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Brian Fleck

Final days in Rome

walkin'

Ancient walls flanked us as we rolled out of Rome and then into Acquedotti Park. Here we passed along the remains of Aqua Claudia, an aqueduct commissioned by the Emperor Gaius in 38 A.D. Gaius is also known as Caligula. He is infamous, among many things, for ordering his guards to throw an entire coliseum section of the crowd into the arena during intermission to be eaten by animals because he was bored.

Lake Gandolfo

food for thought

“That’s why there’s fence,” our guide Emanuele pointed to a pile of rocks across the trail in front of us, “there’s, how do you say in English, avalanches in this area.”
The area was on the shore of Lake Gandolfo, about 15 miles southeast of Rome. Among the 8,000 residents that live near the lake are two rather famous ones: Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis (in the summer).

Luck and love in Rome

Walkin'

Our second bike tour, a panoramic cruise of Rome, began at 5 p.m., and we were determined to use public transportation to get to the start.
With the help of several strangers, we were able to get on the correct bus, transfer twice onto the correct trains and select the correct direction to walk from the last station to the tour beginning. As I’ve attested many times in this space, Sabra and I have made getting lost into an art so it was with some gratitude for blind luck that we arrived at the beginning of the bike tour two hours early.

Driving, Italian style

Walkin'

There are no traffic laws in Italy, just polite suggestions.
It’s like going to a tavern and ordering a Margarita. The bartender might suggest Jose Cuervo, but he won’t think twice if you ask for Don Julio.

Only in Italy!

walkin'

After an evening of sharing beers and swapping stories with Udo and Trixie, the German motorcycle riders in Rome for the Harley convention, we called it a night.
The bed in our bungalow was thin but very comfortable, so we slept well. Nevertheless, jet lag left us– or, at least me– a little off-center in the morning. Besides messing up my sleep cycle, mal de Lufthansa plays havoc with my dietary routine. Basically, I want to eat six meals a day, three on Iowa time and three Roman. So it was with a little weariness and a lot of hunger that we made our way to the camp restaurant.

Welcome to Rome, varoom

walkin'

To ease the sense of claustrophobia while flying, we’ve taken to booking aisle seats, even if it means Sabra and I don’t sit together. One of the secrets to a happy marriage, we’ve discovered, is not sharing an armrest on long flights. I regretted this on our leg from Cedar Rapids to Chicago, however, as I was neighbors with one of the world’s grumpiest men. When I accidentally touched his foot with mine, he threatened to call the stewardess if I couldn’t contain myself better.
No doubt he was also a Cardinals fan.

Walkin'

Death by Jenga

The day before starting our big trip to Rome and then on to Sicily for my niece’s wedding, disaster struck Sabra personally three times.
First Pearl, our labradoodle, managed to get her anxiety medication off the middle of the kitchen island and eat a 30-day supply. Regular readers will know that we just went through this ordeal a few weeks ago, and we should be old pros at it by now. Since the two-dollars-a-pop pills don’t contain any real drugs– only herbs– they are as harmless as setting six sawbucks on fire and dropping them into a large, empty, metal trashcan.

Sticks and knives

walkin'

I returned to Chicago for a brief visit with my folks this last week.
Mom wanted help planting her garden, and brother Bob offered to get Dad and me out fishing.

Walkin'

Echinacea breath

Pearl, our ditzy labradoodle, and I are in the doghouse lately.
She committed her sin several weeks ago while we were watching Lexi, a Jack Russell terrier that comes to visit from time to time. Lexi is over 100 years-old in human terms, and has been given only several months to live from a variety of doggie disorders she’s contracted over the past decade.
She keeps turning kibble into cobble, however, if you get my drift.

Walkin'

Building to standards

Several new power saws, four months and a pile of wood later; I finished the cat exercise wheel this week and delivered it to Cat Lady. Her felines were less than impressed and didn’t have a clue on how to use it. This didn’t deter Cat Lady, however, as she got down on the floor and put one knee on the wheel to demonstrate.
“See kitties, this is how you do it,” she said, breaking the wheel in half.

Walkin'

Catwheel continued

How Sabra and I have been using our free time demonstrates the difference between our approaches to doing things.

walkin'

Karen and Cat Lady

I’ve been working in the garage a lot these past couple of months trying to build what is essentially a giant hamster wheel. “Who needs a giant hamster wheel?” you may ask. The answer, silly, is Karen and Cat Lady.
You may have seen Cat Lady about town, she’s the woman that has a special stroller designed to push her cats, currently Sissy Lu and Puffy. While she walks, she talks to her pets much as a mother might, cooing soft words of praise and comfort.