Castellamare del Golfo - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

March 29, 2019

Castellamare del Golfo

We have another guest at the table at our B&B this morning.  Kuno, a northern Italian in Palermo on business, sat down and quickly initiated conversation in his nearly fluent English.  He made a delightful breakfast companion as he shared his own extensive personal history with bicycling with us and described his upbringing in the Dolomites.  Raised in Sesto, a village east of Dobbiaco that we skied through years go (on the night before I ruptured my quad tendon on our trip home) and now living in a small village south of Bolzano, he comes from a land we are familiar with and enjoyed discussing with him.   It made for an uplifting start to the day.

Chatting with Kuno, our fellow guest at Palmolie B&B.
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We got a reasonably early start to our ride this morning (something we resolved to do more of on this tour), and were on the road by about 9:30.  We’re bound for Castellamare del Golfo, a port town west along the coast that we also stayed at on our first tour of Sicily - it is the natural stopover if you’re heading for the west coast.  

First though, we have an errand to run to correct a packing error.  Rather democratically, I packed three spare tubes for the trip - a 20” for the Bike Fridays, a 700 for Rodriguez, and a 650B for the Straggler.  Since the Straggler and Rodriguez are nestled together in storage back in Portland though, this was actually a pretty poor plan.  We left the unneeded pair with our suitcases and swung by a bike shop on the way out of town to pick up a couple of extra spares.  They’re unfortunately Prestas, which don’t really fit that well with our rims, but that’s all we could find - we had the same issue last fall in Spain.  Not that it will matter though - with our rugged Schwalbe Marathons, we aren’t planning on getting any flats in the coming months.

Riding through central Palermo is an interesting challenge.  Not quite up to Taiwan’s standard, but still dynamic enough that I thought it was worth a video.  I called back to Rachael to turn on her GoPro, but she forgot to mount it this morning.  We’ll do it when we stop at the bike shop.

Rectifying packing error #1, we pick up a pair of spare tubes of the right dimensions.
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Unfortunately, at the bike shop we discover packing error #2: we packed some but not all components of the GoPro mount, so video is out until we get a replacement.  Neither of us can quite believe this has happened again - we really have a pretty terrible record at bringing everything Rachael needs for her video magic.  

After some interesting discussion about what went wrong and where and by whom the missing parts might have been left behind, we agree that none of that is relevant for the moment.  Nothing really matters now but finding a replacement.  Rachael goes back into the store and gets an address from the saleswoman of a place she thinks might sell GoPros.  It’s only another mile and a half away and more or less on route anyway, so we decide to detour there and hope for the best.

We don’t find the best.  What we do find is a second bike store of the same chain, that just sells bikes and bike equipment.  Rachael suspects that storekeeper #1 sent us this way as a quick way to get us out of her hair.   Between Palermo’s interesting traffic and this disappointing service, Rachael is suddenly a bit less sure that Sicily is her favorite place in the world to bicycle.

Portrait of an unhappy lady. We are unsuccessful at rectifying packing error #2.
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Sue PriceWe are finding difficulty on the other side of the equation - once home and "unpacked" finding what we need when we need it is difficult at times. Several important items have gone astray. We are determined to make a very detailed list of what is in each bin before leaving for our next trip. We should probably try to be as organized with our "to go" things as well!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Sue PriceGood luck with the lists and organization. We try to be diligent about that too, but nothing ever seems to be quite bulletproof. We have the same issues returning home also. You’d think it would be easier now that we have fewer things to keep track of in just our storage unit, but we still end up misplacing things.
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2 weeks ago

Palermo undoubtedly must have a GoPro dealer somewhere, but by now it’s 11:30 and we’re out of time.  We have 40 miles still to cover and a 2,000’ climb facing us before we reach or lodging for the night (and at this point, I’m sure there are those out there who would point to this as an argument against prebooking our lodging).  There are several cities ahead of us where we can hope to find a replacement, so we give it up for now and start riding.

Palermo sits in a disc shaped plain by the sea, surrounded by mountainous country.  Anywhere you go by land, you’re facing a significant climb to escape the city.  On our first tour we stayed close to the coast and rode west, climbing over Mount Pellegrino - a really great ride, and probably the best choice for its views and solitude.  We opted for something different this time though and went a bit further inland, crossing over Montelepre.  Not as quiet, as we’re on a secondary highway all the way up, but quiet enough and with a decent shoulder.  It’s a steady but not too tough ascent, topping out at about 1,900’.

We’re only about a half mile into the climb, but already we get impressive views back at Palermo.
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At the first real climb, Rachael pulls away and is soon out of sight (because I stopped for photos, of course). We should get used to this view over the next few weeks, until I bike my way back into shape.
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Oh, good night! Here’s another packing failure. Sorry, guys - we forgot the cow treats.
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Further up on the ascent, at about 800’, we get another fine view back across the city.
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Pass with care.
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Large mammal on the loose, and she’s lumbering my way. Perhaps I should move over to the other shoulder and cede this one to her.
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Looking northwest toward the coastal plain through a gap in the formation. I think the nearest town is Torretta.
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Poppies and olives. We’re a month earlier than when we were here the first time, and are seeing a different mix of flowers in bloom.
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The climb isn’t really bad at all, I’m pleased to be able to say since we’ve done so little real climbing in the last two months.  We’re bothered almost as much by the cold as by the climb.  It was a warm, sunny 60 degrees at sea level, but at 2,000’ it’s windy, cold, and quite a different story.

After passing the summit we drop a few hundred feet and pull into a cafe to warm up and have a quick snack.  On leaving, we have a near-death experience: I bike across to wait in the sun until Rachael gets herself in motion. As she bikes up I point out that she forgot to buckle up one of her panniers, then look at mine to see if I’ve made the same mistake.  Nope - I’m my own man and have made a different mistake.  My pannier, along with our passports and iPads, is still back in the cafe.  If I hadn’t looked back at Rachael I’m pretty sure I’d Have just kept biking and dropped 1,500’ down the mountain before realizing my error.  

Looking back at Montelepre, the site of our lunch stop.
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From Montelepre the rest of the ride went smoothly - a fast drop for about five miles, then another flattish ten at about 600’ elevation,then a drop to the coast followed by the final few miles to Castellamare.    The first half of this was on a busier, less appealing highway so we kept our heads down, biked steadily and made good time.  After that we escaped onto an unmaintained older highway for about four miles, the type we remember so fondly from our first ride - virtually empty, with a eroding and irregular pavement that discourages cars but makes for a delightful bike ride.  The final miles along the coast were also very quiet - much more so than when we rode this leg three years ago.  Our reward for arriving so early in the season.

Western Sicily is such a gorgeous place to be in the spring. The purplish red clover is just starting to show some color.
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This whatchamacallit wasn’t so easy to get a decent in-focus shot of, whipping around in the breeze as it was.
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Andrea BrownOooh, is it plant ID time? This one is Glebionis coronaria - Crown Daisy.

(Sorry, Bill. I will leave the difficult ones for you)
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownYup, it’s that time again. Thanks! I hoped we’d find a volunteer.
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2 weeks ago
We took a break on this poorly surfaced, unmaintained older road for about four miles, mostly to avoid a tunnel and pair of scarily high overpasses. In some ways this was the prettiest part of the day, if you ignored the sections that have been taken over as an unofficial refuse site.
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We checked in at Atrium B&B, our home for the next two nights, arriving literally seconds before our host. I was just walking across the street to test the door when he drove up.  Looks like a great place.  After showering and changing, we lay around until dinner time and then walked down to the port for a dinner by the sea at a fine spot recommended by our hosts.

We’re really pleased to be staying here for two nights.  Last time we were only here for one night, arriving late and leaving early the next morning.  We really  hardly saw the town, and didn’t discover its attractive waterfront until we were leaving town the next morning.

We don’t want to disappoint anyone by going through the whole tour with no food photos, so let’s get started. Busiana pasta (a local specialty) with sardines, fennel sausage, raisins, and pine nuts. Just my kind of dish.
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Suzanne GibsonMore food photos, please!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonWe’ll have to see, Suzanne. Hopefully we can find another decent meal on this island.
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2 weeks ago
Climbing back to the Atrium B&B after our dinner on the bay. Castellamare is a split level town, connected by a few staircases. A much quieter and shorter walk to and from the port than following the driving route.
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Ride stats today: 44 miles, 3,200’; for the tour, 48 miles,  3,200’

Today's ride: 44 miles (71 km)
Total: 48 miles (77 km)

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Suzanne GibsonIf you were spending your time making sure you didn't forget anything and packing perfectly, you wouldn't have any energy left for your creative photography and writing. So for your loyal readers, everything is fine the way it is.
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2 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonThanks. Hopefully I’ll learn from this and get it right the next time.
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2 weeks ago
Suzanne GibsonTo Rachael AndersonHi Rachel! I'm missing your videos already. So I guess creativity isn't an excuse for forgetting some things, like essential parts for the GoPro. Good luck in your search!
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2 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauSomehow you guys make every tour seem even more beautiful than your previous one. I think I've discovered your secret: You climb up into the mountains--above the viewblockers--and take pictures of the sea and towns and cities down below. Very sneaky . . . and nobody does it better.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauGetting up and out of the trees sure helps, alright. I really love these wide open vistas. Here, southern Utah, eastern Oregon - they’re all my favorite places.
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2 weeks ago