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PROLOGUE: In 2015, 7 tandem teams (mostly acquainted from previous Santana Tours) biked together in France through Normandy and the Loire Valley. At the conclusion of the tour, we discussed the possibility of organizing another tour at some point in the future. We decided Sicily would be an interesting venue and filed the thought away for the future. Well the future has arrived and we find ourselves in Palermo about to embark on another Tandem Adventure.
Thursday -Monday May 12-16, 2016 Fredericksburg-Cleveland-Palermo:
We had to combine a long weekend in Berea, Ohio (asuburb of Cleveland) with our outbound trip to accommodate Becky’s 50th College Reunion from Baldwin-Wallace University. We flew into Cleveland Thursday night and then spent the next two days at the reunion. For Becky it was a weekend filled with memories and reminiscing with sorority sisters and friends. On Sunday morning the festivities concluded and we began the 3 leg flight to Palermo; first from Cleveland to Dulles in DC, next to Frankfurt and finally to Palermo arriving about 3:00 in the afternoon on Monday. We found the local shuttle bus to the city center and then schlepped our luggage 2 blocks to the Plaza Opera Hotel. We had some time to explore the area immediately around the hotel and refresh with a large Birra Moretti at a local outside bistro. Later in the evening we walked a few blocks to a restaurant for dinner. Becky ordered Gnocchi and I had a risotto dish with shrimp. Finally we were ready to begin the much needed recovery from the jet lag.
Tuesday May 17, 2016 Palermo, Sicily:
By this morning the worst of the jet lag is behind us. We’re ready for breakfast and to begin a day of exploring Palermo. Breakfast in the hotel was quite good with a selection of fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, yoghurt and pastries. We had decided to visit the city using the City Sight Seeing Bus; this is a two deck bus with an open upper deck. We could jump on and off at any of the 10 stops around the city. We had head sets and could listen to a narrative of the sights we were passing. We exited at the stop nearest to the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) although we had no interest to visit another palace overflowing with tourist; instead we visited a park which had a variety of caged birds for viewing. The park setting was lovely and there were some interesting birds to view, but I can’t give a positive review to the overall condition of the facility. We continued our discovery of the area with a short walk to the Catacombs; here we found several subterranean corridors lined with the dressed skeletons of souls who had departed mostly in the 19th century. The visit was not the highlight of the day, but for the curious it was a departure from the normal tourist sites. The next stop on the tour was the cathedral; we waited a few minutes for the bus, the decided it would be quicker to walk the 5 blocks. The walk was mostly shaded in the gardens behind the royal palace, we did miss the recorded narrative that is part of the bus tour which was more than compensated by the sights along the royal gardens. We arrived at the Cathedral and remarked that it looked of Moorish influence rather that the normal European architecture. In fact it was originally a mosque which was later converted into its current purpose. The interior appeared mostly Baroque to me featuring abundant white marble with little art and decoration. From the Cathedral we returned to the bus stop to continue our tour back to the origin near our hotel. As we arrived we saw that the “blue line” bus through the more modern area of the city about to depart, so we jumped on to continue the tour. As we were waiting for the bus to start, Hal and Lucy Moorman appeared in the aisle. I guess we appeared to be obnoxious American tourist as we preferred to visit rather than listen to the recording and observe the city passing outside the bus. We chose to exit at the stop nearest the waterfront hoping to find a venue for refreshment, but we appeared to be in a warehouse area with no appropriate places to stop even though we were right outside the area where the cruise ships docked. With the help of our Garmin, we found a nice restaurant where we paused for a bottle of wine and some appetizers. When the bottle was empty we walked the final 500 meters to the hotel. We made plans to meet in the lounge an hour later where we continued our visit over a second bottle of Sicilian red wine. For dinner, the desk clerk recommended a seafood restaurant which was a 2 minute walk away. It was a good recommendation and a pleasant dining experience (post tour note: after the tour we decided that this restaurant was overpriced and not as good as most of the others we visited during the tour). As were seated at the table, a waiter rolled up a cart laden with fresh fish ready for our selection and choice of preparation. Becky and Lucy chose a large Dorado Bass to be grilled and divided. Hal ordered a filet which was breaded and baked while I chose an avocado / shrimp salad. Of course there was more wine and beer to accompany the gastronomy of the evening. Soon all the food, drink was consumed and jet lag required us to bid farewell for the night and return to our accommodations.
Wednesday May18, 2016 Palermo, Sicily:
The schedule for today was very light. Hal and Lucy were going to a cooking school which would require the entire morning. We elected to explore Palermo by foot revisiting some of the sights we had seen from the tour bus on Tuesday. After the hotel breakfast we planned a route that would take us to the water front and along the harbor. Walking through the neighborhoods, I realized that trying to maintain a nice looking car was futile. It seemed that cars were crammed into any available space and everyone had dents and scratches as well as a thick coat of dirt and bird droppings. Garage space must really be at a premium. We walked along the harbor and to a park where kids were playing soccer and flying kites. The setting was lovely and away from the crowds of the city. We let the Garmin find our course back to the hotel which routed us along pleasant pedestrian streets. We stopped in one church to observe the art and architecture. Finally we arrive back at the hotel and started to assemble our tandem for the tour. Following that, we had a little down time before meeting our companions in the lounge for a social hour. Dan and Timmye had arrived from Oklahoma City and we had a chance to meet them and share a bottle of wine before they left to see a modern version of the Cinderella Ballet. We returned to a pedestrian street only a few blocks from the hotel to search for a restaurant. We did not have any recommendations so we were on our own to chose one based on the curb appeal and the menu posted outside. We made our selectiion and were delighted with the menu and wine list. We selected the best wine we have had since arriving in Sicily. I ordered a pizza (OK but nothing remarkable) and Becky ordered grilled mixed vegetable and pasta with artichoke and eggplants. For a really special treat we inquired if they had any local olives and the waiter presented us with a dish of some of the best olives I have ever tasted! We lingered for over two hours while enjoying the dinner, wine and ambiance. We returned to our hotel and immediately turned out the lights for the day. The official Sicilian Tandem Tour would begin the next morning and we were sure to be ready.
Thursday May 19, 2016, Palermo to Erice:
Today is officially day 1 of our custom tandem tour. Giuseppe, our Siciclando tour director, had advised us to have our bikes assembled and ready to travel by 9:00am. So following our third breakfast at the Hotel Plaza Opera, we packed up suitcases and carried the bikes to the lobby where we completed the final assembly in time to meet Giuseppe. He arrived on time and we started the process to mount our bike on the roof of his van. There was a minor fit problem which was easily solved by removing the timing belt so it didn’t interfere with the roof rack cross members. So with 3 tandems and luggage for six people we took off the airport to meet one more team for our group. We wondered how it could be possible to get one more bicycle and the luggage for 2 more people, but Giuseppe was confident he could squeeze everything in the van. We arrived at the airport just in time to meet our companions, but as fate would have it, the airlines had changed their flight schedule to arrive 2 hours later. Giuseppe had to make some alternate arrangements to pick up 4 passengers and 2 bikes at 2:00pm and then we headed off to Erice. The country side is very picturesque with farm land covering most of the land. There are abundant vineyards, olive orchards and grain fields. We decided to delay lunch until we arrived in Erice. As we approached, we were surprised to see that the town sat on top of a mountain 2400 feet above the sea. We were quite intimidated by the 7 kilometer climb with 18 switchbacks to the top which we have to ride the next day. Giuseppe advised about some lunch possibilities and told us to go find lunch while he unloaded the van and transferred our luggage to our hotel rooms. We found the recommended lunch spot which had a hot lunch counter so we could choose from the line and be served immediately. Next we returned to the Hotel Elimo to find our accommodations and luggage and change in appropriate shoes for the steep cobblestone streets. We had enough time for a walking tour and a visit to a local archeological museum. The overlook at the gardens down to the Mediterranean was terrific. There was a street musician playing accordion who was very entertaining. After exploring the town, we return to the hotel to find the final four members of our group had arrived; Ken and Lisa Powell and Bill and Becky Scorse. We ordered some wine and beer and then moved to the terrace to enjoy the beautiful day and catch up on everyone’s travel adventures. Giuseppe had asked everyone to meet at 6:30 for an orientation about the trip. Here he explained the trip and shared treasures from a goodie bag including Siciclando jerseys for everyone. He also had 2 bottles of wine for us to enjoy. So then we moved to the dining room for a fixed menu dinner that Giuseppe had arranged with the hotel. We had a choice of 4 appetizers which were served family style so we all had a chance to try a little of each. Then we had a choice of pasta followed by a 2 nd entrée choice. Of course there was plenty of wine to go with the meal. Italians eat late and linger a long time at the dinner table. It was well after 10:00 when the last of the wine was poured and we all adjourned for the day.
Friday May 20, 2016 Erice to San Vito lo Capo:
Breakfast was scheduled to begin at 7:30, but the staff had only begun to set up by then. The service was unsatisfactory; they only started to serve coffee (one cup at a time) after everyone had breakfast. We had a visit with the manager and made several constructive suggestion how he could improve his service. Never the less we were eventually all served and soon we were on our way for the first ride of the tour. Erice sits high on a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean; the temperature was in the 50’s and the wind was blowing between 15 and 20 mph. we started the 7 kilometer descent about 9:30; riding the brake and fighting the headwind through the 18 switchbacks to the level plain along the sea. One might think that starting the day with a 4 mile long descent would be invigorating, but the truth is the voice inside your head keeps reminding you that you have to climb all of these switchbacks later in the afternoon. We continued for 23 miles over rolling and sometimes steeper pitches to the seaside resort of San Vito lo Capo. There were beautiful sandy beaches with the mountains providing a majestic backdrop to the scene. We regrouped at the beach and then went in search of a couscous restaurant. The one we found was not well prepared to accommodate a group of 10 hungry cyclists …they thought they was up for the challenge, but we all agreed that it doesn’t take 2 hours to serve 2 plates of cereal (couscous). Anyway we managed and were back on the bike at 2:00 in the afternoon for the 24 miles back to Erice. The wind was mostly favorable so the riding was a little a little easier until we reached a route change with had a 15% grade. We didn’t make it without walking the last 200 yards. We were about 8 miles from the hotel with the most difficult climb ahead of us. It had turned cloudy and the wind off the Mediterranean was chilly; we stopped long enough to put on jackets and began the 7 kilometer ascent. Much of the grade was around 5 – 8%, but there were short stretches that were up to 12%. We eventually arrived back at Erice, exhausted but proud that we could manage the challenge. The next thing to do was shower and then join the group for happy hour before walking to a to a local pizza restaurant. By now thick clouds had engulfed Erice and we were practically feelin our way to find the restaurant. The pizza was good and the camaraderie was a fitting end to an epic ride.
Distance today 49 miles with 5000 feet of elevation gain.
Saturday May 21, 2016 Erice to Marsala:
The staff at the hotel Elimo corrected most of the problems they had experienced the previous morning with our breakfast…mainly we had coffee ready as we sat down at 7:30. But the stimulus of the strong coffee did little to lift the heavy clouds hanging over Erice this morning. We had to start our ride at 9:30 but the density of the clouds had not changed so off we descend into a cold and windy fog with less than 100 feet of visibility. The road was wet and the switchbacks were a bit dicey in the tight turns. We controlled the speed on the 7 kilometer descent to a crawl and finally managed to ride out of the clouds at 1000 feet below. Instantly we were in the sunshine and off on a dream ride of almost total downhill with mostly a prevailing tailwind. The route was over very gentle rolling farmland on low traffic pavement. The five tandems stayed together the entire trip and at times moved as a unit in a 20+ mph pace line. At the 2/3 point we left the farmland and followed the Mediterranean seashore along the salt marshes. We were supposed to meet Giuseppe at a rest stop on the seashore for lunch, but we were much faster than he had imagined and we hammered right passed the rest stop before he ever arrived…no worries because we were only 6 miles to the hotel in Marsala. The ride along the water was interesting watching the antique windmills, the boats and the kite surfers. We pulled into the Hotel Carmine at 12:30 about 2 ½ hours earlier than scheduled. The luggage had not arrived and we were hungry. We got a lunch recommendation from the hotel and walked 2 blocks to find it full and they would not accommodate us. Although they did recommend another venue which was 3 blocks away which turned out to be a wonderful choice; they offered us an all you can eat antipasti buffet for 8 Euros…just perfect for a group of hungry cyclists in sweaty jerseys. After some cold beer and ample grazing at the buffet, we returned to the hotel to find Giuseppe and our luggage. Now we had an afternoon to relax and explore Marsala. I had to find an ATM machine which provided a chance to walk the old town and see some of the important sights. As we returned to the hotel, we found the other 4 tandem teams in the bar (where else?) enjoying prosecco, we joined in group and plotted our next adventure. Giuseppe had arranged for us to have a wine tasting at 4:00 which unfortunately was postponed until 6:00, by then we had enough bar time at the hotel and decided to cancel the wine tasting and just meet at 7:30 for dinner. This turned out to be a real comedy of errors. The hotel desk clerk, who gave us directions to the restaurant where we had reservations, directed us to the wrong venue as he had confused us with another group staying at the hotel. There was much confusion at the restaurant, resulting in a phone call back to the hotel who then dispatched the bar tender to meet us and guide us to the correct venue. Finally a half hour late we arrived at the correct restaurant which was all set us and waiting for us. We felt the change was worthwhile because the setting and food were excellent. After much revelry, gastronomy and wine we returned for the evening.
Total miles for the day 40 with only 795 feet of elevation gain
Sunday May 22, 2016 Marsala to Sirignano:
We woke up to brilliant sunshine and refreshed after the easy ride on Saturday. The breakfast in the hotel was standard. Hal had arranged for us to meet at 8:30 in the lounge for a brief chapel service. Then it was time for Giuseppe to give the preview of the day and we began to ride out of Marsala. We climbed for several miles away from the sea and then descended into a beautiful agricultural valley. We had to manage speed on the descent because the road conditions were deplorable. The route did not go through any towns where there would be a possibility for lunch so Giuseppe went to the market in Marsala and bought cheese, olives, salami, tomatoes and bread for a picnic. He found a shady pine forest a little beyond the half way point where we stopped for a picnic. This was by far the best lunch of the tour; we enjoyed fresh cheeses, breads, fruit, salami and olives. We continued to the Segesta Archeological sight for a guided tour of the ruins. We had almost an hour to wait before our guide arrived. The ruin of this 4000 year old civilization was quite remarkable and our guide brought it back to life for us. The theatre was amazing; it could be used today if you didn’t mind sitting on stone seats. After the theatre we went to the temple which is unfinished but still standing after 2500 years; it is a remarkable example of perfect proportioned architecture. The tour finished at 4:00 and we were soon back on the bike for the final 10 miles of the day but also the longest climb of the day. The good news about a long climb is the long downhill on the opposite side. The climb was not the most difficult, but in the bright sunshine and low humidity we were spent at the top. The downhill was the best ever…4 miles of continuous open smooth road where we could let the bike run wide open. The final 2 miles to the winery were a gradual uphill but very rewarding with a magnificent view of the surrounding country side. Unfortunately the winery where we were staying did not have any beer in the bar; Giuseppe drove to the nearest location, bought beer and returned with the reward that we had earned on the bicycle. We met at 7:00 for a happy hour on the terrace overlooking the valley. There was a nice white wine, cheese, chips and olives to sooth the tired muscles. Next we moved to the dining room for dinner which was a planned fixed 4 course menu starting with a antipasti followed by 2 pasta choices: one in a basil olive oil sauce and the other in a tomato marinara sauce. The meat course was veal with potatoes and green salad and finally the dessert of pistachio ice cream and a canoli. Of course there was plenty of wine which set Becky and Lucy to singing. We went through all the state and college fight songs before the revelry finally ended and we retired to bed.
Miles for day 44 with 3500 feet of climbing.
Monday May 22, 2016 Sirignano to Scapello loop:
Breakfast at a winery is somewhat different from a normal hotel…hopefully they are more organized at wine making than they are serving food. The food arrived in little bits but eventually the buffet was complete with the exception of no bowls for the fruit or cereal. Conversation centered around barking dogs that keep up a constant racket for much of the night. Giuseppe had planned a 54 mile loop to Scopello with 4000 feet of climbing. The challenge with a loop when following a Garmin track is at the point where the loop rejoins the common track, there is no way to know which way to turn. Fortunately at the first decision point we had seen Giuseppe and Ken and Lisa a mile ahead make the left turn so we followed. We seemed to be constantly climbing but the kilometers kept sliding by as we approached the lunch break. However at the next decision point going into lunch at Scopello, we made the wrong choice and went right instead of left. (If I had listened more closely to the route talk the night before I would have been better prepared) By the time we finally reached the designated lunch area, hunger, frustration and uncertainty had stirred up a mutiny in the group and the decision was made to abandon the ride and SAG back to the winery after finding some lunch. As fate would have it we were within a kilometer of lunch when the mutiny occurred, but we were done for the day. Giuseppe found us and dropped us at the bakery where we ordered Cunzatos which is a sandwich filled with cheese, tomatoes sauce and anchovies. It was very satisfying especially with a cold beer. Attitudes improved following lunch but our group was content to ride in the van the final 16 miles back to the winery. We managed a little swim and some quality pool side time as we recovered from the riding challenges of the day. The proper libations and a refreshing shower are all that is required to ease the frustration and anxieties that happened only a few hours earlier. Dinner was served at 7:30 at the winery. This was very organized and nicely presented with an antipasti course, a pasta course and a meat course. No one opted for dessert. We had plenty of wine, but this evening there was no singing to conclude the day only wishes for pleasant dreams and threats to dispatch any dog that would dare bark in this night.
40 miles for the day with 2700 feet of climbing.
Tuesday May23, 2016 Sirignano to Planeta Estates Vineyard:
Breakfast was much better organized this morning with all the buffet items laid out and ready for 10 hungry riders at 7:30. However the checkout process was considerably more challenging to the staff. Every room had a bar tab and we had ordered off the menu for the evening meal. So each person had to recite what they had had for dinner; this was hand written on a pad and then manually added. We convinced them to add all of the wine charges and divide by 10, otherwise we may still be there trying to figure out everyone’s individual bill. Finally we were on the road by 9:30 and off for a beautiful ride through an agricultural valley and over three mountain ranges separating the valleys. Many of the small towns are constructed at the top of the range so that the early settlers could see any approaching invaders. We did stop twice to eat and rest, having learned the day before that attitudes are negatively affected when hunger sets in. One stop was for gelato and pastries and the next for sandwiches. The climbs were about 5 kilometers long but the grades were manageable on a tandem. The best aspect about riding in the mountains is there is always a downhill after reaching the top. This ride provided three of the most exhilarating downhill rides we have ever experienced. They were long and gradual with gentle turns and bends which allowed us to let the bike run free as we recovered from the climbs. The last climb of the day was the most challenging with a couple of pitches over 14%...one of the true proverbs of tandem riding is that we haven’t found a hill yet that we can’t walk up. We found a few hundred yards that we managed by pushing the bike rather than riding. We stopped and regrouped at the top of the last climb; Daniele met us with the van and passed around fresh apricots and cherries…a nice reward for completing the biggest challenge of the day. We were overlooking the Mediterranean and the final descent into the Planeta Estates Winery. The consensus of the group was that we had just arrived at the finest accommodation of the tour. This is a beautiful setting in a vineyard overlooking the sea. The facility is new build in 2009 with all the amenities that one could want. The pool and terrace were so inviting that we spent a couple of hours of quality pool side time enjoying the sunshine and the local wine and a couple of beers as well. The dinner was prearranged with a set four course menu and four wine parings. First they presented fresh warm loaves of crusty bread made with tumminia flour which we dipped into fresh olive oil from the winery orchards. The first course was a cream soup paired with a white wine followed by the linguini (with saffron and grilled sardines) pasta course and another white wine. The main course was grilled tuna paired with a red wine from the Mt. Etna region. And to top all that, they presented an olive oil gelato paired with a fruity sweet dessert wine. By then we were on the verge of a second mutiny with every wanting to abandon the bike tour and remain here to enjoy this decadent resort lifestyle.
Total miles today 38 with 3100 feet of climbing.
Wednesday May 24, 2016 Planeta Estates Vineyard (La Fosteria):
Today was a rest day! The schedule called for a leisurely breakfast with the first activity beginning at 9:30 with a visit to the chardonnay vineyard and listen to a brief explanation of the viniculture on the Planeta Estates. The Planeta family has been in Sicily for over 500 years and has been producing wine for over 300 years. They are one of the biggest wine producers in Sicily. Our cooking class began after learning about the grapes and the Planeta Estate. Angelo is the chef at La Fosteria, the name of our accommodation on the Planeta Estate. First we learned to make caponata using eggplant, onion, celery, olives and capers. We probably can never reproduce it exactly because we lack the most important ingredient, the homemade tomato paste. None the less we chopped eggplant, onions, celery and separated olives from the pits. Next Angelo demonstrated how to turn these fresh raw ingredients into a wonderful staple of the Sicilian diet. Next we learned to make pasta and more than you would ever care to know about the type of flour required to make proper pasta. Then we watched the creation of pesto sauce to be spread on our cooked pasta. The main course was a local scabbard fish coated in herb bread crumbs and baked. But the masterpiece was the canoli for dessert…probably impossible to duplicate but certainly easy to appreciate. After 3 hours of instruction and observation, we moved from the kitchen to dining room. The wine started to flow as the first course, the caponata was served; Becky said that we could expect to try to reproduce this when we return to Fredericksburg. Next came the pasta with the fresh pesto sauce…again a winner. Don’t forget more wine as well. When the pasta was gone, the main course of fish was presented. I liked the herb bread crumb coating, but the texture of the fish would take some time for me to appreciate. But with this course, they served a 3rd wine, this time a red; all of the wines were produced on the Planeta Estate. The final jewel in this self prepared meal was the canoli. One should know the history behind the shape of the canoli to fully enjoy it, but these were really special and a wonderful end to a great meal and fun experience. After such a meal and so much wine, the consensus was to skip the afternoon ride and head to the beach. The Fosteria Resort maintains a private beach facility with chaise lounges, umbrellas, towels and changing facilities. The beach is sandy and pristine and the Mediterranean water is perfectly clear but a little chilly…some of us went for a swim while others just waded. So we lounged around the beach for a couple of hours to recover from the heavy lunch before returning to the resort to prepare for our next meal. Today was Hal and Lucy’s 42 nd anniversary so Giuseppe had arranged a special dinner at a local tratorria on the seashore. We had a bottle of prosecco to start with olives and cheese and then moved to our reserved table. Giuseppe ordered 5 different seafood antipasti plates which included raw tuna, marinated prawns, octopus, squid and sardines. By the time all the plates had circled the table a couple of times, no one was really interested in the pasta or main courses. To celebrate the anniversary, we had a special Italian cake delivered which was enjoyed by all. With all the wine (I switched to beer!) food and revelry we were all ready to return to the resort for bed.
Thursday May 26, 2016 Planeta Estates Vineyard to Regaleali:
Today was scheduled as a transfer with an afternoon ride. The morning began with breakfast as usual at La Fosteria but instead of getting on the bikes we got into the vans for an hour and a half transfer to Palazzo Adriano. This was a spectacular drive over the mountain and through the valleys until we reached Palazzo Adriano perched on top of a mountain. (We learned that in Sicily mountains begin at 600 meters high…lower than that are just hills) We started the ride close to noon; we had left the coast and the cool breezes and were under the blazing sun. The first miles were downhill but all too soon we reached the valley and had to climb out. About an hour after we started we stopped at a bakery for lunch. After a quick sandwich and soft drink we continued through the picturesque country side. Fortunately Daniele was always close by with the van to resupply our water as the heat and sunshine increased our normal water consumption considerably. We had three major climbs on the ride each several kilometers long, but none too steep that we had to walk. The last climb up to the Tasca d’Almerita Estate in Regaleali was no worse than any of the others but we were drained from the heat and had to stop and walk a few yards before riding triumphantly into the courtyard. The villa is situated in a 550 hectare vineyard which has been in the same family for 6 generations. The courtyard is beautifully landscaped with blooming amaryllis and running geraniums. Our hostess had a pitcher of cold ice water waiting for us; while we were rehydrating as the luggage was delivered to the room, I learned that there was cold beer waiting for us in the room…now that is real service. We had some time to refresh and relax before we gathered at 7:00 for happy hour. We were greeted by the sommelier served us a glass of sparkling pino noir which was dry and refreshing. She explained the history of the estate and provided a lot of information about the Sicilian wine industry. Then we moved inside for dinner; we were seated around a huge table that could easily accommodate 20 people. The service was elegant with the sommelier explaining each of the three wines we had to accompany each course. We had a ravioli, pork loin with potatoes and caponata, green salad and canoli for dessert. Following dinner we relocated to the great room for a sing-a-long with Hal and Lucy. Our hostess brought out two bottles of grappa for everyone to taste while we enjoyed the entertainment. Satisfied and tired we all left for the evening.
42 miles for the day with 3100 feet of climbing
Friday May 27, 2016 Regaleali to villa Dafne:
Breakfast began at 7:00 this morning; the buffet was not as complete as we had become to, for example there was no fresh fruit. Initially there was no cheese to go with the meat but eventually more items began to appear; not to worry there was plenty to jump start 10 hungry cyclists. The ride began at 9:00…Giuseppe wanted to start later but we convinced him that earlier was better due to the heat. We descended from the villa and immediately started a very long climb retracing 8 miles of our route from the day before. To be sure there were some very nice downhill runs, but by now the long climbs are beginning to take its toll. Our destination for lunch was the Agriturismo Villa Dafne. The main business is making cheese which they supplement with very nice vacation accommodations. Due to the early start we arrived earlier than our reservation, so we found some shade and enjoyed some iced white wine they provided. After a 30 minute wait we were invited into the dining room for a cheese tasting. Each of us was presented with a round wooden platter with 10 different cheeses to try. The proprietor explained the process for making each and taught us how to identify the various kinds of cheese. Actually they make 3 basic kinds of cheese, but the aging or finishing made varieties of the same cheese quite different. After the tasting, it was time for lunch which was a variety of antipasti…I think they presented 8 different antipasti including caponata, ravioli, olives, stuffed pastry and a asparagus quiche. There was way too much food for lunch and when they brought a green salad we said no more and sent the salad back nor did we take the canoli which were part of the meal. We knew we were facing a hot and hilly ride back to Regaleali under a brilliant sun with no possibility for shade. Fortunately the return was only 18 miles fairly evenly split between climbing and descending…of course nothing was flat. We arrived back at the villa hot and tired and ready to refresh and relax. At 6:00 we met Bogi, the Hungarian sommelier and our hostess for our stay at the Tasca winery and villa at Regaleali; she led us on a tour of the winery explaining the machinery and processes as we walked through the facility. We have toured many wineries in the Texas Hill Country, but there is nothing there which comes close to the sophistication and enormous capacity of this facility. After touring the fermentation and barrel storage area, we went into the tasting cellar where Bogi introduced us to three of their wines…two whites and a red. Following the wine tasting, it was time for dinner and more wine. Again we were seated around this gigantic table while the hostesses brought plate after plate of antipasti, pasta, veal main course, and dessert; each course paired with its special wine including a dessert wine. Following dinner we moved to the great room for some entertainment with Hal and Lucy taking turns on the guitar and leading familiar folk songs (of course with more wine and/or Grappa).
Miles for the day: 31 with 3000 feet of climbing.
Saturday May 28, 2016 Regaleali to Celafu:
There was a logistical challenge to today’s ride because the heat of the previous 2 days had convinced some of our troops that the challenge of today was greater than they wanted to tackle. Ken and Lisa and Hugh and Becky agreed if we could leave earlier, we could complete the ride and beat the heat. Just one little glitch…the first 3 kilometers of road were not suitable for road tandem bicycles. Breakfast was waiting for us at 6:00; we had a quick bite and then met Ken and Lisa at 7:00 for the 3 kilometer shuttle to the starting point to begin the most challenging ride of the tour. We starting riding at 7:20 following the hilly track to the with five major climbs…30 kilometers and 2000 feet of climbing later we arrived in Polizzi Generali just as the van with the other three tandem teams was pulling into town. Ken and Lisa were so far ahead of us that we would not see them again until the end. We started the longest and most difficult climb of the tour…7 miles long and 1600 feet of elevation gain. Arriving at the top at 1458 meters high, we stopped for a short celebration and photos. Next was the longest downhill ever descending into Isnello where we stopped for lunch. Giuseppe found a bar which had a good sandwich selection and a pleasant outdoor seating area. Soon we were underway on our 7th and final climb of the day. It was only 5 kilometers long but still a real slog after the climbing we had already done earlier in the day. Giuseppe was waiting at the top to warn us that the descent into Cefalu was long and fast and to be extremely cautious. We descended for 7 miles never once turning the crank, but braking to negotiate the multiple switchbacks. My hands and shoulders were exhausted at the bottom, but at least we could catch our breath even though the course was too intense to enjoy the scenery. We arrived in the Norman-Arab seaside resort town of Cefalu. Giuseppe was waiting for us at the bottom and led our tandem caravan to the hotel parking garage where we dismounted for the last time and dissembled the bikes and packed back into the cases for the trip home. After all the bikes were packed we walked to the closest bar to celebrate with a few beers and trade our stories of managing the long downhill ride into Cefalu. Next we had to walk to the hotel which was located in the historic old town…fortunately we had the Garmin with us to direct us to the unmarked hotel, only the number on the door indicated we had arrived. The building was a restored old historic building, but the rooms were small with few amenities. After a well deserved shower, we met in the courtyard to share a couple bottles of Prosecco and celebrate our 9 days of cycling in Sicily. There was a parade that passed in front of our hotel to celebrate Christ the Bread of Life. Becky ran to the street to watch the parade and returned with a loaf of bread that was passed out by the paraders. Soon Giuseppe joined us to show a video of the trip and then guide us to our restaurant for the evening. We had selected our dinner choices the night before; we could choose between beef or seafood. Becky and I chose the beef; the dinner was 3 courses starting with caponata, followed by pasta and then the main course of a veal rollup. At the conclusion of the dinner we returned to the hotel but not before stopping for a gelato or canoli. Now it was time to say our final good byes to the 3 teams that had a 4:30am departure for the Palermo airport.
Miles for the day 54 with 5100 feet of climbing
Sunday May 29, 2016 Celafu to Frankfurt:
Giuseppe was waiting for us at 7:30 for the transport to the airport in Palermo. We did manage to score a cup of coffee and some fruit in a plastic go cup before starting our 1 ½ hour shuttle. Hal sat up front with Giuseppe and Lucy was in the middle row with us. During the drive Hal and Giuseppe started planning the next Sicilian adventure…we could not hear any of the details but it looks like there could be another Sicilian bike adventure in our future. We had plenty of time to kill at the airport. We had lunch and a beer and finally took off for Frankfurt at 2:30. We had reservations at the Airport Hilton so after landing and collecting our luggage, we only had to walk through the huge mall attached to the airport to find our accommodations. Fortunately the mall attached to the hotel had plenty of dining venues; we selected the Paulaner and enjoyed a couple of beers and a typical Bavarian dinner. After a leisurely dinner, we strolled back our room to read, relax and prepare for the long flight back to Fredericksburg.