Day 14 – Milazzo to Palermo – 143 miles

For the first time on this trip, I was woken by my alarm. A 6.45 breakfast with sunrise on the beach and I was on my way by just gone 7.

I took a small road out of Milazzo and after a few dead ends ended up back on the main coast road.

It was a lot quieter and scenic than the previous day and I was in good spirits, knowing if it continued like this I’d make it to Palermo today.

There was a question in my mind as to where the finish line was. Was it Sicily, Palermo or Alcamo (the town where our hotel was booked and Kathryn would be waiting for me)? In the Prelude to this trip I stated that I would be cycling from Ljubljana to Palermo, approximately 1,200 miles. A number of generous donations had been made to The Brain Tumor Charity and I was going to make sure I’d keep my end of the deal.

First stop of the day was a beach bar in San Giorgio Magaro where I only sat down for a few minutes, having a chat with the guy working there about photography, cycling and Cinema Paradiso (I’ll come to that later). A complementary sports drinks added to water filled bidons and I was on the road again.
The road continued to deliver; little traffic, coast and railway line on the right, mountains on the left, occasionally a wiggly bit where it made it’s way inwards towards a ravine.

 A bit of the road before Cefalù was red on the map and I wasn’t sure if it would be okay. But it was almost deserted. A second quick stop, this time at Marina do Caronia for more water and a panini, followed by a short sharp climb back up to the coast road with someone driving past sticking their thumb up and shouting “Contador!” I flew up and was all set for my lunch stop proper at Cefalù.

Arriving in Cefalù, 100 or so miles in, I stopped for more food and water and got a few pictures. This was one of the locations for the film, Cinema Paradiso. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. The director, Guiseppe Tornatore, was born in Bagheria which I’d be passing though later, but used film locations in a number of parts of Sicily, also including Palazzo Adriano and Castelbouno, however all were hilly detours. I’d have to settle for Cefalù, which as it turned out was a beautiful town.

 The last water and Coke stop was near Termini Imerese after a huge climb and descent as the coast road came inland. I was now on the final run-in to Palermo.

As I got towards the east of Palermo, the traffic got really busy, there were stray dogs in the street and I was narrowly passed by a truck, so close that the expletives that came out of my mouth would warrant this blog an X-rated certificate. It then started to rain. Not exactly the end of the trip that I’d been hoping for. Regardless, I’d made it to Palermo, cycled 1,250 miles in 14 days and got the sign-post selfie to confirm it.

Once in the centre of the city I thought I’d add a fridge magnet to the collection then hop in a taxi, so heading towards the railway station seemed like a good location to cover both bases, however on the way there, I spotted a bus with a sign in the window ‘Alcamo Diretto’. Perfetto! I chased after the bus, hopped onto the pavement at some traffic lights and managed, somehow, to gesticulate ‘Can I take my bike on the bus?’ The bus driver stopped and and indicated to follow him which I did, at the next stop I got onboard, the bike stored underneath and soon I was in air-conditioned comfort on the autostrada.

Once in Alcamo, I headed to the hotel and rode straight passed Kathryn who was waiting outside for me. She walked back up to the hotel, we had a big hug, a lovely meal and added to the world Prosecco shortage crisis.

I’ve seen so much of Italy and had time to reflect on many things, most importantly, losing my parents to Cancer. My parents loved visiting foreign places, and as kids we got to live abroad and enjoy many exciting trips. These are days I look back on so fondly and reminisce today with my sister Corinne. One of the hardest parts of this trip has been, when something happens, thinking to myself ‘I must tell mum about this when I get back’ in the post holiday catch up, then realizing I can’t. But what I can say is, their love of travelling and sense of adventure, (they drove a VW Beetle back from Iraq in their 20s!) and their love of Italy, the country they spent their last holiday together, has inspired me to take on the challenge of ‘Slovenia to Sicily’ which I will be forever grateful.

There’s a number of people I want to thank, which without this trip would have been a lot tougher and maybe not happened at all.

Thank you to all the people along the way; the mechanic in the bike shop in Slovenia, the staff in all the hotels, the Scheda family and Jeremy the restaurant host in Casperia, Andrea from Lazio bikes, all the people at Bagna Antonio, Dion from Ischia Review, the staff at Cicliugolino in Salerno, Francesco my riding buddy on the Amalfi Coast. There’s so many more, I could go on.

Thanks to Team Finance at Brompton for keeping the place going without me, Andrew for helping put my bike together, James for the wheel-building, Dan, Steve, Lavinia, Gianluca, Emerson, Keith, Richard and Liz for the advice on parts of Italy and Slovenia, Tristan for the cardboard bike box.

Thanks for all the donations to The Brain Tumor Charity and all the words of encouragement.

Thank you to my sister, Corinne, for her support and encouragement and familiar voice at the end of the phone.

Thanks Kathryn, for your support on this trip, not only have you encouraged me along the way, you lugged my bike box and clean clothes out. Most of all though, the knowledge of you waiting in Sicily, spurred me on to cover the miles so we could spend a few days together relaxing in sun and share part of this journey together.

Finally, I want to thank my Mum and Dad. I miss them both desperately, but know the qualities they’ve passed on to me have both inspired me and provided a safe path along this epic journey.

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