“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." Confucius

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Bike Packing #2

This bike packing trip was to be  of a shorter distance with more climbing and only overnight stays.  There were no trains so no hope of a "get out of jail free" card in case of an incident or bad weather. 

Day 1 of a 3 day trip...58km and 645m climbing

Mellame to Feltre to San Gregorio nelle Alpi to Sospirolo to Sedico

The route!

Pre coffee stop at about 35km

you just never know what you're going to see!

Having gone up to Mis I had then to go to Mas...to cross this glacier meltwater river

Our silo art is better!

and on to Sedico where my hotel turned out to be situated above a group of offices/banks etc.  Finding the way in was a challenge!  Nice place though with a huge room and very accommodating staff as I arrived VERY early.

Hotel Nord Est at Sedico

Day 2 43km 746m climb
Sedico to Trichiana over Passo San Boldo to Follina and finally through the Prosecco vineyards to Valdobbiadene

Good weather again despite dire warnings of rain, hail, damaging winds and thunderstorms.  However I set off early  in an effort to avoid the worst....actually nothing else to do in Sedico anyway!!  Your heart sinks when trip advisor puts a visit to the library as 1 of it's "things to do"!

looking back ...any old excuse for a breather!

and so onto Passo San Boldo...such a great ride...a less steep climb on this side although as an ex-Orienteer I always hate it when, on a climb, the road goes steeply down losing much of the height you've gained and then goes steeply up the other side of the gully..what happened to gently contouring??!!


The history of the feat of engineering on the south side is most interesting...during WW1 the Austro-Hungarian army was faced with  getting over a steep ridge ..it faced a long march to  either end of what is a looong ridge...left..right or....??  

The approach from south side, which is the direction they were coming is up a long steep gully  until it reaches a pretty vertical cliff and yet the remaining  distance was not too far.....so the engineer in charge chose the 3rd option.....carve a road into the cliff where an old path had been.  Since it had to deal with army vehicles, the slope of the road could not be more than 12%.  In 100 days, using what was I guess local "slave" labour the road was created..... 
check out this link:https://www.dangerousroads.org/europe/italy/863-passo-san-boldo-italy.html#:~:text=It%20dates%20back%20to%20Roman,in%20less%20than%20three%20months.

Traffic is normally governed by lights at each tunnel but not while I was going through, so much horn blasting by all cars.

Castle Brando near  Follina :

I remember this place very well ...Castello Brando is high above the pretty village of Cison di Valmarino.

Probably about 10 years ago my language teacher had said there was a really good event happening atCastle Brando during the weekend  so my sister, son and I went to look.  It was hot, the climb up from the car parking was steep and tiring and when we got there the event wasn't much  anyway so before we escaped downhill we queued for an ice cream.    

It was a longish queue but the list of things to buy and prices were all up to see and we decided what we wanted as we waited.  However the family perhaps 3 ahead of us didn't bother to decide until they hit the head of the queue and then proceeded to have a long, heated/involved/vigorous discussion as to what they did or didn't want.  

I spat the dummy and we left without an ice cream!  We stopped at a cafe lower down...no queue there thankfully.  Haven't been there since!

and so with a brief stop at Follina for coffee iI biked on through the Prosecco vines to Valdobbiadene.  Once again my hotel was hard to find but was nice although the room was very small.  I celebrated being in Valdobbiadene by enjoying an Aperol Spritz...as you do....!

Day 3  45km 502m climb Valdobbiadene to Mellame via Feltre

I know this ride well  and and it's not very scenic so it was always going to be a bit of a grind. My usual route is to go up the east bank of the  River Piave until just south of Vas, cross a rather rickety bridge, and use a side road until it meets the very busy road west of the river.  However signs soon told me that the tunnel on my favoured road was closed...I opted to see if the side road around the tunnel (cyclists only) was open but sadly it too was closed....so I added an extra km or 2 to the trip which was silly since there was a raging head wind of reportedly 12kph gusting to 28kph.

So what I had to do was use the less favoured road and fight both the traffic and the head wind all the way til the road bent to a more east/west direction.  It was scarey and especially when I rode across the rather long bridge across the river with a howling gale pounding me on my right side and pushing me into the traffic.  Actually the main problem was the unpredictability of the strength of the wind...it was blustery.

I survived without incident..in part due to the respect motorists in Italy show to cyclists (generally speaking).

Sooo...will I do another? I finished this one much less exhausted than #1, so I think 3 days is my current limit. Research is happening...if so, I think it will be up near the 'dolomiti with  a train trip up to beyond Trento to start and finish the ride.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Bormio and Bassano del Grappa


The final heave up the Passo  Forcola  2000m

I take a photo of this every time I pass it...just can't help myself!

 I thought I should see if I was fit enough to manage some of the longer climbs further north...turns out I wasn't!  but the trip to Bormio was worth it.

I hired a car from Monday to Friday so I was at Auogiusti by 0800 and took it back late on Friday afternoon.

To get from Feltre to Bormio there are 3 options.....unless you want to spend an entire day or 2 to get there.  The 3 options are all over mountain passes..Stelvio, Gavia or Mortirolo.  I've ridden all 3 and knew exactly what driving them would be like.  Awful.

The car's navigation system took me up over the Stelvio on the way there.  By the time I got to start it there were lines of  cars, motorcycles and cyclists and 3 lots of road works.  I knew 2 things at the end of the journey...I'd be going back a different way and I wouldn't be even attempting to climb it.

So I had 3 days to ride....but I only rode on 2 as the climbing and altitude made me very tired.  

My apartment was good..the only problem was trying to find it...it's notice board was so environmentally correct that I couldn't see it the 3 times I passed and even  on subsequent days I kept missing it.

Not sure this owl would make me want to choose this hotel!

Groovy window shutters

My return trip was to be via the Passo Gavia...we did this the last time we were here  but with Alex doing the driving.  My knowledge of just how narrow and tortuous the road was with many hairpin bends, no safety barriers  etc meant that I decided to go VERY early and hope to beat everybody.  It worked, I met no one on the way up and only 1 on the descent, thankfully at a passable spot.  I saw 1 black squirrel and a flock of goats who frolicked in front of the car!!!  I'd have to say I spent alot of the descent muttering please don't let there be anyone coming up..please please please!   Needless to say ...no photos!

Bassano del Grappa

a week later I decided to visit Bassano del Grappa again to see how my fitness was after recovering from my Bormio jaunt.  I felt good and had a really enjoyable ride until the final heave up to Mellame when fatigue and heat got to me.

Ponte vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Rhino "after Durer"

and on the way back:

School group doing what they do best!

Getting ready for the local Palio

Saturday, 9 July 2022

Bike packing

 So for my very first foray into bike packing I decided to go from Mellame to Bressanone.  It was mostly on a bike path and there was always a "get out of jail free" card of a ride in a train if things went belly up either body or weather wise.

The plan was: 

Mellame to Levico Terme, stay 1 night

Levico to Salorno..stay 1 night

Salorno to Bressanone stay 2 nights...perhaps do a side trip on the second day

then??  nothing planned at the outset.

Day 1.

At Tezze where I join the bike path

Hotel Cristallo at Levico was good...I had stayed there on my first day in Italy at which time I was brain dead and had to ask for everything to be said twice and finally written down.  

Bit disconcerting was that the receptionist remembered me!!!...must have made a lasting impression...hmmm!  the breakfast there is, to say the least, sumptuous...just brilliant.  

However a bar in the main street had a very very weird idea of what a frappe is!

I took great delight in helping a tourist and saying, on being asked if I spoke English, yes rather well actually!!

Many Levico houses in the old part of town have these arches into their property.....limits the size of car you can have! 

Levico street art

There are so many hotels in Levico they are colour and number coded..my hotel was yellow 16!

Day 2:
The ride next day was a bit fraught..part of what I'd planned was not allowed for bikes and so I had to adapt and then I took the bike path on the wrong side of the river in Trento and ended up having to re-trace my course and got tangled up briefly in a VERY main road.....luckily I'd spent so much time working out my course on Google maps/street view that I was able to retrieve the situation fairly rapidly.

The approach to Trento via Civezzano was down a VERY steep hill which I was less than interested in doing on the way back!

This is a carpet!

to explain it better!

Salorno hotel,...apart from the carpet, was nothing special..the room wasn't ready, the receptionist told me nothing and the town had very little to look at...especially since it rained.  However, the evening meal was good and actually the cost not very high.

Day 3 and 4:

Bressanone..the hotel was probably just a bit further out of the town than I expected ..a 30 min walk but a nice place although  30 euros for an evening meal was a tad OTT since I can never eat 4 courses.    Main gripe...no fridge in the room.  My plan of doing a side trip on day 2 got well and truly canned as I was far too tired and essentially  I just did short trips around town and bought a train ticket to get back to Trento initially. 

Bressanone hotel art!

Only in Italian and English...despite it being such a multilingual town

Sooo many bikes there and not one worth stealing!

Bike pump in the main street

one of many many street statues

Day 5 
Train back to Levico via Trento

local train bike rack
couldn't get a pix of the fast train set up..not allowed anywhere near it! 

The train trip: no one could tell me where exactly in the line of carriages mine would be...#262 and my bike was to be  in place #144.   I got to the station, as usual ridiculously early and on finally walking onto the platform saw that the train was to be 15 mins late.  then 25,35,55 and finally 70 mins late!  The platform got more and more crowded but when another train arrived..going the other way, suddenly I was almost the only person waiting.....me and 2 others.  Felt a bit spooky!  

So, 70 minutes late this high speed super fast train  finally arrived and I was 3 or 4 loooong carriages out of place and so had to run in order to get to THE place where my bike had a reserved place.  Haven't run that far  for ages!   All good  though.  Had a coffee in the restaurant car and at Trento retrieved the bike and set off to buy a ticket for the local line to Levico terme where I had decided to stop for a 2 day rest.

I had again to run for the train as it was just about to leave...although I did manage to delay it as I sprawled inelegantly into the carriage cutting my leg, bruising my hand and bleeding all over the place!  Sono arrivata! I said...I have arrived!...and then told the officials not to worry about my leg...not the first time and wont be the last!!...my Italian has definitely improved!

Day 5 and 6

Hotel Cristallo was again great although the room where I was had what has to be THE worst pillows ever. 

I did a ride on the second day towards Pergine Valsugana and later saw a parade of people wearing Imperial period  clothes.  Apparently Levico was where the Imperial court used to "take the waters" and so has a strong link with the Hapsburg dynasty.  It was actually on the Austro Hungarian empire border with Italy before the post WW1 dismantling of that empire and consequently is surrounded by protective forts.

Day 7

The next day I took a final train back to Primolano...slogged up 2 nasty hills, did the washing and vowed to have a few days' rest before doing that again!  It was a Sunday, no shops open where I was and there was not much in the fridge or kitchen so I  pigged out on what I could find and realised a large shopping trip was required the next day! and that's a story for the next post.

All in all it was fun although a bit  too much for a first solo effort.  I was happy with what I'd packed although I had to beg a bandaid for my wounded leg from the receptionist at Levico...yet another reason for them to remember me next time!  I washed my clothes in the shower each day and they dried overnight. Although severely tempted I managed not to buy stuff as I really didn't want any extra weight on the bike.

The following pix are from along the way:

adopt a cow?

just outside Klausen..old vv new

have pebbles will decorate

and finally.....

Monday, 27 June 2022

Grado and Aquilea

Fleeing from the heat of Pula Croatia we headed north back into Italy via Slovenia. 

 Unlike lemming day, there were no queues at the Slovenian border but we both got a stamp in our passports with mine getting an especially long look. Which actually made me recall that this time round I haven't been checked to see if I have explosives/drugs/firearms on me!...guess they must have already sorted out their quota of granny aged people before I arrived! 

 Like Venice, Grado was very marshy and just like Venice as a result was a great hiding place against marauding hordes or escaping religious torment. 

 Having lived near The Wash in Lincolnshire, UK we were very used to the raised roads with dydke/ditch on either side, but the long raised causeway from Grado to Aquilea with water on both sides was unexpected and a treat. 

 Grado is now very very touristy and although there were possible Roman ruins to see we didn't stop. Aquilea was brilliant...fantastic well preserved ceramic tiled floors and plenty to see all within a small area. 

While going around the displays we saw that some cheeky monkey had done a bit of reverse graffiti!:
The lowlight of the trip was me leaving my phone behind at the souvenir shop. I was being served by a lady who continued chatting to her colleague while dealing with me and I distracted myself by looking at my sister and rolling my eyes! I realised about 20 minutes later and panicking hot footed it back to recover it ...phew!  I suspect the lady kept chatting and didn't see it for quite a while!


And that was the end of the Croatia side trip.  It was to be the first of 2 side trips but with the rolling transport strikes in UK, particularly targeting the weekend of my planned visit there, I have opted to cancel...the uncertainty, plus the possibility of getting stranded/having to queue for ever made made the decision very easy.

Soooo..back to Mellame...to jigsaws and bike riding

THE worst of the 3 rickety bridges I force myself across...this one has to be crossed to get to a rather gnarly climb up to Incino...a road closed to cars on account of the large rock that protrudes out allowing only the tiniest of vehicle through.  However roadworks still abound before you get to it and I wasn't allowed through...  By not getting through to the climb I had to go back the way I came and so crossed the bridge 1 more time!  You can see from the pix that some of the planks are raised which naturally means some are not giving a very bumpy ride.  At least now they are all intact which they weren't a few years ago.....

Global warming =less rain/snow over winter which has resulted in pleas for conservation of water.  Of all the years I've been coming here, these walls have never been above water.

There are many many tunnels along the roads in this part of Italy and  in fact a bike ride through the city of Trento gets very complicated for cyclists.  But for tunnels out in country there is usually an opt out "old road" ...for cyclists only really and not very well maintained but much safer than the tunnel!
One of many garden decorations..so easy to do, simple and effective

at the base of the climb through to Croce d'Aune the back way...I didn't do it this time!

Today I'm off on a 4-6 day bike packing adventure..1 days each  at Levico Terme, Salorno,  then 2 days at Bressanone.  It's not a *real* adventure since most of it is on a bike path but riding with a loaded up bike for the first time will be a challenge.  I have an escape plan if it all gets too much or if the weather gods are unhappy since it's also on a train line.  But first I have to navigate my way successfully through Trento avoiding all tunnels!

More anon!