Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Italian Job - Tuscany

Sorry for the silence here for the last few days. My internet access in Tuscany was, well, not great. However, Tuscany and my bike ride through its hills are definitely the subject of this post.

I woke a little before 7:00 on Tuesday morning anxious to get the ride done early both to beat the heat as well as leave the rest of the day open for sight-seeing.

Prior to the trip, it had been my hope to rent a bike from a local shop and have them deliver it to the farm where we were staying. Unfortunately, that shop and nearly every other in the area did not have anything available. However, the place I was staying did have a handful of mountain bikes and I figured I'd use on of those.

They were, ahem, not exactly top of the line. As I went through them, I found misaligned brakes, flat tires and a thin layer of dust suggesting they were not often used. I finally settled on something called a "Montanna" and managed to re-inflate its tires using a compressor that was fortunately, fully charged.

So off I went down the little two lane highway, early in the morning. The bike actualy performed pretty well and as I hit the first hill, I was pleased to see it actually was geared pretty well for the climb. I got this shot as I approached the top of the first hill:

Most of Tuscany, or at least the area I was in, looks a lot like this. It's just as picturesque as you see on television or in movies. On I went and the landscape continued to be stunning:

I do wish I had been on a better bike, but that would not have changed the amazingthings I was seeing. I rode through a little town made up of stone houses and right out of central casting was an old woman sweeping her sidewalk with a broom that looked like it belonged in the eighteenth or nineteenth century.

I saw vineyards, and little hamlets built on hills with their church spires standing out distinctly over the tile roofs of the rest of the village. It was truly amazing and I can see why one might want to come here and do a biking vacation.

So you may ask where are the pictures of these things. Well about that...

When we arrived in Siena and then Monteroni d'Arbia (the town where we were staying) I was pretty worn out. I went to bed Monday night early and didn't think about the needs of a long ride. As I result, I got up in the morning and had only some orange juice, water and a few cream wafer cookies to fuel the ride. Not exactly a sound nutrition plan.

So, naturally, I bonked. That combined with my Garmin behaving less than ideally. It had me going down some roads that were not paved and even on a mountain bike, I was less than thrilled with them. So I stayed on the paved roads and that got me a little off track. I was fortunate to have my iPhone and the Google Maps app to help me navigate my way back to Monteroni D'Arbia. However, as I dealt with these challenges, photography sort of went by the wayside.

Ultimately, if you want to have the kind of experience I did, you should really see it for yourself. A good photograph is nothing compared to the sights, sounds and smells (the fertilize a lot of the fields with cow manure) you get on the ride.

For reasons I don't understand, my Garmin decided to use my running footpod rather than the satellite for the first part of the ride until I stopped and corrected it. Imagine a line connecting the start and stop icons and you get an idea of the full loop.

If you go to the details, you'll see what I mean about the hills as well. Some of them were 15% grade according to the road signs!

I'm in my hotel room in Venice as I write this getting ready for our first full day here. I'm planning on doing a run tomorrow after I get the lay of the land. If I'm able, I'd like to bring the camera along for that since, again, the scenery here is nothing short of magnificent. Until then....

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