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.
The flights from Chicago to Frankfurt, and then to Rome, were uneventful and we arrived on schedule. Our ultimate destination was Bagheria, on the island of Sicily, for the wedding of Katrina, the only child of my cousin Suzzie. But to get the most out of the trip we opted to stay six days in Rome first, and I booked a chalet at the Camping Village Roma.
We heard of the village through Suzzie, who moved to Sicily many years ago. She and her husband, Vic, have acted as scout leaders for more than 40 years. The scouting program is different in Europe. For one thing boys and girls are included in the same pack and they meet much more often, as much as three times a week. While both the U.S. and Europeans focus on character development, the overseas version also does a lot of traveling. It was through scouting trips that Suzzie knew of the camping village. While the place has spaces for campers with tents, it also offers bungalows and chalets, which are essentially small and smaller cabins.
Typically, the village provides housing for scouts, other youth tour groups, back packers and families on summer vacation, but the weekend we arrived it was host to several hundred Harley Davidson riders. The reason the H.O.G.s (Harley Owners Groups) were in the eternal city– one estimate put their numbers at more than 100,000 people and 30,000 bikes– was to participate in the 110th anniversary rally for the American icon. The distinctive roar of their engines was everywhere all day and night long. The four day event culminated on Sunday with a blessing from the Pope in St. Peter’s Square.
I have mixed feelings about Harley riders.
Over the years I’ve known dozens and enjoyed all of them. Typically, they’re fun loving extroverts... the kind of people you’d like to sit next to in an airplane. On this trip, for example, we became quick friends with Udo and Beatrice (Trixie), a couple of Germans who drove to Rome for the rally. We stayed up one night drinking beer, chatting and having a good time. The next day they traveled to one of the scheduled events, and Udo fell into incredible luck when he found bumped into Willie Davidson, the grandson of Harley. Not only did he meet the scion but he got him to autograph his hat as well. He was in seventh heaven as he showed us his cherished souvenir. We had a lot of fun teasing him about his memento and he good-naturedly went along.
Nice people, but why do they have to make so much noise? We woke up several times during the night as riders fired up their beasts, and other times I had to plug my one good ear as nearby riders revved their engines. It’s good fun fellas, but at some point your right to make noise encroaches on my right to quiet after midnight and hearing.
Despite the noise, our stay at the village was enjoyable. I especially liked the large infinity pool and the fact that there was a restaurant on the premises. It was at this restaurant that I had my first revelation about Italian culture: their ketchup packages come in a totally different shape.
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