Gear Change Up

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Pedal pedal pedal.

Up to the top of the road, and if the road doesn't read the top, then you go till the road dissolves into broken pavement, and then you go until the road dissolves to gravel and you can go no more.

Up all the way, up 40 meters to the next switchback, turn, and do it again.

Up to the town of Breglia, which was obviously built before the invention of the bicycle. Had it been built afterward, they would have put the town somewhere else. It's too hard a ride.

Up and over the cattle guards. That's dangerous and tricky at slow speeds.

50 meters, switchback. Stop, throw up. Get back on. Gotta be almost there. This time the road seems to go straight up and into the mountain, and the only way to keep the cranks going is to stand and put all your weight into each stroke.

Up to a dip in the road. You have to worry about having enough speed to get through. Throw the bike left as you pedal right. Vice versa. Over and out and upward and onward.

Switchback. Start counting pedal strokes. Promise yourself to count to 100, and if you aren't there yet, you gave it a good try, and you can go down.

33, 34, 35.

Only in a stupid sport like cycling can the burning in your legs start in your stomach and end at the tips of your fingers and toes. Stop here, but it's not 100 yet, so gotta keep going.

98, 99, 100.

Ok, 100 done. If you can do 100, surely you can do another 10.

Or another 358, until 468 pedal strokes later you skid to the side of a switchback wondering what the hell were the Romans thinking building this road. How did they manage to lead civilization for so long and build crappy roads like this?

One more shot. Crank once, crank twice, and finally get enough speed going to get the cranks around. Pedal pedal pedal. Switchback. Up another 30 meters, where the road turns to broken pavement. And the pavement turns to gravel.


Friday, August 25, 2006

I can't believe the news today.

Pluto is no longer a planet.

Can they do that?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Rules of Engagement: Italian Produce Shopping

1. Don't touch the fruit.
2. Wait in line to be served.
2a. Don't try and budge the all the old ladies in front of you, even if you know you can take them all.
2b. In case they try and start something.
3. Have 47 different fruits and vegetables on your list.
4. Need all of them in large quantities.
5. Discuss every single individual piece, slice, or leaf of produce you are considering purchasing.
5a. Consult all the people you are shopping with.
5b. Consult the woman authorized to touch the fruit.
5c. Consult all the people standing behind you in line.
6. Bargain if bruised
6a. It never hurts to try.
7. When satisfied with your collection, gaze at the fruit for another 20 minutes.
8. Return to your real life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How do you know your bike mechanic is Swiss-Italian?

He'll fix your chain in five minutes flat.

Then he'll try and make out with you.

Everyday is a winding road.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

August 15

I go up to reception at my hostel...
"Hello, I was wondering if you could direct me to a supermarket around here."
"Ah, yes! But today, it is closed! is like Sunday." Sunday..."A holiday?" I ask
"Yes! That is the word!"
"Oh, ok," I said. That explains why everything downtown was closed up and everyone was out on their bikes. Good to know. "What are we celebrating?"
"August 15th!"
"August 15th?"
"Yes, it is a big holiday."
"Oh...okay." I jump on my bike and head into town, making a mental note to ask someone else what holiday it is.

At the tourist information office...
"I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of an internet cafe:"
"Ah, yes! But it is closed today! It is a holiday!"
"Oh, right! What are we celebrating?¨
"August 15th!"
I give a blank stare.
She stares back.
"That's it?" I ask
"It is the same holiday they celebrate in Italy. We just celebrate it here too."
"Oh! Okay, I get it. And what are they celebrating?"
"August 15th."
"August 15th?"
"August 15th."
"Anything specific about it?"
"What's that?"
"It's the halfway point in August."
"Anything else I can help yith you with?"
"Um...nah never mind. Thanks for your help."

*Howdy is my greeting of choice in situations where I 1)Don't know what language is supposed to be used, or 2)Know what language is supposed to be used, and know that its not english. The use of the word "Howdy" as a greeting establishes a few things:
1. I speak english
2. I am American, and therefore somewhat helpless in my current situation
3. I am friendly, polite, and completely harmless.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Welcome! (Willkommen! (Bienvenue ! (Benvenuto!))) To Switzerland!

The first time you step over the Swiss border is a uni-linguists' nightmare:

I grabbed my USA Today and headed for the kiosk cashier
"Bonjour," I said. "No...wait..."
"Hallo! Wie kann ich dir helfen? "
"Uno S.U.A. oggi?"
"Um...and a Coca Light."
"Quello sarà 7.40, prego."
I dig through my new assortment of colored bills and decide to pay with the orange one.
"Et 2.60 est votre changement. Merci et avoir une bonne journée !"
" thanks."

What the hell.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling

Dear France,

It's called Air Conditioning.