|Mike on his bike|
― Mercedes Lackey
If you read the blog regularly, you may remember that I mentioned that the bicyclists in northern Italy are rather aggressive drivers, and I felt I was lucky to get out of Bologna without having a literal run-in with one. I have a love-hate relationship with bikes. I wanted to ride one in Bologna, but since I was afraid of even walking near other riders, I thought maybe I should keep my feet on the ground rather than on pedals.
I love bikes, to tell the truth. I had a blue Schwinn when I was a kid, and I loved it. Like every other kid, I used to pin playing cards to the spokes to punch up the sound. I used to weave ribbons or yarn through the spokes to colorize it. I used to ride without holding on. I tried to stand on the seat or do other stupid stunts that gave me nicely skinned knees and elbows, hands and shins every summer. Road surfing is a rite of passage for kids. It is not one for adults.
I don't want to mislead you and make you think I broke skin today, but I came close....more than once...
|Bikes. Bikes. Bikes. Bike parking in Bologna.|
We rented from Cuore (Heart) of Tuscany, a nice place that it took us 45 minutes to find even though it is about 10 minutes from our apartment. Since it's off of a side street, finding it was an adventure in itself. Let's just say that I wish these places would put street names up so people can actually use them.
Matteo, the owner, got our three-speed bikes out and fixed the seat height for me. I got on and pushed off only to discover that the seat was too high. I tried to stop but noticed pedestrians walking right in front of me. I jumped off of the seat, lost my balance, and ended up about two seconds from landing on the pavement.
"Fix your seat," Mike laughed. I couldn't, so he adjusted his and came to fix mine. "It won't go down much more."
"I'll try," I said. We took off, and everything was going well until a car whizzed by me. "HOLY CRAP."
|Dapper Dude in Bologna|
I was sure I wasn't fine. "I forgot about cars." A few people were walking in the middle of the street. Ding. Ding. Ding. I rang the bell (It was pink!), and they moved out of the way.
"Was that you?" Mike wanted to know.
"I'm being polite and warning people," I replied. "People in Bologna could have done that for me." He wasn't behind me, but I'm sure he probably rolled his eyes.
Now, I love bells, and I love the little tinkling bells on bikes. I was thrilled to have a pink one I could use. I could cause that thing to make such a happy sound. Besides, since I was not good at stopping with the handbrake, I thought warning them that I was coming was fair.
We got to the wall, and he rode his bike up. I got about halfway, stopped, almost fell over again, and walked the rest of the way up.
|A close pass|
They also like to stop right in the middle of the path to talk to neighbors and friends. Luckily, I had my trusty little pink bell to warn them that I was approaching.
"Are you going to ring that thing every time you pass someone?" I heard Mike ask me.
"Yes." I didn't need to say anything else, but even if I should have, at that point I looked up to noticed two bikers riding on our side of the path coming directly at me. One passed me on my right, and the one who was on my left, was heading right for me. Maybe I was heading right for him, but he wasn't turning, and I panicked. I hit the handbrake and immediately started falling over. I landed on the toes of my left foot, scraped my shoe (better than skin) along the path, skidded across the path, and landed in the grass at the top of the hill.
"Are you okay?" Mike asked me.
"He was headed right for me," I said to him.
"You'll be fine," Mike said, and we continued on.
|I saw this guy all the time in Bologna|
"Turn right," I said and watched as he crossed the street and went straight. Eye roll. I followed and eventually caught up. "Let me go in front." I had no idea where we were because he had gone straight which was not the way we'd started. I turned right at the next street and almost ran into a car that had run a stop sign. "GEEZ. Does anyone pay attention to traffic signs here?" Mike didn't answer either because he didn't hear me or because he was ignoring me.
|Definitely not me on a bike|
We got back to the bike shop, and I managed to stop without falling off.
"I made it back alive," I told Matteo. He laughed.
"We're not so sure about a few of the tourists," Mike said. "There may be a few lying in the street along the way."
"Especially a little old man," I laughed. I'm not sure Matteo understood why we were laughing.
"The old guy was going too darn slow," Mike later told me. "It was his fault."
"You could have used your bell," I insisted. I don't think he agreed.
"You're looking at this all wrong," he said. "You need to look at it from my perspective. If he had been walking faster, I wouldn't have hit him."
Fair warning: If you see either one of us on a bike, you might want to run for cover, preferably indoors and away from any cafes, markets, parking lots, streets, paths, or hills.