Day to remember

by David Gluzman

Recently at a dinner I attended I had the chance to recite one of my all time great travel stories, to a small group of people. While telling my mighty story I then realized that I’d like to have a written record of this event so that when I’m old and crusty I can remember it. So here we go…

First off some background information. This story takes place circa 1996 and I would have been around 18 years old. I was living in Italy (in the region of Tuscany), racing road bikes (the ones you pedal) for a small Italian team. Oh, and also at that time I was dating a girl there named Francesca (I’ll explain later why this matters).

I had just recently returned to Calgary, after spending two weeks or so racing in Quebec (which I flew from Italy to attend). I then went home (in Calgary) for a week or so, to drop off a ton of stuff I collected in my travels and to attend yet another race. Once my week stay was complete, I was on my way back home (er, Italia!).

The life of a traveling cyclist proves to be quite demanding. Mostly cause you have to have clothes for two lives (cycling, and non-cycling), plus you have a heck-of-a-lot-o’gear. A bike, a professional bike box (which is cast plastic), spare racing wheels, helmet(s), a giant suitcase, and a laptop (to keep in touch of course). All in all I’m caring at least 400-600lbs of stuff with me where ever I travel.


Day 1. My flight was scheduled to leave sometime in the morning. The previous night I spent packing up and preparing for my travels back to Italy. The minute I got out of bed that day I felt like someone had ran me over with a truck (I later found out I got food poisoning), and immediately dreaded my day to come. After I visited the washroom a dozen or so times, I finally got to the airport. I then proceeded to check in all my stuff (which is always a pain in the arse, cause they want me to pay extra due to all my gear), and then waited at the gate for my flight. After two hours of running back and forth from the washroom, in the boarding area, the flight was canceled.

Later that day after un-checking-in all my luggage again, I went home then saw the doctor. Then I proceeded to try and rest till the next day.

Day 2. So the same drill as the previous day except this time my plane actually took off from Calgary toward Amsterdam. I still wasn’t feeling all that stellar (probably cause I only could stomach a couple crackers for the entire day), and I had a long trip to go.

Sun goes down, Sun comes up 5 minutes later and welcome to day 3… I’m in Amsterdam and find out that my connecting flight had left without me (we were 20 minutes late), and I had to find a new way to get to Rome. I did find a new flight, but it was taking off 5 hours later. At this point I started to lose my mind a little, cause I haven’t eaten, or slept in about 20 hours. I had to carry around all my stuff for the next several hours and then finally checked in all my stuff for my final flight to Rome.

It gets better.

While I was waiting in Amsterdam I phoned the people that were suppose to pick me up in Rome the previous day (it’s a 3 hour drive from Rome btw). Once I finally got someone on the phone to explain what had been going on with my travels they told me someone would be there regardless of the mixup (someone did drive down the previous day to pick me up, but I wasn’t there duh!). Phew car ride from Rome, thank god too, cause I didn’t want to take the trains.

Rome, 35C and sunny. I get off my final flight and pickup all my stuff, which miraculously followed me all the way here, and proceed to search for my ride around the Michelangelo airport. Waited 2 hours and no one was to be found. Made some phone calls and they said I should just take the train cause no one was going to take the 3 hour drive down to Rome to pick “poor me” up. *SNAP* TRAINS!

This nightmare came to its all time high. I needed to take 3 trains, Michelangelo Airport to Rome Central, Rome to someplace (I forgot the name *doh*), then someplace to Arezzo. At the end of this train fiasco I still was about 50kms away from my final destination (SanSepolcro), yet someone was suppose to meet me there with a car. Joy.

I’ll try to sum this up as quickly and simply as possible… Trains suck. Oh wait, no, normally they are fine, just not while traveling as a circus (er, cyclist). After pushing/pulling all my gear (without a cart), across several WRONG platforms I find my train(s), and push my gear onto the train(s). The second time around I find out that I can’t put my stuff on the train (cause it’s too big). Standing around drenched in my own sweat and extremely tired/frustrated, I then had a heated argument in Italian with several people. I explained how I NEEDED to get on this train and eventually did (by talking about what sort of Colnago [a Italian bike] I had).

We are currently in around 30 hours of travel and I’m headed towards Arezzo. Oh, and cause I’m on the train with all this stuff, I can’t dare let myself fall asleep (I haven’t slept yet btw), cause I don’t want my gear to be sifted thru or stolen (which is common on European trains).

After 5 hours of train hopping and a fight with myself to stay awake, I finally hear the call for “AREZZO!” Just imagine that scene from “Speed” where Kenau and Sandra have to ride a piece of the bus while the bus was roaring down the airport strip. That was me except that I had a hefty amount of gear attached to me (with carabineers). You only have a few precious moments to get off or on the train before it takes off on its scheduled final destination.

After getting out of the train and watching it speed away from me, I took note of my surroundings. Several bare train tracks and the train station a couple hundred meters away. No problem, I’ll just drag my stuff to the station to where my ride is waiting and game over.

Seems as though someone was playing a cruel joke on me. I get passed the train tracks and notice there is a stairway down and then another stairway up to get outside the station. I looked around for an elevator, no luck. I also asked people for help, no luck. After pondering a solution for about 10 minutes I lose it and decide to yell and kick my stuff (bike and all) down the stairs. *WOOMP* Everyone around me crap their pants, but I just didn’t care anymore, I wanted to get this over with. I then walked down the stairs to collect my stuff and walk to the other stairs which I’d have to climb. After further inspection the stairs were too step to drag my stuff up it. While trying to collect my thoughts, I glared around aimlessly, and finally hear some old woman yelling at a young man in Italian. After watching this mother smack her son on the backside of his head, she had told him to give me (the helpless young man at the bottom of the stairs) a hand (thank god too). After a short struggle we brought all my gear to the outside of the station (wow, helpful people, first time I’ve seen this). There I was, Arezzo, and not a ride in sight…

For the love of god, where the hell was my ride? Har har, this isn’t funny, no one freaking showed up. I’m sitting in the parking lot waiting for a ride in the scorching heat and extremely tired. I phoned the people that were suppose to pick me up, no answer. I then phoned my girlfriend (the one I mentioned earlier), to see if she could give me a ride, nope (we later broke up). Only another 5 hours later did I finally get picked up.

I’ll skip what was said in the car, and just say I got home safely after that. I don’t know how long this took, but I’m pretty sure it was around 35 hours or so (of pure living hell). There you have it, I had to tell it, hope you enjoyed it.

Oh and if you were wondering, all my stuff that I threw down the stairs turned out to be fine (not a dent or scratch).

  • Day to remember
  • by David Gluzman
  • Published on October 1st, 2001

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