The cyclist had said not to set the alarm but it doesn’t matter as our body clocks wake us up anyway. It’s an odd feeling this morning for me. I was tired but I knew we had to get on our way. It was part anticipation for the cyclist as this was the last stage and he had survived it. Well, we both had so far. Part thoughts of heading home and getting in my own bed on Monday night. Ahhhh. And part sadness that the journey home would be as long and rushed as the last 25 days and there was work waiting for me early Tuesday morning.
We were the attraction of the morning for the local men who seemed to frequent the bar for some morning sustenance. Me all dressed nicely and looking smart (not really for me but it is causing the blokes to take it in turns to poke their head around the corner or come to the corner and stare for a few minutes while I pay the bill and talk in sign language and noises), and also at the cyclist outside the window looking every bit the professional cyclist that means business. It is like we are aliens rather than English. Maybe the English done go off the beaten tourist track to small backwater villages? The real life of the country. Apparently they don’t.
I had programmed my Co-pilot on the phone so off we set and I plugged the phone into the USB in the car as I have done each morning since we lost each other two days running in the south. Ah yes. As every morning it starts by playing Abba lay all your love on me. It is the very first track of about 3000 songs. I am quite sick of hearing it actually but today it seemed right to let it play out as it is the soundtrack that marks the start to another day of surprises. Some good some not so good. Every day is different, apart from mountains that is. And the Italian driving.
We went around Lake Garda on this ride. I had never been before but from what I saw it looked truly lovely. The cyclist said I could pull over and we could stop for a look but I knew we had a long enough day ahead of us so I said that we could come back. When, I have no idea at this moment. But we will! We drove past some enormous gated houses. There were Ferraris, Aston Martins and my coveted Audi R8s floating about. What a contrast from the south west cost that is filthy, deprived and falling down. This is a playground for the wealthy. I had best save my pennies then as Italy is expensive before you go to somewhere like that.
It was heaving today so heaven knows what it is like in peak season. It was like an Italian version of being in Weston-Super-Mare on a Sunday. The only difference it was Italy so people were dressed smartly and sat by the water in pavement cafes rather that being English people sat on a sea wall eating chips from the paper. Mmmm.
We finished in Brescia and after an unsuccessful search for the place that the Giro finished we headed to the motorway as the ETA for hotel arrival was 9.30pm so another late night and early start.
I asked the cyclist if he felt proud of his achievement. He said no. After some discussion he said that he felt some sense of achievement at the end of the Tour last year but he didn’t feel that this time. He said it was probably because this is just 21 stages of what is 63 stage challenge over 4 countries. He did however say that he got a little choked as I played him the Andrea Boccelli ‘Con Te PartirÃÂÃÂ²’ track as I drove by the side of him going up the climb. I was telling him that I had video’d him to it and at the time he said it was tear jerking. It had made him think of his dad who would have had a birthday yesterday. He started doing this cycling in his memory of his father didn’t he. I had driven by his side playing him music a number if times. Jolly things to keep him going or cheer him on. That is until something comes the other way and I have to swiftly pull in behind him.
So what did I see in Italy:
Fields and fields of solar panels not crops, harvesting energy.
Lots of vines, much more than France.
Big signs for “sexy shop” along all the roads advertising as brash as anything in a strong Catholic country which was most unexpected.
More highway hookers than I’ve had hot dinners.
All the country and mountain folk have 3wheel vans/carts. Mostly green but the odd one was customised.
Poverty in the South to the wine making money in the North
Azure blue sea to snow bound mountains.
The real Italy – The castello’s and really old towns built into hillsides and mountains. Each with their own piazza. Old guys sat on chairs outside in the street, in pairs or small groups chatting. Streets that are so narrow there is not even a pavement.
Roads with pot holes a foot wide and 6inches deep in almost every road.
Shower cubicles that you can’t move in.
Lots of town names with the word Piano in it.
We went through the Mont Blanc tunnel on the way back into France. It was ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¬41.40 which seems expensive for 12km of tunnel. It is free to go over the top but we have no time and there is no guarantee they are open anyway as we know. It saves about two hours so today despite the expense it is worth it. I mean it isn’t like we haven’t had a belly full of mountains over the last 3 weeks. Maybe I am naive but I had no idea that Italy was so mountainous all over. But I know now.
Ah. Back in France at 7.10pm out the other side of the tunnel. The cyclist has been mumbling about going to a Buffalo Grill for days. He says he has been fantasising about half a chicken and chips for days. I had a feeling we weren’t going to be in luck unfortunately. However we kept going. I had phoned the hotel to say we were going to there after checkout closed. The cyclist was now pretty hungry. When we had stopped for fuel before leaving Italy he had picked up some Pringles and a bottle of orange pop to keep him going. The thought of sandwiches and more croissant wasn’t appealing and I completely understand why.
We got to Macon and I saw the bridge where I took my favourite photos of Le Tour last year. As we went to our hotel we recognised everything as this was our first rest day last year and we got off the motorway buy the Decathlon where he bought his first blue tyres that matched his Focus cycle. Oh my. There was a Buffalo Grill. There were cars in the car park but this is France and it is 9.55pm on aSunday night. In you go he said. Meaning I was the one who had to ask if we could eat.
We could and we did. He ate everything he could and more. The Salad. The biggest starter. The biggest steak and chips they did. Half my chicken and some of my chips followed by their biggest ice cream dessert which also came with a Chocolate brownie. Get me to the room he said I am ready to sleep. I did and he did. I however didn’t. Couldn’t. Something is playing on my mind. Has been for a few days now. But there is no getting away from it.
Whatever the cyclist says, I think he did an amazing job. Last year was hard but this was……. Well harder. Much, much harder. God awful mountains with roads with holes and cobbles everywhere. He is a machine when he gets going and puts people half his age to shame. He needs to bulk up a bit now as he leaves for Le Tour in 2 and 1/2 weeks. The masseuse needs to work her magic too.
I am very proud of my cyclist. There are times when I get the rough end of his frustration but he isn’t as bad as he could be, like some Diva pop star. I am all he has got and he is all I have got when we are out here doing these rides.
I suddenly had a thought last night while he was driving. It dawned on me we we had done. He’s him but also me. I drove and navigated around a hostile environment on the wrong side of the road, the wrong side of the car and was on my own. The cyclist agreed when I mentioned it. He said he just takes it for granted and it doesn’t cross his mind, but if he thought about it, there wouldn’t be very many women who would or could do that. He also said Mrs Chimney would be the first to so as such. Mm_Scimitar and nanakatz have said so too.
We still have to get home. So until tomorrow………
Our soundtrack was the Cyclists iPod. It is the first time it has been on as he says he keeps hearing the same tracks on my phone. So we have had some Rainbow, Bare Naked Ladies to soundtrack from Les Mis’.