Last Monday was a very memorable day. What an absurdly long, mountainous, surprising, gruesome day, so exhausting that my quadriceps halved their length out of tension, my brakes boiled eggs out of heat, my water bottles expanded out of pleading for water, my sweat glands digi-evolved into fountains, and I’m going to stop with the superlatives because one day, there will be a more bizarre day, and I won’t know what to say about it.
If Bologna woke us up with all our planned gelatterias closed, that was just an augury. When we were just decided to leave, the last one opened its doors in front of us. The route was supposed to follow a yet non existent EuroVelo 7 that led us through some nice gravel paths, some rose-thorn forests, and some asphalt landslides to hike along with the heavy bikes.
The profile was not as friendly as the day to Parma. One huge straight climb at the beginning when still fresh, followed by a long long smooth and continuous descent that keeps you at top speed for hours with no effort is awesome, but the way to Firenze was exactly the opposite: one terribly long climb, wobbling up and down, finished by a strong descent that we reached only at night, and with a visibility and an asphalt quality not so friendly to speed.
But the friendliness we encountered was amazing. An old crazy cat lady, when asking for water, gave us juices, crackers, and two peaches – all of which I ate myself alone because Leon despises peaches. When descending at night a car driver offered to change his own direction and follow us in the descent with his strong lights to help us. And when asking for water once more in a restaurant, the waitress gave us mineral water and one large focaccia for free.
In the meantime some gruesome stuff happened as well. A piece of glass flattened my rear tire twice early in the day, but some mysterious thing flattened Leon’s front’s uncountable times in the descent at night. He fixed it, put the wheel, and instantly took it out after finding out there was some new hole, so many times I would lie if I try to give a number. Five? Six? More than an hour stopped in any case.
And then, when Leon screwed all my motivation to arrive to Firenze saying he was too exhausted to continue so he wanted to sleep in some bushes in Prato, he chose a tree in the riverbank. Nice spot, water fountain provided, looked silent: why not? But shortly after, a weird car arrived, and a guy went to the benches next to us to smoke and stare at us.
And yet other cars arrived and stopped behind the previous, only to leave after some minutes of staring through the window. Some driver went out of the car, but just to leave again. First guy finished his cigarette and continued staring. I was freaking out. A mafia meeting? Some drug dealing business we happened to be interrupting? I pointed out my strong dislike for the situation to Leon, who just proposed to leave to Firenze. But I was in a bit of a bad humour already, and wanted to defend my space.
„È tutto bene?“, I asked with a sober voice. „Tutto bene“, he answered. „Que cosa guarda?“, I added. „Niente“, he said. But nothing stopped from his creepy staring and the cars arriving and leaving. That’s it, I thought. This is dangerous, there’s going to be blood here. Put my metal Nazgul SPD bike shoes in case I need it, and let’s try some sober diplomacy. I went to the bench, sat aside but keeping the distance, and asked in my best Italian.
—Hi, how’s your name?—while offering a hand shake.
—X— he answered, with a handshake. —Are you interested in sex?— he added.
— Oh, no thank you. We’re just travelling and wanted a place to sleep. Your presence here is a bit uncomfortable and we will like to sleep in peace. Is there any reason for you to be here?—, I said with my best cold-blooded voice, total neutrality, trying to keep things cold for a possible aggressor but still not showing an easy victim.
—Oh, but this is the place where all gays in the surrounding areas meet for free sex—, he then added.
Holy crap how thankful I was for being wrong all the time. But holy crap again for my restrained face of perplexity. The conversation followed a few phrases with some compliments for my handsomeness and some explanations about the meeting point. Cars come from midnight to 2am, and everybody accepts noes with no problem so I shouldn’t worry about other cars. Then he left.
Leon and me „nos partimos el culo de risa“ as we would say in slang Spanish, which means laughing the hardest possible but translates literally, and very conveniently, to „we broke our asses laughing“.
In any case, we eventually arrived to Firenze, the city of my dreams. How much I’m in love with this buildings and statues I cannot explain accurately enough. But I’ll try some other time. On the meanwhile, some change of plans may come soon. We’ll let you know about it.