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This is an excerpt from the draft of a book I'm writing about a bike tour of the Appian Way from Rome, Italy to Brindisi. The full book should be available for download in late 2015. If you'd like a copy, leave a comment with your email and I'll let you know when it is ready. (Your email will not be published and I will never share it with other parties)

After I ride my bike into the hills for a few more miles, I see a huge fortress up ahead to my right. It’s just past sunset, and I know that if I want to explore I’ll have to stay in this area.

Roman milestone along Appian Way outside Itri, Italy

Where the road passes to the right of the castle, there’s a small town on my left. It only takes a few minutes to find a decently-priced hotel, and after some questioning I find out there’s good pizza nearby.

The decision is made. The hotel owner barely leaves off the conversation with her friends (all are sitting around a table covered with bread, coffee, and cigarettes) to get me registered, stash my bike in a back room, and welcome me to the town of Itri.

After a hot shower and pizza, some of the locals inform me that this town, Itri, got its name from the Hydra of Greek mythology, which Hercules fought in the swamps nearby. Hydra is often pronounced “Idra” or “Itra” in Greek and Italian, leading to the name.

Alessandra, who served me my pizza, told me that the castle was built up over a much older Roman edifice. There were a lot of battles over this spot, because of its strategic position on a mountain pass between two sea ports. She said the name of the town comes from the Latin word “Iter,” which means the route or the way, because of Itri’s placement on the via Appia. When I ask her about the word “Idra” she laughs and says, “That’s just mythology.”

When I’m done eating I wander around the castle in the dark. Much of the palace was demolished by allied bombing during World War II, but it’s still a vast labyrinth inhabited by scores of wild cats. Every friendly “Meow” sounds something like an Italian greeting of “Ciao.”

But the dark passageways and deep shadows are creepy, and I wish I had some company besides the cats.

Travel tip: Visit Itri on the festival “Day of Corpus Domini” (usually in June). The Itrani decorate the main street of the town with colorful mosaics made from flower petals. Almost better is the Olive Festival on the first Sunday in August. It’s a great day to taste olives, olive oil, olive bread, bruschetta, and of course there’s plenty of wine to wash it all down.



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Carlos asked me how long it took me to ride my bike from Temple City to downtown Los Angeles, and he laughed when I told him I spent 2 hours on the ride.

I have tremendous respect and admiration for the kind of bike riding Carlos does. He has a carbon frame racing machine, with aero bars and wheels as thin as capellini. He could make the trip in a quarter of the time, maybe less.

But that's not my way, and it doesn't have to be your way either. Not always.

I've met a lot of would-be bicyclists who are put off by bright multi-colored lycra shorts and intimidated by speedy racers. If this is you, don't worry. There's nothing wrong with riding slow, wearing anything you want.

Your bike can be an amazing tool of discovery. It will take you places you'd probably never go by foot, and probably never notice by car. It makes you a part of the landscape, puts you in contact with the weather, scenery, maybe even the people. Slow down, and you might get a gift from the universe.

I can ride pretty fast when I need to, but it's usually not my choice. Early in the morning, seeing the moon reflected in the water of the Rio Honda, it seems a waste of the morning if I go too fast. I get up extra early just so I won't have to race.

Slow down, and you might get a gift from the universe. A lot of people are doing it.

"It's a party on wheels," someone once told me on Midnite Ridazz. Nobody left behind, half the bikers riding one-handed with drinks in the other. Once I pulled out of the group to use the restroom, and when I came back out the bicycle parade was still sauntering past me, flickering lights ablaze, no hurry.

One of my dreams is to join the Wolfpack ride. I don't know at this point if I could keep up. Maybe some day I'll try out a triathlon, just to say that I did it. But when it comes to the pure enjoyment that makes riding a bike worthwhile for me, I'm more in favor of the people who strap a radio on their rear rack, and saunter along at their own pace.