Trip Start Jan 31, 1985
1Trip End Sep 30, 2008
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After a 2-day mission to Mildenhall England I returned to Italy on Wednesday with only 6 days remaining of my detachment. So far I had ridden the countryside of England and Italy… what's left…? the ascent of Mt. Etna. One of the pilots from one of the other crews wanted to attempt this with me… but with only six days I wasn't sure we would have a day off together. So I planned to do Mt. Etna Thursday by myself. I took off my tri-bars seeing how the ascent speed would be very slow and I didn't need the added weight
A friend of mine said she had done the trip on a mountain bike about 6 years earlier… it had taken her all day, literally, 12 hours. Up at 6… breakfast… a couple pictures to document my journey and I'm off. Take off time - 0700. I had planned the trip using the most direct route, later this would prove to be the most challenging. The first 6 miles was mostly flat with a couple rolling hills but compared to the rest of the day, a Sunday afternoon ride. The town of Mota presented the first challenge. The steepest ascent I had ever seen or attempted. Even Lance would be envious. Not even 8 miles under my belt and I was questioning why…? why try to attempt such a feat. Standing on my pedals, heart racing… why? So steep, so early in the day. I would find it would only get worse. I made it through the town of Mota, and on to Belpaso. Yes, another steep ascent, only three times as long plus cobblestone streets. Now add in a parade to maneuver around, it was festival time there. Each block, it got steeper and at the end was a church… why at the end of the street I wondered…? So I could thank God that I had made it this far. By now I was starting to see signs for Etna… Etna Sud with arrows that were pointing up
I would know. I pedaled on. Standing when I had to… doing switchbacks up the mountain… doing small switchbacks even in the roadside rest stops. By now the summit loomed larger and larger. How much farther? Gotta do the conversion in my head...as I rode I passed signs 15 km… 13 km… 10 km… I knew that one… 6.2 miles… yes, still at least an hour left. At times the mountain would be so steep, I could only maintain 4 mph… just enough to maintain my balance. Then as it would level out… okay, just not as steep, I could get up to 8 mph
I treated myself to a very nice Italian lunch. I had to find a restaurant where I could rest… preferably one I could keep my bike with me. As I clanked into the restaurant with my bike, I took a table against the wall so I could park my bike behind me. It was a wonderful lunch over looking the once red hot lava flows of Mt. Etna. The Italians know how to make you feel special. Part way through lunch, an old gentleman came over to speak to me about my bike, the best I could tell was he too had a very nice bike, best in Italy. His smile was as big as mine. After lunch the ride home would prove to also be challenging… nearly 26 miles of riding my brakes down the mountain. The last six, flat, was a welcome sight. What a day… 2 hours ten minutes back… a day always to remember. Will I ever do it again? Probably, just not again this trip. Time to savor the victory… victory? Yes, this was one for the win category in my book, a checkmark in "Life's to-do list"… another accomplishment labeled "Superman Like."
I now look at Mt. Etna a little differently…