(Written by Nancy)
We woke up to blue sky and no clouds today – yeah! Dave ran out to the bakery to get some things for breakfast – saving the oatmeal for those times when we don’t have anything else nearby. We hit the road about 8:30 on what looked like a perfect March day. A bit chilly but not too bad when you were in the sun.
The climb over Passo del Bracco started just about 1k from town so we warmed up fast. The climb turned out to be about 18k – 11% grade the worst of it but most of it was not too bad. We were both in our granny gears but it didn’t seem as hard as the hills the other day so the days off did some good. It was a very scenic ride – great distant sea and mountain views that we would have completely missed had we ridden in the bad weather. We were both very glad we had waited for a nice day to ride. There was even some snow on the roadside at the top even with the sunshine.
We saw many folks out for a ride, all decked out in their team gear, heading up and down the pass. We stopped several times for photos and then at the top, just after summit sign, amazingly we met another touring cyclist! Kenichi Ooshita has been on the road for just about a year. He has ridden through SE Asia, including Nepal, China, the Stans, and spent December and January in Turkey. It was great to have a chance to chat for a minute with him but we couldn’t spend too long as it was pretty chilly at the top, especially with the wind. It’s always a shame when we meet another cyclist and can’t sit down and talk for a bit. But oh well, that’s the way it goes sometimes. It was fun to meet him anyway.
We stopped for a coffee and croissant about 5k down from top at a cafe where all the locals seemed to be hanging out in the sun. We did the same, sitting on the deck while we drank our coffee. Really hit the spot. From there we had another 10k of downhill, then a little uphill, then another 10k of downhill. Very nice! We crisscrossed the motorway a couple of times as we rode along a valley. There was very clear evidence of flood and landslide damage – lots of logs and rocks spread everywhere, and creekbeds gouged out.
We stopped at a little roadside cafe to get some lunch – great ham and cheese sandwiches with the parma ham sliced right off the leg while Dave waited. It’s a bit odd to see these places along the roadway, as they are bars as well as cafes and many folks seem to stop in for a drink (or two) before getting back into their vehicles and continuing on their journey.
We were aiming for a campground just outside the town of Sarzana. On our way there we came across a bike shop that was having a big sale out in their parking lot so of course we had to stop. Dave picked up some new leg warmers to replace the ones he had that were getting very threadbare and I found a jersey –all very good prices. Too bad Ross wasn’t here – they had several high-end Look frames at 50% off (and Dave thinks they were his size…).
We made our way to the campground only to find out that in fact they weren’t open as they had also suffered damage in the big storms last October and didn’t have any hot water or electricity. She told us about another campground about 10k down the road so off we went. We finally arrived at the campground a little after 4pm – a bit late for this time of year, as it gets dark by 6 or so. This campground is open but it is in low season. It’s really big, with what seems to be about 500 spots, of which 490 are filled with unoccupied campers. We were directed to the very back of the park where there was some open space. No lighting here so we cooked our noodles and at our dinner by headlight. It is very deserted and is a looong way from the only open toilet block – literally takes 15 minutes to walk there (if you don’t get lost as all of these little laneways look the same). Well, at least we have a place to sleep off the road – it could be worse.
Dave says his bike computer reads 5 degrees so we have to sign off now before our laptop freezes up. Tomorrow we head toward Pisa to see the famous leaning tower. We may head east from there to a campground on the way to Florence but we’ll see how things go.