Sunday, March 20, 2011

Escaping the City

Yesterday I rode with Leif outside the city. We rode through town from the northeast corner west to where the Arno River leaves Florence on its’ way to Pisa and the coast of Italy. It was overcast, but there was no rain and the air was warm. A perfect day to ride, really.

The ride through town wasn’t exactly fraught with danger (it was still a little early on a Saturday morning) but it can be quite an obstacle course if you ride through the center of town. There are pedestrians focused on their camera and not watching for others, entire families with strollers and shopping bags (the strollers hold the bags while the toddlers who should be in the strollers make a dash for freedom), barricades made of metal or stone posts and logging chain, and the taxis who watch out for no one. Now avoid all that while bouncing over cobblestones...doesn't sound so simple anymore, does it?

Once we got off the streets and onto the trails in the park the only traffic we had to watch for were joggers, dog walkers and other bikers. The park is beautiful. There are wide paved roads and gravel paths. After the slow ride through town it was nice to open it up a bit and just ride a straight, smooth path for miles without having to stop constantly for others. The river is beautiful (for those from Minnesota, it is about the size of the Mississippi north of St Cloud). It isn’t a deep valley, just a short drop from the flood plain we rode on to the surface of the river.

Kinda Disney…the birds were singing, the air was warm, the grass and trees were showing their new pretty green colors and flowers were blooming. No, the trees didn’t sing, the sun didn’t smile down on me, birds didn’t make a wreath of flowers and drop it lightly onto my head. But that’s kind of how I felt. For the first time since I came here I had the chance to use my muscles like I am used to doing. I celebrated the wind in my face (yes, I believe I was a dog in a former life).

Have you seen new lambs, colts or calves on the first warm days of spring? They jump and run and simply enjoy their new bodies. I feel that way a lot. When I was young I rarely walked from point A to point B. I would run, skip, cartwheel, whatever, but walk? Why, when there are so may other fun options? But as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to hide that feeling, because it just doesn’t seem to go with a grown up life. Yesterday, I gave in to that feeling a little. It was fun.

We rode to Signa and had lunch…FYI if you are coming to Italy be prepared to eat when restaurants are open, not necessarily when you are hungry. They aren’t kidding when they say they are closed, even if they haven’t locked the door. It took us a while to find a pizzeria that was open. It was a great pizza.

Then we rode home. Sounds very anticlimactic…sorry. We had to dodge raindrops on the way home, but didn’t get very wet. I discovered a lot today. I can ride (at least on the flats) a distance without dying, Italian men hate being passed by a woman, my bell works and I am stronger than I think. I also think it’s time to start acting the way I feel instead of the way I think is “appropriate” and stop holding back from my joy because someone might feel differently about me. I may not cartwheel around Florence, but chances are I will run and jump and dance and laugh…and kiss.

PS Thank you to Leif for making me feel like I could ride forever…

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