This morning Dan went on a two and a half hour ride. When he got home, we were raring to go and see the Giro D’Italia come through our own little town. We had lawn chairs. We had beverages. We had our t-shirts, hats, clappyflappers, cameras, and children. We jumped in the car and rumbled down the hill to the 175 km to go mark. And there it was.
BUT the roads were still open, no one was congregating to watch, and Dan felt a little bit like we could do better. So we rolled down the road into the next little town where there was a feed zone, or not really a feed zone but a bottle zone. We thought if we camped out at the bottle acquisition zone, we’d be likely to get tossed a bottle or something like that. So we figured out a great place to park, determined that the roads would be closing in ten minutes, and there it was.
BUT Dan wanted a diet Coke and a newspaper, so instead of parking safely in our perfect spot just by the feed zone, we jetted off down the road to an Alimentari to find these things. They didn’t have them, but there was a spot just 1 kilometer down the road, a Tabaccheria that would have both, we were told. Now it was only ten minutes until the roads were CLOSED and we would have no choice but to stay where we were when that happened, as the Cabinieri were out telling people where to go. So we jetted off in the wrong direction, with Dan hollering that we had plenty of time, made several more stops and acquired an official guide magazine, which had all the information that we needed for the rest of our lives, and then zoomed back to the feed zone where we parked next to a bus stop just in time.
The bus stop provided us with ample shade. We set up our chairs. We watched the advertising caravan go by. We watched the team vehicles and official vehicles. We watched the racers. We yelled and screamed. Then it was over. We had accomplished it. I said to Dan that this was probably the easiest and most relaxing time we’d ever spent watching a bike race in Europe.
AND YET. Somehow it felt anticlimactic. We had this glorious plan to go home and eat lunch, then go to the lake and swim, and have this luxurious easy day, but then something happened. The sign that we’d wanted to grab as a souvenir, the sign that announced the bottle zone, was snipped off the lamp post and confiscated by an OFFICIAL CAR from the race itself. Now you should know that they don’t do this at the Tour de France. At the Tour, they leave all the signage in place and the locals or the fans or the gremlins that live under bridges descend on that signage – the flags, the arrows, etc – and they take it home. It’s their right, their destiny. Of which we were ROBBED by these tidy Italians with their wire-cutters, who snipped down and made off with *our* signs right before *our eyes*.
Suddenly, we had accomplished nothing.
Look, I said to Dan, pointing to the route in our handy magazine we’d acquired at great risk to our freedom on the road. If we drive on this red road right here, as fast as we possibly can, we can get ahead of the Giro, camp out a sign, and get it before that guy with the snippers gets it. Dan did not have to be asked twice. We jumped in the car and fled for the red road, whatever it was. GPS was useless in getting us to Lavis before the tour, but somehow we muddled along with the map in the magazine and by flooring it and taking some blind turns, we ended up in Lavis with plenty of time. We parked on a side street perpendicular to the route, about a hundred meters away from the Carbinieri that was stopping traffic. After high-fiving and locking up the car, we headed down the road to look for the first turn, where there would be signage.
As it turned out, the first turn was 1.5 kilometers down the road. The Giro was making a pretty straight shot through town. However, committed as we were to snagging a sign, we trudged on down the road to the first roundabout where there were two signs. Benny and I stood next to the first one, and Dan and Sadie crossed over to camp on the second one. There were lots of other people around, including one guy who was actually leaning on the sign post, but they weren’t sign contenders. I felt like we had it made.
The riders came along soon after, first one group of 12 and then the rest of the pack. Benny was jumping up and down and yelling, doing his usual big cheering section, and one Garmin rider dumped the rest of his water bottle over his head and then threw Benny the bottle. Which was AWESOME because in Asson during the 2010 Tour de France, a Garmin rider had tossed Benny a bottle only to have it snaked by some guy who found it in the bushes before we did. This time, Benny was all over that bottle as soon as it touched the ground, and he was lofting his prize before all the riders had even passed. YAY!
Dan and Sadie snaked their sign, Benny and I snaked our sign, and we were off back to the car. There was a lot of triumph and victorious behavior on the walk back. We felt we had really “done” the Giro at this point, having seen it twice in one day, and having two awesome signs and a rider’s water bottle – what more could we ask for?
But that’s not the end of the story, of course. You’re ready for the complication now, right?
On reaching our car, Dan began to search for the key. The key to this Peugeot is a little black rectangle. It has a button on it which releases the actual metal sticking-out part of the key, but in its dormant state it’s just a black plastic rectangle, light as a feather and small. Dan could not find it. At all. The kids and I waited by the car while Dan went back over the whole 1.5 kilometers (there and back) that we’d walked, searching for it. He returned without the key, and spent some anxious minutes on the phone with Peugeot, with Open Europe, with who knows who, trying to get advice on what to do. He thought it might have fallen out of his pocket when he took his camera out to film the riders going by. But he wasn’t sure.
The phone’s best advice was that we should rent a car, drive back to Levico Terme to the house where the other key was stowed, drive back to the other car, blah blah blah. There were also trains and buses which some or all of us could take back to the house to retrieve the other key. The problem is that the car wasn’t exactly parked in a space. It was sort of parked up on the side of the road. When the Giro is coming through town, this is acceptable behavior, but as the day wore on and everyone left the area, we were worried that they would tow our car while we were going back to get the other key. Plus, what a pain in the ass.
We used some of Dan’s data roaming to get Google to tell us there was a car rental place about 1.5 kilometers past the roundabout where we’d watched the race. We figured we’d walk back to the roundabout, and if we hadn’t found the key we’d walk the rest of the way to the car rental place and try to convince them to rent us a car although our passports were at home. Remember, originally we were just going down the hill, and only using the car because we had lawn chairs! We trudged along down the busy street, now full of traffic where before it had been all full of anticipation of bike racing action, and no one spotted the key, although we went slowly and looked carefully. We reached the roundabout, reached the exactly sign post where Dan had snaked the sign, and still no key. At the base of this signpost was a clump of thorny flowers. I just despaired, thinking that if the key had fallen in there we could be three hours looking for it and still not find it. It is a pretty crap feeling to be locked out of the car without passports in a rural area in a foreign country, where you’re pretty sure no one is going to understand your explanation, and no one is around to help.
Then I looked up at the hotel whose parking lot we were standing in, and I asked Dan if he thought maybe someone had found the key and turned it in at the hotel. He and the kids went inside while I kept poking around the thorny flower clump. When I had given up and gone in to meet them, they were coming out, asking if we should get gelato to celebrate: THE KEY HAD BEEN TURNED IN. Well we had a celebratory round of gelatos for the kids, red wine for me, diet Coke for Dan, and the kids and I sat at the hotel’s outdoor café while Dan walked back again (he did that down-and-back three times today!) to the car, got in it, and drove to pick us up. It felt awesome just to get in the car.
Back in Levico Terme, we went home and ate lunch, fresh insalata and leftover pizza, and then loaded up the car to go to the lake we had heard so much about. We first stopped at the grocery store and loaded up on non-refrigerated supplies, and then drove over to the Lago Levico, which was a beautiful mountain lake. The kids spent a happy couple of hours swimming, playing with and feeding the ducks, and in general just letting loose.
By eight o’clock we were home and I was cooking tortellini. I sent the children outside to play the violin, and there was soon an audience from the surrounding buildings – people were out on the balconies, standing on fence lines, and a whole crowd of rowdy teenagers were standing on a staircase up to the next street above us on the hill, applauding madly and urging Benny and Sadie to play more, more. When Benny had played all the way through book 6, with Sadie interspersed between songs, he played a lot of fiddle tunes, and then they finished up with a Twinkle duet before I made them come in and take baths. As they were leaving the yard, the people were yelling “Bravi, Bravi!” and one lady from one of the apartments next door was calling “Ein mal! Ein mal!” It was a great charge for the kids, and had them happily chattering their way into bed.
Today was supposed to be a down day. But at least all of the laundry is now dry.