Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Addendum to Post 2

I forgot to write the funniest part of the story about having dinner with Jeannie's babysitting family. So here it is: Jeannie and I are vegetarians and our vegetarianism was a semi-frequent conversation topic. Niccola (whose English is actually pretty good) has gotten the words 'vegetarian' and 'vegetable' confused. Therefore, whenever we talked about being vegetarian and Niccola needed to say something like 'So how long have you two been vegetarians?' he would instead say 'So how long have you two been vegetables?'. It made the whole night a lot funnier (although not until after we'd left). Also, Jeannie and I didn't have the heart to correct him so, if we go over for dinner again, we will almost certainly get called vegetables repeatedly. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

The High Life: Eating Gelato and Riding My Bike

I've been enjoying myself so far. I ate gelato the first day I was here but I didn't really like it. It was too creamy and sweet for me, which was kind of a bummer because Jeannie eats it pretty much everyday. We kind of decided though that beer was like my gelato. Jeannie could eat gelato with lunch everyday and not think about it and I could drink a beer every day with lunch and not think about it (if money grew on trees that is). Anyway, gelato has been growing on me since I found the 'Sorbetteria'. Its not quite as creamy (which makes sense because we ate at the 'Cremeria' the first time) so I like it much more. You get two flavors every time and so far I've tried white choclate (fantastic, way better than vanilla), dark chocolate (darker than the darkest chocolate bar I've ever had ... almost too dark for me), strawberry (delicious in small quantities), Dulce de leche (caramel, and officially my new favorite flavor), vanilla with pine nuts and caramel, and this other flavor I don't remember the name of that was made with ricotta cream and had little candied fruits in it, which I wasn't the hugest fan of. Anyway, strawberry with white chocolate was my favorite until I found out about Dulce de leche. 

Aside from eating gelato, I've also been able to get out riding my bike, and I even went on one overnight trip. It was during Jeannie's finals week so I decided to make myself scarce and I had been wanting to do an overnight shake down bike trip for a while so I went for it. I had bought a map a while ago and using google maps (very detailed and helpful) in combination with my map I planned out a route. If all went well, I would bike out in a large circle and stay on mostly small roads.

I had been planning for weeks about how I would pack for an overnight trip (I have a rack on my bike but no panniers) and I finally ended up bungeeing my tent on top of the rack and Jeannie's small backpack (good because it has a stiff plastic frame) to the side of the rack. I figured my sleeping bag would be to bulky to attach to the rack so I decided put it in my backpack, carry my backpack like normal and call it a poor mans pannier. Once equipped with my route (street names written on paper with my map as backup) and once my bags were packed I set out.

I retraced part of my route from my last biking trip so I was on pretty major roads. I went through a couple round-a-bouts, which I was a little nervous about, but which really weren't that bad. I was also excited to pass a Carrefour (because I'm always excited about cheap food buying places). Anywho, I started to keep my eyes out for my turn off (Via Gesso). I almost missed it because it was a one way road going onto the street but I looked back after I had passed it and sure enough, it was Via Gesso. 

Via Gesso turned out to be a beautiful interlude in my trip. The sun was shining, the traffic had died off, and I was surrounded by fields (if only on one side). After this short rest, however, Via Gesso emptied back onto a large road. It was only a two-lane but traffic was just buzzing along and there didn't appear to be a shortage of large trucks either. I didn't really see any other options so I waited for a lull in the traffic and then rode on, while keeping a sharp eye out for my next road (Via Lavino). Google maps had made it look like Via Gesso just turned into Via Lavino, so perhaps this was Via Lavino. There had been no street sign at the intersection. I decided to stop and look at my map. During my planning I thought it would be prudent to choose a road that was on my map. Now, sitting by the side of the road looking at my map I realized that route I had chosen, while being, theoretically on the map, was not labeled. I found out later that I was on the right road, but because my map didn't label the road I was on, I was clueless about where I was. I decided my only option was to keep riding and keep looking for Via Lavino. After a while I saw a sign for Via Lavino. I was thrilled and quickly turned off the main road. Via Lavino turned out to be a muddy dirt road. I decided moderate traffic was preferable to mud on a road bike and turned back to the other road.

This proved to be a good decision because I quickly saw another 'Via Lavino'. This one, however, appeared to lead to a small factory so I again avoided it. I ended up seeing 12-13 more Via Lavninos. After a while I saw one that was only about 30' long and just led to a house. I started to wonder if Via Lavino wasn't actually Italian for 'driveway' and somehow google had mislabeled something. After I got back I tried to translate 'via lavino' and apparently it means 'wash away' (at least according to Traffic had been gradually dieing off and the vineyards had been becoming more common so I decided just to keep with the road I was on. 

The road had been going slightly up-hill almost the entire time but now it began to steepen. It continued to steepen until I had shifted into my lowest gear. This, unfortunately, caused my rear derailleur to hit the spokes on my back wheel, so I stopped to do some maintenance. Once that was sorted out I moved on. I passed through one small town and had to get off and walk a couple times, but I finally made it to the top of the hill. 

I hadn't left Bologna until about 2 and by the time I made it to the top of the hill it was exactly 5 so I started looking for a good campsite. I was surronded by fields with small copses of trees interspersed therein. Despite the abundance of 'No Trespassing' signs (they were put up on posts about every 20') I decided to camp in one of the small copses of trees. I was pretty close to a road and, because I didn't want to have an awkward confrontation with a possibly irate Italian farmer (and possibly one or more of the dogs I could hear barking) I didn't set up a tent right away. I hadn't planned on setting up my tent at all but, during the night I noticed that there were no stars out. I got worried about getting rained on and figured, because it was dark I probably wouldn't run into any Italian farmers, so I set up my tent. 

In the morning after I had broken down camp I realized that I had a flat tire. I attributed this to the fact that the spot I was camping in would, in the summer, be a narly patch of brambles so my front tire must just have gotten caught on a stray thorn. I walked out to the road and set about changing my tire. I had never actually changed a tire before but this experience turned out to be glorious. The sky had cleared up and the sun was shining down warming my bones. I was (thanks to yesterday's climb) on one of the highest points around so the view was beautiful. And, aside from cold fingers, the tire changing went off without a hitch. There were even birds chirriping melodically in the trees.

After I got my tire sorted out it was, both literally and figuratively, 'all downhill from there'. I bundled myself up, rolled down the hill. By the time I had to peddle much again I was halfway to Bologna and I used the rest of the ride back to think of ... Lessons Learned: 1. You aren't as strong as you thought you were and biking uphill with food and a tent is harder than you thought it would be. 2. Maps suck (I kind of already knew that) but writing road names on yours would make it a lot better. 3. Poaching camping is as sketchy and unenjoyable as you remember it being, especially because you don't speak any Italian.

Hair Cut!!!

I had to put it in pony tails because I was donating it to locks of love and they want it to be in a handy donateable format. Also, I look pensive in the next to last picture because I had just heard a 'snip' and then Jeannie say "Whoops! maybe could have done without that" But then she laughed and I figured it was ok.