Albenga - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

November 2, 2018

Albenga

Today was a long day, and longer than we originally intended.  When we booked a room in Albenga, we imagined a shorter 40 mile ride that began in Veranzana after taking the train from Genoa.  When this morning came though and the weather looked fine all day, we decided we might as well just bike the whole way.  The train to Arenzano takes nearly an hour anyway because it stops at about a hundred stations along the way, so there’s not that much time difference.  

Genoa isn’t really all that bad to bike out of, once you get past the confusing first mile or so.  There’s never a real bike lane, though plans for one are in the works.  The lanes are wide on the coastal road though (SS1), and no one is moving too fast because they have to work around all the usual obstacles.  Anyone in a hurry takes the highway, E8, once they get past the unfortunate gap where the highway fell into the river three months ago.

On the whole, we’re glad we biked it; but I’m sure others will have their own thoughts on that.

About eight miles out of the core, suddenly the feeling changes.  We’ve escaped the city, and we’re on the beautiful Ligurian coast.  It’s comfortably warm, traffic lightens up considerably, and we start seeing other bikers - lots of them.  It’s no exaggeration to state that we saw hundreds of cyclists racing up and down the coast in the next two hours.

For the last half year I’ve been thinking a lot about our experiment, wondering how it would be visiting the Mediterranean coast so late in the season.  Today, we have our answer.  It looks like it will be brilliant.  The road and the coastal resorts are quieter and much more welcoming, it’s very comfortable cycling when it’s not raining, and it’s beautiful.  I love the look of the sea, so steely grey under an interesting broken sky.

It’s been too long, and past time for one of these shots in the journal. Don’t tell Rachael, but I intentionally lost our way a bit leaving Genoa to set this one up. Well worth it, don’t you think?
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The fact sheet on the Lighthouse of Genoa is impressive. The third oldest lighthouse in the world, it was built in 1543, it replaced an earlier one built in 1128. At 149 feet, it is the firth tallest in the world, and prior to 1902 was the tallest. It has undergone several renovations, after surviving bombardment by the French in the Siege of Genoa, and by the British and Americans in World War II.
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You may remember the disasterous bridge collapse that occurred in Genoa just this last August. One of the central spans fell into the river and on the rail line from Turin (the one we rode in on), and resulted in many fatalities. One of the surviving spans is in the distance on the right.
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After about an hour plowing through unbroken city and suburbs, we finally escape Genoa.
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In Arenzano we make a detour to a surfing equipment shop.  We’re not considering a new hobby, but the GoPro store finder lists this place as an outlet for their cameras.  Rachael’s died a few days back, she’s glum about it, and hoping she can find a replacement soon.  No luck here though.  They do sell them, but only on special order.  We’ll keep looking as we head west, but in the meantime, no video (imagine a sad face emoticon here, if you like emoticons.  I don’t particularly, so you’re stuck with old fashion words).

The Catholic Church, Arenzano. Looks like a scene from Rio.
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Amazing what you can pull in with a few we’ll placed bread crumbs.
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At Arenzano we pick up a delightful coastal bike trail for a few miles, enjoying a break from the coast road until we come to a closure due to storm damage.  The path continues on to Varazze, where we stop at a bench on the waterfront, watching surfers wait for the next big one.

This part of the coast looks brilliant for cycling, and I wish we’d broken the day into two rides and stopped at one of the attractive villages we passed through.  Part of this area is a UNESCO protected biosphere reserve, and signs highlight bike rides into the interior that I’m sure would be spectacular.  It’s pretty amazing to us - we just keep finding one reason after another to return to Northern Italy someday.

West of Arenzano is a lovely coastal bike path, a nice break from the coastal road. It passes through a series of tunnels like this - dank, dripping, a bit eerie.
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So what is this? A palm shrub, a bonsaied tree? I’ve never seen such a stunted one.
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Bill ShaneyfeltNope, it is a cycad. I remember this from my Botany class in 1965! Also have seen a few in botanical gardens to keep it fresh in my mind.

https://wimastergardener.org/article/cycads/
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltHey, thanks! With other palms all around, I just assumed this one was too.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanOK, cycad, but is that an old sharpening stone on the left?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanI don’t think so, but I’m glad you asked because we see these here every now and then and I wasn’t that clear myself. It’s a granite stone used to crush olives as part of the oil extraction process.
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1 month ago
Looking ahead to the break in the weather. Behind us to the east it’s solidly overcast and will rain soon. To the west, it grows progressively brighter and sunnier, with stiff headwinds.
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Another look back toward Genoa and it’s cloud-sheathed hills
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Looking east, at the first of a series of headlands. This stretch of coastline is especially dramatic, reminding me at times of the Oregon and Northern California Coast.
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Our ride continues west along the coast, with the weather steadily improving.  We spend most of our time on SS1, which is fine if you don’t mind company on the road.  It’s very scenic, passing alternately between relaxed resort towns and rugged headlands.  Thing change abruptly though when we leave Sportono and come to a police barricade blocking passage on SS1.  It looks like it might be OK, as other bikers continue on.  Unsure, I ask the policewoman if we can get through.  She gives me a several paragraph answer, In Italian with hand gestures, none of which I understand.  English, I ask hopefully.  Oh, English.  Closed, she states tersely.  Presumably due to storm damage, but I don’t know for sure.  

In any case, there’s nothing to do but take the high road, up and over a massive headland.  It’s slow, steep going for the next two miles, but we’re rewarded with probably the best cycling miles of the days.  Great views, a lovely road, and lots of other bikers.  We pass a bike hotel, and then even a van supportingna tour group.  We glide along on top for a few miles at about a thousand foot elevation, and then plummet back down to the sea through a series of crazy hairpins.

Looking down on Sportono. You’ll notice in the ride profile that this is a flat ride, except for a large table-shaped lump. Here’s the lump. We’ve been forced off the coast road, which is closed due to storm damage. No other way west but over the top.
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Kathleen ClassenSee Scott, lump really is a geographical term! Especially when you are biking over one. I am a few days behind reading and catching up tonight. I wish we could beam ourselves in, but since we can’t, reading your blog is the next best thing.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen ClassenYes, that’s a well recognized term - I recognize it from my Geology 101 class from 50 years ago. Wish you could be here too! If you don’t mind a bit of rain, it’s brilliant.
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1 month ago
It was a bit of work getting up here, but these are the nicest riding miles of the day. Looking south, we can see just a bit of Noli, a scenic spot on the coast.
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Dropping off the western end of our headland toward Finale Ligure. We’re looking back east here to Varigotti and Crena Point.
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Great fun! It’s a real shame that Rachael’s GoPro died earlier this week. No more videos until we find a store that sells them.
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Still working our way back down to the coast
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The last twelve miles are generally flat, right next to the coast.  We stay on SS1 the whole way because it’s getting late in the day, though there is a quieter and somewhat longer option for the last few miles.  Traffic has picked up quite a bit, either because it’s a busier stretch of coast, maybe it’s evening rushour, or maybe because it’s Friday afternoon and everyone is springing for the coast.  For whatever reason, we’re happy when we reach Albegna right at sundown.

We’re staying in another converted palace, in the center of Albenga’s tiny historic core.  It looks like a remarkable place, but we’ll wait until tomorrow for a better look.

West of Finale Ligure we come to one last spectacular headland for the day, its huge cliffs plunging straight into the sea.
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We’ve cut it just a bit too close today. We’re about a mile from Albenga, and just losing the light. We’re off daylight savings time now, and need to start factoring it in. We should really be off the road before 5.
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In the piazza in front of our hotel, stepping out for dinner. The cheerful family passing by also includes a boy of about four, with scooter. He’s smiling and clapping his hands because he almost toppled me when his scooter got away from him and invaded my space.
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In the plaza of the lions. We’ll get a better look at historic Albegna in the morning, and I’ll say more about it then.
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Bennie D. BarfieldMy wife and I stopped off at Genoa on a Med cruise.. Looks like you guys are headed in the same direction our cruise went.. We're enjoying the sights..
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bennie D. BarfieldI’ve never been on a cruise, but I love it he idea of arriving in Fenoa by sea. That seems like just the right Ishtar way to get here,
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1 month ago

Ride stats today: 61 miles, 3,100’

Today's ride: 61 miles (98 km)
Total: 2,121 miles (3,413 km)

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