Bree: Today we packed up from our lovely Levanto camp to get back on the road. Our departure did not go unnoticed by our French neighbors who had been enthralled with our heavy bikes. For the last three nights we’ve shared ridiculous attempts at conversation, her speaking in French, and us in English with a lot of gesturing. This morning she wanted to know how many bags we had and where on earch where we were going. I love that no one is much bothered by language barriers here and instead, everyone happily gestures, guesses meanings, and makes friends anyhow. We ate a decent breakfast of bread and fruit and crackers and cheese and hazlenut spread and then bid our friends “au revoir”.
We knew it was going to be a good climb out of Levanto to get past La Spezia but today we were mentally prepared for the long haul and physically rested enough to make it happen. We got on the road before the day got too warm and I felt proud watching the ocean get further and further from our view with each pedal stroke. Yesterday we’d sat at the water’s edge and today I looked way down at the same beach knowing I made every bit of distance under my own power. The roads were pretty quiet for a main highway and the vistas were beautiful. This is what bike touring is supposed to feel like!
Before I hardly knew what had hit us, the road forked, and we were ready to head downhill once again. Following Ben, the descent was fast (actually, all decents are really fast if you follow Ben…he is a speed demon!) and beautifully forested.
It is amazing how quickly you can undo a hard day’s work with a descent. While it took us several hours to climb the first 550 meters, we dropped to nearly sea level in a mere 45 minutes. As we descended into La Spezia, we were priveleged to navigate the maze of long, busy, fumigating tunnels, wide and busy streets full of stop lights, and the charm of barbed wire covering the industrial complexes. It was quite shift from the mornings beautiful ride. Ugh.
It is amazing how difficult it is to ride a straight line in a dark tunnel and we had plenty of opportunities to try it out today. In one particularly muddy and dark tunnel, we decided to ride on the narrow sidewalk to keep away from the busy traffic. As we pedaled blindly atop wet and muddy slabs of unseen concrete, our stability went downhill. Bree’s back pannier bumped the wall, which bounced her once again and caused her to fall onto the muddy road. Lucky that there was only a scooter behind us which quickly moved out of the way, we quickly got her up and back onto the sidewalk. She was quite shaken up, but luckily she and her bike were not injured.
Bree: As I was falling, first off the sidewalk and then off my monstrocity of a bike, the only thing I could hear was the echoing noises of an engine coming from behind and I braced myself to be run over by a bus. Instead, a small scooter zoomed around me just as Ben reached out to steady my bike and pull me back to the safety of the sidewalk. Muddy as could be, we did the only thing that made sense at the time and walked our bikes out of the tunnel.
After having passed through nearly 10 tunnels today, I can now officially state that tunnels are on my list of things that make me nervous including wild animals and trains. Since we’ve been here, my list of irrational fears has grown a fair bit as I think of all the things that could possibly go wrong. Now, during the day, we jokingly play the “which scary thing is worse”. Ben quizes me.
“Tunnels or boars?”
“Boars or a bear?”
“Bear or lose the GPS?”
“Give up on the whole trip!”
He rolls his eyes and the game is over…Ah the joys of having unlimited amounts of time to spend together!
Ben: Our GPS, as I have mentioned before, is our most valuable possession. Without it, we would be indifinitely lost. As we were routed out of the industrial garbage that is La Spezia, we passed several large docks and finally a massive electrical plant as we once again ascended up the side of the mountain, which intuitively didn’t feel right. Our GPS kept telling us to climb over a ridge, and then it would be a free descent into the river basin where we would be camping. The road that we were following eventually turned to gravel, and then to an impossibly steep lane with grass dividing the tire tracks. I was barely able to keep my bike’s traction in check as we climbed up the gravelly roads yet again. Bree’s bike, however, is not weighted down properly in front so heaving her bike slowly up the path on foot was our only option. As we crested the top of the hill, to my dismay,there was nothing but a house. The road had ended. Our GPS still showed us on track, but there was nowhere left to go. Fail.
As always, the descent back down to La Spezia was much quicker than the climb. We manually navigated until the GPS gave us a good route into the campground in the river basin, where we are now glad to be out of the traffic, the industrial complexes, and the busyness that comes with the big city. We can once again hear birds chirping in our quiet campground, with the river only a few hundred meters away. The reception here at “Camping River” was warm and friendly and we are showered, fed, all plugged in, and glad to be here. Thank goodness.