To Castel del Monte - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

April 21, 2022

To Castel del Monte

I’ve been staying in a wonderful B&B here in Gravina in Puglia and while I don’t often mention my lodgings I would like to give a shout out to Yvonne and Rico at Ponticelli B&B Boutique. Yvonne is originally from Saint Louis, so communication was a breeze. I got upgraded to a suite with oodles of room and lots of free goodies, including wine. Yvonne even brought me some focaccia for breakfast – more than just bread, it was topped with herbs and with tomatoes. The supply was more than ample to serve as both breakfast and lunch. With that and the yogurt in the mini-fridge I didn’t have to cash in the breakfast token at a nearby café.

My destination today is Castel del Monte, an octagonal citadel situated on a hill in the Parco Nazionale dell'Alta Murgia, the Alta Murgia National Park. They offer no lodging, but I had booked a room for two nights at agritourism spot nearby and planned to spend some time cycling into and around the park for a couple of days. But the weather did not look promising. After two wonderful days of sunshine and low winds, today’s predictions were for early rains tapering by mid-morning then cloudy, cool, and windy – southeasterly winds at 25-30 mph, gusting to 40 mph. Yikes!

delayed check-out until 10:30 in hopes of clearing skies, but it was still drizzling when I set off from Gravina. I headed north a few miles and then turned northwest onto SP202, one of the smaller state provincial roads that runs roughly parallel to the Park. Low clouds hung over the park and there was a bit more truck traffic than I like, spoiling my hopes of a scenic and leisurely ride to Castel del Monte. However, it was flat and I had a nice tailwind so I really couldn’t complain.

A farewell selfie of me and Yvonne, a great hostess
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A cloudy and misty morning
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Scott AndersonMaybe not ideal cycling, but beautiful.
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3 months ago
Looking toward the Alta Murgia National Park
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Along the way
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Along the way
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A quiet moment on SP202, the smallest of the state provincial roads I took today
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After six miles, SP202 ended and I turned onto SP230, heading northwest along the same general trajectory. The road was wider here, but traffic was heavier – there is really something un-nerving about seeing two semi-trucks headed your way, one passing the other. I made a couple of stops where it was safe to pull over, but mostly I kept my focus on the ride, again taking advantage of the tail wind. Finally, about 20 miles into the ride I turned north into the park. There was an initial climb on a road that started out narrow and bumpy, and I was feeling the full force of the wind. Although I nearly psyched myself out, the road widened, there was less traffic, and the climb was very manageable – an average of 4.6% over 2.8 miles. And best of all, the wind was held at bay by the steeper side walls through the cut.

How can you not stop for fields of yellow
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Looking toward the Alta Murgia National Park
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I let Ace out for a look around but he kept wanting to practice his parachuting in the wind
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A random old building
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Both myself and the truck driver were glad I'd pulled over - he waved me a big Italian kiss
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The skies had cleared up a bit by the time I turned north into the Alta Murgia National Park
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Hoping for less traffic in the park, but it didn't look like a good start
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Ready to climb through the cut and beyond
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Once I reached the top, everything changed. In the wide open landscape of the Alta Murgia National Park, there was nothing to protect me from the full force of the wind. I sought shelter in the woods for a bite to eat, but was soon back on Vivien George, trying to stay upright in 30 mph crosswinds, gusting to 40 mph. I tried taking some photos, but could not hold the camera steady - my targets were out of focus, out of frame, or both. Downhills were the most frightening, especially when I knew a car was about to overtake me. At one point, a car waited for me to stop wobbling and weaving, only passing when I’d slowed at the bottom of the short decline. The last time I’d cycled in winds that strong was on an ACA ride that put me on Interstate 10 – once safely off the highway I called Lyft for a ride to the hotel.   

No shelter from the wind
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Thank goodness for focaccia
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Rich FrasierWhen all else fails, eat focaccia. That’s my motto.
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3 months ago
Out of frame, out of focus
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Steve Miller/GrampiesSomething out there likes the wind, just not you.
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3 months ago

Although I reached the agritourist Masseria about an hour before check-in, I was welcomed in and shown to Raffaella’s room. It is a family-run Inn and the owner is a third-generation descendent of Raffaella and, as he explained to me with hand gestures, I’ll be sleeping in her matrimonial bed. I fell asleep to the howling wind, asking Raffaella for blue skies and moderate winds tomorrow.

The matrimonial bed - Raffaella's, not mine
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Raffaella
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Today's ride: 29 miles (47 km)
Total: 403 miles (649 km)

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Rachael AndersonSorry you had such a rough day! I hope tomorrow is better!
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3 months ago
Tricia GrahamYou are so strong and positive
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Tricia GrahamThanks much Tricia - it means a lot coming from someone as strong and positive as yourself
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3 months ago
Rich FrasierGood for you for sticking with it. I admire your ability to push through tough days like this.
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3 months ago
Robyn RichardsI'm so enjoying your journey, Susan - the good days and the not so good!
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Robyn RichardsThank you Robyn - Fortunately, the former greatly, greatly outweigh the latter, by far
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rich FrasierThanks Rich
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3 months ago