Republic of San Marino (Monday, May 14, 2007)

’Slang and I woke a bit early and wandered out for a coffee with the locals. Very civilized.

“Easy tour” today, the main attraction was the destination (and climb) — the Republic of San Marino, a city-state to this day, whose history I should learn more about. (I learned later that it is the fifth smallest country in the world.) Our guide Glen assuaged our egos by telling us that this was the hardest of the easy tours. We began with 14 miles of flats, in a group of about 13 riders. Two new arrivals are Sarah (18 years old) and Maya (15 years old), traveling with their parents. They are both national-level Nordic skiers from Alaska, and so are very fit.

22. Breakfast, Hotel Belvedere
23. Breakfast, Hotel Belvedere
24. Early Morning Coffee, Riccione
25. Jonathan
26. Maya and Sarah
27. Coffee Stop, San Marino
28. Lunch, Hotel Belvedere Patio
We entered the country with a variety of large trucks, headed for warehouses at the base of the rock. No customs, no passport control, but a few semi-observant polizia along the roadside in the first half-mile or so. We passed the national Olympic training center immediately within the border.

The road kicked up in the first of three steps. Quite quickly, the Alaskan girls headed off, even though for one it was only her second road ride ever. After a break in the shade at a gas station, we headed up the second step which had the steepest sections. Another two miles and we regrouped for the last time at a junction. Then we headed down a dip, and around the other side of the rock to switchback our way up the remainder. The final sections included businesses and parking lots for tourists, as the road got narrower and finally became a cobbled tourist’s pathway past shops and up to the castle.

We headed off to a restaurant with a view and outdoor seating just below the main castle. Despite appearances it was not the coffee stop the guide had suggested from below. So we dined in two groups, with ’Slang in the other, and the Alaska girls with us. Coffee, ice cream and pandini (sp) and water. The views were incredible and it was a great break. Postcards with San Marino stamps were procured and mailed with a local postmark.

The descent was as expected. Twisty and fast, with decent roads. On the flats back below the rock we had a tailwind, so our guide, Glen, allowed some pacelines to form up at 24 or 25 miles per hour. Back at home at 2:25 PM— you could set your watch by it. 40 miles, 2500 feet.

This afternoon’s errand was picking up the rental van in Rimini. Eventually we found the bus stop, and rode for about a half-hour along the coast through 40 stops, disembarking near the center of town. We found the Europcar office directly and made the arrangements for the van. Rick masterfully drove the coastal road back home. His mantra was, “Drive like an old lady.”

The van is a grey Renault “Trafico.” Fortunately, the rear seat folds flat and rolls forward, so we can stack our bicycle boxes in back. Harrington’s rack looks like it will hold two bikes on front, so we’ll throw three in back on top of the boxes, and stuff luggage into the nooks and crannies. Oughta work.

We’ll ride here tomorrow with a guide, then pack up and head for Tuscany.