Wednesday 17 August 2016

Wed17Aug16: Winnipeg - Brandon, Manitoba (travel day)

Another restless sleep, huge room (by European standards) and cold (65F on the thermostat), but at least I was able to doze until after 6am so we'll see how this helps me adjust to the jet lag.  Currently down to the hotel restaurant for coffee while I edit my final photos and update my travel blog.  Although my reservation was to have the Brandon Air Shuttle pick me up here at 11am, I expect their office to phone the hotel and tell me to go to the YWG Airport instead - we'll see how good I am at saying "Come and get me!" if that happens.
Just after 11am, and another Olympic event has finished on the TV, so I head down to Reception to check on my Brandon Air Shuttle ride.  BAS driver is standing in the lobby, looking lost, wondering what to do next because the hotel Reception has no record of me.  Oh well, I tried.
Four passengers in the van this morning, and an uneventful drive along TCH#1 to Brandon in nice sunny weather.  Living the west end means that - once again - I'm the last to be dropped off.  Kathy has been working her home office and is there to greet me at the front door.  I'm home.

Monday 15 August 2016

Tue16Aug16: Venice, Italy - Winnipeg, Canada (travel day)

Had the sleep of the nervous, all these thoughts about what I have to do today, so finally at 5:50am I got up and started packing.   Went online last night and checked-in, found my seat selection was acceptable, so don't have to arrive at Marco Polo Airport too early.
Downstairs for breakfast just after 7am and the TDA is there in force, all dressed in riding gear and green reflective riding vests.  Exchanged a few goodbyes and "It was great riding with you" with various people.  Tron has come over from his new hotel, so the two of us watch the vans pulling out of the parking lot, follow the various riders around to the front of the hotel, and take a departure photo just after 8am as Gergo leads the group out on an island-hopping 140km riding day.

merganser, Venice Lagoon
Then it's back up to the room to hoist my red duffle bag on my back (20.8kg), a final check and turn in the key, then I'm out the door heading for the Lido ferry terminal about 500m away.  Schedule says 8:40am departure but the boat arrives early with lots of fellow tourists & their luggage onboard, we're heading across the lagoon about 10 minutes early to pick up more tourists at Murano, arriving at Marco Polo Airport just after 9am.

Duty Free Shop
Should have taken a luggage cart because - although the terminal is adjacent to the ferry terminal - this bag is heavy and it's about 700m to the entrance & my Air Canada check-in counter.  No carry-on today because I've got everything packed into my duffle bag and the plan is to (a) watch movies all the way from Venice to Toronto; then (b) rescue my netbook during the luggage transfer at Toronto Airport and edit photos during my layover; then (c) sleep all the way on the Toronto to Winnipeg leg.

Surprise #1!  Air Canada AC1907 'Rouge' has no back-of-the-seat TV screens, no earphone plugs, no magazines - apparently passengers are now expected to bring their own entertainment!  Thank goodness the flight attendants were able to find me an old "Globe & Mail" or I would have gone bonkers for the 9-1/2 hour flight.

Surprise #2!  Upon arrival in Canada, you no longer have to clear your bag through Customs and carry it to the Connecting Flights belt - the bag now meets you at your final destination.  So, no access to my netbook for the 6-hour layover in Toronto Airport.  Thank goodness for Olympics Games coverage or I would have gone bonkers.

Considering the 7-hour time change, I boarded the Toronto-Winnipeg flight at 3am Venice time, was able to sleep for most of that trip, checked into the Best Western Plus at 7am Venice time, and am happy that my body was able to ignore the conditioned urge to Break Camp & Cycle away, so I slept fitfully for several hours, but at least that's a start...

Mon15Aug16 Venezia, Veneto, Italia (rest day, 3,505.8km YTD)

Can't rightly say that spending more money on a fancy hotel room makes for a better sleep, but it was nice to wake up without being greeted by Tron's snoring.  When you're on the bicycle tour, it's somewhat comforting to know that your roommate is still asleep and therefore the two of you probably haven't missed an alarm, but....
Dozed until nearly 7:30am and realized suddenly that I had to get moving for my date with a bell tower.  Just missed the 8:08am ferry from Lido but caught the 8:20am boat, lined up at Campanile San Marco just after the 8:30am opening, E8 admission and an elevator ride to the top,

an entire series of panorama photos from the upper level, and then the 9am bells just above our heads began to chime.

Geez!  What a cacophony! And the two bells kept gonging away for about a minute.
Back to the ferry landing and hopped a boat to the hotel on Lido, breakfast with Tron and Killian until they started taking away the leftover food at 10am.
Today's plan is a #14 line ferry to Punta Sabbioni which then continues on to Burano, an island of brightly painted homes and businesses, famous for its fabrics and lace.  Nice walk around the place, very photogenic.
The connecting ferry does an extensive tour of the six ferry stops in and around Murano Island, before continuing on around the San Marco complex; sort of a farewell tour.

Speaking of "farewell tours", I then hopped on the #16 ferry to Fusani, a mainland terminal with a campground where I tented back in June 2011 when I passed this way on my solo self-supported bicycle tour of Italy.  At that time Camping Fusani was run by 23 Australians (on work visas) and 2 Italians (the male manager and a female receptionist at the entrance).  No more. The work visa program seems to have ended and every staff member I spoke with was Italian.  However, not much else about the place has changed: the grocery store charges outrageous prices for food & grog, and the tree that I pitched my tent under back in June 2011 is still giving shade for tenters.
Okay, enough with the reminiscing, it's back to Lido for a shower, and time to get serious about a final laundry and then packing my stuff for the flight home tomorrow morning.  

Sunday 14 August 2016

Sun14Aug16: "Hotel Atlanta Augustus", Venezia, Italy (rest day, 3,525.1km)

Last night Tron and I turned off our alarms, closed the curtains securely, and didn't wake up until after 7am.  Lots of other riders were up early for the buffet breakfast, with plenty of talk about who was leaving and how, I chatted with Monique (Quebecoise) who arrived yesterday to join the TDA tour heading westward.  Apparently those with bicycles-in-a-box will have to arrange a 'water taxi' for E120 (!!!) to carry them and their box from Lido to Marco Polo Airport - about the same cost as shipping it from Venezia to Winnipeg.  Once again, taxi drivers are living up to their international reputation for being officially sanctioned professional thieves, and no small wonder that Uber is doing so well around the world.

Purchased a 48-hour ''ride everywhere" ticket and then caught an early morning #1 ferry that goes from Lido, across to San Marco Island(s), and then along the entire length of the Grand Canal to the Railway and Autobus Station.

Walked around the northeast corner of San Marco then caught another ferry across to Murano, where they have several entrepreneurial furnace shops and produce the marvelous coloured Venetian glass that's world famous.  (Check out the glass display in the town centre.) 
Grabbed a few supplies at the local Co-op store and found a shaded area on the water's edge - overlooking the distant island of Burano and watching airplanes take-off from Marco Polo Airport -  to enjoy my own private picnic.

Caught another ferry back to San Marco and walked around the Piazza San Marco, doing my best to avoid being stomped by the hordes of tourists and found that the clock tower opens for viewing at 08h30 (tomorrow's plan).

Another ferry down the Grand Canal in the mid-afternoon when the sun illuminates all the buildings on the other side of the waterway. 

Then another couple of ferry boats along the east coast of San Marco and back to the our island of Lido about 5pm for supplies.

Now that my stay in the TDA-sponsored room has expired, the hotel has re-located me to #403 for the final two days of my stay in Lido, Venezia, Veneto, Italy.  As you can see, it's a penthouse suite with a double bed in the loft, a full-size bathroom and swirl-pool tub, and a large west-facing balcony with a hammock and cactus plants.  Quite the change.  I deserve it ... but Kathy's paying for it.

Gergo dropped by to give me my TDA riding shirt for the TransEuropa2016 tour, so we had a long and honest talk.  Time for supper, so went to a seafront restaurant named Isola D Oro on the seafront facing San Marco.  Took two photographs,

one at sunset while I was waiting for the menu, and

the other after my first course when the cruise ship AIDAbella was leaving port and totally blocking my view of Venezia.  Notice the difference?   

Saturday 13 August 2016

Sat13Aug16: Sanstino Di Levenza - Lido, Venice Italy (46.4km, 3,525.1km YTD)

Considering there was a highway over our camping site, sleep wasn't too bad at all.  However, the mixture of red wine and beer did require frequent walks across the lawn to the loo.
Slowly to rise and break camp, breakfast and pack a lunch, then the convoy heads out just after 8am, Gergo leading his herd of 26 cyclists on the road to Lido.
Stopped for a coffee break at 16km, Ed Sokol (USA) and I helped clear the pile of coffee cups afterwards.  Slow going because of the heavy tourist traffic trying to escape the Jesolo area and its collection of amusement parks and tourist traps.

Arrived at the Puerto Bullini about 11:15am, ahead of time, and found that our boat taxi transportation would be late.  Poked around for nearly an hour before we had a boat to load the bikes in, and three taxi boats for the passengers.

Taxi ride took us north through the islands into the main island of Venice, up the Grand Canal, past San Marco Square,

and then to the island of Lido and dropped us off right at the front of the "Hotel Atlanta Augustus".  Unpacked in Room #101, spread out my tent in the parking area in front of the hotel to dry it out, went shopping for supplies, and spent the afternoon watching Peter and Ozgur packing bicycles into boxes for the sectional riders.  I handed over my bicycle to Peter, shook his hand, and just took it easy; getting ready for tomorrow's excursion around the islands of Venezia.

Supper was a solo affair, walked along the Boulevard leading south from the ferry terminal and found that it headed directly for the public beach, a long stretch of wide sand covered in an assortment of beached walruses and bronzed bodies.  Set up shop at a table of the Beach Bar located near the exit and as 7pm approached I was able to eat supper and watch the thousands of satisfied customers make an exit towards the ferry.

Friday 12 August 2016

Fri12Agu16: Ozeljen, Slovenia - Sansteno Di Levenza, Italy (106.5km, 3,478.7km YTD)

Another group of cyclists arrived about 11pm last night and chatted & laughed & partied with their friends until midnight, then decided to set up their tents, pump up their air mattresses, shine their flashlights around camp and into my tent, before finally settling down about 1am.  So much for a last good memory of Slovenia.
When we break camp at 6am in the morning, Nelson's (CDN) Garmin gives a reading of 5.6C, explaining why most of our group has on their leggings and jackets for breakfast.  Temperature is transitory because clear skies suggest it should hit the mid-20s later on today.
Riding with a group of six today, through the hills and into town with the 'rush hour' traffic, the Slovenian/Italian border shows up at the 7km mark, then it's on through town and into the countryside. 

Town and street sign names are decidedly Italian, with lots of vowels and none of the superscript markings that characteristic of the Slovenian (and Hungarian) language.  Architecture has changed too, with more red tile on the roofs, and little Catholic churches with tall steeples perched up on the hillsides.  Gergo has another bit of twisted humour when he detours us through the gravel backstreet of a town, just because it connects the two roads that we have to travel - he enjoys these little detours.
Lunch is at 62km in a parking area adjacent to a smoothly-flowing river where future Olympians are practicing their sport.

After lunch, Kevin (AUS) and I are out into the open fields, lots of corn being grown in this region, apple orchards, and an increasing incidence of vineyards.  One vineyard is advertising Merlot at E1.20 per litre and CabSauv at E1.30 per litre; I presume that you p7rovide your own container.
Now the road is getting a bit scary because Gergo has us leaving a bike path and climbing up onto an elevated two-lane highway with steel fencing on each side - it's not advertised as a "motorway" but the traffic is fast-moving and intimidating so I'm relieved that the orange marking tape tells us we're heading in the right direction.
2km short of our destination I stop at a Penny Market for my usual supply of grape juice and the choices are predictable - Vino Veneto seems to occupy most of the shelf space,  but the prices are very reasonable.
Just a short ride further and then a sharp right turn into CasaMia, which is little more than somebody's backyard lawn with a shelter in case of bad weather.  Che usual suspects have arrived ahead of me, Chris (CDN) & Cindy (USA) and Kevin (AUS), so it's time to pick a tenting spot and wait for the TDA van to return from shopping.

Tents set up in the back yard, lots of time to "schmooz" with each other, rider's meeting at the usual 5:45pm, then the announcement that it's Pizza & Beer night before our grand entry into Venezia.  Many couples have decided to stay in an outside hotel tonight, so there's far too much pizza and far too much beer for us to finish.  But we'll give it our best shot!

Thursday 11 August 2016

Thu11Aug16: Ljubljana - Ozelen, Slovenia (88.0km, 3,372.2km YTD)

Comfortable sleep last night with the A/C vent uncovered so it cools off the entire room.  Awoke about 5:30am out of habit but dozed until Tron's alarm goes off at 6am.  Another nice buffet breakfast but I'm more worried about thirst and hydration than about carbs.
Hauled our bicycles out of the garage basement Maintenance room and up in the elevator, through the lobby, and assembled out on the sidewalk in front of the City Hotel.

Gergo leads another convoy out through the streets of town, and the route is so convoluted that it's a good idea that he didn't try flagging that first 5km.
Lead group is nine riders and we burn up the first 20km at good speed, alternating between the bike lane and the curbside lane of the 2-lane highway #409.  Then the grade starts and we're heading up into the hills surrounding the valley, the group stretches itself out, weaker riders start dropping back, and power takes over.

After 10km or so the grade flattens out, then begins to climb again, but this time a "15% Grade"sign appears beside the road and we seem to go almost vertical through the bush, around some steep turns, and finally crawl out at the top of the pass at 44.2km to find the TDA lunch van set up and waiting for us.

Historically this mountain pass was the choke point of a major transportation and trading route dating back more than 2,000 years, the site of a Roman fort dating from that same era, and the site of a Christian church from the 13th century (see foundations).

After lunch it\s a little bit rolling countryside, then a long mostly-straight downhill into the valley at a gentle grade.  Following Mark (USA) and Nelson (CDN), we lean into the turns, they do some pedalling but I try to keep it strictly gravity driven, during one scary stretch my Garmin says that I hit 73.02kph (could be my fastest bicycle speed to date!).

Now following Chris (CDN) and Cindy, our little road merges with Highway #444 and the grade begins to flatten out, finally levelling at the 64km mark as we cruise into the widening valley.  Camp Lijak is at 81km and we arrive before the TDA vans.  After selecting a camping spot near the WC and the camp tables, I make a ride back to the Mercator store for the usual supplies.  Lots of other cyclists making camp here tonight, so we virtually infest the place.