Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gryos e Giro

I backpacked through Europe 20 yrs ago with my brother Matt. We traveled on a 30 day EuRail pass and a shoestring budget of $25 a day (btw 2 of us), visiting nine countries while sleeping on the train, boat, in youth hostels (Pensiones in Italy) and park benches when necessary. Good God, that was fun.

At the beginning of the trip, we looked like typical tourists: big backpacks, sneakers, tee shirts, jeans, cameras, and such. In the end, we still looked like tourists but smelled more like gypsies.

One thing I learned is that people hate gypsies. I received this free education while renting a room from the sweetest Italian woman in Florence (Firenze). She could have been Munson's Grandma. (I don't have any Italian friends, otherwise I would have used their name in place of Munson's, but you get the point.) In Florence, we had two wonderful days of absorbing the best of the Machiavellian culture: works of art from Michelangelo, da Vinci, etc..., and enjoying great wines, breads and cheeses of Italy. If there is such a place in this world where wholesome goodness abounds, it's got to be there in Florence. Anyway, this sweet Italian woman asks us where we were off to next. I say "Rome". Suddenly, her face became dour and her eyes went inky black. Darkness gathered behind her as she sternly commanded us in Italian/English, "when you see those a-goddama gypsies, you, you -- pfff what you a say?!? -- punch 'em right in the face-a, and a-smacka the shit out of them-a!!" My knees were knocking with terror. Then, a Mediterranean breeze carried opera music through sun-drenched flowerpots hanging in the porticoes just a short distance from where David proudly stands. Grandma Munson's gentile smile returned once again as she bid us a warm farewell. Ah, now that's Firenze!!

I was reminded of this over the past weekend while watching the live universalsports.com feed of this year's Giro d'Italia. While Cavendish was about to make a sprint to the stage victory in Florence, the British (not the American boobs) commentator smartly remarked, "as this stage comes to a close in this remarkable city, there are likely countless American tourists here that have no idea that this race is even going on."

That statement is 100% true. I traveled in Italy in the month of May 1990 and had no idea about this road race. Heck, even two years ago, I was clueless to the Giro. Fred told me about it while on our way to joining (and meeting for the first time) Mike Munson, Bryan Redemske and Jon Randell for a group ride in Ponca Hills. That particular day was also the first day of the 2007 Tour de France. I remember this because Fred was looking forward to finishing the ride so he could make a Dagwood Bumstead sandwich and plop down in time to watch the "prologue" on his (pre 52" plasma flat-screen) CRT television. Prologue? I was confused. What did Julius Caesar have to do with it? Then he mentioned something about the Giro that had completed a few weeks before. Giro? Wasn't that something I ate in Greece right before they smashed a clay plate over my head? As he was opening the door to a world I was completely ignorant of, I kept my mouth shut and silently nodded while trying to muster up something better than a glazed look over my face. I'm quite sure I looked stupid, but I realized at that moment that wearing spandex shorts and riding a road bike was only the initiation into something bigger.

Did you see any of this past weekend's race? Incredible! Seven hours in the saddle in temps in the 90s and still have enough for a sprint finish?!? I'm amazed at the strength of mind and body required to complete one day, much less 21 stages, over three weeks.

Geez, I'm hungry. I wish I had King Kong Gyros. I've got some Kosher Dill pickles in the fridge that have my name on it. That'll do for now.


  1. BWAHAHA! Now you are forever in the throes of cycling! Glad to have you here.

    By the way, where have you been? Granted anyone else riding consistently could ask me the same question, so I guess that answers that.

  2. Giro Wuh?

    Joking. Long time no see. You doing the Tour de Cure ride next Sunday?

  3. I'm officially psychotic about cycling.

    As for whereabouts, I'm still swimming & running, but you people don't care about that. As for biking, morning Shabbos+1 rides don't work for me unless we're waking the roosters. With Katherine's work schedule, here's what I've got: Weekend#1 6AM start times; Weekend #2: After 3PM. I've also been a regular on the Wednesday Trek Store rides.

    I like to think that one day when I quit caring about cycling and become a true sociopath (golfer), those early morning start times will work out well for me. It's comforting to know that after 18 holes, I will still be able to mow the lawn in Bermudas and golf cleats by 10 AM. Uh oh, more boring golf talk!

    Here's the summary, Shim:
    1) Boring stuff blah blah blah
    2) I like cycling now!

  4. " ... likely countless American tourists here that have no idea that this race is even going on."

    I think that's Italy's fault. It'a all about the marketing. France has figured it out. "Giro d'Italia" doesn't rhyme with "Lance" so who cares about it?

    Make sure you ride through Elmwood at about 7 AM on Sundays. I'll pull out an 8 on 2 (wedge hole), and send whitey your way.

  5. that and the Italian media has boycotted Lance for organizing the protest that the Giro circuit courses were too dangerous. Yeah. Nice try.

    It was always fun to try to hit the chickewire shrouded golf cart shagging balls at the range. We'd put a dollar on that one. Deal's still on for Elmwood #2.

  6. I don't get it, at least not yet.

    Similarly, I like to eat (and I think I'm pretty good at it), but don't think I'd linger too long on ESPN-12's International Competitive Eating Semi-Finals if I came across it on the TV.

  7. wha-sa you mean you don't a-know any italianios? shuttup a you face and ask-a your fratello Murphini about El Gyro. I've had them in Chicago at the Gold Coast hot dog stand. Get it dipped with the spicy peppers. Es Bueno.

    Just because I haven't been to Europe (that was brother Matt), doesn't mean I can't hijack this conversation about my italianity. By god, I wrecked a Campy chain this weekend after following Munson's instx how to clean it. (Turns out I should have threaded it correctly THROUGH the dereuller pulleys before shiftig and torquing it crooked!)

    BTW, where is Cyclism Sunday when you need it? Giro would be much more fun to watch than Bull Riding!

    Looks like Brady, Brendan and I will ride on Sunday morning here in KC. If you show mercy on the uphills, I'll show mercy on the downhills

  8. Scott: If it's not appreciating Gyros, it's likely because you're vegan and there isn't a tofu version out there. If it's universal sports coverage of the Gyro you don't get, rabbit ears and a digital receiver will pull in local channel 6.2. If its not yet appreciating the Giro, give it some time. It took me >20 yrs, but you're a faster study than I ever was.

    Murphy-ni: you're the Italian family's hired Mic, looking pretty on the surface, but doing the dirty work beneath the scenes. Among the inner circle, but you'll never scrub the Irish blood out of you.

    I've enjoyed the Chicago Gold Coast hot dog stand, too. It wasn't a gyro, but a blistering atomic dog with all the fixins including jalapenos. Sweat's breaking out on my forehead even thinking about it now. Delicious.

    Sunday will be fun riding with you and Brendan. <- That fella gets a little squirrely sitting in on the hills. If he hangs back, I will too. But if he lets loose, it'll be on. You'll have to unload one of your famous downhill attacks to bridge.