Let’s face it – we are really bad at bicycle touring. Between being a little bit too type A to sit still for 5 minutes, nervous about offending people, or unable to communicate (gesturing aside) from a majority of the population outside the large cities, this has been a stretch for us. We keep thinking we need to slow down and enjoy ourselves, instead of riding as hard and as fast as we did at home.
Bree: At times, I think our tour is just short enough that we still feel like we are in a hurry to see everythng and don’t want to “waste” any time. However, the pace of a normal vacation is pretty intense and not sustainable for a full three months. There is a lot to keep up with on a bike tour (namely finding food, water, and shelter) but beyond that, we are here to have fun, not kill ourselves! We have given a lot of thought to making our travel more enjoyable and hopefully we will be a bit more apt to slow down and smell the roses in the weeks to come.
Ben: In an effort to find a better pace for ourselves, we have routed ourselves along the flatlands (possibly the Po River Valley?) along Veneto heading toward Venice. Today was one of our first days on the flats without inclement weather. We can practically fly! With our speeds more than double what they were through the French Alps, we are finding much more time to kick back, meet more people, and of course, eat more food.
Our first stop out of town was the grocery store. They all opened back up today. Weird. The trip was refreshing and cheap, as we stocked up on buttery crackers, gnocchi, some fresh vegetables, and cheese. Bree is very sad that we can no longer buy tomatoes due to an e-coli outbreak which has thus far killed 15 people, though now that we are back in Italy we have a few more options for produce.
Despite the fact that today’s ride was easy and fast even into a gentle headwind (averaging over 26 kph!), the first 35 km were spent alongside busy traffic and on poorly paved roads. I suppose that is the worst part of visiting any city by bicycle (even one as awesome as Verona) – riding out through the suburbs and industrial parks where all the work actually gets done. We did have a brief 10 km of nice countryside, though. We have been able to enjoy the progression of the vineyards throughout our tour. They started very light and almost dusty, whereas small grapes are now beginning to form on the dark and leafy plants. The farmers were out cutting off the tops of all of the vines as we passed but we have no idea why. Does anybody know why they do this?
Before we knew it we were back into the suburbs of Vicenza. Our book describes the city as modern and sleek. This was not our experience. In fact, neither of us had much taste for the city, though there were some cool hydrangea bushes! It had some good architecture and, as always, some old buildings. As our tour progresses, though, I am finding myself drawn more and more to the quiet countryside.
Our GPS has been doing some creative routing in this area, starting with yesterday’s stairs. With 1.5 km to go until we arrived at our campsite, the GPS told us to cross an unpaved road over some train tracks. When we arrived, though, all we found was a tall pedestrian bridge which was accessed by 3 flights of stairs on either side. Luckily, there was a heavily graffitied elevator that did not look like it has had much use as of late. We wrangled our bikes into the elevator, one at a time, wheeled them across the bridge, and finally down the other side.
While the elevators certainly were in no hurry to transport our ridiculous load, we were. A storm was approaching and we wanted to get our tent set up before it hit. We found our clean and very quiet campground about 10 km out of the city center, where we were able to set up and make a quick gelato and milk run before the rain hit. I was surprised to find that what we thought to be milk was actually sour cream. Oh well. At least it made for some good soup!
As long as the tent is up when the rain falls and it isn’t quite so cold as it was in Switzerland, we find we don’t mind the rain at all and in fact find it to be kind of cozy. We hole up with some snacks and work on our photos and blogging, take a nap, or chat the evening away while listening to the rain drum on the rain fly. Tonight, we ate our ice cream and took a nice nap until the skies were beautiful blue again and we could make dinner outside.