Saturday, January 19, 2013

MILLE MIGLIA (1000 Miles)

Finally, Larry's in Ortigia/Siracusa (Sicily) but it was quite an experience this time getting down here. (photo is of some of our favorite candy available here) The plan was to pick up a one-way rental van at the airport, then drive down to our HQ to pick up our household stuff. The next day I'd drive for 3+ hours to a town north of Rome, put the van on the ferry and overnight end up in Palermo, only a couple hours away from Siracusa. That was the PLAN anyway! What really happened - left around 10 AM under cloudy, rainy skies in a battered Fiat Scudo. Folding the rear seats up allowed all of our stuff to easily fit inside, including a couple of road bicycles and other cycling-related stuff. Icy and salty roads caused lots of spray on the windshield and it turns out the windshield washer didn't work! It was full of fluid, except it was just water, so in the sub-freezing conditions ICE wouldn't flow onto the glass, meaning each time we'd get sprayed it was the Braille method until I could get to a service station and squeegee the stuff off! Things turned to merely rain on the descent near the Turchino Pass so the wipers did the trick from this point on. Down past the Cinque Terre, the Tuscany coast and northern Lazio the sun made bried appearances amid the showers. I was plenty early for the 8 PM ferry departure but around 7 PM (under pouring rain and wind) they said conditions were too rough for the voyage! They'd let me load the van and take my cabin but the ship wasn't moving until the following night. The van needed to be returned the next day and sitting around for 24 hours, especially when Heather was already down in Siracusa, just didn't make sense. 
Plan B quickly formed - in the same time I could DRIVE the van south to the "tip of the boot" Reggio Calabria and by then the seas should be calm enough for the brief ferry over to Messina, so off I went into the rainy darkness. Other than the ring road around Rome, the traffic was light and showers not too heavy so I made good time, following signs to Napoli, then heading to Reggio Calabria. The roads are mountainous from Naples south but I had nothing else to do, figuring I could use the jet-lag to help stay awake. Fueled by cheap chocolate (no reason to waste good European chocolate just for the sugar rush) and espresso I made good time until serious road construction zones, hail storms, snow and occasional sleet became the program.  Part of the drive was like a darkened parking lot with only reflective cones to tell you what lane to use - very challenging. So challenging a semi-truck just in front of me missed his lane and ended up on the wrong side of the road! I avoided following him into the opposing lane but did see him backing up as I went past on the "correct" lane. By this time a nap sounded good but with sub-freezing temps, sleeping in the van was not smart and taking a nice, warm hotel didn't make much sense either. Why toss and turn in a nice bed while worrying about all th stuff locked up in the van out in the parking lot? Once I was back down where the temps were above freezing (near Cosenza) I pulled into a truck stop, curled up into a fetal position and began a fitful sleep, only to be awakened by the racket of a intense hailstorm in a few hours! To be continued....

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