The view from Sassi Itlay

A Most Delightful Weekend in a 250 Year Old Home in Sassi, Italy

When my Italian friend and host suggested we go to Sassi for the weekend, I agreed, but I had no idea what, or even where, it was. Next thing I know we are headed out of Lucca and towards the mountains of northern Italy. Before long we are zooming along steep switchbacks, away from the city, enjoying the changing colors of autumn and the view of the valley below. Finally, we enter the most charming little historical village and stop in front of a giant red home, made of stones and concrete. To my right the Alps are towering in the distance and an ancient castle sits high on a hill. It was like like a view from a postcard. Staying in a 250 year old home, enjoying the astounding view, and mushroom hunting in the forest were all remarkable, and made for a most delightful weekend in Sassi Italy.

The Historical Home

 

Paolo Pocai’s family has owned the old homestead for generations. The front part of the home was built in 1770 and there is still an old brass plate above the door with the date on it. As if that isn’t remarkable enough, the back part of the building was a 15th century tower and still contains some of the ancient doors and the original circular stone staircase. The home contains some of the most beautiful antique furniture and chandeliers I have ever seen! It’s hard to guess how big the “house” is, as some rooms in the basement have never been completed, but I would estimate that it was well over 4,000 feet, which seems to be about normal for summer homes in the country in Italy. I helped Paolo prepare the home for winter as he doesn’t go there much anymore in the off season.

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The top of the Matterhorn the day of the climb

Father and Son From Germany Fulfill Their 16-Year Dream to Climb the Matterhorn

I was enjoying some Swiss cheese fondue and a glass of wine in Zermatt when I saw them walk by. They didn’t look like the other tourists. They carried helmets on their packs and walked with a certain resolve that immediately caught my attention. These guys are on a mission, I thought to myself. Imagine my surprise when I returned back to my hostile and found them lounging in my door room. I introduced myself and asked about their gear. Christoph and Herbert Maile couldn’t contain their excitement. They were about to fulfill their 16-year dream to climb the Matterhorn, and sometime later that evening they agreed to give me the honor to tell their story.

I did my pre-climb interview the next morning with Chris, who speaks fluent English. He was 24 years old and full of energy. As we sipped our cappuccinos and ate our breakfast, I pestered him with a bunch of questions. His enthusiasm was contagious and I hoped to god they would make the summit.

Me: How many people are in your climb group?

Chris: Me, Dad (who is 56) and two guides. One is assigned to helping my father and one is assigned to helping me.

Me: Do you mind if I ask how much the guides cost?

Chris: No, that’s fine. They cost 1,000 euros each (about 1,180 USD).

Me: What does your mom think of this?

Chris: She knows she can’t stop us, so she just accepts it.

Me: How long do you anticipate it will take you?

Chris: A few hours the first day to reach the Carell hut where we spend the night. Then we will leave at dawn or whenever the weather is right for the summit. That should take another 4 to 5 hours, even though it is only 700 meters. It will take an additional 3 to 4 hours to climb down to the Carell hut and then we have to leave that night so we are hiking all the way back down to the bottom which will be another 4 hours.

Me: So, you could be climbing for 12 to 13 hours that day?

Chris: Yah, (he says, with a shrug of his shoulders, like it’s no big deal).

Zermatt

Zermatt Switzerland; Biker, Hiker, Skiing Paradise

Zermatt Switzerland reminds me of Whistler, Canada and Rhotang Pass in India mixed all together. The panoramic views of the Alps, combined with the easy access to world renowned trails for recreational sport, make Zermatt, Switzerland a biker hiker, skiing paradise for tourists from around the globe. And by biker, I mean bicycles, because no gas engines are allowed in the town, nor are any private cars. The taxis and delivery vehicles are all electric, and residents get around by walking, bicycling, cable car or train. It leaves the air smelling about as pure as you can find anywhere on the planet.

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

 

With a cost of about $135 USD for a round trip to ticket, it’s expensive to get to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, but it was worth every penny. It sits at an elevation of 12,739 feet and the view will leave you breathless. It’s about a 45-minute cable car ride to the top. As you sit in the relative comfort of your cable car, you look down on glaciers, green meadows with pretty wild flowers scattered about, pristine waterfalls, and lots of people hiking and biking the trails. At the top, there is an ice palace full of ice caves and ice sculptures, a restaurant, café, and panoramic viewpoint for tourists to enjoy.

Me in the desert near Twin Falls

What I Learned in 31 Days, 19 States and 7,000 Miles on My Motorcycle

Road trips aren’t just about all the destinations, but the journey. It’s the adventures, the possibilities, the change from our daily routine that beckons us, and it’s even more true when taking a solo road trip on a motorcycle. Space is limited. Nature is in your face. Fatigue sets in sooner and the risk of injury is much greater. I had an amazing time on my ride across this beautiful nation. I had a lot of time to think, and this what I learned in 31 days, 19 states and 7,000 miles, alone on my motorcycle.

I’m No Princess

There once was a time in my life when I had to have my coffee a certain way, I couldn’t sleep without a fan and a feather pillow. I wore those comfort requirements like a badge of honor. I don’t know why we do that. Maybe to show how civilized we are. Maybe it’s for attention or to demonstrate that we have evolved into a lifestyle that can require such things. In any case, those days are long for me. I slept on a two-inch air mattress with a tiny pillow. Most days I didn’t get coffee, or if I did it was from a convenience store. I averaged about 350 miles a day. I camped in 40 degree temperatures. I rode through torrential rain, 30 mile an hour sustained winds and 106 degree heat. I’m no princess anymore. I’ve gained a lot of self-confidence and feel like I’m strong enough to handle just about anything, even ending up 3,000 miles away from home without any money, ID, or credit cards.

Simple Pleasures

It’s amazing how a road trip can make you appreciate the simple things that we generally take for granted. I found myself grateful for a hot shower, a cup of coffee, dry clothes and a quiet place to sleep. The sounds of the birds chirping in the morning, children laughing while they play, or a babbling stream, were like music to my ears. We have so much to be grateful for, but we are often too distracted to even notice.

Drinking in Badgerville

My Wild Night in Badgerville, Wisconsin

I’ve had a lot of weird experiences on this cross-county motorcycle trip, but my wild night in Badgerville, Wisconsin might top them all. I spent the night in Badgerville RV Park, just off the freeway, and next to Kegonsa State Park. I was assigned a cute little spot next to the fish pond.

The neighbors

As I was setting up I met the neighbors, Dave and Tami. I couldn’t help but notice that they, and most of the RVs in the park, had decks and sheds. Turns out that instead of buying a weekend cabin like many of us do in the northwest, people in that part of Wisconsin buy a year around spot to park their RVs, and then they proceed to customize it with decks, fences, sheds, and so on. As a result, most of the weekend residents know each other. They also have their own golf carts just for driving around the RV park.

The bar

Next to the office was a cute little bar, and I had some computer work to do that required WIFI, so I figured that was as good of a spot as any to get my work done. I sat there working for about 2 hours and it was nonstop entertainment. I met Jan, who had lived in the park for 15 years! She was the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. I also met Big Joe, a large guy with a fun sense of humor. who insisted on buying me a drink, and another drink, and another….

Stranded a long way from home

How I Ended up 3,000 Miles Away from Home with No Money or ID

It was a potentially life-threatening moment. I was 3,000 miles away from home with no money or ID. The temperature was about 90 degrees and I had been riding my motorcycle for hours. Exhausted, I pulled into a gas station to fill my tank. I looked down at where I keep my handbag and my heartbeat started racing. It was gone!!

What happened

About 100 miles back, near the Kentucky border, it had started raining hard. I pulled over underneath an overpass to put on the rain gear that my friend had let me borrow from her just for the trip. I ride with my bag slung over me, so I won’t lose it. I had to take it off and set it down to put on the rain gear. You can guess what happened next. A momentary distraction cost me dearly. I rode away and left it there under the overpass!

So, there I was at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, with no money to fill my tank, no ID, and no credit cards. I felt weak. I was sweating profusely and trembling. I sat down and tears filled my eyes. What was I going to do? I pulled out my cell phone. I could barely see the screen without my glasses and they were in my purse! The battery was down to 20% and my charger was also in my handbag! I was disgusted at myself for making such a stupid mistake!

Me and bike (Baby)

The Joy of Feeling Present on My Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip

I’m on a 6,000-mile solo motorcycle trip across the USA. Most of the time, I find that I’m dirty, tired and dodging extreme weather. People often ask me why I’m doing it. There are many reasons, such as to experience our beautiful country and to visit friends and family. But my greatest joy so far has simply been the way I feel so very present while I’m on this ride.

Many Americans spend so much of their day dwelling on the past, day dreaming about the future, or despising their present situation, that they often forget that the present is a gift to be treasured. Sometimes it’s not easy for us to quiet our mind and really consciously enjoy the present moment. It can take practice.

The easiest way to focus on the present is to engage your senses and quiet the mind. Many people do this during meditation, but I’ve learned that you can do it anywhere. Just stop your mind from drifting and focus on your five senses. What do you see, smell, hear, taste and feel? Riding through the beautiful state of Tennessee yesterday I really took it all in, and this is how I engaged my five senses.