A year retired

This week my Iphone 6 Plus slipped off the stove top on to the throw carpet on top of the kitchen floor. I was in the middle of a phone call and picked it up. It looked like someone had taken an ice pick and jammed it into the the home button.  I spent the afternoon researching replacing the glass and ended up paying $140 to do so.

It is grey outside this week, wet and cooler than expected. My writing on my bike trip manuscript isn’t going as well as it was. I’m still sitting down everyday and writing but the enthusiasm isn’t as strong as when I started. The floors keep getting dirty and needing to be vacuumed and swept. The desk table gets cluttered up again and again.

It’s been a year since I retired. I do not miss the feeling of working against a wall that makes its so hard to do what needs to be done. I don’t miss the power politics. I do miss the everyday routine. The pleasure of having a cup of coffee and saying my good mornings and then getting to work, the rhythm of the day with a cast of characters, some friendlier than others. I do miss my closest colleagues whose offices I could pop into for a quick chat. I do miss the array of students whose questions I could answers and whose problems I could often easily fix. I do miss the purpose that my work gave me.

There is not lack of things to do, but there isn’t that overarching main idea that my work and raising children gave me.

I do not regret retiring but I am still working on this new part of my life.

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Posted in Life lessons, Retirement | 8 Comments

Perspective Shifts

When I went and looked for the $150 wad of cash that Bob had paid me back with, it wasn’t on the sideboard in the dining room. He had flagged me down at the end of the Athens Savannah Double Century ride on Sunday as I was leaving the Jittery Joe’s Roster parking lot back in Athens on my way to return the borrowed First Presbyterian van. He handed me a pile of $20s and a receipt for the Wadley Inn so we could get Richard’s lodging reimbursement and told me not to lose it. I had already lost the $150 check he had sent me back in January. I had transferred my Ath-Sav registration to him after deciding not to do the ride this year.

It was Tuesday morning when I discovered the missing money. I searched the house thoroughly, recreating my steps on returning to the house Sunday. I followed every step in the house, every chair I had sat in. I tripled checked the pockets of anything I’d worn in the last two days. I searched in every nook and cranny that I could have absentmindedly stashed the cash, including refrigerator drawers and pantry shelves. I recreated my climb up on the back deck to see if the cash had fallen out of pocket when I went up there to try to get into the locked house. I had given my key to Leannah, our dog sitter, and so didn’t have one when returning to the house sooner than Richard. Tuesday afternoon, I drove back to the First Presbyterian Church where I had returned the van on Monday. No luck. I found my brown vest still in the van, a water bottle rolled to the back, and my dollar store reading glasses but no wad of cash.

By then, my mood had blackened. I was already feeling sorry for myself that I hadn’t received the adrenaline rush of the 200-mile bike ride. I felt disconnected from the biking community because I had become their servant for the weekend. There were certain stresses associated with rooming with both my husband and sister at the same time. And now there was more proof that I was losing my focus. Where had that cash gone too? My mind ruminated on the negative, spiraling down in a way I would rather avoid.

Then this afternoon after having a rather dark morning, I started pulling together the receipts for reimbursement for our expenses accrued while helping support the ride this weekend. I looked down at one of the receipts and realized that I did indeed have the receipt Bob had given me with the pile of cash. If his name was on the Wadley Inn receipt, then maybe I had put the money in my wallet. I had gotten $200 from SunTrust at the the start of the ride on Friday and I barely had that much now. But then my memory started working better and I realized that I had given Richard half the bank withdrawal money so that meant I should only have $100 minus any cash I had used over the weekend. I had more than that. Bob had only given me $120 since the money back from the Wadley Inn reimbursement would cover the other money he owed he.  That meant I should have about $200 in my wallet. I had $199. That meant I had had Bob’s cash in my wallet the whole time — the whole entire time I was getting more and more frustrated with myself and everything else in my life, the money was right there.

What does this mean? The metaphor becomes so obvious. We sometimes have in our hands just what we need but events, perspective and our mood keep us from seeing it.  We want more than we have, we want to go back and redo things, we think if only so and so, then I wouldn’t be in this situation. We dig ourselves into bad spots.

Sometimes the money isn’t there, in the pocket or the wallet. It is gone, or it was never there. But we want it so bad that it keeps us from accepting and loving what we do have. These lessons are so darn hard to learn.  I guess that’s why there’s a new sermon each Sunday.

Afterthought: Perspective shifts are easier for some to achieve than others. For people with severe depression, finding a set of lost keys or a missing wad of cash doesn’t do it.

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Posted in Life lessons, Ordinary life | 4 Comments

Homage to Bike Community

I cannot exaggerate how much biking adds to my life and a gigantic part of that is my bike community.

Let me first clarify that I thrive on time alone as much as I do on time with others. I am the person who chose to ride alone cross country last summer. I asked Carmen who is riding across the country in a month, but with a large group, if she is a person who needs alone time. She looked at me funny for a moment; she didn’t seem to know what I meant. People who need alone time know what I mean right away. People think of me as a social person but I need my space. Many cyclists have no interest in doing a long bike ride alone as I did last year. If they had company, maybe they would consider it. I had fears related to being alone on my bike ride last year, but they had to do with safety. I was not fearful of being lonely and without sufficient company.

And the same goes for now as well. I love not being with other people all the time.

But I love having my bike community so much. Cycling and my bike buddies are bright colored threads running through the fabric of my life. This past week was full of the richness of those colors.

On Sundays, I started a slower and more social ride back in January. Richard and I needed to get in shape for our bike ride in Sicily. These rides are continuing post-Sicily trip. At 12-15 mph, they are easier than some of the other Nitty Gritty Bike Band rides these days, and so are perfect for those looking for something slower that encourages us all to socialize while we ride. These “slocial” rides, a term Diane created, have been delightful. Last Sunday after the ride, a bunch of us went for a beer and some food afterwards at the Blind Pig Tavern. It had been a while since we had done something like that and so spontaneously.  This Sunday we rode out to Watson Mill Bridge park, where we hung out on the park office deck for quite awhile in the middle of the 30-mile ride . On Monday nights, Diane and I are volunteering at Bike Athens learning to fix up bikes that are then given to those in need. We started in November, and though we are very far from being master mechanics, we are enjoying the camaraderie of Don and Scott who provide the expertise needed for us to do anything.

On Wednesday, we gather at 6 in Winterville or at Whit Davis for an evening ride  . As I did for years, many come from work. This year the Wednesday ride has started out faster than it has in years past, but for me, keeping up with my bike buddies is fun. I feel myself getting faster again. We end the evening chatting by our cars before the fading evening light chases us home. Thursday night Richard and I hosted Warm Showers bike travelers, young Steffan and Annika from the Netherlands; they started in Miami on their 6-month bike adventure and are heading to the Blue Ridge Parkway. After that, they aren’t sure. I advocated for riding out west. We gave them clean sheets and a tasty meal; they gave us their youthful ease and openness and showed us photos of their wedding six months ago.

Saturday was the AL Pless Ride, a charity ride to raise money for the Athens Land Trust. Al was a cyclist about my age who died too early a few years ago from brain cancer. The Land Trust is an impressive local organization that does more good things than its name implies; they help preserve land but they also help with affordable housing and community garden projects. It was an organization that Al supported. The day’s weather was perfect, starting in the high 60s and then up into the 70s. The magic came, though, from my fellow cyclists on their shiny bikes and in their colorful outfits. There were about 75 of us, some riding 18 miles, some 38, and some 60. How much fun to be in our thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and even OC in his eighties, spending the day riding bikes — starting out fresh, winding up and down along the Greenway and then out Peter Street and through the new bypass underpass, and then the little climb out Olympic Dr. We push ourselves, we anticipate the day, we climb and descend, we smile and chat and introduce ourselves to someone new; we move at our own pace or push ourselves beyond. On some days, you might end up riding mostly alone; on others you are with a group all day long. For me, Saturday ended up being a social ride as I cycled much of the 60 miles among a group of 6-8.

All of these bike relationships enrich our lives. In the photos I take, we all look happy out there. And in fact, we pretty much are when we’re out there. That’s what is amazing. None of us don’t have our problems. We have stressful jobs, challenging relationships, depressed moments or days, friends and family we worry about, bodies and minds that don’t function like we’d like them to, lives that we struggle to make meaning of or that disappoint us. We are imperfect humans courageously trying to move forward.

But we are so, so lucky, because we’ve found cycling, and with all the good it does for our bodies and all the fun and outdoor adventures it provides, it gives us each other too. How lucky we are to have our bike community, our church on two wheels. We don’t solve each other’s problems, though sometimes we do listen. The act of doing something so pleasurable together, the shared challenges of a long ride, the small conversations, it all bonds us together in a way that makes our lives better. Sometimes it seems like a small thing; other times it seems like it’s what really matters and makes all the difference.

An April week of bike community (click on the first photo and you can scroll through them all, that is, if you’re interested in looking more closely)

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At home again, putting routine into unstructured time

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I have been back in the US for a week now and in Georgia for five days, the transition to live back home is almost complete. This year since I retired last May has been full of transitions aIMG_3927nd change. There isn’t the anchor of work tying me to a schedule and a place and people so there’s been much more movement than there had been. I’m not yet at ease with this new pace but much more relaxed with it than I was last September when I came back from my cross country bike trip. It helps that I’ve returned to springtime here, a season that reminds me of summer when I was growing up, the days longer, the weather teIMG_3937mperate. Summer here in Georgia is something to endure. The heat forces you to pace your days so that outdoor time is early in the morning or around a pool. Evening bike rides are taken in 90 degree or higher weather.

 

Today and yesterday we have been washing cars, ridding them of a thick layers of pollen. Today as I finished my van, I pulled off all the college stickers, starting with Athens Tech and the girls’ colleges, another layer of the old life. For the time being, I see that there are seasons to this retired life like there were while I was working and teaching but they are ones I create all on my own and that seem to be driven by life events and travel either to visit family or the world. Right now the timeline reaches to theMissed the daffodils but not the dogwoods. summer when Clare and Alessandro will get married and then move to Paris. They are planning a very, very small civil marriage ceremony in early July at the San Francisco City Hall with immediate family and a few local friends. August, they will split between Alessandro’s family in Toronto and Clare’s in NY and mostly Athens.

 

And so we have three months until the start of Clare and Alessandro’s big summer, marked by the wedding in SF and then a party here in Athens. (For them, there will be a big celebration in Toronto as well.) These are the events that frame the next five months.I continue with my bike life, both riding and writing about it. After encouragement by others and some self-reflection, I am trying to turn my trip and blog into a book. Perhaps it will be just there for the family history; perhaps something will happen with it. Either way, it’s a good exercise, and I think I’m ready to reflect on and write about it; I already have pages of the blog as material to shape into chapters. In the fall, I was in shock from coming home and finding the obvious, that I was really retired. Now, though, I am ready to look back and figure out how to make the transition from a blog to a book. I’ve written about 3500 words since I came home last week. If I keep up with this writing pace, I should have a good draft by sometime in the summer.

Today’s fantasy is that I will write for three hours a day and work out for on average another two. Retirement has coincided with menopause, later than for many, and it’s clear that I need a concerted effort to keep from puffing out. I’ve had a book titled Ride Your Way Lean for several years but have never really followed through with its advice. If you’re a cyclist and want to get leaner, the trick is to vary your workouts much more than one does if you just go a couple of rides a week with your bike buddies. Intervals are what are needed, where you go out for an hour or two and add in 2-8 minute stretches where you are going faster than you usually would, at what I’m called race pace or all-out pace.

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My first ride, solo, back in Georgia, all tension from endless travel gone.

More simply put, they tend to be at the fastest pace you can keep up with for the specified time with recovery periods after each where you are going at the I-could-ride-all-day pace. Then there is what is called hill work to add into the mix, where you might be going at a slower pace but against the resistance of the hill, and regular weight work at the gym 2-3 times a week. Fortunately, I live on the Eastside of Athens where I can be free of traffic lights in less than ten minutes and have a bunch of hills to climb about 20 minutes away, and the Omni, my gym, is less than five minutes by car.

Reasons for making the effort to keep in better shape:

  • Be trim and find my body pleasing.
  • Keep up with the crowd I bike ride with or at least with myself at my strongest.
  • Keep in shape for my Adventure Cycling tour assistant job in Colorado this August.
  • Help keep my blood pressure lower and reduce my need for BP medicine.
  • Get my cholesterol levels slightly lower so my doctor doesn’t bother me about my creeping numbers.
  • Enjoy the clear mental health benefits of all that exercise.
  • Keep my brain healthy.
  • Keep bones stronger.
  • Make my clothes feel loser.
  • Improve my chances of aging well.
  • Keep strong so that I can better care for others and keep active longer.

It is so obvious that my health should be a priority but it actually takes more effort to do that than it does to write. What does that say. Perhaps only that overcoming the inertia of the whole body is more difficult than doing so for the figures alone. That is not a joke.

Obvious insight: I like some structure in my life.

Question for my own pondering: Will publicly stating that I will write a book and get fitter make it all happen?

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Back on a group ride with my good bike friends, striving to keep up.

Posted in Ordinary life, Retirement, routine, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Going to the hammam

March 17      This morning Anne and I went to the hammam together. It was her first time ever and my second. Several years ago when leading a trip to Paris, I took some time to myself and went to the hammam by the big mosque in Paris. 
Hammams are basically public baths, separated of course by men and women. Some hammams are just for women, some just for men, and some, like the one in Paris, have different hours for men and for women. When I went in Paris, I knew nothing, and I basically knew nothing again this time so Anne and I were novices together. For the Moroccan women, going to the hammam is not a unique experience; it’s just part of life, something you do once a week or so to really get clean and to relax perhaps. 

I will explain the process for you but upfront, let me say that there are two aspects of the hammam that would make an outsider like us uncomfortable. First, there is a whole bathing process and different rooms and we literally did not know what to do. Second, you get totally naked. In fact, you start with a pair of panties on but eventually they seem to come off as well. Ironically or perhaps just interestingly, Moroccan women are so modest in their clothing when in public, many women wearing a scarf around their heads and even a veil across their face, but in the hammam it is we westerners, more so even for we Americans, who are modest with being naked together. Anne and I had not really been completely naked together since she was a little girl. 

So, let me explain how the hammam worked. From the street, we entered a doorway in which there was a man to pay (inside there were just women, of course). Anne tried her best to bargain with him, but did not succeed in getting him to switch from a tourist rate to anywhere near a Fez Moroccan rate. We ended up getting the hammam with a rub down and massage for two of us for about 200 dirham; that’s $20. I’m betting that for a local the price for the two of us would have been less than $5. We entered down a short hallway where we started communicating with the hammam manager, a woman who only speaks Darija, the Moroccan form of Arabic. Many people speak some French, but not all by any means. Anne can speak some Darija now, enough to impress me, but in this strange situation, she was more silent than usual. 

Once down the short hallway, about 12 feet, there was a tiled room to the right where you undress. It had benches all around it, all done in ceramic tile, and a place to store one’s clothing. Fortunately there was a women dressing who I asked some questions to in my limited French. We didn’t even know what to do with our towels. Imagine someone coming from a world in which all foods were bought in an open air market, and they had to shop in a supermarket. All that we take for granted would be strange and exotic to them. 

At the back of the changing area, we entered the hammam itself. The main room was about 13 by 20 feet with faucets every couple of feet along two walls at about 18 inches about the tile floor. The hammam manager women came in with us to instruct us a little but mostly because we had paid extra for the scrub down. Most of the other women were doing the scrub downs to themselves or each other. Along the wall were lots of buckets, 5 and 10 gallon ones, that women filled up with the just-right hot water that came from the faucets, and used large measuring cups to take the water and pour upon their bodies. The room itself was filled with warm steam. There were two other smaller rooms attached to this one with hotter steam coming from their pipes. 

There were little stools to sit upon and so Anne and I went to work pouring water over our heads. But before long, our hamam manager indicated that I should lie upon some plastic mats. From that point on, I just followed her instructions, starting with lying on my stomach. Mostly, though, she did the work. She had a scrubbing mitt, with a course surface to it, that she used to scrub my whole back with from top to bottom. This was not gentle scrubbing but a good solid scrub that you might use to get a pot clean. After the back was done, she indicated with her hands for me to turn over and started on the front of me, again from top to bottom. She also had me lean against her and scrubbed and massaged my face and then did my arms as well. And then she indicated for me to go into the hotter steam room and she moved on to me. Afterwards, I returned for her to wash my hair; this included using a hard bristle brush that massaged my scalp. While we did all this, the local women washed and scrubbed the self. This was not a rush job. Many of the women who were in the hammam when we got their were still in there when we left. 

If you don’t like being touched, then the hammam is not for you. And if you don’t like the idea of being in a room with a lot of naked, wet women, than the hammam is not for you either. But I loved it. Just like when I went to the hammam in Paris, I really appreciated what a little lack of modesty allows for women. We are living in a world that is filled with models and actresses and and endless images of women whose bodies are so removed from the ones most of have and whose bodies are forever firm and young and splendidly beautiful. In the hammam, women see reality and become relaxed with it. There are bellies with rolls and folds and breasts of all sizes and smooth and wrinkled skin of different shades and with imperfections. In the hammam today there was a little girl of six who had not yet learned to not smile at strangers;later a women in kaftan and a head scarf came in and handed her baby to someone else to bathe. There were older women with breasts hanging down to almost their hips who were perfectly relaxed in their naked state and then dried off and dressed beside us in their pants and blouses and then covered up again with their jellaba and head scarfs.

I am so glad for our hammam visit, a chance for Anne and me to enter the world of Moroccan women for just a bit. Plus my skin feels so clean and fresh. 

Anne and me after the hammam

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Life in the medina 

March 16, 2016

Life in the medina in Fez is very different than the life I come from. The medina is a physical environment so different than anything I know. It is one thing to describe it but another to be in it. It is an endless maze of alleys filled with either markets at your elbows or mysterious doors that lead into people’s private worlds. There is no privacy outside but inside it is an oasis from that public sphere. There are no green spaces in the medina, only occasional intersections of alleys that create very small squares of commerce. Here on the roof of Anne’s riad (house) there is privacy and the open space of the rooftops around me, the blue sky above, and mountains to the east.

I rest and read and write for a bit up here while Anne has gone off to teach classes and Richard is getting a shave and beard trim somewhere in the medina with Abduliteff. In a moment, I will descend the long stairwell and freshen up. Richard and I will take a petit taxi to the new city where Anne teaches and be the guest speakers for her students at 6 pm.

Our visit here is different than our visit to Sicily. It is a visit to see Anne and her life here and to meet Abduliteff as well. We are like the other tourists we see in the medina but different. Being here with Anne and for Anne makes our immersion in this different world more intense.

   

 

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Fez and Anne

March 14, 2016
We have been in Fez twenty-four hours. I’m writing this from the center courtyard of Anne’s riad’s courtyard. The home is owned by an American couple living in New York City, self-described “world travelers” who have this as a second home but rent it out, perhaps thinking that they will live here at some later date. It is a grand place but cold, just as my friend Mary Chris warned. One thing about this trip is that no piece of warm clothing has gone unused. In Sicily I needed my long bike tights and numerous layers of cycling clothing. Later off the bikes in Palermo I wore my light black wool base layer under a blouse and often had my down vest under my leather jacket. I bought that vest for my cross-country bike trip but have used it more on this trip than I ever did on the bike adventure. 

Here in Fez, the weather is different than in Sicily, warm during the day if in the sun but then the dry air cools off quickly in the evening. In the house, the sun never gets inside and there is no heat; it remains very chilly. As I write this, I have on wool sockets, some yoga pants over my long bike tights, the short sleeved base layer covered with a heavier long-sleeved wool base layer on top of which I’m wearing a fleece top and then one of Anne’s sweaters on top of that all. My knees are still cold. Up on the flat roof of Anne’s house, I was warmer today in the sun than I’ve been on the whole trip. The sun felt so perfect warming up my bones. 

It is, of course, wonderful to be with Anne. She has prepared lovingly for our visit. We have our own large room with multi-colored rugs, tiled walls, and massive wooden doors. It is right off the courtyard where I’m writing. Anne lives in the medina and her place is down a tiny lane; I hear some kids playing out there now. From her roof, you see an incredible view of the medina, the old medieval part of Fez, where many, many people live. The medina is a maze of tiny paved paths; beside just walking, there are occasional donkeys and mopeds on the alleys that are bit larger — but not large enough for cars of eve the tiniest types. This morning Abdu brought us over some breakfast items, traditional Moroccan baked goods, one like a corn bread cut in half with a Laughing Cow spread between its two pieces and the others sweet, one with an almond butter in it and the other with some preserves in it. Really, they were much better than the overly sweet baked goods one is served for breakfast in Italy. 

Today we joyfully slowed our pace. A little after noon, Anne took us for a walk through the markets close to her house here in the medina, we had mint tea and coffee at a cafe just outside the entrance to the medina, we got Moroccan dirhams so that we have some money to spend, and we bought a Moroccan spice blend from the old man selling spices. We came back and sat on the roof and watched the buildings and minarets in the day’s different lights. Anne went off to teach a class while I read awhile while Richard napped, still up on the roof. It is so wonderful to not be on our feet all day. 

   
    
    
 

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Palermo, Sicily

Sunday, March 13Being in Palermo is like being in New York — a big city filled with non-stop people and lots to see and so you walk and walk and walk and your feet get tired but you keep walking because there is another piazza or spectacular church to see. And everywhere you go, there are shops to look into and people sipping espressos and children playing soccer and old men walking arm and arm strolling the city or hanging out in square, another alley to look down, another palazzo to peak into. 

Palermo is not like Paris, Rome, or Florence; there are museums but there are no must-see ones like the Louvre or the Ufizi. Instead, the art and history are in the architecture and churches. For Americans and more so Americans who are not Catholics, the number of churches and their place on a travelers’ visit list is sometimes hard to understand. Until the Enlightenment in the mid 1700s, the church was the center of religious, cultural, and intellectual life. Artists and architects showed off their talents in the churches; the rich showed off their wealth by supporting those churches and having special chapels built in them. 

   
  

  
 

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Cycling in Sicily, the Baroque Southeast

Monday, March 7I am back in our room at the Hotel Posta in Siracusa on the island of Ortegia. What a treat to return to the same hotel for two nights in a row and have a room to return to. The hotel has a little bar, so I ordered some tea and now have my feet up resting. Traveling is such hard work. Or at least the kind of traveling I do where new days bring new sights and experiences and streets and neighborhoods to discover. Richard is out exploring so I have some time alone. 

We finished our bike tour yesterday, our fifth day of cycling about 50 km a day (30 miles) , not really much if you are an experienced cyclist and you are going out for a weekend ride. Here in Sicily, though, there has been so much to see. Each view and turn has brought us different scenery, geography, architectures, agriculture, and cityscapes; each meal new cultural interactions with restaurant staff and fellow customers and new foods. In addition to cycling, we were stopping regularly to walk through towns, nature reserve areas, and along beach fronts. And then there are regular espressos to be had.

Our bike tour was a self-guided tour. That means that bikes were delivered to us at the start of our tour, hotel reservations were made for us, someone drove our luggage ahead each day to the next hotel, and we were given a route to follow. There was no guide and no fellow cyclists, just Richard and me. Compared to the Adventure Cycling maps I used last summer or even just any of the cue sheets that fellow ride leaders in Athens create for our weekly rides, the map and directions were laughable. Before we left home, I had received a PDF narrative of the route description that I had to print out. I assumed we would be given a cue sheet on arrival but instead just received a photo copy of a not-detailed map with the route highlighted in different colors for each day. The road names were not marked and the turns not totally discernible. Still we did fine, with the help of my $30 AT&T passport data plan that allowed us to stop and check directions on Google maps. And the route itself was absolutely wonderful with well chosen towns and cities to pass through and incredibly beautiful landscapes. We road along the coast for three days. For whatever reason, I hadn’t expected the coast line itself to be so breathtaking. The highlights of the trip were supposed to be the Baroque towns but the water and coastline were just as special.

Here is a list of the towns and destinations we’ve visited so far and perhaps a few notes with each: (boldfaced means that’s where we stayed)

Comiso – Flew here from Milan. Much more interesting and charming than expected. And of course, there was Marco, our hotel owner, who was so helpful picking us up from the airport and driving us to Palazzo Acreide the next day. If I had it to do again, I would have has us stay in Comiso another day to rest from the plane trips and missing out on so much sleep.

Palazzola Acreide – Small Baroque town. Stayed here on day 2 in Sicily and received the bikes at the hotel we stayed at there. Lots of the towns are Baroque because they were ruined in a 1693 earthquake and then rebuilt in the Baroque style that was popular in that period.

Giarratana – First espresso break of the ride. Nice little town. Not a tourist town at all.

Ragusa Ibla — Next incredible Baroque town rebuilt after earthquake. Made the mistake of having a beer here two-thirds of the way through the ride. We had been riding through valleys and then up into towns on high points and getting used to our bikes. The beer was too much for my still fatigued from jet lag body. No more beers after this during bike rides. Ragusa Ilba felt more like a movie set than a real town. Very beautiful though.

Modica – Were we stayed on our third night in Sicily. Loved Modica, even though we were very weary when we went out walking and couldn’t find the restaurant recommended by the Rough Guide and Ettore. It was closed for a break when we finally did find it. But produce store vendor suggested another and then came after us down the road in his little tiny truck to make sure we found the turn. Modica was built on hills with the main drag running horizontally through the center. If you turn left or right off the main street, you are walking up a hill. 

Scicli – Another Baroque town, this one featured in the Italian TV episodes of the Inspector Montalbano mysteries. I look forward to viewing those episodes, subtitled of course, once we find out how to view them. We wanted a light lunch here. In the main square, Piazza Italia, a pizzeria had rolled its front gate mostly down but the owner saw us looking for something to eat and opened it back up for us. We had spent the morning exploring Modica so got to Scicli late.

Pozzalo – From Scicli, we dropped to the southern coast of Sicily and road along the water to Pozzalo where we stayed the night. The winds were very strong, about 25 mph. Fortunately, they were mostly at our back and so we moved quickly, all of which was extra helpful since we had gotten such a late start on the day. This was the second day of bike riding and our third in Sicily. We were more tired than we expected to be, between the normal traveling/jet lag fatigue and riding 30 plus miles on bikes that weren’t sized specifically to our bodies as our Georgia Cycle bikes are. The result of all this is that this was our grouchiest day. Pozzalo is a seaside city that thrives in warmer months. Somehow I had expected the small cities on this southern coast to be tackier and smaller than they actually were. We loved Pozzalo. As we have learned, a few interactions with friendly Italians or fellow travelers creates very warm feelings towards a place. The owner of the restaurant we ate in, a Sicilian who had spent 30 years in Argentinia, turned on his charm with us and made sure we had the best to eat. We are suckers for charmers like him. 

Isole delle Correnti 

Pachino

Portopallo     

Marzamemi

Riserva Naturale Orientata Oasi Faunistica do Vendicari

Noto

Fontane Bianche

Faro Capo Murro do Porco

Siracusa / Ortiega

We ended our bike ride on Ortiega, the island that is the oldest part of Siracusa, a city that was originally started by the Greeks several centuries BC. We stayed another night there and then traveled north by train along the coast to Taormina, a high-end tourist destination, the Riveria of Sicily. This town is high on a cliff above the sea with a Greek Temple that opens to the sea and a view of Mount Etna. We stayed at a very reasonably priced and special B and B run by Rita and her husband. After one night in Taormina, we got a four pm train to Palermo where dinner prepared by Francensca at our AirBnB place awaited us. The apartment room is just across the street, literally, from the side door of the train station. Besides a delicious home-cooked pasta dish, there was wine, dessert, and a glass of grappa for us before we headed to bed. 

Our days are packed with experiences and visual delights. I started this blog post on Monday and I’m finishing it on Thursday, sequestered in our room with shutters protecting me from public view. Ours is a first floor apartment in the middle of city of a million people. Richard is out walking again. I wanted some time to finish this blog post. We are in Palermo for four nights. How I relish the idea of not changing rooms and getting to know one city for three days before we head off on Sunday to Morocco and Anne and a whole other experience.

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Day 1 – Finally in Sicily. 

Arrived to our hotel, A Mo Casa, in Comiso, Sicily — a former NATO air base town and site of many cruise missiles, now demailitarized. Marco picked us up at airport and brought us to his lively B & B. Times to catch up on sleep.

The view from our room.   

 

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