Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mi Amphora, Tu Amphora

It's just after 7 am Thursday here in Marinella. I'm sitting on the rooftop terrace of our hotel, watching the sun come up over the low peaks of eastern Sicily, and I am struck once again how beautiful this place is.

The weather here has been like Florida at this time of year, but with a little less humidity. The day starts off about perfectly, with temperatures in the upper 60's. It warms nicely by the time we start riding -- usually between 9 and 10 am -- and is toasty in the afternoon. The winds also pick up then, as you would expect being along the coast. Fabio says it's why the sailing here is so good.

Here's a picture of the sunset from this same terrace last night.

Tuesday we had a great ride. I planned to go out very early, descend Erice, and then climb back up to join everybody for breakfast and the "real" ride. Unfortunately, in all the hurry of getting someone to let me in to the garage where the bikes were kept, I grabbed the wrong bicycle -- RandoGirl's. By the time I realized my mistake, the garage door was closed and the hotel employee gone.

Descending Erice on a frame three sizes too small felt kind of weird. I was worried that climbing back up would be a little hard on my knees, so I only went a couple of miles before turning around and heading back up. I stood for most of it, so it wasn't too bad.

I got back to the hotel about the time that breakfast was being served, so I woke up RandoGirl and ate. Then, we all got the right bikes, and headed down the mountain.

My new plan was to descend, then climb back up the way that I had come, and then slowly try to catch back up to RandoGirl. I screwed it up a little by missing the left turn onto the new road, so I got another mile down and back on one of the roads that I had used to climb up to Erice before. Then, I took the right road down, which was so curvy and twisty that I was on the brakes all of the way. I then started back up, thinking that I would take some pictures during this climb.

But, you'll notice that there are no pictures. This is because I had (once again) left the memory card in the laptop, which leaves one with a camera that -- technically -- has no film. This left me with the sole option of hammering my way back up the climb.

Once back at the top, I "enjoyed" the descent again (I apologize now to my brakes), and then put my head down to try to catch up to the group. I eventually caught RandoGirl in Motya. We caught the ferry over and toured the Phoenician ruins there, then rode together along the salt pans to our hotel in Marsala. After getting cleaned up, we then toured one of the distilleries there that makes the wine named for the town.

It was very interesting and tasty. The wines are extremely varied, as you would expect from Sicily.

Wednesday, we got the bikes ready. They had spent the evening having a party in the courtyard.

I got to watch the guys load the spare bikes for a while. This is a pretty involved operation, particularly considering how narrow and twisty some of the roads are, and how low the tree branches hang over them.

(I'll try to publish the video below, but Sicily is not exactly internet city; if it doesn't show up, expect it when I'm back in the states.)

It had rained pretty heavily during the evening, so we had to go around (and thru) a lot of puddles on the first part of this day's ride. Usually, it was just RandoGirl and I, but for this stretch we picked up many of our fellow travellers. This gave us a chance to all get lost together a few times.

When we left the coast, we rode through vineyards. These look like raisins, which they use in some of the Marsala wines.

We stopped for lunch in Mazara del Vallo, walking around that town a bit. Then we continued down the coast. It was a lovely, rocky, wild-looking beach. It would have been spectacular if not for the piles of garbage.

Many of the architectural sites and museums here have amphoras. These are large clay vessels that the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, and whoever else lived here used to carry liquid produce. In a couple of thousand years, historians will have lots of our Coca Cola amphora.

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