Friday, November 13, 2009

I have always depended upon…

By Chuck
I was at the San Martino party the other night, trying to enjoy myself, surrounded by people speaking Italian. I was offered wine and chestnuts; I accepted, of course. There was a fair amount of noise. Someone gestured to fill my glass and I answered, “I only speak English.” Someone across the table responded, “We all speak English.” And the person offering said, “I was speaking to you in English.” I was so caught up in my own thoughts and confusion that I did not even realize that. The man across the table continued to speak to me in English, trying to include me in the conversation; eventually, he realized that the only way he could do that was by moving across from me. That was Gino.

As I was sitting there, I noticed one of our neighbors get up from the table and leave the party. I assumed he was calling it a night. But, no; Ebe was going to see if Claire knew about the party and wanted to come; he did not know our connection, since we had never met. She has described their meeting above.

This morning, Gino followed through on his promise to try to find a bike shop where we could have our repairs made. Denise decided to walk there with us; we moved slowly, as Gino has the gout and yesterday’s outing on Etna caught up with him, today. As we started out, Pepe, the campground owner drove by, asking Gino where we were going. Understanding our mission, he offered to drive us (and the bike wheel) to the shop.

The shop, unfortunately, was closed. Never mind, he knew another. Turns out that we walked by this very shop the other day, searching for a repair shop, without realizing what it was. If only I could understand the signs; also, I was looking for a glass shop window; what we found was a large open metal door and a steep driveway into the shop, which was set back from the street about 40 meters.

Gino was my front man and they quickly realized and solved the problem – new wheel, axel, tire and tube. The tire was badly worn and I asked for a smaller tire in order to have decent clearance for the rear fender. They switched over the 8 gear mechanism. Total cost: €85. I thought it was pricey; but, I had been trying to get this done for weeks. We walked back to the campground.

I then got Claire and we walked back with both bikes – we were afraid to ride in Catania traffic – to get her bike basket installed – we had been trying to do this since she bought it in our second week in Europe – and to re-install the fender that fell off several weeks ago. All I needed was to have my front fender installed – I had never been able to get the right size bolt to attach it properly. The mechanic was able to do this fairly quickly, dressed in a polo shirt, slacks and soft leather dress shoes. When I asked about the fee, one man shook his head, the other said “free.”

We started back to the campground. We had discovered a shortcut that avoided most traffic; so, I began riding; Claire soon followed. But, I soon realized that my 8th gear was not catching properly. I told Claire to continue back to the camp, since we had almost arrived; I wanted to catch the service people before their 3 hour lunch break and get my gears adjusted. They seemed nonplussed to see me again. I managed to convey that one gear was not working properly; could they adjust it? They did; it took a while and some creative work – wrench used as a crowbar to change an angle of the derailleur and multiple adjustments with a screwdriver. Again, this service was “no charge.” By this time, any questions about the value of the original €85 transaction had disappeared. They had solved all our outstanding bike problems within 3 hours!

I need to insert something about Gino and Dave, the retired professional driver. He originally came over to understand the problem. He then offered to show me how to double-clutch. Later, he passed by as I was putting the wheel assembly on my bike and I realized he probably had tools at his disposal. “Do you have anything that would allow me to bend this tire railing?” “I think I might.” As I finished my job, I realized that he had already finished doing the railing work for me, without even being asked!

Later, I interrupted him during lunch to ask if I might re-borrow the tools, after lunch, to straighten out a pedal which had been bent, probably at the same time as the railing damage. After our lunch, I left to wash the dishes; when I returned, Dave was finishing up on the pedal. Now I am beginning to understand the camaraderie that exists among campers. It is quite lovely.
We are really looking forward to “Gino’s” dinner tonight; we are expecting almost the entire campground to show up.

We decided on a light lunch today--didn't want to spoil our appetites--so Claire sauteed some vegetables. Just add good beer and sunshine. Life really is good.

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