Wednesday, October 28
It was another day for Ira and Big Blue to take one for the team. The rain came down, we zipped into our slicks, I made use of yet another complimentary, disposable, shower cap from the hotel, to make a waterproof bike seat cover and we set off into the wet. It didn’t take long for the already trying conditions, to become just a little more trying.
“Oh no!” came Steve’s words as we prepared to leave the underground garage and those words, when uttered by Steve, are never followed by anything good! “The route didn’t load! We’ll just have to rely on Dave today.”
It was my turn to think Oh No! Another day with Dodgy Dave, and in the rain, meant a high probability of things not going to plan. So, with our original route not where it should be on the GPS, we were in Dave’s hands. It didn’t take long for him to show his usual level of navigational hopelessness. Our original route, the one we should have been following, took us up the hill into Orte and then followed a cycle route, along quiet roads. As we pedalled along, it was clear we were bypassing Orte. What was Dave’s first navigational decision? Take us off the cycle route and put us on a busy main road, full of traffic, covered in cracks and potholes, awash with lakes of water that had filled many of the potholes and endless waterfalls of spray gushing from the speeding traffic. Thanks Dave, you’re a real asset to the team!
There was nothing to do but just keep going and hope Dave would at least take us to our destination and not Budapest or Berlin! The rain kept coming down, it got heavier, we got wetter and it seemed that every waterproof garment we were wearing, decided today was the day not to be. Waterproof socks? Not! Waterproof trousers? Not! Even Ira had an off day and I was soaked right through. On we went with traffic at our shoulder, up the hills, which slowed us down, which just meant more time to get a soaking. We did have a man drive past in a motorhome and give us a smile and a thumbs-up, which was wonderful. Thank you Mr. Motorhome, we needed that encouragement!
We decided not to stop for elevenses, since that would have just meant sitting in the wet, getting colder, so we kept on pedalling. We’d planned a shorter ride today anyway, knowing we were most likely in for a wet one, so we decided to just get to the end before stopping. We’d left late, trying to arrive at our destination as close to check-in time as we could to avoid sitting around too long in the wet, but we were still going to get there with lots of time to spare. Some cold and wet waiting around would be our reward for this ride. As we rode along, I saw something in the distance that looked promising…some clearing sky. It was a moment to use our favourite, British meteorological term.
“I think it’s brightening!” I called out to Steve, optimistically.
“Yep,” came his reply down the road.
It wasn’t. It must have been an optical illusion, because we didn’t reach that brighter looking horizon, it just kept pouring with rain! Today was also a reminder that we’ll have to do some shopping soon and invest in some winter shoes. Socks and sandals will only take us so far into the depths of a wet and cold winter. The trouble is we both have inconvenient feet, with Steve being a size 15 and me a size 5. Normally Steve finds it easier to get shoes in his size, than I do in mine, but I’ve noticed that Italy seems to have small sizes, so I might have to go searching for a pair before we leave. We’ve been holding off as long as we can, but I think we’re going to have to hit the shops before too long and find some footwear to keep our feet a little warmer and drier.
The ride continued to get wetter, the traffic got zippier, the trucks got closer and the hills got longer. At last we reached Civita Castellana, our destination. At least Dave had got us there, albeit by a less than optimal route. We found some eaves to stand under, to plan what to do and got our first and only photos for the day. We didn’t want Camera #2 to suffer the same fate as Camera #1, so we kept it out of the wet as much as possible, so no pics today.
Time to start looking for some shelter. We knew there was a shopping centre near to where we’d be staying, so we headed there and walked the bikes through the open air, internal courtyard, and stood under a section of roof. Steve said he was soaked and cold and I’d started my usual, involuntary shivering, so we gathered up some dry clothes and took it in turns to head for the toilets to change into something less squelchy. When it was my turn, I got changed and then stood under the hand dryer for as long as I could, while giving furtive glances to both entrances. As soon as someone walked through, I jumped out from under the dryer and tried to appear like I was an extremely conscientious dryer of hands, and gave a look of intense concentration, as I rubbed my hands together under the hot air. As soon as the coast was clear, I jumped right back under that heater! Oh the things we are reduced to in this travelling life!
We were now a teensy bit dryer and a fraction warmer. We’d had a message from the lady who owned the little apartment we were heading to, which said we could check in early if we gave her a call. Beaudy Newk! Things were looking up. Steve dialled, then gave a look of “Oh no!” (Sometimes it only takes a non-verbal and the words aren’t even necessary)! Something was not right.
“Out of credit!” he said in a frustrated tone. Right at that chilly, soaking, soggy moment, the phone had decided to run out of credit. I waited with the bikes, while Steve strode to the supermarket that was right next to us, bought some more credit and it looked like we were back in action. As soon as he dialled the number to enter the code to activate the credit, I could see his level of frustration had just gone from “Frown Level” to “‘I Would Hurl The Phone At Something If We Didn’t Actually Need It’ Level”.
“Of course I can’t understand the instructions!” he huffed. The automated instructions were, of course, in Italian.
He went back to the supermarket to ask the man who’d sold him the credit, for help. The man showed him what to do, but when Steve came back and tried to do it, it wouldn’t work and we couldn’t understand the online instructions either.
“We’ll just have to ride around there and see if we can get in,” he said.
At that moment, a couple of girls walked past, sat on a bench near us and began eating their pizza.
“I’ll ask them,” I said.
I felt a bit bad about interrupting their pizza lunch, but I approached and looked apologetic, while asking, “Parlo Inglese?”
One girl rocked her hand side to side, as a sign to say she spoke a little bit of English. I explained we wanted to put credit on our phone but couldn’t understand the instructions. That lovely girl knew instantly what I needed, took the piece of paper with the code from me, dialled and immediately began tapping the screen and listening to the instructions, before handing the phone back to me. I clapped my hands while repeating “Molto Grazie.” To which she replied “Prego” (you’re welcome) and in a couple of minutes, that kind and helpful stranger had come to our rescue and we had an operational phone. We dialled the lady’s number…BUSY! It seemed, we were destined to just stand around feeling soggy! Nothing was going to plan! We decided to just ride around anyway.
We found the apartment, down a narrow little lane way, rang the lady again…still no answer. Seconds later, she called back though and assured us she would be there in five minutes. She was! The lovely Rosy walked towards us with a smile and a handshake, showed us upstairs to the cosy little apartment, then walked with us down the street to show us a garage where we could store the bikes.
“You have been going for a whole year!?” she asked, quite amazed.
“Yes,” we said.
“You are the best!” she exclaimed.
After parking the bikes in the garage, she showed us around the little apartment, which was small, cosy and sparkling clean, then assured us she was at our disposal, anytime, should we need anything.
Then she asked, “You’re from Sydney?”
“Tasmania,” we replied.
“Tasmania!” she repeated, quite astounded, “you are the best!”
She told us it was a dream of hers to go to Australia. I hope she gets there.
We thanked Rosy multiple times, said our goodbyes and then settled in to dry off and get to know our little temporary home. The only problem we discovered, was the wifi wouldn’t connect, so we’re incommunicado for a while. We took another trip out into the pouring rain, to walk back to the shopping centre and get supplies, finding it was growing dark at only 4:30, so we had an even darker walk back to the apartment, along the narrow roads, in the rain.
It rained all day and we were out in it a lot of the time. Tomorrow is forecast to continue raining, with thunderstorms thrown in too, so we decided to stay at the apartment for an extra day, to sit out the storm. Today was another short ride of only 30km. I don’t like the short rides, but today, in the downpour, along those awful roads, I didn’t mind at all! After doing battle with Dave and the downpour, I was happy to have a short one. Tomorrow we’ll stay warm and dry, at least we know that, so we’ll have some time in another little Italian apartment, which is always a bit of fun anyway (have I mentioned the novelty of kitchens and tables!!). So today might have had its difficulties and been a bit challenging at times, but it ended well, so we’re still smiling! It’s all good! It’s all grand! Soggy, but still splendid!
Thursday, October 29
We just can’t take a trick with this weather, we really can’t! The rain continued, then the storm hit overnight and the thunder rumbled. What did we have this morning though? Clear skies! The storm had struck early and died out, rather than raging all day today, as forecast. We could have ridden on today after all! Oh well, it seems whenever we’re around, that freaky forecast will always play for whatever team we’re not on!
We made use of the day though, with some housekeeping. The little apartment came with a washing machine and dryer, so we loaded up the appliance and sat back, in more comfortable surroundings than the usual laundrette and waited for our clothes to once again, become clean and smelling of roses. It seemed though, things were not going to go to plan again, even today. The load went on at about 9:00am and at 3:00pm, it was still going! The washer/dryer settings didn’t have a timer, so we just punched in the setting and the temperature, but that dang drier kept on drying…and drying…and drying…ALL DAY! Of course we couldn’t stop it, because the automatic door lock wouldn’t let us open it. We considered pulling the plug and then turning it on again, but thought that might rest everything and it would start all over again. We’ve never had this trouble with any other machine we’ve used. This one was just having fun and games with us! We consulted the instruction manual. Nothing there to help us. Finally, after nearly seven hours of washing and drying, Steve decided to just push the reset button and hope for the best! Success! It eventually stopped, the door stayed locked, but after a few minutes, let us open it and we could, at last, retrieve our load of washing from that gremlin infested machine! Of course you can probably imagine what we found…what might happen to clothes that have been subjected to about 6 hours of hot air? Yes…shrinkage! Steve’s socks now didn’t even fit me and my woollen socks were now exceptionally good items of compression wear, they had become so small and tight. I’m sure if it had kept going we could have worn our socks as individual finger warmers! What can you do!? Smile and add it to the list of “It Could Only Happen To Us” moments! Still, we were brave enough to put the next load in, and hope what came out would still clothe us and not an Oompa Loompa or the Lord of Lilliput!
What with the day pretty much taken up with walks back and forth to the washer/dryer, waiting for the darn thing to stop, we didn’t actually venture out today. We were held captive by the household appliances! It was still a good day, just a restful day. With no wifi, we couldn’t even use internet to blog, email, research or do any of the things we’d usually use the “Dub Dub Dub” for, so we just had a homebody day, which we don’t get often, so it was a nice treat all the same, courtesy of the faulty forecast. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Forecast…sunshine. Reality…who knows! This is us we’re taking about…it will probably snow and rain with a side order of hail! Are you ready Ira?
Friday, October 30
Sunshine! Blue skies! An absolutely top morning!
We pedalled out of Civita Castellana on a lovely mild morning, so things were looking good! Of course the first thing we had to start the day was…a hill! A big long hill! The first of many. It was such a nice morning though, that I soon had to stop on that hill and shed some layers because I was nice and warm from that climbing and the warm air that we aren’t used to.
I think today was the nicest ride we’ve had in Italy so far. We had lots of climbing to do, but apart from that, the roads were pretty quiet and were narrow country roads, lined with oak trees. It almost felt like riding in England. The wind was blowing quite strongly and as we rode under the trees, in their beautiful autumn finery, we had yellow leaves raining down on us, floating and fluttering and falling in the wind, like drops of sunshine falling on us. Gorgeous. As well as the leaves, I had the constant sound of DINK…DONK…DINK…DINK…DONK… as the acorns in the trees blew down on top of me. I was glad I had a helmet on, because they made a clatter when they hit! I felt like Henny Penny with the sky falling!
We rode through some small towns and saw the usual scene of groups of older men sitting outside the bars. We see this scene a lot in the various towns and villages we’ve ridden through. It just looks so classic. The men usually have silver hair or flat caps and thick coats and sit in groups at the outside tables of the small bars, drinking coffee (or another favourite tipple depending on the time of day we ride through). They just sit and watch the town go about its business, or have animated conversations. It’s a lovely picture of small town life.
The scenery continued to roll out around us and it was a delight to ride in the sun, through the avenues of trees and then to have the countryside and autumn colours give us that oil painting again.
Despite the hills, we made fairly good time and stopped for elevenses after about 40km. We’d had some trouble finding somewhere to stop and eventually spotted a small park with a table, so headed there and parked ourselves for our daily routine. However…we were not alone! Swarming around us were mobs of mutant ninja mosquitos, intent on feasting on any bit of me they could land on, including chomping me through my clothes. I reached for the repellant spray and covered as much of me as I could, but that swarm just hung around and landed on anything that hadn’t been liberally coated with spray. It was an elevenses that included lots of swatting and slapping and an ongoing battle with the mozzie mob.
We were approaching the outskirts of Rome, so decided to find somewhere to stay and leave our final approach into Rome for tomorrow. We booked a basic cabin at a bungalow park and set off for the ride to our destination. Our quiet country roads soon disappeared and were replaced with city madness. Man-o-man the traffic was just crazy town! We were in amongst it, until we eventually found a cycle path and managed to escape the mayhem on the roads.
As we navigated our way to the bungalow park, we had to leave the cycle path and then found ourselves taking a wrong turn, onto a busy highway. We were going to have to ride up the rapids of traffic, cross over and head back on the other side, in still more rapids of traffic. When we reached the intersection where we would have to cross over, Steve turned a different way and suggested we try another direction to avoid that busy road. We pedalled down a side road, past a small booth and were about to continue on when we heard “Scusi!” and turned to see a security guard leaping from the booth. O-K! Clearly we were heading down a road that had some sort of prohibited access. We apologised, said we were lost and showed him our map and where we were heading. He didn’t speak English, but did his best to try and help us. I just kept looking at his enormous, red, triple folded scarf that had him completely covered from shoulders to chin. I don’t think that was standard issue uniform! It did clash somewhat with his blue security guard shirt and trousers, but matching ensemble or not, he would have had a toasty warm neck with that fluffy touch of personal style! We thanked him for helping us, apologised again and set off in another attempt to find where we needed to go.
We made it back onto the cycle path, the GPS managed to find the address and the path took us almost to the door of the park, with just a bit of final busy road riding. When we arrived, we were so disappointed. What had been advertised as a bungalow park, also had camping, and had we known, we would have pitched instead of booking a cabin. We couldn’t undo the booking, so even though it was a nice day and we would have been glad to spend the night in the Nylon Palace again, we are instead, inside a small and extremely basic campsite cabin. Oh well. We do finally have some wifi though, even if it does mean we have to sit outside in the dark with the mosquitos to get it to work, but at least we have it.
If the final bit of crazy city traffic is taken out of the equation…what a fantastic ride we had today. The route we had was magic, the oak trees and the autumn colours and the scenery made for a lovely day of pedalling. We rode 59km and most of that was with the nice scenery, so it was terrific. Tomorrow we will hit Rome. We’ve seen so much Roman history and followed in their footsteps in many of the places we’ve been, that it’s about time we visited the beginning of the story, the seat of power and the Emperors’ home town. I’m hoping that, being Saturday, the traffic might be a little less crazy, because we’ve found weekends seem to be a bit quieter on the roads. Who knows in a place like Rome though, it might not make any difference. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a bike path again and can escape the roads completely. Either way, we’ll be riding for Roma, cycling for Caesar, pedalling to the Pantheon…If the sun keeps shining, we might have to dust off that toga! Look out Romans, Heidius and Stevius are coming to a colosseum near you!