L'Aquila: Oct 9-10 - jayrose

2014 France / Italy Ride Continued

The zimmer worked out well in Vasto; the bike security was top notch and the sleeping good. The breakfast was at a nearby Bar down the alley where we found a jovial bunch of locals all having their morning coffee and (what sounded like) their usual AM jousting. When we were ready to leave there was no sign of the guy who got the room for us….I called him and he said, “oh, just leave the money in the room by the television and lock the gate when you go”. Gotta love that kind of management/trust style. On our way out of town we spotted the “MARR” truck (Ethel’s maiden name) so Ethel grabbed a pic for the siblings. The road out of the region went up and up and became smaller and smaller. It was great riding and challenging navigation. We ended up on a road with a warning sign that we, of course, couldn’t read, but suspected might suggest people not proceed so, of course, we pushed ahead. It was badly damaged by rain and neglect (and probably poor construction), but fun to ride and BEAUTIFUL. These higher areas must be mushroom paradise as we see many cars parked in the bush and occasionally someone carrying a bag of (?) something we suspect is mushrooms. The trees were changing color in the higher country and the small villages seemed extra white and clean to us in the crisp morning air. The riding was probably the best, given all the factors, that we’ve had on the trip; just couldn’t get much better. By midday we were flagging a little and just in the most appropriate moment, we came upon this great little village with a lovely piazza and restaurant. Ethel checked and it was open; the lady came out to see for herself these two old folks who were actually on a motorbike. She was so charming and a wonderful cook; she prepared a fantastic lunch for us and some wine for Ethel. While there we met a young man who spoke some English and we had a nice visit. As we departed, he gave us an address and telephone number of a friend’s B&B in L’Aquila should we want to check it out. We were kinda feeling like our Karma Jar was spilling over when we headed off down the hill and then up toward the next large mountain. When we passed through the village at the bottom (a LOVELY place) there was another road warning sign and a young girl on a scooter tried to warn us off of the climb, but (you know) we went on. This time it was for real; the road was completely blocked with immovable objects and no real sign of imminent opening so we turned around headed down. This was a major blow to our track today as there were no simple or straight forward go arounds so we headed to the next spot on the road where our track crossed; unfortunately at the cost of about 50K of some fanciful riding… Back on the track we quickly noticed that the road size got smaller and then turned into a partially paved pathway barely wide enough for one of those three wheeled half moto/half truck vehicles, but it was “promising” so we pushed on. Wow, were we surprised when it began to CLIMB; well, we were now committed (that’s a common excuse for I don’t want to turn around) so kept on up and up. The switchbacks got tighter and began to have less and less pavement, but the big bike went up the grade with style and soon we came to a flat spot that was a cliff hanger of a track. Luckily it had a guard rail, but I got some not so encouraging advise from the navigator/copilot about proceeding…after a “thorough discussion” we pressed on to what turned out to be more of the same switchbacks and constant climbing with less and less pavement which finally brought us to a rocky two track which, had we seen early on would have turned us back, (did I mention the investment in the climb), but we continued for about (luckily)100 meters or so and stopped at a junction with a locked gate (satellite and telecommunications equipment behind the gate) on one side and a somewhat paved two track on the other. Guess which one we chose. The road soon began to descend and become more properly paved granting some justification to our persistence. The views were amazing; we were at the very top of one of these mountains and coming down into the next valley; now THIS did make the day just about perfect. Along the the track there were two more of these very small two track climbs that we checked out, but decided that we’d had enough and still had 50K or so to get to L’Aquila so stuck to the yellow roads to town which was bigger than we expected and right in the middle of rush hour. We navigated around the historical center for a bit just trying to avoid and be avoided by all manner of vehicles then decided we’d attempt to locate the recommended B&B, but we soon learned that the address wasn’t even in the GPS so called the number, spoke to the (half) owner and he asked where we were then said, “stay there, I’ll come and get you”. He showed up in about 15 minutes and led us to the B&B where we got settled in. Later we had dinner with the fellow who we’d met up on the mountain at lunch (he was staying there too) and met the other co-owner; the sister of the fellow who retrieved us from the swollen city. She fixed us a great dinner and we called it a day.

Oct 10.

We decided to stay a day here and check out the damaged city center, do a bit of exploring and catch up on our internet activities as we’ve not had any internet for a day or so. After breakfast we jumped on the bike and headed into the maze, but this time is was more sedate as the traffic was light and we found our way without too much difficulty. We parked the bike in the main piazza around which most of the damaged buildings seemed to be. The quake, in 2009, caused the evacuation of over 60K people, killed more than 300 and damaged an untold number of structures, some completely; but most, it appears, they are trying to save. We observed that the churches and banks seemed to get first service, but after 5 years the work is far from finished and the place has an erie feel about it. Given the current state the Italian government is in and the amount of work to be done it could be another twenty years before things approach normalcy, We had lunch with construction workers at a cafeteria set up for their use and strolled around some more before getting back on the bike and heading out of town in search of some Roman ruins we had heard about. They were located; nothing terribly impressive (in terms of Italian ruins), but interesting, then back “home” to rest, make our route for the next day and have dinner.