Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Short Rides with Lots of Stuff

My original plan was to add in lots of extra mileage on this trip, to avoid getting bored. Instead, our tour guides have add in lots of extra stuff between the mileage, and thus have kept me from getting bored. I feel spiritually and intellectually enriched, even if my quadriceps have not kept pace.

I also feel gustatorily enriched, which might be why my quadriceps feel left out. They are having a hard time keeping up with my swelling midriff.

After Thursday's short spin, we left Modello on Friday to head for quieter country. The first 20 kilometers or so were kind of hectic, since Modello is really a suburb of Palermo, but once we got out past the airport things quieted down. This was helped by sticking to less-travelled roads, as usual, including some where the pavement came and went at irregular intervals.

Eventually, we arrived at Castellammare del Golfo, which is a small fishing village centered around a castle on a gulf (duh). Much of the trip was punctuated by sections with small roving packs of dogs, interspersed with areas where the garbage had not been picked up for a few weeks. Apparently, the garbage workers in Sicily are on vacation, while the dogs are working overtime.

Saturday was a lot more fun. We left the hotel at Castellammare del Golfo for the ruins of Segesta. The route included lots of fun little climbs, and then a climb that RandoGirl and I got to do on foot up to the theatre and temple there.

If the climb up to the theatre wasn't enough fun, we then decided to take the paths back down. These were filled with loose rocks, which was interesting to go down on wearing our cycling sandals.

We were the first riders in our group to get to Segesta, and then were the first to leave. We rode on to Chesanuova, where Girolamo (one of our guides) had told us to go by the Jolly Bar for the best cannollo around. He was right.

Fortified with pastry, we headed to Valderice and on down the hill to Bonagia, where we were staying at a really nice hotel on the water. I enjoyed the descent so much that I then went back up to Valderice, intending to descend again. However, it was such a short climb that I decided to climb all the way up to Erice.

Erice is a small medeival town, and was slated as our destination in two days. I got a quick look around, and then got another look as I kept trying to find the road back down. Finally, after 45 minutes of circling around back to the same parking lot, I figured it out. Fifteen minutes later, after a really fun descent, I was back at the hotel in Bonagia again.

That evening the entire group had a great dinner at a restaurant just around the corner from the hotel. I'm not normally big on seafood, but every dish that we had was classic Sicilian with a differnt kind of fish, and I loved it all.

Sunday was a simple out and back ride from Bonagia to the beach at San Vito lo Capo, followed by a ride to the Lo Zingaro Natural Reserve. It was a windy day and the route had plenty of climbs, so we got a good workout and a fortified descent. I got my speed up over 70 going down one long straight road with a tailwind ... kilometers, though, and not miles per hour.

At the beach, nobody was interested in swimming, mostly due to the blustery conditions. Igor, another of our guides, took a quick dip, and Fabio led a group of us off to the reserve.

I took off on the climb, since most of the other riders were not interested in doing the descent down to the reserve entrance. It was very beautiful down there, however, with gorgeous clear water in a cove. There was not much of a beach, though, since most of that portion of the island is pure granite.

After climbing back up, I zipped back to the beach to join RandoGirl for the return trip. As I mentioned, the climb back up the hill where I had hit 71 kph was a slog, and we both suffered. From there, we stopped at one of the largest granite quarries in the world for a short look-see, and then got back to Bonagia just before the rain started.

Before dinner, we had another educational experience. As the hotel used to be a tuna factory, our guides had arranged for a tour of the museum there. We got to learn about how the locals had learned to catch tuna over the course of two millinium, which was really quite interesting. For example, I never knew that red tuna used their left eye to gauge the distance to the coast, while their right eye gauged the distance to the ocean floor. The way that the Sicilians, and the Phoenicians before them, used this trait to catch tuna was really pretty neat.

The rain and wind came in heavily that evening, so RandoGirl and I went with another couple -- Robert and Sylvia from Seattle -- to the same restaurant that the group had dined at the night before. Again, the meal was perfect.

My original plan for Monday was to get up early and climb up to Erice again before breakfast. The storms that came in during the night, however, made that plan less than pleasant in the light of day. Thus, I goofed around most of the morning and watched the rain and wind, then finally rolled out just before 10 am with the group.

The first part of our trip was about 10 kilometers along the coast to Trapani. As we rode, bits of drizzle would hit us, but it never really rained again. When we got to Trapani, the sun came out and the day warmed up as the wind eased off.

Fabio is from Trapani, and he very much enjoyed showing us the fish market, old hotels, and the fort. We even got to see Fabio's old high school.

After the tour, we all had a quick gelato before heading up to Erice. Traffic was harsh getting out of town, but quickly quieted once we got on the mountain road.

Up in Erice, RandoGirl and I found our hotel, checked in to our room, grabbed a shower, and went out to see the sights. While the weather had been clear on the ride up, however, a fog had rolled in during the afternoon, and mostly we saw gray.

Back at the hotel, we sat around with some of the other folks from the tour before going to a reception. RandoGirl and I filled up on snacks there, and decided to skip dinner and head to the room to read and write a blog entry.

Which I just did.

1 comment:

  1. The items in the fourth photo up from the bottom are padlocks. Our guides said that Italian couples put them on as "locks of love" to demonstrate and ensure their lasting love. Awww, how sweet.