I was surprised to find myself enjoying our ride this morning as we made our way out of the tangled mess that is Roman traffic. The shoulder, if you could call it that, was a huge line of haphazardly double-parked cars with their hazard lights flashing as their owners ran to their morning cigarette and espresso runs. The actual road (what was left of it, anyway) wasn't any better. Huge delivery trucks regularly stopped for unknown reasons in the middle of traffic, causing everyone around them to begin waving, yelling, honking and weaving in a cacophony of amusing choas. At one point, a car slowly pulled out into the flow of traffic, almost cutting Tyler off. Without missing a beat, he relished his opportunity to pretend he was an Italian by shouting "OOOOOAAAHHHH!" while gesticulating furiously with his hands and making pained and personally offended facial expressions. Pleased with himself for fitting right in, he turned around and grinned at me from ear to ear.
We made it out safely, feeling a bit like we'd just played a very strange video game. The ride was so engaging we hardly noticed the kilometers passing; there was always something to look at or watch out for! When we were officially "out" of Rome, we couldn't believe that we'd covered over 20 kilometers. Our initial goal for the day was to go to Ostia Antica, recommended by my friend Julia. It was shaping up to be a short day with only 17 more kilometers to go.
Arriving in Ostia, we stopped for lunch in a quiet park on the outskirts of town. When we were through with our salami sandwiches, yellow plums, grapes, and raw green beans, we rode to the famed archeological remains of Rome's ancient port. We were going to visit the site but as we looked out over yet another sun-parched field of old crumbling ruins, we decided to carry on. History is nice, but we'd had our fill (for the time being) in Rome. Before hitting the road we did read all of the informative posters about the site and saw many of the ruins as we rode around the park on our way back to the sea.
An onlooker might say that the rest of our day passed uneventfully. For us, it was filled with major important events, all of which occurred very smoothly: grocery shopping, fuel-bottle re-fueling, internet topping-up, water re-filling, etc. It is always a good day when these basic activities, the importance of which is greatly magnified on a bicycle tour, can be taken care of rapidly and without difficulty. We even came across a bike shop and only had to wait 40 minutes for it to open after the long lunch break. When the large metal barrier in front of the store was lifted at 3:30, we immediately rushed in and took the opportunity to buy new tubes, bar tape, and patches.
Shortly after our bike shop excursion, we found a swanky beach side gelateria (we were drawn in by the multitude of flavors we saw in those cold metal bins we've come to know and love) and treated ourselves to coffee, gelato, and a rest by the sea. For only 2 euros, I had a cone HEAPED with almond, peach, and kiwi gelato. Tyler chose his usual chocolate and lemon, and branched out a little with his third scoop: blueberry.
Ready to be done for the day after we'd had our gelato fix, we began looking for a good free-camp. Beach side towns are filled with makeshift parking-lots (usually no more than a grassy field) belonging to touristy restaurants and clubs. With it being the off-season, they are all closed and remain unused. When we found a nice one (read: devoid of the normal piles of trash and litter), we wheeled our bikes though the small space between the barrier and walked them towards the back of the field. Behind some tall, scrubby bushes that are so common by the beaches here, we set up camp as the sun set.