- LAY IN:
I had thought about waking us earlier, but had to allow time for my body to recover as best it could and I did feel as if I have been hit by a train, plus I also needed time for the alcohol to drain out.
2. TRULY SPECTACULAR:
What panoramas we enjoyed, the scenery in the Italian mountains is breathtaking and I still can’t look at this photo without feeling sick and getting a flashback to how I felt when I came around the corner and saw the 750 feet sheer drop at the side of the road. My sphincter tightened like a chicken strokes grip!
3. LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL:
We didn't factor in the tunnelsI And I ain't talking British tunnels, like the Wall
asey tunnel under the Mersey with its poncey wide lanes, painted white walls, full illumination with ventilation fans every 100 meters.
These tunnels are rough hewn from the rock, large ‘boulders’ jut out to the side of your head and can easily knock you off your bike if you dare get too close to the side.
Barely wide enough for 2 cars to pass, let alone the huge juggernauts laden with marble slabs. Pitch black, save for the wholly inadequate, intermittent, tiny, dim lights every 30 yards and with a mine of potholes that of course you couldn’t see. Each one became a chicken run, our sole purpose, just to get through alive!
4. THE ABYSS:
The first tunnel was enough to make you not want to do it again. 125m long but as it got dark, it got light again. That was followed by a quick 75m - listen out for lorries and then a sprint to the light. Then we came to the mouth of the top-most tunnel. At 1125m long, it just disappeared into an abyss.
Conno, whose bottom was unpredictable from the previous night's drinking, needed some encouragement and thankfully Rob came to the rescue producing his £2.50 Aldi flashing hand torch from his saddle bag. The size of a 50 pence piece and with 0.001 lumens, we had light. Rob The Saviour. Yippee. We will live! Our preparation is the stuff of legend and so we went for it and individually we prayed to each of our Gods for Mercy.
5. IL TRUMPETO:
Rob mastered the art of the cycling fart. It requires technique, timing and supreme control and serves as a thermal slap to the face to the person tailgating you. Nevertheless, you have to be surreptitious. Rob would slow down a tad so the G Man was inches from his back wheel and then in a snap, he’d raise his ‘culo' and come to a fixed ridged position, torso parallel to the road. The mastery comes from IL TRUMPETO being released at precisely the same moment! Any delay and Conno would see the raised buttocks and takes evasive action.
Perfectly executed it serves 3 purposes:
- Rocket propulsion. In the higher echelons of our sport it is all about fine margins. That extra blast of air in Conno's face gives your bike discernible forward thrust.
- Childish satisfaction.
- It proved a tremendous motivational tool for the team. When u are really down and nearly out wondering from where you are possibly going to find the energy to cover the distance to the next hair pin IL TRUMPETO followed by “Oh! For ***** sake!!" Makes u properly belly laugh on your bike, your morale lifts and you beat the next 5 kms.
6. THE BEAUTIFUL CAMEO’S:
We met some wonderful people, the stuff of Tarantino movies and perhaps the subject of a blog on its own. In fact this has been a real theme of our trip. From the waitress who properly got the giggles because I ordered 3 "bears" instead of 3 steaks on the bone. The Canadian couples preparing for their daughters' wedding in Tuscany. I asked for a photo, to which they responded "a group". I chastised them saying I don't know how they do things in Vancouver but we weren't suggesting any ambitious sexual positions and then as I put my arms around them I apologised and told them to prepare for ‘Smell of Man’. And then my favourite. The Old Bloke Guarding the Pier at Forte de Marmi as if his life depended on it. He sprang from nowhere like a bridge troll, to stop us in our tracks. Apoplectic at the thought that we were actually going to cycle on to his pier. Only 5'4. (just a bit smaller than Rob) and about 70 with his beige pants, belted up to just a few inches below his nipples he was getting all Sopranos with the towering 6’ tall G Man. We pulled Andy away and left the geezer to guard his footpath. Respect due, he wasn't backing down. We discussed storming him at full pelt on our bikes, BMX Bandits style but decided we didn't fancy mixing it with him and his palls who would have probably shown up on their mobility scooters. We gave him some northern hard knock looks and pedalled on, dignity intact.
7. WE SALUTE THE BUS DRIVER:
Having left the house at 12:30pm instead of 9am we ran out of sun. Despite 40 miles and 5,000 feet Conno was all deflated that we had missed out on the double figure stats of the previous day and the goon was even questioning whether we had earnt our dinner!
With the last train long gone, we approached the bus driver at Lucca station. He was just about to leave and confirmed that he WAS going to our town, Castelnuovo Di Garfagnana. Ticket?
They don't take credit cards, so Rob ran to the ticket booth which of course was shut. We looked at him like 3 lost 6 yr old boys. Then he told his mate to put the bikes in the lock up and us to jump aboard. It was pitch black when we arrived in Castelnuovo Di Garfagnana and we still needed to get to the house, but thankfully, we are not worried as Rob had his light!