Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Running Away from Rome

I remember at my Nana's funeral my cousin delivering a eulogy that included the story of the time my youngest cousin ran away from home and my aunt said 'go ahead, see if I care' knowing he was doomed to failure. He rode up to my Nana's house and was greated with lollies and cake until he eventually returned.
Somehow I feel people have been more complicit in my quest to cycle Europe than that, in some way thinking what is impossible was possible, maybe each just saw one piece of the puzzle I was trying to obtain and assumed I had all the rest.
I assumed I had when I walked in to pick up my new bike and had remembered to ask for tire irons.
This seemed like the work of genius to me as I changed my first punctured flat later that morning. I got lost on the Tiberus, at one point thinking, 'hang on if I'm going the right way, which I must be I followed the signs, then why is the Tiber flowing the wrong way' one half hour unnecessary detour later and I was on the otherbank heading away from the vatican, and at last the romantic rome faded to industrial rome, to military bases to ring roads and countryside.
And I followed a sign that promised Firenze and soon found myself on the Autostrade, despite the police not bothering to stop me or even honk, I determined I wanted to get off the ring roads, and eventually found some small lanes. I decided to track the highway in its approximate direction.
But it seems truly all roads do lead to rome, the only rode map I had was of the major ones so I spent a further three hours trying to find a path that didn't lead in a big pointless loop back into Rome with no turnoffs along the way even going so far as to take a path that was just pebbles hoping I-d cross some farm and hit, a country road and be on my way.
When the pebble track also looped back into Rome I gave up.
I had an impromptu picknick eating my preserves of water and biscuits and thanked my foresight in having a low GI breakfast.
Frustrated and defeated I contemplated my options. I had by justification of spotting sheep and people in funny hats, seen the Roman countryside, and striking out through the suburbs from the city had shown me 'real' Rome so in that regard it was a success.
Still trying to cling desperately at positives I thought, well I've tested the bike and my gear and it ll works, its just that the fucking roads don't.
I had called my bike Rosante, after Don Quixote-s mount and just like Rosante it seemed that its owner was stupid, short sighted and an embarker on fruitless adventures.
I had burned the ships so to speak and even if I gave up and sold the bike, I would still be stuck lugging the ungainly touring packs that sit on the bike rack around the rest of Europe.
So I just peddled back into Rome, and since my map of inner Rome only covers the tourist ghetto I became lost in Rome so as another positive true to my original plan I had set out on bicycle early in the morning, and had spent an entire day cycling.
Only to arrive three blocks from my origin at Terminus station, but very good exercise nonetheless.
So I bought a ticket for me and my bike and caught the train to florence taking comfort in the word-s of John Cleese 'Brothers don't be discouraged, One total catastrophe like this is just the beginning!' and I shall I vow try again, maybe florence to Pisa will be more friendly than the nexus of the universe which is Rome.
I am going to look for some roadmaps.

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