the Cathedral of Santa Maria dell’ Assunta. Nearly every shop window advertises the Festival dei Due Mondi. An summer music and opera festival that has occurred every year since 1958.

The weather is perfect. Perfect for a ride. Across the Roman aqueduct, now a foot bridge. 3-4 inches deep with gravel. I am forced to walk the bike across. Trying to not let the loose rocks into my socks and shoes.

Finally, up a local mountain and back down. An out and back. A quick ride to even out the legs. I have not been stretching enough. My IT Bands are too tight and my knees have begun to develop a little jig at the top of my pedal stroke. Only one person to blame for that.



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Just in time to shower and catch a local historic parade. Colorful flags and tights. Drums and horns. One march followed by another. The first in fancy clothes. The second fielding fancy cameras.



A delicious multi-course dinner. A large green salad with tomatoes and shredded carrots. A plate of pasta. The noodles hand made at restaurant. With a square cross section. Bathed in a sweet tomato sauce and fresh basil. To which a add a generous helping of finely grated parmesan cheese. Then the thin pork chops in a fresh gravy, topped with sliced local greens. Almost full. Just enough room for the tiramisu.

On The Way To Umbria

We leave the Island of Elba behind us and ferry our way back across the Tyrrhenian into Piombino. We are headed into the Umbria region of Italy. An area less traveled, at least by Americans. An area overlooked relative to Tuscany.

An afternoon of trains. A layover in Rome. At 8:30pm we pull into the Spoleto station. A long staircase to dinner and then a bed.

Circumnavigating the Isla d’ Elba

A room with a view. 200 meters from the surf. You can hear it push on the beach. Moving the white stones with its perpetual motion. From my vantage point, it is out of sight, hidden by the wooded slope. A sea of green against another of blue. The cliff face to my left is just begining to collect the rays of the early rising sun.

Elba is not a huge island. Mearly 28km long and at most, 19km across at its widest. This small land mass is still able to produce varied terrains and differentiated climates. The cental and eastern sections are the remnants of a collapsed Apennine wall most now submerged benieth the sea. The western sections built by volcanic activity.

This was the island of Nepoleon, or at least one of them. A forced vacation. Not such a bad place to be exiled.

Today I will try to explore the majority of the coastline with someforrays into the interior. Not all of the edge is accessable. At least not by paved road. Many parts of the island are national parkland.



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West. A counter clockwise approach. An endless view across the Tyrrhenian Sea. Limestone cliffs hiding small coves. Some dedicated to sun bathers, others to small boats. Some find sand with multi-colored umbrellas, others with long polished stones. Many with additional man made surf brakes of stone and cement. Extending the lines of protection already provided by the arms of the land. Small open hulled fishing boats motor past ankored sail boats as they work their way towards the open sea. In search of fish and squid.

Up over the ridges and then down into the port towns. As I swing up, I swing in. And then returns to the towns and the water. This stretch is heavily forested. Thick with trees and shade. The water is calm. Sapphire. Good for a dip, but useless for surfing.

As I round the western point, the wind begins to pick up from the east. The trees thin and the land begins too look less like a mediteraininan forest and more like west Texas. The climate here seems much more arid. More scrub and rock. The trees are more spindlie and the view is more open. But that also means I am more exposed. To the sun and the breeze. The mountains running east-west along the spine of the land must play a larger roll in rainfall than I would have guessed.

Lizards sun themselves on the road and rocks. Scurrying away from my approach. Other cyclists are actually on the road today. A split between roadies and triathletes (the first I have seen this trip). Many Germans, Elba being one of their preferred Italian getaways. And they wave as I pass. I nice change from the Italian road stoicism.

As the southern coast disappears behind me, I move further inland to reach the northeastern peninsula. To reach Cavo. An old mining town and it shows. The hills are bare in places. And eroding. The ochre slopes disintegrating, from past abuse and current lack of use. Rusty gantries, unrepairable, make their last stand against the test of time. The beach is unable to escape from a similar mood. It languishes unused, and from the look of it, unloved. Unclean.

I only stop long enough to refill my water bottle and turn on to small roads to make my way through the interior of the Parco Nazionale dell’ Archipelego Tuscano. Through Rio nell’ Elba and then up the ridge past Volterraio.



The rest is a winding descent down into the valley basin. No additional climbing, but a constant headwind off of the water. The sea. Releasing absorbed warmth from the day. A exhalation, reducing both of our energy reserves.