It was the final climb of a long and increasingly hot day. Water running low, travel food feeling unsatisfactory, legs beginning to fail, each stroke harder than the last, ever fading strength to push down the next pedal. My arms ached from my elbows to my shoulder blades. Sit up, take the pressure off the arms. Soreness and fatigue run down my back to my legs. Stand up, give rest to the back. Calves tighten. Lush mountainside surrounding me, sun shining, sweet smells in the air and a little breeze. I’m content with being uncomfortable.
Ruvo Del Monte was as far as I could make it today. When I saw it and realized it was on top of a mountain I breathed deeply and got ready for the climb. I drank the last of the water and pedaled on.
A bug. Flying around my head then another and another. Like mosquitoes but smaller; gnats but bigger. A minor annoyance. I ignored them. Funny, for all of the what-ifs I considered, for things that could happen on the road I never thought of bugs. A few more joined the party. I pedaled on trying to convince myself that I couldn’t possibly be bothered by bugs. I swatted again and happened to look down at my bag. SWARM!!! I mean hundreds!!!!! Swirling and darting all around me! Near my legs, all around my feet! I was jolted into an acute awareness of my surroundings with each shooting glance left right up down confirming that I was in fact a mere visitor in the newly christened “Salita Corridoio Di Insetti.”
As had happened more times than I could count, I looked ahead and thought “maybe the top is just over that crest.” In the back of my mind I was starting to imagine the what-if it wasn’t scenario. Ha! Beat by bugs?!?
I was going so slow that they had no problem keeping up with me. I downshifted. Pedaled harder. No effect. I was breathing heavy and sweating profusely. It was getting miserable. I out my bandana over my face so I wouldn’t inhale them. They got in my eyes, in my ears, into my helmet, in my pant legs.
The top of the hill teased me with a small curve, then I saw it. The top. I pushed with everything I had. Over. Down. Away.
They faded in the distance. I caught my breath. “Really!?!?!?” I screamed to no one. Then I laughed. Then I came upon some people and I asked for water. We couldn’t communicate well, but they gave me some. I tried to tell them of the bugs. No capisco.
I spent the night in the yard of a wonderful ristorante. The owners saw me outside, opened early and made me a wonderful feast. I must have looked awful from the day. We talked over wine by the fire. It was peaceful and I was grateful for the hospitality and the compete and total lack of bugs.