Whoever said that everything looks better in the morning has never had a seven year old daughter that rescued a baby bird which subsequently died.
Actually, that’s not true. Whoever said that was brimming with the wisdom of the ages, because everything did look better this morning. Bright sun, the most astonishingly clean air, and Sadie drifted out of her room reporting that she’d had a good dream about Cheerio and Giselle. She said she felt okay about Cheerio and was just glad they got to be friends for a while. Yay! No permanent emotional scarring. She is already planning her next baby animal rescue. No yay!
Dan sprang into the saddle and was off on a two hour bike ride, leaving the kids and I here to recover from all the excitement of yesterday. The children ate breakfast and lounged around on the one place to sit in this apartment: a burlap loveseat. I, having no place to sit except the kitchen table, decided to do all the laundry, even though I’m reading a really interesting book about church history, medieval hill towns, relics, and stuff like that. On my Nook, thank you very much.
There is no laundry facility in this dwelling, so I washed out all the clothes in the kitchen sink, which kind of resembles a laundry sink anyway. There was much toiling and sloshing and squeezing and whatnot, and eventually I got everything hung out on the folding clothes hanger thinger and the fence and a few lawn chairs. Dan got home, we all ate some lunch, and we set out for the time trial that was stage 15 of the Giro D’Italia.
Now there are a few things you should know before you read the next sequence of events so you can fully understand what happened. First, the children get carsick. They vomit, even. I know this. On the day that Sadie barfed on her outfit before we got to Siena, I promised myself I would pack a spare outfit for each of the kids and leave it the car. Did I? No. Second, back in the USA I bought and packed three travel size packages of Cottonelle wipes, for toilets with no toilet paper, and three travel size packages of antibacterial wet wipes for handwashing, as well as many little individual “moist towelettes” for general use. Did I have any of them in the car today? No. And did I give the children their Dramamino 30 minutes before we got in the car? NO!
Furthermore, the GPS was determined to route us to the finish of the time trial directly through the rest of the time trial, because she didn’t realize the roads were closed, so we had to actually look at a map and try and find a route that was not insane all by ourselves. Which we did not accomplish. Instead we took an insane route that had us curving and slicing up a mountainside through hill after hill of beautiful, luxurious, emerald green vineyards, past glorious little villages with domed bell towers on their mosque-y churches, and it was all so lovely except that 1. Benny was carsick. 2. Sadie urgently had to go to the bathroom. 3. We had no gas.
Not that I’m assigning blame, because I would never do that, but Dan is a person who 1. Does not believe in carsickness because he himself does not experience it and 2. Does not stop for gas until it is below a quarter tank. Ever. I can’t blame him for Sadie’s bladder. It was just a bonus.
In Dan’s defense, we did stop two times for phantom pukes, as Benny wretched into the ditch without result. And Benny was, immediately before vomiting, telling crass jokes and laughing. However, he decided to actually volcanically puke when we were spiraling down a hill, no shoulder at all to the right, and a bus coming at us from down below. Dan heroically plunged the car across the road and onto the left shoulder, where there was miraculously a pull-off. Benny, having bathed himself and the car in all the vomit he could muster, went and heaved some more into the ditch, and then pronounced himself done. Dan took Sadie up the hill to pee onto a tree, and I set about trying to clean up the vomit with – paper towels from the apartment? No. My thoughtful assortment of handiwipes? No. I had only a napkin from a set of plastic silverware, which almost instantly shredded in my hand as I tried to clean up Benny. You’d think I had never done this before.
Took Benny’s shorts off and beat them against a tree. Swabbed down the car with some broad leaves I found by the roadside. Wrapped Benny in my black scarf, sari-style, and put him back in the front seat. Sat down in the back seat to wait for Sadie and Dan to get back from peeing, and realized that the leaves I had been using to clean the car smell exactly like spinach. This, combined with the already nauseating task of cleaning up someone else’s vomit, led me to leap back out of the car and uproariously hurl out my breakfast of absolutely magical Sicilian tomatoes. Ping pong vomit, hallo, Venuto-style! It was a low point for us as a family, I must admit. We felt a little bit ground down under the heels of these Dolomiti. But we got back on the road. In a few kilometers, we had a gas station, were all able to wash our hands properly and get some paper towels to use on the car and child, and put some gas in the car. BACK IN BUSINESS. Later in the day, as we were going into our house and taking things in from the car, Dan tiredly said, “Here in the trunk I have the shorts Benny puked on and the shirt that Sadie wiped herself with.” It was such a gloomy declaration I had to laugh.
But back to the main event. There was still the minor matter of getting to the Giro D’Italia and the GPS was no help unless we put in all kinds of waypoints. Which we did. And eventually we found ourselves being dragged up the back side of Mt. Nevegal on the most appalling cow path you have ever seen, literally only the width of our car. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we soon entered a teeny little town that was not made for cars of any size, squeezed through the main street by sucking in our mirrors and holding our breath, and THEN we realized we had to make a sharp left turn. There was just no way, physically, to do it, without shearing off most of the car. I’m telling you your bathroom was much much bigger than this road. Your downstairs bathroom. We had to go turn around in the little square, and come back. That was a heart-stopping moment, realizing there really was no guarantee that the buildings actually were far enough for the car to make it through. We might have just wedged ourselves there, unable to even open the doors.
On up the cow path, we came to a more substantial roadway, and eventually saw people and cars congregating in a bike race fashion. That is to say that people were hurling their cars into the ditch and hiking away up steep hills. After passing one police checkpoint without being stopped, we began to worry that we wouldn’t make it much farther, so we parked on the side of the road and began to hike up like everyone else. Dan was deeply bothered by the fact that there were other cars still going on up, but I think we were both afraid we would be stuck up there with nowhere to park, and have to come back down. We were so recently traumatized by the experience with the narrow road, and felt like at any minute a stone barn and a sagging pizzeria might rise up from the roadsides and crush us. We hiked on until we passed someone coming down who told us it was 4 more kilometers to the summit. This caused Dan a lot of anxiety and I started to worry that we might miss the whole thing just trudging up these switchbacks and enjoying the fresh mountain air. It was really fresh. But we also wanted to see at least a few guys finishing. We knew they’d started going off at 1:30 and it was 3:30 and the route was short.
Dan ended up leaping back down the mountain like a gazelle, ignoring the switchbacks and hurtling straight down through the fields of wildflowers (can’t you just picture it?), retrieving the car and scooping us up moments later. We made it quite a far way up the mountain in the car before we were stopped by a polizia who told us to where to park. He thought we were French because of our French license plate, and we were able to hold a passable French conversation with him. Yay us.
Parked, we resumed our trudge, and it was a considerable trudge still up to the summit. But soon we started seeing team cars, parked caravan vehicles, and even an official Giro swag truck from which we bought a package of stuff including the precious silicon bracelets for Benny, a clapper thinger for Sadie, a t-shirt for Dan and a backpacker thinger for me. It was the perfect prize package for making it up that blazing, unforgiving hill. At the summit, we bought gelatos and ate them with absolute triumph as we realized that there were still 50 or so riders to come in, we found a great spot to watch, right on the rail, and I admit I punched Dan in the arm a few times as if to say “We are victorious over these circumstances.”
I love watching big bike races. Especially time trials. There’s a really festive atmosphere, everyone is yelling and cheering for every rider that comes across, and at this particular race there was a very friendly vibe. I don’t know what makes it psychologically possible for me to enjoy engaging in this particular mass behavior, when usually clapping in large groups makes me want to tear my skin off and fly through the roof, but I like it. As far as I could tell we were the only Americans there. We had no flag, no identifiers, and people kept trying to talk to us in Italian, French, and German. Whatever, I’ll take a crack at any of those languages at this point. Bring it on.
Our spirits revived, Benny in his sari and Sadie riding Dan’s shoulders in her pink outfit with her Giro swag, we watched all the riders come in. For the Italian riders, the crowd went absolutely nuts, calling their names and screaming and yelling, but all the riders got good applause and support. And all along the railing were amateur cyclists who had either ridden up the time trial course or up the back side of the mountain to watch from the summit, wearing all kinds of kits from their local teams to their favorite pro teams. It was a great scene, very fun. Lots of kids.
As Alberto Contador came through at last, wearing the pink leader jersey, with his helicopter escort and six police motorcycles, he was tearing it up in awesome style, and the cheers exploded. We took off down the hill with the rest of the bazillion people who had come up on bikes or on foot or in vehicles. Threading our way down through the team cars, the motorcycles, and all the mayhem was quite a challenge. We finally found our own car, got in, and drove home without incident.
Later, at dinner, both kids ate vociferously including Sadie, and after a hot bath, they went to bed gratefully. Winding our way up to our austere little home here in the mountains, we saw puddles on the ground and I realized that the day had one more thing to throw at us – all the beautiful laundry so carefully cleaned and so well baked in the sun all day was dampened by a shower – not soaked, but just damp enough so it could not be put away. I dealt with it. Tomorrow it will all be dry. And tomorrow, the Giro D’Italia comes right here, to our little town of Levico Terme, and all we have to do is walk down the street to see it. We’re going to take chairs!