Ride Me is dedicated to the lifestyle and culture of living Car Free in Portland, Or. Traveling only by bike and public transit is a great way to get around the Rose City.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Cinque Terre, Italy
June 20, 2006

After 3 days in such a beautiful place it is hard to leave. Imagine 5 small villages chiseled into the side of a cliff above the Mediterranean Sea, linked together by centuries old trails traversing the mountains and steeply terraced vinyards that produce some of the best wine in the world. Perhaps you can begin to visulize Cinque Terre.
The five villages, Monterossa, Vernazza, Corniglia, Maranola and Riomaggiore each are crowned with a castle, hence the moniker "Terre", meaning land. We hiked the trails linking Riomaggiore to Vernazza, where we stayed, and it took almost all day. Arriving in the village of Vernazza without a room we were instantly set upon by Snra. Guiseppina, who offered us a two room apartment in her home that looked like an Italian fairy tale. It seems she does not advertise but rather trolls the train platform looking for acceptable guests. Our 2 day stay extended to 3 days due to a Train Italia workers strike, which gave us time for more swimming and hiking, and of course great food!
Thinking of the communities that have existed here for almost 1500 years, it is utterly amazing to think that such a place ever existed let alone still exists. Look for a gallery of these place later in the week when I get time to post it.
We are off to the Swiss lakes and then on to Bavaria from here...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

West Virgina Boy singing the Blues
I just got an email from my old buddy Matt Voth. Willamette Week put out an article about his latest endevour. Always great to see a hillbilly making good.
Way to go Matty!

Monday, June 19, 2006

I cannot link pictures at this point, as Italy almost exclusively forbids uploads at public internet points, so if you want to see what I am talking about, you must wait until I can re-link the past 5 or 6 posts, maybe in a few days
or check these links for the stuff up to June 17:
Gallery 1
Gallery 2

Under the Tuscan Sky
Montepulciano, Itlay
June 19

After an unscheduled lay over in Bolognia, and an afternoon in Pisa to see the tower we have arrived at the most interesting point in our journey; Montepulciano. This 1300's era Tuscan hill town where cars are excluded built on a steep pitch with the streets about 10 feet wide. We are staying at a little pensione again. Imagine walking into a resturant from the Medici Empire and renting a small room upstairs for a few days. This area is renowned for White wine and Grappa, along with a strong cheese known as Pecarino. I don't know what I can say about this place except it seems that time has stood still for the past 7-800 years. The doorways and door knockers were so interesting I had to photograph several during our stay. Mere words cannot describe it. You just have to see the pictures and visit for your self.

Vasto, Vasto, Vasto....
Vasto Di Mare
June 17 2006

For the past 3 days, we have been in Vasto. As I said in my last post we had quite an interesting arrival. We have been staying right on the beach at Pensione La Bitta. Its an old nondescript kinda building that looks like Mussolini may have used it for a bunker at one point. The hosts a great. They're an old Italian couple, Francesco and Anna Marie. They are the most gracious of the hosts so far. Every morning they bring us bowls of cherries and peaches along with crusty bread and coffee that you could stand a spoon in. Vasto is an interesting paradox. There is Vasto Di Mare, where we are staying, as the name suggests its at the sea and it's all about the beach. Gift shops, Gelati stands Umbrellas and Chairs for rent on the sand, and lots of sunbathers. Then there is Vasto city, an old circa 1300's fortified city on the hill about 3 km away from the beach. The city is full of twisty little allies and piazza after piazza, foritfied churches and the local Italian Communist party branch seems to have an strong marketing presence as well. A very nice town with a charming local flair.
More soon from the road

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Grazie Lorenzo!
Vasto Di Mare, Italia
June 13
Standing on the train platform, unsure of where to get on the train from Pescara to Vasto Di Mare, I approached the very large man with hands the size of hams and a jagged scar on the right side of his face.
" Mi scuzzi, come si arriva a treni por Vasto"?, I asked in my best Italian.
" A qui, questo treni a Vasto", he replied with a puzzled look on his face.
After a quick 30 minute ride down the coast we arrived in Vasto Di Mare, about 9:30. Maybe 30 minutes after the local buses stop running. Wandering around the front of the trainstation pondering what to do and where to go, we were approached by the same imposing looking gentleman.
" I have car, where you go?" he asked.
I told him the name of our destination and with a wave of his hand he grunted for us to follow him the to " car"
Carolyn looked nervous, and rightly so this guy looked like an enforcer for the local syndicate, but he had "car" and we needed "ride".
After a quick phone call to the hotel for directions he whisked us away to our destination with a smile and handshake.
Grazie Lorenzo, we would have never made it with out you.

Pizza Rustica and the wrong bus
June 13
We've all done it, especially if you've been someplace where you don't really speak the local vernacular. Your on the bus heading in what you think is the correct direction, when suddenly it hits you.... " I've gotten on the wrong bus..." No big deal just get off and go back from whence ye came.
Today we went to Stadio Olympico to see where the AS Roma play soccer. No problem. We walked around for a while. Watched some kids kicking around a soccer ball then boarded the bus back to the city center. Thats when it dawned on us.. we've gotten on the wrong bus. Fortunatley for us, we were in Rome. And as they say" when in Rome...." so we did just as the romans do, and probably have done for generations. We ate Pizza Rustica. These places are everywhere in Rome, and this wasn't our first time indulging over the past 3 days. Pizza Rustica is a square down home version of pizza usually sold by the kilo and served folded over into a sort of " pizza sandwich". If you know my little friend Casey then I don't have to tell you that this Pizza pitstop was the highlight of our unscheduled detour and maybe even the best thing we did all day.
Next time your in Rome, head out the door look in any general direction and I bet you'll see a pizza rustica shop. Go in, point, grunt, gesture wildly in the air, do what ever it takes, just get some. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 12, 2006

June 12, 2006
Rome, Italy
The last 2 days we have taken a train from The Hague to Charleroi, Belgium and then a flight to Rome. Yesterday we toured St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican. Then to Piazza Navonna for VERY expensive coffee( can you say $ 6.00 per cup!?) and a walk around the city. Watch out! As enlightened as the Netherland is about pedestrian right of way, Rome is the exact opposite. Run, don' t walk across the street!
Our hotel is very nice although extremely expensive as is everything in Rome. Today we are off to the Old city and to Piazzi Popola ( plaza of the people) then of course a tour of Stadio Olympico, to see where AS Roma plays soccer.
More soon from the Griswolds.
Over and out...Clark

Friday, June 09, 2006

June 9, 2006
In the past 3 days we have logged 12+ hours flying time, the thorough scrutiny of the Canadian Immigration Ministry, A dozen foreign languages, a slight digestive mishap in Frankfurt, football in the local square with total strangers, and chocolate icing for breakfast!. Now that we are here in the Hague in our tiny hotel, we have begun acclimate a bit. This morning Casey is sleeping in finally, The first 2 mornings he was awake at 3 am from the jet lag, no amount of pleading or coercing could coax him back to sleep. I think Ambien should consider the Pre-Teen sized dosage. As a result both Carolyn and I have been exhausted by 10 pm each night. Our days have been filled with tram rides, bike rides, counting SMART Cars and searching for the right words in Dutch. Today as with yesterday, we are looking for apartments, some are better than others. Yesterday we found a few nice ones and lot of crappy ones. Determined to find the right place; today Carolyn and I are splitting forces in order meet with 2 landlords at the same time.
The bicycle is the preferred mode of transport in the Netherlands. So much so it seems to be a way of life more than mere transport. Everyone is on their bike, from Granny with a basket going to market, to the business man in a three piece suit, to a punk rock chic listening to her iPod while having a smoke. All pedaling along at a pleasantly casual pace; and why not bicycles have the right of way over all other traffic. It helps that the Netherlands is flat as a pancake and the gas is very expensive, besides there is no place to park a car even if you could afford one. Now I know why the typical Dutch breakfast consists of bread, cheese and chocolate. You need alot of energy to pedal around all over town. Eat up! Really, I have to admire any culture who puts bicycling first and chocolate icing is a legitimate breakfast item.
More soon from the the Griswolds!
Clark, out.

June 6, 2006
“Goede Morghen”, said the Netherlands bound Luftanhnsa flight attendant as I grogily stumbeld aboard the final connecting flight.
“ Is it morning?” I reply in a haze that only jet lag can generate. I really have no idea. For me it is about 11 pm. I have been awake since 4 am, and the past few days I have moving like the pit crew at the Indy 500.
Passport, check
Cell phone, check.
PlaneTickets, check
Hotel reservations, check
Train Tickets, check
Credit Cards, check
World Cup Tickets, check
Now where is that damn passport again?
Ok we just touched down in the Netherlands, Now we just need to find the right train to the Hague, figure out where to get off, and find our hotel. Sounds easy, I just hope I don’t fall asleep and wake up in Belgium!

June 4, 2006
Packing for two weeks, loading the storage locker and remembering then later forgetting almost everything we need. We have made it to San Fransisco and we fly out tomorrow morning. Oh my God.... I really don’ t want to get up a 4 AM to make our 7 o’clock fight...
I don’t even want to fly! Well at least it will be over soon. It almost seems surreal. We have discussed the trip on various levels for over a year. I think deep down all of us thought that some how it wasn’t going to happen. Ok, maybe it was just me. either way, we’re doing it now!
Here we go!