Zia weighs in
10 September 2011 | Maso Corto, Italy
Laura asked me if I am having fun. Having lots of fun is one way to put it. The biking is over for now. The adventure we are currently experiencing is the Porsche driving. Whew, it's scary and exhilarating at the same time. Jeff is a great driver, but these roads are tight twisty and steep it is not uncommon for other cars to be across the centerline when you round the bend, oh and of course they are not visible until you make the corner, I ye ye! And on one high alpine twisty road way above tree line, we rounded a corner, only to see a couple of sheep or goats, I couldn't tell which in the road. I was trying to catch my breathe and we passed them rather swiftly. I have been practicing deep breathing and staying centered while being a passenger in a Porsche being driven aggressively for sport. Nick, why didn't you do this with your dad, I think you may have rather liked the thrill of it all.
It's weird to see so many heads turn when we go past, mostly boys and men. Maybe it's the tropical green poison dart frog color? The scenery is stunningly beautiful here in the Dolomites. We have been listening to classical shuffle on the ipod and its fun how often the music and scenery correspond in a mutually enhancing way. Just today Mozart's symphony no. 25 & 29 clarinet concerto by the Vienna Philharmonic played Allegro con spirito while we twisted and turned over Passeo Giau getting glimpses of tall rocky mountain peaks in between patches of dense green forests with the peaks appearing at the peaks in the music. I love it when that happens.
Its odd for me with the German and Italian mixed in this region and the very cultivated landscapes everywhere and the cow bells ringing constantly. We did take yesterday to hike a famous trail in the Dolomites. Simply stunning day; the scenery like scenes out of Lord of the Rings, the intense blue sky almost like Colorado, the physical rhythmic movement after a few days of sitting in a small vehicle whirling through space incredibly faster than I can take it all in.
There are colorful flowers, mostly geraniums and petunias hanging from almost every window and even from boxes on the sides of every bridge. There are tidy gardens with neat rows of cabbages, beans, lettuces, flowers, and such. There are lots of apple trees, and huge fields of apples and grapes. This is the land of vegetables, quite a relief after seeing so many lovely vegetable gardens in Belgium, but not having many available in the restaurants. There is a limit to how many frites even I can eat, especially now that I am a passenger and not an active participant. This of course is not entirely true. My body is getting quite the core strengthening trying to stay in my seat around those steep switchbacks. Jeff says that racing seat belts or five point belts would help hold us in place and require less effort, but I rather like the feel of bracing myself as we go swiftly into a turn then the next. What is a little less pleasant for me is the unknown factor, that is, what is around the blind corner; a goat or two, a car way over the center line, a bicyclist going up, one coming down and a car? Or as is often the case on these roads, several motorcyclists leaned way over in making the turn. Jeff has been very good at erring on the side of caution, yet often that means we are hugging a tight turn by the slimmest margin, where one moment of less than 100% attention would mean that rock wall would have a nice new smudge of tree frog green paint, and we would, well, I'd rather not go into details.
I have taken to being another set of eyes for Jeff as he drives, giving him information that he doesn't get as quickly as I do. For instance, from my passenger seat I often have an advantage of seeing farther down the road than Jeff does. I warn him if I see a car, bike, motorcycle, goat or logs being dragged across the road as happened today which reminded me of Glendevey and our summer work there with a bit of wistfulness and longing. I also check the mirrors that are placed at really sharp corners to let Jeff know how much room he has for negotiating the turn. Did you know that "tornante" means hairpin curve in Italian. One pass we drove down today had 27 of them on the downside! For awhile I thought they meant "caution torturous curve ahead" but I have since gotten used to the unexpected possibilities, severe turns, the way my head hits the back of the seat as we slow down to make the turn after the sharp acceleration in the straight aways of course.
So this is the fun I'm having. I might be inclined to move over for our friend Neil who says he is quite jealous of me getting to ride along with Jeff, but I rather think he would prefer to trade places with the driver. Seeing all the tidy high altitude gardens is wonderful and reminds me of Susan and Charles and their lovely garden complete with wasabi arugula. Their parting gift of Ibex wool hoodies for us, saved me during the first few several rainy days on the Belgium biking trip. I wore mine under my biking jersey, the Oerbier one of course, that Peter gave me, and was warm in spite of being completely soaked. It turned out that my waterproof jacket was only water resistant! Good thing for wool and dear friends. It comes in quite handy in our high altitude hikes too.
Belgium, especially around Bruges, was the land of Z's. I saw them everywhere. And the land of owls, which I also spotted more frequently than by chance. I developed a fascination with these birds a few months before leaving on this big journey. Why? I can't say, but nevertheless here I am seeing more owls than I ever have in my entire life. Today we drove past some huge carved wooden ones, much too fast for a photo I am sorry to say. In Bulllion, Belgium we went to tour a castle where they happened to have a falconry show featuring a snowy owl. I see owls on shirts, on signs, as carved trinkets, as bronze, wood, or concrete sculptures, or as edible chocolate owls. They appear in gardens, in town centers, in museums, in display windows, on advertisements. I get excited just thinking about the next one I will see. By the way, Jeff has only seen the owls I've pointed out to him, except for the finger puppet one he surprised me with, and we will have to save that story for a different post. Time for dinner.