Marsala - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

April 2, 2019

Marsala

Today began with a continuation of a discussion that’s been running for a few days now and gradually gaining steam.  We’re trying to decide what to do after we leave Marsala, tonight’s destination.  The issue is the weather.  Today and tomorrow look fine (well, overcast and cool but at least dry).  After that though a significant disturbance threatens the south coast, beginning with Thursday’s threatened steady rain and 25-35 mph SE winds, with gusts to 50.  Our planned itinerary is a 55 mile ride southeast to Sciacca, straight into a gale.

We’ve been debating a range of options over the past two days while we’ve waited for the forecasted storm to grow nearer.  Now, with it just two days off, we need to start taking evasive action.  We start by cancelling our reservation in Sciacca, to give us some flexibility.  Other than that, we aren’t sure what to do.  Most attractive would be to take the bus (there’s no train) east to Sciacca or even beyond, and sit out the weather without disrupting the rest of our itinerary.  We don’t know if the bus will accept bikes though, so we punt the question until this evening when we can ask in person.

Today’s ride begins with an errand: a stopoff at the bike store.  I need to replace the lost bike pump, and Rachael needs to replace her helmet (broken clasp) and a water bottle.  We find a well stocked store, but it all takes a long time and we don’t really start on the ride until 11:30.

I’ve been standing watch over the bikes for what feels like a half hour. To help pass the time, I take a selfie and fantasize about riding off with this classy Bianchi with a shock resistant carbon fiber frame.
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Suzanne GibsonGorgeous Bianchi! I want one, and also want to be the person who could ride it.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonDoesn’t it look great? I’m pretty sure our Bike Fridays or Rodriguez would bear up better on these rough roads though.
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2 months ago

Today’s ride takes us through similar country to yesterday’s.  In fact, the first ten miles are identical as we start out inland rather than following the coast south.  On our first tour we followed the coast, which for the first fifteen miles is quite busy and unappealing. Much better to add a few miles and head to the interior and its network of beautiful, ultraquiet roads.  We follow a deep horseshoe for the first 30 miles, returning to the coast further south where a quiet road along the shore begins.

Here’s the spot where yesterday’s and today’s rides diverge, so we’ll start seeing new terrain. Time to break out the camera again.
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We were wrong in thinking we had these roads to ourselves.
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Rachael takes the lead on the only real climb of the day, a killer that gains four hundred feet in two miles.
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More of the same, which suits us fine.
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When I turned onto this road, I was faced with five angry sets of fangs charging at me, Fortunately when I stopped they did too, and seemed to lose interest.
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Here was why the dogs were so aggressive. No way was I going to get close to their herd!
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In the colorful hills south of Salemi
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South of Salemi
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The interior is riddled with old, abandoned structures like this. Scenic, but a bit melancholic.
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A long, gradual drop to the coast. With the surface rough and irregular, we don’t pick up much speed, which is fine. Slow down and enjoy the view.
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The last ten miles along the coast are a delightful ride.  The absolutely flat road hugs the coast and is generally quiet except for an occasional tour bus that passes slowly so that the passengers can see one of the premier sights of this part of the island: the salt pans and the remains of a salt extraction industry that goes back 2,500 years.  The area is protected now, in the Stagnone Natural Reserve.

Working the salt pans in Stagnone Natural Reserve. Salt cultivation here dates back 2,500 years, to the time of the Phonecians.
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A few of the old windmills that powered salt manufacturing are still scenically scattered around the lagoon.
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In the Stagnone Natural Reserve
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On arrival in Marsala we head immediately to the tourism information office, to see what information we can glean about the bus.  We don’t find much, other than the location of the bus stop.  We decide that we’ll bike over there later, about the time for the late afternoon departure, and show them our bikes.

It’s a good thing that we did this, because it took us about half an hour to find.  There is no office - it really is just a bus stop, and you won’t learn anything except by asking the driver.  Fortunately he was five minutes late, and arrived just as we finally located the stop.  And yes, bikes are fine.  Great news!  Now, we’ll watch the weather for another day to see what happens, but likely we’ll end up riding out the worst of it on the bus.

In Marsala
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This fountain is ringed by trees that wouldn’t look out of place in Taiwan.
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Once she saw my camera, she was insistent that I take her photo. So I obliged.
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In Marsala
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On the way back to our room Rachael briefly picks up an escort. I wonder for how much longer our nights will be as quiet as this?
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Ride stats today: 41 miles, 1,200’; for the tour:  181 miles, 10,700’

Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 181 miles (291 km)

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