April 1, 2000: Sperlonga to Lido di Ostia (Italy)
Yesterday's ride through Naples was a long day, and I have a bit of a cold so decided decide to sag today. This turns out to be a real pain since you don't get driven all the way at once. Instead we still need to be packed up early, then ride in the van to midway checkpoint. We sit here for two hours or more, then a van finally takes us the rest of the way. We don't get there any sooner than if we bike, but we do conserve some energy, even though its a wasted day. Better to find our own transport.
April 2, 2000: Lido di Ostia to Rome
Finally located the campground in the outskirts of Rome we are staying at for three days. Finally some off time to explore. TK&A really scrimped on the meals at the campground, this is some of the worst food so far. Anyway we are using the off time to see the catacombs, the coliseum, and the Vatican.
April 6, 2000: Rome to Assisi (102 miles!)
This was the easiest 100+ mile day of the trip. Easy grades with the downhills mostly not so steep and curvy that you need to brake. A day off tomorrow to explore Assisi.
April 7, 2000 Urbino Italy
Found a well stocked bike shop on the way to urbino and we each bought a Gore windstopper vest. This later turned out to be our best and most used item of bike attire. We unzip it most of the way when climbing hills when we heat up, then zip it backup for the downhill. This along with the pearl izumi pull on/off arms and leg covers lets us regulate temperature without stopping to make adjustments all the time.
April 8, 2000 Caprese Michelangelo
Today's route went over a lot of mountainous terrain just to log another country (San Marino). We decide to take a short-cut instead. Had a nice ride crossing in and out of Tuscany several times. Still have plenty of climbing to do. Half way up to a pass, met and Italian bicyclist who was stopped cleaning off his rims. Talked to him a bit. He was just out for a Saturday ride of close to 100 miles for the day. He was around our age, but didn't carry anything so he had a very light bike. Of course he knew the route, exactly where he could get water, etc. We went a little further then stopped for lunch overlooking a meadow. No traffic on this road, it was nice to have enough time to actually stop for lunch. There was still a steep climb at the end into Caprese Michaelangelo when we rejoined the route. An earlier stop we talked to a local man in German. The locals in this area seem more likely to speak German than English. Its interesting to note he didn't know the place we were headed which was within 50 miles of where he lived, but out of Tuscany.
April 9, 2000 Florence Italy
It was neat arriving in Florence on a Sunday. The core of the city is closed to auto traffic on Sundays so it was nice and quite. The next day all traffic noise returned.
April 12, 2000 Florence to Pisa
Since it was raining we took the shortcut by train to Pisa. Actually we were trying to get into the Ifitsi gallery, but after standing in line for half and hour some one said they were having a meeting and wouldn't open until 11:00. So we got out of line and then they opened on time anyway.
The compass/bell I have mounted on my bike handlebars comes in hand for finding your way through towns in Europe. The old parts are never laid out on a regular grid , but have streets winding every which way. Rather than trying to find streets on a map, which usually aren't marked well anyway, its easier to just use the compass to head in the general direction you want until you get close. (We did this to find our way from the train station to the campground which went right by the tower).
The campground was very wet and muddy, hard to find a place to pitch the tent that wasn't in a puddle.
April 12, 2000 - Levanto Italy,
Still raining so we hopped the train again. I've got a copy of the schedule now. In Italy you need to buy a separate bike ticket (for a couple of bucks). The bike ticket is good for 24 hours, so if you take an afternoon train one day, and a morning train the next you can still use the same bike ticket, just need fare for yourself. Actually we skipped Levanto and went to the next day's stop: Genoa. Two other rider couples also took the train, so we all looked for hotel together.
April 13, 2000 - Genoa
No gear trucks today. The temporary insurance TK&A had on them expired and couldn't be renewed. Maybe this has something to do with the fact they are driving around Europe with Washington state license plates. Anyway we are all at a campground with no gear. We have train tickets for tomorrow already. When we got in, were told gear would be here in about and hour or two. Later we find out trucks haven't left Levanto. They finally announce the plan just as darkness is falling, that we leave our bikes here, and get bused back to a hotel in Genoa (we are a few miles past Genoa). This really ticks me off that they wait so long to tell us anything. Also they are cutting our locks off our lockers to get our bags, which also pissed me off, I'm attached to that lock. Anyway Monika and I jump on our Bikes and sprint the 2 miles racing the looming darkness, to the next town , so we can catch our train tomorrow. Takes about 10 minutes once we are there to find a room.
April 14, 2000 - Menton France
Got up this morning and caught our train to the French border. The highway route goes up and down over the mountains, the train just burrows through tunnels near the coast. Its underground most of the trip. Since we rode the train over half the day's distance we arrive in Menton, just as Tim pulls up to check in a hotel. We were supposed to camp here. Later we found from some riders that climbed the steep hill to the campground that it was closed. Even if it was open it didn't look big enough. Well I recall all of us were crammed into 2 or three camp spaces in the campground in Florence. Wasn't enough flat space for all the tents, so that doesn't surprise me anymore. Still no gear yet, so after about an hour we find out we will get bused ahead to a hotel in Nice. Bikes are left to be loaded on a truck later and we board the bus. We are at the Ibis next to the train station in Nice. It is really pouring down rain now so I'm glad we have a hotel. Right now it looks like we will not have gear trucks again. The locker contents were all stuffed into trash bags and thrown into a store room here for us to locate. We go next door to a sporting goods shop and buy two dry-bags to replace our other worn duffles, since it looks like we will be using rental trucks again and our bags will get tossed on the ground (in the rain) at the end of the day.
I had ordered some ortlieb bike dry-bags with another couple while we were in Florence, and they are supposed to be shipped the American Express office in Monaco.
Since I want to get my bags we have to stay behind the day we are supposed to ride out of Nice. After a trip to Monaco Amex office where we are assured the package is coming a couple of times, we finally find it is not coming, its back at the UPS center in Nice. Reason: we need to pay duty. So we take the train back to Nice then find a bus to take us near the UPS office. Finally get the bags after paying the duty.
April 18, 2000 Sanary-sur-Mar
Got up from our room in Nice this morning, and pushed our bikes across the street to the train station. The train we were going to catch would be there for several hours, and it was a nice day, so we decided to bike up the coast to Cannes and catch the train there instead. Riding the train with a bike in France is a little more difficult than Italy. The schedule board in Nice had indicated the train we wanted took bikes, but when we got to Cannes it showed it didn't. I checked at the ticket counter, first the guy said no, but then I got him to look it up in his schedule book, and he said yes it did.
Try to board the train and got stopped by the conductor on the platform. Two other conductors arrived and started a discussion. After they suggested we could catch another train I explained the scheduling situation, that we would get further behind. The train we were going to catch was missing a car. The conductor on the platform said he would talk to the train conductor, it would be at the discretion of the train conductor. Finally got on. Stood in the exit space of the last car holding our bikes up on end for two hours. Finally got off and spotted some yellowheads on the road (fellow riders, we all have yellow helmets), so just followed them to camp.
April 19, 2000 through Marseilles to Martique
Rode through Marseilles along the port
April 20, 2000
Today we were to ride through Andorra (still last day of ski season there) to Carcassone. Very long ride, lots of mountains and raining. Since Monika has come down with a cold, we decided on plan B instead: Ride about 10 miles to Montpelier and catch a train. Got there and got train tickets, lots of other riders showing up with the same plan. After we got tickets on the train, we found we could get a bus to Barcelona instead, which is five days ahead on the route. We took this instead. Only problem turned out to be NO HOTELS since this is easter weekend and all are booked!
After looking everywhere we finally had to check into a $170/night Park Hotel. This was the only room and we could only stay one night! The next day I checked at the main train station to find a hotel. There was a sign posted that said NO HOTELS in BARCELONA. Inspite of this there was still a long line of students on spring break looking for a hotel. Some decided to get back on a train and go somewhere else.
We were about to ride out of town to find something, but after the bellman checked he found a single room in another hotel on the other side of town. On our way there I happened to find a pensione for a reasonable rate for the next 4 days, so after settling in we could relax and enjoy Barcelona where the sun was shinning.
The Gaudi park in Barcelona:
We enjoyed 4 sunny days here before the group arrived, bringing with them the rain. Actually when group arrived we joined them in the campground 20 km out of town.
April 29, 2000 - Gibraltar
To get from Barcelona to Gibraltar we had a 14 hour overnight bus ride, on a rather uncomfortable bus with no toilet. The drivers did stop every 3 hours though. (This was counted as a "bed" by TK&A.