Today I had a really tough time deciding where to ride on my day off. There are so many choices. Last night I studied several options and maps and Google Earth and must have spent at least 2 hours mapping out some alternatives. It was a tough decision.
When I first joined my bike team I would make sure I was at the ride start location slightly early, so as not to miss the ride. But one of my earliest observations about life in Italy is that nothing starts exactly on time. Not a bike ride, not the opera, not Sunday Mass, not dinner. Life is lived at a more relaxed pace. One of the endless reasons to live here. Although I fully expected and wanted this, it was at first frustrating. Especially when you're pumped to ride, and you just raced 5 miles at breakneck speed to get to the ride on time.
Upon arriving at the ride start, everyone would start socializing. After which, a passionate discussion would ensue on selecting a ride destination. The discussion would then become a sales presentation. Each man would try to sell the team on why their suggested destination is either more beautiful, interesting or challenging. The presentation evolves into a deliberation. The deliberation evolves into a emotional debate, with everyone talking at the same time. The debate becomes a negotiation. A priceless process. I loved it. Each man would describe their suggested route with such love, such adjectives, such passion, such intensity. On one ride, the process took 45 minutes, but it was pure entertainment. Once agreed upon, everyone would depart for the ride with gigantic smiles, feeling like they earned their right to ride.
I am just starting to comprehend the endless number of ride destinations, the thousands of different roads that wander through abundant fantasy landscapes, the infinite ride options. I am understanding better why it is so difficult to decide which way to go. How do you choose, when all the options are equally tantalizing, one more beautiful and filled with surprises than the other?
It's like walking into a gelateria and having 100 different tempting flavors to choose from. You want them all. With gelato, you can choose more than one flavor. And you can taste-test them all if you want. But it's almost impossible to decide where to go on a ride.
Well, after much deliberation, today I rode up to Monteloro where I went off the main road and explored some hidden villas and vineyards. Then I rode on to Polcanto and Pratolino. I still cannot believe that after riding just 3K outside of Florence, I am riding on such tranquil country roads with the cypress trees towering above me and the constant visual stimulation of the bucolic Tuscan landscape all around me. What a great day of exploration and fun!