We took our tandem bicycle out for a ride this morning. We rode from our apartment here in Foligno to the famous hill-top town of Assisi. We take a small road that weaves itself along the hillside leading up to Assisi, so it isn’t a terribly difficult ride. There are cyclists who like to head straight up from the Umbrian valley below but we like to think of ourselves as “quality-of-life” cyclists and if we can find an easier road to a destination, we will choose the path of least resistance. Besides, going uphill on a tandem is far more challenging than on a single (“half”) bike.
We arrived about 9:30, had our cappuccinos and people-watched for a while. It was a beautiful morning: the temperature was cool and the sky was clear. Couldn’t have asked for a better day. Here are some pictures of the valley to the west of Assisi. I hope you enjoy them:
We have been swept away by our life here in Italy. Since our arrival on April 23rd there hasn’t been a dull moment. My job at Umbra Cuscinetti has been keeping me incredibly busy but somehow, here in Italy, your work doesn’t compete for your free time the way it does in the States. Also, we have managed to participate in festivals, travel, visit family and, of course eat some really good food! What I’d like to do in this post is “catch up” by simply posting some pictures we’ve taken since our arrival. I’m presenting them in no particular order. I just want to reflect on our adventure by simply showing what an amazing place Italy is…at least the Italy we experience!
As you can see we’ve visited ancient Greek/Roman temples, flown across a mountain valley, eaten really good food and went back to Rome after a 33 year hiatus!!! Not bad for our first few months here. Living here has not been without its challenges. There have been a number of bureaucratic issues we’ve dealt with. We also struggle with the language. Even so, these have not been terrible problems. The fact is, we’ve been lucky to land in Umbria because the people here have been incredibly friendly and patient. The public officials have taken the time to help us understand how things work. Also, our landlords are incredibly sweet people who have also helped us along the way. Our landlady has taken care of our cats when we’ve been out-of-town!
I hope you enjoy the pictures. As I mentioned above, I haven’t posted in a long time and this is my way of getting back in the blogging groove. I will be writing more about our specific adventures in future posts. Ciao for now!
FINALLY – We Had Some Weather that Felt Like Summer!
Yesterday we finally had the third day in a row of sunny, warm weather here in Puget Sound. On Saturday Virginia and I rode the tandem down to Redmond, WA and back which is about a 25 mile bicycle ride. Yesterday we rode half way around Lake Washington which is probably a 35 mile loop. It was simply glorious weather to be out on the bike. It was sunny with hardly a breeze and the temperature hovered around 77 degrees. Perfect!!! And of course to top it all off, we received our 3rd organic food box yesterday which included some very nice goodies:
Apriums ( a cross between an apricot and a plum)
Red leave lettuce
As you can see the head of cauliflower is HUGE and the raspberries are gorgeous. We ate 1/2 of them after macerating them in some Grand Mariner with homemade shortbread and whipped cream. Yummy!
Yellow carrots, rhubarb, the apriums, broccoli Raab and red head lettuce……it all looks good!
As we were approaching the end of our cross-country tour we met a young man at a campsite in NY State who was just beginning his bicycle trip in the opposite direction. By that time we were quite used to the rigors of the road and we were slightly amused when he discovered we had come from WA State. He observed, “Washington is one of those ‘flat’ states!” Let me just say here and now that one of the most common conversations bicyclists have with people on the road is when well-meaning folks tell you that the road ahead “isn’t all that hilly!” HA! Sure, when you’re in a car there’s really no such thing as a hill, or steep grade or even mountain passes. The internal combustion engine pretty much neutralizes the need to worry about those pesky changes in altitude. BUT, when you’re on a tandem bicycle carrying about 100 lbs of gear, there is no such a thing as a flat anything (except the occasional flat tire!).
In this post I wanted to talk briefly about the first leg of our journey in terms of the actual physical challenges one faces on a bicycle tour that starts in Washington State. The bottom line is you need to be in pretty good physical condition because taking the North Cascade Highway across the state, you bicycle over four mountain passes. We knew this so, we began training in earnest several months before we started the tour. We were lucky in 1998 as the NW was experiencing one of the warmest and driest winters in many years. We were able to get out most evenings after work and do a 35 mile loop. We put a 70 lb piece of concrete in our BOB trailer and hauled it as many times as we could. By our start date on May 11, we were in pretty good shape.
Of course, there’s nothing like the real thing, so I thought you might enjoy seeing pictures of the mountain passes we went over:
Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.*
Our cross country adventure began 14 years ago today and as I reflect on that day I can remember the anxiety and exhilaration Virginia and I felt as we locked up our little house and realized that we weren’t coming back for almost 4 months! It was just us, our tandem bicycle and about 90lbs of gear. And think about this: we didn’t own a cell phone, we had no computer technology (except for our little bicycle odometer) and we didn’t have a digital camera or video camera. One thing we did have was a passion to hit the road and have a “real adventure.”
As you can see, our “rig” consisted of a custom-made Rodriguez tandem which was constructed by R+E Cycles in 1997. We were pulling a one-wheeled trailer called a BOB (beast of burden) and we carried all our gear in watertight saddlebags (panniers) manufactured by Ortlieb which is a German company that makes some of the best travel bags in the world. Our gear NEVER got wet during the trip in spite of the fact that we often found ourselves in some incredibly terrible weather conditions (more about that later). In fact, I believe our choice of panniers was critical in making our journey safe and comfortable. There’s nothing more miserable than being soaked to the bone and not having a dry change of clothing at the end of a long day in the saddle. In fact, it can be quite dangerous to be perpetually waterlogged on the road.
Once we mustered up our courage, we got on the road at about 11:00 and began our trip. We rode from Shoreline north along roads that we had ridden many times over the years so our first day was uneventful. We ended the day at around 7:00PM at the small logging community of Darrington. We had bicycled 75 miles! We ended the day by finding the nearby state campground, pitched our tent and had time to relax before turning in. We were both beat!
There are a couple of things I still laugh about when I think about our tour: I can’t begin to tell you how worried our families were about us doing this trip. Some of our bicycle friends understood what we were doing, but our parents and good friends wondered about our sanity. Then there was the idea that some people had that we should carry a gun because “you never know who you’re going to run into out there.” We never considered bringing a gun. If we did another tour tomorrow, we still wouldn’t bring one……it just doesn’t make sense. Oh, and you’re not going to believe this: Virginia and I had NEVER really gone camping together before this tour……….really. We practiced setting up the tent and did a lot of planning, but this tour was the first time I had done any camping since Boy Scouts (and that was back in the late 1970’s!!!! Virginia (my Jersey Girl) hardly knew what a tent was! Needless to say, we became real pros during this trip.
*Charles Dudley Warner
Eclectic Dispatches by James Lupori – Adventurer, Philosopher & All-Around Curious Guy