Imperial to Genova (71.72 miles, 6 hours moving)

Well, I did it again. I made the mistake of crossing into a new country on a day that wasn’t Wednesday, which is the only day of the week that stores might be open in Europe.  I tried to plan ahead this time, and had enough food for a day or two when I crossed into Italy on Sunday.  I didn’t expect or need any open stores, but I really wanted to purchase a new SIM card for my USB modem and cell phone, sometime during the day on Monday, so that I’d have a good source of internet during the last two weeks of my trip.

That shouldn’t be too tough of an endeavor right? I started the day’s bicycle ride in a pretty good sized city (Imperial) and at 11:00 in the morning, low and behold, a large cell phone shop, conveniently located right along my route, even on the right side of the street! But what’s this? Bars lowered across all of the windows and no lights on? It’s freaking-11-in-the-morning! Too early for the long noon to 3:00pm lunch hour, and late enough that you’d expect the Sunday-night hangover to be cleared.  So I cycled on, hoping to have better luck in one of the many other towns I would ride through on my way to Genoa (Genova).

By three in the afternoon, I’d cycled past three cell phone stores, none of which were open, and I was starting to really feel the need to refill some food supplies at a grocery store. Grocery store after grocery store was closed too!  I had to bicycle through three different towns before I finally found one that was open (after passing nearly 15 closed grocery stores). If the economy is bad in Europe right now, it’s because tourists have money that they want to spend, but none of the stores are ever open! They should put signs at the border saying “Welcome to (insert European country name here). Please enjoy your stay. We have thousands of commercial enterprises that would love your business on any day of the week, except for weekends, days which end in an even number, days of the month which are prime numbers, and days of the week whose English name ends in “Y”.

I finally cycled past an open Vodafone store as I reached Genoa though, and even though I had been researching Telcom Italia Mobile (TIM) as my chosen carrier, I decided to go inside and see what I could get. I ended up spending 25 euros on a SIM card good for 5 hours of internet daily, or 150 hours in the month, which actually might be a better deal, since the TIM plan would have been about 25-30 euros for 100 hours!

Feeling relieved that I had finally secured steady internet without having to pay the outrageous 4-8 euros per hour that most wifi points want to charge, I continued on towards my “campeggio” for the night, Villa Doria.  It turned out to be all the way at the top of a hill overlooking Genoa’s boardwalk (although set back far enough that you didn’t actually have a view, you just had to bicycle up and up for about three days to get there). It was 8 p.m. by the time I had checked in and set up camp, and then I had to walk all the way back down the hill (I exaggerated before as it is only about a mile) to the boardwalk in search of a bar that I could talk into giving me a sack of ice (giaccio). I stopped and picked up a yummy kabob in a shop before successfully getting a sack of ice for free from the neighboring bar!  Here’s a Europe bicycle tip: buy a large un-chilled bottle of pop at the grocery store before you stop for the night and at the same time, try and get a sack of ice from a bar.  After you set up camp,you can enjoy an ice-cold drink for half the cost and with twice the liquid of the pre-cooled variety!

I had one huge scare before bed that put a bit of a damper on my day. When I plugged in my laptop to try out my new internet card, it started beeping loudly at me and I had to pull the battery to get it to stop.  Then the computer was completely unresponsive to all attempts to revive it, and I started imagining the next two weeks in Europe without a functioning computer. I tried to stay calm, thinking it might be possible- I could download and geotag photos and post them when I got home to the US. I could use my iPhone for emails and internet, and possibly even do some writing for the blog. It would really limit my ability to research future destinations though, and cut back on the amount of writing I could do.  While all of this was going through my head, all of a sudden, after five minutes of flatline, I heard a beep, and my laptop sprang back to life, without any intervention on my part. I was able to get it booted up, though it crashed the first time. I was able to use it successfully the rest of the evening but the whole incident had me worried.  If this blog suddenly goes quiet, you can guess what probably happened!

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