For Australian Cyclists travelling and touring OS
Tuesday 13 October 2009
Iâ€™m a pretty excitable person. But I guess most of you already knew that. After 12pm we have a rule in our house that we donâ€™t go near caffeine. Essentially we donâ€™t need it to maintain a high. For some reason we broke that rule last night and combined with learning how the complimentary coffee machine in the hotel works I ended up with a triple shot macchiato. So I really got no sleep. Instead I was a bit giggly and very talkative. Giggly fair enough, but me talkative? Thereâ€™s a turn up.
Being a rest day it was OK because it made for a very relaxed time around Venice indeed. Weâ€™ve decided that Venice really isnâ€™t for us. It tries hard to look good, but really itâ€™s a dirty smelly over-priced place full of crooks. There might be some gross generalisations in there but you get what I mean. We knew what we were in for with a gondola ride and Shaz did fantastically well to negotiate a 40 minutes tour for 80 Euro. This is essentially the base rate that any operator can accept based on set rates by the Venice council. Most try to charge much much more initially. And our tour lasted for 48 minutes so we were lucky.
What we didnâ€™t expect was the cost of going to the toilet. You wouldnâ€™t want to be a serial squatter at 1.50 Euro per go. Thatâ€™s about $2.60 just to go to the dunny. Talk about extortion. So we got the feel that Venice is really like side show alley at the circus or the show. Probably worth a look, but not somewhere youâ€™d go on holiday every year.
After our gondola ride, walk around, ice cream and window shopping we hopped on the bikes and came back to Mestre for a late lunch of lasagne, pizza and bread. It was nice. We feel now that we just need to have a spaghetti bolognese soon and weâ€™ll have covered the Italian basics. Shame really that I havenâ€™t managed the language basics yet.
Also got a message from Jasmine at home kindly emailed by Lisa which read:
Dear mum and dad
I hope you are having a very nice time and I hope that you are very good ride too.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning
What is different to at home here .
What are some of the funny things that have happened .
I love you and want to give you a big squeezy hug
We miss our Jootz.. But at the same time we know she is being very well looked after and we are enjoying ourselves. Canâ€™t have everything.
20km today. 138km planned for tomorrow to get us to Ravenna. Will hopefully be an early start.
Also, both Garmins have stopped working so we might not be able to accurately record pace and distance from this point on which really really annoys us. We have a saying in our house that if it aint recorded on the Garmin then it never happened. I figure the next, and final 800km or so, is going to be pretty hard work for â€˜never happenedâ€™ ïŒ
Total km so far (21 days) = 1933.
Our gondola man:
I'm a runner, but I sure love to ride!
Wednesday 14 October 2009
I think I complained about the weather people in Germany, and if itâ€™s not over the top then Iâ€™d like to complain about those in Italy too. We checked the weather very carefully last night as we needed to pay in advance of our accomodation in Ravenna if we were to take it. Weather suggested wind out of the North-East and some cloud cover but no rain. This was at both ends, Venice and Ravenna. So we werenâ€™t surprised when we covered about 27 km in the first hour doing it easy.
But then something went wrong and the wind strengthened and came at us from directly over the ocean out odf the east. A cross wind is a hurting wind as all cyclists know. Then shortly after that, as the wind strengthened further it started coming at us from the SE â€“ we cycling almost directly South. Not happy. Not happy at all really.
So we each took 10 minutes turns at the front and pushed on. We worked much harder today as weâ€™ve left Grossglockner behind us and so thereâ€™s no need to keep the legs fresh. 10 minute stints as opposed to 5km as well which is our usual strategy as the Garmin is on shaky ground. I jury rigged it to a portable battery pack that I have and it got us through today, but it was not in a visible spot and I dared not touch it for fear of it going off. Again. Plus we donâ€™t seem to have the cable that allows the battery pack to be recharged, so Iâ€™ll have to find one or tomorrow we might not have enough power to collect another daysâ€™ data. Oh dear.
In the end the Garmin registered 137.27km at an average pace of 26.1 k/h. Weâ€™d have been much better than this at the intensity we rode if the wind had of helped rather than hindered.
No photoâ€™s today as to be honest there isnâ€™t a lot worth photographing. I wanted to write that Italy is a dirty, unkempt place that looks like itâ€™s being neglected and that the people here couldnâ€™t care less about it, but Shaz suggested the diplomatic angle. Hence, from what weâ€™ve seen so far, Italy isnâ€™t as beautiful and well presented as Austria, but the people seem to be nice!
We donâ€™t have internet in our hotel at all here in Ravenna, so if youâ€™re getting this near the usual time then Iâ€™ve gone out and found a free WiFi spot somewhere. Otherwise youâ€™ve received it late! What we do have though is running water so I can shave and shower. Yay. And well done Shaz this morning getting half priced accomodation because of having no water.
Tomorrow, somewhere further down the coast. Will start looking for â€˜cameraâ€™ about the town of Fano which is 110km or so.
Total km so far (22 days) = 2070 (nice to cross 2k).
I'm a runner, but I sure love to ride!
Thursday 15 October 2009
Never got a chance to check the weather forcast for today as I didnâ€™t have any internet access last night. The only reason I managed to send my email to you all was because I was out â€˜fishingâ€™ in the general community for unsecured WiFi for about 1.5 hours. Was probably a funny sight to most, what me with on the bike and an open lap-top stopping in stealth next to a building about every 100 metres or so. Managed to find quite a few hot spots though, but none of them seemed to want to connect. Eventually got there and got my stuff done with about 2 minutes of battery power left. Ah, the things we do!
Tonight is fantastic though. For the first time this whole trip weâ€™ve got 5-bar WiFi connection. Thatâ€™s the best there is and Iâ€™m wondering if the modem for the entire hotel is hidden under our bed or something!
Weâ€™re in Peasaro incidentally and covered a distance of 117km today. At least I think thatâ€™s how far we went. I got my Garmin going at the start jury-rigged to the portable battery pack still, but seeing as the battery pack was nearly run down we didnâ€™t get too far before it gave up and switched off. Exactly where this happened we donâ€™t know. Anyway, we thought weâ€™d test our luck and so connected Sharonâ€™s Garmin to the now empty battery pack so at least the Garmin could be in the cradle. Hey presto it worked and stayed working until we arrived here in Pescaro. Combined distances of the Garmins (99km + 14km), plus a little interpolation to figure out the missing distance (4km) and hey-presto weâ€™ve got 117km today.
For those that have been around so long, it was almost smack on 20 years ago that I first fell in love. Then, it was with a girl named Sharon and on November 1st weâ€™ll have been together for 20 years. Married 13 years on November 16th incidentally. Yeah yeah less time for murder. She knows.
Anyway, today I think I fell in love again. Itâ€™s been so long Iâ€™m not really sure what it feels like now, but we came across a Decathlon store. Basically a whopping big department store, but for sports stuff. And I mean big. Think Big W on steroids. Oh yeah. Oooooh Yeeeaaah. OK, calm down. So we managed to get some Co2 canisters and best of all we managed to get a new battery for Sharonâ€™s HR strap and a rechargable battery pack similar to the one weâ€™re carrying (that doesnâ€™t have itâ€™s PC connector). Anyway, Iâ€™m optomistic that tomorrow weâ€™ll have 2 working Garmins. Sharonâ€™s properly working, mine working jury rigged to the new battery pack. Iâ€™ll sleep easy tonight knowing that tomorrowsâ€™ ride will â€˜countâ€™.
Italy has taken a step forward in the beauty stakes too. Weâ€™re actually right near a really nice beach at Pesaro and some of the smaller towns we visited (you can translate â€˜visitedâ€™ to got lost and did a few circles at dead end main-ish roads near the coast and had to turn around) along the way. With about 60km of road right on the coast to get us started tomorrow weâ€™re hopeful of a bit more decent scenery too.
OK, back to the weather. Which was awful. 8 degrees when we left Ravenna at 8:45am and never got above 15. Generally cloudy and wind that swirled in what seemed every direction but from behind. At times the wind was strong and cold too as it came at us off the coast. A few spits of rain as well, but never enough to get us wet. So not ideal, but still we could have had it much worse.
Tomorrow weâ€™ll head further down the coast and see where we end up. Weâ€™re a bit tired because we pushed fairly hard again today. We were over 26 k/h for most of the day until we struck a decent hill that took us up about 150m just before Pesaro. Shaz was pretty tired by then so we went very slow. We lost more average pace as we circumnavigated Pesaro a few times trying to work out where the heck the â€˜Centroâ€™ was. We eventually got that bit, but then found that the information centre was over by the forshore. Got there and it was closed. Ugh. Anyway. Shaz then rocks into this hotel, asks the price (which is 76 Euro) and tells them she only has 60. They tell her thatâ€™s fine. And with the best WiFi connection man has ever seen. Go Shaz.
Average pace in the end today â€“ from what we can gather from the 2 garmins and the interpolated bit, was 25.3 k/h. Still not too shabby.
Photo today is of Pesaro foreshore. And of Shaz enjoying dinner last night.
Total km so far (23 days) = 2187
I'm a runner, but I sure love to ride!
Friday 16 October 2009
Bidets. I just donâ€™t get it. And half the time you donâ€™t even get toilet paper until you ask for it. â€˜nuff said.
And though Iâ€™m no coffee connoisseur, Iâ€™ve figured out that in Italy you donâ€™t go the lazy way and ask for a â€˜latteâ€™. A latte is hot milk and has no coffee. So, when in Australia, ask for your latte and no worries youâ€™ll get hot coffee made with all milk (pretty much), but here in Italy make sure you add the â€˜cafÃ©â€™ to the front. â€˜nuff said.
When we left Pesaro today it was raining quite heavily. It rained most of the night too. Fortunately we could see fluffy white clouds in the distant South and the odd patch of blue sky so we were optomistic about the weather being nice as we sojournjed South. And a sojourn it had to be today as Shaz was whining at me about going too hard the last couple of days. Women. Yeah, less for murder. I know this as well.
Someone forgot to tell the reasonably strong northerly about our weather predictions though and so the storm seemed to follow us for a fair way. We skipped along at a tidy pace though and eventually did out-run the bad weather and arrive in, albeit quite cool, sunshine and white clouds.
We had a lunch-time stop at a little place called Sirolo. We were meant to stop for a coffee in Ancona, but I missed the turn to the â€˜portoâ€™. Actually, that was the second time that I missed a turn today, the first time resulting in a 100m hill climb on the SS16 road heading into Ancona. Shaz was not at all pleased with this. Ancona incidentally, set on the side of a hill, was an ally of Rome against the Gauls and the Samnites, until in 276 BC it became a Roman colony. So there you go. And sorry Roger, but this did not come from wikipedia.
So in Sirolo we had a nice coffee. An americano apparently which comes out as an espresso in a big cup accompanied by a tea-pot of hot water and a small jug of milk. All of thatâ€™s OK except the name, as there is a distinct dislike of Americans here in Italy. Or so it seems to us anyway. What a shame!
OK, coffee was at 1pm, so Iâ€™m good for a sleep tonight. And after the coffee we had an icecream. 4 scoops and cream swirled on top in a very large waffle cone. Each that is. It really was good ice cream too and I took a photo of the range. The guy that served us was a fit, young, middle aged Italian Stallion with the black jeans and top, big black belt and slick hair. Clearly a showman and entertainer and ideally suited to the cafÃ©/bar that was his. We liked him. And Shaz, with limited ability to speak Italian managed to laugh, carouse and smile her way to an additional scoop of ice-cream and reduced-priced coffee. Sheesh.
After our break there and finalisation of hill climbing for the day (about 600m in total with great views out over the ocean) we linked up with an old-ish guy riding a very well looked after bike. His pace matched ours nicely and so we finished the last 20-odd kilometers with him for the day. He knew not a scrap of English so once again it was hard to communicate. His bike did the talking though with a highly polished mix of campagnolo record, Shimano dura ace and 105 gear attached. Bike was a few years old by the look (16 speed and a lot of steel) but presented really well.
Hotel room for tonight in Civitanove Marche is nice. Nothing special, but good enough for us. Tomorrow we do our last day down the coast and finish just near Pescara. Then itâ€™s over the hills and on to Roma. At this stage weâ€™re planning on visiting the colloseum and will also look for some other touristy things to do for a few final days of rest.
Todayâ€™s kmâ€™s were 113.7 at 26.3 k/h. We canâ€™t make 3000km now for the trip, but will get deep into the 2000â€™s by the time weâ€™re done. Weâ€™re currently toying with the idea of doing a 200km day after we get to Rome. Just because we can. And we can leave all our luggage at the hotel which would be nice. Will probably depend on weather and whether or not weâ€™d prefer to sit at the Villa Borghese eating spaghetti and sipping wine or flogging our guts out pedalling down the road. Hmm.
And finally, after about 3000km (since they were last serviced, and 10,000km total in Sharonâ€™s case and 8,000km+ in mine) the bikes are starting to play up a bit. Rob we need you! I seem to be slipping gears when climbing or applying significant power and Shaz is crunching and grinding from mis-alignment in the rear (of her bike). I have also developed a clunk in the bottom bracket, so youâ€™ll need to have a good selection of tools at the ready shortly after we get back. And we have done the right thing keeping the bikes clean and well lubed.
Total km so far (24 days) = 2301
I'm a runner, but I sure love to ride!
Saturday 17 October 2009
Itâ€™s kind of nice that Iâ€™m sitting here at the table in our suite overlooking the Adriatic Sea considering that itâ€™s our last day cycling down the coast. The suite, incidentally, is enormous. Lounge room, dining area, kitchenette, bathroom, main bedroom and enough cupboard space for Imelda Marcoâ€™s shoes. Or Sharonâ€™s runners I suppose.
The sea is a bit rough and itâ€™s no surprise after the weather we have again experienced today. Pouring rain early, then overcast but drying late in the ride. We finished wet, but not saturated and we even had the chance to give the bikes a quick wash at the car wash just prior to the end. Rob, I promise that itâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve pressure sprayed them in over 3000km!
The roads here in Italy, from what weâ€™ve experienced are just ghastly. The SS16, a road the equivalent to any main road in Australia one notch below the motorways is, I reckon, worse that the Appian Way built in 312BC. Well, it was started then by Appius Claudius Caecus anyway. And yes Roger, I got that from Wikipedia. The Romans may have improved in some areas since that time, but road building doesnâ€™t appear to be one of them.
And what is it about wet weather that brings out the worst in motorists? Todayâ€™s 100km was like a game of Russian Roulette. About 80km of that total was through urban and semi-urban communities along the coast and the drivers seem to have rules of their own paying very little, and at times, no heed to the needs of cyclists. I assume I understand the â€˜properâ€™ road rules here fairly well as most motorists are normally predictable and do, again what I assume, is the right thing. But still there are too many that create issues. Hopefully tomorrow, leaving the busy coast, we will have better luck in the hills.
Also, weâ€™re a bit peeved with the weight we had to carry today. Being Saturday we thought it prudent to do a â€˜bigâ€™ shop last night for fear of everything being shut like in Germany and Austria. But alas we passed about 20 open supermarkets along the way today, so the extra 6 or 7kg of food and drink we had on board might have been avoided.
The photo here is the view over the pool, tennis court and out to the Adriatic sea from our balcony.
Total km so far (25 days) = 2401
I'm a runner, but I sure love to ride!
Sunday 18 October 2009
Without getting too dramatic, today feels like one of those days that weâ€™ll remember for the rest of our lives. Not all the specifics of course, but the bone numbing cold and riding in snow will linger in our minds Iâ€™m sure.
We knew we needed to leave early today in case weather or distance beat us. The minimum journey to get to Avezzano was 128km and included a climb to 1100m+ from sea-level. This with a few additional ups and downs to bring the total climb to about 1500m for the day. And with our finish elevation at 700m we were never going to get the long decent back to a similar elevation that we started at. Anyway, we were staring down the barrel of 6+ hours in the saddle.
Being Sunday breakfast started late (7:30am) and so we couldnâ€™t get away before 8:30 really. A touch later than weâ€™d have liked, but considering it rained all night, the roads were obviously soaked and it was only 4 degrees at 7:30am we didnâ€™t mind procrastinating.
Fortunately the rain abated just prior to setting off so we were rain free for the first 30 minutes or so. Wind was up which didnâ€™t help and also made it feel a little colder. We had skivvies on over our singlets and under our jerseys and jackets today, plus thermal gloves over our cycling gloves and whilst it stayed dry we didnâ€™t get cold.
Early on it was pretty flat and so we only climbed about 250m in the first 60km. Pace was slow because we knew what was coming and the road was very heavy due to the constant soaking rain.
At the 80km point we had just decended from a climb to about 550m (to 400m) and were feeling very cold. Toes had numbed as had fingers, but we pressed on knowing that the hill climb to come would raise the heart rate and keep us warm inside. Itâ€™s always the decents that cause the issues.
As we approached 90km and 800m elevation the rain started falling more slowly. It was still reasonably heavy, but clearly, in our opinion at least, about to turn to snow. Which, at just on 1000m it did. Whilst we were quite cold in the extremities and face we were warm under our gear and revelled in the snow. Sure it was cold, but we wonâ€™t forget it in a long time. It was no blizzard either, but it was a reasonable rate of fall.
As we crested 1100m we knew weâ€™d broken the back of climb and looked forward to the rest on the decent. This is when we had our problems. At the top my heart rate was around 140, Sharon around 155. Moving at about 10 k/h, so wind chill not a great factor. Coming down the hill and hitting 40 k/h with brakes on (would have been sections of 60+ on a dry warm day) our heart rates fell to about 80 and we started to get very cold. Within 2 â€“ 3 kilometres we could feel our feet again thanks to the searing hot pain and were laboured in our breathing, losing concentration and finding it difficult to focus our vision.
After a few near miss fall-offs we slowed down as much as we could and rolled carefully into a small town where we found an open bar (pub). We could barely talk and didnâ€™t have the strength or feeling necessary to even take off our helmets. The publican was great and gave us access to a hand dryer and then hair dryer. I moved around as much as I could but didnâ€™t take anything off. Shaz took gloves, helmet, headband and shoes off and started to warm up.
We have no idea how cold it was at the summit of the pass weâ€™d made, but the publicanâ€™s mate who spoke English told us it was minus 1 outside in this town. Which, according to the Garmins was at an elevation of 859m, more than 250m lower than the summit.
We each had a coffee and chocolate bar and then the publican offered us a glass of â€˜Grappaâ€™. Wow, talk about rocket fuel. Probably not the best for us at that stage but it did give the sensation of warming up.
After 40 minutes and the applying of extra layers of clothing we set off again. Far from warm, but in much better condition than that in which we arrived.
An hour later and having made some wrong turns in Avezzano we found a hotel and have settled in for the night.
Weâ€™re glad the day is over in some regards, but at the same time can look at the experience as a positive one. Our general fitness and will power got us through, and though at no time were we fearful for our safety it was a nerve wracking experience. One Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll reminisce when weâ€™re old and frail.
So in the end, in the rain, sleet, snow and wind, we covered 133km today, climbed about 1500m and did so, in my case, with an average heart rate of 120 (thanks to an easy paced start) and pace of 20.3k/h. We finished 700m higher than we started.
Tomorrow we are hoping for better weather so we can enjoy the last day of our tour. 115km into Rome to complete about 2800km (allowing for when Garmins were off) of cycling in 27 days.
Todayâ€™s photoâ€™s of the snow and the pub where we were assisted.
Total km so far (26 days) = 2534
I'm a runner, but I sure love to ride!
Monday 19 October 2009
Rome. Wow. Sharonâ€™s 24 hour run seems like a lifetime ago. 5 countries, about 2800km and a host of memorable experiences since.
Today the weather was fantastic. 8 degrees when we left and 18 in Rome as I type. Beats the heck out of rain. Knowing that we had an aggregate down-hill run and that this was our last day we decided to push the pace and hoped to complete the first 100km at 30 k/h. But with a 250m climb from the 18km point and then consistent ups and downs we just couldnâ€™t make it. The final barrier was the traffic in Tivoli at which time we had completed 84km at 29.3 k/h. With 200m of elevation still to fall we had to average 35 k/h for the last 15 km, but with traffic and poor roads it wasnâ€™t going to be possible so we gave it up and cruised.
The last 25km into Rome was hectic with the traffic, but never the less we couldnâ€™t help rejoicing. Singing, smiling and enjoying the end of our journey. After pushing it today we wonâ€™t ride tomorrow and instead will enjoy 4 days now in Rome to see some sights and relax.
Thanks to all our family and friends who have continued to encourage us and have shared this journey with us. Itâ€™s been a great experience and one that we will struggle to emulate in the future. That wonâ€™t stop us from trying though.
In the end we managed 112km today at 28.5 k/h. Average pace got hammered in the last 10km as we negotiated Rome traffic and tried to work out where the heck we were. Eventually though we got to our hotel which, although a bit of a dive, is cheap and central. We can now concentrate on getting the bikes packed away as everything we need to do and see is within walking and jogging distance.
For the statistically minded, we climbed about 16,000m for the trip, averaged a pace of right on 23 k/h and spent just on 115 hours in the saddle. I burnt about 70,000 calories doing so at an average heart rate of 120. Our longest day distance wise was 137km, time wise 6:33:52. We went beyond 100km 19 times in the last 27 days. We had 2 days that were considered rest where the only cycling was a commute into Salzburg and then later Venice. It's been 1 fantastic adventure for two simple Aussies from the bush.
Total km all done (27 days) = 2646 + unrecorded stuff that we figure amounts to an additional 150km â€“ 200km.
I'm a runner, but I sure love to ride!
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