Sunday, November 28, 2010

Where the Hell am I?

As is the case with a lot of my weekends, I spent most of the days on my bike. Often times people ask if I ever get bored or feel like I'm wasting my time simply pedaling around when I could be traveling to other places. Honestly, I don't. I enjoy riding my bike and often times these bike rides are mini day trips in themselves. With that being the case, I can make the argument that I have seen more of Umbria than any other person in our program. Quite the accomplishment if you ask me.

Lately, I've been trying travel to ride to places which 1) teachers have talked about in class or 2) are so far off the map most Umbrians don't even know about them. This weekend, I was somewhat successful in both of those endeavors.

Friday, I made my way to the town of Citta di Castello--about 50km north of Perugia. Citta di Castello was the town in which the Montessori schools were originally founded; however this was not my reason for going there since, personally, I don't care about that sort of stuff. Instead, I was looking to ride into the Umbrian national forest and cut through to the town of Gubbio before heading back to Perugia. This was the plan at least, but as is often the case, it didn't work out.

The initial trip out to the park went very well. It was warm, not many clouds, not many cars, not too many hills...all in all, a good ride. Then, I got to the "entrance" of the park whose sign was so small that, if it were not for a fortunately timed nature break, I would have totally missed. Almost immediately after turning off the main road, the pavement immediately shot up--an I mean UP! Now, at times like these I find the best course of action is to just find a rhythm and just keep on pedaling since, eventually, what comes up will come down.

Riding up this hill I was in my own little world--focused on the task at hand and fully determined to make it over this hill. Then, almost without warning, a piece of crap Fiat 500 which very well may have been older than me pulls up next to my left. It was red (though given all the dirt on it you couldn't tell), extremely beat up, and the noise coming from the car could only be described as sounding like a large un-greased textile machine on the verge of implosion. After a few second the man inside rolled down the passenger window and, with the use of hand gestures, pointed up the road frantically and mumbled the name of some town (or what I assumed to be the name of the town). He was asking for directions. Now it should go without saying that I have NO CLUE where the hell I am, let alone where I'm going and/or wherever this town was that this guy was trying to get to. Either way, I was in no mood to waste my breathe to explain to this man that 1) I didnt speak Italian and 2) I didnt know where this town was. So, after a short pause I simply replied "si." Seemingly content with my answer the man smiled, thanked me, rolled up his window, and drove off (I use the term "drove off" very lightly since the car was barely beating me up this hill). Once the car was out of sight I returned my attention to the task at hand and almost instantly forgot about the incident.

Following forty-five minutes of steady climbing on the same road I found myself--quite literally--in the middle of nowhere. From my high vantage point some 2700' up I could see barely any towns and it dawned on me that--other than the guy in the Fiat--I had seen no people. Still, undeterred I pressed on with the thought that, eventually, this road will have to lead somewhere. Making my way up the road some more I turned a corner only to find the road make an abrupt change from pavement to dirt. End of the line. For a moment I contemplated continuing down the road to see where it led, but the numerous frost heaves and loose rocks signaled that it would probably not end well. Straddling the line between dirt and road with my bike I looked over my map and came to the conclusion that I had no clue where I was. Awesome.... Making matters even better, the only way home was back the way I came--a trip of some two and a half hours. Fortunately though, much of that time was spent going uphill and therefore--due to the laws of gravity--would take much less time going the opposite direction.

Under a slight drizzle of rain and overcast skies I began my descent back to Citta di Castello when I remembered the guy in the Fiat. Since I hadn't seen him driving the opposite direction on my way up I can only assume that the guy must have continued down the dirt road. Looking back to the condition of the road and re-thinking the condition of the car an image of this guy standing in a ditch with his car partially decomposing next to him popped into my head. I laughed.

It seems though that karma would get the last laugh as I wound up riding all the way home in rain and forty degree weather. Oh well...life goes on.

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