My wife is so unlucky that she had to go all the way to Tromsų, Norway
for the weekend. I'm trying not to despair. In fact, as she actually gave me the bike for my 40th birthday (and that, Ladies, is how you make sure your husband doesn't run of with some young sexy chick (all body, no brain, no money): You give him a R1150GS for his 40th birthday and say "On two conditions: That you ride a lot and become a very experienced rider that doesn't take unnecessary chances, and that I get to ride all over Tuscany with you.". That, my dear Ladies, is what you should do too!)
Anyway, She is gone while Bamsefar (that is the bike - I'll return to the name some otehr time. Just you remember that Bamsefar si a 2000 R1150GS and we'll be fine) has just had his 80.000 service. As he is getting old there has been some complications (which have been discussed at length in GSpot - let's leave them there), but now we are ready to go.
A map of the whole trip, with all the images you'll see below, can be found here
. Please take a look at the map (zoom out to get an idea of where we are). This way you'll be abel to follow the tale and understand what is going on. I'll wait right here while you take a peek on the map.
As always I start with breakfast at home. Now that Christmas is approaching, nothing is better than panettone or pandora together with a proper cappuccino. I look at the map (that green one is the best there is - nothing like it, and nothing above!), and check out if there is somewhere to have lunch that is mentioned in the most important book to have around here.
There isn't so I'll have to find something on my own.
During the winter I normally ride in the mountains (that is, above 800 meters) alone. She (the big She) adhores snow and ice in general, and I wan't mention what she says when we encounter it on the bike. Fo rthat reason I have a big red frost-warning lamp that starts blinking when it begs below 3°C. There are quite a few passes over the Appennini mountains that I haven't visited yet. During summer She comes with me, but I can't stay down by the shore all winter, can I?
Two passes are on today's menu: Passo di Lagastrello and Passo di Cerreto. Both are north of La Spezia, and on the border between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna (which is to the North of Tuscany).
The weather forcast was good, but when I got up to 1.200 meters on the pass itself it was not good at all. The frost-warning light had been blikning from about 900 meters, and the fog was very thick. And I found that my heated grips have ceased working; this is the first time I have needed them this year. Argh - more work to do.
At the pass there is a small bar / trattoria. There was no-one there but me (about 10:30 and they were getting ready to receive people for lunch). I was cold so I sat for a while with my caffe' americano (take a good coffee and pour water into it so that it dilluted to tea; the only positive thing to say is that it becomes larger) close to a warm radiator.
The hosts were nice and I think I'll ride up one day for lunch to check it out. After 20 minutes I was ready to ride on.
Just after the pass there is a lake, and the bridge passes over a ravine just beyond the lake. I have been told the view is excellent, but I think I will have to come back another day.
Five seconds after I had taken the picture and lowered the camera getting ready to walk back to the bike, a car came out of the fog with no lights on; it almost scared the shit out of me, and I had to stay there some more to calm down.
I continued slowly, slowly down on the North side of the mountains, and finally got under the clouds. The temerature rose, and the speed picked up. Then suddenly, in the corner of my eye, I saw this bridge. It is called Ponte Lugagnano, and it is truly magnificent! I didn't have She with me, or I would have asked her to go in the top to get a better understanding of how large it is! There was a Bed and Breakfast there, and a small bar. This is a perfect place for a later trip; go here to find out more about this stunning bridge! But then the sun finally broke through
Unfortunately I don't smoke anymore. But could you imagine anything better than to sit on the bike, feel the sun warming after a rather cold morning, and watching the dew vaporize in teh morning sun, and smoke a sigarillo? But, alas, when I smoke I always smoke far too much. The only way to manage is not to smoke at all. But I long for it. And in particluar at these moments.
I follow the vally down on the North side, the sun is shining, and all is well. When I am properly down from the mountain I take to the right (that is, East) and jump over to the next valley. The idea is to take that valley back up to the next pass (that is Passo di Cerreto).
On the way from one vally to the next, between some gentel hills, I come to Mercato in Scurano (it is here
) where I find Utopia Ostery Pub
. The name is un-italian and the place isn't in an old, cosy, unefficient, cold and damp old building. As such it isn't proper
. But the food is excellent! I decide on papardelle con funghi porcini, then a small saled (the oil was not from Tuscany, minus two points), and then a tiny pice of pecorino
with honey from castagne. Real diet food that suits a day such as this well!
Outside the sun is shining, but I have an uneasy feeling of being watched. I look casually around: WHAT THE F**K IS THIS?
Bamsefar is sad, and he is standing outside looking hungry at me. I hate it when someone is watching me as I eat! I can hear him - Why don't you ride rather than sitting in side there and eating too much? Just like, well, someone else that I often ride with. If you get my drift.
So quickly have coffee, pay my 17 euro and get out of there.
It is time to ride. Thise one was nice, and I turned back and did it few times. It is amazing how fast I could ride that curve after I did it a few times to get the grip on it.
But I'm heading South towards the mountains again. This time I'm passing on Passo de Cerreto. The road twists as only mountain roads can twist.
On the way up I decide to take a small detour to check out a small road that on my map seems to run along a ridge with a nice view on the pass on the of the Appennini themselves.
That might have been a good ide, except that here on teh North side of the mountains it is much colder than on the South side facing the sun (which, by the way, just where Tuscany is: Facing the sun and the ocean!). In fact, when I get to 1.100 meters with still 100 to go, I have to stop and relax. Driving on ice is OK, but not with Tourance tyres. I was riding in 2nd or 3rd (in 1st I lost traction immideately - too much torque on that bike
). After a while I must stop to get the cramp out of my hands. The sun is getting very low, I'm on teh wrong side of the Appennini, and I'm moving in just barely more than walking speed. Time for (not!) having a sigarillo, and snapping a photo. My phone rings - it is She calling to check up on me. It goes like this:
- Where are you?
- On the way up to Passo de Cerreto North of La Spezia.
- How do you know there isn't snow up on the pass?
- Ehhh, snow? Silly you, of course it won't be snow there. It's only 1.261 meters high.
- But you'll be home before dark, won't you? You know I don't like you riding in the dark!
- Eh, sure baby, sure. I'll be fine.
Oh well, time to get going me thinks.
I finally get to the top of the ridge and start to decend, getting ready for the pass itself. The sun is getting lower (home by dark - you're kidding!), but I simply must stop and snap another photo. This one is taken at about 1.000 meters with the Appennini in the background (that white suff
you can see on them? - naw, nothing to worry about). Ah - how nice. But we need a close up (bike-porn) also:
I down into the valley and start to climb up to the pass itself.
On the way up I can't refrain from snapping an image of Monte Casarola (there's the white stuff again). The sun is now so low that everything here on the North face is in sthe shadow. The temperature drops, and the snow slowly draws from the forest and toward the road. I only hope I can get over without too much hazzle. I am afraid of falling, but I have it in my genes ot move on snow. That is not something you would say about my fellows in the traffic. Cars on summer tyres (does there exist something else?) zoom by and I hope none of them will wipe me off the street in a curve.
Less snow up there than I had feared, but very, very cold. There is a large ar with what seemed to be a nice trattoria, but I didn't want to stop. Over the pass and down on the sunny side.
The first view I get of Tuscany is this one: Seen from about 1.200 meters we see the sun setting over the Tuscan hills! Ah - how beautiful!
A little further down the last rays of sun falls on the little village of Sassalbo.
I continue down (hmmm, seems to be getting dark), pass the impressive fortress in Fivizzano (note to self - ride up there one day, have lunch, take some photos, and report back here).
The plan was to ride though Garfagnana (a nice valley) on the way home, but it is dark so I don't bother. The Autostrada is your friend when you want to get home, and in 150 km/t (about 95 mph) the left lane is the place to be. One day, no doubt, the Italians will start to enforce speed limits also on the Autostrada. But, not quite yet.
From the left you see that I decend from the hill I live on, ride along the coast up to Aulla. Then I climbed over Passo di Lagastrello and down the valley on the North side. Then over the hills down into the next valley. Climbed up on the ridge, then down in the valley again, and finally over the Passo di Cerreto. Down, down, down, 80 km on the Autostrada, and back up on the hill where I live.
A nice Saturday with 381 km (236 miles) on the clock. Today, Sunday, it has been raining and I stay inside. Tomorrow the program is full. But Tuesday is a nice day to visit Fivizzano and look at the impressive fortress.
Thank you for your attention.