I threw up twice before Jonathan woke up. My stomach was a mess. Again all I wanted was to stay one more day where we were. Stay and rest and get better. My ankle hurt. Now I have food poisoning. The last thing I wanted was to get on that bike.
I ate some toast for breakfast and hoped that would settle my stomach. We packed our behemoths again. I left behind a good amount of stuff behind yet my bike was still heavy. I decided to keep the dress and mail it back home once we had a chance.
We had to make it to Crespina, to Poggio Al Casone winery in three days. Jonathan had secured a stay there via his friendship with the owner. We had already lost an entire day of riding because of my breakdown. There was no moving the reservation. It was we either make it or lose it. He had been dreaming about going back to that winery for months now and not making it wasn’t an option. Now we needed to get to the next town, Grosseto, and take a train to Pisa. We hoped we could take a train that would take us AND the bikes.
Stomach turning, we headed out. The hills were still steep. The sheep were still herding. The rolls of hay were still resting on the hill slopes. However, I was different. I was singing and enjoying. I decided to laugh instead of cry at every sign that indicated that I had a steep hill for the next two kilometers. Jonathan was ahead of me and that way I realized I was alone. He was all the way over there and I was over here on my hill. I was going slowly. I was pushing and riding and pushing and singing and I was okay with that. I still got up the hill. He just had to wait for me there.
Then it started to rain. We waited under an overpass but the rain wasn’t yielding. In the distance we could see the on rap and bridge that would take us to Grosseto. It looked narrow and cars zipping by fast. It was the end of the day and the danger was that once again what if my legs gave out half way up the on rap and then we would be stuck in a tight narrow bridge, in the rain, at dusk as cars are driving by.
Go back to a bed and breakfast we had seen two hills ago. Potentially have to pay around 60 Euro for a shitty room.
Go to another B&B advertised about 3 km away and also over pay for something not worth it.
Risk it on the bridge. Get to Grosseto have to then look for a room there.
Camp under an olive tree on a slant and take the bridge in the morning.
We camped. It was dry and it was warm. I was with Jonathan and felt safe. That little tent felt as good as a five star hotel room. We were tired and fell asleep even before the sun went down.
In the morning we took to the on ramp and the bridge and got to Grosseto. After finding morning cappuccinos and croissants, we headed to the train station. We looked up at the train schedule see what could work. A bullet train to Livorno in about 30 min, it wouldn’t work. They don’t take bikes. Jonathan kept saying they wouldn’t take any bikes. There was a train to Pisa in an hour.
“Go ask, I’ll stay with the bikes,” he said.
As I was in line I was looking at Jonathan. He was fiddling with his gloves and bags, a look of anger on his face. He wouldn’t look up. He was mumbling something to himself. Probably all the things he really wanted to say to me but was holding back. I was praying they the train would take bikes. I didn't know if I could ever make it up if we didn't make it. It broke my heart to see him like that. I didn’t know how to say, “I’m sorry” anymore and for him to believe me.
All I could do was yell it in my mind.
I’m sorry I dragged you into this.
I’m sorry I’m slow.
I’m sorry I keep falling down.
I’m sorry my pedal keeps getting caught with my fender and I stumble.
I’m sorry we lost a day and now we might not make it.
I’m sorry I didn’t train more back home
I’m sorry I didn’t train AT ALL
I’m sorry I am basically just learning how to REALLY ride a bike now
I’m sorry I can’t ride around crowds.
I’m sorry I can’t keep to the white line.
I’m sorry I can’t do tight turns.
I’m sorry I can’t navigate and ride at the same time and you have to do it.
I’m sorry I brought too much stuff.
I’m sorry we had to spend 100 Euro in the hotel last night.
I’m sorry I twisted my ankle and it hurts.
I stepped to the ticket window and my prayers where answered. The train took built bikes. Finally, a break. I told Jonathan and his face lit up. Hope. We could make it to the winery.
Tickets in hand, we waited. Jonathan has to keep doing the heavy lifting because I couldn’t manage to push my bicycle up the stairs. I could see how him having to do this was also annoying him. Everything I do or do not do and I didn’t know what to say anymore. I could just see it in his eyes and feel it on his demeanor towards me.
In the train we talked some more and he asks me how many miles a day I could do. This is a question I had NO IDEA how to answer. We had reservations till Venice and not knowing how many miles we could do a day is hard to plan if we were going to be able to MAKE it to Venice. I could see how frustrated he was with me but I just didn’t know.
We made it to Pisa. Jonathan was cranky or sleepy or both or just sick of me. I was trying but yet it was not enough. He kept saying that he just needed to sleep. I was still phoneless so I couldn’t even help out to try to find a place to stay. Yet another thing I could tell annoyed him. He found a place for us and we checked in. He showered and went to bed.
I showered and decided I would go for a walk and might as well go see the leaning tower. I needed to move and not fall. I needed to move and realize I could do it alone, that I wasn’t an idiot. That somewhere in there I was still me. My legs were covered in bruises. It was hot I put on skirt and it looked like I was beaten from the waist down. I didn’t care and I set out.
It felt good to walk. It felt good to enjoy a city and not just go by it. I people watched and got lost looking at the architecture. I really can’t describe how good it felt to walk. It felt like I was holding my breath these past days and I finally exhaled. It was simple, jus walking but it felt so good, like I was finally doing something I knew how to do: Move alone in a foreign city.
I made it to the leaning tower. I laughed as I watched all the couples take pictures of the other as they “held up” the tower. I looked at the families there and the groups of friends engaging in the same activity. I was there alone. My boyfriend was mad at me for my cycling shortcomings. Me, consistently feeling there was nothing I could do to make it up to him.
I wished he would be there with me. I wished we could also be silly together and take pictures of us holding the tower. I wished we could laugh again like we used to so easily before this trip. I felt a little melancholy for my goofy boyfriend. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of days.
And then I saw him.
Blue faded T-shirt and shorts. Holding his bike across the plaza looking for me.
“MARCO!” I yelled
“POLO” He answered and saw me.
And so we took the pictures. We held the tower together. We were silly trying to get the angle right. We walked around and talked. Had dinner and then took a seat by the river to eat some gelato. We laughed. After hard days we finally laughed again. It felt good to see US again. We could do this I thought, we are still here.
Finally things were going better. We were just about 30 km away from the winery and had a whole day to do it.
Finally I felt like we could do this, that I could too.