The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Starter Problems

Hello to everyone back in the Corn Belt back home in Illinois:

I wanted to see the big museum in Naples where they have all the artifacts they took out of Pompeii as they were uncovering the ruins there. The museum comes highly recommended and it was something I really wanted to see. I had been warned by everyone to stay out of Naples because the drivers and the traffic there  are both horrible, but will I ever listen to advice? No.

There are thousands of riders in Naples, every one of them on a little motor scooter, and every one of them absolutely crazy (at least to a shy country boy like me from Illinois). They cut in and out of traffic, run the few red lights that exist there, make 8 lanes out of a two lane street, and zip past your shoulder with no warning that they are there at all. And, the car drivers are exactly the same way. It was quite an experience. That, plus a GPS that always wants to take me down the strangest, most insane streets, caused me to never find that museum. And, even if I could have found it, I could never have found a place to park where I would have felt safe leaving my bike and gear unattended.

Here is a video of the traffic in Naples. It will show you what I mean Crazy Naples Video

So, After a fruitless three hours of city riding, I decided to come back to Pompeii and do something safe: Climb Mt. Vesuvius

I thought I could get almost to the top of the mountain. Not so (Although I think you once could).

It is a beautiful National Park up there.

I got as far as I was allowed to go, and then I had to take a special four wheel drive safari bus on up. That was okay though.

The bus went way up on a narrow, bumpy road. It was quite a ride, but when we got to the top the view was incredible.

Away down there is the modern city of Pompeii. The ruins of Pompeii are there too, but hard to spot. The people in 79 AD only had seconds before the hot ashes and gases from Vesuvius killed them all.

Here is a picture of the crater. Not much to see, huh?

Is this better if a human is in the picture? Nah, probably not.

There are sensors like this one all over the mountain. They say it is the most watched volcano on Earth.

Here is Naples and Naples Bay. It is all city around the volcano. I was told that they think they can predict three days in advance before the mountain erupts again, but that there is no way they could get the two million people that live around it out of harms way.

So, that was my final day at Pompeii. Early the next morning, a storm blew in at about 4:30. The thunder and rain jarred me awake in my little tent. I hate having to pack up a wet tent. Had to do it though, because I had plans made to ride the Almafi coast. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful rides in Italy (Too many cars for my taste though)

The road twists around like a wiggle worm, and it hangs off the rocks like a shelf on a wall. It took a lot of engineering and labor to build it, I bet.

I stopped at an overlook to buy a lemonade. I watched him squeeze four lemons into a tiny cup, but he had no sugar. It was really sour, but I was dry so it was good. There was an elderly man who pulled in on his Harley. He had Parkinson's disease, and shook like a leaf, but he really likes to ride. He is from Milan, and he wants me to call him when I get up that way so that we can ride the Swiss Alps together some.

I really enjoyed that incredible road.

Why do you suppose someone went to all the trouble and expense to build this stairway to nowhere down there? There is a swimming pool there, I think, but it hasn't had water in it for ages.

But, that road ended, and I headed up into the mountains that run down through the center of Italy. It is a National Park in there, and it is beautiful. But, it started to sprinkle, then to rain, and finally to pour. I thought I wanted to find a hotel (no setting up a wet tent tonight for me). I stopped to ask directions, and then my motorcycle would not start. I worked and worked on it, and soon had about 10 men and boys trying to help me. Everyone I had met earlier warned me that the people of Southern Italy were rude and would steal anything they could get their hands on. I have found that not to be true at all. I had all my stuff off the bike, and those guys were all friendly, helpful, and absolutely honest. We tried a lot of things (jumper cables, tracing wires, checking fuses) and finally got it started by running it down an incredibly steep driveway and popping the clutch.

I wish I had thought to take a picture of all those guys.

I didn't dare turn the machine off again, and I headed back to the coast. It was a Saturday and there was no hope for a mechanic until Monday. I wanted to be close to a large city by then.

I tapped in "campground" on my GPS, and it took me to this marvelous little place on the Mediterranean Sea.

On a whim, I asked if maybe they had a cabana or a cabin I would have. The wonderfully friendly lady who runs the campground and her husband gave me a cabana with a shower and TV and electricity for 20 Euros a night. I couldn't believe it. What a deal. And, it comes with breakfast.

They also had a fast internet. I am using it now to post this blog. I got on it right away and contacted Stromtroopers (the VStrom club back home) to ask them what they thought the problem might be with my bike. (Their answer: a switch on the clutch lever).

I've been working on the bike a big part of the day, and I think it is all fixed. Thanks again, Stromtroopers.  And every once in a while I walk down to the crowded beach and work on my dose of sunshine Vitamin D.

This is a funky little resort community I stumbled onto. Here at the campground they have tons on 6th, 7th and 8th graders dancing to a DJ. They are fun to watch. They remind me a lot of my students back home.

The weather has been a perfect 70 degrees all day. I hope it is like this tomorrow when I head back up into the mountains and aim Odysseus, my VStrom, for Sicily.  It is a long way yet. Italy is a very long country.

More later,