Just above the heel of the boot is a region in Italy known as Puglia. Save for Backroads, I never would have thought to visit this kingdom of the olive on my own. The characteristic “trulli” structures stood white against the colors of the sky and field, enhanced by the aromas of flowers and olives. The sounds of birds broke the otherwise utter quiet (except for my huffing and puffing uphills and the whoosh of the air under my helmet going down hills–at times 40 km/hr) and let my mind wander into spaces it would not have otherwise found.
And these spaces had many new friends. There were 24 on the trip, and 3 leaders who rode with us and had 2 support vans, just in case we need a boost up the hill or wouldn’t make it to lunch in time for the mozzarella and pasta making demonstrations. (Mozzarella here is an art form unto itself. There are so many flavors and textures that I am forever spoiled for the US version of Caprese salad.) Before I leave the vans, filled with goodies and fruits that were set out for the various rest stops along the way, I will set the record straight that I used a lift once up a very steep hill on day 5 for 180 meters, and once for 9 km when I was cycling with my “new best friend”, Hedy, from Denver–the two of us usually heading up the rear. We only had to think, “Where’s Emily?” the extra van support leader, and as if by magic, she would appear! Our choice was to ride to lunch and miss the mozzarella demo or to ride the distance. No contest. Choose mozzarella every time.
The group was international–Brian and Fiona from Australia, 6 Canadians (some with family in Buffalo, and two of whom currently lived in Nashville), 4 fabulous young Mexicans, and then spread out over the US–California, Florida, New Jersey, Colorado and Buffalo. Saul and I (and Hedy) were the only ones who didn’t really ride regularly, but we kept up pretty well, amazing ourselves and the leaders. My thigh muscles grew muscles and at least one of the three gluteal muscles ballooned out, but whether from riding or the constant glorious eating, I will never know.
All these posts are being written after the fact, as I had no time or inclination. But I kept a diary in my Travel Legacy journal so I could share later on.
- I didn’t like olive oil before this trip. Now I love it and cannot wait to visit the new olive oil store on Elmwood at Bryant. Going to find Puglia brands.
- I didn’t think I would love so much biking, but we are already planning next year’s Backroads trip.
- We didn’t expect to make so many new friends, but we did, and are planning the next trip already.
Next post: Saul’s debut as a comedian and my realization about being PC and the anger management epidemic in medicine.