With each passing day we fall in love with Italy a little more. Maybe it is the cheap, delicious food clouding our judgment but we're almost certain that we'll pass through again on our way to Moscow (we're looping back through Europe after a North African winter).
Since we waited ten days in Silvaplana for replacement rims, we've had to move a bit quicker than we'd like through our first stage in Italy. We need to make it to Siena by the 15th to meet Tara's family. Cycling 60-90km daily for two weeks without resting is definitely not "going slowly" to us so if we have to, we'll hop a train to meet them in time.
Our last destination in the north of Italy is Cremona, the birthplace of the violin. We arrived on the outskirts of town after an easy 40km ride and promptly stopped to relax by the side of the road at a quaint bar serving gelato made on site. After our daily fix (tyler: lemon, chocolate & stracciatella, tara: anguria (watermelon), yogurt and pistachio) we continued on towards the campsite in Cremona.
After such a short ride we were excited to have the rest of the day "off" at a rare sub 20 euro campsite. We had intended on staying at one of their shady pitches until we saw the park across the street. Full of tree cover, on the shore of the Po River, and easily accessible; the call of a fourth free-camp in a row (ultimately translating into: MORE FOOD) easily outweighed our desire for a shower.
In lieu of a shower, we made our way through the woods until I found a spot where we could access the less-than-pristine Po. I dove right in, clearing away the filmy gunk near the shore for Tara. She gingerly followed my lead, and as she slowly waded in, the riverbed turned into mud, sucking her feet in until she was literally knee-deep in silt! As I tried to help her get free from the "quicksand" her shoe got sucked off and I had to quickly shove my arm into the silt to grab it before it was lost for all time.
Laughing and covered in mud we finally made it out a little further, safe from the muddy shore. Tara said it reminded her of a childhood incident involving her brother, her friend Karina, and a certain tennis shoe (a story for another time). After a similarly precarious and muddy exit from the river, we pushed our bikes back into the park and got comfortable at one of the many picnic tables.
The rest of the afternoon was spent leisurely working and enjoying the golden sunlight sparkling through the yellow autumn leaves. I decided to take on the job of cleaning our bicycles. This morning when we left our free-camp under the bridge, we wheeled through so many plants that our entire bicycles were yellow with pollen.
I walked almost a kilometer to the nearest water fountain (I could have ridden my bicycle but I felt like taking my time) to fill up our water bottles. When I returned to our picnic table, feeling like a packhorse carrying all of our water bottles and an entire pannier full of water, I found Tara hilariously crouched under her jacket.
She was creating the shade required to see the computer screen on its lowest brightness level (saving batteries) while she typed away on an journal entry. She looked just like an old fashioned photographer!
I spent an hour or two cleaning our panniers, inspecting our bikes from top to bottom (everything is looking good) and cleaning our chains. By the time I was finished, Tara had completed her journals and we spent a few minutes posting them before moving on to dinner.
Tara started cooking while I got down to some paying work, trying to catch up from several days off. Tara marveled a the concept of having a real table to sit at as she diced the tomatoes she had gathered yesterday from the fields.
Chopped onion and lots of garlic, salt, and pepper rounded out a fabulous tomato sauce into which she tossed some cooked penne pasta. Just before we ate we tossed in a few crumbles of cheese which melted in the hot noodles. Yet another delicious Italian meal!
When the sun started to set we pushed our bikes a little further into the woods and set up under a branchy tree awning, completely hidden from sight.
Tara's flower hour: