From Florence where my brother and I met up, we headed basically west by northwest. We stopped for 2 days in the Italian coastal port city of Genoa, which also happened to be the home port of non-other than Christopher Columbus. From Genoa we essentially rode the coastal route over too Nice France where my brother then flies home. This is an affluent piece of real estate that we are riding thru, with cities such as San Remo and Montecarlo among them. Indeed there are many days that we felt and looked like homeless bums as we walked among the rich and famous. Equisite ltalian leather loafers, nice suits and the european version of a wild rag around the neck….only they call it an Ascot. Not to mention the plethora of makes and models of fine automobiles that passed us.
For both my brother and I, we gravitate more to the simpler and maybe more rural style of life,food and dress….this piece of the trip was just a little much for our upbringing. To really get back to feeling a little more normal we had to go spend one night in a dumpster……well, okay….over the top maybe, but real close to that. I will explain later.
We walked Genoa and seen as many Cathedrals as a person can stand too see in one day. And I love Cathedrals. We shopped for art…..and I finally found that Don Marley poster I have been looking for. Love that Reggae beat,mon. Some of our time was spent studying traffic and deciding which roads to escape on, and we are glad we spent that time because the escape went very well. Now I know that Italy has a world class food reputation, I dont really doubt it. But we went out for supper 3 times one night, and had about the worst meals you could imagine. Not sure what our problem was, but nothing worked out. We were longing for a Denny’s when it was over, or maybe a Perini’s in Texas hill country.
Made our route choice and left early Sunday morning. Hit the cranks out of Genoa by about 7.15am. The roads were wide open and vacant. I have to interject here with a few thoughts and insights that may well offend my European friends which I dont intend to do. But here goes, who ever is in charge of road signage placement……should probably just be shot….he is an idiot. Then we have to deal with the beurocratic nepatism, pretty sure the first guy we just shot had hired his brother to actually install the signs….he should also be shot. Pretty harsh, I know. But after awhile, when you finally find your sign hidden behind a tree…..or posted some 150 yards after the junction and it is down a hill and around a corner, or worse yet the road number was spray painted on a stray dog.Well, can I just say that by then the humor in it all has vanished. It was our observation that signage really sucks in Italy unless per chance you are doing the Auto-Strada thingy. Its ironic on one hand that part of tourism is inviting people over to enjoy an otherwise beautiful country, when at the ground or roadside level it is so poorly executed…..just sayin, don’t get yer knickers all up in a knot.
The Italian Riviera. That is what they call this portion of the coast that we rode, very few if any are more beautiful. It really was a breathtaking ride to be sure. Our route of choice was on SS1, which is a small secondary road, two lane. It meanders and tangles its way along this cerulean strip of cliff edged paradise, from south of Cinque Terra right up to the French border. Marked as an official cycle route upon many maps and blog descriptions. Along the way we occassionaly found a cycle path by pure accident…..because signs were of little help. The Italian drivers, whether that be in a several ton delivery truck, a Lambo,Porsche of a Poggio….they were too a person outstandingly considerate and courteous. Both of us want to say thanks for that fact.
The road runs right down along the shore, then vaults skyward up over rocky 1000 foot headlands that interrupt that coastal geography. Up, up, we grind. Along a narrow road with pine strewn cliff edge on our left, and a stacked rockwall or a harsh jagged mountainside to the right. At uneven intervals small paved single lane roads would heave themselves further skyward towards some unseen house or Hotel high above our ashphalt path. The houses here actually “cling” upon solid rock, wind wiping foam on mediterranean water at the same time it rips at the facade of myriad houses that dot its coast line. It all became a sort of pattern or rythm, we ride that wave-like decent thru tunnels turns and twists, flatten out a little as we come to the shore line. Wind our way thru narrow streets of yet another coastal village or city. Then repeat the whole process again as we climb yet another headland into the shadow of a setting sun.
We had some interesting visits with a couple “also traveling bikers”, one fellow I mentioned, Wheatsa from Holland. But also, Brian who has blazed his trail on a very road weary antique single speed. And a common lament is that almost all camp grounds for tenters are closed, “and wild camping is just impossible because there are people everywhere. Just want to tell you Pine and Nevada, that we wild camped every night…..no campgrounds for these two. No sireee bob. Some may not have been real pretty, like the camp where we slept behind a 20 inch tall rock wall on a pretty busy road…..and being under a street light really dealt a blow to the ambiance of the whole situation. Or better yet, the camp where we sandwiched our tents between hedges in a street corner park….also a dandy. We did however have some gorgeous camps inwhich the blue sea lay just over our shoulder as did the setting sun, like a comforting mantle at the end of a long day, stony headlands marched on up the coast like soldiers in formation.
Our route would take us thru the fabled city of Montecarlo, which lays within the Principality of Monaco. Folks, this is a place where escape is a heck of a lot harder than entry. My dear God in Heaven, but this is a proverbial rats nest or maze when it comes to roads and traffic. Just unbelievable how tangled a web you can make with roads….I know, we seen it. But in Montecarlo the surface it covered in roads so bad you simply have no room to add to the web created. So, they have moved underground with a maze akin to the Mines of Moria. Yes indeed, a 6 way traffic circle fully underground, 3 road groups were rising to leave and 2 were decling deeper while one stayed fairly flat. And not just one such narrow engineering abstraction……oh no, we hit 3 such collossal granite beasts. Loaded semi’s come rolling round corners so tight that what gets scraped off the right front corners on the way in, is reapplied to the rear left corner upon exit, cars clammer for a lane, horns and flashing lights, dark then brilliant light, you climb in a low gear only to topout, shift and turn into a hard spiralling turn to the left while your eyes try to adjust and your brain attempts to make sense of ” real near ” horn honks and those that are but echoes of a near miss from seconds ago and in some other tunnel. A full 2 hours were taken up trying to escape from a town 16 feet wide by 10 miles long and a thousand feet tall. Beaucoup cranky at the end of that day…..some serious praying done before for safe roads, and afterwards, prayers of apology after for what I was calling them. With Montecarlo now behind us, you could sense a certain amount of relief in the crew (both of us).
We finally roll into Nice France, once the home port of Vasco de Gama. Our first stop is for coffee and charge at least one phone up so se can find a place to stay. We have a tiny room in an average Hotel and I feel I paid to much. But thats from the twisted mind of a “wild camper” for you. We walked, talked and ate our ay thru Nice, San Remo, Genoa, Florence among many others. My brother and I will part ways as brothers once again, but with a different appreciation for each other and the journey made over these brief 2 weeks. Just want to say thanks to family for making/letting/allowing this trip to happen. And thanks to Jesus Christ for actually blessing the time while we were together. And thanks brother for taking time away from family and friends so you could spend time with me here in Italy.