Venice and Memories


Extra Days

Being a bike rider on a Bicycle Adventure Club tour is a bit like doing the “20-minute Louvre” in Paris – you’ve been there, and seen lots of stuff – but, no time for exploration and reflection.  (This is not a criticism – merely recognition that many bike people are not interested in a leisurely tour of the museums and cathedrals of every city visited.  Indeed, one could spend the summer in the northwest of Italy and still feel that the visit had been far too cursory.)

Painting of Grand Canal

A View of The Grand Canal

In an effort to spend some time in Venice, we elected to add 2 extra days: a bit of wandering near our hotel (Atlanta Augustus) on the island of Lido, a visit of the island of Murano (home to the glass artisans of Venice), a walking tour of Venice (history in the context of architecture), and a boat tour of Venice (architecture in the context of history).

8 Centuries of Practice

The artistry of the current generation of glass blowers is still extraordinary.  Liquid sculpture that exploits inherent transparency and translucent flows of light.  Marvelous inventiveness beyond what any machine can produce.  The intersection of true visual creativity and consummate technical skill.

These skills have been protected since the end of the 13th Century when all the glassmakers were sent from Venice itself to the island of Murano.  Part of the rationale for the relocation was to avoid a fire within Venice – a potential catastrophe.  Part of the rationale was to ensure that no artisans would be able to escape to establish a competing source of glass anywhere else in Europe.  Photography of the majestic pieces is, consequently forbidden.  And, of course, the price for a piece of beautiful sculpture often contains a comma amid the numerals…

History (a footnote)

The creation of one of the most influential sea powers ever within the Mediterranean area is the subject of books – and, impossible to compress into a coherent blog entry.

Early Map of Venice

Map by Turkish Explorer – note annotations in Arabic

But, the intersection of religions, cultures, and technologies has been an impetus to progress since earliest times.  The Venetians combined all of their skills with their extensive knowledge of the surrounding countries to develop a prosperous civilization.  Even the Crusades, at the end of the 12th Century, were used to augment the power of a growing nation-state.

(When Crusaders arrived to take possession of the fleet of boats that they commissioned for the transport of soldiers and the capture of Jerusalem – and, blithely announced that compensation would be made after the successful conquest of the Islamic rulers of the Middle East – the Venetians explained that there were other payment options.

Consequently, the Crusaders, ostensibly intent on returning Jerusalem to Christian control, became the mercenaries of a pragmatic maritime power. And the epicenter of Christianity, Constantinople, fell to the Venetians.  Indeed, much of the magnificent art and decorative sculpture of Venice is the booty of that ad hoc military-religious campaign.)

And, did we mention the Basilica of St. Mark?  Interior photos not permitted.  But, references abound.

Rialto bridge

Rialto Bridge

Three days of wandering about Venice is not enough!


Bayside Vaporetto stop

canal at sunset

Canal at Sunset

Next entry: navigation – not Venetian maps of the world in the 14th century, but how to get from point A to point B by bicycle.


Last Bike Rides


Context – Beyond a Bike Adventure

The usual meaning of adventure in a vacation context is enjoyable excitement.  But any physical adventure has some risk.  There are insurance policies to deal with missed flights (critical plane changes can occur), lost baggage (may be quite inconvenient, especially if in a new city each night), and unforeseen events of any type (including medical emergencies).

Unfortunately, as we set off on the next leg of our journey (Vicenza to Padova), one of our riders fell.  Some falls are not serious: a scrape; a loss of bike paint; a minor scar to remember the wet cobblestones of a particular city…  But, this fall was serious: a broken femur requiring surgery with two pins.  Non-trivial for a young person; serious for a woman in her 70’s.

Did I mention that most of us are in our late 60’s or early 70’s?


May 25

Vicenza to Padova (Padua)

Unaware of the accident, a delightful ride with minimal navigation difficulties in the relatively flat area of Italy.  As we approach the coast, the Austrian influence fades: gone are the snow-capped mountains; no more German-speaking towns; and palm trees replace fruit trees.  (By this point, 24 riders have separated into individual groups of 4 to 7 members – identical riding pace; collaborative navigation styles; complementary sense of humor when temporarily lost.)

Given a relatively short distance (34 miles), we arrive in Padua in time for lunch, an opportunity to settle into a new hotel, a brief wander about the city, and preparation for our tour of the University of Padua and its famous medical theatre.

Lunch on the Road

Lunch on the Road

The spirit of scientific inquiry in the fifteenth century extended to investigations of the human body, despite the opposition of the Church to the practice of dissection.

Extraordinary progress was made in an expansion of knowledge in this university, and our tour was permitted a view of the famous (initially clandestine!) Anatomy theatre of Fabricius ab Acquapendente.

Medical Area

Even a few moments to visit the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua.

St. Anthony's Church

May 26

Padova (Padua) to Venezia (Venice)

The “R-Word” returns…

Despite a weather forecast of only 10% chance of rain, the day dawned cloudy, cold and bleak.  Some of us donned rain gear; some did not.

And, the ride was longer than most: 45 miles to ride and two ferries (with a connecting ride) to the island of Lido, just south of Venice.

Given the desire to arrive as early as possible, we decided to eat a quick breakfast and get on the road.  Soon, the dark sky soon began spill a few drops of cold moisture.  Then, a steady rain created cold puddles on the bike trail.  But, fortunately, a bike path with easy navigation – not slippery cobblestones in a maze of city streets.

Eventually, the sun returned.  A bit of warm food at a ferry stop.  An escape from the wind.  A new mode of travel for the next few days: boats.

Gondola in canal

More on Venice soon!

Rest and More Travel


Context – beyond a holiday

First, a note that our only contact with the earthquake of Sunday, May 20 was to be awakened at 4:00 am as our hotel room gently shook. Our sympathy for the people who died from this deadly realignment of the earth. And, sadness for the loss of historic buildings.


May 21

In case it is not obvious, rain is the enemy of bicycle travel.
Especially, cold rain. And so, it was with an increasing sense of gloom that we watched the weather forecast as the predictions of rain became more unambiguous.

The “R-word,” as BAC people call it, began to seep into conversations. In view of some level of illness on our part, the idea of a day or so of wet ridding was horrible.

Fortunately, this section of the ride was around Lake Garda – and there are passenger boats that are the mass transit system of the region. And, some boats accept bicycles for a few extra Euros…

This travel method is sensible given the challenge of constructing wide roads along the sides of the lake. (Bikes do not do well in some of the narrow tunnels.)

So, we managed to survive a day of rain with a boat ride: Riva Del Garda to Gardone Rivera. (It should be noted that bike riders in yellow rain gear resemble the workers in the Paris sewer system… Or, HazMat workers trying to decontaminated a toxic spill…)

Wet Bikers in the Hotel

May 22

Better weather, but still ill health. (Apothecary supplement later.)

So, for some of us, another boat ride: Gardone Rivera to Sirminoe.

We are now in a different land: little German spoken; palm trees; and, olive trees among the vineyards.

Our new 4 star hotel is two part – and, we are in the new location, across the street: a new interior in an ancient building. Haut nouveau design: small, but post-modern elegant. Beige everywhere; grass-cloth walls; taupe gossamer curtains; chrome exotic fixtures in the bathroom. A monk-cell as Armani might have designed it.

May 23

A long ride – made longer by several missed turns: about 40 twisting miles before we reach the lovely medieval 4 star hotel. The room is so elegant (fabric walls, ornate marble trim in doorways…) that I wonder where the harpsichord is hidden.

A visit to Sant’Anastasia – a magnificent church.

statue of young boy

Yet Another city (Verona) of grace, charm – and, centuries of affluence.

May 24

Easier navigation as we travel from Verona to Vicenza.

But, with eating and biking and eating and chattering, not much time to Blog.

Pictures eventually…

Joy with empty coffee cup

swans in Lake Garda

a rainbow from the town square

Beyond Merano



Blog Hiatus

The idea of a bicycle tour suggests a slow pace. Indeed, in a sense, that is true. But the logistics of getting up in a different hotel each morning, packing one’s bags with all clothes, dressing with the appropriate layers of bike clothes (more on weather later!), and eating a huge breakfast with enough calories to keep going, doing bike prep… Riding all day… Getting set up in a new hotel (which may have a unique approach to wifi), doing a briefing for the next day’s ride, eating a 7 course European meal…

The Bicycle Adventure Club is actually a gourmet eating club with a bicycle problem…

Anyway, today (May 20) is a rest day – no riding and good wifi.
Therefore, a summary of a few days of travel.

Second Ride – Merano to Termeno

This was the day where lurking in our minds was the question, ” And we paid to do this…?”

We had a lovely ride on the Radroute, which is a flat route beside the Adige River nearly all day. But we and others in our group managed to get lost more than once..about a g-zillion times, which can be quite amusing until you climb the same mountain twice, when you shouldn’t even be on it!!!
We logged 51 miles on a day that we thought would be a mere 38. Oh well – it does give you license to eat whatever you want without any guilt whatsoever.

We saw Otzi the Iceman, entombed in a tomb the temperature of a a glacier where he stayed for over 5000 years before being discovered by some hikers. {From the Urban Chick}

{From the Beaded Beak – below:}

Otzi gives a fascinating view of a time at the dawn of recorded history – 5,000 years ago. From his clothes, his tools (hunting, medicine, embers of a fire that could be transported), the civilization from which he came had achieved an astonishing level of sophistication. With deep understanding of the uses of natural plants, with the ability to cultivate crops and integrate a complete diet (meat, grains, honey, fruits…), we see a form of life that bespeaks a collaborative culture.

The differences of culture can be as significant 50 kilometers down the road today. In Burgeis, despite the Italian government, the common language is German. The agriculture is alpine. By the time we arrive in Termeno, the language and fields of crops has started to change.

Third Ride – Termeno to Trento

Another day of following (or, trying to follow) the bike path, the Radroute.

Navigation could be a separate subject by itself. (There may be “after the ride” entries to reflect on some aspects of this…) But soon, after our departure from the hotel, Urban Chick and Bearded Beak were flying solo.

At least until two other couples from our group who had explored small towns along the route joined to form a 6-person navigation team.

Despite differing opinions on how to interpret maps and cue-sheets, we found a lovely spot for lunch. And, a collaborative approach to replacing an inner tube after a flat tire. Group travel has profound advantages.

Our lovely hotel that evening had what appeared to be elegant monk-cell bedrooms. Perhaps a good location for penitents praying for forgiveness of the sin of poor navigation.

Fourth Ride – Trento to Riva Del Garda

Better navigation skills and a path through small villages nestled into the face of the Dolomites produced interesting climbs. But, also a chance to see a wedding occur in the main square of a small village. The entire town turned out in best clothes – with local wine as a prelude to the actual wedding. Quite festive.

The descent into Riva Del Garda was steep – possibly 15 degrees. With spectacular views along the way. (Hard to take good pictures @ 50 kph.)

Did I mention that BAC folks like to eat? When the parking lot of your 4 star hotel has Porsches and a Maserati, you know that the food will be delicious.




First Ride: Burgeis to Merano

A 42 mile ride from the top of the valley toward the south. With many layers of clothes to keep warm on a steep descent from Burgeis, we set off following the river that flows between two mountain ranges: the Tyrolean Alps to the north and the Dolomites to the south.

Since bike travel is a natural part of tourism (indeed, all aspects of life), we followed the bike path, the Radroute, as the local signs call it. Past vineyards, past apple orchards, past tiny farms (no agribusiness in this part of the world), past camping areas, we zipped along the river at a reasonable clip. (Much easier to keep a quick pace when the path is mostly downhill.)

Lunch at a small café that is connected to a camping area. Complete with a server who had done some camping in Utah and spoke English quite well. Her English was, of course, much better than our German – the primary language of this part of Italy. And, much better than our Italian – a few phrases do not suffice to address serious options of exactly which kind of cheese is wanted.

After lunch, as the temperature rose, we began to shed layers of clothing. Despite the constant view of snow-capped mountains, we were soon quite warm. Cooled, occasionally, by spray from the irrigation systems a few feet off the bike path. Despite the lack of agribusiness, the need for extra water is part of even family farming.

By afternoon, we were in the town of Merano. For the uninitiated (which included us 1 day ago), Merano is magnificent – known for its focus on wellness and culture. A favorite destination of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, it became a meeting place for European high-society.

Today (May 16) was a “rest day” time to explore a civilized town. Shops, cafés, a Sesselift (chairlift) up into the Alps for a lovely view… A few moments in our Spa…

Yes, it’s the Bicycle Adventure Club, but people do like good food and affordable 4 star hotels.





Beyond Munich – Day 1: May 14th

Sunday was our first day on the road, but this time with our new cycling buddies, 26 of us in all.  After a Saturday night  group dinner at  the Hofbrauhaus, where we were entertained by live German music and traditional dances in lederhosen, we took off  by coach bus, towing our bikes in a trailer behind us on Sunday.  We drove through parts of Germany, Austria and  Switzerland happy to take in extraordinary views of alpine mountains and meadows.

The highlight of the day happened as we entered Burgeis, Italy.  Janet, the petite but rugged bus driver stopped at the sign to enter this little town, and there, we all saw the sign indicating that buses were verboten.  Randy, one of the ride leaders assured Janet that the passage, though tight, was possible as he’d done it before on another tour. Low and behold, we crossed a tiny bridge, rounded a corner, and it became quite obvious that passage through the town this way, was, indeed, not possible.  Soon, everyone in the village was stretched around us, with the “mayor” of the Burgeis,  a toothless man wearing an official cap, was circling us in a tiny red truck, trying to help as Janet tried repeatedly to back the bus across the bridge without jackknifing the trailer.  Which, of course, happened every time.  After a half an hour of repeated tries, I was certain that Janet would be arrested, and we would be left to cart our bikes and luggage across the city.  Finally, the guys on the bus and those watching outside, unshackled the trailer and pushed it out of the way.  Janet was able to move us out! We did manage to walk our bikes down a long hill to our lovely  hotel, by passing stables for cows (and, yes, smell like a barnyard) throughout the little village.

With enough time left in the day,  we saddled up for a check out ride, and rode down, down, downhill into Mals, another village, and then we rode and walked, walked and walked our bikes back up to Burgeis fighting winds of 30 mph. Not pleasant, but wonderful scenery.

Joy on the hillJoy with cow

The is a reason this  is called the Bicycle ADVENTURE Club.

Getting to Munich (Part 1)

Like much of life itself, international travel is not a spontaneous event.  It require more planning (and, preparation for the unexpected) than one might like.

Despite challenges with the TSA Gestapo in Atlanta (too annoying to document in this Blog), we arrived in Munich with our bikes two days before the official start of the tour.

A chance to adjust to a 6 hour time zone switch, and time to be visitors in a new city.  We have been astonished  to discover that the subway system is well documented even for those of us who are “German-speaking challenged.”

And, from the perspective of a tourist, the approach to urban design for bicycle inclusion is marvelous.  Tiled pedestrian sidewalks abut bicycle paths of asphalt and the only challenge is for pedestrians to remember to stay in their lane.  Greenspace is everywhere, and even the banks of the River Izar through the city are unadorned by restaurants or other obstructions to the beauty of nature.

Our hotel overlooking Nymphenburger Strasse showed an awareness that bicycles are not considered “vehicles” in the sense of the USA.  They rarely share traffic zones with motor vehicles, but are part of the human-powered lane of traffic.   Consequently, the zones / lanes are as follows:

  1. Moving out from the edge of buildings is a zone for vegetation and outdoor seating.  The enables gardens, trees, and cafés to flourish.
  2. Next is the lane for pedestrian traffic.  People still walk in Europe! We might call this a “sidewalk.”
  3. The next lane is for bikes.  Really, an extension of the sidewalk.  That makes it clear that the “Walk / Do Not Walk” signs refer to the human-powered zone.
  4. The next line is another zone for vegetation: both for aesthetics and for a reminder that motor vehicles are beyond the people zone.
  5. Next is a lane for parking.  (Perhaps more separation for safety.)
  6. Finally, a lane for cars, buses, and delivery vehicles.  (In wide areas, two lanes.)
  7. Lastly, before reversing the pattern toward the other side of the street, is a set of tracks for the trolley.

view from a window

Complex, by US standards, but a design that speaks to a multi-modal aesthetic that is practical.

Leaving for Europe

Children just hop on their bikes, and – zoom – they ride away.  When we old folks were young, no helmets.  And, in the summer, no shoes.  But, that was the “natural” way, not the modern technique.  Now biking is safer and more complicated.

First is the helmet.  Much could be written – but, basically, it’s essential.  Next, we deal with spandex. A ride of any significant distance requires bike shorts for comfort.  (If you just go around the block on your old cruiser, bike shorts are not needed.)  And, if you are at all serious about keeping up with folks your age, clipless pedals are vital.  And, so now we need special bike shoes.  And, gloves, shirt, rain jacket…

And, if traveling to Europe with the Bicycle Adventure Club, packing the bike into a suitcase is essential.  [Best YouTube video on what this looks like when done by a professional.]

For those of us who are not professional bike folk, this is one of the most anxiety producing events of the trip.  For more on the positive effects of biking and anxiety, please read a brilliant article in Monday’s (May 7, 2012) New York Times: Anxiety: Cycle of Fear.

Now, to print the boarding pass for tomorrow’s flight…

wheel and part of frame in suitcase

Starting to pack the bike box…



, ,

Imagine for a moment that we were able to develop a civilization where all technology is appropriate, and society’s growth and development are sustainable.  A world where “natural” does not simply mean a return to the 11th century – nor, just wearing organic cotton T-shirts with trendy phrases.

We would have diverse visions of this new civilization – but the bicycle would be integral to our modes of travel in almost all scenarios of the future.

We recognize that this invention, in the second half of the 19th century, of a human-powered, pedal-driven machine was an enduring contribution to transportation.  Not merely the 19th century enthusiasts. Not just the folks who ride around the block in suburbia on weekends.  Not the heroic athletes of the Tour de France.  The bicycle has, and will have, many forms and uses.

It can produce glee and broad smiles in a newly competent 5 year old on her first tricycle.  A bicycle can, under proper circumstance, serve as a commute option.  It can enable us to experience travel in new ways.  Faster than walking, much slower than an automobile – a pace in harmony with an awareness of our journeys.

Stories and Journeys

Much of this blog will be stories – rides and observations from a couple who are attempting to integrate bicycles into our lives.  Part of this blog is musing on the themes in the above paragraphs: visions of a less fossil fuel dependent economy; benefits of a slower pace of life; advantages of integrating healthy exercise into the fabric of getting from here to there…

Like all efforts, there is a catalyst: a desire to share our current journey with friends and colleagues.  We (Joy and Arthur) are about to head off on a two-week bike ride in Northern Italy, a May 2012 ride organized by the Bicycle Adventure Club.

Hello world!

Welcome to the work of a novice at! This is my very first post. It should be deleted – but, an edit seems better.

Part of the challenge will be posting while on the road. No real computer. Not much guaranteed connectivity. Two iPhones and an iPad…

We shall see…

An edit made from an iPad.
And, an iPhone edit!