Friday, November 30, 2012

Hills and rain close to home, but a great ride!

After my return from Denver, I took a ride in very nice weather the afternoon I returned.  I was quite jet lagged, but wanted to ride anyway, but the jet lag had me less aware of everything than normal.  Well, it has been raining since, but yesterday morning it let up for a while, but started again.  I was determined to go this morning, as I do not have Italian classes on Friday, but a steady rain started to fall around 9 am.  I decided to go out anyway - I have the gear to keep me dry and warm in most conditions.  I did not really suit up for cold as much as wet, as I knew I would be doing some climbing, and the temperature was around 50, not too cold.

I took off in a steady rain, but after a 1/2 hour or so, it let up, then stopped.  At that time, I had ridden out the back road to San Domenico, up, then down through Maiano, down to San Martino, the up past Vincigliata to the bigger road.  With the rain gone (at least for a while), I decided to add to my plan and turned right and descended through Montebeni to Compiobbi, where I hooked up with the main road by the Arno, and headed up stream a few kilometers to Le Falle, where you can connect with the Monteloro road.  I climbed up through Monteloro to the Fiesole / L'Olmo road, and descended to Fiesole, then took the right turn to descend to Pian de Mugnone, then hooked up with Via Faentina, and returned home via Piazza Della Cure.  Check the link for all the specifics, but it turned out to be a really fun ride with around 4300 vertical feet climbed in a total of 27 miles in 2 hours 25 minutes, averaging 11.2 mph.  A little slow, but I was super careful on the descents with the wet, steep roads.  Ciao!

I am a much happier person when I can get a good ride in - yeah!  (I did not take the camera, but I did the almost identical ride on November 14, so I have a couple of pictures from that ride.  Same scenery, but it looked really different today with heavy, dark cloud cover.  Still beautiful, though.)

Hills and rain close to home, but great! by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The road from Le Falle toward Monteloro.  From a different day.

Some vineyards to the side of the road above Monteloro.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A quick couple of hours to try to clear out the jet lag.

I am back from my trip to Denver to be with my Mother, who does not appear to have that much time left with us.  It was certainly a difficult trip, but I am very happy that I took the time to be with her and more or less say goodbye before the end.  She certainly could hold out longer, but her quality of life is pretty low now, and she is totally discouraged.  I don't blame her, and I would not be surprised if she goes sometime after Christmas.  I am hoping to have a week after a phone call, but you never know with something like this, so it was great to have the week plus with her.

So, back after the requisite 20 hours or so of travel, unpacked, then motivated for a ride.  The weather was pretty perfect, and is predicted to go down hill the remainder of the week.  I took off on the viales to the Poggio Imperiale climb, then down to Galluzzo.  From there, I took the Cinque Vie route around the outskirts of town to the town of Cinque Vie, where I went over to a climb through Vacciano to San Gersole.  I had climbed this once before, and it is a great climb with almost no traffic, just the way I like it.  After San Gersole, you connect to the road to Impruneta, where I climbed to the turn off to Baruffi, and enjoyed the wonderful descent down to Tavernuzze.  From Tavernuzze, I took the main roads in to town, descending on the super fun curves to Porta Romana, then through the city to the apartment.  As always, click the link for all the information, but the summary is:  22 miles in 1:44  rolling time, with 1530 vertical feet of climbing at an overall average of 12.6 mph.

A quick couple of hours to try to clear out the jet lag. by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

My mother with Emily and Ben at breakfast on Saturday.

An amazing sunset on the high plains northeast of Denver.

Back in Tuscany, with a villa and a pretty line of trees on the ridge above San Gersole.

The vineyards have lost most of their leaves.  This is 
on the climb to San Gersole.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quick ride before my Denver trip - perfect!

I decided not to go out with the team this morning, as I was tired and had too much to do today anyway.  I had a nice slow start to the morning, my big "American" breakfast, then met Kate and the kids to spend some time together before I left.  We had a great morning, meeting on bikes (Kate with the two kids in kid seats) and took a short ride to three linked parks nearby.  We walked quickly through the first park, then found the playground in the middle park and spent a fair amount of time there.  Then we went to the last park, the giardino at the Museuo Stibbert, and had a wonderful time strolling and finding mysterious, fun corners to explore with the kids.  Viola role played with a "baby" and Torrio found a stick and whacked at whatever he could.  I encourage the stick and picked one up myself to whack some things.  We had a nice time, and then returned to the apartment to get some lunch for the kids.  We (Kate and I) had originally thought she would just ride them home, but the kids protested and we had a fun time doing lunch and playing with everything we had that was playable.

Emily had gone to the Villa that New York University has just outside of town for a presentation / panel discussion on Campaign finance and super PACs, and she returned just after Kate and the kids left.  Emily is babysitting tonight, and I need to leave the apartment at 5 am tomorrow, so we took some time and had a nice lunch together.  It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed strolling, riding the bus, and having a great lunch at a restaurant on the Piazza Santa Croce.

Upon returning home, I suited up to get a ride in and did one of my favorite short rides.  I do not like to be out much past 4:30 these days, as it is getting dark then and there is a lot of traffic to ride in / through when you return to the city.  I rode up Via Bolognese, turned left at Pian de San Bartolo, cruised over to Cercina, finished the climb to the church above Cercina, then took the route down I have been climbing on loops recently.  Super fun.  I took the sharp left to come in to town right above the Carriege complex, then took the turn off for the cut off to Via Bolognese, then turned off this to come in a Piazza Giorgini, then took my new way home on quiet roads.  The link has maps and specifics, but the summary is:  13.6 miles in 1:07 rolling time for an average speed of 12.2 with 1430 vertical feet of climbing.

I will be in Denver for a week, helping my Mother who may be home from the hospital by then.  Her health is deteriorating rapidly, and I saw this as a chance to spend some time (perhaps my last chance) with her and help out.  If she does go in the next few months, it could happen quickly, and I am a minimum of 30 hours away.  So, most likely no new posts for a while, although one may find its way in here while I am in Denver.  A Dopo! (until later)

Quick ride before my Denver trip - perfect! by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Viola and Vittorio cue up on the slide.

Kate and the two kids in a large "bowl" swing.

Viola works on her pretend garden while Vittorio hits everything with his stick.

I really liked the leaves on this tree and took a shot up at the sky.

At the apartment Viola decided to try on my reading glasses.  
Viola, wait until you need them, but for now you are incredibly cute!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lots of climbing on a quick ride to flush emotions - beautiful day again.

Last night we had some bad news.  My Mother was taken to the hospital by ambulance for the second time in as many weeks.  It appears she will be ok, but the writing is on the wall.  I have not thought she had that much longer with us, but was measuring that time in years, which still may be true.  I am now thinking that it may be a few months, so with the first communications from Denver suggesting that she may not come out of the hospital if she went in again, Emily and I discussed a number of things.  If it was truly time for the end I needed to be on a plane today or tomorrow.  As I said, it appears better now, after getting a call for information at 3 am our time.  I booked a flight for Sunday and will probably use it unless she is feeling super good when we talk tonight our time.  I am just thinking they could use help now, and there may not be too many more opportunities to spend time together.

So, I was relatively down this morning with the decision making, booking flights, getting information on costs to cancel in the next 24 hours if that is what happens, etc.  For me, it is always good to get some exercise in to clear my head an move forward in a good frame of presence.  I thought the maximum climbing in the shortest distance would do the trick, and it did.  I rode up Via Bolognese to Pratolino, then up to the junction for Bivigliano, Olmo, or Montescenario.  I sort of stayed straight and the road kicked up to around 15% for 100 vertical meters of climbing.  This will clear everything out.  I stayed with it and there are two more 15% to 18% pieces of the climb before you turn off for the spur road that actually goes to the 15th century Monastery of Montescenario, which is still in operation.  This road is a steady 12%, and before you know it you are at the top.

I took some time there, had a snack, enjoyed the views which are really 360 degree views, and took some photos for the blog post.  The descent is a gas, and quite quick.  After the spur road, I take a different route down to Bivigliano, then the slightly descending, contouring road across to the junction with the road to Olmo, then down through Caldine, Pian de Mugnone, and back to Firenze and home.  The weather was perfect again, climbing in light tights and a long sleeved jersey.  At the top I added my Gore tex rain shell, long fingered gloves (Gore windstopper), and a skull cap, which was great for the descent back into Firenze.  I have a ride with the team / club tomorrow morning, then I am off for a week in Denver on Sunday.  Check the link for all the specifics, but the summary is:  23.6 miles in 1:52 rolling time for an average of 12.6 with 2850 vertical feet of climbing.  Ciao.

Lots of climbing on a quick ride to flush emotions - beautiful day again. by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The road is beautiful but steep on the way to Monte Scenario.

Around 250 vertical meters of climbing left to the Monastery on top in the distance.

A view of the back side of the Monastery at Monte Scenario.

Part of the east side of the complex.

The staircase to the main entrance and the chapel at the monastery.

The view to the west from Monte Scenario.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beautiful day, a couple of climbs, perfect day.

I finished my first week of Italian classes with a test this morning, and I believe I did well.  The test was a little strange, as it covered material that we are supposed to learn during the next 4 to 5 weeks.  Maybe it is a benchmark for them, but it was relatively difficult.  I covered around 2/3 of the material we will cover last year, so most of what I had done came back for me in the test.  It will be great for me to review all this, and it will be a chance to really set it in my mind so I can use it without thinking too much.  After class, I returned home and did some house chores, changing summer and winter stuff in my amoire with a storage box below the bed.  After that, I decided what I would wear and set off for a ride.

It is a little difficult deciding what to wear these days, as it is quite warm sitting in the sun, but the ambient temperature is in the mid 50's and when moving on a bike, it feels cooler.  I started with long fingered gloves and a skull cap, but changed out of them in the middle of my first climb.  I put them back on for the final descent, so I guess it worked well.  No need for the thermal booties or puffball vest or coat yet.  I rode out of town on the viales, and took the route through Bagno a Ripoli, climbing through Osteria Nuova and topping out at San Donato in Collina.  I love that climb, it is relatively friendly grade-wise, and it continues for a long way with pretty beautiful views.  The descent through Troghi, Cellai, Pallazzuolo, into Incisa is another favorite and it did not disappoint today.  Yippee!   At Figline, I turned on the road to Greve and made the climb up around 90% to the passo de sugame, where I turn of toward La Panca, and continue climbing to the little town.

This climb is really sweet, nothing puts you in need of the easiest gear, and much can be done 4 or 5 gears up.  Amazing weather, and mid 50's is perfect for climbing.  The descent from La Panca to Strada is really quite special, and I think I only touched my brakes around 4 times in 11 kilometers.  You have a short climb into Strada, and then continue along a ridge the drop into Grassina.  At Grassina, you take the tiny road to Cinque Vie, and then you are almost back to the Viales.  I went home a slightly different way today, over Ponte alla Grazie, then around the Duomo, and home.  I had received two calls after Strada, one asking for help with some babysitting from Kate, and another when I was almost there saying she did not need help.  As always, click the link for specifics, but the summary is:  45 miles in 3:16 rolling time for an average of 13.6 mph with 3400 vertical feet of climbing.

Beautiful day, a couple of climbs, perfect day. by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The beautiful view from the climb to Dudda from Figline.

Part of the amazing climb to Dudda.  Magnificent.

Almost to the end of the climbing with La Panca just around the corner.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

3 climbs, 3 descents on a beautiful fall afternoon

I had Italian class this morning, and it seems to be going well.  Their method obviously is based on not speaking any other language than Italian, and although at times it seems awkward, it seems to work for me.  We are reviewing reflexive verbs and pronouns, which I did last year with another school, but today feels like it cemented it in my mind.  After returning home, I did a few necessary errands.  I waited in line at the post office to pay a bill that does not want to work on line.  The post office is where you pay your common bills here, like utilities.  I picked up a new jersey for the fall from the team at the incredible price of 20 euros.  I spoke with the president of the team, and he said the cost is 33, but the sponsor shop pays some and our membership fees brings it down to 20.  Sweet.  I picked up a weeks worth of vino at the vino sfuso shop, and picked up a few needed groceries.  That left me leaving around 1:45 for my ride, and I had a plan that worked time wise.  It is getting dark here around 5 and I am shooting for being home by 4:30 to be safe.

I rode out my new normal route to San Domenico, then up the Fiesole road to turn toward Maiano, then down to the Church at San Martino.  Here it goes up pretty steeply through Vincigliata to the road that I turned right on to descend into Compiobbi.  This is a sweet, but steep and very swithback filled road, and I have to keep telling myself to pay attention and not let it go too fast.  From Compiobbi, I ride up the real main road to Le Falle, where you turn left and do the climb through Monteloro to the Fiesole / Olmo road, where I turned left and descended through Fiesole and turned off on a new route at San Domenico.  I had seen the road on a couple of maps and wanted to try it.  I think at one point there were two options, and I choose left, which was the less travelled road.  It was sweet, but at the bottom it was pretty steep.  The other road came in just below on the way to Piazza Della Cure.  I will have to try that later, and both seem to be good climbing options as well.  From Piazza Della Cure, it is a quick push home, and I was done.  Last night was super late for me, as we went to the late show of the new James Bond movie and I was not in bed until almost 2.  Anyway, I was home, but tired and a nap awaited.  The summary is 26 miles with an incredible 4150 vertical feet of climbing, in 2 hours 21 minutes of rolling time, giving an average speed of 11.2 mph.  Check the link for more information.

As a note, I have decided to include more personal information in the blog, as different sources have suggested this as a good way to go.  It appears I have a number of readers now, so maybe it is working.  If it is not welcome, please comment and I can go back to my description of rides only.  Ciao.

3 climbs, 3 descents on a beautiful fall afternoon by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

What a perfect afternoon for a climb on a road bike in a wonderful setting.  
Monteloro is only 8 kilometers away.  

A couple of kilometers past Monteloro, there are many vineyards and villas.  Perfect.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More ups and downs close to home - stormy day

I started my new language classes this morning, after showing up yesterday to have an exam to place me level wise.  I am a little advanced for level 2, but would probably be lost in level 3, so I started level 2 this morning.  The class seems great.  There are 7 students and one teacher, and the next oldest is 30, so I have a little seniority.  Everyone seems nice and many nationalities are represented in the class - Japan, Australia, Denmark, Kazakhstan, and the US.  I am certainly glad I did not try level 3 as it was difficult enough to stay with everything the teacher was saying.  There is no English at all in the class, which is good for me.  It appears that much of what we will cover is review, I don't really remember the material in a way that I can use it as second nature.  I think it will be great.

After class, I met Emily at home after some errands, and we went to lunch at a place where the husband of a good friend of Kate's cooks a couple of times a year - real Southern Fried Chicken.  It was really good, but the cuts were Italian, so a combination of cultures.

I thought it might clear, but no, so I took off to ride close to home on some favorite climbs.  Since I discovered the 2 or 3 new routes around Cercina, it has opened up a lot of riding right here.  I climbed up Via Bolognese to Pian de San Bartolo, then contoured over to Cercina, then up to the Chiesa above Cercina, then descending on the far right option to Firenze.  It is just a block left, then you are climbing back up to the Chiesa on the "main" route from Cercina.  At the church, I kept straight and retraced my riding back to a ridge closer to Via Bolognese, turning right there and descending back to Firenze.  I am using the back way into town above Carriege, then turning off to have a little additional climbing on basically back roads almost straight home.  It is fun.  It was quite dark today and even with my yellow lenses, it was dark.  The summary is 21.2 miles in 1 hour 53 minutes rolling time for an 11.2 mph average with around 2500 vertical feet of climbing.  Check the link below for more information.  Ciao!

More ups and downs close to home - stormy day by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Looking back toward Cercina - yes it really was that dark out.  

The final descent is on the ridge above to the left.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A fun, but rainy Sunday

The weather reports had said rain for today for a while, so there was no surprise when I awoke to rain.  It did not rain all day, just on and off, and mostly off, while staying pretty dark outside.  Emily and I went into the center and saw a couple of public art installations in conjunction with a biennial for food and wine in Tuscany.  There is a picture below of the butterflies strung across the Ponte Vecchio.  We also stopped in at a photography exhibition at Pallazzo Vecchio of landscapes in agriculture around Italy.  Really beautiful pictures.  We finished by going through the food fair that is part of the biennial and having some fresh donuts, made just before we arrived.  Em and I both had one, then walked around the fair and I went back for another.  Emily had a couple on Friday, and she was lucky enough to be there right when they came out of the deep fryer.  The ones I had were still fresh, but not quite like the ones Em had.

We stopped by a olive oil tasting and festival at Pallazzo Medici Riccardi, and sampled around 15 different oils, all from the area around Regello, a common riding location for me.  We decided on a couple and bought 5 liters of one, and 2 mezzo liters of 2 others for sampling.  We picked up a 3 liter container that Emily will take to a friend in Colorado, along with a mezzo liter of another for him.  I had taken my pack, but it was still heavy with all the oil, so we caught a bus that dropped us a block or so from the apartment.

I went for a long walk / stroll, in an area that I had first explored last Sunday when the weather was similar.  I went up through the park by our apartment, then a couple of blocks on the street to another park, which connects to another park, which connects to a garden / park at the Museo Stibbert.  This is a really wonderful amenity to have right by our apartment, and I was out around 2 hours just strolling through some beautiful, relatively manicured natural settings.  Home for a relaxing night, then I start a new set of Italian lessons tomorrow morning.  It will be 4 days a week, 2 hours a day, so it is not too much.  Hopefully it will give my Italian a push to continue to improve.  Ciao.

Here are the pink butterflies strung across the Ponte Vecchio.

This shows a mosaic with stones in a set of steps in the park by our apartment.

One of the many beautiful paths and corridors in the gardens at the Museo Stibbert.

These mushrooms (I think) were growing on a tree stump in the Stibbert gardens.

The light caught my eye, and I took a picture through barred glass of this interior
in the Stibbert Museum.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Empoli, Montespertoli, San Casciano con squadra

I had a great ride with the team this morning.  We met at the Iliopesca in Scandicci, and rode out to Lastra a Signa a route that I am trying to memorize, as it is quiet roads for the most part and quite pleasant.  From Lastra, we went to Empoli, then started toward Vinci, but clouds were looming in the hills that direction.  The weather forecasts called for the weather to get worse as the day progresses with heavy rains forecast for tomorrow.  The 4 or so decision makers for the route decided to turn around and change the tour for where the weather looked best.  So, we backtracked a little, then took the back road through Sammontana, Villanuova, turning in Pozzole.  We took a pretty main road there, but with little traffic through Martignana, then turning at Ortimo, to climb to Montespertoli.

From Montespertoli, we descended to Bacciano, then climbed to Montagnana, where I thought we would descend to Cerbia, but no.  We turned right and took the gentle climb through San Quirico to San Pancrazio, turning off for the descent into the valley.  I thought we would be taking the quite steep climb to San Casciano, as I knew we were going there, and I always take this direct route.  Instead we turned off, did a short descent, the climbed up SR2, through Canciulle, which is a pretty main road, but not used very much there, and a relatively gentle climb.  I thought of the many times I had climbed the really steep road, and was kind of hitting myself for not trying an alternative that I knew was there.  When I told some of the people I was riding with, they all said "but that road is so steep and so hard".  Well, you live and learn.  Hey Mark, be more open to alternate routes.  From San Casciano, we cut across through Speddalleto. Chiesa Nuova, then turned down to Scandicci, then back into town.  Click on the link for all the details, but a quick summary is:  63 miles in 4 hours rolling time, for an average of 15.5 mph with 2800 vertical feet of climbing.

Sorry, no pictures when I ride with the team, as we tend to go for it pretty hard.

Empoli, Montespertoli, San Casciano con squadra by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nice, quick fall ride with lots of climbing

A couple of things before I get into today's ride.  Last night, Nicco invited us to a "gala" for Florens 2012.  It was at a beautiful pallazzo, and we were looking forward to the night with some reservations.  We did not think we would know almost anyone there and figured that everything would be in Italian.  So, a social situation which is not my natural comfort area, not knowing anyone, with a language that I struggle with to put it nicely.  When we arrived, it seemed like it would be as we thought.  But, as we made our way out of the crowd, and up a number of sets of stairs, it was just incredible.  At the top level, there was food, wine, prosecco, and a series of terraces with simply amazing views of the city.  It is hard to describe, it was just marvelous.  We spent a fair amount of time on the terraces, watching people's eyes light up as they were able to take in the surroundings.  All I can say is Wow! and thank you Nicco.

This morning, we went into town to see the three crucifix in the Baptistery which are together in one place as part of Florens 2012.  The line was super long, and the doors were not open, so plan B.  We ended up walking through Piazza Republica, which had an amazing food fair going on.  We sampled and purchased a number of things, and it was great.  We walked back to the Baptistery, and although the line was still long, the doors were open and I decided to hang in there.  Emily had a number of events to attend this afternoon / evening, so she took off to scout the bus lines that would work.  The wait was not that long, and the three pieces of art together were wonderful.  Donatello, Michaelangelo, and Brunelleschi.  Really a sight.

My totally amateur shot of the three pieces of sculpture.  

A shot of the ceiling in the Baptistery - Wow!

After returning home, I got in a quick 2 hour ride.  I rode up Via Bolognese through Pratolino to the turn off for Casselina and Viliano.  Up from there to Bivigliano, then the very little used and slightly rough back road over to Polcanto.  From Polcanto, there is a pretty good, but relatively easy climb back up to Croce all Vetta, then a fast descent back into town on Via Faentina.  Nice fall temperatures, and although quite cloudy, the leaves were very pretty and were defining autumn here.  Click the link for more specifics, but the summary of the ride is:  25.5 miles in 2 hours 7 minutes of rolling time for an average speed of 12.0 mph with 2800 vertical feet of climbing.  Ciao.

Here are a couple of shots of the back road to Polcanto - Fun!

Nice, quick fall ride with lots of climbing by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Set Leif's route to Lastra in my mind, easy ride

I had an appointment at the US Consulate this morning, as I needed to get a signature notarized for transferring my Bronco tickets in Denver.  That in itself is quite a trip, as the Consulate is kind of like a fortress - bullet proof glass, multiple security screenings, all for a signature.  Life is an adventure.  After returning from the Consulate, I caught up with some Internet stuff, read the NY Times, etc., then thought the weather is so nice, I should get out.  Last Friday, I rode with Leif and his wife Michele, and he had a really nice route out of town to Lastra a Signa.  I wanted to ride it and find all the turns myself, so that was my plan for the day.

I checked out my map from the ride last Friday, made some notes on a cheat sheet, as I had 10 plus different streets, etc. to find / remember to do this.  It worked pretty well, as I only made one wrong turn, which was quickly remedied.  It is a really nice route out of town, basically level, and with a couple of short exceptions, on pretty deserted roads right from the Cascine.  I found Lastra a Signa, then rode up a small pass then down to Ginestra.  I turned toward Cerbia, and fell in behind a cyclist on the way.  I was going to be happy to draft the whole way, but he was a little slow for me, so I passed.  He picked it up and stayed with me, in the process motivating me to ride pretty strong.  He followed my turn at Cerbia, and stayed with me until the last climb to Chiesa Nuova, where I surprisingly dropped him.  It is really startling how much time you put on someone when they have decided not to stay with you on a climb.  I waited a little at the top, with the thought of talking with him a little on the way back to Firenze.  I never saw him again, but I did not wait for more than a couple of minutes.

I rode back with the switchback descent into Galluzzo, always a fun ride, then took the back route around Galluzzo, and did the long way around Pian de Guiliari by way of Cinque Vie.  It is a nice ride an sort of the equivalent of the route I left on to the other side of town.  Only one photo, and all the information, maps, etc., are a click away.  The ride summary is:  36 miles, 2 hours 29 minutes rolling time, which is 14.4 mph, with 1800 vertical of climbing.

Set Leif's route to Lastra in my mind, easy ride. by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The vineyards are changing to the west of the road over to Ginestra.
Yes, I am an amateur, that is my shadow in the foreground.  I think it's kind of cool.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New route to Vallambrossa - perfect day!

Emily was up early this morning to check the election results.  I was up at my normal time, but checked in, and to my relief, Obama had won the election.  I felt strangely disconnected and not as happy as I should have been due to I think a number of factors.  I was very disappointed in Obama's first term, and think he basically works as a moderate republican.  However, the republican party has gone so far to the right, that I think Mitt Romney would have been very bad for the country, so I guess what I felt was relief.  I watched Obama's acceptance speech, and it made me feel a little more positive.

Anyway, I was off riding by a little after 11, and the weather was pretty perfect.  Temperatures were in the high 50's to low 60's for most of the ride, with the exception of the very top part, when it was quite chilly.  Perfect blue skies, leaves on most of the trees changing, and a great ride on beautiful roads.  What more could I ask for.  I left town via the viales, then through Bagno a Ripoli, then climbing up to San Donato in Collina.  From there, one of my favorite descents to Burchio, then a turn to ride by, then over the Arno, looking for a turn off in Leccio, which was easily found.  The climb from Leccio to Pietrapiana was basically magic.  The grade was relatively gentle, every turn gave me more color on the forest leaves changing color, with temperatures in the low 60's so the vest came off.  I think I had ridden part of this road with Don and Kay a number of years ago, but the last half to Pietrapiana was new.

From Pietrapiana, the road got much more challenging to Saltino, basically staying around 10% for 6 or 7 kilometers.  Still beautiful, but it started to wear me out a little.  Just before Saltino, the temperature dropped what felt like 15 degrees in a few minutes, and I stopped there to put on warm gloves, a skull cap, and my vest.  I had never done this climb, and I did not know what was after Saltino.  Well, it climbed a little to top out around 1050 meters, then descended slightly to Vallambrossa.  It was a little chilly, but just spectacularly beautiful.  I descended on the route I had climbed with the team in early summer.  Great descent - curves linking together one after another for what seemed like 15 k to Paterno. In Paterno, I turned off and descended on a very tiny, fun road that I had ridden a few times before to Carbonile.  From Carbonile, it was back to Pontesieve, then truck it on in on the main road.  I did catch an American couple who were going reasonably fast, and was happy to draft them until they turned off at Compiobbi.

Simply a great ride.  I am just so lucky to have the opportunity to do this.  I thank my lucky stars to be here and riding.  Check the link for all the information, but the summary is:  52 miles in 4 hours 3 minutes rolling time in a total of 4 hours and 21 minutes, and average rolling speed of 12.8 mph with an elevation gain of 5030 feet.  Yabba dabba doo!

New route to Vallambrossa - perfect day! by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

These trees between San Donato and Burchio just caught my eye.

The colors were outstanding on the ride up to Pietrapiana.

Chiesa San Agata, just before Pietrapiana.

At a 10% grade, I climbed through corridors of trees in fall colors for 6 kilometers.

A very cool villa on the right as you enter Saltino.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Many routes to Cercina

I went out relatively early this morning - if you call 10 relatively early - and storm clouds were brewing.  I planned on going to Cercina, then up the back way to Montemorello, but the clouds suggested otherwise, so I descended a route I have only taken once from Cercina, and had some rain.  As I got to the bottom of the descent, around the Carregi complex, the sun came out, and I climbed back up to the church above Cercina, then descended by another route down to a turn that takes you into Florence in a slightly different way.  I took the back turn toward Via Bolognese, staying off the main roads and adding a little climbing, coming out above Piazza Georgini.  I went down Via Vittorio Emannuele and took the sotto passagio under the tracks, and was back to the apartment with a new route.  I had checked this out last Sunday while walking on a rainy day.

I am so lucky to have all this wonderful riding just out my door.  It keeps me smiling.  Check out the link for all the specifics, but the summary is:  20 miles in 1 hour 47 minutes of rolling time with 2400 vertical feet climbed at an average speed overall of 11.2 mph.  Ciao.

Many routes to Cercina by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The fall colors are just starting to make themselves apparent in the trees in the countryside.
This is between Cercina and the church at the top of the climb.

I attempted to catch the leaves changing while riding but missed it.
The super tiny spur road is interesting though.

I love the view of the church at the top of the hill on the second climb.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rainbow tour - changing weather

The weather was clearing this morning, and the forecast called for it to continue clearing throughout the day, so I took off for a middle sized ride with a fair amount of vertical and one new stretch of road.  I started out on the viales, up past Piazza Michaelangelo, up to Poggio Imperiale, then down to Galluzzo.  I took the switchbacks up from Galluzzo the over on the ridge through Chiesa Nuova and Spedalletto to San Casciano.  Here I took the very fast descent to Ponte Rotto, then climbed to San Pancrazio.  I took the ridge road across through San Quirico, then took a new road down through La Ripa.  I had seen this road many times, as the ridge route through San Pancrazio is one of my favorites, and checked it out on the various maps.  It appeared that it continued to the road close to Cerbia, which it ended up doing.  It was fun, but the descent into La Ripa was super steep, and I am not sure if I will do it again, but probably.  It usually seems less steep a second time.

At the junction with the road near Cerbia, I went left and up toward Montagnana, and turned off on the back way to San Vincenzo a Torri, a new favorite of mine.  I turned left on the main road, then rode over to Ginestra Fiorentina, then turned to go up the hill, turned off toward Marliano, through Marliano, and across the highway.  I took the left, and went to Vigliano, then took the climb to Santa Maria a Marciano.  Here the climbing was complete, and I descended into Scandicci, then toward Firenze.  It was after the hospitals in Scandicci when it started to rain lightly, but the sun came out as well, and I rode straight into a brilliant rainbow back into the city center.  Lots of fun.  Summary is either 3800 or 5300 vertical (depends on if you enable the correction piece on Garmin, and I don't know which is correct), in 46.5 miles, with 3 hours 40 minutes of rolling time giving an average speed of 12.7 mph.  Check the link for more specific information if you wish.

Rainbow tour - changing weather by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

As the sky cleared, the high clouds confirmed the weather change. 
The vineyards in the foreground are going yellow.

Here are a couple of shots of the vineyards in full color change.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Mugello Giro" con squadra

This morning, I met the team at the COOP in Gavinana for a ride.  We had a good group, starting with 12 and finishing with 9.  3 dropped out somewhere on the ride to take a more relaxed pace.  We went out to Bagno a Ripoli, then continued on the river road on the South side of the Arno to the bridge to Pontesieve. There we hooked up with the main road that takes you on a very gradual uphill through Rufina and stopped for a pastry and cafe in Dicomano.  I had a great pastry, second day in a row that the quality level was high for my snack.  From Dicomano, we stayed on the main road to Vicchio, turning off to take a small bridge to the other side of the Sieve river, then continued on the south side to the turn off to the pass at Vetta a Croci.  This is a relatively long, gentle climb, and I would be surprised if today was not my personal best.  A group of four took off in front of myself and Leif, and we caught one right at the top, but the other 3 really booked up the hill - they were out of sight rather quickly.  From the top of the hill, we rode down to Firenze through Fiesole, a fairly standard route of mine.  Upon returning to town we split off at different locations to return to our separate homes.  Although it is a ride I would not normally term as great, there is something really beautiful about 9 people staying in a relatively good pace line for a couple of hours.  Another fun ride.  As usual, no pictures when riding with the team.  More information can be accessed at the link, but the summary is:  53 miles in a rolling time of 3:17, total elapsed time of 3:48, for a speed of 16.1 mph with 2530 feet of climbing.

"Mugello Giro" con squadra by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Upon returning home, Viola and Vittorio were at the apartment with Emily while Kate was at a friend's baby shower.  I had a couple of good hours with the kids, then relaxed a little before going into the centro for the official opening of Florens 2012, the project Nicco manages.  There is a beautiful pubic art installation in Piazza Santa Croce, and the opening was there.  It is really fun to see many people interacting with the art.  It is a cross of large pieces of marble with white marble gravel on the ground.  Kids climbed on the pieces, drew hand shapes with pencil on them, people sat on some blocks for pictures, a cellist played at one end, while a puppet show was going on at the other end.  Really fun, and so neat to see all the people wandering, amazed at the transformation of the public space.

A return home for a nap, as Kate and I met to go to the symphony at 8:30.  It was a wonderful concert, and we met up with Emily for dinner afterwards, eating around 11:15, and returning home around 12:30.  What a fun, long day.

People walking in the transformed piazza, looking at and interacting with the art installation.

The view along one of the sides of the cross toward Santa Croce.

Santa Croce through a portal on a marble block on one piece of the cross.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Social ride - Lastra, Ginestra, Cerbia, Chiesa Nuova, Scandicci

I met Leif and his wife Michelle for a ride this morning, in one of my first attempts here at a social ride.  Leif is part of the team I ride with and is a strong rider and great guide.  He has been a fund of good information for me regarding spreading the word for me to guide for others here.  We met at Piazza Liberta, and left town on the viales, turning off to go around the outskirts of the Cascine.  From here, Leif took us on a new route out of town for me, going by the Mignone, past the airport, hooking up with a busy street for a little, but mostly we had country roads all the way to Lastra.  I have to do this route again, as it will come in handy when people do not want to climb.  Can you imagine?  At Lastra a Signa, we climbed up then descended down to Ginestra Fiorentina, and stopped for a cafe and pastries.  I had a good pastry, and once again, I thought about trying to do the coffee thing, as it is such a part of the culture here.  From Ginestra, we rode the flat road to Cerbia, then climbed to Chiesa Nuova.  When we started the real part of the climb, Leif stayed back to ride with Michelle, and I kept a good pace.  I passed a person who had passed us, then he stayed with me until the final "standing" part of the climb, when I dropped him.  It was a good interval.  From Chiesa Nuova, we rode over, then down to Scandicci, continuing back to the viales and home.  After we were back in Firenze, it started to pour, and we put on jackets.  It was over in 10 minutes, so no one got very wet.  Check the link for specifics, but the summary is:  35 miles with 1330 vertical of climbing, 2 hours 38 minutes rolling time for a net of 13.2 mph average, with an overall time of 3 hours 17 minutes.

Social ride - Lastra, Ginestra, Cerbia, Chiesa Nuova, Scandicci by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

Here are a couple of shots of the countryside on the flat between Lastra and Ginestra.

After returning home, I had some lunch, then Emily told me about her excursion this morning to see the installations for Florens 2012 going up in 2 parts of town.  I had a look at her pictures, and decided to go into town to see for myself.  Florens 2012 is a cultural biennial that Nicco, Kate's husband, organizes and runs, in addition to his regular job with the family company.  It is really fun to see his work translated into reality, and to see the reactions of both tourists and locals to the transformations.  Congratulations, Nicco.

An installation of 70 olive trees all at least 100 years old is in place around the 
Baptistry in the Piazza de Duomo.

I love pictures that show perspective - the Baptistry is on the left.

In Piazza Santa Croce, there is an installation of large marble blocks that are placed 
in a cross, and will be surrounded by white marble gravel.  Here, the work is in progress.

Piazza Santa Croce.

The piazza from the steps of Santa Croce.