Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Answers... some to questions no one even asked!

So... The bike tour of Sicily: Kevin had a meeting on the island of Siracusa in December 2004 (which is off the southeast coast of Sicily--here's a map). I skipped most of the meeting, but I joined him afterwards, and we spend 5 days biking around that corner of Sicily, staying in a different small hotel each night. It was essentially self-guided--the tour organizers made the hotel reservations, provided the bikes, transported our bags, and gave us maps and cue sheets, but we were on our own during the day.

We biked between 20 and 30 miles each day, which left plenty of time to stop and wander through villages on the way. I don't remember off the top of my head everywhere we went, but definitely to Ragusa, Pozzallo, and Pachino (map). They're all on the southeast tip--it felt like we were going on these epic journeys, but actually we barely left Siracusa! What was nice about the bikes (vs. traveling by car) was that we could actually see things well enough to stop--then they could leave the bikes anywhere to explore. We went to one town at the base of a mountain/hill and ended up biking up the mountain as far as we could, on these tiny little streets that kept getting narrower and narrower. They barely felt wide enough for one of us on a bike, but every so often we'd come upon a courtyard with a car parked in it!

Once the road got too steep to bike, we pushed our bikes, then locked them up and left them when the road turned to stairs. At the very top of the hill, we scrambled up a path to an abandoned church, and then to the ruins of some kind of building (with sheep wandering around). The church had clearly been unused for a while--it had been stripped nearly bare, then graffiti-ed. But some kind of restoration was underway--gates had been put up in the doors to prevent further damage, some of the rubble had been cleared away, and some of the walls repaired and painted with primer. Since we were so high up, the view was impressive--all the way down to the little town, with the oldest buildings at the base of the hill (some apparently carved into the hill) separated from each other by, tiny, narrow streets, then blending into newer suburbs further away. (To make up for this, it poured on the next to last day, when we had to bike along the edge of a highway.)

The strangest thing was the bike to the southern-most point in Europe, past Pachino. We set off from a resort town (nearly empty because it was the off season), biking along the coast of the Mediterranean. The road turned inland, and we passed through farms, then back towards the water. By the time we got to the southern--most point, everything was deserted, although clearly set up for many visitors: vacant summer cottages, shuttered restaurants, empty parking lots. It actually got a little creepy after a while, because nothing seemed to have been tidied at the end of the summer season, so it looked like everyone had left in a hurry, in the middle of something.

Because it was the off season, we definitely stood out. In one town, after we checked into our hotel and went out to find food, a man came up to us and asked if we were the tourists! We said yes, and he tried to convince us to stay in his hotel instead. He was very polite, but it was a little odd that he knew about us to soon after we'd arrived (we were probably still wearing our biking clothes, on top of "looking American," so actually recognizing us can't have been that hard! But how did he know we were there at all?)

I have no idea why batts are called batts, or why there are 2 Ts. Maybe from batting (like the kind that goes in quilts), although that doesn't really help--and it seems more likely that batting evolved from batts, rather than vice versa. Regardless, batts are sheets of wool with the fibers going in all directions, while roving is strips of wool with the fibers aligned length-wise.

Like Heidi, I think there were probably equal amounts of yarn and fiber at CT sheep and wool. None of the yarn really jumped out at me as something, although both Heidi and Suzy found yarn they'd been looking for. For which they'd been looking, I mean. I was also trying not to buy yarn, since I have kind of a backlog of yarn that I want to knit immediately, but several things that I need to knit first. And I don't add fiber to the yarn mileage total (now about 6.6 miles, with 1.6 miles of diligent knitting in April counteracted by my Socks that Rock shipment and several skeins of Anne from Schaefer yarn... even though I don't count the skeins meant for specific designs, I still have to count the other skeins that evidently fell into the package when no one was looking) till it's spun, so the roving and batt don't count yet. And there's that other woolly event coming up this weekend!

And the question no one asked, answered by a receipt I found in my wallet: the mystery roving is from Times Remembered (no website, evidently), and it's merino and silk.


Debby said...

Thank you for sharing your description of Sicily with us. It sounds so beautiful. I hope to take a trip like that one day! We should have rented bikes in Bermuda when we visited there, but I didn't think of it at the time. You can always see more when you're on a bike.

Have a wonderful time at the MS&W festival. I wish I were going, but I have a date with a bike in NYC. I miss my knitting terribly but hope to get back to it soon once the house projects are done this weekend.

Annie said...

So the mystery of batts continues--I may have to do extensive research (footnoted, of course) the next time I'm procrastinating.

Baby Beth said...

OMG, you sold me on getting into better shape and biking through Sicily!