Sunday, September 15, 2013

Last Day In The Dolomites

I like to travel light, so much so I forgot my razor, my toothpaste and my hair brush for this trip. Doctor Bronner's multipurpose soap makes for quite a foamy toothpaste...and a four Euro plastic gas station comb works okay, while an unshaven look canbe quite fashionable in Italy. I shall be glad to get back to my suitcase in Terni on Monday. For Giovanni getting ready to leave or a day's ride is quite the business, stuffing paper handkerchiefs, coins keys and cigarettes in assorted pockets, reading glasses sunglasses and cellphone...

Eventually we get outside and I put my wam vest in one saddlebag and my waterproofs in the other, cellphone and wallet in my pockets and I'm ready to ride.

We head to Passo Giau (pronounced like Ciao with a soft G)





It is 7300 feet up, 2230 meters roughly, and it was freezing cold at the top with a howling wind making everyone feel cold, not just the guy from Key West.

There was a group of open car enthusiasts gathered there and Giovanni was going gaga over the Alfa Romeos and Mercedes classics.
But we had places to go and peop,e to see and it was even too old to take coffee so we zipped down 27 hairpins to the bottom. There were hundreds of motorcycles out on a sunny Saturday and hundreds more cyclists panting their way to the top. I wanted to yell out "only 23 more to go" to the folks near the bottom but I hadn't the heart. They we're all spandex'ed out so I suspect they were quite serious about their weekend riding.
The views in the Dolomites are quite spectacular.
I don't know if it was my bad influence or what but Giovanni took more time to stop and take pictures yesterday. Of me. Happily the pass was open, geöffnet, aperto.
Our plan was to visit the lower slopes of the Marmolada Mountain, which is 11,000 feet tall, th highest spot in the Dolomites and has the only glacier. The mountain was named by the Romans and was first climbed in 1864.

We stopped at the hotel at the base and came across an old motorcycle parked out front. Giovanni had never heard of the Sertum brand which went bust in 1952. Sertum 1943 500cc SV

The note pinned to the bike read: I am old and tired! Please don't climb on or make me carry back packs. I find it disgraceful strangers would do such things to this venerable side valve survivor.

I knew of the brand because my great uncle Pasqualino who worked as an accounting clerk at the Terni steelworks told me of his Sertum 175 which he used to ride in Fascist Party led motorcycle gatherings before World War Two. He was very proud of his Sertum.

The same way Giovanni drools over old cars, so do I drool over old bikes.
I think this is a 1943 500cc side valve.

I went to the loo and found the only old fashioned style toilet of the trip. Luckily, a) I only needed to pee, and b) I had my wits about me. Flushing these bastards produces a tidal wave of water that sloshes all over the china "footprints." I have no idea why these ghastly things used to be at all popular as they seem no cheaper to build than proper toilets. And call me prejudiced but in my opinion proper toilets have a seat incorporated into their design. I remember traveling 35 years ago with an old school chum from England who, when faced with the prospect of squatting to shit in one of these disasters got the habit of never traveling without a length of twine he would anchor to the door handle and to which he would hang on like grim death whilem he squatted over the deadly hole. Giovanni had a few comments of his own when he discovered this thing was the only public toilet for miles around.

Mind you in one of the passes I went to take a piss and found the waiting area for the toilets was co-Ed. I guess I am Italian enough I carried on an inconsequential conversation with a middle aged Italian woman while I stood and peed as she waited for a woman's stall to open up. I find I pee a lot in cold weather when I don't sweat. TMI, perhaps? Anyway...

I liked the alpine feel of the hotel with pictures of old climbers on the wall and so forth.

We sat outside and looked at the Marmolada (above) as we ate (below).

Giovanni had a local specialty a roast pig's leg while I started with alley soup, flavored with smoked bacon:

And then I had an indifferent tough grilled steak that needed salt, and we finished with a classic apple Strudel in this case flavored, deliciously, with pine nuts.

We were stuffed and I desperately needed a nap. Giovanni had a headache making us a less than stellar motorcycle expedition.

We abandoned the warm sunny spot and pressed on.

We stopped for another tourist spot called Lago Carezza, of a peculiar yet natural shade of green.

Cars had to pay a Euro ($1:35) to park and people flocked to see this place I'd never heard of.

It was starting o get dark and we had to home by six as we had a dinner date and miles to ride. We made it home by three minutes after six but it was a hell of a ride up the Pusteria Valley from Bressanone to Dobbiaco. We passed thousands of cars it felt like, weekend drivers, some on dotted lines some on solid lines. We roared past campers and fast cars driven slowly and a few fast cars driven fast. It was the sort of riding that in the US would have got us thrown in jail. One single car Giovanni noted pulled aside to let us by. It was exhilarating.

And tiring so I was glad when Giuseppe, an old friend of Giovanni's with a timeshare nearby came in the car to pick us up. I was a grateful passenger for once, traveling sedately.

Giuseppe and his wife Carla (below) are quite the gourmands it turns out and they have been coming to Alto Adige for decades in their condo. This place, a classic wood mountain hotel was recently renovated and is offering a new menu Giuseppe and Carla wanted to try. I had Spätzel, a German gnocchi dish made of potatoes and smoked ham and it was delicious, followed by grilled sausage, polenta and mushrooms, washed down with a local delicate white wine. Carla finished with crême brûlée,
Giovanni had fruit and ice cream, which he thought was "healthy."
While Giuseppe passed on dessert altogether, I failed to photograph him at table so I append a picture of him taken Friday in front of his time share condo. A nice cheerful man and a good listener to Giovanni's stories:

My pudding was best, chocolate semifreddo which was a kind of nutty ice cream with chocolate sauce in a crisp sweet shell.

We talked of this and that, mutual friends, funny stories, my life in America, and he iniquities of the US health care system compared to the excessive liberality of the Italian system which they think is unsustainably generous. They are all fans of Alto Adige, the German speaking province whose boundary started just fifty yards up the road from where we ate. They admire the order and discipline of the Gemanic culture and want more of it in Italy. I say if the German speakers love Austria so much let them vote to rejoin Austria. Oh no my Italian friends said, they'll never do that, they get too many tax breaks in Italy where they are special. Which makes Alto Adige typically perversely Italian in my opinion.

They dropped us off back in Cortina d'Ampezzo where we went for a last walk "to digest dinner" Giovanni said as my cardiologist friend smoked another cigarette.

Then he called his wife and finally turned out the light. "What the hell are you writing?" he asked plaintively as he saw the glow of my mini iPad as I wrote this essay.

None of your business I said. Learn English then you can read it. Va fa un culo he said.

Then he started snoring.

Sunday we ride 400 miles home, hopefully avoiding the predicted rain.


Anonymous said...

Just beautiful....I cross a 2000 foot mountain every day on my way to work. Motorcycles are starting to crowd the two lane road as it is that time of year of cooler temperatures and changing colors.

Trobairitz said...

Ha! Swearing is the only Italian I know so at least I understood Giovanni's good night to you.

The roads and the food look amazing. I am glad you are having such a wonderful time even though your wife and cheyenne aren't there.

Singing to Jeffrey's Tune said...

Ha! My great uncles say that to each other and my grandmother yells at them (she is the eldest).

RichardM said...

More wonderful pictures. One of these days I'll get there. Thank you!!

Conchscooter said...

It was fun, glad you liked it. My bike broke down on the way home. Drama! But we only to rained on the last fifty miles, as I rode with Giovanni. He didn't appreciate me singing in the rain while he dealt with traffic. Riding bitch is actually fun I discovered. For the passenger.