Friday and Saturday, September 13 and 14
I will admit up front that I feel caught between writing a post this morning and getting right back on the road. It is 9:30 a.m. I am sitting at a small desk in my miniature dorm room overlooking a piazza (plaza) in the heart Benevento. I slept at least an hour longer than I anticipated. I obviously needed it. I was tired last night and I woke with leg cramps twice during the night (the effects of diet and hydration). My dilemma is that given the logistical issues of riding through the heart of Italy, I should really be in the saddle already to make sure I give myself enough time to secure a place to sleep at night.
The last two nights played it too close to the edge without intending to. Friday night I had intended to stay Grazzanise, but a wrong turn landed me in the quaint village of Cancello ed Arnone. After sitting in the back of a Mass already in progress and determining that there were no camping sites or hotels nearby, I returned to my original plan to stay in Grazzanise. I arrived there and after a couple of conversations using hand motions and broken Italian, limited English, and a few words of German, it was clear that Capua, another ten kilometers up the road was going to be my answer—at least, I hoped.
I put my blinking tail light on. There wasn’t much traffic on this rural road, but there also is no shoulder and the less traffic there is the faster the vehicles go. I watched closely in my rear view mirror for vehicles that weren’t giving me a wide berth and, on a handful of occasions I just pulled off into the weeds to let passing vehicles have as much room as they wanted.
I arrived in Capua close to 8:00 p.m. Again, with only two or three words we could agree on, I found a local shop owner who pointed me toward a hotel. I found it, the price was reasonable (honestly, at point anything would have sounded more reasonable than riding around an unknown town on my bike looking for a place), and by 8:30 I was out looking for food.
I felt like I had learned my lesson, so I booked a place for Saturday night ahead of time in Benevento, just about ten kilometers from Petralcina, where I plan to spend some time getting a feel for the life and the impact that Padre Pio has had on this part of Italy. All went well. Finding the place was a near impossibility as it is a “B and B” inside of a larger building. My GPS had me right on top of it, but I went in circles for over an hour until I finally found the 2 X 2 sign mixed in with other signs on the front of the building.
Again, all went well, except it wasn’t made clear to me that they only accepted cash. I had just enough cash leaving me with only four euros—enough for a gelato and a bottle of water! I suddenly imagined finding myself in a real pickle. I had arrived on a Saturday night and my only experience with foreign exchange was in Rome where there are numerous places open all hours of the day and night to accommodate the tourists. I couldn’t stay here another night waiting for banks to open as I didn’t have the cash. Attempting to get to the next major town relying only on VISA-accepting establishments seemed foolhardy. I was trying to trust, but I was also nervous.
Again, I felt very lucky. I was looking for some place in town that might be open to exchange foreign currency. My hosts had no knowledge of a place that might be open nor did the first Tarrachi shop. The second Tarrachi shop pointed to the bank right across the piazza. My card would not open the front locked door, so he came over and used his card. I had not used my debit card yet in Italy and thankfully on the first attempt the machine spit out the euros that I woud need to get all the way to San Giovanni Rotondo.
My dilemma, you ask?! Given all of this I should really be on the road already so that I leave a few hours each day just to address the unknowns, which are many. But, I really need to connect. I really need to feel like I am not just some wandering pilgrim lost and alone in some foreign land. I need someone who can understand my language and hear my story and appreciate what I am experiencing. Thus, a quick call to my girlfriend this morning, and taking the time I need to post. With this, I believe I will have enough connection to sustain me through today and tomorrow. On Monday, I should only have 25-30 kilometers to ride and Tuesday, I will stay put for a day. This should give me some time to gather myself and recover from the constant logistical challenges.
That’s what’s going on emotionally. Friday was a spectacular day. Most of the day was riding south along the Italian coast. I know for sure that I will remember forever the beauty of the small village of Sperlongia—a perfect, little resort town that appeared to have been designed by a movie director. I sat on a bench on the walkway just above the umbrella-lined beach eating an Italian roll with salame and cheese I had bought from the deli. Off in the distance over the sea, two tornadoes formed and slowly danced with each other, until they merged and finally dissolved away. No one else seemed concerned, so I just watched.
Much of the day was spent pondering this attraction to Rumi that is serving as the catalyst to this pilgrimage. When I have more time this week I hope to write a post just dedicated to that. Until then I can say that rode along meditating and repeating over and over again his famous poem, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field; I will meet you there. When my soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.” Ten years ago I would have gone, “Huh?” Today, I can feel those words mirroring something deep inside me.
Yesterday, I rode from Capua to Benevento. The best way I can describe the area is that it reminded me very much of a combination of Napa County, California and the Central Valley of California. The terrain and weather was similar—rolling hills planted in vineyards, humid air, and that mixture of the wealth of the wine culture with the farming culture that supports it. I alternated between small county roads with no shoulder to near freeway conditions with lots of shoulder.
Off to visit with Padre Pio today. If all goes well I will land in Lucera or Foggia tonight. I am so thankful that you were all here today to listen and be part of my community. I just couldn’t ride off today without knowing you were there.
Peace, my friends….