A holiday in three parts.
Part 1 – bicycles, men in Lycra, good company, interesting debates and LOTS of good food and wine – after all, cycling is all about eating enough to keep your legs going round (or so a friend once told me).
Alistair left first. An early morning drive on Sunday to deliver him to Venice Airport. Having extended his leave pass from his wife and two daughters, adding some ‘father-son bonding’ time with Don to what was originally a business trip to a cycling trade show, he was probably stretching it to even stay with us as long as he did. The young one of the group – a mere babe in his forties – he added a sense on wonder at just to how these two old blokes (his dad Don and mate Gary), both in their mid 70s, could even climb these high mountains, sometimes even beating him to the top.
I really enjoyed watching his admiration of his dad, tempering the ever present frustration with some of Don’s annoying foibles…
That need to constantly revisit his obsession with investing in gold to hedge against world economic collapse, that drives Peter crazy, and the difficulty both Don and Gary have with “technology” – though we should all admire their willingness to persevere with iPads and cellphones, nevertheless.
Having travelled with Don before, I know only too well his fearless disregard for road rules. Many’s the time the group would return with hair-raising tales of Don shooting red lights or hanging over onto the “other” side of the road on the bends.
Don was next to go – his Wellington lady friend awaiting his arrival in Bolzano for dinner on Tuesday. We drove him through to Dobbiaco and literally PUT him on the train, juggling his bicycle bag, a large suitcase (Annemarie said he needed lots of posh clothes) and a backpack! No ticket, but there was nowhere on the station to buy one – suggested he find a ticket seller on the train! Presumably he got there…
Bonus discovery… A latteria (dairy, where they actually make the cheese!) in Dobbiaco! Peter and I stopped in for a wee tasting – of course – accompanied by glasses of milk, and a very salty buttermilk that Peter loved so much he had a second glass. Note the bus tour in the background – a day trip from a local retirement village perhaps? I can tell you that 50 old deaf people all yelling at each other in German made for a conversation-free zone!
And then there is Gary. The wise old man of cycling, and what a genuine all round nice guy. I did smile at his deep frustration with Peter. Peter could be really great, you know – he has that latent talent and strength, just needs to train properly. Gary is just so keen to coach him… World age group champs beckon. But Peter is unmoving – doesn’t need to prove anything, he says. Gary sighs… the wasted talent causing him almost physical pain.
The thing I enjoyed most about Gary is how much he clearly relishes every single day. Whether it’s a good ride, a fabulous meal, wonderful scenery, his glass is ever not just half full, but full full. He reminds me of my great Uncle Jan, who having survived being a prisoner of war, seemed to count every extra day as a bonus. I did wonder whether Gary had some similar escape in his past.
A mix up in all our dates meant that Gary needed to be in Venice the day before us to catch his plane home…. Another 2 hour drive to Venice! By now, we were getting to know the road really well…. And then there were two!
So together the five of us shared nearly two weeks together – we solved the world’s problems (not really, but we did thrash them out a lot), bemoaned deeply the state of NZ politics, becoming ever more bizarre by the day, and shared life stories. Don’t ever say that men don’t talk about the stuff that matters… maybe it’s something about cycling that generates sharing, but this is genuine friendship in action, and spanning several generations.
It was good.
And so on to part 2. The in-between bit between the cycling and the gorillas. Rob and Jenna join us tonight in Venice for a weekend of rugby (on TV), classical music (in real life) and relaxing catchup. Then it’s on to Modena for what I hope will be the culinary highlight of the trip – Osteria Francescana – currently number 3 on the world’s best restaurants list, with just 11 tables! Can’t wait!