Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Veni, Vidi ...

I've been wracking my brain for months now, trying to remember when the idea first came to me, but I'm pretty sure that it was the first time that RandoGirl and I went to Tuscany.

That was 2005, and it was for a cycling trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. The tour had us biking from one small town to another with a bunch of folks from all over the U.S.A., staying at neat little hotels and eating great food and seeing all of these little out-of-the-way pieces of history and contemporary Italian life from superb cycling roads. It was one of the best vacations that we'd ever had.

But it wasn't perfect.

We decided that what would have made it even better was doing that trip with friends. The folks we met were nice, but it's just more fun to immediately be able to kick back and not have to worry about saying the wrong thing ... to be able to immediately talk openly about politics and religion and philosophy and anything else that pops into your head after five bottles of wine have vanished to who knows where. (Well, we knew where.)

Another thing that made the trip a little painful was the need to change hotels. We never stayed in any hotel for more than two days, and that makes it hard to get to know those little towns. If you enjoy dinner one night at a place, you usually can't go back for a second night. And doing laundry is a downright chore!

RandoGirl and I thought then that would have made the trip better would be to rent a house in Montalcino -- one of the prettiest of those ancient hilltop towns -- and share it with another couple. We stuck that idea into the backs of our heads and waited.

Fast-forward to 2010 and our next anniversary trip, but this time around part of the Sicilian coast. On that trip, one of the guides -- Igor Baccini -- told us that he was now heading up a new part of the tour company that would provide bicycles and routes and hook vacationers up with a house. All we had to do was pick friends that could afford the time and money, and handle the cycling.

As regular readers know, things got weird for the next few years. We moved to Florida, and then we moved back. I did a tour of the West Coast.  But, during all of that, RandoGirl and I knew that we wanted to do another Tuscany trip and we wanted to do it with friends. So, about a year ago, we began doing our research.

First, we put together a list of who we wanted to ask. We had some cycling friends whom we knew probably could not do it based on commitments at home, and some who probably could not afford it. We ended up with just over a dozen, so we asked the tour company if they had a house in that area that could handle that. They did, and we sent emails to everyone to see who was in. After moving dates around to better fit schedules, we soon had our group -- The Tuscany Badasses.

From Left, Front: Joyce and Steve Grizzle, Tom Spear, Jill Campbell-Flowers, RandoGirl, Sametta and Bill Glass
Back Row: Connie Weisner, Judy Spear, Me. Not pictured: Rick Weisner, Bobby Kent, Tom Finegan, and Cathie Allanson
The next ten months saw the group working together to make the trip happen. We all needed to ride, of course, in order to train up for the tough hills in the area. But some folks set up Italian lessons for many of us -- Sunday get-togethers that also turned into opportunities to test-taste Tuscan cuisine and share research about area attractions, all the while spending a few hours learning how to find a bathroom or ATM in a strange Italian town. Everyone made their travel arrangements, with some adding days to the front- or back-end to see Florence or Rome or even other countries. We searched the web for tips on side-trips and cycling roads and what to wear and what to buy.

And the fire grew.

Finally, October arrived and we all began making our way to Tuscany. RandoGirl and I travelled with six other Badasses on a painful series of flights to Toronto (one of us sat with the actor who played Walter Junior on Breaking Bad), Frankfurt, and then Bologna. We quickly cleared customs and found Tyler and Silva from BikeRentalsPlus.

We shambled into the van (which we were also renting), and Tyler drove us to the villa. There, the rest of the Badasses began to arrive as we unloaded the rental bikes, put our pedals and saddles on them, and adjusted things so they fit us. I even managed to squeeze in a 10-kilometer ride up to Montichiello and down to the main road. Then we got cleaned up and a few of us stumbled into town for dinner.

Next blog: The Riding Begins ...

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