Tomorrow we’ll ride again….
You might remember that in yesterday’s post, I suggested today should be somewhat flatter since, even though we had to climb higher (over 1100 meters) it would be spread over a longer distance. Once on the road, we found out that this was not true. Yesterday’s climb was pretty well distributed ( until the last 3 km) over the 42 km route. Most of today’s was in the first 40 km. It was a tough day. We had to walk a couple (or three or four) times.
On the positive side though, we got away from the crowds of tourists. Our route took us on some very quiet roads, all of which had reasonable pavement. We seem to have left the grape vines, but we are still riding through olive groves. Much of the farmland we have seen today was in wheat or canola and has now been worked for the fall with a deep subsoiling chisel plow. It wasn’t until we got to the Mediteranian at the end of the day, that we actually saw some flat fields. Most of them, until now have been impossibly hilly.
Tonight, we are on the ocean. We watched the sun set into the water. According to our routes, tomorrow should be an easier day.
This evening we are sitting at the top of the world in the medieval town of San Gimignano. Someone told us that in Tuscany a lot of the towns are built on the tops of hills. This one is no exception with a three kilometer climb finishing our day.
We are learning quickly that Tuscany is hilly. Our distance today was short, but we climbed almost 700 meters. Tomorrow will be longer with something over 1000 meters to climb. The inclines will not be as steep as they were today. On past trips the “granny gear” (I know that name is mean to grannies) was virtually never used. We were in it more that once today. We never had to walk the bike though.
We are in the most amazing spot. Our room opens out on a terrace with a view that goes on for miles. Below us, grapes are being picked and little olive groves dot the landscape. We’ve got local wine (only 4 Euros), some local wild boar sausage, local olive oil, and bread from the bakery down the street for our supper overlooking the valley.
Life is good.
I’m not really sure what day it is. It seems like it must be late afternoon Tuesday, but the last couple of days seem to have become a little undone with the travel and time change. J and I did set out on Sunday evening and had an uneventful, if uncomfortable flight to Rome. Last time we flew, we lucked out with an upgrade to business class. This time we got the back seats in our section. They don’t recline. Payback maybe?
The passport control line was long, so we got away from the airport later than expected aiming for the bus station.We were grabbed by what we are pretty sure was a gypsy taxi. The driver seemed to think that he should always straddle two lanes. He knew a little English, but “sorry” was his favourite word.
The bus station was a confusing zoo. We were directed from one ticket booth to the next, finally getting tickets for the three hour bus trip to Siena. The bus didn’t go to the place the Internet told us it would so we ended the trip sharing a taxi with Ken and Karen from Brampton who had been on our flight as well.
We slept for nearly twelve hours.
Today’s main task was bike building and meeting with the tour company representative to get our direction for the next 12 days. The directions are detailed and it looks like we might have a few challenging days ahead of us. Tuscany has a lot of hills and some of them are steep.
Siena has been a treat. The medieval walled city is a wonderful step back in time. We know we have more of these ahead on a smaller scale and are hoping the tourists will thin out just a bit.
This week, my friend Stuart begins an epic ride across Canada. He is riding in the Sea to Sea ride sponsored by World Renew to raise funds in an effort to bring an end to poverty.
Stuart is riding a bike that he got from us. It is an Opus Legato, part of the set that J and I bought when we first started bike touring a few years ago. We moved on to touring on our Santana tandem right after the maiden trip for those bikes around Lake Ontario. Stuart and Marg took the bikes on a tour to Ottawa last summer and caught the bike touring bug. Now Stuart, having made the bike his own, is poised to begin a nearly 7000 km journey.
Our prayers for Stuart are for safety, security, and that he will have a really great time over the next weeks.
Of all of the children’s messages I do, I think the one that has garnered the most comments, been the most memorable, and maybe caused some short term trauma, is the butchering of an Easter bunny.
The bunny, of course, is of the chocolate variety and I wonder with the kids, just what such a bunny has to do with Easter. One smart kid today, knew that the bunny was a symbol of new life, fertility, springtime. Others thought maybe there was a rabbit at the resurrection. Good, thoughtful answers.
I told them that the answer was inside the bunny, at which I produced a very large knife and cutting board. The question of where we should cut is often answered with a loud “cut off its head” which always reminds me of that fickle crowd that was so willing to shout “crucify” just a few days ago.
Today’s group was much more civilized. One little girl suggested we cut off the feet, while another thought the ears would be more appropriate. We compromised (another good thing to learn in church) and with our big knife, cut the rabbit right in half.
The rabbit was dark inside, so, after a bit of fumbling, I got the flashlight on my iPhone to go, and we all peered into the bottom of the rabbit. There was nothing there. One forward thinker, suggested we were looking in the wrong end, so, we shone our light into the topside. Still nothing.
The rabbit was dark and empty, and, as one child pointed out, smelled pretty good. Which (apart from the smell) is where our bunny merges with the Easter story. The tomb too, is dark and empty.
The butchered bunny and two identical companions disappeared with the children to Sunday School. Some of the bigger kids, and adults, were hoping that some remnant of the bunnies might appear at coffee time, but the bunnies seemed to have been totally consumed, possibly in some sort of feeding frenzy, by the youngest of our congregation.
Last night, with the congregation in Fruitland, we remembered Good Friday. It was an evening Good Friday service, something that was new to me, but also something which made the service very meaningful.
We had observed Lent with diminishing candles. One of our children extinguished a candle each Sunday to symbolize the coming darkness. By last evening only one candle remained. As the service progressed the lights in the sanctuary were turned off and dimmed leaving the church in near darkness with just the single “Christ candle” struggling to cut into the gloom.
With the words of “What Wondrous Love is This” still hanging in the air, the Christ candle is blown out, it is finished, light is gone, and, it seems, at this point anyway, hope is gone as well.
Darkness, awe, and silence.
Sunday is coming!!!