Life after work and the trips of a lifetime

"We are judged by what we finish, not by what we start." - Anonymous

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, your body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, "Woo hoo! What a ride!..attributed in this form to either Maxine Cartoon or anon

Monday, May 31, 2010

Pompei to Cassino

Travelling through the outskirts of Naples was never going to be easy, so for the first 40km of today’s ride we stayed together.  The road surface and scenery were to say the least average, but the rest of the ride made up for it.waiting to start
Our lunch stop this day was at a play ground, complete with bike racks…we made use of all the facilities.
play lunch
Not sure what sort of duct this is..but it sure looks impressive
aqueduct Cassino today

Day 16- Cassino to Tagliacozzo...110km, 1726m climbing
Day 17- Tagliacozza to Roma....134km, 1496m climbing
Days 18 and 19- Rest
Day 20- Roma to Capodimonte...117km, 1546m climbing

so we're at Cassino today..famous for the war time bombing and then fighting forthe monte Cassino monastery.   Hopefully pix will follow tomorrow when we're in a's camp ground is just a tad basic.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pompei and Vesuvius

one of the "mummified" Pompei residents

the forum at Pompei with Vesuvius in the background

a typical Pompei street

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Farewells, group members, the daily routine and EFI

Yesterday and today we lose 2 of our was going anyway but the other had to retire injured following a fall resulting in a fractured olecranon...such a shame, but he's planning on returning next year..I wonder if anyone does do this trip twice...must ask. the composition of the group..there are 35of us..3 non riders and more Aussies than not....we have a Brit, 3 from NZ, 2 Germans, 2 Dutch and 2 from Brazil to add an exotic touch...mostly guys and mostly either as couples or with a friend......a real mix of characters.

For those reading this that might be thinking of doing the ride sometime..the level of bike riding ability varies from racers to those who have only just taken up bike riding.  However, despite this variance the amout of training prior to coming on the trip is similar....high to very high.

The daily routine..the previous day we're given a briefing about "the day of tomorrow" which includes a map complete with instructions and distances between navgiational decision points, weather forecast and time for breakfast and start.
We try to set off early and our first stop is ALWAYS for coffee...but finding a location is not always easy, especially as most of the towns seem to be situated on the top of a hill and our relucatnce to climb any more than we have to overcomes the need for caffeine.

A great lunch is provided along the way..usually somewhere from 50-70km, then we ride the rest of the way (more coffee stops are slotted in) and miraculously always get to the camp site at beer o'clock.  The cooks do a fine job providing us with an evening meal plus red wine and once the housekeeping jobs are done we're not long out of our beds to rest up for the next day.

= riding Every F"*&^ing Inch of the tour..which is the aim of some but by no means all of the group. There's never any pressure to complete the ride if you chose not can ride half a day, have a day off or bail out if it gets all too much for you....


misc pix

really bad weather in Calabria..we rode ahead of this..others were not so lucky

we came across quite a few of these..they must have had some really bad weather in Calabria..this year?..or last?
vespa rickshaws are every where.

There's no such thing as too much chamois cream!

when you're riding 100+km a day and its mostly uphill.
Tonight we're in Pompei..and tomorrow is a rests day so
wil be a touristy type day..although it would be good to find a decent bike shop to stock up on the aforementioned cream.

Today we rode the amalfi coast..the scenery was great,but I'd never pay $$ to holiday here ..not in a million years.  too many people..too many cars. roads too narrow tocater for the was chaotic and the "season" hasn't even  started.

and this was locked to a post!!...makes you wonder!

Friday, May 28, 2010


I've decided I like climbing...well actually it is an enforced decision with virtually 70% of every day being spent going uphill!!

The climbing legs have finally kicked in, which is good..I even managed a 15%
grovel today and before you say ..well so what ..15%, pfft easy peasy..don't forget the  series of >100km days and the inherent fatigue.......

My riding tend to gravitate to people you can keep up with...are in the throes of a discussion about the large number of holes in many of the buildings' walls...i reckoned they are/were holes for pigeons ie a pigeon loft and during lunch today was delighted to see a pigeon fly into one of the holes...there you are I said...QED.  However I'm a lone voice on this topic...i'll post a pix tomorrow on my day off for your comments.

We all agree on one thing and that is...... as we are slogging up a 15km hill and with the road weaving left and right and there in front of us  is an even steeper road than what we are on.......we ALL hope/wish/pray fervently that  that road is NOT the one we're about to me some of those roads are waaaaaay steep.

Pompeii tomorrow

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Day 13- Sapri to Paestum...122km, 1901m climbing
Day 14- Paestum to Pompeii...100km, 1496m climbing
Day 15- Pompeii to Cassino...155km, 1520m climbing

weather widget   

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yesterday's ride

Yesterday's ride was s'posed to be an easy NOT >2300m climbing..just a mere 700m and undulating. We started off early..all rugged up 'cos we were in the mountains and were still a bit damp from the previous ride and overnight rain. Actually I had  4 layers on top and full length leg warmers on which in the end turned out to be a good choice.

We got to the lunch spot just as it started to rainand lingered longer than usual ..waiting for the rain to ease off a little..we still had 63km to go so couldn't dally too long.

Not very much further on it suddenly started to rain heavily and then the rain turned to hail.  In front of us we could see blue sky and so the 2 of us who happened to be in front just kept going..there was some discussion but with only an open road or a tree to shelter under we opted to keep cycling and hopefully keep ahead of the worst of it.  

(dramatic image to come later when the internet stops playing silly buggers)

And we did but others were not quite so lucky and had to resort to the sag wagon


We need the carbohydrate++++, but my gut struggles to deal with so much of  it…..!

First stop is always for coffee..and I’ve changed to caffe lungo..just need the drug, not the liquid.


another coffee stop Then at about 70km its time for lunch 


 lunch stop the stop can be in a town or just on the side of the road.

Things along the road part 5



the white sign is a “for sale” notice.. a more than slightly ruined building in the midst of nothingness!

Things along the road part 4


sometimes the same road is as smooth as…sometimes it’s like a goat track

Things along the road part 3

Anyone know why the 7 is a different colour?


Things along the road part 2

bike deAD PERSON

RIP local cyclist

Things along the road part 1


 sheep up

We’ve had“sheep up”, cows up, horse up and  dogs up.  The dogs were sunning themselves on a warm bit of bitumen and were very reluctant to move.  Well…it WAS very cold….and wet.  Freezing actually.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

how am I going?

struggling on the hills..both in body and mind.  Some parts are mega fun..some not.

the weather has been    50/50..but there must have been SOME sun!sun tan

tomorrow’s profile has me worried…total ascent >2400m


better get a good night’s sleep and heaps of food…..actually I am spoiling myself today with 2 nights in a hotel…100 euros very well spent



rest day there’s always a load of washing to do..and these are out Quechua 2 second tents…highly recommended+++++

fire  truck

We’re supported by this fire truck and 2 vans, 2 drivers, 2 cooks,  a bike mechanic and the leader.

Onto the mainland


The weather has been a bit unkind with a couple of stormy nights.  our first night in Calabria was thunderous and lightning-ous but our Quechua tents were up to the task..all except the poor guy who parked his in a bit of a dip.

The terrain has been somewhat challenging much so that I threw in the towel and bought a compact gear.  So I’ve moved from 53/39 chain ring to a 50/ I’ve lost 3 fast gears but gained 5 slow ones and boy oh boy do i need them.

Each uphill/mountain in itself might not be huge by what we’re going to face later on in the  Dolomiti, but add them up together and you’ve got a sufferfest for most of us.

Today our route had an unexpected diversion which took us for about a 5 km extra trip over roads that  maxxed out at 19%….I had to get off and walk a coupla times. 

Reason for the diversion?..not everyone took it!!1st landslide

6 degrees of separation is in force here with someone having  done a workshop at PJC, someone else’s daughter being a 3rd year physio student at La Trobe and yet another person having an orienteering connection.

The ferry from Messina onto the mainland caused us a bit of concern as although the vehicles got on ok, we got left behind. 


Luckily there was another in 30 minutes which just gave me enough time to buy a limone granite..a must, along with Arencini if you’re in Sicily (so I was told)…spellings are possibly wrong!

Car driving

I’ve had a driving lesson here.


There was only one bad driver on the road and it was me. 

Manual car..changing gear with right hand

Driving on the other side of the road.

Wind screen wipers and indicator on the other side.

Narrow++ roads

Fast speeds it when ever/where ever  you want to

etc etc

Handlebar dramas


after all my packing, padding and care there’s nothing you can do if your carbon bars get a direct blow.  Luckily the mechanic had a spare.


half way on day 1 and the weather was totally crap..wind, hail, rain.

Days 2 and 3 have been windy but a bit warmer.  All days have been over 100km (and a bit extra when you get lost).  My Garmin tells me I’ve used over 3000 calories each day..the climbing is never ending or so it seems but the downhill hoons are to die for.

I had hoped to get back into Agrigento to take some pix of the narrow+++++++ streets I drove down but …too tired..too far away.

Tomorrow is Gerace to Nicolosi (near Mt Etna) and we’ve been told its the toughest day of the whole trip.

Wine flows every is Sicily’s solution to the no cork situation…


Thursday, May 20, 2010


Day 8- Palmi to Pizzo...85km, 1314m climbing
Day 9- Pizzo to Lorica 120km, 2552m climbing
Day 10- Rest day
Day 11- Lorica to Castrovillari ...127km, 1728m climbing
Day 12- Castrovillari to  Sapri ...113km, 2163m climbing

this is next..posting now in case I can't find a cafe or wifi

Friday, May 14, 2010


and finally I've just about managed to stop turning on the windscreen wipers everytime I want to turn left or right.  However gear changes are still a bit iffy...the car doesn't seem to thrive on changing from 5th to 2nd (when I mean to go down one to 4th).

Finding  a place to park in a busy city remains a major problem for this little Aussie driver. Eventaully we found a about an hour later.......

Anyhow we tramped around the old city and looked at a Roman Ampitheatre and then sat down for a meal.

It was at this point that I went into eye-bulge mode as I realised just how small this world is  as a guy rode by in full St Kilda CC kit .  Other options are available for tourists or residents who want to ride:

next stop Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


My first hours in the car involved alot of mutterings....."on the right" and "£$%&", "£$%&/ gears" and similar. But finally without too many wrong turns we make it to "La Giara" our next B'nB..great place, great host, great brekky.

For our Etna trip we decided to not to do the day long adventure trip but rather go up via funicular and jeep and have a hour long guided tour

there's still plenty of snow around, but its melting rapidly and looks alot better from afar!

plenty of Aussies everywhere!


I'm glad we had a taxi to the B'nB...we'd never have found it!

When you live 2 or 3 floors up..on bin day you just dangle your rubbish bags on a rope ....

We hired a car and this was the first street I had to drive down!

lefthand drive, manual, narrow roads, poor road signage, no GPS, kerazy Italian drivers(!), jet lagged, weighed down with travel fatigue.......cruised it, no probs!

A bloody long trip from Melbourne to Palermo

Far too long and boring.

The only excitement was when a passenger had a long,  loud and very passionate argument with a steward about his carry on luggage..was worth the airfare.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Filling in the final 60 minutes aka watch out Sicily here I come!

I'm glad I'm travelling from winter to summer, I mean how else could I justify fronting up at the luggage weighing/ticket person's desk wearing 5 layers if I was travelling in February?  At least travelling in May I can have a hope of justifying waddling up to the counter sweating profusely from wearing far too many clothes?  We all know why I'm doing it, but at least its not 40 degrees C outside.   I'm exaggerating a bit, but I'm never one to let the truth get in the way of a good story/visual image.

FYI  my bike box weighs in at just over 15kg, my checked in baggage is just under 6kg, carry on backpack 7kg exactly, I also have musette with a "reasonable amount of reading matter" and lap top, and finally a bum bag stuffed with precious goodies..garmin, phones, money, passport, ticketI don't expect to have to pay for the 1kg over on the long haul but might get stung from Rome to Palermo.

So here's the itinerary for the more sedate first few days of my holiday..
May 8th fly to Palermo via Singapore and Rome
May 9th meet up with my sister, she's coming from London.  Stay at Cinisi near the airport,
May 10th hire car drive post haste to Nicolosi stay  that night and the 11th ( visit Mount Etna and Taormina), 
May 12th drive to Siracusa 
May 13th drive to Agrigento via Ragusa
May 14th drive to Palermo via Trapani (farewell sister..she flies home to UK from Trapani), return the car and meet up with cycling group.
May 15th let the sufferfest begin.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 info page for travelling cyclists

After trialling a couple of options, the Qantas box got the nod and since it's far too big, I chopped it to a size that was better for my bike. The original dimensions were 1400 x800 x300; now its 1400 x 800 x 255.  I chopped it into 2 pieces by cutting down diagonally opposite corners..actually one corner was a "peel" as there was an overlap ( I kept the overlap intact and any damage  was to the short end which would be cut off anyway)
the other cut was just a slice down at the corner. Then I cut  450mm off each short side and  taped it up again using cloth tape.  With the new dimensions, my bike fits in just like a glove in total there are ~9 points of contact to stabilise the bike in the box although this may work against me if anything bangs down hard where  the bars  are.

  • The front wheel comes off and a spacer placed in the forks to stop them being bounced and to prevent damage to the box..  
  • The head stem loosened, bars repositioned to fit snugly and fixed in place. 
  • The pedals are off and the cranks positioned and tied in place.
  • The chain is on big  ring and zip tied into place complete with foam under it to spread the pressure on the cardboard. 
  • The wheel is covered with something to protect it (I used a bubble wrap bag ) and a stopper is put into each skewer hole. In the end I put the wheel on the non drive side not as in the pix.  And I had the chain mid way on the cogs at the back.  Actually I really wanted it on the biggest cog, but with it also on the 53 chain ring....nah! too long a time for big and big chain stretch.
  • The saddle is dropped to be just touching the lid when its closed.  
Generally speaking I'm into overkill and tend to pad the bike out rather more than is necessary but  have never had any damage to any of my bikes on the many trips I've had over the years.The white tubes from a bike shop are lighter than  pipe lagging.  The camelback is to prevent spot pressure at the front, the crank is pointing forward to allow as much room as possible for the wheel.

I was happy that it was secure. The gaps on top were filled with bubble wrap

I have a major issue with regard to moving it around.  The hand holds are ok if you're 2 metres tall with an appropriately wide arm span and have no other luggage  but at 162cm (well ok 160cm) I haven't a hope. I change planes at Rome, having to  retrieve my luggage and book it onto the flight to Palermo and who knows whether there'll be trolleys at either of those airports..I've been caught that way before (Moscow airport springs to mind, no trolleys staff with a "you want a what....? attitude). Off to my  local  Pack and Send  I went where Herb put on some  polypropylene straps so at least I'll have something to grab onto ($20) and weighed it for me...15kg. 

It's now in my car and will stay there til I go to the airport...and yes that is sunshine!
The cats know something is up and are following me around generally getting in the way...
 Pippi  guarding my carry on luggage.

  Flea  giving my bag the evil eye