Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Rainy Day (or Three) in Italy

We had not expected it, but the first week in October turned out to be rainy season in north-central Italy. Now we had prepared for rain, sort of. We had gone to Campmor and bought waterproof jackets. Audrey’s was “breathable,” if you know what that means. Mine was not, which turned out to be significant. Audrey had also bought waterproof pants, but had not removed the tags. In fact, this was the third straight year that she had purchased rain pants for our biking trips. And I’m almost positive they were the same pants, which might say something for Campmor’s slow movement of inventory. The previous two times Audrey had returned those pants following our trip, unworn and with the tags intact, for a full refund. How much fun was that!
The charming town of Borghetto was a little drippy, too.
The boat-shaped houses felt at home in the rain. 
Each year as she made the journey to return the pants, Audrey would recall and retell a story about her mother’s cousin Margot, who first came to the U.S. from her home in Brazil in the late 1960s. Margot’s fondest memory of New York was discovering that stores such as Lord & Taylor or Bloomingdale’s would let you buy something one day and then return it the next day. And the process didn’t cost you anything but time, which she enjoyed spending on shopping anyway. That amazed her. Several times, she went into those stores just for the fun of buying and returning.

That wasn’t our purpose in buying raingear. We wanted to have it on hand, but not to use it, of course. We just wanted to buy, pack, unpack, repack, and return. Luckily, Campmor’s didn’t seem to mind a few wrinkles.

So what went wrong this year? It rained . . . and rained. Our first three biking days featured dark clouds in the sky, moderate to hard rains disturbing our visibility and comfort, and puddles splashing us from below. Our tires kept spewing up rain and mud, and our sneakers got heavier and heavier as they filled with water. We spent those three days being soaked. As we returned to the hotel in Mantua each day, the staff helpfully provided us with towels to wipe our faces, arms, and legs, and pieces of newspaper to stuff into our shoes to soak up the puddles we were sloshing in. It was, to use a technical term, “yucky.” Almost as bad was the fact that the hotel’s heat was not yet operating, and the heated towel racks in out bathrooms did not work either. We literally had to suck up the moisture. Luckily, the heat and towel racks were working at our next hotel, so we finally dried out after our third day of riding.

Our heroes looking a little bedraggled. How come
only one of us looks sexy when wet?

I am, undoubtedly, being a little overdramatic here, but it is not much fun biking in the rain. Still you do learn some important information about raingear. Most importantly, you learn that you get what you pay for. Our friends Harvey and Phyllis invested in Goretex, spending nearly $200 for their jackets and half that for their pants. Which seems a little outrageous, right? We spent about a third of that. As a result, they remained pretty dry and uncomplaining. We were drippy and sour. (Do you think that’s why the other riders seemed friendlier toward Harvey and Phyllis than toward us—or was that just my imagination?)

Still, once our clothes dried out and the skies cleared up, the riding got to be a lot more fun. Except for the day when we were bombarded by swarms of gnats. But that’s another story entirely. . . .

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