March 29, 2008

Folsom preview

I feel like yesterday was the first day the jet lag was finally shaken off and the grind of work was starting to move back in...On the road again... We are off and free to another destination and the US of A is sooo easy to travel through with our new perspective ;-)

The idea for the weekend was to camp it out like we did last year and ride the course the day before but the constant rain on the way up and the recent memories of those warm hotel beds made it too easy to pull into a Marriott and call it a day. Ahh...nice.

We did get up early enough however to grab some bfast and head to the races scene. TFB racing always has something going on here just about every weekend and it is easy to see why...Loads of diversity through roads, trails and water in just about every direction. Auburn is less than an hour away, Tahoe about two hours and that is IF you ever run out of things to do right here in Folsom. . .

Today there was a trail run, mini-tri and a health mix of TFB crew and loved ones showing the support out in the rain.


We made our way around the bike course and I think the rain just make it even better. No deep sand traps and fast. Mud makes me happy ;-)


(The course is in PERFECT shape!)


(Monique making the climbs in in the back of the loop)

This year Monique is stepping up to the starting line and this will be her first Xterra! She is ready but after our little dip in the lake we spend the day chasing down some neoprene swim caps because the water was so cold. We may need a nice long warmup and venti mocha to get us going in the morning. Despite the recent rain the water in the lake was sooo lowww... This is going to be one long run to the transition after the swim. The transition is still about 100 yards the other way from the picture below and it took us over 10min to walk to the waters edge.


The swim also was my first test in my new suit. Matching suits? Funny how we arrived at the same result but I spent way more time and energy after Moniuqe just ordered hers about a month ago online. I just know it is the best fit for me. In the last two months I have tried on the 2XU lineup, De Soto, Orca 3.8 and Apex and one Zoot suit and NOTHING feels this good. I have two suits already but went from my QR large and Orca size Med to a small Xterra and it is a perfect fit. So stretching and snug. Love it. We will see how it goes tomorrow...

Check out this dog we saw too... This was a dog from some of the runners today and it was the coolest dog I have ever seen. It is a Australian sheep dog and chow mix.



Time to get some sleep and prepare for the mud floppin' tomorrow.

March 25, 2008

Back

We are back in the U S of A and we need a vacation from all the recent activity...

What an adventure from the time we started the planning...We walked tons, ate pounds and pounds of cheese (my stomach and the toilets of Europe will never be the same) and got to get out on the trail too. From seeing some of the worlds best "art" and history that enriched our lives to sweating it out in a euro pool with the Italians to watching the snow fall while walking the streets of London with Mandy and Marius...It was simply "brilliant". We are so grateful we got to partake and words just cannot describe.

This post is just to link together our posts abroad and tie up our last days out.

(back to livin' the American dream!)
Mind the gap
London Eye
Euros to Pounds. . .
Florence by Day
Aqua Calda and off to Florence
Dinner for Two
Bike Time
Siena by Chance
Off to Siena
Vacation or Adventure Race?
Vatican City
Roma Around
When in Rome
London Heathrow
Off to Europe
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March 19, 2008

Eruos to Pounds. . .

Today was our last day in Florence and we headed back into town to see the statue of David.
In the Accademia Gallery Michelangelo not only created David but also he created "Slaves" between 1520 and 1530. There he left six statues unfinished, some whose facial features are barely suggested beneath the fog of marble, which expressed his nature and the symbolic of the incompleteness that plagued him throughout his career. These pieces and their struggle to free themselves from the prison of the enormous marble blocks was inspiring. Probably one of the coolest thing we have seen yet and it was "unfinished"...go figure.

Our last night in Florence was amazing... it rained, and then cleared up to a beautiful
sunset and a clear blue sky. Everyone was out in the streets enjoying the cool night.


The next morning we were off to the train station to head back down to Rome to catch our 5:15 pm flight out to London. We ended up getting a earlier train then we expected and we were off running to deck number 24. The train was getting ready to leave so we jumped on and grabbed our seats. On the train ride down it started snowing through Tuscan hills, it was beautiful!

(Monique waiting for the train in)

Once in Rome we had some time to grab some lunch and a cappuccino before we were off again on our next train ride to the airport!


In London again and we can understand people.. Its cold but nice and the parks are pretty

tomorrow we walk around for the fist time

Florence by Day

Another day out on the road. . . walking around forever and seeing all we could on our unstructured adventures. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so here you go.











March 17, 2008

Aqua Calda and off to Florence

This was our last day in Siena so after a quick breakfast we headed out on our bikes again and we had our checkpoint set on Aqua Calda... An aquatic center that was just out side of town. The goal was to see another side of the town as we rode through, pound out some meters in the water with the local Italians and get back to checkout of our hotel in time to make the train and head north.

We had some help trying to locate the Aqua Calda but we were off on our bikes again without detailed directions. . . It was all part of the adventure and we were getting pretty comfortable with the area already anyways. Moniques trusting navigation got us there with no problems after just a short ride through the hills and we discovered a ton of stuff here at the edge of town. Even an outside Velo track

Who else takes pictures of stuff like this on vacation?

Our planning worked out to the T and we were on the train to Florence with no delay...The only way to travel!

beautiful hills and green the entire way

Once we made it to our hotel in Florence with no issues to speak of and we were back in "the city" with all the modern marvels you would expect from a Hilton hotel... Like a mirror that NEVER fogs up in the middle.


I am amazed at the simplest things sometimes

After a little check in and a look at the $20+ dollar burgers at the hotel we were off to get some local food and ended up picking up a couple (more) pairs of shoes. Those Italians know their shoes ;-) Tomorrow we are heading to some of the downtown sights to check out what this place has going on... Time for some sleep.

March 16, 2008

Dinner for two

Today we explored more of the town in Siena and have the bus schedule down now... I love this public transportation! The Tuscany area is so vast and the towns so different that it really feels like we are in a different place every day.


Everything is on the go here but not the "American way". We tried to find some energy bars, snacks, etc for our ride but there is not much in the way of processed food to be found. That is a good thing. Most of the deli's are "fast food" also but not the way we supersize it...


You get some fresh food after walking all day and most people don't even sit down. Order up an espresso, sip it at the bar standing and go back to your walk around town. Fast food.


We did a little shopping and eating and sight seeing like our normal rounds and then headed back early to our little bed and breakfast. For me it was some quick hill repeats up and down our driveway hill and a little nap next to the pool was just what the doctor ordered for Monique. An ideal vacation day for both of us after our ride yesterday.

(Monique knows how to enjoy the time away)

This was our last night in Siena...So bummed to go after we are starting to get such a feel for it but Florence is calling. We headed down the hill one last time on foot to watch the sunset and have a nice dinner (#2)...


The sunset was amazing


The food was right on

We stayed up late when we got back and lived it up in Siena on our last night(hopefully not for the last time). Sweets, cheeses and vino all night... We took the late train to Florence and it was a dinner and a time to remember.

Here are some of the Pictures posted


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March 15, 2008

Bike Time

What a wonderful place we are staying in. . . We are so stoked at the Villa Scaccia and would highly recommend it! Not only does it have some wonderful people (super helpful) that work here but you really get the feel for Tuscany and being away from the city. Now we really feel like we are on vacation and can relax in the country. We went down to the city center yesterday and found some bikes to rent and then discovered they had some bikes here we could use for free. Sweet! They even had a book about biking in the Chianti hills so we scoped out a few routes and had some destinations in mind but again left our plans pretty flexible. We wanted to ride to some of the castles, wineries and maybe get out to see San Gimignano but the people at the B&B thought we were a bit crazy. "You know there are many hills and that is like 60-80K?" Yeah, we are on vacation is what we told them.

Bikes loaded and ready to go

After a short "round about" getting out of the town (lost a little) we were on our way climbing to the castles of Chianti. Perfect weather and a perfect road with more cyclists than cars. We were finally out exploring the trail and had all day to do it. No lines, no car problems, sunshine and amazing views all around.



The book they let us use with maps of the Chianti region was just what we needed. We could connect any road to see what we wanted to (get lost) and still be on track to our most valued destinations. Our first stop was just north of our B&B to the area of Castellina. One big climb and we were riding through the backwoods and backroads of local towns and markets. Wow... We were out of the country for sure now. We got some snacks at the market and we were off again heading North to more castles.



We made our way stopping at wineries and cruising along talking about our trip, food and life. To me it does not get much better. Time on the trail and time felt like it was standing still. What an amazing creation that is all around us. We thought about Marius and Mandy in South Africa and what they must be seeing. Planet Earth was on the mind... Then it was food again. A lovely little cycle that runs through my mind so we stopped at this place below to get some sugar into our system and take a break from the bike seats.


About halfway through our day we decided that we would make a run for the San Gimignano and I am so glad that we did... Another quick climb and we were within the reaches of San Gimignano where they had towers surrounding the city on a hill. Words cannot describe how "unique" it was but I only wish we had more time there. Well worth the trip. Here is a little video shot from within the city walls.


video


So many castles and so little time... We were going to need to push it on the way back to make it in the light so we decided to take a direct route. So stoked that I had my GPS (even if we didnt use it until afterwards) to capture the trip. Here is the GPS route.


Elevation ChangeTotal (ft)
Total Elevation30,272
Elevation Gain15,113
Elevation Loss15,160
Net Elevation Change-47

I had no idea how many miles were were climbing but the hotel folks may have been right about us... a little over 100Kilometers later and over 15,000 feet of climbing and Monique as still pushing! Go girl go!


We picked up the pace a bit and slowing enough to ride though the villages and take some shots of the castles from the road. I have found it impossible to find process food in this country and we had no energy bars for days...Whats a boy to do! We have been loaded up with cheese for days and that was our snacks. . . along with all the sweets we would find in the little towns. Nice long ride and in time enough to head to the Siena city center for a full Italian dinner. mmm... to that!

The Castle in the middle of the town of Monteriggioni

More pictures posted over here http://slater.smugmug.com/gallery/4604155_wEHu2#271523371

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March 14, 2008

Siena by Chance

We made it! We had a killer dinner last night with the best pasta (hand made everything) that I have ever had...What surprise and this place is beautiful with hills of green and great people all around. This morning we added another meal at our Bed and Breakfast with our personal assistants serving up some Euro meats and good eats. mmmm......




After a short walk around the grounds to see the views and gardens we were off to our first order of business for the day. Return the rental car! Luckily, it was downhill to the gas station so we coasted in and dropped 74 Euros and the take was still not full!! Dude, that is over $100 bucks for this little tank. Lesson learned. Take the trains!! :-)



Siena is located within Central Tuscany and so close to the castles in Chianti and old village towns like San Gimignano and Pienza. We have a lot of exploring to do but today was time to relax in the town.

The Siena city center was not that far off from where we were lost and is so unique in itself. The streets are piled onto staked buildings that fit together like a big puzzle and the streets are filled with well dressed Italians always wearing the fancy leather shoes and sunglasses at all times. Here there are few tourists and a deeper feel for the Italian way of life. People are so stoked to have the jobs they are given... It seams like even the simplest task it done with such pride because of the family business or maybe the fact that this is the job they will have for life. Not sure but no complaints felt and the people here were warm and welcoming for sure.



We continued on our espresso binge and walked around the city shopping and found some sweet leather shoes, a new wedding ring for me (#4) and a bunch of stuff that is sure to fill our bags for the way home. Good times.



We stayed in the city center and were all in tune with the bus schedules now and hung out until the sun set. Amazing. We sat in the Piazza del Duomo square and watched the sun fade under the tower built in 1238 that sets a high standard for this town. So does the gelato!






March 13, 2008

Off to Siena

This morning we made our way through the city again, saw a few more old buildings, a hundred or so mopeds and had some eats at a few new spots before we picked up our rental car. The day was warmer than normal and just beautiful.

Now, we were warned about the driving in Europe and even more about the directions.... I got that nice new GPS but never even thought about using it. You see the car was just part of the experience and we wanted to "feel" the life of the Euros by driving along with them. An experience it was...

Getting out of Rome was not a stretch. We already had a feel for it and we were well into rolling green hills all around us in just a short time. Once out of the city, however, things got pretty slim. English? Como say what?? Dude, these people dont speak Engrish around here!!

I know I have been thinking about adventure racing with all this getting lost but we were about to encounter that rare place of desperation that you only get when your resources are tapped. Siena was only about a two or three hour drive but we soon were driving in the dark, looking through our three new maps we purchased on the way, trying to make sign language or something with the locals and praying for a sign... We were running on a few all out days of travel, walking in sleep deprived states and loaded up with Cheese. We were falling deeper and deeper in love ;-)

To make a loooonnnngggg story short. We stopped at our last closed gas station (yes, they close after dark and we were on empty) only to consider sleeping in the car. . . We had reached our end and did not know where else to look, where the Siena city center was (our bread and breakfast was just outside of town) and even where we were on ANY of our maps. _ l o s t _ We had already tried to enlist the help of three people only to have them point out totally different places on the maps so when I guy pulled up I didn’t even want to ask but muttered out “you know where via scrappenalla is?” He said, Oh Via Scacciapensieri… Its right behind you! Take this right turn out of the gas station and follow the road up. WHAT!!! This guy speaks English and the place is right behind us? W H A T ? ?

I remember telling Monique. “Don’t get excited, the last three guys had us off the map” No way…was all I was thinking but if it was that close we had the gas make it so what the heck. We drove up the street and in less than 2min we were at Via Scacciapensieri. IN SHOCK. Thank you LORD!! I honestly had NO idea where we were and am still drop jaw dumbfounded that it was right behind us…. We were only trying to get some gas at that point.

Stoked more than I can express to be at our place and the icing on the cake to find that it was killer and overlooking the city in the distance we were pumped up. I jumped behind the bar to mix up some espresso and Monique got the music started. We survived and had arrived! Time to party!!