Thank You, Sponsors

Thank you, all of those contributed to sponsor me for the MS 150. You are a WONDERFUL group of people and I really appreciate your support. Because of you, I exceeded my goal of $1,000 to achieve a grand total of:


Your donations will help fund research and provide assistance programs for those living with MS in Ohio.

Click here to view the honor scroll of sponsors.

Another Successful Bike to the Bay!

Me and a friend at a rest stop (Mile 83)

Some Background; Or why this ride is so important to me.

This is my sixth year participating in a MS 150 bikeathon — my fifth year with the NW Ohio Bike to the Bay. I did one Great West MS 150 (Colorado Chapter) in July 2004 before I moved. When I started this ride in 2000, I only had a mountain bike — a Gary Fisher Gitchagumee my husband had bought me for my birthday the year we were engaged. All I had to encourage me was a dream. Sure, I thought, I could do 75 miles. I could do anything.

In those days, 75 miles was an excruciating venture. First off, my husband and I only toodled on trails. We were the typical 10-15 mile riders. Secondly, as many of you may know, a mountain bike is not built for those kind of miles. It didn’t take me long on that first MS 150 to notice that most of the other bikes were passing me quite readily, that every revolution of their pedals had twice the power as mine. Still, my brother and I completed the 75 miles of the first day of the 2000 MS 150 in about 10 hours. We bailed on the second day. I had never been so tired in my entire life.

But I was not daunted. My brother and I returned in 2001, even with the death of my husband still two months fresh, and completed the 50 mile route on both days. My husband had registered for that ride as well, so I suppose we felt we had to finish it for him. I then took a two year hiatus as my personal life went haywire for awhile and I ended up moving to Colorado in 2003.

Through it all, I continued cycling. And the obession grew. Once in Colorado, I purchased a hybrid and was readily impressed with its obviously superior speed to a mountain bike. I could now complete longer rides with more realistic expectations. I began riding my bike to work — 20 miles each way — three days a week. I completed a metric century (62 miles) at a popular ride called Elephant Rock, and then a month later participated in the GW MS 150 where I completed the entire first day’s ride of 75 and 45 miles of the second day. It was the hardest ride for me ever… but typical of Colorado with long climbs and harrowing descents. I was proud to have just completed the first day.

Still, at this point, I’d never completed both days of an MS 150 and it daunted me. When I moved back to Ohio in August 2004, I set my sights on the NW Ohio ride again. I knew I could do it this time since it was flat. I had to conquer this beast.

The 2005 MS 150 started off promising, despite the heat. I completed the first day’s 75 miles in about 6 hours and was, surprisingly, not as much pained as I thought I should be. I could have done the second day no problem had I not had a fight with my ex-boyfriend who had stayed at the overnight camp with me. I should have just let him go home the next day and done the ride, but I was so flaming mad at the time, I couldn’t muster the strength. Of course, now that would have given me more reason to ride, as I often channel my emotions into riding. I might have made record time!

2006 was my golden year. No boyfriend and, unfortunately, no friends to meet me at the Saturday finish line to go to Put-in-Bay with me. It was because I had no distractions, however, that I was able to channel my inner self and concentrate fully on the ride. At the 15 mile point in that ride, where the century route and the traditional route diverge, I was feeling great. And, even though I’d never done 100 miles before, I got in it in my head that I just had to try it out. So I went. And — may wonders never cease — I completed the ride in about 7.5 hours with a 14mph average. My knees were in more pain than I’d ever felt from a ride, but otherwise, I was surprisingly robust. I went to Put-in-Bay with some girls I met on the ride who were (ironically) from Colorado and hung out with them for awhile. On the Jet Express back to the main land later, I was alone, and I felt elated. That was the longest ride I’d ever done! And I didn’t feel dead!

I then proceeded to force myself on my bike the next morning. It was hard work, but since I knew I’d gotten myself up to ride that 45 miles the second day on the Colorado MS 150, I knew that I could do it. And I told myself as I painfully set my butt onto the saddle, I was NOT going to let myself quit this time. I had to complete this ride, to do or die. I would take my time, I told myself. If I had to, I’d stop at every rest stop until I could muster the strength to continue.

The happy ending here is that, as painful as it was, I completed the ride. It was a glorious moment for me crossing the finish line to the cheers of the MS 150 volunteers. They didn’t know it, but I was more proud of myself at that moment than I’d ever been. I’d finally conquered a two-day ride, the MS 150, my pet cause. At that moment, the ride became my favorite ride of the year.

This was also the last long run for my hybrid. This ride and many attempted rides with the Akron Bicycle Club convinced me that I’d outgrown the old hybrid. It was now time for me to graduate to a full-fledged road bike. I’d found my passion, my drug. I had to indulge.

A few weeks later, I purchased my first road bike (excluding the 12-speed I owned when I was 12), a Giant OCR 1. I loved this bike the moment I tried it. It fit me like — to beat a dead metaphor to death — a glove. The Giant and I became great friends instantly. I was able to keep up with the ABC on their Thursday evening rides. My whole world changed. In October, I completed my second-ever two day ride — the first annual PVG tour sponsored by Hubbub Custom Bicycles (see the Upcoming Rides link list at side of this page).

Truthfully, my love of cycling can really be traced back to my childhood… But that’s another story all together…. maybe another time… The point is, my obsession has been slowly building over the last 6 years. And it all began with the MS 150.

The greatest thing about cycling is that its my own. When my husband was alive, he got me into hiking and backpacking. Together, we were members of the US Highpointers Club — a club where its members strive to climb the summit of all 50 US states. Dont get me wrong — I still love this hobby as well. And I will always love hiking, camping, and backpacking (especially “roughing it” in the woods). But these were things my husband brought to me. Cycling was always my idea. Cycling was something I built into an obsession in the aftermath of his death. It gave me focus, it helped me deal with the pain. I am sure had my husband not died, cycling would have still consumed my life… and he may have joined me, or he may have supported me (as he always did). But cycling is, and always has been, mine. It feels good to have something you know is uniquely yours, something that you discovered yourself. Especially in the aftermath of loss where it’s sometimes really hard to seperate the individual from the duality that was yours… (I’ve always described losing a spouse like trying to learn to walk again after a leg has been amputated.)

Enough about the history… Now to the MS 150 2007…

This year, I officially signed up for the century route. Technically, I am signed up for both days of the century, but I told myself I only needed to repeat what I did last year, especially since that had been done on the hybrid. The little cocky road cyclist within me sniffed indignantly that there was no way I’d let a hybrid outshine my road bike. So I knew that I had to at least repeat the effort of 2006.

Saturday started off a little chilly, but this was welcome because the last two years had been pretty hot and sunny. I felt excited as I stood at the starting line for the mass start. There was energy in the air. I’m going to kick this hard, I thought, ignoring any warnings friends had given me earlier in the week about moderating my speed. After all, this is Toledo — flatland. I’d already ridden about 650 miles of my 850 this year in the hilly terrain of the Cuyahoga Valley. I was in better shape for this ride than I’d ever been previously. I was salivating. I could really do this. I was aiming for a 16mph average (since last year I completed it with 14 on my hybrid — surely my road bike would make that much of a difference.)

Of course, I always seem to forget about how windy it is in Toledo. But I obviously needed the sobering up. =)

At the 15 mile mark, I took the century divergence without hesitation. A group of cyclists made me feel a part of the century club by talking me into riding with them in their paceline. Ha. That lasted about 20 miles. They were averaging “only” (quoted) 18mph. I could keep up with them, but I realized quickly that I would not last 100 miles doing so. I’m not quite yet ready for pacelines. Riding really close to other riders like that kind of makes me nervous. I still haven’t quite figured out where I need to ride in order to ride in their “draft” either. Perhaps I need to read this article by Fred Matheny How to Ride in a Paceline. They need classes on this stuff!

(I got invited into a paceline that seemed to be moving my speed on Sunday as well, but I shied out. They told me I could keep up with them, but I didn’t believe them after my experience on Saturday.)

Well, what fun is it anyway, if I am not doing all the work? I won’t be able to eat as much when I finish! =) I bike to burn calories, too!

Anyway, at the lunch stop — which was 55 miles for century riders and 35 for the traditional route — I felt phenomenal. I remembered that last year I’d come into lunch feeling a bit downtrodden because I was starving and physically exhausted (maybe in part to due to the heat). The adreniline was soring through my veins… Finally, I’d done enough riding prior to the MS 150 that I felt good and not exhausted at 55 miles. I was so excited that I texted my friend, Diane, who was meeting me later for wine at Put-in-Bay (as part of the ride, I get a free Jet Express ticket to Put-in-Bay).

I stayed at the lunch stop long enough to eat and get a picture. Then, I was back on my bike. A few roads with a nasty headwind later, I was starting to feel a little bit of the burn of cycling. By the time I hit the rest stop near mile 83, I was about ready to be done riding. Of course, because suffering is a part of this sport I love so much, I was not about to quit. It was just noteworthy because I realized that my level of tolerance has significantly risen (it used to be around mile 50 where I was ready to be done).

The last road to the Port Clinton High School finish line follows Route 2. It’s about 3-4 miles of what had to be the windiest part of the entire day, which is universal justice when you’re on your last drop of energy. I was taking this road at a depressing 13-14mph… But I knew I was almost done.

When I crossed the finish line at the high school, I checked my computer to find that — low of all lows — my mileage was only 99.71.

“Hey!” I exclaimed in my silly voice to the volunteers who cheer you at both days’ finish lines. “The century is only 99.71.”

The announcer volunteer laughed and mocking repeated my statement into the megaphone. I briefly contemplated riding around the building to make up that .29. But the spaghetti dinner was calling me from the cafeteria. And a shower. And I was going to have to put up my tent. Since the check-in table is right at the beginning of the finish line, I dismounted my bike to check-in. But that 99.71 kept flashing glaringly in my mind’s eye.

So I rode up to the lawn where everyone assembles their tents and then down to the bike coral on the baseball field. 99.84.

My stomach growled. I left my bike at the baseball field (the designated bike coral) and proceeded to the cafeteria where I munched heartily on my meal. I mixed the brownie dessert with vanilla ice cream… after 99.84 miles, you deserve a brownie sundae.

I assembled my tent and was laying on the floor inside it, contemplating a shower, when my friend Michael called. “Don’t tell me you just left that at 99 miles,” he taunted me. “You can’t do that.”

This from the guy who once suggested we ride around an extra 2 miles at the end of a 60 mile informal ride to make it a metric century. Of course, I had agreed to that game too. I mean, you can’t have an uneven number, right?

Damn it. So, of course, once I showered and my friend Diane arrived to man my camera and commemorate the moment, I got my bike out of the coral and road around the entire high school once and back to the coral, making it 100.44 miles.

You know… it’s my ego and guys egging me on that always has gotten me into trouble… it’s the same thing that always causes me to do shots of tequila… Ugh! I’m so suseptible to peer pressure. Especially when the peer pressure involves me proving myself to — not my peers — but myself. Because it really did urk me that the century was not a full 100 miles. There has to be other riders who did the same thing as me… right?! C’mon, someone out there, admit it!

My stats for Saturday were: 100.44 miles, 6 hours 23 minutes, and 15.6mph. Although, I’m holding my average in question because the Max stat read 60mph, which is impossible going down the sharpest hill in the Cuyahoga Valley; therefore, definitely impossible in Toledo where going down one of their bumps, I can barely get up to 25mph. I don’t know where that weird max speed came from, but if anyone knows of weird things that affect wireless bike computers, please let me know!

Well, anyway, Diane and I went to Put-in-Bay to enjoy some wine at Heineman’s winery. We enjoyed a bottle of Riesling and a cheese plate. Some drunk people who could not get any more wine down gave us the last 1/5 of their bottle of Pink Catawba (which I would not, in proper wine company, be caught dead drinking) which amounted to a glass for each of us. Then, the Heineman’s kicked everyone out because they were closing.

We just walked around for awhile and had appetizer’s at Mossbacks. We were supposed to leave on the 11:00pm ferry — plenty of time to get back to the high school for sleep. However, we arrived to a huge line and a lot of angry, drunken Put-in-Bay partakers. Apparently, the 10:15 ferry hit another ferry that was docking… and the result was that now only one ferry was running… and our 11pm tickets now equaled 12:15!!

I calmly watched as my hours of sleep slipped away… like sands in the hour glass… Calmly is the only way to handle these situations, since there is nothing I can do to change it. Besides, the drunken people around me were making enough noise and harrassing the Jet Express employees and PIB cops enough for all of us. Since napping in the line seemed like a bad option, considering all the drunks (and the cops checking on drunks who might mistake my sleeping for drunkeness), I just tucked in and accepted my fate.

Fortunately, the Jet Express arrived as promised at 12:15 so we were back at the Port Clinton high school by 1. Yeah. I knew it was going to be a short night. 5:45am would come too soon and too harsh.

From what I heard the next morning, many other riders were put off schedule. The people with 12:15 tickets were forced to exchange them for 1:30 tickets. I can’t even imagine how any of us who went to PIB managed to ride the next day.

But we did. Because we’re all troopers.

Thankfully, I think the sleep I did get was pretty heavy. Probably in part due to the glasses of wine. I woke at 6am feeling just as sluggish as I did on the second day of any two-day ride I’d ever done, so I figured I was good enough to go. Of course, planting my butt on the seat hurt like hell.

Sidebar: During this ride, I concluded that some day I’m going to start my own bike team and call it “The Sore Butt Society.” Wouldn’t that be awesome? Please dont use my idea. That’s (c) Mars Girl Empire, Inc., 2007 — thank you!

The wind was not as bad Sunday as it was Saturday; at least, it didnt seem that way to me. We seemed to have spent more time on roads that did not have a headwind. There were some roads where I was maintaining a steady 18-20mph average. But I was pushing pretty hard. I knew I was just doing 75 (which actually turned out to be 70) and I wanted it to be over.

Around 40 miles, though, I started watching for the 50 mile mark because I’d calculated that — according to my last known stats on this website — to be where I’d officially hit the 1,000 mile mark for the 2007 riding year. The actual number count may be slightly off given to some errors in collecting the precise mileage in Europe as well as some rounding I did on some rides I did on other bicycles (ie, a few tandem rides I’ve done).

For the sake of “official celebration” of this momentuous occasion (because I’ve never done this much mileage in such a short span of time), I decided to call it a sealed deal when I hit 50 miles. As I crossed this mark, I gave out a little triumphant cheer to myself that no one heard because I was riding alone at the time. I pumped my fist in the air once in the fashion of Lance Armstrong crossing the finish line (which is appropriate as I chose to wear my new Livestrong jersey). I wanted to stop and take a picture of myself at the exact spot where this moment occurred; however, since no one was around, I decided to just push on. Fortunately, a mile and a half down this same road was a rest stop. So I had someone get a few pictures of me there. Hey, I’m always a sucker for ceremony! Besides, for me, this really was, if only in symbolic gesture, really a big moment.

The rest of the ride was, to say the least, painful. But I slogged threw at my pace. I did actually realize that I was feeling much better than I did on the same course last year. I’ve really come along way.

As I crossed the finish line of the MS 150 for my second time ever, the cheers of the volunteers really meant something to me. I did it again. And it was for a great cause. If my grandfather could see me now, I know he would be proud. If my husband could see me now, he would be proud too, as he witnessed my struggles with the MS 150 in 2000.

My stats for the second day are my all-time best: 70 miles, 4 hours 25 minutes, 16.0mph. I reiterate that this could only happen in the flatlands (I suck up hills, even though I enjoy doing them). However, I’m still proud. I’ve come a long way, indeed…

A Much Abridged (But STILL Long) Account of Italy

Items Lost or Destroyed: Priceless

I-Pod Nano on Delta Flight to Rome. I stupidly left it in the seat pocket after the annoucement to turn off all approved electronics was made. Duh. Always listen to that voice in your head that says, “Hey, if I put this little tiny device into this big pocket, I’m probably going to forget it in the excitement of arriving in a foreign land I’ve never been to.” The voice is ALWAYS right.

Pair of Eyeglasses, lost in a hotel in Faenza. I wear contacts, but I take them out at night when I brush my teeth. I need them until I shut my eyes to sleep, or else I won’t be able to see anything in sharp detail that isn’t right in front of my face. I didn’t realize how much I relied those things until they are gone. No vision plan with my current company; therefore, I can add the cost of new glasses to the amount spent on this trip.

Circular hair brush. I didn’t realize I’d lost this until I was packing for home. I think I left it in the Florence hotel. Apparently my final sweeps of the room before closing the door the last time aren’t very thorough…

Sunglasses, broken. On my last day in Rome, the frame of my sunglasses broke. I tossed them in the garbage can in the Piazza di Repubblica (right in front of the “Fountain of Mythological Porn”. See below.) Fortunately, they were $4 sunglasses from Marc’s so I didn’t lose much sleep over it. Unfortunately, in despiration before the ABC Revere ride yesterday, I bought a $60 pair of sunglasses specifically for cycling. This would be the most expensive pair of sunglasses cheapo me has ever owned. I will cry when I break them. (You know it will happen!)

Misadventures and Curious Notes.
Rated PG-13: Not intended for audiences offended by frisky Venetians, Russians, Catholics, or Greek mythology.

Day One. Beware of Venetians Offering Unasked for “Gifts” . The ferry was crowded, so when a man bumped up against me and breathily said, “Scusa” after a nafarious chortle, I thought nothing of it. Everyone’s bodies were pressed up against each other in an all too cozy manner. But as the ferry began to clear, said man (let’s call him The Charmer) continued to brush up against me. I moved closer to my friend Holly, who seemed to give me a querying look about why I was trying to move CLOSER to her as the ferry was CLEARING. The Charmer continued to push into my back end. And I began to feel a kind of sly and slow rhythm to his “bumping.” I was mortified and embarrassed. Shock made me unable to move. How violating and unwanted! At each stop, I hoped he’d get off (the boat, I mean). When a spot opened up across from me, I rushed to it. I kept my eyes on the floor, embarrassed.

Unfortunately, now Holly, who had been in front of me, was in position in front of our The Charmer. I looked up at her quickly. I wanted to tell her to move because there was a perv standing behind her when, just at the moment, her eyes opened wide at me. She knew. I looked away, feeling guilty for sacrificing my friend to save myself.

Two stops later, I noticed a very busy section of town. I told Holly that this looked like a great stop and we exited quickly. “That guy was dry-humping me!” Holly exclaimed as soon as we were off. I said, “Yup. I know.” and shared my story. We laughed to relieve the tension. But one has to wonder what kind of pathetic life a man leads that his only source of sexual pleasure is bumping against chicks in ferries. Gross.

Still Day One, Language Barriers in Lido. I was reminded of the biblical story of the Tower of Babel as we attempted to chat at a snack bar with two Russians who could speak Italian and about five words of English (and none of them useful for conversation). Still, we continued to lamely communicate through nods, gestures, and lots of pointing until 4am. The shared enthusiasm for alcohol seemed to make the language barrier less of an issue as the night wore on. We eventually took to nodding and smiling and sipping our drinks. I think I came to fully realize why we have so many international negiotiation issues. Despite what they say, not many people in Italy had full command of the English language. I felt bad for not knowing Italian or Russian. Where’s the Universal Translator when you need it?

Fumbling towards Sainthood in Firenze (Florence). While oggling the Duomo on Sunday morning, we accidentally ended up in a line that we thought would allow us to view the dome from the inside…. and it did… during a Catholic mass (we wondered why the line was going in so fast!). Neither of us being Catholic (well, one of us not anymore), we were a bit embarrassed to intrude upon the mass. We were obviously tourists in our street clothes and my camera hanging from my neck. I felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Still, the mass was kind of entrancing, as the lighting was low and candles sparkled around the alter. Echoed Latin bounced off the enormous walls and I felt as though I’d slipped through some time portal into the past. I’d never heard a mass done in Latin — I just knew some phrases from when my mom would tell me about how she had to learn mass as a kid. The artistry of the Dome was stunning, self-illuminated it seemed in the dim of the massive church. Any other time, I might have found myself interested in staying because the mood was so soothing. But I feared I’d be discovered as a heretic, so Holly and I quickly exited.

On the cultural flipside, our day ended with accidentally ending up in a gay bar. At 10pm, in a partying mood, Holly and I roamed the streets of Florence trying to find an open pub that looked busy. We wanted to experience a little of the local culture and chat with some bona fide Italians (providing they knew enough English). This little bar had the most people in it. So we entered. It took me about five minutes of observing the decor to realize where we were. It really hit home when I saw a guy greet another guy with a kiss that was a bit too enthusiastic for a general Italian greeting. That’s when Holly turned to me and said, “I think we’re in a gay bar.”

We decided to hang around. After all, two women are safe in a gay bar, right? That thought came right before two guys started hitting on us. We promptly left.

Leda and the Swan: Revealed. So. What is the deal with the Romans and the story of Leda and the Swan? For those of you who are not Roman mythology buffs, Leda was a mortal with whom the god of gods, Zeus (or Jupiter for the Romans), fell in lust. So, of course, he has to have her since, well, he’s a god and he can have whomever he desires. But since he’s a god, he can’t just go ask her out on a date. So, instead, he decides he will disguise himself as a swan and seduce her. In Zeus-logic, this makes sense. From this blessed union hatched Helen of Troy — literally, from an egg. From a woman. Yeah. Where did they come up with this stuff? It’s a good thing they didn’t have television back then, that’s all I’m saying.

Anyway, any questions I might have had about how a swan and human being might comingle were answered MULTIPLE times in artistic depictions I encountered throughout Rome. In art, the encounter is depicted in almost graphic detail… Leda is usually naked, or almost so… with a swan between her legs… and her face is twisted into a look of surprise or euphoria (artist interpretation? Frankly, I would be a bit surprised if it were me, and then mortified… I might have preferred the company of our Venetian Charmer over a Zeus disguised as swan!). It made me scratch my head a few times… and think… um, gross. It’s funny, as well, because in college English class, we once read a poem about Leda and the Swan, and for about a week, my friends and I thought it was the funniest thing to say, “Quack” to each other to conjur the conversation in which we pondered the clearly odd circumstances of Leda and Zeus’ romance. We also wanted to know why it was being romanticized in poetry centuries later. Cuz, like I said — um, gross.

At first I thought the Fountain at the Piazza della Repubblica (which we dubbed “The Fountain of Mythological Porn”) was another depiction of the Leda and the Swan encounter. However, I’ve since learned that it was supposed to be the Naiad, which were some water nymphs of mythological origin. One of the young Naiads did seem to be enjoying the company of a swan, so I assumed it was the same thing… Still, there were very sexual overtones to that fountain. Check it out in my photographs…

So… my question is… why were the Romans obsessed with beastiality? No excuses for the fountain, as it was built in the early 1900s. But Zeus spent a lot of time seducing women as someone and something else.

Rated G. General Audiences — Small Children and Sensitive Pets

Venice Reflected. Our starting point of Venice was exactly what it claimed — a romantic city. If I had do to some serious romancing, I would definitely go there. It has everything a new couple in love would want — water on which to watch the sunset, gondola rides along the canals, and a very active night life. Yet, I imagine you could shuffle off to the silence of a hotel room for some alone time too. Of course, I can’t guess all the things you could do there if you were in love. I was there with Holly. Who I love. Just not in that way (despite ending up in a gay bar together).

Riding the Countryside. I cannot stress enough how GORGEOUS the countryside was. The best part of this trip was the smaller towns and the space in between. I loved every moment of the cycling. This is what life is all about to me — wandering vacant roads propelled by the power of my legs. It’s the most liberating feeling I know. The first four days were extensively flat, but sometimes with a strong headwind.

Days 1 and 2: Along the Adriatic Sea. One of the pictures that remains stuck in my head is the third day with the Adrianic Sea to my left side and a man-made irrigation canal on the right. I don’t think I stopped to take a picture that day because I, in the spirit of friendly competition, was too bull-headed to let one of my fellow cyclists (a pretty strong rider) gain on me. (The price of being too competitive.)

Day 3: Near Commacchio At 83km, this was our longest ride of the trip, but it was mostly flat. The highlight was swimming in the Adrianic Sea. However, the town we stayed in reminded me more of Florida than Italy — cheap souveniers and beach combers. Not that I dont mind beach towns every once in awhile… but I can go on a cruise to the Caribbean for that. I wasn’t much impressed with this town. It didn’t look like Italy at all, except that everyone spoke Italian. I suspect this is the sort of place Italians go for vacation.

Day 4: Ravenna. Well, I have to admit that I missed out on the museums and the mosaics here. We got in late in the day and I didn’t feel like scrambling. Holly and I parked our butts at a cafe and enjoyed wine and appetizers (free with the wine) at a cafe. It was a very nice looking town, though — one I’d like to explore again.

Day 5: Faenza.This was one of my favorite towns. And not just because this was the first place where we explored, as a group, an that’s an Italian wine bar (note that “enology” is the study of wine making and there is an actual degree in the art). We visited a ceramic factory in this town. Apparently, ceramics are Faenza’s speciality. I bought a lovely vase for my mom and a matching little box I put in my bathroom for holding rings. This was just a nice small town… and small towns are my favorite…

Day 6: Heidi’s Perfect Day. A long day of climbing towards and then up a pass into the Apennines Mountains that ended with me snoozing poolside at the destination hotel. Who could ask for more than a day of hard exercise up a beautiful and scenic mountain pass followed by a cold swim and a five-course dinner? I must admit that this was the only day I felt I earned the meal I ate.

This day started out with some pretty sharply rolling hills that needlessly psyched out several of my fellow cyclists who decided to take the train from Brisighella to the hotel in Borgo San Lorenzo. The rest of us die-hards continued on to eventually complete a 10K climb up a pass in the Apennines. The pay-off was a very scary at first, and then later scenic drop into Borgo San Lorenzo. This was the beginning of Tuscany, a completely different area of Italy than what we saw near the sea.

Day 7: Finally, Heidi Curses Out Her Bike and Swears off Cycling… For at least the next few days. The last day was another hilly day — sharper grade over less miles, it seemed. The drop into Fiesole, a town overlooking Florence, was breath-taking. Olive trees and mountains and just stunning landscape. Again, I don’t seem to have the words to describe it. At the end of this day, my enthusiasm for cycling had finally been worn to its limit. I was actually ready for a few days of being lazy in Rome. Little did I know I would be participating in a madman’s game of Frogger.

Synapsis. My favorite parts of the tour (which, by the way, was done by Experience Plus!, the best tour group I’ve used for cycling to date…) were the smaller towns of Faenza, Chioggia, Commacchio, and Ravenna. Florence was gorgeous with its larger-than-life churches. I’ve already provided my impression of Rome. I have to admit that the cycling tour was my favorite part of the visit, even though I had to go to bed early every night so that I could ride the next day. It was worth it.

Wine Tasting Neglected. I would definitely return to Italy. Next time, I’d like to explore Tuscany (by bike, of course). I feel I missed out on some of Italy’s finest wines because we were never really in wine country. I mostly drank their table wine (which was usually a passable Chianti). Besides, Tuscany is mountainous… and I’ve had a long love affair with mountains…

It’s really hard to summarize a two-week trip in this way. So, I’ll leave it to my photographs to show you what I saw, through my eyes, so to speak.

Have You Seen This Man?

The man in this photo would like it to be known across my meager internet readership that he is, quote, “quite single” and currently accepting applications/photos from young, single, and “hot” women. He can be located cycling around the Cuyahoga Valley with the ABC on a given Thursday night. Follow the distinctive laughter to the cyclist who will most assuredly be extolling the virtues of having only two front gear rings as he huffs up one of the many hills out of the valley. But if you’re cute and female, he might forgive you for having that extra gear ring in the front.

If your idea of a great bike ride is up hills or in a torential downpour, be sure to sign on for a ride lead by Bruce. He could always use a woman or two to counter-balance the quota of males who show up for his rides. So, please, girls, step forward and give this wingman his day in the sun. =)