We woke up this morning not long before the various churches and cathedrals began sounding their Easter bells. The bells, whether sounding various tunes or even just the hour will be something that I miss. Even the smallest towns, which are almost always centered around a church with a bell tower, can be heard from quite a distance. We were tempted to go to mass for Easter, but given that today was to be our most ambitious riding day yet (as campsites are few and far between in the region we are currently passing through), we decided to hit the road early while the traffic was good.
We left beautiful, quintessential Pavia quickly, heading toward our destination of Bobbio, a medieval town nestled safely in what Google Maps considers “hills”. As the mountain range came into view only 15 or 20 kilometers into our ride, Bree sighed with disappointment – “Do we have to ride over those mountains TODAY?”. “That’s the plan.” “What is plan B?” I asked her. “Well, we can ride over them. That’s plan A. Plan B is also to ride over them. Plan C, unfortunately, is to ride over them. Plan D? Push our bikes over them”. Ride over them it was. The road started off to be fairly tame, though with very consistent traffic that we presume was due to the holiday weekend I was sightly annoyed. As we climbed up into the foothills, however, the traffic thinned as the roads became windy and steep. We eventually began hitting switchbacks with grades rivaling the streets around the Bountiful temple. The terrain was absolutely beautiful, though. This is the greenest place that I have ever seen, and definitely among the most beautiful. We rolled through small town after small town, ever climbing. As the day drew on, we realized that our goal of 80 kilometers, while doable on the flats, was not realistic given the terrain. With that in mind, we set out to find water and a good place for our first free camp.
After some searching, we found a spicket of water just over a wall of a house in a small village. After testing to ensure that it ran, Bree gave me the go ahead to refill our bottles for the evening. Bottle one went without a hitch. During bottle two, however, an Italian woman poked her head through the curtains with an inquisitive look on her face. After pantomiming our request for water, she gave us a thumbs up as we finished filling our bottles. Before we finished, however, another Italian woman came out, asking something in an inquisitive tone. Of course, we had no clue what she was saying. We seriously need to learn some Italian.
We found our first free camp about 2 kilometers out of town near a switchback. Cars will be distracted with the tight turn, which will help conceal us even more. Bree found a level spot of ground about 1/4 km from the road, which invovled a steep climb up one of the “hills” that Google so kindly warned us of. While I pushed from the back, Bree steered and pushed from the front as we lugged our 85 pound vehicles up the steep incline. After pushing through thorns and vines, my legs had become sufficiently bloodied while my handlebar tape also received some tears. We set up camp with the paranoia that comes from a first-time freecamper. Looking out our tent, we have an incredible view of the valley below. I must say that this place is truly incredible.