After staying up nearly all night packing (and partly just so that we would sleep on the plane) 6:00 came early. My dad kindly drove us to the airport and helped us lug all of our stuff through the airport. Even with our incredibly small bike boxes, it was quite the load. For some reason we had been really worried about the exact dimensions of our bike boxes and whether Delta was going to measure them and contest their sightly bulging shape or ask what was in them, but as it turns out, our fears were for naught. As the Delta representative checked us in and tossed our bags on the conveyer belt, I realized that there was no going back. We were headed to Italy!
As we headed through security though, TSA was quick to point out a problem in our packing strategy: we forgot to move our muti-tool and knife to the checked bags. So annoying. Gratefully, my dad hadn’t gotten to far away and he was nice enough to come back and retrieve the contraband and take it home for us. Guess we’ll be buying a new Italian knife!
From there, the flights were uneventful and interspersed with our best attempts at sleep since we’d hardy slept the night before. Before we knew it, we were being served breakfast and touching down in Milan. Our bags showed up on a cart after the conveyer belt had been shut off, leaving us standing there wondering if our bikes were ever going to show up, but fortunately everything came together. We had to laugh about the customs line as well. In other countries, a full process surrounded customs. In Milan, there was no line, no desk, nothing at all except two guys watching the door. They asked what was in our boxes and once they confirmed that they were not new bikes, they nodded and let us go.
We found a quiet corner of the airport to start the process of putting our bikes back together which ended up taking a couple of hours. We had all kinds of curious onlookers as we spread bike parts and panniers all over the floor and got to work. The bikes suffered some banging around on the flight with some pretty impressive paint dings and a gouge to Ben’s wheel, but other than that, everything seemed to be in good condition. With only one issue with a screw that just wouldn’t seem to fit, we were pleased at how easily everything had come together.
We left the airport as a kind Italian man pointed us in the right direction to our destination for the night: Lago Maggiore. Since the man walked us out, we were somewhat rushed to get our gear packed and loaded onto the bikes. As we left the airport onto the impossibly busy roads with even more impossibly narrow/nonexistent shoulders, our unbalanced bikes proved somewhat difficult navigate, especially with as little experience riding loaded as we have. After a couple of miles of just stupid riding conditions and after nearly being driven off the road more than once, we tore off on a side street not even caring where it led all in hopes of finding a route with less traffic or at the very least, a couple of inches of shoulder. Luckily, the road we picked allowed us to wind through slightly less trafficked, but still not ideal roads up to the south end of Lago Maggiore.
Our campsite, Campeggio Solcio, was located about 12 km up the west side of the lake. As we pedaled our way north, small towns with narrow, winding streets would appear out of nowhere, only to end just as quickly Each one was quaint and absolutely beautiful in its own way. As we searched for the ATM, we got the camera out and the very few pictures we had energy for today.
A couple of hours after pulling away from the airport, we arrived at our campsite. Beat from our flight, from the stress of navigating along highly trafficked roads, and the awareness that we truly have no idea where we are going or what we are supposed to be doing, we set up camp and set out in search for food. Unfortunately it was late afternoon which apparently isn’t a popular time to work in Italy. To our dismay, this meant that absolutely nothing was open. The farmacia, the market (closed on Wednesday), and even the barber shop – all closed. Disheartened, we slowly wound our way back through the narrow streets to our campsite on the lake’s shore, faced with a dinner of Easter candy that my mother packed us. At least we had something!
Finally, around 6:00, a pizzaria about 50 feet from our campsite opened. This came as a surprise since we had twice asked the campsite owners what our dinner options were given that pretty much everything was closed down. They shrugged us off and never once mentioned that their own facility opened up later in the evening! We were the first in line to pick up a margherrita pizza for 5€ to share. We carried it down to the lake shore and perched on the lawn chairs to eat. Upon cracking open the box, we discovered that it wasn’t sliced. Having no utensils handy, (and since we now have no knife at all) we tore it into approximate slices and devoured every bite. Delicious.
I can already tell that this trip is going to push us to our limits. We are making every effort to learn new words in Italian. It has become absolutely necessary, since contrary to what everybody told us, nobody speaks English around here – and if they do, it is incomprehensibly broken. Guess we will have to do some studying tonight…
Km ridden: 50.4