Monday, October 08, 2007

A Texas in Italy - 17 Curious Days

Over the next several days I will be telling you about my recent challenging, weird and wonderful 17 days in Italy. However, in the peculiar world of blogging that means the first story is on the bottom! So, if you want to begin at the first, go to the bottom. This is Day 2 - Part 2.

Day 2 - September 4, 2007; Part 2

The eight hours waiting for the KLM flight to Bologna was spent in a fatefully benign way. I use the word benign in the sense that no other immediate troubles emerged on our already darkened horizons. That new trouble would come later, hiding behind the corner, measuring its prey and waiting to pounce.

We took the full measure of the Amsterdam airport on foot, looking at flower shops and duty free shopping areas. I shopped for a razor since my emerging face and head stubble had left me looking a little rough. There wasn’t a single disposable razor to be found. Odd for an airport. I did find several non-disposable razors at 2x the regular cost. Thanks, but I guess I’ll remain stubbly for a while.

We ate at one of the internal restaurants, sharing a salmon on piadina bread sandwich.

For the most part we wandered around feeling sleepy and tired. Near time for the flight I laid my head down on a snack bar table while BEG had a conversation with a woman on her way from Brazil to Germany to see her grandchildren. I nearly fell asleep, but not quite. Since I am a fitful sleeper to begin with the top of a plastic laminate table and a hard bar stool were not exactly pampering.

With a degree of mercy combined with mental and physical fatigue on our part it was finally 8:30 pm and time to board the flight to Bologna. Eight additional hours had passed and I had not slept for 33 hours. Boarding the smaller flights in Europe is accomplished by boarding a bus with your fellow travelers and being transported to the edge of the plane. From there you ascend portable stairs and board the plane. We stood outside the jet and I gazed into the dark Netherlands sky. It was a pleasant evening and despite my fatigue I was now relieved that Bologna and the train ride to Riccione were on our immediate horizon. I think I even managed a smile and a joke for BEG as we waited. I kept telling her we were getting closer by the minute to reaching our goal. She didn’t seem impressed with my enthusiasm.

The flight took us over the French Alps, which we couldn’t see in the dark, and into the Bologna airport in about 2 hours. Naturally, we had to climb down the stairs hooked up to the plane and board a bus for transport to the terminal. A strange thing happened when the bus was fully loaded. The bus sputtered up and belched out the typical bus emissions, took a right turn and drove approximately 30 feet, across a pair of yellow lines and stopped adjacent to the door of the terminal. I’m not kidding. We could have walked the 30 feet twenty minutes sooner than he bus delivered us. The bus content of humans broke out in laughter. I was too tired to consider it funny. To me it merely seemed stupid.

We walked into the dingy bowels of the luggage carousel area. It was depressing and dark, yet filled with travelers and activity. I remained in a fog that had been induced by sleep deprivation. We went to the desk labeled ‘lost baggage’, a small grime laden desk with 2 attendants. The girl available when we walked up spoke very limited English. I’m not really complaining. After all we were a guest and we were the ones that spoke only one language. With broken English from her, hand gestures from us and a little patience we presented our bag tags and told the story of the bags being in Houston. She asked us where the airport should send the bags. We filled out the forms. She handed us a KLM sheave of papers that included all the phone contact information for the Bologna airport.

Now we needed to make a key decision. It was midnight in Bologna. The bus ride or cab ride to the Bologna train station would take about 30 minutes. The train ride to Riccione would be 1.5 hours. We would arrive in Riccione at approximately 2am. My no sleep marathon would have reached 38 hours. The alternative was to wait in the Bologna airport until daylight, approximately 7 hours away. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep in the airport. I could see in BEG’s face the weariness of the past 30 plus hours. She had slept soundly on the flight to Paris but showed the fatigue of our ordeal.

I knew from my research on Riccione that it was a popular European tourist area. I knew it was layered in hotels, bars and restaurants virtually nonstop for miles of beachfront. I decided, as any self-respecting urban creature would do, that all the above would be open when we arrived in Riccione. Did I mention yet that we didn’t know where our apartment was in Riccione? In my pocket was the apartment address; Via Petrarca 11. I never could get Google Earth to resolve the address and my coach Bill Collins told me there was no worry since the apartment rep was planning to meet us at the train station and lead us there. Of course I ended up not traveling with my teammates and at this point they had no clue where I might be. No one was carrying cell phones because none of us actually owned a GSM capable phone. We had all decided on international phone cards to make any calls back home. The apartment did not have a land line telephone. Communication with my teammates, even in the year 2007, was impossible. All laptops were left at home because the apartment also had no internet connections. Hard to believe. Its a cruel thing to have become so pampered in the age of communication and then have it jerked fully out of your grasp.

So my plan was as follows. Catch the Aerobus to the train station. Catch the train to Riccione. Walk into a hotel or bar and request a cab to deliver us to Via Petrarca 11. My teammates would be there and our long ugly travel plight would be over in about 2.5 hours. I would finally be able to sleep after 38 hours and prepare for my race the following day. Things were looking up.

Dark Fate smiled behind his veil, delighted with my decision, mirthful at my simple ignorance.


Lynilu said...

LOL! Not at you, but at that last sentence! I would be such a cranky, vile person by this time that they'd probably handcuff me and put me on the first plane back home!

Seven said...

Silver Lovely,
If I remember correctly from my college writing class, that would be labeled 'foreshadowing'....
I never thought of you in a cranky vile context...I'll consider it an empty threat....for now anyway, after all I don't really KNOW you...

kathi said...

How horrible is it that we're getting so much enjoyment by being entertained with your travel curse? Regardless, we are and thanks. :)

Lynilu said...

I'm normally pretty easy going. However, when someone or something seems to repeatedly pound on me, I've been known to, uh, well, be not so nice. It's only when a repeated insult is forthcoming or someone hurts one of "mine." I don't see you doing either. You're safe! ;-)

Seven said...

You are welcome. I completely understand. Consider it travel advice. (How not to)