(written by Dave)
Today we spent almost the entire day riding through Microsoft wallpaper. When Windows XP was released the default wallpaper was a photo from Sonoma County, California. Many of us who spend too much time looking at computer screens would know this image from heart (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bliss_(image)). I sadly fit into that “too much computer time” group so all I could think of today was that image and how much it felt like we were riding through our own virtual world. Except, better than virtual, our image was real and ever-changing. When I got around to downloading the photos of the day, hey, some of them looked pretty much like the wallpaper image – so I wasn’t going crazy…
We had our hardest repacking of the trip today. Even though we didn’t have to pack the tent, we had to shlep our stuff up stairs in the convent, stairs in the convent courtyard and finally a dozen or so steps in the road outside the convent. We had to haul all of our bags, plus our bikes. This was all before loading our bikes and riding. It is so much easier to have a first floor hotel room or even better a nice flat campground to ride away from. At least it was quiet in the convent – no chanting or flogging could be heard in our section at least.
It took a bit of work getting out of Siena. It is a town of only 50,000 but there are roads going everywhere in Tuscany. We made one wrong turn (nowhere near as bad as the wrong turn last night) but corrected that pretty quickly. We took highway 438 to Asciano where we had morning tea, then continued on 438 almost all the way to lunch in Lucignano. There was lots of ups and down, with some pretty steep sections as well. We had one sign warn us of 12% grades but my computer never registered more that 11%. It did this several times during the day. Pretty hard on a 60kg bike, 11% or 12%, it almost doesn’t matter.
It is worth noting that both morning tea and lunch these days are taken in a bar. Not to worry about us drinking and riding however. Here in Italy, all of the bars serve coffee and rolls for breakfast and fresh ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch (great coffee as previously posted multiple times). There is almost always a local crowd and sometimes it feels like you are busting in on someone’s private party but at least they are somewhat used to seeing lycra due to the bicycle culture here in Italy. It’s not quite the same as our stops in some of the Australian roadhouses.
The last 20k to Camucia was more ups and down and we were getting tired. We had planned on riding to Cortona but as we approached it was clear that it was at the top of major hill. Camucia is at the base of the hill and less touristy but quite a nice little town. We were happy to find the Hotel Nuovo Centrale just off the main town plaza. After showers we headed out in search of dinner. None of the restaurants serve until 7PM and we were hungry at 5:30. We wandered a bit and settled on picking up fresh foods and eating the room. We found a butcher that had some great looking Tuscan parma, a bread shop where we picked up a loaf ciabatta and a market for some fruits.
Next we found a great shop selling local meats and cheeses, with a particular specialty in Tuscan pecorino. He had about 10 different types with my “visual” favorites covered in what looked like various farmyard leftovers for extra flavor. It was hard, but we picked one and headed back to the room for a feast. The guy running the shop could have been Ross’s (our Italian friend from Sydney) twin brother. The shop guy was super nice and really proud of his region. He looked just like Ross and had the same love of good foods.
Tomorrow we head to Gubbio, about 70k from here. There is a direct hilly route or a 9k longer flattish route. We need to decide which way to go before morning. These Tuscany rolling hills are hard on old(er) bodies. I’m betting that the flattish route is not that flat anyway. Nancy is busy looking at hotels and camping options. The later might be rough as it is supposed to be 2 degrees tomorrow night. We might not be camping again until we reach Turkey as campgrounds seem rare between here and Ancona.
Off to sleep now…