|A very sad day this. I hate the last day of a bike tour.
You're feeling fit, you feel like you could go anywhere, and the only place you're going
is home. Still, there is the consolation of seeing the family again (and going back
to plan next years trip ;-) This year though, that's in jeapordy for me.
Next year is my silver wedding anniversary, and we're pushing the boat out a bit and going
to Venice in April - no expense spared, and no bike :-( While my wife's
understanding, I don't think she'd like me to come back at the end of April to go off on
my bike in May. (September might be an option though!)
we had breakfast at Francesco's, clipped the panniers on for the last time, and off we
went, but not before Francesco had a go riding my bike with the panniers on. He was
very surprised at the weight, and the 'handling' I think. He led us through Pesaro
to the foot of the climb which would take us over the Panoramica
Adriatico again, but this time, we'd keep going. As we stood talking, a group of
German cyclists went past. We couldn't resist, so we said our farewells, went off in
pursuit and took them on the climb (aren't people easy to catch when they don't realise
they're in a race ;-)
The morning was very overcast and quite windy, but it stayed dry,
and infact later in the afternoon the sun got out again. We dropped down through Gabbice and on to Cattollica, where we found an Interflora as
we wanted to send Francesco's wife some flowers for her kind hospitality. We
eventually got the flowers sent, and rode into the town to find a cafe, where we spent an
enjoyable hour eating piadina's and drinking lots of coffee. Then, although our
flight wasn't until 9:30pm, we set off in the direction of the airport on the S16.
The road was busy, but not excessively so, and it had a good wide
shoulder most of the way. The airport is literally at the side of this road, you
simply turn off it into the car park. What to do now? Well, we spent a
leisurely few hours packing the bikes in bubble wrap which Francesco had kindly given us
(even he didn't know the Italian for pipe lagging ;-) The only problem we now had
was how to get the oil off our hands, legs and various other body parts. Konrad had
that well known cyclist's trademark - a 'tattoo' of a chainring on the back of his leg.
Here's a tip: When you go to change in airport toilets, make
sure you take the pannier that has ALL the clothes you require in it. Otherwise, you
can end up with an embarrassing dash through hordes of startled holidaymakers. I'll
say no more than that. Incidentally, neither of us brought a towel this year (too
bulky), but I can say from first hand experience that thermal cycling vests soak up the
water wonderfully. We watched several coach-loads of tourists come and go, and then
our gate opened. Once again, we chose the wrong queue, so while the people on our
right went by us almost at running pace, we stood and made out that it didn't bother us at
all and we were really rather enjoying the wait. At last our queue started to move,
and eventually it was our turn to check in, and get rid of the panniers and the
bikes. Unfortunately, one of my panniers didn't seem to want to leave me. One
of the straps got caught in the conveyer belt mechanism, and being tough little buggars,
brought the whole thing to a halt. First of all, the check in girl tried to free it,
but she had to call for a 'conveyer belt mechanic', who had to almost disassemble the
thing to get one tiny hook on a piece of elastic out of the works. Meanwhile of
course, mountains of luggage (and holidaymakers) were piling up, so Konrad and I slunk off
towards a cafe.
So while we're waiting for the plane, what were the highlights
(and lowlights) of this trip? Well, it's difficult to pick one particular
highlight, so here's some things that stuck in my mind...
||Corinaldo - a really solid looking town. They don't build
walls like that anymore (or hotels).
||Cingoli - the 'Balcony of the Marche', and the friendliest greeting
we got all trip at the Hotel Diana, courtesy of Luigi Cipilloni and his wife.
||The day going over the Meta Pass to Acquacanina, with all those
stupendous views and carpets of wild flowers was something I won't ever forget, and
strange as it may sound, the climb up to it makes it all the better. One book I read
described the 'drive' up there as 'tortuous'. Well let me tell you
matey, going over
it on a bike you feel like you've really achieved something.
||Finally meeting up with
a lovely couple, Francesco Bille and his wife
Patricia (it's nice to put faces to e-mails), and a memorable evening ride on the
||Ascoli Piceno was a stunning place - so 'old'.
||The Piano Grande, so unique - a pan flat grassland, high in the
||The ride down from the Piano Grande to Ascoli Piceno had to be one
of 'the' rides of the tour.
||Marche's Prosciutto crudo !!!
||But for me, there's only one 'winner' and I know it isn't exactly
in the Marche (but it should be), and that's Castelluccio. To say that Castelluccio
is now forever etched into my brain is an understatement. I really hope they leave
it be, and don't commercialise it.
As for lowlights, well, none really spring to mind, other than the
hotelier who needed a personality transplant at Sirolo, and that unpleasant ride in
traffic between San Severino and Castelraimondo.
Nothing much else to say really, apart from the fact that the
plane left bang on time, and we arrived about 10 minutes early in Manchester at something
like 11pm. The bikes and panniers were undamaged, and we resigned ourself for a
long, long, boring night in the airport lounge. I'll just say it lived
up to all my expectations :-( Our 'First North Western' train
wasn't until 6:00am. I'll just say that I'll never ever do that again - I like the
way they install seats that are impossible to sleep on. Uncomfortable isn't the
word, and by 6am I could hardly keep my eyes open. The train left on time, and I was
soon asleep - dreaming of bed. The train then stopped at Manchester Oxford Road waiting for a
driver - who never turned up. Suffice to say, we got back around 10am.