Rainy birthday, happy birthday!

Day 367, Faenza, 24.766 km

While looking for a title for this article, I realized that the theme of rain was often present in the choices I had made so far, so the reference will be (very) discreet this time… Anniversary then! The most perceptive among you will have already noticed that the day counter has exceeded 365… Indeed it’s been exactly one year and two days since I left Hamburg. One year and two days I’ve been wandering around, wherever the road takes me, wherever family and friends call me… It’s gone by so fast, and at the same time so much has happened that it would be enough to fill ten years… And Bob is a year old too. After losing his voice when we came back from Spain, he is now starting to have white hair (I guess for a plastic dino, one of our years is equivalent to 80 of his…). And even if the reference is discreet, we’re going to talk a little about rain too…

When I leave Pescara, I turn my back to the sea and go inland, towards the Gran Sasso national park. The sky is gray, I vaguely looked at the weather forecast the day before and it seems that thunderstorms are announced. And they do come as advertised. I bragged so much about not having seen a cloud for more than a month, about having left the rain at the top of the Izoard, about my 30° average temperature, it had to happen eventually. And at the beginning I am almost happy about this little shower. It doesn’t last, the sun reappears immediately and I am dry twenty minutes later. I had called rain a plague for cyclists, but I changed my mind since then… At least that’s what I think… And the first climb to Brittoli, not too steep, is perfect to get my legs ready. Easy.

We then begin the serious stuff, with the climb towards Castel del Monte and the Vatico di Capo la Serra. The sky is covered but it does not rain. On the other hand I hear the storm rumbling not too far away. I hope that it will stay on the other side of the mountains, and that my path will rather move away from it… Hope is beautiful. A little before the summit, it starts to rain gently, and as it is also a little cold (I am almost at 1.600m of altitude), I take out all my rain gear that was rotting at the bottom of my bags. The views of the valley, of the village of Castel del Monte and of the surrounding mountains are magnificent, and in spite of the rain I am enjoying it…

Castel del Monte
Il Monte Bolza
All the way up…

On the descent, I try to look everywhere at the same time and to fix all these landscapes in my memory, so I’m not 100% concentrated on the road. I take a turn a bit fast and I end up on the ground. Ouch. Strangely enough, no scratch (I will realize while taking a shower a few days later that yes, there was indeed a scratch, but nothing dramatic), nothing broken on the bike, I get out of it for a nice scare that will follow me in all the downhills on wet road that will come… Then comes a beautiful valley, which except for 3 campers and a few herds of sheep and cows is completely deserted. The view on the mountains, even if a little hidden by clouds and spoiled by the rain, seems quite incredible…

It’s been 2 hours since I’m under the rain, and as the temperature is below 10° I start to have difficulty to stay warm. I take a little break under the awning of a refuge and realize that the lake I was planning to reach in the evening to sleep is much further than I imagined. And the rain doesn’t seem to stop… Too bad, I stay there, the awning will allow me to dry my stuff and to leave tomorrow. Wishful thinking…

The next day, I am awakened by the noise of the rain on the awning. It makes me want to stay in the tent and go back to sleep… Luckily, by the time I have had breakfast and packed my bags, it is not raining anymore! I had asked for a dry start, I got it! The sky is covered, the top of the mountains is eaten by clouds, but it doesn’t rain. I start with a little climb to the lake of Campotosto as an appetizer (fortunately I didn’t get stubborn yesterday, I would never have arrived before night), decide to go around it and then change my mind when I realize that the road I wanted to follow is almost only along a power plant. Good choice! 

The rain had left me almost alone since the morning, it makes a return in force and noticed! Water showers are starting to fall. At the beginning it doesn’t bother me too much, I still hope it won’t last, and I’m also on a rather downhill section of road, I’m riding fast, and I know that a climb is coming soon to warm me up. I also discover the joy of the cars that overtake me when the road is soaked: in addition to the water that falls from the sky, it’s as if each driver throws me a bucket of water when passing. Very pleasant. And not a single one would pretend to slow down or apologize. We all have a good time together! From Amatrice, I notice ruined buildings along the road. Some are also reinforced by beams and cables. After Arquata del Tronto, they are even sometimes whole villages which seem destroyed. The results of the 2016 earthquake are still clearly visible…

The church of Piedilama

I am still climbing. Under the rain. I guess the landscape must be beautiful, but I can only catch vague glimpses of shapes. It is a little like watching a comic show in a language that one does not know. You know that something funny has just happened, but the essence of the joke is missing. And the rain redoubles of intensity. I try to make some photos, but I give up rather quickly: in addition to not being able to make the touch screen work, I am afraid to completely drown my phone. The road continues to climb. It’s getting colder and colder. And I’m getting wetter and wetter. Bikers passing in the other direction are waving at me. Nice. I somehow start to hate the people who pass me, in shorts and t-shirts in their heated and dry cars… I feel that the landscape is changing, it seems that the mountains are more steep, the chasms deeper. I try to take a mental picture of the landscape but as I write these words it is already half gone… And the wind starts to blow. From the front to increase the strength of the rain. Sideways to push me from one end of the road to the other. And not even a nice view to convince myself it’s worth it.

As I descend into the valley, I’m glad the headwind is slowing me down, I still have a painful memory of my fall the day before. I tell myself that at the next shelter I find, I stop. The next shelter does not arrive before 25 kilometers. Ah Ah Ah. I have time to go up to the village of Castellucio, where all the places under the awnings are already taken, to go back down to the valley, to climb a new pass and to go down again. The descent is this time in the fog, with about 33 cm of visibility. And the road is soaking wet. Not great. At the bottom of this one, I have the pleasant surprise to find water, a roof, and even to feel the rain decreasing. The sun even makes an appearance, I start to dry and to tell myself that if it goes on like this, the day will not have been so bad. The time to finish this thought, crack, huge shower. I’m soaked again in less time than it takes to write this. Great. I take advantage of the next lull to pitch my tent in a field (on a slope) and take refuge in it…

The only picture of the afternoon

The next day, it’s the sound of rain on the roof of my tent that wakes me up. I make it last as long as possible to avoid going out, but at some point, I have to go… I leave at 8:11. At 8:13 I am soaked to the bone. It will be a nice birthday! A short refreshment break in Matelica (I think that a certain metal band must have been inspired by this village for its name…) and the rain stops. I’m wary, you never know what the sky has in store for you… But it finally holds, and I ride up and down, pretty little villages perched on hills, and beautiful views on fields, forests and mountains…

Sassoferrato
Urbino

I start the last climbs of the day to San Marino, with great views on the surroundings. A little bit of side wind on the descent, not very reassuring when you go at more than 50 km/h, especially when there is nothing but steep walls on the right and left of the road and no barriers… I meet another cyclist, on an electric bike, who does part of the final climb with me. Even if the shortness of breath doesn’t make it easy to talk, it makes the hardest part of the climb go by in a pleasant way! San Marino finally arrives, one more country to add to the list! Even if it was crossed in 33 minutes…

Welcome to the land of freedom, but don’t forget, you are being filmed!
Monte Titano

Short stage to finish the journey to Faenza, I start by making a detour to Rimini. Bad idea. The seafront is so full of umbrellas and deckchairs that you can’t see the sand or the sea. Too bad. I then take the Via Emilia that should bring me to my destination. I follow the signs, so well that I end up on the highway. Again. And this time I don’t want to stay there too long. I take the exit that should bring me back to the Via Emilia. As if by magic, I’m on the highway to Rome. Great. It’s under construction, so the truck behind me can’t overtake, a traffic jam starts to form. And the exit I have to take is blocked. Great! I turn around in a hurry (don’t do that at home, it’s rather dangerous…) and end up back on my little road, straight ahead, that goes to Faenza… Apart from that, nothing to report…

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