Short version: a short easy ride (that would be a hard, hilly ride in normal life), then into the vans and to Verona for our farewell dinner.
Long version: it was hard to believe that the trip was already coming to an end. Well, my legs could believe it (they could have believed it 7 days ago…)
But as challenging as the trip was, in a way it was incredibly easy too–in some ways, the easiest trip I’ve made to Europe. There were hardly any decisions required–just get up, ride my bike where I’m told to, eat food when it’s put in front of me, and otherwise sleep, shower, or drink beer. Not all at the same time though–my hardest decisions often involved which of the three to do first…
Since we had to drive to Verona, the day’s ride was short, akin to the first day’s ride. Not even any mountain passes involved. Inconceivable!
It was described as a nice little ride out to a lake. The weather was perfect, sunny, warm but not too warm, and we rolled along an essentially flat road (flat!!!) through scenic Italian countryside. Pretty nice!
I was sort of looking around for a lake, and didn’t really know how far it would be, other than the description of it being a short easy ride. I noticed a road switchbacking steeply up a hillside, but sure that wasn’t where we were going, right?
It turns out that in this part of Italy, they put their lakes ON TOP of the hills. ?!?!?
I should have known, since the default answer on this trip was “yes we are going up that hill”–but really, who could have predicted that?
So yes, we did go up that hill, and I got to go “whee!” around the switchbacks. We saw the lake, and then Andy looked at the time, and hustled us right back down again.
The group split into two vans for the drive back to Verona, and I ended up in Gerardo’s van. By then I was completely accustomed to the gorgeous Italian scenery, so the highlight of the drive was when our calm, cheerful, imperturbable guardian angel lost it and swore at the toll booth machine. The van was in stitches for a while after that…
We had some time at the Verona hotel to get situated, and pack our bikes back into their travel cases, and then one last dinner together. Though I have not mentioned the other people on the tour very much, that does not reflect their centrality to the success of the trip. I figure they did not necessarily sign up to be characters in my blog–but if any of you are reading, I can’t say enough how much fun I had riding and hanging out with you. And if you’re ever in Seattle, let me know!
Just writing this last post recreates for me the same “I can’t believe it’s over”–both regarding the trip, and the writing. Signing up for, preparing for, and going on the trip challenged me and pushed my comfort zone in so many different ways. The riding was amazing, and it also felt really amazing to show myself I could do something that I spent a lot of time thinking I couldn’t.
And seriously–check them out: Cinghiale Cycling Tours with Andy Hampsten –and here’s hoping that I’m in the Dolomites again next year.
For the day, 17 miles and 2,500 feet of elevation gain. Looking at my ride data, I realized that there was a 4.4 mile stretch that averaged 9%–and I just thought that my legs felt slow because I was tired. Huh. Turns out that the climb had a bit of a kick to it.