Hooning with new, old friends

My goal today, once again, was to get to Torino. I failed but for a very good reason. I was trying to take the road to Ceva (again) at Marco’s suggestion. However, I didn’t see the road sign for SS29 when I got off the Autostrada but I did see the sign for Sassello again. I gave it one last try to get directions (stupid GPS SUCKED) and said, “Bah! On to Sassello.” It would also take me to Torino so I felt like I was winning either way.

After a few kilometers of delicious and delightful curves I came across a stop light where traffic was down to a single lane. Waiting at the light were  two motorcycles at the head of the line. I scooted past the cars and joined them up front. The light changed. Off we went! The guys were riding at a nice pace and seemed familiar with the road so I followed them for the 20 kilometers to Sassello.  I was on their radar as the one in the rear caught sight of me in his mirrors. However, my respectful distance made it clear I was not trying to pass them. I lost them for a minute or two after they passed a few cars.

I pulled into Sassello and saw a group of riders at a cafe. It wasn’t the same guys I’d been following. I almost stopped to speak with the riders at the cafe but then I saw the two I’d been following stopped on the side of the road. I stopped. One of them greeted me, “Buon giorno”. I asked, “Do you mind if I follow you? I don’t know the road.” The guy said yes but they were about to stop for lunch. So I joined them. We stopped here at Trattoria Vittoria. They serve homestyle Italian food. (Photo from the Internet)

The two characters were Marco and Alessandro. Marco is a mechanical engineer from Genova who owns a business moving barges. Genova is a major port city. Alessandro is a professor of the Italian language. No pressure for a girl who is ISL (Italian as a second language). I told him as much as we walked into the trattoria and he laughed. Over lunch we spoke about what I was doing there, how I learned Italian, what I did for work, etc. They were quite curious what the hell a woman was doing alone, on a motorcycle, in Italy.

Once the “interview” was over they decided to take me to the president of their motorcycle club … he makes grappa for a living. We rode together for about an hour to the distillery. Marco and Alessandro were both on BMWs and I made a comment that we would be a line of Bimmers. They liked this. Alessandro rode up front and Marco swept. The pace was just right for me and we were on tiny roads I probably would never have seen on my own. I was stoked.

The trees were awash with fall colors. A strong wind was blowing and the leaves were swirling down onto the road. The views were incredible. In the distance were little hill top villages in all directions. I could see the walls and towers that had been there for centuries. It really puts things into perspective. My heart was full with happiness at the experience I was having. Wind in my face, crisp air, serendipitous meetings with people who added to my adventure. Life was good.

I was in the moment and finally, FINALLY… feeling the bike that I was on. We clicked. Che bella! I trusted in the bike and it felt like it was on rails. Maybe having a lead to set the pace had let me relax enough to enjoy riding a bit more. We stopped for gas before our destination and I told Alessandro how happy I was and that my heart was full of happiness. My Italian is far from perfect but he got it, seemed quite touched and told Marco what I had said. They were both pleased with my announcement. They had not planned to visit the distillery that day and had changed their plans on account of meeting me. This girl gives them two thumbs way up for doing so.

A few minutes after filling up we arrived at the historic distillery, which had been making grappa since 1870. The owner was a jovial man who was hands on and physical. He grabbed my arm and patted my cheek. I’m not normally a touchy feely person but it was darling. He took me to the still and I got to watch part of the process and see women hand bottling the grappa and hand applying labels. I went downstairs to the cellar and checked out his barrels of grappa that were aging. Then we went out back to look at the grapes used to make the grappa. It’s a really neat and efficient process. I’m very happy that I was able to get this behind the scenes tour. Back upstairs we sampled some of his product. YUM. (Photo courtesy of the Internets)

Marco told the owner of the distillery that I could ride along just fine with the men from their club. He talked up my riding and I blushed but I was pleased. Then we made another social call to a member of their club who makes caskets. Oh my! Slightly less jolly than grappa. Social call complete we headed back to Genova via Passo del Turchino, which I had ridden two years prior from the other direction. God, it was so much fun and the road just twisted and twisted and twisted again. The little F800GT flipped back and forth effortlessly, so happy to be leaned over. The descent was so smooth, so good.  YYYYEEEEESSSSS.

Back in Genova proper the professor was headed to his house. Before heading our respective directions we bade each other farewell. Alessandro complimented me on my riding and Marco agreed it had been enjoyable riding with me. Marco and I were both bound for parts east of Genova so we hopped on the Autostrada together. Traffic was busy at 5:30 PM on a Friday.

All the sudden Marco hooned. He hooned SO HARD. I was deeply impressed. I followed him gleefully, hooning along. He was fast and fun to follow through the stop and go traffic. Did I mention he’s 75?!? You have not lived until you have hooned with old guys (gawd, I love old guys on bikes) and seems like such hooning is damn well expected in Italy. Playing together in traffic was a blast. When my exit came I honked at him and blew kisses. He motioned a hug with his free arm. Off we went, new friends. This day will live forever in my moto memory banks and it is certainly one of the best days I have ever had on a motorcycle. Considering how much fun I regularly have that is a big statement but it is true. Motorcycles are amazing for the people they can bring and keep in your life. I was so grateful for the day I had with them.