Rental Bikes to Mondiano (Saturday, May 12, 2007)

Most of us had a good night’s sleep and any thoughts of jet lag are behind us. Breakfast featured strong coffee, eggs, meats, cheese, yogurt, cereal and pastries. We learned last night that the hotel does not provide helmets (they aren’t worn here much), so we intended to head to the bicycle shop first thing before the 9:45 AM ride departure. My email to Pat about our bikes had reached Mary, and she was ready to pursue the whereabouts of our bikes from a distance.

Only two tours are offered on a changeover day, an “easy” and a “hard.” The hard featured over 6,000 feet of climbing, so we opted for the easy at 35 miles and just 3,000 feet of climbing. Liam, an affable 21 year old from the English Isle of Wight would be our guide. Last night he was our mechanic. Those needing helmets set out for the shop, and the group would pick us up on their way out of town.

We located the shop with the tourist map and the entire patronage of the tabacchi shop simultaneously pointing to the south-west of the small business district. Helmets, bottles and gloves were purchased, and off we went. Our group was the five of us, plus a couple from Ireland, though they claimed Scotland as home and she had been born in Port Orchard, Washington.

The route was steadily upwards, but almost always at a gentle grade. I never felt the need to leave my big chainring, though it meant some severe cross-chaining on my rental De Rosa King. The views and panoramas steadily improved, and were punctuated by screaming descents. Early on, a wedding procession passed us by, every car honking madly and continuously in celebration. Some of the later descents were extremely technical, especially on unfamiliar bikes. And often the road was so narrow that an ascending car (or farm equipment, or school bus) left very little room for the descending cyclist.

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8. Bar, Mondiano
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9. Arches, Mondiano
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10. Coffee Stop, Mondiano Loggia
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11. Tony, Mondiano
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12. Ken, Mondiano
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13. Liam, Mondiano
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14. Rob, Mondiano
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15. Rick, Tony, Hotel Belvedere
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16. Tavullia Castle
A half-hour into the ride, Liam received a call on his cell phone from Marina, the owner of the hotel. Our bikes were at the hotel! Somehow, this bit of welcome news improved the ride. Seems the hotel has a contact at British Airways in London. She came to ride at the Belvedere but could not get anyone to come with her. So the hotel arranged a riding companion for her and now the two are romantically involved. So she feels a debt to the hotel and is always willing to help. Lucky for us.

The day’s coffee stop was in Mondiano. At the top of the hill, a round plaza was enclosed seven-eighths way around by a tall structure featuring a wooden roof over outdoor seating, known as a “loggia” (something akin to a porch or balcony, though more substantial). While the structure contained city hall, it also had a bar where we got espresso, water and pastries. Radiating from the plaza was a typically Italian cobbled street, narrow and hemmed in by residences on each side. At the far end was the church. The Turkish toilet in the bar elicited much comment. This being the day’s easy tour, there was no rush to depart, and the leisurely stop felt like the culmination of all our planning and preparation.

The route finished with a few kilometers on the main road, which, while not pleasant, was no worse than some of the roads at home, both in terms of disrepair and traffic. We returned just in time for the 2:30 PM buffet lunch. Cold meats, pasta salads, cheeses and a beer made for a great conclusion to our first ride.

Ken and Tony set out after lunch for another ride, doing about 24 miles round-trip to the to a castle in Tavullia, due south of Riccione. Rob, Ken and David relocated from the Hotel Bristol next door to our permanent quarters in the Belvedere Hotel, especially now that the rest of our luggage had arrived. While we are a couple blocks off the beach, our rooms have a partial view of the Adriatic Ocean. Eventually everyone re-assembled their bicycles in the courtyard of Marina’s home across the street. None seemed to suffer any damage and came back together without too much fiddling.

Dinner was a bit more relaxed without the Austrians, though we knew to dig in to the buffet early before all the new arrivals had finished their welcome drinks at the evening reception. More meat and less seafood, and a wonderful chocolate tart for dessert. David ventured the table wine, and it was not a success, and the guides were encouraged to finish the carafe.

After dinner, we set off in the direction of the pedestrian mall a short walk to the north. Everybody was out on a Saturday night — young couples, families, teenagers, older couples for the evening passeggiatta. Walking or dining in open-air pizzerias. The promised Internet cafe lacked what I needed, while David never did locate the wine bar. The road parallel to the coast, and about three blocks off the shore, was basically closed to traffic, and at one location a wide pedestrian mall intersected, running several blocks in each direction. We must have walked for at least a mile, crossing the river just upstream from its mouth. With a fleet of very small boats tied up along the stone banks of the river, and several consecutive bridges in view, some tried jokingly to compare the scene to Venice. Once the pattern of pizzeria, photo shop, bar, t-shirt shop, jewelry shop repeated itself for the hundredth time, we turned around for home and some more sleep.