Day 13: Chieri to St. Christophe (139km, 1215m)

We woke up early and ate our anemic breakfast. Not waiting for breakfast enabled us to pack, get our bikes, and get on the road by 8:00am. We asked for directions from the woman receptionist (well, she was actually arranging the breakfast table --- we were that early), and she pointed them out on the map for me.

Riding out, we found the traffic surprisingly heavy --- until I realized that it was rush hour. As was usual with Italy, there were sirens of ambulances rushing from one place to another as the inevitable recklessness of Italian drivers took their toll. We turned off the main road pretty quickly (at the sign for Baldissero) and started to enjoy reduced traffic, along with a few hills. Riding along the Italian countryside I found much beauty in the scenery , marred with an occasional curse as yet another Italian driver buzzed me at too great a speed too close for comfort.

Finally, we reached the top of our local hills at Baldissero, and started a long speedy descent. The road was narrow, steep, and had a surprising amount of traffic but I felt completely in control. At one point I squeezed into a 3 foot gap between a speeding oncoming truck and the side of the road, negotiated a hairpin, and came out the other side pleased with myself. I was much less pleased with myself when I realized a couple of hairpins later that Mike, who was right behind me, was no longer right behind me. I stopped, parked my bike off the road way, and contemplated the situation. The traffic kept speeding uphill, so I guessed that any possible accident had to be relatively small, or there would be a massive traffic backup. Not even Italians would be so callous as to run over a downed cyclist, would they? I waited a little bit more, and just as I had concluded that indeed, Italians would run over downed cyclists if it saved them 3 seconds, Mike appeared. His bike seemed fine, but he was bleeding from the elbow.

I clucked at the wound and gave him my waterbottle to clean it up. There was a first aid kit but it was deep inside Mike's saddlebag. We were near the next town, so I opted to ride down the rest of the hill and sure enough just before the intersection with the main road to Gassino there was a pharmacy. We walked in and got ourselves an antiseptic spray (which I used liberally on Mike's elbow), and some gauze, which we used to mop up the wound. "Did anybody even stop?" "Yeah, the driver of the truck you dodged stopped, but I sent him on since I didn't think anything was broken." That made me feel better. "Was this your first crash on the road bike?" "Yep. My first crash on the road bike. That's why I was so shaken up it took me awhile to get on the bike and get back down. When I fell and got up, I knew I couldn't get on the bike right away, so I checked the bike thoroughly and caught my breath."

We kept going for a little bit more along the main road, but I spotted a supermarket and stopped. We went in, bought bananas, saran wrap, and Mike got out the first aid kit. I cleaned the wound again, wrapped Saran wrap around it (though not without struggling with the packaging at first --- Italian saran wrap is really really thin!), and then wrapped a gauze bandage on the outside.

We got back on the road again, and rode on without further incident, turning across the bridge into Chivasso, then turning off onto the less busy streets towards Montanaro, Foglizzo, Montalenghe, and Romano. Navigating through the city streets and getting us as far away from the main roads as possible while still generally headed towards Ivrea. Away from the big city of Torino, and away from rush hour, traffic finally dwindled down to just a handful of cars per hour, which is about as much traffic as I felt comfortable with in this country.

Near Ivrea, we stopped to get on the main highway, and once again, motorists behind us honked and yelled obscenities at us, demonstrating their impatience. I have heard there are folks who spend their entire vacations cycling in Italy. Maybe one of them will write me and explain that it's just Piedmont Italian drivers that are bad. In Ivrea, we stopped at a fast Pizza place and ate a pizza and ice cream. There was a pharmacy across the street and we bought sunscreen, and Mike went to a Bancomart to get more cash.

North of Ivrea we started heading towards Settimo V , the descent into which I remembered well from my tour 2 years ago with Lisa. Once past Settimo we would now be in familiar territory, and I would no longer have need to consult a map. We stopped in Montesanto to refill water bottles and take salt pills to prepare for the 10% grade over the next section. Being on a single this time, the grade wasn't as bad as I remembered but the 3 tunnels on the descent were much worse.

As we pulled near Aosta (509m), I suggested that we stay at the first town before Aosta, rather than Aosta proper, since I remember the traffic in Aosta being rather bad and I wasn't excited about the city itself. Mike was initially resistant, but as the road windened and advertisements for McDonald's became more and more prominent he began to turn around.

We stopped at a roadside hotel to ask the price --- the lady wanted 50Euros, but I had questions about how quiet the place would be. So we kept riding on, and on a hunch I turned right up a hill at a sign that said St. Christophe, and there were indeed 2 hotels about 30 meters up. We stopped at the first one, where the manager made fun of me for not knowing Italian, and showed me a lovely non-smoking suite for 50 Euros. We took it.

I could tell you that things went smoothly after that, but that would be a fairy tale. This is Italy! Mike started with a shower, and I told him to scrub himself thoroughly. He took a long time taking a shower, so I assumed that he was being extra careful. When he came out, I re-did his bandages and saran wrap, but he said, "The water pressure's low."

Well, I know what to do about that! I went downstairs and complained to the manager. He came up, along with a mechanic, and together they looked at the state of the faucet and the shower. The mechanic said something to Italian to the manager, and the manager looked at me, and shook his head, "The town's water is dead. No water for now. It'll come back in a few hours." So there I was in Italy, having ridden 140km, and there was no water for a shower. But at least the view was nice!

I hung up the damp clothes to dry, and sat back and contemplated the changing light outside. Sure enough, at 6:30, the water came back on, and I quickly took a cold shower, determined to get clean before the fickle municipal authorities changed their minds. Clothes washing followed, and with the wind now blowing I hoped things would dry by the morning.

We walked around what little town there was looking for dinner. One was a hotel with a menu that did not look at all appetizing. Another was closed. That left our hotel, which had a menu that looked good. We went into the restaurant, said hi to the staff, and sat down, but nobody seemed to care that we were there. One of the staff started setting tables that were unset, but we looked like the only customers there, so I felt like I was in a kind of twilight zone.

Eventually the hotel manager came by, and told us there was no menu today, and that we should be happy with spaghetti and a salad. That sounded good to us, so we agreed to have whatever he was willing to give us. The spaghetti was indeed very good, and we quickly mopped up any leftover sauce with bread.

I asked Mike if the trip had been what he'd expected, and he said that I had told him to expect 60-80 miles a day, and it had been right on. He knew that carrying a load up mountains would be hard, but he didn't expect it to be as hard as it had turned out to be. "I learnt a lot on this trip," he said in such a way as to say that he would contemplate doing his own trip in the future.

The "salad" turned out to be a meat dish, though what it was we didn't know. It might have been veal. We didn't ask any questions just ate it. We asked for dessert, and ordered tiramisu, which was also good. Having had a satisfying dinner, we went up stairs to take pictures from the hotel room, rest, and reallocate what we were carrying. Mike was going to return from Martigny to Zurich to fly home the next day, so if there was anything I wanted with me, I would have to move it to my saddlebag.

I gave Mike the French Maps and French OCD guide while I took the Swiss Maps and Swiss OCD guide. I took the shampoo bottle and the spare tire. I wondered if I would have any use for the tire, but convinced myself that it was one of those things that was nice to have. Mike's tubes were unpatched, so I traded my patched tubes for his new ones.

Up: Contents, Prev: Day 12, Next: Day 14