What the Heck Have We Been Up To?

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Smoke.  Up in smoke.  That’s what we have been up to ever since we departed Morro Bay.  Why did we leave?  Don’t ask.  Just kidding.  We had planned this trip in April.  Who knew the biggest wildfire in CA history was going to happen?  Having said this, we perhaps should have considered the fire season.  It’s the new normal, according to Gov Brown and me.  Last summer we choked for the most of the days we vacationed in Canada.  Horrendous fires up there too and yet, the fires didn’t even enter our minds while we planned.  Planning by the way involved countless hours staring at maps, apps and other tools of the RVers.  During the summer it is vital to have reservations as everyone else with an RV is on the road too.  And I personally refuse to camp at a Wal-Mart.  Just sayin. 

So, we consulted this and that and that and this and a plan was the output of all the research.  Then calls are made.  Sometimes you can make a reser on the internets but many times a call must be made.  Once you talk with the RV park, credit card info is given to assure your spot.  That is all my job…the reservations, that is. 

So, it is no small matter to change plans midstream but that is exactly what we had to do because of the poor air quality in the Sierras.  We met our friends up at Graeagle as planned and we played in Truckee the day after our arrival in smoke that was so thick, it was hazardous to our health.  After that we wondered what we were thinking…and then we played Plumas Pines in the smoke.  No more enjoyable but slightly less smokey.  Then our friends flew the coop.  She was not feeling well and we totally supported that decision. 

So we decided to fly the coop too.  And you know what that entailed…cancelling all those reservations.  We reasoned that things were not going to improve, our friends were gone, and anyway, we had a house to buy and it was exceedingly difficult to do it from afar. 

This is.a sad story.  We haven’t gotten lost much on this trip.  Except in Los Banos which I have already written about.   We are a bit disappointed because when we get lost, it is usually an adventure.  However, other things have popped up to fill the void.

The TV:

Yes.  Our TV stopped working.   We ignored it for a few days but then decided we wanted to watch TV so we tried to figure out what was wrong.  This involved going to Jupiter Satellite store in Redmond, OR with our Wally device (think DishTV).  A nice man there tested the receiver and pronounced it fit as a fiddle.  After calling some RV place that works on Tiffin RVs, we were told they could not help us for a few weeks.  So, Rayman called our friend, Jake, that has a Tiffin too.  He counseled Rayman on ways to trouble shoot a few things.  And so he did and he discovered a plug had come loose.  Voila.  TV again.  That took the most part of a day. 

The Car:

Yes,  our car air conditioning stopped working.  This was serious as it was over 100 degrees and we had to drive back to the RV which was about 20 miles away with the windows down while breathing air so ladened with smoke, you could cut it with a knife.  That was not fun.  So, Rayman went to work with his volt meter and duct tape.  After three times of the air conditioner starting to work and then stopping again, he finally got it to work so that it now stays on…and the funny thing is, as soon as he was successful, the weather changed and got cooler.  We knew the world revolved around everything we did.  Just proof…again.

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This picture was taken inside the carwash in Sisters, OR.  Needed to get the dust off.

The Water Heater:

This happened in the Sierras.  Our water heater in the RV went on the fritz.  That repair necessitated a man coming from Reno to Clio, CA to replace the hot water heater controller.  Subsequent to that experience, I authored a letter to Tiffin with a copy of the receipt asking if they would help defray the $525 bill.  More on that later when the reply is received.

So life on the road is never without trauma and drama but also unexpected events too.  Why just tonight at the Sisters RV park just east of Sisters, OR they had a catered barbecue for the park.  $15 a plate.  We decided to do it.  They even had a band and Rayman and I got up and cut the rug with one other couple…La Bamba.  Arriba, arriba. 

But I digress.

Anyway, while we were dining in a grassy field we looked up and saw a plane that looked like it was landing at the fairgrounds next door.  The plane was helping with a fire that had broken out just east of this park about 2 hours earlier.  It was a sight.  So was the helicopter with a bucket on a long “rope” flying here and there.  We think the fire is out.  No sign of smoke.  When the fire broke out, the sirens were constant.  They jumped all over it.  Hooray to the fire fighters.  We love them and thank them for all they do. 4cl+Era1SqGcpngSgxJKfw

So, we cancelled our trip on the loneliness road in America and here we are until Wednesday.  On Wednesday we head to Portland and will be there closing escrow then leaving for Anacordes, WA for a few days and a visit to the San Juan Islands.  Then back down to Silver Cover RV Resort near Mt. St. Helens and then back to Portland on the 8th of Sept.  Then we will stay there outfiitting our new skinny house.  It needs everything.  Window coverings, dishes, pots, pans, beds, towels, garbage cans…etc, etc, etc.   The Anacordes, Silver Cove part of this was previously planned…just the part the included Nevada, Idaho and Grand Coolie dam were cancelled to allow us to get to Portland earlier.  We also thought we would escape the smoke.  Not.  It has been very smokey in Bend/Redmond/Terrebonne area.  Until today.  It got cooler and windy…what a relief. 

So that’s about it for now.  Hope all our friends and family and healthy and happy.  We are missing everyone.  And Beau is missing his sister, Jaycee. 

Close Encowters of a Second Time

 Hi boys and girls.  Here I am sitting at our “kitchen table” at Hawk’s Nest RV Park outside the Lava Beds monument and Tule Lake.  It’s dark outside.  The train’s whistle just sent out it’s furtive cry in the night warning people of it’s arrival across places where the highway intersects with the train tracks.  Or vice versa.  It’s a lovely sound out here and a bit unexpected.  We have noticed that train tracks often run along rivers, because rivers are the low point in the landscape, I’m guessing.  We are unaware of any rivers here.  The whistle makes me wonder if the train’s engineer is yanking on a chain to blow the whistle or is it all now programmed into some computer that runs everything.  The romantic in me hopes it’s the former but the skeptic in me thinks it’s the latter.   However, leaving it to computers might result in mistakes…like when I downloaded an alarm clock app and after doing so, setting the alarm, only to have a malfunction and sleeping later than planned.  Three times.  After that I drove myself up to Radio Shack and said to the man behind the counter, “I’m looking for an alarm clock….an analog alarm clock.”  He had exactly one and I bought it.  It was too big, overpriced, doesn’t glow in the dark.  It did, however, ring an hour early because I set it wrong.  But it works.  So, maybe, just maybe, the engineer pulls that chain.

But I digress.

We have just spent a week in the Sierras with our friends, the Donnellys.  We were all disappointed at the air quality of the region.  The Carr fire’s smoke blows in over the mountains as I imagine it rides some type of jet stream and the smoke has enveloped the area for the entire week.  So, today, we decided to leave early pleading our case that Rayman was having issues of breathing, sore throat etc.  We were actually booked for another week. 

The other reason we blazed, if you will pardon the pun, is that we are buying a house in Portland and the lack of good wifi signals makes the process very difficult.  Wiring funds, making appointments for walk thrus, are exceedingly difficult under the circumstances.

The final reason we packed up and left is that my golf game sucks. 

But I digress.

The most interesting thing that happened today on the road was our encounters with cows.  So, as you can see, my title was not a typo as much as a play on words.  We were heading north on highway 139 when Daisy the cow escaped her pasture…and she was very confused, bewildered, scared.  She kept crossing the road not sure which way to go so I stopped the Dog House in the middle of the road and we stared at each other.  She was a delight except for her ear tag…that made me sad.  But she seemed to be imploring us for some help.  Luckily there were no cars in sight.  So, we sat there.  Finally, she ran across the road down the sloping shoulder of the road and trotted in the grassy area aside the barbed wire fence.  So I started forward.  Then she ran up the shoulder and hit the road again.  When she reached the other side of the road, she turned and regarded us.  We regarded her.  This happened several times.  My concern was that she would run right in front of us as I tried to pass to end the impasse.  Finally I honked the horn.  This startled her and she ran across the road again.  She was probably saying to herself, “What do they want me to do?  Why did I break through the fence?  What was I thinking?  Now I’m in a real mess of my own creation.  Moo.”

She scooted down the shoulder again and we managed to pass.  But this is not the end of the story.  I was very concerned about her getting in an altercation with a car.  So, we spotted a ranch house and turned down the long driveway with the idea we should alert Daisy’s owner.  No one was there except two dogs that constituted the welcoming committee.  Beau was oblivious to all that was happening.  So, Rayman got back in the Dog House and away we went.  Sure hope Daisy got home okay. 

Our other encowter happened after we arrived at Hawk’s Nest RV Park.  We took Beau for a walk and while ambling down the road, I caught movement on the left of the road under a tree…Holy moly, I thought it was a black bear.  It was big and it was in the shade of a tree so it was hard to discern.  Before I took off like a jack rabbit, Rayman informed me that it was a bull.  A great big bull.  It stood up, stood it’s ground and stared at us the entire time we walked down the road and back with doggie.   Again, Beau was oblivious.  The only thing Beau noticed was a squished snake in the middle of the road.  I’m thinking baby rattler.  Who knows.  It had been there a while, all dried out and dead. 

So, that was the day with the bovines in our lives.   The encowters were much more interesting than trying to buy gas by squeezing into a Shell station that sorely lacked much space for maneuvering a 33 ft. RV, and the car that was being hauled behind it.  Took about 5 minutes to squeeze between the pump and a pole on the sidewalk.  Rayman was outside directing me and he was a sight…flailing his arms, pointing furtively, gesturing wildly.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

The bovines were definitely more interesting than that.  Just sayin.

Road Rage

Do you ever get that tired feeling?  Worn out?  Bang, bang, bang go the cylinders.  Then, then poof.  The wall get hits.  Sapped is another great descriptor.  Just sapped of all energy and get-up-and-go.

That is exactly the state I find myself in this afternoon as I sit in the dappled shade of some kind of leafy green tree that provides a canopy over The Dog House.  And I’m inside sitting at the kitchen table, for lack of a better description for a table in an RV.  The shade is welcomed as it is about 100 degrees outside right now…in the shade.  This old girl struggles to maintain her up-rightedness in the heat.  It doesn’t as much sap me as zap me.  Stepping outside is akin to stepping into an oven.  Still, hot, heat.  It reminds me of my youth growing up in Paso Robles.  My grandmother was a woman that hated to pay for utilities.  So, rather than turn on the swamp cooler that was mounted in one of the windows in living room/dining room, she would close all the Venitian blinds (that is what they called them way back when) and hunker down for the heat.  It was not beneath my dignity as a teenager to beg her to let me plug in the cooler.  Her name was Birdie and she was aptly named as she was tough as an old bird.  About the only time I remember her complaining about the heat was when grandpa insisted she heat his dinner plates in a warm oven..  Oh, the stories I have regarding my grandmother.  And her plight in life. 

But I digress.

My question is this.  Do you ever yell at your mate/spouse?  I inquire because we yelled at each other last night and I wonder if we are the only ones that exhibit this kind of behavior.  And it happened because we were both tired/frazzled, and driving the RV north on I-5.  First let me set the scene.  It was hot.  The sun was setting.  Virtually every truck in America was on that freeway with us.  And I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the freeway’s right lane is ghastly with huge potholes to be dodged, crazy drivers to avoid, enormous dips before and after the bridges that dot that straight-as-an-arrow freeway.  It was choked with vehicles as it was a Friday night and people were rushing to get where they were going.  We, however, were not in a rush because the speed limit for the doghouse towing our Zoomobile is 55 mph.  At that speed we passed exactly one old car that was cruising down the road at a whopping 50 mph.  We even observed one fellow in an SUV, pass on the right shoulder a semi-truck so anxious was he to get where he was going…and he did this daring maneuver going about 75 mph.  We were the turtles.  He was the hare. 

Again, I digress.

As I was saying, the driving was hard.  The day was long.  I was driving.  Rayman was riding shotgun with his cell phone in hand using the app that was to lead us to the KOA RV park in Los Banos, CA.  Oh, how I longed to exit I-5.  When he finally signaled that I should take the next exit, I enthusiastically replied, “YES!”.  And as soon the ssssssss sound parted my lips, he said, “What the hell?  This is the wrong exit.”  That was the first time I lost my cool.  “What”  “What are you doing?”, I shouted.    He said, “Turn right, this is not the right exit, the phone was wrong!”.    “What?”, I spit out. 

“Turn right, we have to go 3 miles to turn around.”,  Rayman expounded, and about that same time I turned right and there was a turnaround place that I’m guessing is for cops.  It was not designed to handle a 33 foot long RV, a 10 ft, long car and the 4 yards between them.  My turn elicited horns honking is all I’m saying.  However, it did save us from a 6 mile mistake.  As I continued to complain, Rayman told me to take the next exit.  Would this be right?  Who knows?  I didn’t know.  Did Siri know?  Who knows?  Did the Waze app know?  Lord only knows.  After I exited the next exit, I had to go left.  And after I made the turn, Rayman copped to not knowing if were where we suppose to be to find one KOA RV Resort.  So I did what any enraged motorist would do.  I pulled over to the side of the road refusing to drive until I could satisfy myself that we were on the right path.  The heat, it kept rising.  Rayman, having his skills criticized was now yelling.  I was yelling having completely lost any semblance of decorum or good humor. 

So, back to my original question.  Do you ever yell at your spouse/mate?  God, I hope we’re not the only ones. 

Epilogue.  We were on the right road.  We pulled into the RV park about 9 p.m.  We could not see where were going to be parked based on a map they left for us in an envelop because the office personnel was long gone.  We roamed the park making a spectacle of ourselves as it is hard to disguise the fact you are lost in an RV park as you dirive up and down, clipping trees, almost taking out a fence as you do so.  We also parked in the wrong space and I had to drive the Dog House around again to get to the space next door. 

We were so spent, we didn’t even bother extending the main slide.  After putting a few things away, we kissed and made up and threw ourselves into bed.  God, it was a long, trying day.

Were we hooked?

 

 

2DC1C39F-F1EC-41E0-86E2-05B9DAFC79FCAs we entered the restaurant which had been selected by passing by it with our umbrellas outstretched to help keep us from getting drenched, we were seated by the ristorante staff next to a lone woman separated only by a waist high column with three lit candles.

The dark haired woman was of longish hair which she played with by pulling it back away from her face as she engaged in conversation which revealed an English accent.  And she was talking to us as soon as she realized that we shared the same language.   

The conversation straddled politics and languages known.   Queries from the Rayman began with, “what do you think of the Brexit vote.”  “Fuck, it was rubbish” came the reply.   Okay.  Well, then she went on to expound on America really being a caste system even though Americans don’t realize it.   We understood her point but, the F bomb still lingered in the air.  Hair fiddling ensued.  

Our lady in black explained that her family originated in Milan and that she felt a real kinship to the city.  Her family had moved to England when she was a babe but they spoke Italian to her and she loves the Italian language.  She told us she now lives in London.  

“What do you do there?

“IT but I just quit my job and am in Milan on vacation for the month.  At sometime, I must go back to London to look for work.”  I would put her age at mid 30s.  So looking for a new job would be prudent.  

While grabbing her hair and fashioning it into a ponytail only to let it fall around her face again, she spoke of 401ks, retirement saving while interspersing a few more F bombs which seemed out of place.

We then talked about France when she asked us about other countries in Europe we had visited.  At this juncture of the conversation we learned that her grandparents owned a country home in northern France and she spent summers there and that is how she came to learn the language of french.  When we expressed our admiration that she spoke three languages, she revealed that she actually spoke eight languages, that she had a knack of learning languages.  

We did not test this proclamation.   

She had been to San Francisco.  This too went untested.  Never even occurred to me to try.  

We had ordered dinner and when we did she asked the waiter to bring her something, don.’t know what.  Finally a small glass with a yellow liquid was delivered to her.  Our dinner arrived.  While we ate, she sat with her phone and her drink, in silence.   

We exchanged a few more pleasantries, paid the bill and bid her farewell.  

“Well, she was certainly interesting”, I said as I hoisted the umbrella upward.   

“I think she was a prostitute”, Rayman revealed. 

“Really?”, I gasped.   Rayman suspected this but hoped he was wrong.  

 Well, the more we compared notes, the more I became convinced he was right.  A combo of course language to total strangers of a certain age, sitting alone while sipping on a tiny drink for an hour, alone, no food, unmolested by wait staff caused Rayman to suspect.  8 languages was far fetched.  Honing her story?   Was the ristorante in cahoots?  Where they getting a cut?  OMG.  The questions were fascinating to consider, which we did!  After all, this was Italy.  Where contrasts were in full abundance.  While wearing crosses, it would never ever occur to any Italian we encountered to give up a seat on a train for an old person, who never once was seen to help a struggling mother with a baby buggy disembark a train.  Where they routinely play chicken on the road with other motorists and pedestrians alike.   Individual encounters reveal good behavior but short of that we felt they procured a certain enjoyment in terrorizing you at the same time ignoring you.  

Train station facade facing the freeway. My friend Margaret, cleverly guessed it was a xylophone!

Train station facade facing the freeway. My friend Margaret, cleverly guessed it was a xylophone!

Yesterday while getting lost on our way to Lake Como, a fellow in a van coming up from behind us on the autostada purposely tried the share half my lane until the last second before veering to the left.  He hadn’t need to it. No other cars were in close proximity.  I was so terrified, I laid on the horn as he sped away.  And this was not at that unusual as we saw this same maneuver plied over and over to any number of motorists.   They all think they are Parnelli Jones.   It seems to be a game.  Speed limits are posted everywhere and exactly no one follows the law.   We had a fancy car blow by us going about 120 mph.   Shortly thereafter a polizia car raced by. Oh, great, we said. Finally some one is going to get a ticket.  But, alas, no.  The polizia were rushing to the aid of a stranded motorist which was kind, but we were hugely disappointed.   

In our travels we have become adept at going round and round on their roundabouts while trying to figure out which exit to take.  Really, people, it is that confusing.  Armed with roadmap and Gina, our gps aid…we are in a constant state of confusion because the road signs are so unhelpful.   

Now we are in a village on the eastern side of Lake Como and it about to rain.  Do we want to brave the weather?  Not entirely sure. But Rayman just informed me the day we leave here, it will be sunny and near 80.  It is par for the course on this trip.  Rain has called upon us just as tears follow the untimely death of our favorite character in a movie or as they follow good news on Sunday Morning on CBS…  It won’t relent. It’s got our number.  

This morning we had breakfast with a couple from a Parker (?), Alaska.  He, a man of the eyes (eye doc), she from Massachusetts originally.  They are as worried as we are about Trump.  We had a lively conversation in between sneezes and coughs as they arrived here yesterday having caught cold somewhere along the line.  Would have continued the discussion but there is only so much risk we wanted to take with germs so we politely excused ourselves and scuttled back to our room like runway models heading backstage, with purpose.

 

Other observations of Italy.  Deer live here as evidenced by the signs on the roads…deer crossing signs just like home.  No skunks.  Lots of bird as evidenced by bird song and a nest in the bottom drawer of our villa in Tuscany in the dining room.  Mallards are on the lake. Pigeons and wrens are everywhere.  Horses and sheep.  Haven’t seen a squirrel yet.  No kangaroos ( just jesting).  Lots of roses, vines, trees of many varieties many of them unknown by us.  We have only seen one traffic jam going the opposite direction, thanks for that.  I think the freeways are less travelled because many are toll roads and trains are everywhere and they are full all the time.  So much easier and less expensive way to get around.  They are so smart that way.  All of Europe is smart that way.  We are so far behind.  And retreating further and further.

One of hundreds.

One of hundreds.

Inside.

Inside.

Tunnels are an art form here.  They think nothing of burrowing through a mountain.  They have the resources because their military doesn’t gobble up all the money.   All the major cities have extensive metros.  And busses, and trolleys.  Again, their societies help move people around very, very efficiently and effectively.  Drill, baby, drill takes on a whole new connotation here.  Milan is in the middle of adding a fourth major metro line and part if it was on the street in front of our Airbnb.  Luckily we were there Saturday and Sunday.  When we departed yesterday morning, it was noisy while the weekend was quiet.

An aside, of sorts.  The London lady in the ristorante thinks the U.S. engages in indentured servitude and who am I to disagree.  How proud was I to be in management putting in 60 hours weeks without overtime only to hand out checks to non- management subordinates who made more money without the responsibilities I had.  Or Rayman’s 5th level dropping off a project at 5 p.m. as he was going home for the day and asking for results in the morning, which required hours of work.   Yes, the American worker.  Not sure anything has changed.

So, traveling is eye 👁 opening as well as eye 👁 popping.  Mind expanding and mind blowing. A test of endurance and a test of strength.  A juxtaposition of old and new, ancient and modern.  Of convenience and inconvenience.  Of laughter and tears.  

And did I mention it has been raining a lot?

Almost The End of the Line Post

Having collapsed on our Airbnb bed after street walking parts of Milano, this thought comes to mind,  “We are tired of traveling without an adult chaperone”.   We have hit the wall.  It’s a combination of age, interest, madness (“This damn GPS doesn’t work!), frustration (Where the heck are we?), throwing frugality out the window (“That was a total waste of money!”), and things like renting the car on the wrong day, watching out for pickpockets, being unable to stay at a place that was totally inappropriate which meant throwing good money after bad, suffering through bad breakfasts that were included, dodging fellow autos on the autostada, ending up in uninteresting dead end cul-de-sacs, being unable to get tickets for certain events because of lack of experience and planning…

Really, folks, it just doesn’t work anymore.  

So, here we are.  Tomorrow we blaze to Lake Como for a few days of natural beauty that our sore eyes are pining for and I include George Clooney in that category.  They may be there since they were in London for the royal wedding.   Hope springs eternal.   

After Como and the Dolomites, it’s back to Florence to rid ourselves of das boot before boarding the high speed train back to Roma where our last act of tourism will be a guided tour of the coliseum.

 

Gothic cathedral.

Shopping mall of old.

 

Before concluding this come-to-our-senses epistle, we did enjoy the displays in the windows of Milan, the afternoon thunder and lightning storm, the blending of ancient and modern design (some worked, some didn’t)), and the inclusion of avocado on a menu (first time the entire trip).  

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To their credit, they tend to only include produce locally produced, they are good recyclers, and they used public transportation, which the pickpockets appreciate as well.   We were twice approached by people of shifty eyes and questionable aims trying, we think, to set us up for their opportunity to rob us.  We didn’t fall for it.  One time as we were seated in a car on the underground Metro, the police opened the doors with an assist from the train driver, and pulled a woman from the train followed by them looking at the remaining passengers in a “We suspect you” manner before stepping off the train so the doors could close.   Was this a rouse or legit?  A show or a real police action?  Who knows?  All I do know is that cross body purses are ubiquitous in Milan.   

 

Our laughing stock.

Our laughing stock.

Us looking at them.

Us looking at them.

 

So, all future foreign travel, if there is any will include a travel agent doing the planning, a guide doing all the talking, a muscle bound gent doing all the schlepping of bags, and a captain doing all the navigation of water trips. I purposely did not mention pilots because we have never attempt to fly an aircraft.  

Speaking of flying machines, we went to a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit.  They, someone) took his plans and built the things he designed.  Amazing.   Flying machines, bridges, harpsichord, a long trumpet that was the forebears of the flute and clarinet.  In his spare time he painted the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, designed a drawbridge, various flying machines, preformed autopsies so he could draw the body organs…the list goes on and on.  It was a very interest exhibit.  How could one person do all this?   What a mind.  I saw no mention of wife or children. Perhaps he was gay.  Or too busy to bother.  I am quite sure he would have bored easily.   Sort of like Elon Musk on steroids.  

The Meet-up and Horsing Around

Here in the lush verdant green of Tuscany in the region of Chianti, we find ourselves with our friends  the villa of Il Giardo.    Of a certain vintage, this old house has walls as thick as a 12-inches or more.  Exposed beams throughout.  Overstuffed furniture in the living finds me under blanket at 3:40 pm writing of our latest adventures while Janis cooks soup, Dorothy keeps her company by sitting at the kitchen.  Lovely to have a kitchen large enough to hold a table and chairs.  

 


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Laundry is being done.  Clothes have been hung on lines and clothes racks as they don’t use dryers in this part of the world.  Driving thru villages and even in the cities, clothes flap in the breeze like flags from the pole. 

We arrived here yesterday intact despite the effort of many presumably Italian drivers trying to ensnare us in a wreck.  These people are crazy when seated behind the wheel of the car.   And they drive on the same side of the road as we do in the U.S.   There seem to no rules of the road.   They take tailgating to a new level.  Speed is of one setting…fast.   The road signs are confusing and some roadside poles have signs from top to bottom.  

Okay.   It is time for another confession but before launching into it, I never claimed to be a good trip planner and I still am not a good trip planner.  My skill set seems to be shrinking even with all the experience of recent years.  Can’t imagine why.  

When planning our trip, it was decided we should rent a car for the last half of our trip.  Through airline points I booked a car.  Apparently using a calendar did not occur to me.  Stated differently. If I used a calendar, more attention needed to be paid to it because I managed to rent the car the day before we needed it.  This was discovered after I had booked an in- Florence hotel.  The car was located at the airport which is not all that far away from our hotel.  However, the traffic took a 15 minute ride to Hertz and expanded it to about 40 minutes.   So, we decided to take muni bus to Hertz, pick up the car, drive it to a parking near the airport because a study of parking rates in Florence revealed that they wanted your first born, the boat and your house as ransom.  And may I remind you, dear reader, that driving was terrifying as Florence shuts down many streets to cars certain hours of the day.  

The route was devised with specificity by the Rayman, who not trusting in our GPS on the phone, wrote the route down using paper and pencil.   Quaint.  However, his effort was greatly appreciated because, what the hell.  Off we went on foot to the bus station terminal which la machina indicated was a 14 minute walk.   It took About 20 minutes to get lost.  That’s when we figured out he had written down the car route, not the walking route, and with all the one way streets, we were going way out of our way.   A lively discussion ensued before we corrected the route and arrived at the terminal just in time to buy two round trip tickets and board the bus.  

 

Hertz was not crowded when we arrived and I mention this to note that sometimes things go reasonably well.  A Fiat 500 was requested.  After we got fleeced by Hertz at the counter, we went out to the lot and discovered that the car parked in space 41, was das boot, a large , long, wide Pougeot.  What the heck?  We decided not to fight it with Italian not being our strong suit and we drove it around the corner to a grassy vacant lot that offered car park service daily for 8 euro, took their shuttle back to the airport, and caught the bus back into town.  That ate up the entire morning.

 

The afternoon was spent sightseeing and culminated with a meet up for dinner.  While waiting, Rayman and I were witness to an Italian commotion involving a man, his wife and a horse.  Full throated exultations, horse whinnying, mighty gesticulating was observed.  Apparently the horse was involved in her gelato landing on the pavement.  Did the horse attempt to eat her gelato?  Did the horse charge her?  We will never know as the horse wasn’t Mr. Ed.  He wasn’t talking.  But the man with the woman sure was.   Finally, the carriage driver fled the scene with his horse but then he returned to the scene to continue the conversation and that is when the horse became frisky and headed our direction.  We scooted out of the way, the carriage driver got the horse under control and the argument continued until the police arrived.  Then the ambulance arrived.  More police arrived.   After that we have no idea what happened to the man, the woman, the carriage driver or the horse as we saw our friends and left the scene.   It was quite the kerfluffle.  And with all the crazy shinnanigans on the road, quite ironic that the only police action we have seen involved a horse.

As I reported, We met up with our friends for a pre-party dinner as we were all leaving for our villa vacation the next day.   That was a fun evening…good to talk with someone other than, you know who.  And I am sure the feeling was mutual.

 

Meet up in front of The Duomo.

Shrimp for dinner.

Saturday morning we hired a taxi to take us to the grassy parking lot to fetch our beast of a car.    The cab driver must have been on speed because that is what he did, delivering to us a ride of hair raising turns, followed by close encounters with buses, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, baby carriages and segways.  All the time, he was carrying on a riveting and emotional discussion with some one on his cell phone while simultaneously punctuating words with his flailing hands and arms.  Italians are as far as we can discern oblivious to rules of the road but they very carefully follow every other rule in life.  Today in a grocery store, we noticed an aisle between two check out registers and when we decided to take that route, the checker as well as all the customers shouted, “No,  no, no.”   We have no idea why this rule exists but they do and they all follow it.  

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But I digress.

The ride took about 20 minutes and shortened our lives about two years.  We exited  the cab with more gray hair than when entered it,  Rayman left me to tend our bags while he paid the fee.  When he returned, he revealed to me that we got clipped again.  $8 euros a day wasn’t based on 24 hours.  We dropped it off one afternoon and picked it up the next day and that meant the bill was $16 euros.   While we felt violated, what could we do?  We paid and cursed.  Then drove away.  The wrong direction, of course.  The highway system is mystifying.  Gina, our gps lady, would shout out directions to exit but I kept being in the wrong lane so exiting was impossible without wiping out a few cars to my right so we continued the wrong direction until we understood that we needed to be in the right lane before we were instructed to be there.  Roundabouts are everywhere and they helped us flip a u-turn after we paid our euros to exit the toll road that we entered going the wrong way.  Once we reentered the toll road it was smooth sailing until we exited.   

What happened next was that we took backroads thru the Italian country until we reached the town of Lucolinda which consisted of not much more than a closed up restaurant and a corner-type store.  Without an address, we sat in the lot texting our friends that we were to meet in three hours.  They were involved in their own Italian operas and were no where nearby.

Hook up happened in the village of Dudda.   Being the singers that we are in our own minds, Dudda instantly became 🎼🎼Dudda, Dudda!   We enjoyed a spritz or two before heading to the villa.  

And here we are.