Sunday, June 28, 2015

Montesenario solo.

Really nice 2 hour ride to Montesenario and back using a loop.  I enjoy all this ride, even if it has a bit of hard climbing.  For me, a nice solo ride, with a fair amount of effort is the best way to recharge the batteries.  3 days in a row of tours coming up, so it was great to get out on my own.  Ciao a tutti.

42.2 kilometers in 2:04 with 920 meters of climbing.

Looking toward the Garfagnana from Montesenario.

Monte Morello from Montesenario.  Super clear day.

The church at Montesenario.  I saw more people there today than all the other
times I have been there, probably around 100 people.  I guess it is a popular 
Sunday destination on a hot Florence summer day.

An interesting and busy week.

I guess it has been a while since the last post.  I continue to be quite busy and have tours upcoming for 6 of the next 8 days.  It is good I like to be busy in my "retirement".  It is fun to share my passion for cycling and the countryside with so many people, but it does take some energy.  On Wednesday I took the Saligram family out through some of the Chianti countryside.  We ended up doing around 55 kilometers with was a little much for them.  It is sort of a minimum to get into Chianti and back without lots of very steep hills.  All hung in there and had a good time.  Good job!  Thursday was a needed day off the bike, with an appointment in the afternoon with the Marchese Frescobaldi.  I met her at a benefit dinner for Friends of Florence where she was sitting next to me.  We had a nice conversation and she suggested we get together to see if I would like to take cycling tours to any of their many facilities.  It looks like something will work out, and perhaps even some tours there in a month or two, certainly by next year.  I was struck by how many turns life takes as I was meeting with the Marchese of a large, old Italian family with vineyards all over Tuscany.  5 years ago, I would never have thought I would be having this meeting.  Interesting.

Friday and Saturday were tours for two different families for Dominick.  Both were to Podere la Capella, a very small, family owned and operated vineyard and wine producer.  Natasha is an excellent cook, and the food is always amazing.  Friday was a family of 7 and Saturday was a family of 5.  Everyone on both days did well and enjoyed the tour.  Friday, we were stuck in traffic with the highway closed for an accident for over an hour, but only the driver was really bothered.  After returning bikes and picking up the others for Saturday, I rushed home to splash some water on myself an was off to a birthday party at the 4 Seasons Hotel, probably the nicest hotel in Florence.  Beautiful event.  Last night after the tour I had time to relax a little, then we were off to a very nice dinner at a beautiful home on Bellasguardo with friends of Emily's. Very interesting people and a fun dinner.  Today, if time allows, I will get out for a quick recharge ride solo, then I have to take my laptop to the applestore here at the only mall in the Florence area.  My battery is suddenly dying, and hopefully they will be able to replace while I wait.  I hope so, as everything is on this machine.  Ciao.

Wednesday tour with the Saligram family.  Here we are almost
back to Florence.  Great tour everyone.

The Holderman family on Friday at Ponterotto, on the way to
Podere la Capella.

The Montesano family at Podere la Capella after a great tour,
lunch, cellar tour, and chapel tour.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Great tour with Jean Lu, the selfie education continues.

We will see if you can teach an old dog new tricks, as some of the younger members (I guess that is everyone) of the squadra are tutoring me on the selfie.  Jean Lu is in town for a week and we are getting together to ride when it works.  We got out today, and had a great tour.  Out through Ponte a Ema, then up Via Carota to Osteria Nuova, then up and over to Cellai, then to Bombone on the fun road there.  Bombone to Rosano, then a surprise request from Jean Lu to add in Monteloro.

Fun day, and Jean was on form and feeling strong, dropping me on 2 of 3 climbs.  His english is kind of like my Italian, and he asked if I was angry he went ahead.  I said of course not, I love to see people work themselves and go to make themselves happy.  Eventually we got the idea across.  Jean responded with a great compliment, saying I was his model and that I seemed to have Nature and Sport working in harmony.   Anyway, a really nice ride which I needed after a frustrating morning.  Ciao a tutti!

The selfie education continues.  Here are Jean Lu and I in Bombone
today on a great tour.  Rebecca told Jean to make me take one and to help.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Giro de Mugello plus Giogo with the team.

Great tour this morning with the team.  It had been a while for me, as I have been a little overly busy of late.  Up early, but just a very nice ride with some great folks.  We started with 8, lost two who were not feeling their best by Dicomano, around 45 kilometers out.  Lost another in Dicomano, then one more at the turn to go to Giogo.  We ended up with 4 of us climbing this pass and really enjoyed our day.  Marco has become quite a bit stronger in the last year and for the first time dropped me on a climb.  Jean Lu was tired and both Marco and I waiting a bit at the top for Jean Lu and Rebecca.  I gave Rebecca a high five for having to wait for Jean Lu, who is usually quite competitive.  Excellent crostata albicocca at the bar at the pass, then a good return ride.  Really enjoyed the day, thanks everyone.  A prossima!

Marco's record photo at Passo del Giogo for the team's Brevetto
de Firenze competition.  He has one pass to go with 4 completed.

Marco, Jean Lu, and Rebecca at the Passo del Giogo.

My best selfie to date.  All the others were pretty bad.  Just shows what
a little coaching from the young people can do.  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A little bit of everything from the last week.

Hi blog readers.  Yes, I have been getting a little lazy regarding this blog.  I have been quite busy, mostly with work, so have not been posting as I usually do.  I mostly do this blog to promote my guiding business, which thankfully has been so busy as of late that I don't have time to post most days.  Perhaps it has worked.  Regardless, I am back, at least for today, and will post as the spirit moves me in the future.  Many posts may be similar to this one in that it is a mish mash of different things that meant something to me.  Of course, much involves cycling, as I am cycling most days and cycling is what I call work when it involves sharing it with others at many different levels.  So, I caption the pictures below and they will tell the story of my last week or so.

Missing from the pictures is my day Thursday when along with Rebecca I took 10 people on a great tour to Panzano from Florence.  In Panzano there is a famous butcher who has a restaurant that we all had a huge lunch at.  Seriously, 5 courses of only meat then other courses afterward.  Somehow all but one person hung in there for the ride back to Firenze on the bikes.  We had arranged for a van to take bikes and people who did not want to cycle back.  Dario Cecchini is the butcher and the food was wonderful and it was a very fun outing.  Ciao.

After a number of days without a solo ride when I could go as fast or
slow as I wish, today I had an excellent ride on a favorite route through
Bacheretto.  This picture is on the way to Bacheretto.  So beautiful to ride
here.  As a definite introvert, I recharge in solo situations.  Also as an introvert,
one of the hardest things for me with tours is being social all the time.  I do like
it and almost always enjoy the people I meet, it just takes energy.

Monday night, we had the honor of attending a dinner to benefit the
"Friends of Florence" which raises funds for art restoration.  It is amazing
just to be eating a 5 course dinner at the feet of the David, perhaps the most
famous sculpture in the world, sitting next to a marchesa, whose family has
been in the Florence area for over 500 years.  

Yesterday, I enjoyed the company of these 6 beautiful ladies on a cycling
tour with Van support and a wonderful lunch at Podere la Capella.  These
women had fun and cycled around 15 kilometers on a beautiful day in Tuscany.
Fun to share the cycling with a group with ages from 24 to 74.

Last night after the tour with the 6 ladies, I arrived home to hear of 
an invitation to a dinner at a friend's restaurant.  Alessandro Gargani, 
the owner / chef is involved in a pilot of a possible TV show on cooking
and the culture in Tuscany.  My son in law, Nicco, on the right, was 
featured as they did a tour through the gold leaf factory that is his family
business.  We had a wonderful dinner, gratis, and were filmed on and off
as we ate and enjoyed.  The dessert was a chocolate dense cake with edible
gold leaf on it.  For dessert, the bright lights came out.  Here, Ale is preparing
to interview Nicco with an old family friend in the background.

On Wednesday, I enjoyed a day at the beach in Forte dei Marmi with
Kate and the kids.  The beach is such a great place for kids, as they can 
really do most anything without worrying about getting hurt or doing 
something they are not supposed to.  A super fun but tiring day.  It is 
a 1-1/2 hour drive each way in a small car with 3 children age 6 and under.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

3 days on good client tours.

Three days worth of tours, and although today's was the longest, I was back the earliest and had time to catch up with the blog.  Friday was another nice Chianti tour for Florence by Bike to Villa le Corti.  I think I will be able to do the tour of the cellars and wine / olive oil production areas soon.  As always, an excellent lunch.  Good group who had a fun day.

Yesterday, was a van supported tour day with two families and another guide, Leif.  2 vans, 2 guides, 2 families.  It is always interesting to make bicycle touring work with young (8 year old) children and we had two yesterday along with one 10 year old, a 12 year old, and a 14 year old.  Two nice families who met in Oman where both dads are working for different oil companies.  The coordinated parts of their Italian vacations to work together and the cycling day was one of the joint days.  Everyone did well and had a good time.  After a relatively short tour due to logistics and timing, we had an excellent, large lunch at Podere la Capella.  Natasha, who is the owner's daughter, is just an excellent cook and it is a pleasure to be at her table.  A very different, but nice tour of their very small cellar / production area.

Today was a private tour through Florence by Bike with the Newnam family.  TR was only 10, but he and his dad ride together in North Carolina where they live.  Anna was 15, but did not ride much.  Everyone was on "race" bikes and did quite well.  Everyone climbed relatively steep climbs quickly and enjoyed the day.  A nice stop in Impruneta and an even better stop in San Casciano for a quick lunch as the rain came down.  It was pretty much over when we got back out on the bikes, as we waited a bit to get back on.  Another great day with a fun family.

Friday I had a Chianti tour for Florence by Bike to Villa le Corti.
Here is the group at the Villa before the tour, tasting, and lunch.
Mike and Margo, on their honeymoon, embarking on second 
marriages for both.  Molly, a brave young lady from Buffalo who
was out and ready to go even when her two traveling companions
decided it would be too hard.  Steve and Sarah, and young and 
very nice couple from England.  Fun to interact with so many
different people.

Two families, the Ellis family and the Langin family on a van 
supported tour yesterday.  Great to have another guide, Leif,
on the tour.  Everyone did well and had a great day.  Here 
are all nine in San Pancrazio before out big descent.

Anna, Todd, and TR on the way to Impruneta from Vacciano.

The Newnam family in Impruneta after finishing our snack /
cafe.  Both the kids, Anna and TR loved the pastries, but 
what's not to love about fresh baked pastries.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

FBB Chianti tour to Villa le Corti for Dutch couple.

Nice Florence by Bike Chianti tour today with Willem and Hilde from Belgium.  They spoke Dutch, which is kind of like German, and kind of like French.  Luckily, their English was great so we could communicate.  Fun couple and a nice tour to Villa le Corti.  Not too hot, and a pleasant ride as they were pretty strong, as this is the hardest tour I do for FBB.  Same tour up tomorrow for FBB with 4 people.  

A view from the park in San Casciano with Willem and Hilde
in the background.

In San Casciano taking a short break and enjoying the view.

The aging room for the Don Tomasso brand of Chianti 
Classico Riserva at Villa le Corti.

Patricia with Willem and Hilde on the tour of the cellars at 
Villa le Corti.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Brevetto complete - Passo del Muraglione today.

I had a really nice solo ride today.  The weather forecast had it not being quite so warm with a reasonable chance of thundershowers late in the day.  Both happened, and my tour was great.  I think I needed a long tour by myself, as I seemed to gain energy as I rode.  I guess it can be harder in some ways to go on shorter, slower rides with clients than a big pass and almost 120 k on my own.  I finished the team challenge of the Brevetto for Florence by Bike, riding 5 different passes from Florence on 5 different rides.  One of the rules was only one pass per ride could count.  It was a fun challenge and now it is in the books.  Both Jean Lu and Rebecca finished this before me, but it was nice to finish today.  The road to Muraglione is just wonderful.  It starts in Dicomano with what Luca told me last November is called Mangia e Beve, which is Italian cycling slang for generally up, but with some descents thrown in.  After Spicchio, the road asserts itself and averages around 5 to 6% to the top.  It is around 800 meters vertical from Dicomano in around 18 kilometers.  Really fun ride today.

Here, almost at the top of the pass, there is a nice view of the road switchbacking
below.  It did not really come through well in the picture, but in person
you could see a few different locations of the road just climbed.

Still taking the world's worst selfies, but I needed to document
the pass Muraglione for the team brevetto competition.

The bike with the passo sign at Muraglione.
It's a better picture than my selfie.

A couple of pictures of the bar at the pass.  I needed a short break,
and the crostata and cafe machiato were quite good.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Great tour with newlyweds on their honeymoon.

Nice tour today for a newlywed couple through Vayable guide service.  They made it work on a stop in Livorno on a cruise that is a wedding present from Sarah's parents, to take the train into Firenze and ride with me for the day.  It worked quite well, and they were very nice people and a pleasure to take cycling.  Although the logistics could have been complicated, Eli and I were able to communicate well and everything went as planned.  They wanted to minimize the hills but still see the countryside, so we rode out to Signa through the Cascine, then up and over Grilliao stopping in La Luna for a snack.  Eli was hungry and his snack turned into 3 slices of pizza and a glass on wine.  Back on the road, we decided to extend the tour by riding the beautiful ridge up from Ginestra to Montagnana.  From there we returned through Cerbia, Chiesanuova, and Scandicci.  They were pretty beat getting up to Chiesanuova, but hung in there the whole day and had fun.  Thanks for "Riding with Cosimo" Eli and Sarah, and best of luck for a long and happy marriage.

Eli topping the first real climb of the day.

Sarah almost at the top of the Grilliao climb.

Our food and cafe break at La Luna, a great stop for whatever
you may want just past Grilliao.

Sarah and Eli on a break on today's last climb to Chiesanuova.
Pretty beautiful out there.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Ballet recital and a ride between visits to the Questura.

Yesterday late afternoon / early evening I had one of those experiences that make a grandfather's heart want to burst.  Our granddaughter, Viola, had her first dance / ballet show.  Her group is part of a much larger school, which gets pretty serious as the kids get older.  They had been preparing for this show for weeks, and it was simply wonderful.  Some of the older girls seemed almost professional quality to me, and whomever put it all together had everyone from ages 5 to 19 working together in a very professional looking performance.  Great job everyone, in particular Viola.  The hug she gave us when she came out from the performers exit was fantastic.

Today is / was immigration day for me.  I was at the Questura for Immigration this morning around 7:15 then stood in a long line for almost an hour to get a letter and number which I then wait to have called.  Around 7:45 I realized I had forgotten my passport, and had to call Emily, who saved the day for me by bringing it there.  I really did not wait long for my number to be called, and it went easily there.  They want me back at 3:00 this afternoon with more photos and to do I think a full hand print including fingerprints.  They did finger prints electronically this morning, and with lots of racket in the building and the explanation in Italian, I was not sure why I need to return for additional prints this afternoon.  Perhaps it was simply that I did not have enough or the correct sized photos for them.

I had a chance to get out before it got really hot today, and chose a route that kept me close to water fountains for the head dousing and drinking, and tried to stay in the shade.  That combined with much of the ride being climbing, as it is cooler at higher altitudes, kept the ride quite nice.  Out through Le Cure to Fiesole, water, up then down to Compiobbi, then climbing Monteloro and Montefanna.  Water in Monteloro, which is somehow kept cold, nice, the finishing the climb to the top of Montefanna.  Back down to above Fiesole, then up to Olmo, then home through Caldine.  Great ride and I was not too hot.  49.2 k in 2:23 with 970 meters of climbing.  Strava had the average temperature at 90, so it was hot.  

Looking toward Madonna del Sasso from above Monteloro.  Che bella!

Looking east from above Monteloro.  You can almost feel the heat
shimmering in the arno valley below.

Today's ride was about staying in the shade and not being too
far from a water fountain, both of which I managed to achieve.

A beautiful theatre here in Florence with people arriving for the
ballet school's annual show.

Quite a stage for a 6 year old's first ballet recital.  They are part of 
a larger company with dancers into their late teens, so it was not
as absurd as it seems here.  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

3 days, 3 client tours..

A couple of days, a couple of tours.  On Friday, I had a Florence by Bike Chianti tour to Villa le Corti and back.  A very nice Finnish couple who were reasonably strong cyclists.  They did not have to walk the bikes at all up the difficult switchbacks climbing from Galluzzo, which is the challenging part of this tour.  After a nice tour, tasting, and "light lunch" (which the couple were amazed at how much food is in a light lunch here) we returned to Firenze.  They decided to go a little longer, which I offered, as we were pretty fast for a tour group.  We returned though Luiano then Galluzzo, Cinque Vie and finishing through the Centro.  Nice tour!

Yesterday, I had a van supported tour with a nice family from the Chicago suburbs.  A family of 5 with the youngest, a girl, at 10, then two boys 14 and 16.  I selected a route that I thought would work for the youngest, and it ended up fine.  We picked them up at Castello del Nero in Tavernelle, then drove to La Romita and rode out the beautiful ridge to San Pancrazio.  From there, we descended to Ponte Rotto, and Sarah and Josh, the two youngest, got into the van.  Paul, Laura, and Nicco continued on the valley road to Sambuca, where Laura opted for the van.  Paul, Nicco, and I rode around 2/3 the way up the hill to San Donato, where both Paul and Nicco suddenly had had enough.  It was quite warm yesterday with the high in Florence around 95.  We loaded all the bikes on the van, and drove to Radda, where we enjoyed some of the good spring water in the fountain there, then had an excellent downhill ride to Lucarelli, where we loaded all the bikes back on the van and had paninis at the bar there.  Back to the hotel to drop them off, then back to Florence to drop the bikes back at Florence by Bike.  Long, but good day, in particular as I had 45 minutes after I arrived home to shower and get ready to go out to a party.

This morning, I was to meet a couple from the 4 seasons at 9, but plans changed around 11:30 last night, when the 4 seasons called Marika from Florence by Bike.  I was asleep when she sent me a message, so I showed up at FBB this morning at 9.  All will work out, as I will return at 2pm and take them on a tour for 2-1/2 hours.  I absolutely have to be home by 5, as tonight Viola is having the end of the year ballet performance, and the ballet school has a nice theatre in town, Teatro Verdi, for the show and Viola is so excited she could burst.  Not something for a grandparent (nonno pidge) to miss, as it is the primary reason we are here.  I will get paid the same, so it all works out.  We will be starting in 90 plus degree weather, but when you are moving on a bike you can create your own breeze.

Our tour guide at Villa le Corti, Patricia, and the couple from 
Finland, whose names I could not pronounce and quickly forgot,
at one of the wine cellars at Villa le Corti.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

3 days of fun riding in Tuscany.

It's been a few days and I have put in 3 rides, all fun.  On Monday, I caught up with many things, and found an hour or two to get out.  I felt great once on the bike which surprised me as Sunday's ride was pretty hard.  The Monday ride had me noticing my surroundings as if they were new to me and just being delighted with the ride and the opportunity to ride here.  Kind of a perfect ride.

Yesterday, I did a Florence by Bike Chianti tour all day to Villa le Corti and back, of course with a loop tour.  Two nice folks who were an interesting couple.  Steve, from New Zealand was around 6'3" and his wife, Small Eyes (which is a nickname but the only name they gave me) was around 4'10".  They were pretty strong, which is good, as the tour to Villa le Corti is almost twice as long as the regular FBB Chianti tour.  We had a nice day, and Villa le Corti is doing a great job with the wine tour, tasting, and "light" lunch.

Good day today, with more catch up, then I took my Eroica bike into the shop to check in with Andrea Martini, the mechanic, who is totally into the older bikes.  I got a 1974 Bianchi from Kate's boss, and had spent a number of hours doing work on it myself.  I was not getting very far, and I knew this was pretty much Andrea's thing, so I took it into him to see what it would take to get it "Eroica ready".  He was all over it, and it was a fun time as during the 1/2 to 1 hour he looked at it and prepared an estimate, 4 or 5 other guys were in and out of the mechanic's space and all talking old bikes, and the Eroica.  My Italian is definitely challenged, and Andrea's English is worse than my Italian, so it was interesting and fun.  He said he would have it ready to go in a couple of weeks and it would cost around 280 euros which was below my top price.  If it cost too much to get ready, I could simply by a bike already set up.  Anyway, super fun time at the shop.

I replaced the chain on my regular bike, then was pretty much complete with what I needed to do, so I got out for a nice 2 hour ride, out the main road to Le Falle, then up through Monteloro and back home through Fiesole and Pian de Mugnone.  It is starting to get hot, and the high while I was riding today was around 88 F.  Need to stay on top of the water situation.  Another good day.  Ciao a tutti.

Steve and "Small Eyes", a nice couple on a long Florence
by Bike Chianti tour.  

I love this view and take pictures of it often.  The view to the
east from above the Monastery below Monteloro.

The road just above the monastery on the way to Monteloro.