190520-All Roads Also Lead Away From Rome

I spent a great deal of time evaluating routes yesterday. Both at a macro level (what general route will I follow to Greece) and a micro-level (how will I find my way out of Rome?). I often joke that I don’t spend much time planning, and that’s true prior to departure. But every night on the road I spend time peering at one more more maps, and every so often that’s more accurately described as an evening. Last night I had two maps spread out on the floor of the room, two GPX tracks, and digging deep into mapping on the GPS.

Rob and I rose early to try to beat the crowds to the Vatican Museum (which also houses the Sistine Chapel). The hostel delayed us slightly by insisting we couldn’t eat breakfast until 7:30 am, even with all the food out at 7:00 am. We checked out, leaving our gear in luggage storage, and the bicycles on the roof.

Both of us still struggled with the knee from our wanderings in Rome. I suspect that our sandals didn’t do a good enough job at cushioning our knees. Nonetheless, we found ourselves in line by 8:30 am, again hassled by those selling Skip The Line services. Once 9:00 am rolled around they vanished, as the line proceeded apace. We entered the museum by around 9:30 am.

The Vatican Museum is incredible, if overwhelming with history. Long vistas of hallways extending so far they almost have a horizon line.  Definitely one of, if not the, most impressive museums I’ve ever visited.

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The rain for the day had begun by the time we left. Rob succumbed to the temptation, and purchased an umbrella from one of the ever-present salesmen. Rob then repeatedly used it as a talisman to drive off future hucksters. Returning to Termini Station, rain poured down. As we waited at the station, Rob correctly called the 15 minutes for the rain to stop.

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Returning to the hostel, we carried our bicycles back down the six floors, and packed. The wet roads and cobblestones made Rob nervous, so we walked across Rome with the bicycles to the bicycle shop Rob had corresponded with.

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Rob and I had gone back and forth about the plan. Rob was confident the shop was all set, but humored me in creating a backup plan. Our first problem was finding the shop. We passed it by a couple of times, unlabeled and numbered with faded characters out of the line of sight. Rob called the number he had on hand, and after a few gyrations the “colleague” arrived to let us in. The first box proposed was in tatters. After debate about the bicycle box, Igor began to tape up a different box with electrical tape. Now, Rob had a roll of packing tape with him, but glances between us meant we were making this Igor’s problem.

Igor ran out of electrical tape, and departed to acquire more, and better, tape. He returned with duct tape of a sorts, and taped up the box more to our specifications.  As this process unfolded, I realized I’d again neglected to go to a wilderness store for fuel. While packing proceeded apace, I headed to a nearby store.

I left the packing process at 3:10 pm, arriving at the store shortly thereafter – closed until 4:00 pm. I messaged Rob and waited. The opened promptly at 4:10 pm, but at least had the fuel I needed, so I headed back to the shop, finding Rob and Igor waiting. Igor offered to call a taxi, but after a protracted call the taxi company determined they had no current vehicles available for the box. Reverting to yet another layer of backup plan, Rob called Massimo, our host at the hostel, who had offered to call Rob a taxi. Some wrangling and back and forth later, and a taxi was arranged.

While all this unfolded, I talked with Igor, as much to keep him distracted by the fact that Rob and I were still in the shop when Igor was ready to leave. The taxi arrived, and after some confusion we loaded the box into the back of the station wagon, Rob into the front, and off they went.

Rob’s been a good traveling companion. He’s ridden without complaint, and generally dealt well with my Type-A personality. I have grown jaded over the years; having someone along who occasionally says, “Wow!” brings it all back into perspective.

It’s been fun watching Rob’s first experiences with hostels and (effectively) camping. The realization that camping’s not that hard as expected, that hostels are nicer than anticipated, and that overall economy traveling can be done easily.

With Rob on his way home, back to my own problems. Now 5:00 pm, I’d reserved a room at Litus Roma Hostel in Ostia, 40 km away. While the forecast suddenly cleared from the anticipated 4-8 mm of rain, I didn’t trust it. 40 km that late in the day meant arriving in Ostia no earlier than 8:00 pm (counting the micro-navigational problems of getting out of Rome, and into Ostia). With the potential of driving rain.

When I’d realized how long the boxing process was taking, I’d used rome2rio.com to look for an alternate way to Ostia. Just outside of Rome a train station offered rids to Ostia every 30 minutes.

I arrived at the hostel in Ostia by 6:30 pm and settled in. Talking with the host, I discussed my intended visit to Osta Antica, and he suggested cycling the Appia Antica, the old Roman way to Brindisi (my intended ferry point to Greece). When I observed that I kept hearing about the Appian Way, but had failed to find solid information on it beyond the 10 km tourist track in Rome, he took it as a personal challenge to find me information.

I love the hostel in Ostia. It’s missing a kitchen, but is big and open, with a lot of character, and it’s right on the beach.

The weather in theory has cleared for the next few days. I plan to ride to the archaeological dig at Ostia Antica in the morning, and then proceed down the coast. That path eventually crosses the Appian Way anyway, so that’s a possibility, but I also plan to go to Pompeii, which means a different mountain crossing. Time to settle into my routine and keep moving forward.

I met my roommate at the hostel, Doug from New Jersey. He’s only been in Europe a couple of weeks, but has indeterminate plans on ho long to stay. It sounds like he’s never traveled via hostels before, but has had no problems finding his way.

I will awake to learn of Rob’s version of the Box and the Airline.

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