Monday, September 9, 2013

Swimming,Not Drowning, At Fano

You' think September is too late for crowds to show up on Italian beaches when the country as a whole is known for taking massively lengthy vacations en masse in August but this Sunday Giovanni and I rode over the Apennine Mountians across the middle of Italy and landed up ona rocky paradise, many miles from Key West.

It was gray when we got there but by the late afternoon the sun had come out and every nearby Italian and his brother and sister had showed up to enjoy their square meter of pebbly beach on the Adriatic Coast.

We pored over a map Sunday morning and settled on a quick run over the mountains, about 200 miles, not too far so we could stop and talk and so my cardiologist friend could smoke a cigarette or three.

I enjoy pausing to take pictures and see the sights and do a little exploring, but Giovanni rides for the pleasure of the ride so the mountain views and the intriguing villages perched upon them you will mostly have to imagine as we didn't often stop for the most scenic vistas...and I did what I could while my riding partner sighed in the background reminding me what a wanker I am for always having the camera out (his words exactly: Che pugnetta Michele!). An artiste gets no respect around here from the motorcycling masses.

The bad news is gasoline in Italy costs around €1:84 a liter which I translated at €1:30 to the dollar into about $10 US per US gallon. My four cylinder beast seems to drink the stuff like a dipsomaniac chugs cheap vodka though Giovanni's massive six cylinder BMW K1600GTL has a huge tank and sips the stuff around 45mpg by my calculation which he thought wasn't so great. It's all a matter of perspective I suppose.

Our first proper stop of the morning and our second stop for coffee was in San Giustino in Northern Umbria. Neither of us had been there before and I was entranced by the architecture even before we got into the village itself so I stopped and took a picture before the tour leader could start griping. U bria is filled with villages like this:

As we pulled up outside the bar making an appalling commotion with our very expensive ten cylinders of Teutonic motorcycling perfection I noticed a totally fabulous modest little bike from my youth and this guy about to jump on and ride off. Wait I said as I rushed to disrobe and pull out my Android camera. We got to talking about his pride and joy, an electric start Harley Davidson 350 built by Aermacchi. A flat cylinder lightweight motorcycle sold when Giovanni and I were kids forty years ago. He's had it almost that long:

Naturally in my haste I cocked up the picture taking so badly the motorcycle never came out, and I didn't notice as we were all three reminiscing nineteen to the dozen so here is a feeble Internet substitute:

His was perfectly maintained down to the original paint and decals. I'm not sure why but I took a picture of him riding sedately away so this is all I have of that lovely motorcycle:

We got down to the serious business of breakfast, Giovanni's first and my Hobbit-like second breakfast:

And then we strolled the Sunday morning flea market, more for Giovanni than for me as I have a well known aversion to collecting dust catchers.

Put that camera down!

Oh all right then I'll just take a picture of your pride and joy.

We climbed the mountains highway through gorges alongside rivers and across passes crowded with parked Sunday riders. The twists and turns on the road to Urbino were too many to count. Then Giovanni decided that rather than view the lovely city known to historians of Art everywhere we would go straight to the sea. Luckily my wife and I stopped in Urbino in 2011 on our last visit to Italy and we had a lovely twilight stroll and an alfresco dinner in a piazza in the heart of the city. Key West Diary: Urbino

As usual our only stop in the mountains was a totally un-scenic pull out where Giovanni tried to reconnect with his phone (and smoke a cigarette) but eventually we stopped for another coffee and a cigarette once we had got out of the mountains and were closing in on the sea. Equally unmemorable view, actually:

I am in fact riding this ridiculously colorful 170 horsepower bumble bee loaned to me by a friend of Giovanni's, and I have to say Massimo is a generous man. But it is impossible to go anywhere in Italy on a loud yellow motorcycle and not be noticed and I am not very good at playing coo ,hand Luke when I show up on this decidedly awkward sport bike in a crowded parking area. Once I managed to back it into a flowerpot, no damage done luckily except to my ego, and heaven help me if there is anything remotely as treacherous underfoot as gravel because this thing is easy to drop. It is impossible to maneuver from a standstill as it has absolutely no steering lock and looking over your shoulder from the hunched riding position will give you a hernia in a most uncomfortable place.

However once rolling it is the motorized equivalent of a guided missile. I got it up to 125mph once and a 120 a couple of times more and for freeway riding it is amazing, steady as a rock with a powerful ABS braking system and perfect control in the corners. In the mountain twisties it is a bit more of a handful to throw into corners and it has a nasty habit of feeling like it is going to drop down into a corner when it gets past a certain lean angle, but it pulls like a train in any gear and on long straightaways I was hitting 85 (140kph) before I noticed. The redline is at 11,000 rpm and in 6th gear it is barely at 6,000 rpm when the needle is well past 100 mph and heading to 105 (170 kph).

In Italy passing cars is done just about anywhere a motorcyclist can see enough room, solid white lines, double solid white lines mean nothing, you takes your money and makes your choice. Most car drivers actually pull aside to give you more room and its not unusual to see a motorcycle barreling down the middle "lane" of a two lane highway passing cars. For that sort of stuff this K1200S excels. Put it in third at forty miles per hour and you can almost wheelie your way past any car in your path just by winding the throttle open and listening to the engine build up to a banshee wail as all other traffic falls behind as though standing still. Traffic lights will see scooters and motorcycles jump to the front of the line and take pole position for the green light. It is expected and it is a wonderful liberation from America's obsession with making two wheelers sit in line like they are SUVs. At one point there was a traffic jam as far as the eye could see. We were following a couple perched on a Ducati Monster and all three of us took the oncoming lane, pausing to let oncoming traffic by and we reached the construction zone in three minutes and not one car driver expected us to do otherwise. It was fantastic. I love riding in Italy it is so liberating.

At Fano we rented a couple of loungers for five Euros each and settled down to a 'light' lunch of lasagna, seafood for me and meat and to,ago for Giovanni who hates fish.

Then we had a salad each washed down with a bottle of white Verdicchio wine followed by the inevitable coffee.

And then we went for a refreshing swim,

Across the pebble beach,

Followed by a nap.

And a chat, putting the world to rights.

On the ride home we stopped for ice cream, as one does, zuppa inglese, which is supposed to resemble "English soup" or more accurately trifle, and tastes fantastic as gelato:

Three Euros each for more ice cream than a man should be allowed to eat, but we dropped some as did some final route planning:

And listened to some locals arguing over nothing and telling stories.

The it was it e to ride getting home after dark where Daddy's little girl, Eleonora now 19 was ready to tell us her tales of the day:

And in closing a picture for my ever patient wife of her favorite hard Italian candy:

Chupa Chups -just the name is enough to make an English speaker giggle. There endeth our first ride.

Vacation Day 4

I took Cheyenne for a walk at dusk after a long day at work. It was late, close to 8pm and the light was fading fast

She deserved a good walk after a day spent being separated from me....

It was lovely, not hot but warm, but the air was like a smooth warm bath. I wasn't even sweating.

The car was a cool snug mud free refuge. It handled fifty yards of mud and rock with aplomb.

Small pleasures and I'll be looking at these pictures and thinking, while I am thousands of miles away.