Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A few days and a couple of rides on my new "old" bike

Sunday, I did a guided hike for some very nice newlyweds, Kate and Matthew.  I offer guided hikes as well as cycling, but this is only the third hike in 4 seasons.  It was nice and they were a fun couple. We had a really excellent, large lunch at Nappino's, a restaurant in Santa Brigida.  When Emily and I lived up there, we went to Nappino's weekly for dinner and pretty much always had pizza.  They do not serve pizza at Sunday lunch, and we feasted on seafood and pasta.  I was amazed at how good it was.  In particular, the mussels were just excellent.

Monday, I did a Chianti tour for Florence by Bike.  Two Australians, Jim and Chris, were the clients. We started in the pouring rain, and they were amazingly game to do this.  Both Lia, the person at the shop, and I expected a cancellation.  It actually cleared after around an hour of rain, and we had a very nice tour.  On the way back from Villa Monteoriolo, where we had a great lunch, Everyone was doing very well, and Jim was so confident that he was taking pictures on a descent.  I certainly had no idea he was doing this, but everyone is adult and can make their own decisions.  Unfortunately, he crashed as he was taking pictures, but did not really complain.  We cleaned everything, mostly superficial scrapes, and waited until returning to the shop for antiseptic and bandages.  They both were still happy with the tour and Jim basically felt bad that he might have hurt his wife's Chris' time out.  All good in the end.

Tuesday, I picked up the bike I am riding for the Eroica, coming up in early October.  It is a 1973 Bianchi that I received from Kate's boss, Massimo.  The mechanic at Florence by Bike loves working on old bikes and he did a masterful job taking this bike and making it "Eroica ready".  I took it out for a nice test spin, then me Kate and the kids in the park to help with Viola's effort to learn to ride a bike without training wheels.  It started with a fair amount of difficulty, but Kate kind of made her hang in there and after an hour of effort she was riding for 5 or 10 seconds after either Kate or I let go from the running alongside her, holding the bike upright.  Hooray!  Tomorrow, Thursday, we will try again, and I am sure she will get it quickly.

Today, I took the Bianchi out for a real ride with a fair amount of climbing, a good test for both me and the bike.  It is certainly different.  Mostly the gearing presents some real challenges.  I am used to a modern compact set up 50/34 and 11/28 with DI2 electronic shifting.  The old bike is pretty much the opposite with 52/42 and 12/27 (in only 5 gears).  The hills will definitely present a challenge for me.  I made it and enjoyed myself and really liked the way the bike handled and rode.  Fun to have a new challenge, but I will use my new bike mostly and try to do a couple days a week on the old bike to get ready for the Eroica.  Andrea, the mechanic, suggested that to really be ready, I should only ride the old bike for a month, but 2 days a week will do.  Had a wonderful ride on a beautiful day in the Mugello.

Kate and Matthew on a break during our hike above Santa Brigida.

Jim and Chris on our Galluzzo break before the big climb to Impruneta.

Andrea, the mechanic with the restored Bianchi.

Beautiful day in the Mugello.

Sant Agata from the road to Galliano.

The bianchi"s first real work out with me.  Here it is posed
for the picture in the Mugello.  Around 80 k today with over
1050 meters of climbing.

Another view of the beautiful and peaceful Mugello today.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Time in the Garfagnana

Well, it has been a couple of weeks, and busy weeks they were.  Emily and I took a break from Firenze just outside of Lucca outside a little town called San Quirico di Moriano.  We were at the same property last year, but in a different unit.  It is simply a beautiful area, very quiet, something we do not get here in Firenze, and the heat finally broke a couple days after our arrival.  When we were talking about timing for this break, I said to Emily we should just schedule it for when Kate and family are gone to France, as we can then use Kate's car without it being any problem.  Good idea, but I did not check the calendar, and I already had 3 days scheduled for tours while we were gone.  I added a private tour the morning before we left, then added another big group, my first work for clients of Kate's which made for 5 tours in the first 6 days we were there.  It is only an hour away, so a little commuting and a few nights here at our apartment by myself, and it was done.  All the tours went well, but I did not include pictures here.

An interesting thing is the communication piece with clients or their representatives prior to meeting and riding.  It really helps me plan an appropriate tour if I get accurate information.  With these 5 tours, I had some misinformation, but everything worked out.  First tour was a young (23) man who is very into triathalons and is finishing an engineering degree in Georgia.  He was pretty much exactly as described and he very much enjoyed our 3 hour tour.  Surprisingly, I was able to stay ahead of him pretty easily after the first climb.  The next day I took out some older newlyweds, in their early 40's, and there agency had sent many messages to Florence by Bike, then to me.  I wrote a description of the tour a few months ago, and they were described to me as avid cyclists and keen on a fast, hard tour.  They were nice folks, and we had a good tour, but they had no idea where the description came from.  I was expecting people with cycling kits, etc., and they came down with casual clothes, ready for an easy bike ride.  With a little scrambling, I changed the route and everyone ended up happy, although they were pretty beat when we returned.  

Another set of Newlyweds on a meet and greet, and they were quite prepared and would be fine for their 3 day self guided tour.  You never know with the self guided tours if the people are appropriate for this activity or not, but I just do my best to get them going safely and well.  Kate's group was pretty much fine, although when dealing with quite wealthy people, two vans, a tasting and a big lunch, there are a number of hoops to jump through.  All in all, at the end of the day everyone was happy, but around midnight the night before, they were changing the pick up time for the next morning.  Actually when they were on their bikes, they were really quite easy and motivated.  The last two people were a private tour through my company and we met at the apartment as they rented my extra bikes.  They were ready to go, with their own shoes, pedals and very nice kits.  Jan, the woman was quite fit, and I thought Rob would be as well.  Sometimes hills get to people differently, and around 2/3 the way up our first real hill of the day, Rob had had enough.  Another scramble, a change of tour, and Rob recovered enough to really enjoy the day, and Jan was totally fine.  I guess the moral is always be ready to change plans to accommodate the client's fitness and ability level.  

After finishing with Jan and Rob, I put together some additional things and was off to San Quirico di Moriano for 10 days.  Yeah - real vacation.  We rented a nice 1 bedroom apartment that is part of a larger villa where the owners live.  Last year we rented a separate unit, which was an old small barn / pigsty.   We loved the unit this year, although there were lots of mosquitoes, which don't bother Emily at all, but get on me if I am in any kind of range.  I rode daily, and very much enjoyed the riding and the terrain.  I had ridden 14 days last year here, so I knew many of the roads and places I wanted to go.  I got in all my favorites for the area, and even discovered some new roads.  It is just an amazingly beautiful area and place to ride.  The ride descriptions, quite brief will be with the pictures.  Hopefully, I will find the energy to update the blog at least weekly, but if not, I do post pictures on my company Facebook page after every ride.  It is just easier.  

Before settling in for my 10 days, I had a Monday morning ride before an rappointment at the Questura to pick up my Permesso.  I checked a couple of spots I really like and was not disappointed.  What a beautiful place to ride, and this spot is only a 1/2 hour from the apartment with around 200 meters of climbing.  

My first real day, full ride, in the area included a climb from Villa Basillica to Pizzorne.
It is a particularly difficult climb and around 1/2 way up there is this beautiful carved 
crusifix.  I am not religious, but it seemed to be a station of the cross, considering the location.

Another day, on the climb above Pescaglia, you get a view back down on the 
600 or so meters of climbing already done.  This shows some of the sweet,
switchbacking road with the town of Pescaglia 1/3 the way up.

A shorter day, and a day of exploring, found some new roads.  This 
new pavement was only around 8 feet wide and was a two way road.
Luckily, I saw no traffic.  Sweet ride and an excellent day.

On the way back from the exploring, which included 3 climbs up and 
over the same basic ridge, this nice view shows some of the hills
just ridden.

On the way to Pruneta, around 1/2 the way up from La Lima, this
little town is off to the side.  Pretty view.

Nice sky, color, and church in Pruneta.

One day, I rode to the beach in Viareggio.  Nice day and nice ride. 

A pretty big loop, but lots of exploring on tiny roads.  Beautiful little 
town of Domezzano.

One day, off in a different direction, I encountered this Roman 
aquaduct, really beautiful.  I climbed Monte Serra this day, which 
includes a difficult climb from Sant Andrea, with 5 kilometers at
around 10%.

My last day riding, I ventured up to Passo Lucese, a beautiful
climb and road before joining some tiny roads to return home.

The church in Domezzano on the way home, riding from the 
other direction or from Passo Lucese.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Almost a weeks worth of rides, etc.

It has been a while, and I have ridden most days, but am just getting a little weary of posting in the blog every day.  So, for a while, I will try to check in weekly and do a collage of pictures.  I am posting pictures daily on my Facebook company page, Riding with Cosimo.  If my weekly posts are not enough, please go to Facebook and like my company page and you can see as many pictures as I post.  One day off last week, on Friday, and Emily and I went to Villa Rondini, a 15 minute bus ride up the hill from our apartment, but definitely out in the country.  You can do a day pass for the pool, which is nice and super relaxing.  Good food and just and excellent, relaxing day.  For me, I just read my book and dipped in the water at least once and hour to stay cool.  Even with the pool, I stay in the shade pretty much all day.  

Saturday, I did a nice van supported tour with a great family from the Chicago area.  Fun day, nice family, and a great lunch at the end in Monteriggione, one of my favorite towns with totally intact medieval walls.  We rode from Chiesanuova to San Casiano, then down through Luiano to the road in the valley and up to Greve, where we loaded the bikes in the vans to be on time for lunch.  Dominick met us there and it is always a pleasure to watch him work his clients.  He is the owner of the company that I do the van supported tours for, and is a super natural, nice salesman.  Very different than me, so it is a pleasure for me to see him in action.  

Sunday, a great team ride to Vallombrosa, then passo della Consuma, then down to Stia.  We had two of 10 return to Florence from Consuma, and 8 of us continued to Stia where we had and excellent picnic / break / swim.  Up to Croce ai Mori, and at the top, 4 were waiting for me, and told me that Agnese had told them not to wait, so we all descended together to Londa.  Marco, Agnese's boyfriend was with her, and I waited to make sure they were together around 1/4 the way up the climb.  Almost all of our team rides are no one left behind rides, so we happily do some waiting.  A friend of one of the members was a champ pulling us almost all the way back to Florence from Londa, around 50 kilometers, keeping a very fast pace.  I think I was the only one who gave him a break, and it was only for around 5 minutes.  Long day, around 145 kilometers, but really fun.  

Monday, a nice Florence by Bike Chianti tour, but the heat had returned and appears to be ready to stay with us for another week plus with temperatures in the 95 to 105 range for daily highs.  So, with a tour group, in particular for a whole day tour without a van, one has to be a little careful.  The day was fine and the group was fun.  Tuesday was a busy day of simply catching up, getting in a short ride in the middle of the day, off to one of the public pools to swim / cool off, then a few hours helping Emily babysit the grandchildren.  Today, up early for a beat the heat morning ride, which was very nice.  Not too long, as I am believing keeping rides less than 4 hours is good for the warm temperatures.  Home before 10, so it had not really gotten hot yet.  Haircut, then a meeting with Dominick, who is believing that he will more than double business next year, then a few hours of babysitting the grandchildren solo.  Ciao a tutti!

The squadra at Passo della Consuma, after stopping and regrouping
in Vallombrosa.  Beautiful day.

After Consuma, 8 of us continued to Stia, where we went to a 
park on the Arno river, near the headwaters, where there are 
multiple swimming holes.  We stopped and had a swim, as 
everyone knew this was the plan and brought suits.

I had thought the plan was to go to a restaurant, but Lorenzo's wife, 
Lia, drove up with their daughter, Laura, and brought a huge picnic.
Super nice of them, and if I  understood Italian better, I would have
understood this was the plan.  Lorenzo stayed with Lia, their daughter,
and Lorenzo's parents who also came with more food.  That left 7 of 
us for the 75 kilometers with one pass to return to Firenze.

Monday, I did a Florence by Bike Chianti tour with a very nice family
of 5 from Providence, and a fun woman from New Zealand.  Even with
the heat starting to return, with a high around 95, we had a great time
and everyone was a great sport.  It doesn't hurt to have a 2 hour break
at Monteoriolo with Eleonora as our super nice hostess and chef.

This morning, after a short ride yesterday in the real heat of the day, hence
no picture stops, only water stops, I had a nice 2-1/2 hour ride in the 
Chianti countryside, returning home around 9:30, before the heat set 
in for the day.  Beautiful ride with some of my favorite scenery.

On the way from San Polo to Cappanuccia.

This beautiful little house on a nice property is on the way to 
San Polo from Strada.

What a pleasure to ride these amazing roads.