The wheel that turns does not rust

Day 343, Messina, 21.567 km

While searching for a title for this article, I come across this « ancient Greek proverb »: « The wheel that turns does not rust ». Yes, but as far as I’m concerned, it tends (spoiler alert!!) to break. Yes, after the spoke-problems during the first part of my trip, after a wheel change that I thought was going to solve the problem for good, after a tour of the Iberian Peninsula without any problem, my rear wheel, which turns a lot and indeed doesn’t rust, breaks again… And as the first repairman I showed it to said: « New, New ». Basically, I have to change it… Damn Vietnam… That wasn’t its war either…

I suspect something in Naples, as I realized a few days ago that I had cracks on my rear wheel rim. I don’t know where they come from, I wonder if it’s not the « repairer » in Florence who did it while straightening it, or if it’s the fact of having ridden with loose spokes… Anyway I’m watching them carefully and it doesn’t seem to evolve much… So far so good… The start from Naples is again atrocious, 30 kilometers of town, in the middle of a merciless fight between cars and scooters for the road supremacy, difficult for a bike to exist in the middle of all that (and to survive at the same time…). Especially since the first 15 kilometers are on cobblestones. Great! Next time I’ll take a bike with suspension… just to be able to get out of Naples… But then, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed (maybe that’s a bit strong, not convinced) by the Italian coast so far, but this time I got my money’s worth with a superb road along the cliffs that takes me to Vico Equense and Sorrento. I even have, after a nice climb in the middle of a hot summer, nice views of the island of Capri in the distance. Then comes a last turn, and Capri is gone…

Vico Equense
Sorrento

I start then what my aunt described as « sporty but so beautiful »: the Amalfi coast. Indeed, it is sporty. It goes up a lot, it’s very hot, and moreover there are a lot of cars, which don’t always wait for the best moment to pass me. But beside that, the landscape is splendid: a road that goes up in twists and turns on the edge of the cliff, small colored villages that appear at the bend, perched on sheer mountains, small pebble beaches, and turquoise water, almost transparent at times, it is superb!

After Salerno, we’re back to a more classical pattern: kilometers of beach, parking lots, hotels, bars and campsites. And flat, which is a good configuration to finish the day. On the other hand, while checking the state of my wheel in the evening, I realize that one of the cracks of the rim has grown and that one of the spokes is out. Not good… I spend a good half hour trying to fix it, repair it, tighten it, but I feel that it’s beyond my abilities as a mechanic, I’ll have to go and see a repairer tomorrow…

I find one that seems promising on my way, but he has the audacity to close between noon and two. So I hurry up, and enjoy the beautiful views of the sea, of the beautiful villages perched in the mountains or of the same mountains that flow into the sea, and I end up arriving in time at Marina di Camerota. The place I find looks more like a garage, but there seem to be bike parts in a corner. I ask. They tell me in a mixture of Italian and Spanish that « No, we can’t do that. Go to the next village ». First attempt: fail.

Then follows a big climb, but no sign indicating a pass at the top: it seems that for our transalpine friends, 8 km of climb at 6% average does not deserve such a distinction… Then a nice descent to Sapri. This time the store looks more like a bike store as we imagine them, and the mechanic comes to me, looks at my wheel, and says « New, New ». Ok. « Do you have the parts? – No sorry – You know where I can… – No sorry, goodbye ». Cool. We move on. Second attempt: fail. Fortunately there is another repairman in this small town. This one takes a look, goes back to his store, comes back with a new wheel. Gives me the price. Changes the wheel. 14 minutes 30, everything is fixed. I am so relieved that 1. The wheel didn’t collapse under the weight of the bike on a downhill, causing a spectacular and dramatic fall and 2. I didn’t have to order the parts and wait 2 weeks for them to arrive that I feel like growing wings and exclaim « Grazie due mille!!! « . The joke works, I get a smile from the man who offers me two tubes of gel for the road!

I leave with my brand new wheel, and I ride along the Maratean coast (not sure if it’s an official name, but it’s not far from Maratea so we’ll say it works too): it’s almost as nice as the Amalfi coast, it climbs just as much, but it has the advantage of being much less crowded (for the first time in a long time, I ride to the sound of crickets, locusts and other pedals squeaking) and a little bit more wild. Superb!

Moreover I find the perfect place for my bivouac: at the edge of the beach, well sheltered from the wind, and even with a shower! It allows me to finish the day in the water and start the next one with a little swim. A treat! I then follow the « Strada dei Sapori del Medio Tirreno Cosentino », which Google translates into « Strada dei Sapori del Medio Tirreno Cosentino ». It is flat. Mountains on the left. The sea on the right. Straight ahead. Not a shady spot. For more than a hundred kilometers. It is also very hot. Around 11 am, my legs are cut, I wonder why I am doing this. I sweat faster than I drink, I drip everywhere. But I go on anyway. And the temperature eventually drops. I stumble upon the small town of Tropea while looking for a supermarket to improve my dinner with cheese, beer and fruit. Lots of tourists. And with a very nice beach on the edge of the cliff. And a few kilometers further, I find a parking lot with a beautiful lawn, overlooking a beach: perfect! On the other hand, swimming without being able to rinse yourself afterwards: bad idea, don’t do that at home, the night is extremely unpleasant afterwards…

Tropea
My little private beach

The next day, objective Sicily! In spite of an early start, it’s already very hot (28° at 8:30 am) and moreover it climbs and I get a flat tire in the first 10 kilometers: a day that starts well! But after that everything goes well, I even have some clouds in the heights that give a little freshness, the road ends up going down, and the prospect of a short stage gives me wings! Going down to Bagnara Calabra, I have my first glimpse of Sicily in the distance. And at Scilla, the island is so close that it seems possible to go there by swimming (or at least by pedal boat). The temptation is great but I decide to continue to Villa San Giovanni to take a ferry.

Scilla and its beach
Sicily, so close
Jay and Bob are on a boat, who falls in the water?

After a smooth crossing, I found my hostel without any difficulties, and make a small tour of Messina before finding a small restaurant to recover from my emotions. I even have time to be blinded by the statue of Poseidon. Literally…

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