Day 272 – ITALY: From Castano Primo to warehouse in Villadossola

I slept in a small shed last night along side the canal that runs from the Ticino River to Milano.

Sleep spot outside of Castano Primo, Italy

As I was packing up preparing to leave, the apparent owner wandered by to check the water channels in the adjacent fields and seemed none too perturbed when I indicated by gestures that I had slept there during the night. Jolly nice lot, these rural Italians.

I headed from there straight to the Ticino River. The Ticino River flows out of Lake Maggiore. Lake Maggiore is the lake I needed to pass by in order to get to the pass that would link me with Switzerland.

Along the Ticino River towards the southern end of Lake Maggiore is Parco Lombardo Valle del Ticino, a nature reserve. The reserve has many tracks for walking, horse riding, and cycling. I promptly got lost, having a blast in the process.

Cycling through Parco Lombardo Valle del Ticino on the way to Seste Calendo, Italy

At times the tracks reminded me of Tajikistan. Big, loose rocks, soft leafy ground.

Cycling through Parco Lombardo Valle del Ticino on the way to Seste Calendo, Italy

The 10 or so kilometers to Seste Calendo took way longer than it should have, but hey, what a great way to break the monotony of endless sealed roads.

I had lunch today on the shores of Lake Maggiore. The southern end of the lake where I had lunch is not so great. Buzzing insects, stinky sand, and the air all a bit too hazy for my liking. And waht’s with all the middle aged Russian-speaking women drinking vodka? Honestly, it was the weirdest thing in the world. I thought I must have missed a sign to the entrance of the park saying ‘Park for Russian Speaking Middle Aged Women Only’. There were gaggles of these women spotted all over the place, with no other males in sight. One particularly curious group wandered over and began inspecting my cooking skills. They were from the Ukraine, and were suitably impressed with my fettucine, tomato puree, tuna, and walnut concoction.

I gobbled my lunch far too quickly, and made a hasty getaway after one of the women stated rather too enthusiastically that her daughter was 25 years old.

“Only slightly younger than you!” she breathed, with that twinkle in her eye.

I have seen that twinkle before. It is that twinkle that lays bare a mother’s desire to see their daughter marry a rich young western bachelor. Most often seen in central Asian countries, and very often accompanied by a grin showing a mouthful of gold teeth.

I was happy to get away, lest the mistaken image of me as a rich western bachelor be revealed.

Near Stresa, a town along the western side of Lake Maggiore, I had my first real mechanical breakdown of the trip. My indexing ring on the thumb shifters broke, leaving me only with the friction setting.

And now for those who are not as cycle savvy as some, here is the detailed version of what happened: 

My bicycle has gears. When I change these gears, much like on a car, it gets easier or harder to pedal. On the back wheel, there are 9 cogs, all bigger or smaller than each other. By moving the chain from one cog to another, I can select what gear I pedal in.

To make changing from one cog to another easier, my gear leaver that I move using my right thumb has a special thing inside it called an index ring. This index ring makes a clicking sound to let me know that I have moved the leaver just enough so that the chain jumps up or down a cog, enough to smoothly change gears.

Well, this index ring somehow broke in half today.

Broken indexing ring (Shimano Ultegra bar-end thumb shifters) in Stresa, Italy

The object above is the index ring, and it is supposed to be a ring. Not two halves of a ring.

All is not lost however, and there is a backup function on the gear lever whereby I can just move the gear lever freely without the clicking sound to guide me. After 8 months of constantly moving the gear lever to the several positions needed to select gears, I have the positions mentally set in my mind. Kind of like a violin player. I have gone from having frets to no frets.

Old stuff abounds in Italy. Old houses.

Old shed near Ornavasso, Italy

Old bikes.

Old bike in Ornavasso, Italy

As the title of this post suggests, I slept in a warehouse tonight. It was concrete. Massive and echoey.

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3 thoughts on “Day 272 – ITALY: From Castano Primo to warehouse in Villadossola

  • Lee

    A very fine post! All the essential elements: local benevolence, getting lost in the (no-longer-very-)wild-erness, fine food, a foiled match-making attempt, mechanical incident and resolve, and a celebration of old stuff. And, info for pros and plebs alike. The 'indexing… shifters… friction' stuff for cool people who can go 'oh yeah, that happened to me once in [insert exotic location here],' and then the mere-mortal version so the rest of us get it.


    So you don't reckon you'll try for a replacement index ring?

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    @ Lee – I'm not sure that I can replace the index ring. Looks as though the whole lever is a fairly sealed unit. The friction setting is serving me well though.

    @ Aunty Les – Nope. No new trousers in that photo. I do have some new ones now though. It is still cold in the mornings. It's easiest just to throw on the down jacket until it warms up.