Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Children Go Riding

Giovanni came to visit  a few years back and we rode around the Lower keys and walked the beaches and checked out the sights in Key West, including the sunset celebration.
We  grew up together, his father and my mother knew each other all their lives and it was natural that we went riding our mopeds together as teenagers and spent our summers playing cards and exploring the countryside before he went back to the city and I went back to boarding school in England.
Now he is a well respected cardiologist, a husband of 30 something years, a father of two and a busy man all round. His patients rarely leave him in peace. 
 So when we plan a moped ride as adults we build in pauses for coffee and telephone calls, wherever we go.
He has a sweet tooth and his wife cooks too.
 Our mopeds have grown in cubic capacity too.
He has the touring BMW 1200 and I ride a borrowed sports BMW 1300 KS. His bike is far more comfortable but we get to cruise around together as old men, and that's what counts.  
This year we only got one day ride in, traveling a few hours south of our home base of Terni into the mountains of south central Italy. I like riding in Italy as motorcycles get right of way. It's such an enjoyable change from the US where only California allows lane splitting and where in Italy speed limits are suggestions and as long as no one gets hurt you can pass where you have a line of sight. At traffic lights we ride to the front of the line and get a head start on the cars which yield to the two wheelers unlike the US where car drivers who don't know how to pass on two lane roads get aggravated by hose who do know.  
 This year I have to say I saw a lot more distracted driving in Italy, my wife speculated that cell phone use, totally illegal behind the wheel, has become common practice. I gave them lots of room to weave and stall and act like they were all drunk. Cell phones in cars are a universal problem apparently.
The other thing that is rather disturbing in Italy is the terribly degraded state of the roads. Back country roads can harbor all sorts of truly astonishing third world surprises, deep holes, trenches ever, steps in the asphalt and gaping holes everywhere. Coming across them by surprise is nerve wracking.
 Parking is a premium problem in Italy so don't be surprised if you don't get much room. We came back from lunch and Giovanni's mirro had an inch of clearance from a late arriving car:
"I know this restaurant," he started our planning process after we had decided to head south. Yes, it was good, but most  places are in Italy. They cook to order, use fresh ingredients and don't franchise a good idea.
It was hot and we ate well and sat around talking for a while. Giovanni is trying to help his son get work and that's not easy in modern Italy where work is hard to come by.
 Hot and shady and lovely views.
 Giovanni riding.
 Me giving my impression of the hunchback of Notre Dame, given the crouched riding position...
 Giovanni likes paper maps.
What countryside we had available to us! This kind of riding fulfills me such that when I get home I am content to ride straight and flat for a while.
 Cool mountain air and winding roads.
It's been about half a century of spending days together on two wheels. I hope there are a couple of decades left to do a little more.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


It has been great fun hanging out with Rusty since I got back from Italy.  24 days away and him always on a leash with his guardians and he was glad to see me and go back to being a little bit wild in the Keys back country...
Seen here resting on Blimp Road after seeking out iguanas which creatures annoy him.
Master of his domain, in this case Blimp Road. 

Impromptu water fountain:

And when he's not feeling wild Rusty is quite happy to be a civilized dog-about-town, seen here on Duval Street. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Family Ties

Visiting my sisters in Italy usually ends up being a series of meals and conversations, reminiscences and this year the suggestion was that this could be a place to spend my retirement. The suggestion surprised me.  My wife (on the right below)  immediately grabbed that idea and ordered Italian courses from Amazon to get ready for 2021. My own approach toward a European retirement evolved rather more slowly.
It is said we tend as human animals to end up where we started yet I had figured I might avoid that fate as rooted as I am in the New World after 35 years away. And yet...and yet.  My sisters have made friends with an old friend of mine , my former band master now an 80 year old parish priest and amateur historian...
Don Mario even threw his oar in telling me our old town band was reformed and they need a tuba player. Of course he said, he would be happy to warm up my old double B flat bass for me.
I find it ironic that they want me back so much and it is interesting that I find the prospect quite enticing. For the first time in my life I felt as though I had a family to belong to. This in addition to my other sister, the English-speaking half who lives and farms in Scotland who is keen for me to drop in. So now I'm figuring a trip to the Far North of the British Isles to see what's what. 28th of April is my next flying date, this time to London and then on to Rome.
Mine was not a happy childhood, my parents fought and in so doing drew lines in the sand that split us children and failed to show us a united front to face the world. I guess it's true, time can heal a lot and even though it seems to be at the eleventh hour this summer I found my family again in Italy.
My eldest sister has two sons and the eldest of them has two children so the family is securely anchored on the farm and they have embraced me, the mysterious Uncle from America who was away all their lives. Furthermore my wife who speaks Spanish and now understands a little Italian communicates with them as though she had known them all her life. The boys speak fragmented English as my sister passed on a little of her heritage, that part of her which grew up in England, and this mish mash of communication seems to be enough for everyone to be understood.
I never wanted to be a farmer and when I ran away to California I made quite a few people mad. But water seems to have flowed under the bridge enough that I can return, a prospect I never even contemplated for a minute until this past summer. The place has it's advantages...
 ...pastoral serenity...
...and someone else to look after the cattle, no farming for me thank you:
Don't forget the winding mountain roads free of traffic and tourists and police and and speed traps, right outside my future front door, if I so choose:
 And in retirement the motorcycles and the time to ride them:
My long time riding buddy Giovanni to share them with me:
And innumerable wooded walks to share with Rusty, as well as my brother-in-law's dog who likes a good romp of her own with me:
Miles and miles of trails that I haven't walked since I was 20:
I am thinking about it, and it could work. I like the food and the wine...
 The motorcycling heritage:
 The abundance of fresh fruits and cheeses:
 Locally made of course:
The history:
The culture:
 The landscapes (Google Map Morre, Terni, Italy):
 The company that will come to visit, including Kristi and Mike from work:
 The get togethers::
 Rome is but 90 minutes away:
Umbria is renowned for its meats and truffles:
 Orvieto Cathedral 40 minutes from my sister's house:
 And sights worth seeing all over the place:
 All properly aged by thousands of years of Roman history:
And though it gets cold in winter I know how to deal with that. Lots of people already do:
Life may well go full circle.