Transfer to Tuscany (Tuesday, May 15, 2007)

’Slang and I repeated our morning coffee at the bar down the street, where she remembered our drinks. After breakfast, we packed up our belongings, and transferred them into a single room where we could shower on our return.

We opted for the easy tour again today, given that we had a busy afternoon planned and could ill-afford a late return, or exhaustion. Yesterday’s road tour had been especially punishing, and dropped one or two riders. So with the word out on the road tour, we had thirty riders in our group. Glen was leading, and Liam transferred off the road tour and onto the easy tour. Our destination was Mondiano, the picturesque coffee stop from the first day. We took a different route, but with no less climbing. We caught up with the race tour, having a quick banana in the car park outside the piazza. The Swiss mockingly cheered a couple of their female riders grinding their way up the street to the high point. We entered to the central square, and again lingered for a good long time at the loggia.

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29. Tony and Bike
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30. Ken and Bike
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31. David and Bike
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32. Rob and Bike
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33. Riding
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34. Riding
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35. Wheatfield
With this many people in the group, the stops to reform were more frequent. I would stop to take a picture of the scenic vistas, then work my back to the front, so I could take another short unsanctioned break. It also gave me some time to chat with the guides in the back about techniques they used to keep the group together. The route home was the most enjoyable of the approaches to Riccione we’ve had. Jonathan had his legs back, and the Alaska girls were again in our group. The weather was very warm. 36 miles, 3000 feet.

Atypically, we got back an hour before lunch. Which was in our favor, since we had to pack the van and drive to Tuscany. Everyone took turns showering, while Rick emulated our guides and shaved his head. This was the source of much hilarity at lunch, with a direct comparison to Daniel’s scalp. With a single gold earring, Rick would be indistinguishable from Marco Pantani, the deceased Italian Tour de France star. It was even more comical when Nadia decided to improve on the shave job and touched up Rick’s head with a disposable razor, rinsed frequently in his water glass at the lunch table.

Before and after lunch we tackled the packing of the van, along with interested assistance from Jonathan. Wheels came off all five bikes, most of which went into David and Tony’s empty cases. The five boxes (three being the broken down plastic boxes from Crateworks) were stacked in the rear compartment. Three frames went on top of this stack, layered with foam padding that had been used in David’s soft-sided case. Two bikes went on the front of the car, supported by Jim Harrington’s minimalist bike rack we had brought along in Rick’s luggage. Tennis balls, bungee cords and used shop rags kept the rack secure and the bike frames protected. Luggage went into the interstitial spaces, with ’Slang’s suitcase riding up front, buckled into the middle seat, and daypacks stuffed under seats. A smaller van, or an additional rider might have been an impossible situation.

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36. Ken and Rob
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37. Loggia, Mondiano
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38. Rick, Shaving
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39. Rick, Clean-Shaven
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40. Daniel and Rick
We said our goodbyes to Marina, the guides, the office and wait staff, tipping them for their warm hospitality and assistance. Our bike rentals from the first day ended up being a present from Marina. Jonathan saw us off, helping out with a group photo. We made it about five blocks, blew a turn, and realized David had left his wallet and Rick had left something else. Back to the hotel and we set off once again. We all wondered if our self-designed Tuscan segment would be as wonderful as the fully-supported stay at the bike hotel.

We left Riccione flawlessly on the second attempt, and gained the autostrada south, parallel to the coast, towards Fano. Rick was driving, with Rob as co-pilot, and three in the back seat. At Fano, we left the autostrada and turned inland on a red road, up over the 600 mile long mountainous spine of Italy that is the Apennine Mountains. After about two hours, we stopped at a bar for coffees and a break.

We rounded Gubbio, then Perugia, only missing one turn, which was corrected via a couple of white roads without any backtracking. We tried to imagine these two scenic backroads on bicycles. As we Rounded Lago Trasimeno, we caught up on history and culture with a reading from Rick Steves’ Italy book on Saints Francis and Catherine. At issue were the peregrinations of St. Francis and the locations of the relics of St. Catherine. After hearing of the simple and troubled lives of these two saints, David remarked, “With prozac available, we’ll never have anymore saints.”

Given the confluence of many roads around Sienna as we approached from the east, we tried to cut the corner to the north, taking minor roads towards the heart of the Chianti region. We blew the first turn off the main road, but with a few miles of backtracking then managed to find our way to Greve as darkness fell. We had been hustling to make the 9:00 PM arrival time when the reception closed.

We parked in the main square of Greve, to set out on foot for Via Roma, and Via dell Arco, which the map showed as very close. Via Rome was a narrow one-way cobbled street exiting the widest part of the square, to the north. A few storefronts down, a narrow opening in the wall provided an archway, followed by a bridge and a short narrow street. At the end we located the Antico Pastifico Ulisse Mariotti, the renovated pasta factory that now holds “self-catering” rooms and apartments. We located Monica, our hostess, and learned that we had been expected at 8:00 PM, reception closed at 9:00 AM in the morning, so there had been some miscommunication when I’d had the Belvedere call ahead for us.

Monica, showed us our rooms, and how to remove the metal barriers in the road to allow a greater turning radius for the van to enter through the arch. Tony and David have a small room with two beds and a bathroom to share, since they will be leaving early. Rob, Ken and Rick are sharing a larger apartment, with a kitchen and a patio area that we will all five use. Ken is on the fold-out sofa, Rick is in a double bed in the loft, while Rob has a small cot also in the loft. It seemed like this arrangement would work well for us, and with no daily maid service, or much else in the way of services, the price is very reasonable.

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41. Trafico Van, Riccione
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42. Pasta Factory, Greve
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43. Pasta Factory, Greve
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44. Ken, Greve Cantina
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45. Tony, Greve Cantina
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46. Rob, Greve Cantina
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47. David, Greve Cantina
Monica told us that the Cantina a bit further down Via Roma served dinner late, and we could pay for a dinner with two plates, and a simple breakfast the next morning for 17 euros each. We walked down to the Cantina, which was still quite busy at 10 PM, were seated and inquired about the meal deal. Turns out they do not start serving breakfast until 10 AM, which would be too late to accommodate our cycling plans, and most of the plates ran 7 or 8 euros. So the deal was not that much of a deal, and we just ordered dinner straightaway. Everybody had a salad, followed by a pizza, which made for an extremely filling meal. Afterward we were brought open bottles of grappa, “holy water” and limoncello to complement our desserts. The waiters and waitresses began to close up for the evening, and helped themselves to large plates of pasta at an adjacent table. When we finally left, we may have been the last patrons to leave. Despite what seemed a chilly reception on our arrival, the owner and waiter seemed to warm up to us as the evening progressed.