Yesterday we went for a picnic. I loaded up the sandwiches, Spanish omelette, water and squirrelled the nibbles and ground blankets away in military fashion, so that by 10am the Capo was fit to burst and ready to roll. We’d decided on a nice lakeside lunch at Lago di Campotosto with a side order detour to the top of the Campo Imperatore and a look at the observatory and cableway as well. The return would include a little light shopping excursion for Jan at Castelli and hopefully home in time to watch the sunset. All very nice.
As always the Capo performed flawlessly despite the humid 36c as we left. The miles rolled on and the GPS rhythmically counted up the altitude as we headed up the Gran Sasso. Here it was a far more civilised 24c with a nice breeze, smashing! On the way, Jan had plenty of opportunity to practice the royal wave as a steady precession of like-minded bikers passed the other way, no doubt heading for lunch at Santo Stefano or a fountain side coffee in Castel del Monte.
We topped out at 2,150m as we parked up at the end of the line – the car park at the Observatory. Built in 1951 it now runs the CINEOS program (Campo Imperatore Near Earth Object Survey), started in 2001. Standing next to the observatory is one of the oldest ski hotels in Italy. Built in 1921, it was used to imprison Mussolini and in 1943 saw him rescued by German commandos without firing a single shot.
We then headed the last 30 miles or so to Lago di Campotosto, a man made lake built in the 1930’s. It sits at about 1,300m above sea level and is used for hydro electric power generation. The road that runs around it is about 23 miles long, but you can cut that significantly if you use Ponte delle Stecche – The Bridge of Sticks. The road to the North is fine, but to the South, water frequently drains across the road carrying silt and sand with it. I could see clear evidence of bikers pushing their luck in bends and ending up with intimate knowledge of the unforgiving nature of crash barriers, trees and very big rocks!
We finally found a nice little spot that suited us just dandy. Amid the periodic calling of frogs or toads down at the waterside and a cool breeze, we nibbled and munched our way through a king’s dinner. After a couple of hours rest we set off back down the way we’d come until we intercepted the SS80. Here we turned towards Teramo and hopefully a fuel station! We eventually stopped off at Montorio a Vomano for a refuel – bike and us as the temperature was back up to the mid 30’s again. Next, we swung South East back into the mountains and Castelli, home of ceramics.
While Jan scoured through the acres of shop shelving, looking for that just-right little something for the house, I caught up with events back at the training school in the UK, then sat and sipped water as the sun dropped behind the mountain and the forest took on a whole new darker and foreboding mood. Time to move on. Finally, with a big smile and a small package beautifully finished with a gold ribbon tucked safely in the top-box, Jan hopped on board and we set off home.
At about 7.30pm we rolled into the barn, cut the motor and sat for a moment exhausted as we contemplated emptying the bike, getting changed, washing all the stuff and putting it away ……. but that’s after the sea of expectant little faces, feathery and furry get fed!
All together we covered about 170 miles between 350m and 2,130m above sea level and with wholesome home produce, a frugal Caponord, Jan’s present and a couple of pit-stop coffee’s, we did the lot for less than €60! Bargain.