For various reasons,
we hadn't been able to get away on our annual trip in 2003 and
2004, so we were more than ready for this one. Francesco had
mentioned the Gran Sasso region as a place to visit when he toured
with us in 2002, so that seemed like a good place to start.
We'd also heard mention of the Gargano peninsula and Puglia, so
decided we'd try and fit those in too.
This year was to be
different however, we were doing it by tandem. My cycling
buddy Konrad is unfortunately slowly losing his sight, and had
invested in a Santana tandem earlier in the year so that he can
continue with his favourite pastime - cycling. Konrad had
ridden tandems in the past, but I had never ridden one before so
was more than a little apprehensive, as we only had a couple of
months to get used to it prior to leaving. The first ride, I
remember, was interesting! It certainly felt very strange, and I
soon learned that you don't make sudden moves on a tandem -
everything has to be done smoothly, especially cornering.
After veering over to the wrong side of the road a couple of times
on exiting a corner, I soon got that message.
'different' thing for me was that I'm a Campagnolo man. The
tandem had Shimano shifters which operate differently. I
still find myself rummaging around for the thumb shifter to change
up, and inevitably if I don't think really hard, change in the
wrong direction (not a good idea on a steep climb). I've
finally come up with a solution for myself. The small lever
always shifts you on to a smaller cog. Well it works for me
- most of the time!
about 5 rides prior to the tour, seeking out all the hills we
could find, to get used to climbing together. The first
major hill we hit on the first ride, we snapped a chain.
This didn't bode well I thought, but on inspecting the chain it
seemed it hadn't been fitted very well and one of the plates was
bent. After replacing it, we had no further trouble. I was
pleasantly surprised that the tandem climbed very well, and
although going slower than you would on a solo uphill, I didn't
find it any harder - in fact some of the hills seemed easier. We
tackled most of the major hills in our area (Wrynose Pass,
Hardknott Pass, Wall End etc) and found that we could ride up them
all without too much difficulty (well OK, a lot of difficulty, but
at least we got up them ;-) While they may be slow uphill,
they're certainly not on the flat or downhill! We were so
surprised at the speeds we could achieve that we're thinking of
entering some local time trials next year!
One of the main
things I enjoy about the tandem is that they're very sociable
things. It's nice to be able to chat away easily as you ride
along, and they're certainly a talking point when you stop
This years tour was
probably the least planned of any we've done. Maybe we are
getting blasé about it.
Again, we used the Touring Club Italiano (TCI) maps.
One of 'Abruzzo e Molise' and one of 'Puglia'. Both
As with previous years, we
also used Microsoft's
"Autoroute Express - Europe" to get a rough idea of
distances and explore various options.
We didn't book any
accomodation ahead. Even for our first night in Penne,
which we reckoned we could easily reach from our mid-day touch
down in Pescara. We made it in plenty of time, but there
wasn't exactly a glut of hotels there (we only found one!), so
with hindsight, maybe we should have been a bit more
Touring Club Italiano (1:200,000) Abruzzo e Molise (ISBN
Touring Club Italiano (1:200,000) Puglia (ISBN