Monday, October 22, 2012

More tours up the mountain (boring title) OR Have I got a guy for you

This one's for my sister. You'll see why later.

Torre a Cona
Saturday Leif and I took another group of Swedes up in the hills south of Florence to visit the same vinyard we took the school class to in  May. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the air smelled like spring and fall at the same time. Flower blossoms and fresh cut grass and wood smoke. Amazing.

This time I got a little closer to my ideal group. Just ten guys about my age who've known each other for forty years. The trip to Florence is a kind of celebration for them. As far as I know there were no super athletes. Just middle-aged guys in pretty good shape for the shape they're in. Who like to eat and drink and pretty much act like the ten year olds they were when they met in school.

We got everyone onto a bike. One guy put his in the van and said he was only going to ride downhill on the way back. The guy riding with me in the back (there has to be someone who's last) told me halfway through town that he had a heart condition, which pretty much made my own heart skip a few beats as I tried to figure out how I would handle a slightly overweight Swede suddenly keeling over on his bike in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. Then I watched him ride and realized his heart was the least of our  worries. He was like a four year old who just got the training wheels off. His guardian angel was working overtime Saturday as he narrowly missed parked cars, cars in motion, road signs, other riders and the occasional pedestrian. When the first hill made him stop the bike and lean over it gasping for air I bribed him into the van with promises to release him back into the wild once the tough hills were over. He stayed in the van till we got to the top. Thank God.

The next guy with me in the back had a fantastic camera and told me that this was the first time he'd been on a bike this year. Each time he stopped to walk his bike up a hill I'd slow down and ride behind him to talk. Finally I just told him to try riding the next hill because he was working harder to walk the bike than he would riding it. He looked skeptical but gave it a try and when he was able to ride the whole hill he looked pretty darn proud in a laid back Swedish kind of way.

We had lunch at the villa and I ended up sitting next to the heart condition guy. We had a long talk over the food and wine. At one point he turned to me and said "Do you have a sister? I'm  serious....." When I said yes he made me take his picture and gave me a message for you, dear sister.

"Tell her I'm rich and a pretty nice guy."

I know, that's not enough. But he doesn't live with his parents, although he is currently sharing an apartment with another guy in the group. He's well spoken, at least in English. For all I know he's a boor in Swedish, but somehow I don't think so. He has a job (obviously, if he's rich) and it's one you'd highly approve of.

He's a coffee wholesaler. That's right. You'd get your caffeine straight from the roasters. But you'd probably never really, really get along because (and this boggles my mind) he says that the way coffee tastes doesn't matter. I suppose it doesn't to his bottom line, but it damn sure matters to those of us who drink it.

I've done what I said I'd do.....send you his picture and his invitation to get to know each other. Of course there's a slight wrinkle there. I don't even know his name. We called him Red Shirt all day. If you'd like my opinion, and I'm sure you don't, I'd just let this particular one get away. Even though he can afford to buy you all the coffee your little heart desires.

After lunch and a tour (where Red Shirt asked a million questions) we got to the really fun part. We got to throw ourselves down the side of the mountain. It's like being a bird. Everyone should try it once, without worrying about crashing or road rash or anything. Just feel the thrill of the speed and the wind rushing through your hair. It's amazing. I told the guy who worked so hard to get up those hills to remember that all the downhill he was enjoying now were hills he climbed this morning. He looked surprised, said "Precis!" (for those who speak Swedish I totally trashed that word, I'm sure) and then he looked a little proud. Which he should be. Those aren't small hills.

When we dropped them off again at the bike shop they all hugged me and shook Leif's hand. Pretty warm and fuzzy for Swedes who only met me that morning. Of course Red Shirt had to have the last word.

Seriously, if you want an introduction to my sister,
don't be kissing me.

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