Riding with Death to Alessandria, Italy

After riding over 50 miles to Vigevano, it was tough to wake up the next day.  My legs were so sore that I was waddling around like a penguin the entire morning.  As I sat back down on the bike seat, I had no idea how I was going to make it all the way to Alessandria.  When I finally got up the courage to begin riding again, my depleted level of motivation for cycling decreased even more as I attempted to pedal with cement-like legs (don’t worry they weren’t cement, I checked).

Things were slow going for the first 30 minutes, I guess my legs had to warm up (or they just had to go numb so I couldn’t feel the pain anymore).  The ride along the countryside was amazing.  I couldn’t believe how much open space there was.  It was so different from Rome, Vatican, Venice, and Milan, where the streets are crowded and open space is rare.  Farms, forests, mountains, rivers, and old towns ran along the country road leading to Alessandria.

The previous day’s stress and exhaustion instantly fled away as I enjoyed a cool breeze and the beautiful surroundings.  At that moment I had a feeling of accomplishment.  I was doing something that few people have done and I was enjoying scenery that few people get to see.  Life was good!

Lucky for me that my life was good because it almost ended!  Country roads in Italy are narrow and don’t have a shoulder.  A cyclist’s life expectancy drastically decreases when you add a large truck to a narrow road with no shoulder.  I was blissfully riding along when all of a sudden a semi truck went flying by, only centimeters from my handlebars.  Immediately I went into panic mode.  Being that close to a truck is never good, but things were made worse by the force of the wind from the semi, which caused my bike to wobble.  The wobbling made me scared that I was going to lose my balance and fall underneath the semi.  It was hard to cycle in a straight line while the bike was wobbling back and forth.  Even though I might have been able to do some move portrayed in Hollywood to avoid getting run over, I chose to do everything in my power not to fall (I have seen too many episodes of Mythbusters to put my faith in the accuracy of Hollywood’s survival skills).

After the truck passed, and the wind from the truck stopped, I was able to relax.  I could literally feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins.  For some reason, even though I had almost fallen to my death, I felt excited and happy.  Cycling with death taught me one thing, fear and excitement go hand in hand.  No wonder why people jump out of planes, surf on 30 foot waves, and cycle on a country road in Italy.  Each of these equally scary and equally exciting.


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