Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 5 – Monte Urano

Having spent another quiet night in the church parking area we left early in the morning to find a spot to watch stage 5 from.  It wasn’t too far – just back to the coastal peage and north a bit then west near Fermo.

Along the way we stopped at an Autogrill where they had full campervan facilities such as water, etc. which was very convenient.  Also nice clean washrooms and, of course, delicious cappuccino.

We chose our spot in a nice wide flat area at the edge of Monte Urano just near the top of one of the three climbs of the day.  There was a great view of a nearby town on the top of the next hill.

The farmer whose garage we’re in front of had to move his tractor, but was ok with us being there – he maneuvered past us with no problem.  After a nice lunch of spaghetti in cream sauce with salmon we waited a few hours for the race.

A truck pulled up at one point and erected small banners – we’re at the ‘500 meters to go’ to the top of the climb mark.  One other campervan joined us and wanted us to move a bit so they could pull in but we didn’t want to block the farmer’s access to his own garage.  No problem, though, as they just backed in behind us and were happy enough.

I lay down for a half hour rest and when I got up we had many new neighbours.  In addition to the other campervan there were now dozens of cars, including several team cars with folks preparing bidons, etc. for their riders.

At the house across the road from us was a lab that seemed quite excited by all of the extra people – he barked from time to time but not in an aggressive way – more like he wished someone would come over and pat him on the head.

Just ahead of the predicted schedule a breakaway of 12 or so riders arrived at 3:44, with the peloton in one large bunch 3 or 4 minutes back.

Even though we’re on a climb they passed at a very high speed and were gone in no time.

Because we hadn’t put the flags up we were able to leave almost as soon as the race had passed.  Heading again for the coast peage we drove north for a couple of hours, then west almost to San Marino.  We stopped before dark and pulled into a large parking area at the edge of a town along the road – not sure exactly which town but we’d made good progress towards our chosen area for stage 6.

Tirreno Adriatico stage 4 – Camera

Another chilly night, and having to ration water.  We spent a very frustrating few hours trying to find the nearest campervan dump and went up and down and around and around following signs – no dump, although we did see a bit of the local sites.

We finally got help from a couple of folks at an aire – an aire (or Sosta as they call them here) without water or dump facilities.  I think the couple work for the municipal recycling company, and they looked up on their phone and gave very clear directions on how to find the nearest place.

Finally we were able to empty water (etc. !) and take on water.  We then headed to a campervan place not far from Pisa to have the heating checked out so we don’t keep losing water at night.  The fellow said he’d be out in five minutes to have a look, but as soon as we returned to the campervan and did a final check the heating worked!  We did wait about fifteen minutes for the guy to come have a look over, but when he didn’t appear we left, and relocated a bit down the road to have lunch.

Refreshed, and with a bit of a drive ahead we were on our way again – southeast towards the Adriatic coast, going right past Perugia – so close to home, but we kept going on our way.

With night closing in we stopped at the town of Caldarola, in a very nice parking area just off the motorway.  It was nice and quiet and once again (becoming a habit!) had another early night.  I did read for a bit – Julia Child’s book ‘My Life in France’ – my sister gave it to me a few months ago and I’m really enjoying it.  And having the heat working meant no more freezing in the morning, or losing the water, and also – I get to do dishes with hot water – what a treat!

Another early start and we were on our way via the motorway/peage south towards the small town of Bellante, near Teramo.  After doing a loop of the next day’s race route we settled on a churchyard near the outskirts of the even smaller town of Camera.

It’s a quite beautiful area with small villages on every hillside, and overlooked by large mountains topped with snow.

We had a lovely roast chicken for lunch, with plenty left over for a cold meal as well as soup, which is after all, the best part of roasting a chicken.

A short walk down a nearby lane introduced us to many of the local dogs, and a couple of cats.

Also on the next hill a local flock of sheep…or should it be a flock of local sheep?

The morning of stage 4 was again beautiful and sunny, although the breeze was a bit chilly.

The race passed our spot twice, and in the first pass there was one leader, followed within a minute by a small chase group, then another small group containing Evenepoel, Pogacar and Ganna just behind.

The sprinters, including Cavendish, were another five minutes back.

Right on the predicted time schedule the race reappeared 29 minutes later, still with the lone breakaway rider but with the peloton back together and within sight of him.

We read later that Pogacar had won again, and in very convincing fashion too.

Lido de Camaiore for Tirreno-Adriatico ITT

Leaving the aire before 8:00 we headed north towards Lido de Camaiore, stopping along the way for a fabulous cappuccino at a highway rest stop.

We got to Camaiore in good time and drove along the Lido, passing several of the team buses in the best parking areas.

Most of the parking areas were taped off for the teams and other race officials but we came to a perfect place near the Hotel Joseph.

There were some other campervans there already so we figured it was a good place to stop.

After a bite to eat we went for a walk back towards the start of tomorrow’s ITT – it was a bit of a ways and there were no cafes open or anything.  We did enjoy the excercise and fresh air, however.

There are several teams staying at the Hotel Joseph, and the mechanics, etc. are all in process of washing the time trial bikes and everything.

There are all sorts of sculptures and art pieces along the Lido – some of them are quite nice and some of them a bit puzzling.

Also, because we’re so close to Carrara there’s lots of marble – some of the sidewalks are actually made of it!

After a very early night and a good quiet sleep we were up early again.  Wanting a cappuccino we walked north this time along the Lido, eventually asking a policeman where a cafe might be found.  

Following his directions we shortly were seated outside a very nice, and increasingly busy cafe at one end of a large plaza.

Across from the plaza were more sculptures, and a lovely long pier that was very well made with stainless steel handrails – quite impressive.

There was a fellow playing the harp partway down – I think I even recognized the song he was playing which was something Italian and classical that I don’t know the name of.  

The beach here looks excellent – very wide and flat with fine white sand.

For a few hours in the late morning most of the riders were doing re-con of the course, then the police motos and photo motos took their turns.

The first racer left around 2:00 – it’s a straight north ride for almost 7 km, then a hairpin turn and back south to the finish, so each rider passes us twice, once in each direction.  I got the Cav…

…a heli – what??  They’re alway sneaking into my shots…

…someone coming from the beach who didn’t care at all about the race…

…Alaphilippe…

As some of the riders finished they slowly rode back to their hotels – sometimes on the race road and sometime on the sidewalk.  At one point I looked up and coming towards me was Richie Porte!  I waved and smiled (not having time to take a photo) and he smiled back and said ‘Hi’! – almost the highlight of my day.  I also got Ganna…

…Evenepoel…

…and Pogacar…

A very fine day of race watching, followed by another very early night.

To Italy and Strade Bianche

Flights over weren’t too bad and passing security in Munich wasn’t a problem.  Both at my initial checkin at home and the guy at Munich airport were initially a little perplexed by my having two covid vaccine certificates – one from home last May and the other from France/EU in September.  In the end, perhaps because I had a swab test prior to leaving home it was all ok.

The only slight hitch was after I’d arrived in Rome as I waited an hour and a half for Colin to pick me up – I was starting to wonder if all was ok when I checked my ipad and saw I’d missed a facetime call from him.

Apparently I’d arrived at a different terminal than any of my previous trips – I was waiting outside terminal 1 while Colin was parked outside terminal 3.  The difference, I believe, is because my final flight from Munich was on Air Dolomitie, rather than Lufthansa, thus a different terminal.  In any case we finally connected and I was transported to Papiano.

The next morning we drove up to Pila, where our hair cutter now is – we found his new place no problem and both got cuts.  His space is brand new and looks very nice – we hope he does well.  Pila is larger than I expected, and looks like a lovely and prosperous town.

We met Janet and John in the bar later in the afternoon for a quick drink – so nice to see them again and get caught up.  The scaffolding has come down on both the bell tower and the apartment building below us.  For some reason the bell in the tower isn’t ringing yet, and the scaffolding has now been moved to the house right next to us.  We’re kind of happy we’re not going to be around while the rest of the construction is happening.

We got going early enough on Friday morning to stop for a quick cappuccino at the bar before hitting the road towards Siena.  We stopped at the same spot we’d watched the Strade Bianche from in 2020 – although that year it was held in August rather than early March because of the covid.

This time rather than sweltering in the heat we were near freezing.  We lost the water in the early morning because of the cold so had to do dishes, etc. with our bottled water.

No matter – we were in a beautiful place and awaiting our first race of the year – nothing to complain about.

Race day was mostly sunny, but very windy and cold.  I put on a double layer of pants, merino wool sweater, Icelandic wool hat, gloves – the whole shebang.  

We had a delicious chicken stir-fry with mushrooms and green beans for lunch while we waited for the race to arrive.

Several fans congregated at the side of our campervan as it cut the wind for them – I did the same until we saw the helis in the near distance and I finally relocated just a bit down the hill.

We had heard on the live feed that there had been some crashes but Alaphilippe and Pogacar were both at the front of the first bunch to pass.

We watched the end of the race on Colin’s phone – Pogacar won in very convincing fashion – he’s so amazing!

Shortly after the race had passed we returned to Asciano and the nice aire they have.  We partially filled up with water and had a very early night.  Once again it got very cold and we lost all of the water in the early morning.

Back to the Pap

Since returning to Papiano we’ve had a pretty quiet time.  We went on a bike ride a few days after getting here, but it’s the last one we’ll do together as Colin’s road bike – with the skinny tires – doesn’t do well at all on the terrible roads.

I’ve gone on several solo rides to some of my favourite places – Olmeto, Spina, Compignano, Mercatello, etc.  The weather’s been generally nice and sunny, but at times the wind has been rather fierce.

I’ve also gone a little further up the road to the east and into the hills that way – as far as the small town of Castelleone that I haven’t been to before.

There was a festa at the bar a few days after we arrived and it was very well attended.  We couldn’t believe how much food there was – 4 or 5 courses, including pasta al ragu, and more than one meat dish.  It was so nice to see everyone again, and we had some good conversation with John and Janet, as well as Afka (the Dutch lady).

Last Friday we finally took a short drive to Spello where we had lunch.

It’s a lovely little town with very scenic lanes, lots of artisanal shops, and many restaurants to choose from.

It looks like it might be a bit touristy at another time of year but wasn’t too bad at the end of October.

There is still work being done on both the bell tower and the ‘apartment’ building below us.  They’ve begun removing the scaffolding from the bell tower but it isn’t likely to be in use again until near Christmas.  The apartment will take a lot longer – the government is spending almost 1 million euros to fix the damage from the 2016 earthquake, and they’ve completely gutted it.

I’ve been practising making pies – not dessert ones, but meat ones.  Colin had seen a recipe in a magazine when we were still in France and the first one I tried was steak and mushroom.  It turned out pretty well, so I moved on to chicken pie – I roasted a whole chicken first, then peeled the meat off and made the pie – another success.  The last experiment was salmon and leek – I’m rather pleased with the results!

There was another festa at the bar this past Sunday – Monday was a holiday here so no problem to have a slightly late evening.  This one was more low-key, with pork buns rather than a sit-down dinner, but again nice to mingle with the locals.

I’ve spent hours in the last few days trying to sort out paperwork, etc for my journey home.  Air Canada sent some info on Friday and since then I’ve been very busy.  First I had to schedule a ‘molecular covid test’, which I had this morning.  It was the one involving a very long swab poked way up the nose, although I must say it wasn’t quite as bad as the one I had in France in the summer.

Then I had to fill out a very long thing online for entry to Canada and it failed time after time.  I finally gave up today and downloaded an app that actually worked.  Hopefully they’ll let me pass with no problem – I would hate to be stuck in Toronto for 14 days!

We had our neighbour Angelo over for lunch today – he’s a very nice person and we had a lovely visit.  Chairman Meow is his cat…

Il Lombardia – Race of the Falling Leaves

We got going to Selvino nice and early so there was no chance of getting caught behind a road closure.  The drive up the twenty hairpins was a bit hairy at times but the number of amateurs going up wasn’t too bad.  The road crew we’d seen the other day had done a pretty good job, and we couldn’t see too many bad spots on the surface.

We settled on a parking lot a very short walk from the main road through the town that was part of the route.

Taking the dogs with us on a walk to get a coffee we noticed that a great many of the locals also had dogs – every one of which Henry barked at if he saw them.

We returned later to the same cafe/restaurant for lunch, which was very nice and had wonderful views back towards Orezzo and beyond.

After lunch we settled the dogs back in the car and got ready for the race.  On the way to the spot we’d chosen to watch from we passed an Israel Startup Nation team car and I immediately went over to them.  I told them I was Canadian and showed them the flag on my backpack, as well as the bidon I use that is the old Israel Cycling Academy one.

I said that Michael Woods (Canadian!) rocks and they said ‘maybe it will be him today’.  They then gave me a new ISN bidon and I was happy!

As usual we knew when the first rider was approaching…

…and it was Pogacar!..

…all alone in front, with a local Italian rider not far behind…

…and then a group of eight that included world champion Julian Alaphilippe, Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic, former world champion Alejandro Valverde, and – Michael Woods!

I was shocked at how fast they were all going – they had just finished the last of several very difficult climbs just over 20 km from the end of a very long race and they literally whizzed by us.

A few minutes later another small group arrived that included Daniel Martin, who is retiring from pro cycling at the end of this race – we’ll be sad to see him go…

After the last rider had passed we scooped another bidon – this one from Bahrain, whose car had parked very near us.  They had a bunch of bidons ready to hand out but since we’re so close to the finish they weren’t going to be needed so several fans got lucky.  We then headed back to the bar/restaurant and saw the last few minutes on their large tv.

The locals were all, of course, cheering for the rider from Bergamo so I was rather subdued in cheering when Pogacar sprinted for the win.  To be honest I also would have been happy if Masnada had won instead.

Another wonderful il Lombardia – one of our favourite races.  One thing that we discussed at length later was the behaviour of the eight ‘chasers’ – it seemed that rather than try to catch Pogacar and Masnada and have a 10-man sprint for the win they were content to play catty-mousey and ride for third – kind of disappointing.  Other than that, though, it was a thrilling race through some of the most beautiful countryside around.

Back to Italy!

We got on the way from Mansle at a decent time in the morning, heading east through pouring rain.  The sky cleared a bit from time to time but it was generally a grey day.

We arrived in Chambery after a fairly long drive and checked into the hotel before taking the dogs for a short walk.  They are such good little travellers, and we make sure we stop regularly so they can have a little walk (ie:  pee).  

Since we’re in the car this time the seats in the back are down and Henry has his bed behind my seat so he can see Colin because then he doesn’t bark.  We tried putting Mo in the back also but she didn’t look comfortable perched on her blanket atop some luggage so she now lays on my lap on the blanket with her harness clipped to my seatbelt.

The next morning we continued east – it was still a bit grey out but not as much rain.

Passing through Bramans Val Cenis I finally realized we’d been through this pass before – albeit from the other direction – when we saw one of the Hannibal statues.

I’m not sure it’s been proven that Hannibal took this route over and through the Alps but it’s certainly possible.

We stopped just before noon at a cafe at the top of the pass – it was fiercely windy and had actually started snowing!

The proprietor of the cafe was a very old lady – when she spoke it sounded like every second word was Italian, although when I tried to converse with her she said in French that she didn’t speak it.

A few miles down the road we stopped again so I could take some photos – Lac du Mont-Cenis was looking spectacular with a bit of mist rising and whitecaps from the wind making the water look extra dark.  The place is half-way between Paris and Rome.

Only a few miles later and we were in Italy – again, just as passing from Spain to France, there was no border stop or covid check.  We only knew we were in Italy by the road signs and potholes.

A few miles outside Susa we saw a large message on the side of a mountain – ‘TAV = MAFIE’.

I googled it later to find out what it meant – there is/was a lot of opposition to the plans to build a long tunnel to accommodate a new high speed rail line.  Apparently there’s a lot of mafia infiltration in the construction industry, as well as many corrupt politicians – well, it is Italy!

We checked into a nice hotel in the village of Fornaci, not too far from Bergamo – we’re spending a few days on a little vacation before the race on Saturday.  The hotel has a nice restaurant and we enjoyed a lovely, although quite late dinner.

The next day we took a drive to re-con the race route, planning to pick a spot somewhere on the last climb of the day – the Passo di Ganda.

As we followed the route up through Orezzo, over the top and down into Selvino we remarked more than once how fortunate it was that we were in the BMW rather than the campervan.  The road was extremely narrow in spots and very winding and it’s possible the campervan wouldn’t have been able to negotiate parts of it.

Since we hadn’t passed many likely spots to park on race day we decided to watch from somewhere in the town of Selvino.  Another consideration was access to a cafe – and toilets, which is one of many perks of having a campervan that weren’t available in a car.

The drive down to Nembro was interesting, including twenty hairpin turns, each with a sign showing the name of an Italian cyclist.  Also included was the usual last-minute road works on the race route.

The next day we took a lovely drive up to the north end of Lago d’Iseo and down the east side, stopping along the way in the town of Marone.

It’s a nice little place, and being right on the lake it has lovely views, as well as some interesting architecture.

We left Marone and continued south along the lake to the town of Iseo, where we stopped for lunch.

Iseo is a beautiful place – we’ve used the campground more than once before, including on my first trip four years ago.

Returning to the hotel we were both so full from our excellent lunch that we didn’t bother with dinner, planning to get up nice and early so we could get to Selvino before the roads were closed in the morning.

Mellowing in Mansle

Since our return from Spain things have been pretty quiet for us and we haven’t done a whole lot, with a few exceptions.

First, and quite important – we went to a clinic so Colin could get his ‘vaccine passport’ and I could arrange for my second shot.  They weren’t sure what to do with me – they don’t vaccinate ‘tourists’ but we managed to convey that I wasn’t really just a tourist, and they really wanted to help me so they gave in.

The very nice lady doctor (that spoke pretty good english) told me that since my first shot was about four months ago it was too old and I’d have to get two more from them.  Disappointing as it would mean delaying our return to Italy, but I made an appointment for the first one two days from then.

When we arrived for my appointment the first thing the same doctor said was ‘why don’t we do an antibody test just in case – if you have antibodies then we may only have to give you one shot’.  They took a bit of blood from a finger prick, then gave me a shot.  While I waited my 15 minutes the test result came in and I did have enough antibodies – they presented me with a vaccine certificate!!  They still didn’t know what to do about billing me so just let me go.

The first thing we did when we got back to Mansle was go to the bar, but Edith had to break the news to me that I had to wait a week before I was ‘legal’ – oh well, back home we went.

The second, and very enjoyable thing was that we had Tony and Joyce over for dinner.  It was a lovely evening so we sat outside for the appetizers before coming inside for the main meal.  There was good wine, and excellent conversation, and the food seemed to go over well – an extremely nice evening.

We had lunch one day near Luxe at the ‘lake’ – they’d stocked it with 300 kilos of live trout and there were dozens of fishermen and women sitting in the rain along the shore.

One old fellow caught two good sized ones while we ate.

We had several nice bike rides, with the last one being over 40 km – we stopped in Aigre for lunch then managed to make it home before the rain hit.

Colin took the campervan to the place he bought it from in Ruffec to get all of the small things sorted out – we’re going to Italy in the car so won’t be needing the campervan again for a while.

I’ve learned to make a proper pie crust and have made a couple of very tasty quiches – next up steak and mushroom pie.

There’s been a couple of very important races that we watched on tv this year rather than being there.  First the world championships in Belgium, which would have been awesome to see live – a thrilling race won for the second year in a row by Julian Alaphilippe.

The second one two days ago was Paris-Roubaix, which normally takes place in April, and is the first time it’s been held since we saw it live in 2019.  This year it was rain and mud all the way, and was won with a thrilling sprint to the finish by three riders – the winner by a few inches was Italian Sonny Colbrelli.

Having missed both of those races we’re really looking forward to going to the last big one of the year – il Lombardia – on our way back to Papiano.

Roast Lamb, Friends in Logrono, back to France

The campground’s pit-roasted lamb dinner was every bit as delicious as we remembered – a joint of lamb brought sizzling in a pan and carved by the chef at our table, accompanied by green olives, lovely crusty bread, fries and salad.

I ate as much as I could and still had plenty to take away for tomorrow’s meals – a really excellent birthday dinner.

The next morning we weren’t in any great hurry to leave so took a nice long walk along the main street of the town.

As usual in this area it’s all about the Camino, with auberges all over the place, as well as a nice plaza and some cafe/bars.

We did get away right around noon, stopping to say goodbye to the owners and letting them know how much we enjoyed staying there – and the dinner last night – and promising to return.

The drive to Logrono didn’t take that long, and we found the aire no problem – we’d been there two years ago.  It’s just on the north edge of the city in an area chock-full of sports fields and activities.  Nice and flat with lots of trees, very near the river.

In the morning we took a walk to the river, then east along the lovely pathway to the large pedestrian bridge, passing a skateboard park along the way.

We only came to the town to see Ricardo (Richard) and to pick up three cases of Rioja to take back to France – he was able to meet with us a bit early, along with his daughter Lucy.  

It was so nice to see them again, especially as we’d not been able to come to Spain last year.  We took another walk with them, this time to a cafe where we sat outside and chatted for a bit.

Lucy has grown up so much – she was only 12 or so when we first met her, and now she’s in her final year of school before entering university next year – a very lovely and beautiful young lady.

When we told them where we’d been the last couple of days they were so surprised – it’s the place that Richard’s father was born and grew up in – he still has cousins and other family there.  I showed them the photos I’d taken and they recognized almost every place.

Right after Richard and Lucy left we also got under way, deciding to go all the way back to Mansle rather than stopping partway.  We made a stop very near the French border to pickup a couple more things and once again crossed over without even a question, only knowing we’d crossed the border when we passed the sign saying ‘France’. 

Back to Camping a Vuoga, Riding the Bear Trail, Carrion de Los Condes

It rained off and on all night, and we awoke to the renewal of a problem – the electrics that had miraculously fixed themselves after our visit to the mechanic in Lugo have once again gone on the fritz.  The fridge is off, as well as everything else – we couldn’t even get the stove going to make a cup of tea.

Since our neighbours had left very early – around 5:30 or so – we did something we don’t normally do, and ran the motor for awhile to charge up the battery.

After making a nice cup of tea and having some breakfast we returned to Camping A Vouga back on the coast.  Within an hour we’d both showered and had a large load of laundry in.

We opted for lunch at the campground’s restaurant and both got the ‘plate of the day’ – avocado stuffed with shrimp, followed by garlic chicken with fries, although the fries turned out to be mashed potatoes – luckily I like both, and had plenty leftover for dinner.

Retrieving the laundry to hang it to dry I noticed that some of it was dripping wet and some of it didn’t look like water had even hit it – faulty machine I guess, so we had to do some of it over in a different machine.

This time our camping spot was overlooking the beach and we spent a pleasant afternoon watching the tide coming in and just relaxing.

I took a nice walk on the beach around sunset – it was beautiful.

The rainstorm in the night was torrential, accompanied by frequent bright flashes of lightening and tremendous thunder.  I spent quite awhile trying to calm Mo down – she needed many pats and cuddles.

From the coast the next morning we had a long day of travel east to get back to the ‘bear trail’ just southwest of Oviedo.  We’d stopped by there a couple of weeks ago but the crowds were too much for us, although we still wanted to go for a ride.

We spent the night in the large parking area near a bike rental/cafe and put the bikes and chariot together the next morning.

The ride was very nice – not as many people as there would have been in August, and even the dogs were a bit less barky.

We stopped in Proaza for coffee, then continued up the trail a few more km. before turning back.

We saw two of the bears – I think there are three in total, all behind fences and unable to roam as they should – kind of sad, really.

By the time we got back to the parking lot it was chock-full, and we were glad we’d gone riding when we did.  After a nice tuna salad with feta cheese for lunch we were on our way again.

We backtracked a bit to Oviedo to take the motorway south to Leon where we turned east and stopped at an aire on the edge of the town of Carrion de los Condes.

The aire is quite small but does have water drop, etc.  It’s right next to a sports complex with a very nice soccer field, and there’s a pedestrian bridge crossing the river to the town.

Since we weren’t in any special hurry we explored the town a bit the next morning – it’s larger than we expected, and is another fairly important stop on the Camino trail. We spent a bit of time exploring and quite liked the place.

The town is either 401 km or 405 km from Santiago – depending on which sign you look at – most people’s final destination when they walk the Camino.

There are some really nice lamps and lampposts…

…churches and statues…

As in most Camino towns almost all of the businesses have something to do with the ‘pilgrims’.

There’s a mosaic on the ground on some stairs, but it has degraded over the years – it must have been fantastic when first completed.

Leaving the aire before noon we went on to the town of Castrojeriz, another campground we’ve been to before.

I remember three things about it from our first visit:  the ruined castle on the hill above the town;  a nice ride I took along the Camino to the town of Hontanas;  and the delicious roast lamb dinner we had at the campground’s restaurant.