To Licata: the Valley of the Temples, and a slight mishap - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

April 6, 2019

To Licata: the Valley of the Temples, and a slight mishap

Our B&B near the Turkish Steps is a few miles out of town.  On our last stay, we walked to a nearby restaurant on the steep stairs that drop you to the beach; but those stairs are blocked off now and the restaurant is closed.  Massimiliano, our host, offered to drive us to a restaurant in Porto Empedocle, and we gladly accepted.  We assumed that he’d drop us off and let us call him or take a taxi back when we were done, but we were surprised to have him come in and dine with us.  Afterwards, he drove us around the Valley of the Temples so that we could see the monuments lit up at night.  Really a great service!  

Rachael with Massimiliano, at our pizzeria in Porto Empedocle last night.
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The Temple of Hercules, from our drive-by tour of the Valley of the Temples
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Luigi, Massimiliano’s sweet, inquisitive dog, is a bit of a Hoover. We almost lost our breakfast to him the next morning.
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Today is beautiful!  It’s wonderful to see all this blue sky after the past few days.  Today’s ride is nearly the same as we took last time - beginning with a visit to the Valley of the Temples, we stay mostly on very quiet, distressed roads the rest of the way to Licata.  The main deviation was at the Valley of the Temples - last time we got off the bikes and walked through the monuments for a few hours, but this time we stayed below and saw them from the road as we biked past.  It’s interesting to compare today’s ride against our first visit, when we were here a month later.

Viewing the Turkish Steps from the viewpoint above. This is all quite changed since we were here last. Nearby structures are being demolished, barriers are being erected. It looks like a preservation movement is underway.
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Andrea asked for a close-up of a blue flower from a few days back. I didn’t take a good look at it then, but here’s one candidate.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesBorage, lovely in teas.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesBorage! Thanks, that’s a nice one to know. Prolific here.
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1 week ago
Andrea BrownTo Steve Miller/GrampiesYep, and has roots that go down to Middle-Earth. But that’s not the blue flower I saw a few days ago so keep documenting. It was an intense dark blue, and I am predicting it was a large gentian or some kind of penstemon.

I’ve really enjoyed the plant life on your tours and appreciate you keeping the amateur botanists engaged and happy.
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1 week ago
Here are a few more of the same ilk.
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I think though it might be this one instead.
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Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownYup. We’re seeing this everywhere now. Grows in stalks to about 18 inches, so this isn’t a very revealing photo. Do you want to see the whole plant?
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1 week ago
Andrea BrownTo Scott AndersonThat is very helpful with plant ID, to see the size, habit, leaves, as well as the blooms. It’s just gorgeous, and is probably neither of my speculated species.
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1 week ago
Agrigento. Originally the Greek city Agrikas, it was founded by settlers from Rhodes and Crete in 580 BC. In ancient times it had a population of 300,000 and was one of the largest Greek cities in the Mediterranean.
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This is the road that parallels the Valley of the Temples on its south side. It’s elegantly lined with pines, and gives good views from below of the major structures. The photo is misleading though, because even this early in the year it is quite busy with fast moving traffic and completely shoulderless. It’s not even all that safe to stop with a bike.
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The Temple of Hercules
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The Tomb of Theron, built in memory of the fallen in the Second Punic War
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The Temple of Concordia, built in the fifth century, is the best preserved and probably the most recognizable monument here - it is used as the symbol for UNESCO.
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The Temple of Concordia
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The Temple of Hera
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I love this perspective of the Temple of Concordia, backdropped by Agrigento. We stumbled on it by chance, looking for a quieter route away from the monument.
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Lunch stop. For the third time this tour, skies were blue when we stopped for lunch and clouding over when we left. We’re going to have to start skipping lunch.
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Scott AndersonPer Rachael, No skipping lunch!
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1 week ago
This is more like it! We’re on a very distressed road that wanders through the hills and avoids a pair of dangerous tunnels on SS 115. Surprisingly, it is even marked as a cycle touring route.
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A hoopoe just flew across the road in front of me! They’re such a colorful, unmistakable bird. I think this is only the second one I’ve ever seen.
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This is an exceptional cycling route, especially in spots like this where the pavement has held up better. The white patches are plastic covered greenhouses, a very common sight here near the coast.
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In other spots though, we get a fair amount of mud in the mix. We’re lucky it isn’t wetter.
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Nearing Licata, we came to an awful spot that I had tried hard to avoid - a  gap where the coastal road looks like it was washed away years ago.  I’d looked for this spot on Google maps and thought I knew where it was, but was wrong.  It is even worse three years later, and looks totally impassable now.  We turned back, and were pleased to find a way around that didn’t add much distance - and one that wasn’t even shown on our GPS.

Unfortunately, in testing out this bad patch before giving up on it, Rachael apparently bashed up her derailleur and nearly broke it.  When she’s in her lowest gears, the derailleur rubs alarmingly against her tire.  She complained that it was making disturbing noises as we biked along, but then it stopped (she shifted Into a higher gear, and there was clearance from the tire again) so we just kept riding until we reached our hotel.  

Our hotel is up a steep little hill though, so she shifted down and the sound returned.  We looked at her bike together and saw that we had a real situation on our hands - the derailleur had obviously gotten badly bent or damaged somehow.  We pushed our way up the last few yards to our hotel, feeling glum and distressed - how likely were we to find a bike mechanic in little Licata?

Our hosts met us at the door, and quickly sprang into action to help us out.  The lady of the house got on the phone immediately to see if the bike shop (run by a friend of the family) was still open.  She thought it unlikely since it was after 5 on a Saturday night, but we’re in luck.  The shop is open, and Giuseppe will await us.  Our hosts pull out a map and mark out directions, and we’re off.

Giuseppe is all we could hope to find.  He immediately sets to work, straightens the derailleur, and after extensive attempts to tune the gears realizes that one of the cog wheels is broken.  Does he have a replacement?  He thinks so, and after rummaging through his wares returns with the needed component.  He says we’re really lucky - he normally closes at noon on Saturdays this early in the year, and this is the first time he’s been open this late.

As we ride off, he tells us to test it out and come right back if there’s a problem because he’s just about to shutter the shop for the weekend.  It works perfectly though.  So lucky!

Oh, hell. I thought we were avoiding this awful spot where the road is completely washed away. It was horrible to get through last time, and even worse now. We turn back and take a side road that branched off a short ways back.
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Daisy chain
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The wildflowers seem even more dramatic this year than on our last visit. We’re just seeing red poppies pop out.
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I was excited to see one of these traditional painted carts again. Looking back at our first journal, we saw one near Licata then also. It looks like a different cart than last time though - the markings aren’t the same.
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A great little bike store, run by our newest hero Giuseppe. We were so lucky to find his shop still open late on a Saturday afternoon. We could have been sitting out a few days.
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Licata is an interesting place: authentic, I think you’d call it.  Not much given over to tourism at all, its a bit gloomy walking through its narrow streets in the evening.  For dinner, we walk down to the waterfront to La Lampara, the same restaurant we ate at the last time we were here, on our host’s recommendation.  Great then, great now.  It’s primarily a fish restaurant, and I enjoy a whole orata while Rachael has cod with potatoes and artichokes.  We sit next to a pair of French gentlemen and take some enjoyment from the fact that their Italian skills are if anything even weaker than ours, hard as that is to imagine.

The Licata lighthouse
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Ride stats today: 43 miles, 2,800’; for the tour:  284 miles, 15,500’

Today's ride: 43 miles (69 km)
Total: 274 miles (441 km)

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