This morning started early for Dan, at 4:30, a bit later for me, at 5:30, when Dan left the hotel room to ride the Nove Colli. I couldn’t fall back asleep of course, being worried about his safety and all, so I got up to surf channels and try and find any possible TV coverage of the event. What an adventure I had, sifting through all the channels of Sky TV. Italian kids’ TV, Fox News, porn, Iraqi TV, a Tunisian soap opera, Hustler, BBC, something called “Easy Baby Channel” and something called “Lady Channel,” and no Dan on the TV. I sat there reveling in the hotel WiFi, assing around on Facebook, and flipping channels occasionally. My fun channel-surfing ended when Benny woke up, however, because I couldn’t be quite sure that any of the channels were safe. We decided on a channel meant for kids which had shows Benny found hilarious, like an English-teaching show where a woman was chanting about big horses and small horses. Eventually Sadie got up too, and they watched a rowdy version of Pippi Longstocking in Italian.
Armed with towels and wearing swim suits, the children and I went across the street to the beach. The beach was lovely, with chairs and umbrellas set up to match each hotel along the street. I sat in ours for a while, and then went and stood in the water. The children reported that the water at about 50 meters out was colder but crystal clear, and Benny bemoaned his lack of goggles. After playing on the beach for an hour or two, we wandered back to the hotel to fall into the pool. Actually I stood on the wall and watched the riders coming in from the shorter route version of the bike event. There were lots that looked half-dead, panting their way to the 1km mark, but there were lots that looked fresh as a daisy, singing and bellowing and making much of themselves. Dan’s ride had not yet begun to finish, he was doing the 200 km and apparently it took them longer.
After the pool, I showered up the kids and we went down the street to find a good place to watch Dan come in. The children were so famished and I was so desperate for coffee that we picked a little pizzeria and sat down to wait. I had figured he couldn’t possibly come in before 7 and a half hours, and yet as we sat there, he went zooming by! I was so shocked I could barely yell for him. After he had checked out and turned in his chip, he came back past, and joined us for pasta and diet Coke. His time ended up being 7 hours and 18 minutes, which was good enough to put him well into the top 10 percent – a very excellent result.
While we were sitting there, Sadie noticed a little bird hopping around, not able to fly. She and a woman from another table shepherded it into a bushy area, but it was clear it was a baby bird and had fallen out of its nest. The trees above us were huge and high – how it survived the fall was beyond me, but as soon as Sadie determined she could pick it up and hold it, I knew our goose was cooked. Then the restaurant proprietor started talking about the cats that live nearby. Yes, I am telling you that we took that bird back to the hotel with us. And put it in a croissant box with some hay and one of Sadie’s t-shirts. And took it on the road with us to the Dolomites! Crazy, but what can you do? We had a full, long discussion about how baby birds that fall out of the nest *die* reliably and totally and that it is very very sad but that is reality, and that the best we could do would be to save it from being eaten by a cat, and give it a friend until it died. She agreed to these terms, and named it Cheerio.
The bird was able to eat moistened bread and drink water off our fingers, and hopped around enthusiastically and even chirped once or twice. Who knows what was going on inside its little body? I do know that it was getting showered with love and affection from two little people who adore animals and have soft, big hearts. And that it was living in a croissant box inside a Pinarello bag. Classy digs for an orphan sparrow.
We began the drive north, into the Dolomites. The terrain over here on the east side of Italy is very agricultural, more like fruit trees and rows of crops, and less like grapes and olives, although there were still some grapes about. We saw big stone farms that looked ancient, and also some modern farms. Then the mountains. These mountains are huge and erupt very suddenly out of a flat plain. We first saw them as gray shadows far in the distance, and then they were there, huge and strange, in front of us. It was a bit like driving toward Grenoble from the west, but even more abrupt. The Dolomites are less austere than the alps, more otherworldly, but some of the steep roads and crazy switchbacks we encountered almost laid me out.
Finally, after dark, we reached Levico Terme and our house. We even managed to contact the landlord, who showed up to let us in at 9:00 pm, speaking mostly German which we surprisingly managed pretty well. The house is not beautiful – it’s heavy on the tile floors and bare walls, and light on the ambience. However, when you think of what’s right outside the window, it’s pretty awesome.