The Long Road to Novara

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We woke up this morning and wondered what our second day in Europe should hold.  We were pretty positive that there were no campsites within riding distance and we were very concerned about avoiding the kinds of traffic we had encountered the day before.  We knew we wanted to head south and we figured we would ride to the nearest train station and get out of town if the traffic was too heavy. I was already feeling tentative knowing that we had no idea where we might spend the night, but also knowing there wasn’t much more we could do to plan without an internet connection, we decided it was time to be brave!

We packed up and rolled out of our lakeside campground just before 9:00 and headed back the way we had come.  We were surprised to be passing huge groups of friendly Italian cyclists all along the way.  They waved and cheered in our direction as they went by.  We wondered where all of these very polished looking cyclists come from and why they all are available to ride mid-morning on a Thursday.  Either way, their enthusiastic presence made our morning!

The ride along the lake was lovely once again and we paused periodically for a few photos.

I had to laugh because here we are in the Italian Lake District (on Ben’s very first trip abroad!) and the first thing that caught his attention was to photograph was the bark on the tree I’d parked my bike against.

After a few miles, we eventually located our first European grocery store.  Unsure of what food even makes sense when you live out of panniers, we snagged some pasta, some oil, bread, grapes, cheese, and some other basics loaded up, and headed out again.  We headed back into the thick traffic until we had no more desire to drive alongside the heavy Italian trucks.  We passed by two train stations and rode around each but both were deserted, covered in colorful graffiti.  We stopped at one to eat our lunch off the road and we watch the trains fly right by without a second thought.  So much for that idea.

We bailed off the main road which had previously been our only option in favor of some small residential streets and hoped the GPS would re-configure itself in the right direction.  Easily, this was the best decision we made all day and we were greeted with some of the first nice riding of our trip  Lush, green fields, pretty villa style houses, dirt roads lined with trees,  and tiny towns dotted our hilly route.

I was so glad to be off the crazy highway that I didn’t even mind how easily Ben motored up the hills despite the fact that his bike is loaded at least 25% heavier than mine.  I had at one point hoped that this would somehow slow his insane hill claiming abilities down just enough that I’d have a prayer at keeping up with him, but no such luck.

With no sign of any hotels or campsites or even any areas quiet enough to wild camp, and still no idea where we were going, we finally decided to roll into Novara to see if we could just catch the next train somewhere with far less traffic.  We battled traffic and wind all the way into town and were elated to finally reach the station.  Unfortunately, it had gotten so late in the afternoon that any possible train routes would have sent us to a new city in the middle of the night where we would have to find lodging in the dark.  Better we decided, to find a hotel in Novara and decide on our plan of attack with an internet connection.  We were tired and hot and sunburned and the intense traffic situation we’d been dealing with for most of the day was starting to wear on me.

We headed towards a local McDonalds to use the internet and figure out our best hotel options.  By the time we arrived, I’d had a couple of near misses with traffic and was frazzled to my wits end.  I gratefully sat on the curb with the bikes while Ben went in to buy some fries and figure out the internet situation.  A half hour later, with two muffins (fries are apparently hard to gesture) and no luck on the internet front we rolled away and determined that we would hunt on a hotel the hard way.  By this point it was nearing 6:00 and I wanted more than anything to be off the road.  I forced every petal stroke until we passed the hotel and I hollered ahead for Ben to stop.  He looked back and I assumed he heard me and was stopping, but instead, I watched him disappear into the mob of cars.  As the seconds and then minutes ticked by though, I was truly panicking.  Where did he go and how long would it take him to notice I’d stopped?

Two old women stood and stared at me concerned as I was freaking out about my lost husband on the street corner.  Finally, traffic broke long enough for me to head after him and I rolled slowly trying to figure out exactly where he’d gone.  In all the traffic, I’d lost site of him only a few seconds after I’d stopped.  Finally, I saw his yellow bags roll back towards me…I was so relieved.  In a town like this at rush hour, and since we had no destination,  it would have been easy to get very very lost.

Gratefully, the hotel had a good place for our bikes, and a decent internet connection, and most important, a place to get out of the noise.  As we sit down to plan tonight, we have only one agenda- to get out of the city and into quiet country roads.

Km ridden: 74



12 Responses

  1. Tara says:

    We’re so excited for you two! Italy was one of our very favorite countries. Take advantage of all that delicious gelato as often as possible! And see if you can mime your way into getting slices of speck and salami milano from the huge hunks of meat at the deli.

    You’ll get used to the ins and outs of unplanned touring after awhile, and soon it will become second nature. We found free-camping to be a great option in Italy– just make sure you start looking early, and carry enough water to last you through the night.

    Oh, and Bree– I can completely relate to the partner-with-insane-hill-climbing-abilities thing. Even after two years on the road, Tyler is still is able to climb at least twice as fast as I can. :p

    Good luck guys, and have fun, we can’t wait to read more of your adventures!

    • Breeanne says:


      Thanks for the encouragement! We are certainly having the adventure of our lives. I think it is possible that this is the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. Here’s hoping that a few more miles out of town and a bit less traffic will yield some calmer days!

      I suppose it is about time for us to give free camping a shot! We are still trying to get the hang of staying fully stocked all the time with adequate water and fuel and food. I have a whole new respect for what you guys have been doing the past few years. We have a lot to learn!

  2. Melanie says:

    You guys are awesome! I love reading about your adventures. I hope you are having fun!

  3. Annette says:

    Ben & Bree we love hearing all about your trip. Maybe you you can find a place to print pictures of fries and other foods so you don’t have to mime! We are so excited for the next post. Love you!

    • Breeanne says:

      Thats a great idea. Thankfully pizza translates really well 🙂 and we are eating plenty of bread, fruit, and cheese. It is easy to point at what you want at a bakery and show how many!

  4. Leslie says:

    I loved reading your blog this morning!! Bree, I know it may get tiring but all of your details are what makes your blog so amazing! Save some energy everyday to journal!Do you think an Italian/English dictionary would be helpful? Annette’s idea about getting pictures was awesome…I’d never thought of that before. When we have visited Europe the most frustrating thing for me was the communication issues/language barriers! You learn a whole new level of patience! Have a great day and make sure you feel like you are in safe areas when camping. Have Fun!!

    • Breeanne says:

      We will be journaling every day we can! It is one of the very few things that we do out here that isn’t totally overwhelming!

      We are eating just fine, but our stove is having some issues so it has been lots of creative sandwich eating on our end. The language barrier is maddening especially when we need something specific and can’t ask for it. I find myself using my Spanish a surprising amount. I don’t think Ben believed I spoke any at all until this week.

      We love you guys!

  5. Rob E says:

    this is totally the coolest thing ever. Thanks for letting us be part of your adventure. I look forward to it every day. Be safe.

    • Breeanne says:

      I don’t know about “coolest thing ever” but “way out of my comfort zone” sounds pretty accurate! We love you guys!

  6. Miara says:

    This makes me grateful for my house… and my car… and my bed… and my fridge… Haha just kidding. I think this is really cool. I was telling my cousins about how you guys were doing this and we decided we were going to do a trip around the U.S. And you can help us know what to do because you’ve already done it!

  7. Megan says:

    Be brave little piglet!

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