Thursday, June 25, 2015

Monte Serra

Driving from Firenze to Pisa I noticed some nice mountains not far from the coast.  I thought I'd ride back east till I reached them.  I rode down to Stagno and headed east on SS67 bis "Arnaccio."  Eventually I reached some foothill towns and the road to Calci, which showed a climb  to Monte Serra at 880 meters.  I headed upward fairly steeply along a big stream through the village and eventually the houses stopped and there were only big trees.  This is a beautiful shady climb that reminded me of Friuli.  At a saddle you can start descending down the other side toward Buti or continue up to the RAI antenna farm.  I headed up some more, finally on a narrow shady lane to the top.   Couldn't see much here because of all the trees, but a bit lower down are great views to the south and west.

After I rejoined the pedemontane I got lost a bit and rode maybe 10 or 20 km out of the way back down to SS67bis.  Not bad, though I was tired when I reached our lodging.  If you visit the area don't miss this climb.

Sea of sunflowers along SS67bis

Hay rolls; Monte Serra in background

River Arno meandering along the pedemontane

The antenna farm high above

A very tall tower

The pianura to west

Close up of Calci; island in distance is Elba

View south of conch valley with olive groves and vineyards

Metrics of the climb 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Marina di Pisa

A week on the Tirrenian Sea coast, near Pisa.  We stayed at Camp Darby on the edge of an umbrella pine forest.  It's a sort of wildlife preserve with dark brown deer and wild boar.  Good views of them at dusk coming to feed at the edge of their shady wood.

Today I rode up the coast to Marina di Pisa, at the mouth of River Arno.  This road is a bit over-commercialized with dozens of beach entrances, eateries, etc.  Still nice if you focus on the natural flora and fauna preserves separating beach from road.  

Ex-American Beach at Tirrenia; the new owner calls it Kokito

Beautiful marble facade of Marina di Pisa church

A net fishing shack at mouth of River Arno

Another, slightly larger with two nets

Attractive project at Molo Nord jetty, Marina di Pisa.  
They're making a dune flora park atop this concrete seawall

The yacht harbor

The mouth of the harbor

A park built on a disused railway or tram
through the pines along the coast 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Casera Sinich MTB

Finally the rain stopped.  I drove to Travesio with my MTB on the rack, then headed upward.   Follow the signs for La Genziana, a hillside restaurant and then continue around the switchback at the base of the climb to Osservatorio Tigre, also called Col Plait.  There are some old Italian army buildings up here.  Now head southwest on gravel road and single track to Ancona SS Trinita, a war memorial chapel.  The gravel road steepens a bit, you traverse a concrete switchback and eventually end up on Col Manzon.  Good views of the plains from here.

At the marked trail junction I headed north toward Monte Ciaurlec.  Much of the route was too steep for my skinny legs and weak MTB handling skills, so I carried the bike over the worst of the rocky bits and pushed it over the merely steep ones.  This was quite slow and it dawned on me I wasn't going to reach Ciaurlec, let alone Piani di Clauzetto (my objective).  Eventually I reached Casera Sinich at 860 meters, ate a banana and tried to descend.

The trail down is very steep and bouldery so I stopped to walk often.  Later it was still bouldery but less steep, so I rode more frequently.  I only fell once, not on the ground but atop the bike with my leg caught between the front wheel and the down tube.  Awkward, but not too painful.  Later you transition to a wonderful dirt road, where you can go fast.  This ends precisely at the paved switchback at the base of the Osservatorio Tigre climb  The paved ride down is steep and fast, ending in the center of Travesio.  I will try next time from Piani di Clauzetto, and hopefully reach the summit of Ciaurlec.     

The climb to Osservatorio Tigre touches 20%

Ancona SS Trinita chapel

Old concrete switchback on gravel road

Travesio from Col Manzon (736 meters)

Torrente Meduna and Sequals hills

East end of Sequals hills; Torrente Tagliamento on left 

Monte Ciaurlec (1145 meters) left, Monte Celant
(1093 meters) right background

Trail junction

Casera Sinich at 860 meters; uninhabitated

These butterflies were everywhere

A dark green with red polka dots butterfly

Wildflowers ubiquitous

Ciaurlec from the southeast

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Trailering Life

My now front brake-less Merckx is in the Awaiting Maintenance line, so I've switched trailer-towing duties over to the mountain bike.  Today I hauled a big load of laundry to the laundromat to dry and bought groceries.  On the list was dog food, which comes in 15 lb bags and other heavy stuff like half-gallons of milk.  I figured I would try a max load to see how it rode.  To complicate matters a storm blew through so I put rain covers on everything.  This was going to be a great touring simulation, but alas the rain stopped and it cleared up.  The ride home is 230 meters elevation gain with an 8% stretch by Hotel Royal, but it wasn't bad at all.  Trailer rode smooth and my legs didn't protest much.  I'm thinking my MTB will be stuck with this job even after I fix the Merckx.

Max gross weight test

Courtyard matriarch Kitty Mama naps on the unladen trailer 

Nothing to do with bikes: our end of the cortile

Kitty Mama gives the trailer two non-opposable thumbs up

Kitty Mama's daughter Stella  observes from above

Gelsomino che profumo!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Old bikes never die...

Last year I saw an appeal for used bikes for refugees so they could travel to Italian classes.

I thought about my old Trek in the attic but quickly forgot.   Later I bumped into the teacher who had launched the appeal and asked if she still needed bikes.  She said sure, bring your bike in, but again I forgot about it.  Then a couple of days ago she sought me out and said she had a student who needed a bike.  I promised this time.    

I brought the bike down from my attic and found a used tire and tube for the front wheel.  Then I reinstalled the front brake I'd canned off the Trek when my Merckx needed brake work.  The bike was ready.   When I delivered the bike to my teacher, despite wearing a dress this 60 year old 5-foot tall woman threw her leg over the top tube and stood in the pedals as she spun it up to speed.  I'd forgotten she's an avid biker, once riding the length of the Danube cycling route.

Later she dropped by our class while everyone was saying their end-of-school goodbyes and told me the refugee she gave my bike to had tears welling in his eyes when he received it.  Which got me thinking about how I was given the bike, and how important it had been for me.  Here's a post from August 2010:

"I hauled my spare bike out of the attic, a 1990's Trek 1220. I haven't ridden this bike much, but it was very important to getting me healthy again a few years ago. In 2003 I had lost my 1996 Pinarello Dyna Lite in an encounter with an unexpected Men at Work sign, and was bike-less. A very kind colleague, Clint Holm, had a spare Trek 1220 since he had bought a new bike, and very graciously gave it to me.  I barely rode it though.

"I was feeling weaker and weaker and very blah, without any motivation. I thought I was just getting old. After retirement in 2005, my wife finally insisted I see a doctor. I was very fortunate because Dr Tracee Ray took the matter seriously and knew which tests could narrow it down. Then an MRI confirmed it- I had a 3 cm mass at the base of my brain. My new doc, Dr Michael Kenney put me on some drugs to reduce the size and control the tumor. These made me feel even worse for about a year, but finally I became habituated to the side effects and started improving in 2007. 

"Now that I was feeling less blah I needed to do something about the weakness. I got out the old Trek Clint had given me and took it for a spin around the block. I was tired and couldn't go any further, but it was fun and I wanted to ride more. So I started taking little flat rides to Malnisio and San Leonardo etc. I gradually increased distance and even was even able to struggle up some small hills. Clint's gift of a bike had been a godsend- it was reviving my former fitness which had been lost to the tumor."

So if you have an old bike don't toss it out- someone out there might need it.  And if they don't now, maybe they will later.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Montelonga MTB

Got up early and rode through the tunnel almost to Barcis, turning left at Ponte Antoi.  Crossed the dam and rode along the south shore of the lake past the turn-off for Rifugio Vallata.  Just after the turn-off turn left on paved road heading steeply upslope.  This was new to me- I thought it was a driveway for the rifugio.  In the next 3 km you average 15% gradient, with some 20% thrown in.  The pavement is great so I have no excuse: I must try it with the road bike.

Once pavement ends at 900 meters you turn right and begin climbing on dirt and gravel.  It was a very good road and is completely rideable for the next 4 km of 9.6% median gradient.

At 1350 meters you reach a junction with Casera Montelonga to the left and the trail to Le Ronciade on the right.  I rode a little way  toward the casera then turned around.  The area is lovely grassy pasture with views of Monte Ciastelat.  Back at the trail head I started hiking, pushing the bike.  I had to pick it up now and then to clear bouldery stretches.  A skilled MTBer could probably ride much of this.  After about a mile I arrived at the gravel road heading toward Le Ronciade, a great road if you're starting from either end, Pian delle More or Col Alto.  Good for snowshoeing in winter too.

From Col Alto down the backroad to Castaldia, the main road to Rifugio Bornass, and the closed backroad to Costa di Aviano.  Awesome ride.  Will try the paved section with road bike once my legs recover. 

End of steep paved road at 900 meters

Monte Ciastelat from meadows near Casera Montelonga 

The trailhead, start of a mile of bike pushing  

Looking back at hiking trail before reaching gravel road

Finally riding again, toward Le Ronciade

The steep paved road

The gravel climb from 900 to 1350 meters

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Val Silisia MTB

I thought about trying the ride from Claut via Forcella Clautana to Val Silisia today but the forecast called for afternoon rain and I wasn't sure I had enough time.  So I decided to try riding up Val Silisia as far as I could to preview the route.   

Through Valcolvera, then down Val Muie, up to the road for Lago Redona and then I turned left toward Lago Ca' Selva.  After crossing the dam at Selva I headed up the dirt, then paved, road to Panuch.  I continued down to lake side, where a dirt road (with some concrete and paved sections) climbs and drops repeatedly along the lakeshore, finally reaching the white water of Torrente Silisia.  

After crossing a bridge you join the Strada degli Alpini trail, which switchbacks all the way up to Forcella Clautana at 1432 meters.  I tried going up a little way but was so tired my momentum was insufficient to clear a protruding rock on the trail.  I fell and the bike and I tumbled 2 or 3 meters down the steep embankment before being saved by some saplings.  A little further along the trail looked rideable again so I went maybe 100 meters before I was toast.  At this point (700 meters) it was clear I wasn't going to complete the remaining 730-meter elevation gain, so I took some fotos and headed down.   

The ride back was the same saliscendi along the lake, then the climb up the west side of Panuch.  I made it up the climb-out from the dam but my legs were rubber.  The rest of the ride I crept along slowly till I eventually made it home.  Later this summer I'll try the full route from Claut. 

Lago Redona dead calm

Close up of mountain reflection

Trees along Lago Redona

Near the top of Lago Ca' Selva; there are many submerged
stone houses from the years before the dam was built
The point where torrente becomes lago

Cascades of Torrente Silisia from ponte 

Lago Ca'Selva with mountains to east

Shady stretch of white water

Strada degli Alpini climbing steeply upward