Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Italy, China, camping, and stuff

Italy was fun. That much I expected. I still haven’t gotten around to typing up my detailed (and boring) travel journals, but the highlights were like this:

San Gimignano: Highly recommended. Have gelato in the square, at the non-sit-down place. Skip the Torture Museum, wander the streets. Beware of the public toilets; there are no toilets there.
Siena: Also highly recommended. The Duomo is beautiful, and St. Catherine’s head is on display in the other church. Skip the convent.
Pisa: No.
Lucca: Nice, but not as interesting as San Gimignano, Siena, or Volterra. (but less hilly, for lazy people)
Volterra: I MUST go back.
Venice: fun wandering the streets and alleys. Skip the gondola and get a day pass for the Vaporetti, and just ride around. Palazzo Ducale is very worth seeing.
Florence: Beyond Piazzale Michaelangelo, there is a church, the prettiest one I’ve ever seen, called San Miniato. MUST go to Hemingway’s chocolate in San Frediano. Also, had a very good dinner at Napo Leone in San Frediano.
Rome: Overcrowded, touristy, a little hard to penetrate the real life, but we were also very tired and sick by the time we got there.
Vatican City: Big Suck. Can rot, for all I care.

It was a little grueling at the end, and I was glad to be back home. Then, quickly, off to China. China was fun. I enjoyed it. And if you’re going to Beijing, why not stay in a top-notch hotel like I did? You can actually eat the apples without too much fear of food poisoning, and there’s drinkable water and stuff. St. Regis hotel, and a lot of meals at the Hyatt, made the whole thing much easier for me to deal with. Being a vegetarian who never even liked Chinese food to begin with, I had a surprisingly good time there (Except for the “Bird Spit Soup,” which I refused.) Some Chinese people at the Great Wall wanted me to be in their picture, just because. Heh.

Beijing is growing and modernizing everywhere. No American city can compare to the magnitude. And it’s incredibly diverse; every type of cuisine, all kinds of people in the silk market from everywhere. Yes, the vast majority are Chinese, but there are expats from all over the world in large numbers in Beijing. I saw some of the Chinese government and communism, but I also saw a lot of consumer culture and emerging classes.

The traffic is pretty thick and unruly, but not nearly as bad as Rome.

Immediately upon getting home from my return flight, I threw a few things in a bag and went to go camping with Paul and his friends. I was, uhhhh, a bit jet-lagged, and the five or so hour ride up to the site was a slog. And maybe I wasn’t very useful, brain-wise, for the next two days. I tried. Camping trip was fun, but cut short by a day, I think, and we came home Sunday.

Which, frankly, was fine with me. I wanted nothing more than to be at home (at least in the Bay Area), and Monday, Paul put the new tires on my SV, to hopefully solve at least SOME of the bullshit handling. The old tires sucked. After talking a little bit with Jason about his SV mods and info, I’m leaning toward sending the thing to Phil. After all, I intend to take this thing to its grave. And if I’m not selling it, why just suffer with it for the next 60,000 miles? Gixxer front end? Complicates things, have to FIND one first, that isn't fuckered, and then I'd have to do all sorts of crap like re-routing speedometers, converting the clip-on setup back to hold my dirtbike bars, and worrying about how much I fucked up my geometry. Sell it and get a different bike? There’s no other bike I’m thinking would be right either, and anyway, I’d end up sinking another $1000 into that too. Easier just to invest in the Aftershocks magic and keep the SV. I like the engine quite a lot anyway.

But it has to wait. I have tortures in store for that bike in a few weeks. Tires are on, but I need to sort the handlebar situation out. So Thursday I need to re-examine the ProTapers I already have, and possibly put them on and cancel the back-ordered Renthals. Then the barkbusters go on. All this will have to wait until after the Cal24 if it involves longer brakelines. I still have that Scottoiler to put on, though I don’t think there’s time before the rally. So busy…

But damn, I am glad to be home, and glad that the hectic travel should die down for a bit. Weekends are filling up, and I’m SO glad to get some time at home, to stare at my navel for five minutes at a time.

This weekend: Riding Saturday, finally, remember when this was every Saturday and Sunday?

Sunday: West Oakland Riot. (that’s why I’m getting my “riding” riding out of my system on Saturday)

June 10-12: Cal24 Endurance Rally. Oh, yeah.

June 17-19: Kansas for the weekend. Yessir.

June 25-26: Free, but a camping/exploring trip has been discussed. Either the Sheetiron area or some other small town/fireroad excursion.

July 1-5: My brother and his wife are visiting from Seattle.

July 9: Laguna Seca. Yes, Saturday. I don’t give a rat’s ass who wins what on the superbike, etc. circuit. I only want to scratch the tanks on the display bikes, huff race gas, and eat funnel cakes.

Then there are a few free weekends. I’d really like to do some more camping and dual-sporting. Suggestions for dual-sport friendly trips or camping greatly appreciated.

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