Talamone to Ladíspoli (78.95 miles, 6 hours and 28 minutes moving)

Today was one of those Cyclist’s Sobriety Test days. It ended up being nearly 80 miles of bicycling, about 75 of which was on highway with little to no shoulder. So I spent much of the day riding the white-line, and I’d like to say I passed with flying colors, after only one car saw fit to honk at me to show their annoyance that I, a cyclist and legal user of the roads, was taking up a two-foot portion of his two-lanes of southbound highway. There weren’t many photo opportunities either, with the sun beating down from directly overhead, and a hazy horizon.

I didn’t plan for it to turn into such a big distance when I started out this morning. I was about a hundred miles from Rome, and my Garmin told me that there was a campsite near Civitavécchia, about 56 miles away, leaving me only 44 miles to cover on my final day of bicycling into Rome.  I thought this was a grand plan.

Tragedy struck early on in the day though.  As I was trying to start pedaling to leave the campground, my left foot, which wasn’t clicked into the pedals yet, slipped and sent the metal pedal platform deep into my shin.  I tried to “pedal it out”, despite quite a bit of pain with each pedal stroke, and I started imagining the possibility that I had chipped my tibia or caused a hairline fracture, and started to mourn the thought of having to take a train or bus the last 100 miles to Rome if I couldn’t bike anymore. And then I started to wonder if I could cycle to Rome with one good leg, if I had truly injured myself, such was my determination to finish the journey under my own power. Another mile down the road, I glanced down and saw that I had big spots of blood on my pant-leg, so I stopped to investigate. Sure enough, the sharp edge of the pedal had gouged my shin, and I had to turn to my first-aid kit.

For the entire trip, I’ve been lugging around a small quart-sized plastic sac of first-aid supplies, and a larger gallon-sized ziplock with more extensive supplies.  I have them both packed to the brim with gauze, rubber gloves, bandaids, some suture material, emergency candles and matches, CPR shield, a moldable splint, duct-tape, water sterilizing tablets, thermometer, and the list goes on and on. I think the combined weight of the two kits has to be at least two to three pounds, and thus far in the trip I’d been lucky enough to not require them once. And the one time that I need it, what do I use? A single band-aid. Possibly the smallest and lightest thing I have.  Please don’t get me wrong– I would rather be a little over-prepared in the first-aid supplies department, and I hope and pray that I don’t need anything that I brought.  But at the same time, it makes me think a little about how I could consolidate what I really might need/use, in order to pack a little lighter.

With my shin patched up, I hopped back on the bike and stopped at the first open supermarket that I passed in Fonteblanda. I hate to start the day carrying a full load of food, but my past experience has shown that Monday is not a day you want to rely on finding an open supermarket later in the afternoon.  Which is too bad, because the early afternoon is the perfect time to stock up, since usually you’re ready for a nice cool snack (vanilla or caramel pudding cups!) that can be consumed right after purchase, and then you also don’t have to carry all of that food very far to the next campsite.

With my daily shopping needs met after only 2 miles, I was able to join the highway and plug away for a few hours, stopping occasionally in the shade for some snacks.  Despite the slight headwind I had most of the day, I was making good time, averaging about 13.7 miles per hour until reaching my planned stopping point in Civitavécchia.

Just before I reached the medium sized port town, I came across two middle-aged bicycle tourers on the side of the road.  I pulled off to chat with them and found out that they are Austrian and have spent the past two weeks cycling down through Italy from Austria, with plans to reach Sicily in another two weeks before finishing their own adventure!  We posed for photos with each other, and then I headed off.  Since getting a sack of ice had worked so well the last time at McDonald’s, I decided to do that again, and enjoyed the same success (along with an M&M McFlurry). I contemplated continuing on down the road to spend the last night camping even closer to Rome, but the sky was starting to look a bit like it might rain, and I had seen a small chance of rain in the afternoon/evening forecast, so I decided to stick to the original plan and just be happy to have finished my day of cycling so early.

I headed back North and uphill out of town to the spot which my GPS showed a campsite.  It was completely non-existent. The supposed campsite had a tall fence, with barbed-wire looped around the perimeter, and signs saying something about it being a military zone with restricted access. It was only about 3:30 in the afternoon so I punched up the next closest campsite on the way to Rome, and found that it was going to be another 20 miles of biking. Although my legs were already starting to get tired, I had no choice but to continue on.  I should consider myself lucky that there was still plenty of daylight so I didn’t really have to worry about how long it would take me to cover the distance. It took me about another hour and a half, and as I got close to the spot my GPS was guiding me to, it was like deja-vu all over again. All I found was a huge field of grass with not a sign, building, or camper/tent.  There was a fence around the field with private property signs on it. So I selected the next campsite which was three miles further down the road, but as I was bicycling in that direction, I came to another campsite which was open, so I gladly called it a day!

After setting up camp, I decided to take a shower so I could spend the evening in clean clothes and I found out that the showers require tokens.  You can buy one shower for half a euro and three for one euro. Figuring one would be enough, I got my token from the change machine on one side of the campsite and then walked the 200 meters to the other side where the showers are. The showers were a little better than the terrible ones from a few days ago, but not much. I plunked my coin in the little box and instantly the water turned on, though it took about 20-30 seconds before it was hot enough for me to actually use. There were no water temperature controls, so you’re stuck with whatever they set it on. Thankfully the water was pretty hot and it felt great after the long day on the bike! I quickly shampooed my hair and then as I was starting to use my conditioner, I heard a short buzzing sound, but it didn’t seem to come from the box or anywhere inside my shower, so I paid it no attention. There wasn’t any sort of display or countdown or flashing light to tell you how much shower-time you had left, and I had barely gotten the conditioner in my hair before the water shut off abruptly.  I cursed myself for being stingy and not just using the euro coin in my pocket to get “three” showers, and decided that today I would have to settle for a “leave-in conditioner”.

Since I ended up having to go so far today to find a campsite, it looks like it’ll be a short 30 miles into Rome tomorrow! I have so much to do though.  In addition to finding and checking into a hostel and trying to see some of the many sights, I need to find a bicycle shop or somewhere to get a cardboard box of the right size to pack my bicycle back up for the airline flight home! I can’t believe how quickly this trip has gone, and I want to thank everyone who has been following along and offering their encouragement!  I am still short of my fundraising goals for Amylotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, so if you have been thinking about making a donation, now is a great time!

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