A Reasonable Excess

I’ll see your 10,000 steps. And raise you 10,000 bites. Let’s hear it for disinhibition.

Case in point: yesterday. If it had been a nice day, we might have walked uphill, from Borgo Maggiore to San Marino’s third tower, gaining thousands of steps on our way to 10,000 and, in the uphill part, climbing the equivalent of 90 floors of vertical gain. But it was raining. And it was cold. As I do on a daily basis, I began to think about lunch. We would be in Italy seven more days. There were restaurants we had not yet re-visited.


Rhymes with Gregarious

We were eavesdropping last night.  We couldn’t help ourselves. And we were glad we did.

We were sitting outside at Biberius in Rimini, our second night in town. Our second night back in Italy. A guy sitting directly behind me was talking about a cook. He had two children, this cook. He was thinking about moving to London to work, this cook. And the guy on the phone was saying, What does he think life will be like in London? If he finds work, does he think he will make more money? Will he make that much more money? Does he want to live in London, where he doesn’t know anyone? This went on for a while. When he shifted to a new subject, the tone changed. He was moving toward ending the call. The word “polenta” came up, repeatedly. 


Among the Sequoias

“Hey, go stand in front of that 3000-year-old tree.”

This is not something you expect to say in your life. We’ve driven to the Fish Camp entrance to Yosemite, where we’ll hike up into the biggest sequoia grove known to us, I guess the biggest known to man. The tree’s name (a tree that old should have a name) is Grizzly Giant. And he-she-it is a giant.


But It’s Butte

There are days you don’t really feel like it. But this is Butte. So we go.

They should call this the Pile of Rocks trail, not the Blacktail trail. It’s a four-mile loop. Less than a mile in, we start seeing colossal piles of rock. It’s not our first encounter with rocks, but these are different. A lot of them are enormous slabs, stacked side by side. They look like coasters you’d lay underneath a gargantuan cocktail glass. Cheers.


To See a Glacier

“Climb up on that rock,” Tizi will say, in the most offhand way.

We’re on the trail, any trail, and the viewing is spectacular. She would like me to take a picture, an enhanced picture, improved by my higher elevation, by my closer proximity to the subject. The subject: waterfall, rushing stream, ravine, ridge, meadow, forest, canyon, lake, mountain face, whatever. Yes, we can see it from the trail. But from up there, so much better. It will be a better picture.


Just Run

I’ve got a whistle. I bought it just before we left on this trip, planning to use it, if necessary, to scare away bears. Actually, I bought two. They’re like referee whistles, stainless steel, on a black string.  I bought two just before we left, one for me and one for Tizi. It was foolish. I knew Tizi would not wear a whistle on a string around her neck, not in a million years. But I’ve got mine on this morning, at the trailhead for Apgar’s Landing. A sign next to the trail map says, in so many words, you are entering Grizzly country. Bear spray recommended. Don’t leave home without it.


Road Words

Deep into North Dakota, Tizi asks: “Do you know the words to the national anthem?”

We’re doing 80 mph on I-94, west of Bismarck. Today is a 700 mile day, La Crosse, WI, to Medora, ND. At Bismarck there’s 120 miles left to go. North Dakota looks a lot like Minnesota, and a lot like Iowa, and a lot like Wisconsin. If you like corn and wheat, which I do, you don’t mind it. The corn farmers cut wide alleys around, through, and across, the hilly fields. They look sculpted. And the wheat fields, harvested and mowed, are astonishing pools of gold. Beautiful. But there’s a limit.


The Upward Gaze

After the convent, we were ready for a drink and a bite to eat. 

We were a couple nights in Ferrara, checking out another great Emilia-Romagna city, famous for many things, among them the fortress, the bread, and canoes. The archeological museum actually has a canoe room, where monoxylous canoes (made of wood, by the locals, for paddling around the Po River delta in 300 AD), are on display. Before becoming canoes, they were trees. They were long, they were heavy, they were wondrous.


Covid, Quarantine, Italy

My last name ends in yogurt. 

Tizi is on the phone with a health-care professional up the hill, at the hospital in San Marino. It’s the day before our departure. Both of us have just tested positive for Covid. Over here they call it a tampone–the skewers that go up your nose and into your sinus cavities, swabbing around for evidence of the plague. We get our test at the pharmacy in Grotta Rossa, a little drive-through village between San Marino and Rimini. The pharmacist takes us, one at a time, outside onto the drive, turns us in the direction of the sunlight, and in go the tampone and out they come, and we walk, blinking back the tears, back inside to pay the 15 euros each. The pharmacist says she’ll have results in 15 minutes.  


The Road Signs of Italy–What??

Driving into Rimini the other night, I saw a road sign that made no sense. To me the sign said, like, Do something. Or possibly, Don’t do something. And do it, or don’t do it, soon after you see this sign. Maybe right way. I didn’t do anything. In so not doing, I figured I had a 50 percent chance of being right. This is my modus operandi. Don’t do anything, and don’t do it very slowly so you can change course if needed. 


The Mountain Moves Us: San Marino Days

“You can’t hear that?” Tizi says.


She rolls on her side, facing me in bed.  “Try.”

“Try,” I say. “You either hear something or you don’t.”

It’s 4:00 a.m. She wants me to hear a bird. I want to hear the bird.  I get up and walk to the foot of the bed where there are double doors that open onto a balcony. We have the serrande lowered all the way to shut out most of the light and provide a little dead air space. Every morning, without fail, I hear a dove out there. Wherever I am in the apartment I hear the dove. Also a couple roosters will start up in another 30-45 minutes. I’ll hear those. But this bird, the one she has been remarking on the last few mornings, I do not hear.