How can you love mountain biking ?

My mountain bike

(testo in italiano qui)

This is not  a rhetorical or a provoking question; I just would like to understand how it is possible!

Yesterday morning I rode my mountain bike because the path I usually cycle on is now a  blanket of leaves . Beautiful, nothing to say about its charm, but super dangerous for road bikes.

 Over the past two days, it had rained a lot, so now it’s actually a wet  blanket of leaves . Not the best ever.

Yesterday-morning’s bike ride began with the unexpected encounter with Death , just outside the town center. I was riding along the cycling path that runs alongside the main road  when a Bright Asshole , driving his van suddenly decided to bend toward the gas station, just in front on me.

Surely if I had been on my road bike, I would not be here now writing this post …. I suddenly braked more than I could and I ended up being 5/6 millimeters to the back door of the BS’s van . While braking I screamed like crazy with fear and the guy didn’t seem to care about me.

Needless to say, he didn’t even say “Sorry”. For the two / three kilometers ahead I wasn’t even able to ride at a decent speed because  my legs were still shaking in fear.

So , ok , seen from another point of view , I think that the mountain bike saved my life, which is not too bad .

But ..what else ?

I cycled 30 kilometers (unusually during the week I cycle 50km, but I was too pissed off and after 15 I decided to go back home ) my speed was so slow! No more than 25km per hour , not even on the “Gavardina” cycling path , where I normally I reach 35km/h.

 My mountain bike seems to me , or maybe it really is , super heavy . I always get the impression that i have to change gears, and that’s what I keep doing, but it doesn’t work as it should do.

 After 15 km, I’d had enough . I left the cycling path and I took a main road . The more I pedaled there , the more I kept telling myself how stupid I am, because surely the blanket of leaves would have been better then the concrete of the main road ! At a traffic light a bunch of cyclists on their wonderful road bikes passed by, they seemed as light as air and I felt that nasty feeling that I thought didn’t belong to me: envy .

Now , I wonder , is it true that in Autumn is better to  leave the road bike in the garage and to ride a  mountain bike ? Perhaps the answer is in my morning encounter and in the avoided crash.

Who knows ?!

My first 2000 kms and why I love cyling.

(versione in italiano)

2000KM

Last Saturday I reached my goal and from Aprile, I have ridden  2000 km  . I am satisfied and happy.
If someone had told me fiftenn years ago that one day I would love cycling , I would have not believed them.
The first time I went on a bike ride it was a decade ago.

My boyfriend, who is now my husband, had parked his super professional bike in my garage and I, without thinking of the possible consequences , in order to park two cars instead of one, I had left the door open and saying OPEN I mean WIDE OPEN.
It goes without saying that within a couple of days ( yes , I left it like that for two days) , the bike was gone. Forever . I remember it was a Cannondale, but at the time I had no idea of a bike’s value, nor from the money point of view neither from the emotional one. today I can understand what it would mean to lose a bike.

 If he hasn’t killed me , I think it was only because we were still just engaged. Today , most likely, he would not, but  he surely would think about it.
He had recently come to live in this town and, apart from me, the bike was his only point of reference . It was gone, and it was my fault.

Despite this,  we then got married. During the party that followed our wedding’s ceremony, my husband came to me and said, ” Tomorrow morning … surprise ! Some friends bought us a super present! two mountain bikes! I have already loaded  them into our car and tomorrow we will be riding them across Tuscany”

What a  joy …

I distinctly remember every speck of the so called “white roads” in Montalcino that seemed to never have an end , the way to  the Abbey of St. Antimo … it was  June and the sun was shining over the green hills and I still remember, after a 26 km- ride, that my bum was so sore!

montalcino-2004

I honestly thought that my riding experience , even if it was pleasant ( a part from the sore bottom)  began and ended there.

A year later my husband didn’t give up and asked me to go riding with him, but with a road bike.  I still felt guilty about the Cannondale that they had stolen a few months before (I live with a guilt-feeling for everything, anyway ) and shortly after I went , as I did years before , to work in Rome , leaving him here alone during the week. So , needless to say , it was time for a new guilt felling!
Perhaps, it is due to the guilt-feeling if today I love cycling…

To be honest at the time I was insanely jealous of my husband’s bike, or rather “this fuc. .. bike! ,” as I used to call it . I did not understand how it could be was so nice to cycle around, make so much effort and go home again. Sometimes , when I was driving my car, I would have liked to hit all cyclists in the middle of the road !

However this time I could not say no to the invitation to go cycling with him. . I still remember what I was wearing the day of the test on the saddle, I remember how it seemed difficult to even think about cycling on a road bike. And I will never forget the day when I went for the first time on my new bike , a total black Colnago.
At the shop, they kept asking me : “Are you sure that you know how to clip into and then disingage your pedals?” . I answered “Super sure .”
Would you like to try to cycle on the sidewalk before hitting the road? “” No , don’t worry , now I’m going straight on the road  ” I said .

 So I left the store , riding , and behind me, but on foot, my husband and the owners of the store. I cycled for a meter , two, three , then there was the descent to the street . A 5, maximum 10 cm descent. I do not know how, but I fell off . I fell off the bike, with my bike on me. I was covered in blood for a mega scratch on a knee and an arm . All those who were there to see my ” going on the road ” ran towards me to check. Then, while I was still trying to stand up again, my husband arrived and yelled, ” Noooooooooooooo ! You ruined the brake handle ! Noooooooooo ! ” .

There, I realized that the road would be an uphill battle.

That summer, I worked in Rome during the week , and I was home only on weekends ,  but from June to September I cycled 800 kilometers. But today I can say this: it was without passion.

My mom , whenever I complained about the fact that my husband was always out cycling kept asking me “Why don’t you go with him?” This time I followed her advice. I started cycling as I wanted to stay next to him, who, by the way, would have never given up his week-end rides for me. At the time I said that I liked it , but now I realize that  was not true, or maybe at that time it seemed to me it was, but it is incomparable to what riding  means to me now.

Today I NEED my bike . And I really believe that if a person does not cycle or if there is no passion in it , they can’t understand what it means to ride a bicycle and enjoy every moment of it.I do not know how and when I fell in love with cycling. I know it’s been a long path.

Actually, over the past 10 years I have never stopped riding, a part from when I was pregnant and all periods of time related to the births of my daughters.

 I had short rides during the weekends with my husband to Lake Garda and back, a few times I tried to go uphill, on the Maddalena hill, in the town center, here in Brescia. The third time I tried to get to the top, I did it,  without crying ( already happened ) , without sending my husband to hell ( this, too, happened), without turning the bike and back home ( well this ) , without all three previous conditions put together, and then many ascents in the mountains in summer.

I was a “by chance- cyclist”

While I was riding across my town towards the cycling path which leads to the  Garda Lake, my only thought was: “Please God, let me find the traffic lights green!! ” I was terrified about getting my feet off the clipless pedals without crashing to the ground.

Then there were ( and still are ) my husband’s strict rules… I remember that he used to tell me a thousand times to stay focused. Once, we were riding on the Gavardina cycling path and I suddenly said,: “Look, love, it’s full of poppies ! “I said, pointing to a beautiful field . He said ” Stay focused ! We are not here to admire the landscape! ” Fu.. !

Then , last year , for my fortieth birthday my husband bought me a bike ( big surprise … ) . Bike that I have absolutely ignored for more than a year, but for a ride  in Austria . Since then, my bike has been resting in my garage waiting for better times that, frankly , I thought would never arrive .

Autumn and winter passed by and then came this year spring.

 The morning of April 19th , my husband asked me, for the billionth time , if I wanted to go and have a ride with him. I do not know why I said yes , just do not know . Maybe I thought about my mom telling me ” go and ride with him,” or  perhaps because since our daughters were born, we don’t have a second for us alone , or maybe just because I love him…but I said yes.

I borrowed a cycling jacket from him , because I didn’t even remember where I had put mine . I rode only 16 km and I got the impression of being in the movie The Shining. I was so frightened! The slightest breath of wind made ​​my  bike    swing, or at least so it seemed so to me , I was so scared and the Clipless pedals nightmare had come back again!

 But back home , I said to myself that it was very pleasant. I even went to cycle two days later , the same location , just a bit  faster, or I’d rather say, less slow .

Then , as I wrote here on the blog , a few days later , I had a bright idea and  asked a mother of my daughter’s school , a sort of a wonder woman , who attends super competitions such as  the Half Iron woman and other marathons or similar non-human things , if she could train me . We established 10 training sessions , two hours each . And Cristina made ​​me realize that cycling could be fun . With my husband , I always felt not up to the task , because it’s true , I’m not up to it, of course, but it’s useless to underline it every single times. Maybe he doesn’t even stress it, but that’s how I used to feel. With Cristina and her very “casual” way of training me, it was different. As soon as she saw me slowing down, she would scream at me ” Ride ! pedal , Ari , fu..k! ” , I would blush, afraid that people on the road could hear her and then I would pedal so fast! I pedaled and laughed , laughed and pedaled !I remember our fist ride to the Montenetto , south of our town…sShe asked me ” Can you see all these beautiful colors around us ? ” And I could not see anything because I was focused on my bike and at that stage of my cycling life , I was not able to do two things at the same time. After a steep, super steep, ride on the San-Gallo Serle road  (I had already cycled 500 since the beginning of the season)  then Cristina told me” Now you’re ready to ride on the Maddalena” It was a dream come true.

  And the next week I got to the top. ( 10 kilometers uphill with an average 6,3% gradient ) Cri was shocked by the fact that I occasionally stop to take pictures to report my enterprise, because it really was an enterprise for me ! I reached the top and I liked it so much that two days later I went there once again.

Maddalena hill is not the Everest, but , as I wrote on my Facebook page , it was MY personal Everest . The second time I cycled to the top of it , it was a Thursday in June this year.

The day before, I had gone to see an endocrinologist and out of the blue, he looked at me and  he said ” there is a chance that you have a thyroid cancer .” As simple as that, just when you don’t expect to hear such a thing! The next day , riding on the Maddalena, I thought about life, MY life, my daughters , and about fear, as I had never done before  in my life . I, who have never been afraid of death, certain that the one we are living now is only a trial for a next one,  found myself suddenly attached to life, and with an incredible fear of losing it. Climbing to the top , bend after bend , pedaling as hard as possible, has meant to me something I will never forget . Getting to the top was a challenge with myself , that I won and I won again many times since then,  even after the danger of a cancer was , thankfully, gone.

 I won and won again when in the morning , even after I returned from vacation, without not so much continuous training , I took my bike and alone , slowly, until I arrived to the top or again, when one day at sunset, with my husband , lulled by the light of the sunset and the lengthening shadows on the already dark roads.

my husband and I at the top of the Maddalena hill

my husband and I at the top of the Maddalena hill

During these six months I’ve found that you can cycle and in the meantime you can have a look at the landscape around you, but my husband was right , you must first become familiar with your  bike and now  I add that you have to respect and love it .

Concentration is everything. I don’t have an athletic body, probably I have the farthest shape compared to a cyclist’s one. And If I can do it, everybody else could.  I got to the conclusion that everything is just inside your  head: strength, desire and passion.

I still ride with my husband and now it’s beautiful. Sure, there are times when I still get pissed off because he tells me to stay in the slipstream , and I don’t. Then he goes forward without checking if I’m still alive and well, times when I call him and he cannot hear  me , and then I look like a crazy hysterical woman screaming his name in the middle of nowhere and then when he finally hears me, I have already forgotten what I wanted to tell him.

Every now and then I still do not feel up to it, but I live for the moments when , seized by I know not what kind of rapture , on a the flat road,  I ” fly ” at thirty five km per hour and then at the traffic lights my husband reaches me and asks me if someone had put some hot chili on my bottom …

I know he has his rules , I now learned them by heart and respect them. I have my own , which is that first of all cycling is a pleasure, not a duty , so if I do not feel like going , I don’t . This rule is very often broken because if it was for my laziness , 90 % of the time , I’d stay  home. I am grateful to my husband because , knowing me well , he insists on this and then I go out of my pajamas on Saturday mornings and I ride my bike. Happily. Thanks to this common passion , together, we are treading new paths , we are discovering new, wonderful places around here. Together.

 Mine is no more A bike , but it is MY bike , my wonderful and irreplaceable bike .

My beautiful Pinarello Dogma 2

My beautiful Pinarello Dogma 2

These 2000 km on my road bike , which unfortunately is now going to rest in the garage until next spring to now leave room to the mountain bike,  were 2000 kilometers of discovery of nature all around me, 2000 km during which I felt part of a sort of a parallel world which welcomed and cuddled me  , but above all, these have been  2000 kilometers of travel inside myself.

From Brescia to Lake Garda. 92 kilometers, cycling with Virginia Woolf and others.

(Versione in italiano)

Saturday 19th October

Bike track- Brescia - Desenzano - Sirmione

Cycling track from Brescia to Desenzano, Sirmione, San Martino e Solferino and back. Lake Garda, Italy

I am tired. As usual. My little child doesn’t let me sleep much. It’s been like this since she was born. And now she is almost 3. I got to the  conclusion that she thinks sleeping is a waste of time! But at 41, I do need some rest.

My husband is already ready to cycle. I get ready too, but, to be honest I am still sleeping.

As soon as we leave home,  I think “I am so not making it today! I am tired, I am sleepy, it’s cold. I wish I was still in my pajamas….”.  the sky is grey and so are the clouds.

In order to get straight to Salò, on Lake Garda, and back, we don’t take the cycling path, as we would usually do.  I’d love to cycle about 50 kms, no more than that. I am too sleepy.

Along Viale Venezia , leaving the city center of Brescia, I spot two cars ( always the same two , every single day I go cycling) parked ahead of me on the cycling path . And every single time I feel I’d love  to destroy them and their owners.
My morning hasn’t started in the best way ever.  However …. in Pontenove we then take the cycling path, which runs through the countryside, heading to the lake Garda.

Cycling path towards the lake of Garda

Cycling path towards the lake of Garda, from Brescia to Desenzano

Despite the grey sky, the landscape is beautiful. Alongside the path runs a blanket of yellow leaves. I suddenly find myself thinking about Mrs. Dalloway. I don’t even know why. I was a huge fan of Virginia Wolf when I was younger and I haven’t thought about her and her works for years. And now, out of the blue, in the middle of nowhere, I am thinking about Mrs. Dalloway’s character.

For those who haven’t read it , Mrs. Dalloway is the protagonist of a book, which takes the title from her name, by Virginia Woolf.

It has been ages since I last read a book by V. Woolf and  yet, suddenly,  it is as if Mrs. Dalloway in person was here with me and with her, some other characters of this and other books by Virginia Woolf.

And then, as I cycle on the yellow leaves-covered-path surrounded by green fields and hills with white horses , I think of how much I’ve loved Virginia Woolf and how much I was fascinated by her and by the  Bloomsbury Group, which she created together with her brother.

I remember that when I read about it , I thought of those writers, poets, thinkers, artists, all joined together, who once a week would meet and discuss about Aesthetics, Philosophy and Literature .

I still clearly remember my own feeling, which was a kind of envy (I know, it sounds crazy , but maybe in fact , I am a bit crazy ) towards them. Envy seasoned , however, with affection, and of course great, great respect and immeasurable admiration. I would have liked to live during the Victorian era , too , even only in order to be able to criticize it.

I wonder how it would have been if only I could have had the opportunity to meet Virginia Woolf  and the others from the Bloomsbury Group. I would have loved to savor every single word, spoken or written, during those meetings , I would have listened carefully and learnt.

To me, Mrs Dalloway was an epiphany. Before then I had never read a novel that took place in a single day . I loved and appreciated not only the plot itself , but the unusual way by which Woolf tells a story exclusively from the inner perspective of the protagonist; I loved the sudden time travel, through the thoughts and emotions of Clarissa Dalloway , her monologues and soliloquies as if time and space were melted , the past, the present and the future flowed on the same level , driven by a memory born from an object, a sentence , a thought.

I was really fascinated by this reading, even if , frankly, until this morning , I thought I had forgotten everything about it.  As soon as I think of Clarissa’s stream of consciousness, while I am still riding my bike, I think about James Joyce.

There was a time, in my life, when I was madly in love with Joyce. I see myself as a young woman ( well…let’s say youngER which sounds better ” ) reading Ulysse , without being able to get to the last page and without having the ability to understand it in depth , but still involved and fascinated by the characters’ stream of consciousness. Now my memories go the easier-to-be-read-and-understood “The Dubliners”, which made my personal interest for Ireland grow, despite Joyce’s  point of view of the moral history of his country when both Ireland  in general and Dublin in particular seemed to be centers of paralysis.

I remember that my favorite story , or perhaps , the only one I distinctly remember was ” The Dead .” Again, I do not know how and I do not know why, but suddenly I remember the sense of loss of the protagonist and his first awareness of the dilemma of whether it is better to die when you are young or when your are old , when mistakes are growing dramatically. And living this dilemma was like to taking his mask off , unlike all the other protagonists of the Dubliners , who never called into question , and while I was reading , I was wondering if, later on, the Irish, had changed their attitude … if something had changed in their soul. And it was , perhaps, from that moment that I began to deeply love Ireland, from every point of view , from literature to history, from poetry to the origins, Celtic myths and legends linked to St. Patrick, from Oscar Wilde to the poets , from WB Yeats , whom I love the most, to Séamus Heaney .. and so on.

When I was immersed in these readings I could not even imagine, then, many years later, I would have lived in Dublin and that I would have walked on the same streets where my favorite writers / poets and protagonists of their stories, had walked before me.

cycling path towards Desenzano, Lake garda, Italy

cycling path towards Desenzano, Lake garda, Italy

While I am cycling towards the lake, time flies and I am not tired anymore, immense , in my personal stream of consciousness … I go back to the Bloomsbury Group, and I think of TS Eliot. I think about how much, at University, I hated studying The Waste Land, and how much, on the contrary, I have loved ” The Hollow Men”. I remember reading somewhere that Virginia Woolf wrote a letter to TS Eliot to tell him that the group collected some money to allow him to quit his job and devote himself exclusively to literature.

I would have wanted to know them so much!

Every now and then my husband turns to check if I am still there and there I am, just behind his wheel.  Today I am in good shape! I’m riding with many writers!  But I am not going to tell him about this…

We then  get to where the track splits: to the left to Salò , Desenzano to the right .

Here, the first change in plans. I ask my husband if he has ever been to Desenzano and I find out, with surprise, that he has not. So we decide not to follow , as we normally would,  the Valtenesi cycling path , but to go to Desenzano . After a couple of kilometers, following the main road , we enter the town.

desenzano little harbour

desenzano little harbour

The clouds are still there . The sun is pale , but the light is wonderful. There are many people strolling on this Saturday morning . We cycle through the narrow roads of the town center and then  stop to take a few pictures of the harbor. Looking at the lake, in front of us, I spot a lighthouse . And I can’t avoid thinking again of Virginia Woolf and her ” To the lighthouse .” But it is time to go.

My bike and myself in Desenzano

My bike and myself in Desenzano

Desenzano small harbour, cycling on Garda lake

Desenzano small harbour, cycling on Garda lake

Looking at the lake, I see the amazing peninsula of Sirmione and find out that my husband has never been there either. And then, we definitely change our program , and we are now cycling to Sirmione.

Sirmione castle - lake Garda - italy

Sirmione castle – lake Garda – italy

And it is wonderful. It’s crowded of foreign tourists, as if it was Venice in the summer time. They all standing and wandering around the main entrance to the castle, which is actually  the only point of access to the village . Inside, among the narrow alleys, a couple of traffic agents are trying , in vain , to drain the crowd and let the cars pass through. (only residents and hotels guests can circulate in here) . It ‘s impossible , however, not to stop and look up at the walls and towers with dovetail battlements, home for seagulls in search of rest .

sirmione - lake Garda

Sirmione castle – lake Garda – italy

We cycle through the crowd, trying hard not to fall off our bikes and we stop to take some pictures. This castle is fascinating. I think that it has a sinister look . When I get home in the afternoon , I find a legend associated with it : ” In the castle a long time ago there lived a happy married couple : the beautiful Arice and Ebengardo . During a dark and stormy night , a man knocked at the door of the castle in search of shelter . The young lovers welcomed him to spend the night there . It was Elalberto , Marquis of Feltre . Enchanted by the beauty of Arice , during the same night, Elalberto snuck into her bedroom with the intent to take advantage of her . Arice strenuously tried to defend herself and her desperate cries attracted the attention of her husband Ebengardo . But when he arrived to her bedroom, he found her dead , stabbed by the fury of Elalberto . After a violent scuffle , Elalberto died pierced by his own dagger, and from that day the ghost of Ebengardo wanders the castle , condemned to remain among the living , separated from her. “

Sirmione - Lake Garda - the Castle

Sirmione castle – lake Garda – italy – with a ghost

We continue to cycle uphill to the ancient caves of Catullus , but we don’t manage to get to the entrance gate because it’s a gravel road and it would be dangerous for our bike wheels .

I remember the last time I was in Sirmione, I was studying in France for Erasmus and I came to Italy with some friends, as a tourist. It’s amazing! It has been nearly 20 years ago! Time really flies ! Talking about time… it’s noon already and we have to go back home! We have already cycled  nearly 50 kilometers! On the way back , just left behind Sirmione , I see the tower of San Martino and Solferino and since the signs say only 3 km away…let’s pay a visit!  But soon, we get lost. My husband, like all men , doesn’t want to ask for directions as a principle! Since I don’t have this silly principle, I ask for directions and we soon get to the tower.  While we are getting there , I tell my husband that there is an ossuary, on the right hand side of the road , but as soon as I start explaining what an ossuary is, as soon as hears the words ” skulls ” and ” skeletons ” , his facial exprssion changes and he says, ” Let’s go! Let’s move on!”

We stop for a moment to take some photos of the tower and then look for the way back. The treasure hunt for the way back takes us ages .

Tower of San Martino e Solferino

Tower of San Martino e Solferino

San Martino e Solferino

San Martino e Solferino

We are lost, again, so I rely on Google maps , but after 5 minutes, my phone is dead. We then cycle on the moraine hills . Beautiful landscape , but if you only had a cup of coffee at 9 am , you’ve cycled 60 km, you are cold and hungry, the climb is not exactly what you want to deal with. Eventually we find the Leone shopping mall on our left and then understand that we are cycling in the right direction , towards Brescia. In the center of this town we meet an old lady who, seeing us in trouble asks us “whe-re are you go-ing?” Slowly , enunciating each syllable well , as if we where foreigners, and couldn’t understand her Italian. My husband pretends not to notice , as you know , this is one of the pillars of bike wisdom according to my husband. . .I obviously appreciate her help and reply ” to Brescia .” Then the lady’s attitude change , and she gives me direction not even in Italian but in this village’s old dialect. I thank her, while my husband just nods. I’m starving and I have bad foot cramps . I am cycling very very fast  because I cannot wait to get home . I leave my husband far behind me. When he finally reaches me, with his British aplomb, he asks me : “Sorry love, but …  have they put some hot chili on your ars? “

I can’t stop laughing.

We pass through   Mazzano , Rezzato and after another 15 kilometers we finally get home. I get off my bike , take my empty water bottle, I save my track and take the Garmin device with me. We cycled 92 kilometers . I’m really dead.

As soon as I open my home door, my children run towards me with open arms and ask me ” Mom , you’re finally here! Are you going to play with us now?” . 🙂

My bike track - lake Garda

My bike track – lake Garda

60 kilometers of joy and a PS for my husband

percorso-171013

(Verione in italiano qui)

The other night I went to sleep with a unstoppable desire to go cycling. When that happens, the next morning, usually, with the same intensity, I find any possible excuse to do something else. Instead, yesterday morning, at 10 to 7am, I woke up full of energy ,despite my little girl, as usual, had kept us awake all night long.
I got my big girl ready for school and we left home for school. She walked next to me while I was rode my Pinarello Dogma 2 with her Winx school backpack on my shoulders.
Once we got to the school , my daughter wanted me to stand at the doorway waiting for her and her class mates to go to class. So I waiting for the school bell to ring,  with my bike at the main school entrance door,  wearing my very tight cycling outfit, my helmet and sunglassed… I felt “slightly” uncomfortable , among other parents, who were, of course, dressed with appropriate clothes, but then I thought “who cares?” I waited for my daughter to go upstairs, I sent her a kiss and then I left  for a solo ride and it was beautiful .

watermill
I realize that I seem repetitive. In the sense that whenever I write about my bike rides , I say that it was beautiful. But it really  is! There have been non super interesting cycling rides, like the one on the Lake Iseo , but generally speaking, I could cycle on the same path 100 times and every single time I would find and appreciate something new , not necessarily around me, maybe even inside myself.

fiume

And while I am pedaling, I often smile . Then if I realize that I’m smiling …I laugh. Yes, I admit, I sound crazy, but if you don’t cycle maybe you can’t understand…

 As I ride on the Gavardina cycling path, I greet the trees , the river , and so on and, as I have already had occasion to write, I get the impression they greet me back.

gavardina

I always meet different kinds of morning cyclists … elderly who, despite their age, are still riding their road bikes and who, as a rule, get furious if you overtake them and do everything possible on earth, even risking a heart attack, to overtake you back to prove themselves they can still make it… grandparents who stroll their grandchildren in a pushchair and who stop every three steps to check if the child is well … middle-aged ladies who are there for the morning jogging who can’t stop chatting… foreign couples who are cycling as tourists on their super equipped, and super heavy bike, with the luggage tied to the bike, who despite that, look always super happy and satisfied … and everyone greets the others…with a nod , a formal ” good morning ” or , more often, with a basic “hello “. It ‘ a greeting that does not cost anything, and that makes you happy . Or at least I am very pleased . Whenever that happens to me, I get the feeling of being in a parallel world, where everyone is kind , where, even if for a nanosecond only, all are friends.
As I wrote on my Facebook page , the bike is good for the heart and the soul.

 PS for my husband only: check my average speed on the way back. I went very fast! Maybe in five year time…but ONE DAY, I AM GOING TO RIDE AS FAST AS YOU DO!laps

Second ride with Monica – Brescia – Middle of nowhere and back

Second ride with my friend Monica .
at 8 am I call her to be sure he has not changed her mind and , to be honest I hope she has. Last thing I would do right now is to ride a bike, but I promised her . This morning I am having an hangover. Last night I went out to dinner with two friends of mine and  we had an excellent Franciacorta white wine and now I have a terrible headache. I forgot to buy the contact lenses and I am, therefore, going to wear my sunglasses and I hope that the weather will not get worse otherwise I will not be able to see much. On top of that I found out I have absolutely no winter cycling clothes. So I decide to steal something from my husband’s closet, who unlike me , is 1 meter 90 centimeter tall . I take a long-sleeved shirt and I realize that it has a dual function : to protect me from the cold but above all , I have the illusion of having lost weight !
Monica and I are going to meet in Sant’Eufemia. She is coming by car and I am going there with by bike.

I text Monica ” I’m leaving now.” Monica is still home and says she has loaded the bike into her car and we will meet at the usual place . ( “Usual” …this is the second time ever than we ride togetherwe go, but now everything has already become a ritual ) .

Before leaving, I check everything, as my usual rite ( really “usual” ) : wheels: inflated , Garmin: turned on and synchronized , helmet: fastened. Finally I place the phone in the back pocket , under my handkerchief , and I get on my bike , I start the Garmin and….the phone rings .
It’s Monica ” Ari … I forgot to inflate the wheels . Will you bring me a pump, please ? ”
I can’t believe I am hearing this!
” Monica, I ‘m coming with my bike ! ” that’s right ” she replays , Silence. “But  would you be so kind to bring it to me pleaser ? ”
“Look Monica, if you want I can google and find someone near you who sells bikes, but I doubt I could ride my bike for 8 km with a pump in my hand! ”
I’m leaving for my ride with a smile  on my  lips, Monica makes me smile . I wonder if one day she will ever put  the ” bike concentration” setting on .
I meet her while she is riding her bike on the pavement, on the wrong side of the road.
(I have to explain to Monica that bicycles follow the rules of the European law!)
Monica has already managed to get the whells inflated . Her petrol station tender, not only has inflated the wheel , but , belongs to the omniscient category …! Therefore , as required by the rule , he knows all of her bike and he is more than pleased to give her some advice. The fist thing Monica tells me as soon as we meet, as if she was revealing me the third secret of Fatima: “my petrol vendor told me that my bike is a hybrid!. ” Ah well , then!
The good news is that MONICA DOES NOT HAVE THE DORA’S BACKPACK anymore! The bad one is that she is still riding the very old-fashioned bike. A very old-fashioned hybrid bike.

We will naver make it.
We leave St. Euphemia towards Gavardo . We cross Botticino and I congratulate her for having left the backpack  home . Then I look at the bike and ask, ” excuse me, Monica, have you also left your high-mountain water bottle?” “Yes, I have. But I forgot to bring with me a regular one and I am already thirsty.” Very well.

We cross Rezzato and while she goes to the bar to get a bottle of water , I stop to greet a friend of mine who has a shop there . Monica returns and we are really ready to go. ” I must confess that I also had a coffee ,” she says, almost with a sense of guilt. ” Well done, Moni. but now , let’s not stop anymore.”
In Virle take the Gavardina and the average speed is really low , but in fact we are focusing on something else….we have turned completely crazy!

I , in fact , am trying to make a video while I’m riding ,holding my cell phone in one hand and with the other one  on the handlebars! Monica struggles to join me to get back in the frame and almost ends up in the cornfield , then turns and  we almost crash to the ground!
VIDEO
In Mazzano the path splits into two : straight to Salò and right towards Desenzano .

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We take the right.

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Here the cycling path is alongside the road. We go straight up to Pontenove , where, n the cobblestone street of the old bridge , where every time I have the fear of puncturing , suddenly Monica’s brand new bottle of water flies down from the bike and a nanosecond later, as in the worst movies, the only one car in the neighborhood, passed over it . Monica is sooooooooooo angry ! She picks up the destroyed bottle, and places it under the cargo rack. (yes, Monica’s bike also has a cargo rack … )

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Fiume Chiese visto da Pontenove

The bottle, by the way, will stay with us for about 10 miles, until Monica finds a bin for plastic . You can not say that does not take about the environment.
I’m thinking that maybe I would do the tour today , that is, from there to Padenghe , Puegnago Gavardo , Botticino is a bit ‘ too much like the second exit. That would be about 60 kilometers. Then I see , by chance, a sign indicating a bike path to Montichiari . Then we turn right.
PHOTO INFORMATION
The first surprise are some wonderful bluebells that I hadn’t seen in ages, probably the last time was when I attended my kindergarten. What an emotion ! Going on I must say that the road is not among the best I’ve ever seen.

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then we take a beautiful road , which seems to be a tunnel of leaves and branches.

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We ride throut the countryside, then after Ponte San Marco we pass an industrial area  and then  we take a cycling  path, with a small wooden bridge and , just after the bend , I find it another surprise. Planted in front of a corn field I see a sign . I believe I have read that right, but I’m curious . I stop , ride the bike and I’m going to see better.

Attensione Rispettate Granoturco

Attensione Rispettate Granoturco

This sign , in its simplicity, gives me many beautiful emotions. I imagined the farmer who built it with a pair of aces , who planted it and that, with chalk , slowly, undertook to write ” be careful, respect the corn ” , seeing the hesitation in writing, and attention to the message to give . I found it touching.

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The path continues in a sudden insignificant , next to the fields , even a little ‘ boring. At some point, however, boredom is interrupted by panic. In the middle of nowhere , with Monica next to me , I distinctly feel a bell, very close , I fear and disarray convinced that someone is arriving from behind. But what do I find out ? ? IT’S MONICA’S !
” BUT YOU ! YOUR BIKE HAS A BELL ! ” I say, almost shocked. . Monica, naïve as usual , “sure ! Because your do not have it ? ” Monica , no ….
Then I ask : ” why on earth are you ringing this bell in my ears ? ” “You never know who you could meet on the roads….” I swear I could not stop laughing.
A few kilometers later, in the middle of nowhere,  I get the impression of being the protagonist of the “Secret garden” . On my left there is a wonderful, unexpected vegetable garden .

Vegetable garden in the middle of nowhere
I know you must think I am crazy, but I was moved . I got off the bike and with the cleats that sank into the mud , I went to have a look closely at each row of vegetables. I had never seen the fennel plants before, which from a distance , I mistook for carrots! But where have I been living for the last 41 years ? It ‘s wonderful .
Monica and I continue to pedal through the field, following the small paths, with not so many direction boards  and we are very proud of our ability to avoid getting lost. We pass through the Park CA ‘ Del Bes, with very picturesque views . I do not recommend to come here with a road bike, has a few roads are made of gravel.
At a junction the pole sign id bend on the ground. We do not know how to interpret it , then, we get off our bikes and we face the board as if we were Agent Scully of X-Files. We solve the case and we understand that we have to go left. We are very proud of ourselves . We’re going straight on, when I uddendly spot a semi- hidden board indicating ” Montichiari ” on the right. We ride for about two meters and: deep despair!: a big, enormous sign says ROAD CLOSED FOR WORK . WTF!!!

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I say to Monica: ” Monica, could you please take my bike for a second? I’d like to take a picture to the sign. ” .
And here,  Monica says what you ‘d NEVER expect :

( next step : to explain Monica that road bikes and mountain bikes DO NOT HAVE THE STAND , DO NOT HAVE THE BELL AND DO NOT HAVE THE RACK )

At this point, where are we going ? Panic!
Idea! Google maps , can rescue us ! No panic!
I pull out the phone , I am on google maps and begin to turn it on upside down to figure out where we are. I have never and I say never I really mean NEVER  been able to read maps . I do not know whether it is because they are dyslexic or stupid , but I have strong feeling that the reason is the latter.
The backpack , but especially the map of Dora the Explorer would be very useful now!
Sure of myself I say to Monica ” no problem , Monica ! I have everything under control, let’s go . At the bottom there should be a village ” ( which village I don’t have a clue, but never mind… ) .
We continue down the road and turn right , where we find the directions, indicating Calcinato and we follow the signs.
We cross the main square and, for a gust of wind , we are ” attacked ” by a shower of chestnut curls. Picturesque, but that harmfull!

Finally we get rid of the bottle, as soon as Monica reaches a plastic recycle bin.

We arrive at the end of the village and we are at a crossroad. To the right it says Verona and to the left :Montichiari .
Monica , very sure of herself says, ” definitely left! ” I have doubts and once again I turn to the Holy Google maps and we go to the right . We make two flyovers on the highway and on the ring road and head towards Mazzano . The roads are not the best , including trucks, cars and coaches , is a succession of moments of panic .  A the end , we pass through Virle and Rezzato , where I note with pleasure that in these days they repainted the lines that delimit the bike path in the town center . At the hospice we turn right , and. After the long pleasant road with high trees, we turn right again. I want to show Monica the small village , which looks straight out of a fairy tale. We end in  Caionvico . Not entirely satisfied with this morning ride , I propose to Monica to go around to the top in Botticino and she agrees . The thing I like most about Monica is that she never says no to new adventures. The thing I like least is when , bike, take initiatives … like taking a roundabout on the other side of the road  or when she cuts the road to cars.

We  get to the starting point. Monica, off her bike , is taking something from her pocket. It’s a chestnut . “I’ve taken directly from the plant, while I was going to throw the bottle . If you keep it in your pocket , it prevents colds . ” I do not know whether to be more surprised by her super kind gesture or that she  believes in this popular tradition . Monica is really special person. And then, at his second ride ever she has gone for 50 kilometers ! I am very proud of her !

mappa

Spin the wheel…100!!! and more…

Spin the wheel, spin the wheel … 100 100 100 100 ! 100 ! ! In fact, to be precise “spin the  wheel for 117 km” ! I’m really enthusiastic of my performance!

100! 100! 100!

A step back … last night I was up until 2 AM to post the pictures photos of “Ari rides her bike” onto Instagram, then when , under the blankets, I suddenly woke up with my cell phone in my hand, I realised it was time to sleep, listening to the usual chamber orchestra : the melodious sound of the snoring of my husband.

At 3am my oldest daughter wakes me up because of a bad cold : her nose is bleeding. Very good …. I’m beginning to suspect that this is going to be a long and stormy night . At 3 and a half I go back to sleep . My husband, is still sleeping like a baby. (a baby without a cold) .  At 4 my little girl wakes up , crying like never before. And she goes on to cry until 5 and a half. So, at first  we camp on the couch in the living room , side by side , with the Winnie the Pooh cover. Comfortable …. then at 6 am, when I finally have found the perfect Tetris positioning , with one arm under her pillow and the other resting on the Ikea pink coffee table, which now stands in our living room , she wakes up and wants to go in the big bed . Very well. Let’s say that if it had been a long and stormy night , perhaps, it would have been better .

At 8 am the happy family is already active. When I open my eyes and realize it’s Saturday and I promised my husband that I would go riding with him to have the complete tour of Lake Iseo , I shut my eyes , squeezing them very strongly , hoping that this is just a very bad nightmare. But no, it is NOT . I really have to go . I promised myself that today, for the first time in my life , I will ride for 100 kilometers and I promised him that I’ll manage it. And I do not want to disappoint him, and, first of all, I don’t want to disappoint myself. I make my coffee , and still asleep , I forget to add sugar in it and it tastes so horrible, that I suddenly wake up! My husband tells me: ” But how nice that once in a while both girls have slept all night long!”
Then he goes to the fridge and takes out his breakfast, which he always prepares carefully the night before.

colazione-marito-e-io

From this picture your can easily spot who the family athlete is. And who is not.

It takes me at least five long minutes to wear my contact lenses and while I try to reach my target (my eye)  I think, ” But why on earth am I doing this?!?!? I could go back bed or lay on the couch in my pajamas! ” But it is time to go. I get dressed , as usual , in black, I give a look at myself in the mirror and , as always , I look like that “beautiful” Barbamamma ,but..never mind.  I go to the garage, with my shoes with hooks, I hurl a figure … I put my hand on the bike, pat the saddle and I find myself saying , “Goodmorning!”

I TALKED WITH MY BIKE .

I swear I did it. I gave her a good morning and I told her that I have been missing her, and I apologize for being out during the week , with my mountain bike . The most dramatic thing is that I realized that this is not normal , only when I reported the matter to a person who commented one my posst here on the blog .
We leave home, heading towards Lake Iseo . The sky is gloomy . I ride next to my  husband and I ask him ” do you think it is going to rain ? “. He turns and says, very sure of himself “The weather can only get better”  Ok , if he says so… We cross the center of Brescia , which on Saturday mornings , with the open-air-market , it is even more beautiful than usual. We then take Volturno road and I think “I am a crazy , unconscious. For once in my life I could have breakfast , I mean a decent breakfast , not just coffee, even without sugar in it! I am sure I’ll never make it today! My legs feel already heavy , I have the usual tingling in his left knee . I’m tired , I’m hungry… I wanna go back home! ” My husband turns  his head to me and asks ” is Everything okay my little puppy? ” I give him one of my best smiles and say “I feel excellent , my love! “

We cross Gussago and Rodengo Saiano , then turn right and go up to Ome . At the top of the hill, I turn my sight to the left as if in search of something and I spot, in the green of Franciacorta , the country home of a dear friend of mine who died only a few years ago and an infinite sadness comes over me . Surrounded by vineyards , I am overwhelmed with memories and thoughts, then I look at the sky in search of comfort and it is cloudy and dark. It looks sad , too.

We ride next to the natural paradise of the “torbiere” and we finally get to Iseo, where you begin to glimpse the lake. We continue on the road that I had already rode last week, and cross Paratico , over the bridge, we are now in Sarnico , in the county of  Bergamo. This is where we ended up to last week and at that time it seemed to be already too much for me.  If I stop to think  that this is where our tour is going to START today , I’d like to die, so I take the decision to tell  myself that it is going to be very easy . And I have a very high power of persuasion , because I believe it!

We follow a piece of cycle path along the lakeside, which I like so much. The lake here has a kind of magic power.

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Soon after we leave the lake and follow the road that runs along, just higher . My husband had told me that along these roads he had seen some very strange trees which have roots that seem to grow vertically. I see them too, I can hardly believe my eyes!  Picturesque , but at the same time , I find very disturbing. The photos are not the best, but the choice was to  place myself. 1) next to the fence 2) in the middle of the road and being smashed within a second by a car. I opted for the solution number 1.piante

We cross a couple of tunnels and survive to fear only by a miracle. My husband lets me go ahead, but I feel guilty because riding behind is much more dangerous . I love him so much also for these small, big gestures. Riding a bike in a tunnel is too much for me. The roar of the engine of a motorbike which pulls over me, scares me to death. I feel that my legs are trembling with fear. I cannot even close my eyes , otherwise I’d crash . I begin to count the pedal rides to try to figure out how many meters are left to the end of this nightmare. I am not  wearing my  photochromic sunglass lenses (because, spotting them in my Okley case,I ‘ve always wondered what they were for … as you can guess my husband takes care of my equipment. If it was for me I’d still be wearing the posh city sunglasses….) However , the tunnel, as said, are a real nightmare for me! We arrive in Tavernole Bergamo , from which we see Montisola, a big, amazing island in the middle of the lake. I have been living around here for 41 and this is the first time in my life I am here on the lake!

Suddenly my legs aren’t pushing anymore; my husband is now a very little (very very very indeed) dot ahead of me. I look at the elevation on my Garmin and I see that, in fact , the road is uphill. The climb is minimal, but I can feel each of the 40 kilometers that I have already rode. And I wonder how I’ll make it for another 80 … better not think about it.

Sarnico , Zù , we go through the scenic Orrido and then we get to Castro. I begin to have visions. … I think it ‘s time to eat an energy bar ( which, by the way, sounds sooooo athlete!) . Obviously I chose the bar at random at the supermarket, it is by Enervit , and it contains magnesium or something similar, and, beyond any expectation, it’s delicious !
I feel that I am regaining energy .

pausa-enervitEcco che mando un bacio al mio fotografo, mio marito.

We arrive and cross Lovere to come again in the territory of Brescia , in Pisogne . We decide to stop for a coffee. As soon as we are about to cross the train level crossing , the bars go down , and a lifetime later, here comes the train . What a thrill ! It’s called train of flavors and , through the windows , I see many people sitting at lunch. I ‘m starving , by the way .Treno dei sapori, a Pisogne (BS)

In my imagination Pisogne was a faraway place, where, at the elementary school, they would led me to pick chestnuts. And today, many years later, I find out that it is a fascinating place , a small ancient village with a beautiful bell tower . (the picture is horrible , but trust me on word )pisogne

So, once home, I can tell and I find that the request for Santa Maria della Neve , in the town center , is home to the frescoes by Romanino .

In a bar on the lake , we stop to rest. I order a  Coca Cola which is probably the disgusting in the world, which tastes of everything except from a Coca Cola. Really undrinkable! While my husband drinks his cappuccino with my Coca Cola, (and when I say “with” i really mean it. A sip of cappuccino and a drink of my Coca Cola…)  I take some pictures of the small harbor. The clouds are now less “angry” and a few sun rays are shining on  the boats. On the catwalk there are  three giant colorful pinwheels . It suddenly seems to be in a non-place, and I am in peace with myself. This feeling lasts a nanosecond because it is already time to go.Porticciolo di Pisogne

My friend Cristina , the Bionic Woman, calls me just before I am back on my bike . When I tell her that we did 60 km and that we lack another 60, she says “f**k, Ari , then you’re already there then! ” “No, Cristina ,” I say , I’m only halfway through!” I replied.  She insists: “No! Look : when you turn the ass to get back, the worst is over , now it’s as if you were already home .” I do not know what magic power she has on me, but I trust her and I regain all my energies. I am ready to go!Mega girandole sul porticciolo di Pisogne

We leave Pisogne behind , and take a fantastic cycling path, which is…impossible to be spotted ! Iam going to get into a tunnel, when , fortunately, my husband who is behind me ( Oh yes! ! he was BEHIND !) yelled at me to turn right , in a charming little tunnel reserved to bikes ( suggestive , but for me, that I suffer from claustrophobia , it is , however, a nightmare. A suggestive nightmare, but still a nightmare) .Vello
From here the path is  really cool ! It’s the old road, which was re-opened to bikes only recently, after 3 years, due to landslides . My husband told me that on Sundays, and, anyway, in the summer season , it  is full of people. Today we are alone , apart from the whispering of the wind and the waves of the lake. Pure poetry .ciclabile-lago-d'iseo

In Toline this magnificent road ends and you are back on the main road . You cross Marone , Marasino and Sulzano. As I read through a square in Sulzano on a banner over my head ” FESTIVAL OF WILD PIG” and I thank God that I am wearin ​​, despite the 21 degrees today, long pants . With my weight and my legs yelling me” wax us, pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeee ” I would have risked being taken as the festival testimonial!"il marito"

We’re going towards Iseo when just before me , I see the BEE GEES . I cannot believe my eyes! From behind : they look identical ! I overtake them and I am speechless ! There are two ladies in their seventies , dressed with a racing t-shirt and shorts as if they were there for a road cycling competition, with half-finger gloves , and big and heavy sunglasses from the ‘70ies. Just ahead of them: their personal trainer! Sooooooooooooo cool!!!

Vista della sponda bergamasca, da quella bresciana

I love to ride my bike !

Meanwhile, I keep looking at my Garmin device. I never rode for a 100 kilometers in a day and pray Lord to get a puncture : it has never happened in life and I don’t want it to happen now. I am living my dream. Then I begin to think : “If it happens now, I am going to push my bike until I reach a 100  kilometers” and I realize that a streak of madness took citizenship in my head.

We are back in Ome, now . At that precise moment my Garmin tells me that time has come! 100 kilometers. I stop to “celebrate” the moment and from my back pocket I pull out what one would never expect : a fantastic  biological cereal and cereal apple by Hipp , suitable for children 1 to 3 years. Maybe because I was all galvanized , but it seems to me has given me energy!Super poteri : a me!!!!!!!!!!!!

In  Gussago we stopped for refreshment at the fountain and then off to home. In Cellatica I really do my best . I ride  37 Km/h and I leave my husband behing. ( I am super excited !) . Just start climbing the Fantasina , when my husband over takes me, riding sooooooo fast. He turns his head and gives me THAT  look:  I am dead.

We arrive home after nearly six hours, and 5 hours and 10 of actual pedaling . I’m not tired , I am not as fresh as a spring rose, but to be honest, it was not difficult . I was expecting more . More emotions, more feelings, paradoxically, even more effort.

I started (or rather re-started ) to ride a bike at the end of April, riding for 15 km . Up to now  I’ve rode for over 1600km . Never in my life I had gone for a 100 in a single day . It was my dream . And, with commitment, perseverance and sweat I did it today. But perhaps the Italian poet Leopardi was right… Or at least , this was my “Saturday in the village” .Ecco il mio percorso, casa-giro del lago d'Iseo-casa.

Next step : 150 kilometers.

My first uphill – Brescia – Sant’Eusebio and back

As I wrote on my Facebook page,as soon as I just got at the top of the hill of Sant ‘ Eusebio : “Beyond all expectations … from Brescia to the hill of Sant Eusebio , 20 km, 500 meters in altitude. You can do whatever you want to do, if you really want it and I did I ! ”
I did not know , frankly, that I would have made it , but in the end , I hoped so ! When I was a child, I used to come this way to go the mountains and I hated it because of the uncountable  curves … and I always felt sick. Imagine on a bike!
I left Brescia , as usual  and  took the Triumplina road . Nightmare. I would have like to go back home immediately . Traffic, non-existent or impractical cycling path. Then we turn right towards Nave. I am already tired.  Here the traffic begins to decrease and it goes more secure (in the sense : with less fear of having an accident ) . And just after Caino , the climb begins.  It was the first time I did it and I must say that I stopped at least 3 times during the climb. The official excuse was that I was thirsty and I had to stop and drink slowly , the real one is that I felt like dying !
In fact, now that four months have passed since the first time , looking back , it seems almost impossible that I found the climb so hard , because it’s a soft, pleasant, uphill. However, when , FINALLY , I got to the top, I was super happy!

 

After the photo that immortalized my climb to the top, we went down from Vallio Terme. For this descent , which is beautiful , it would be advisable to have a jacket . I had , but I hadn’t fully zipped it, which produced a parachute effect …not the best thing to be done.

The road is very steep .
after nearly 6 months of bike and more than 1500 km, I have not yet learned to hold the handlebars from the bottom, and now I sincerely cataloged this thing in my personal  folder of the missions impossible ( in which we find also: understand a spy movie , let the plants on my terrace to survive … ) . Pedaling down towards Vallio Terme not knowing how to brake from the bottom of the handlebar, means horrible fingers cramps!

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Then we arrived in Gavardo , you resume the path and back to Brescia.

After the effort of the climb , a bit of flat cycling path can only warm the heart ! 🙂 Very nice ride !