VS. A Trip of Non-Tragic Disasters

Posted 7/24/2016.

Dee says she is the master of non-tragic disasters. A non-tragic disaster is a sudden serious problem that can be resolved with some effort. Nobody dies, there’s no major property damage like a house burning down or a car being totaled. You’ll see what I mean as the story develops.

Dee and I went to Italy in 2009; you can read about that trip on line at paulanddee.us/Italy/. We had rented a small station wagon; I would transfer from wheelchair to passenger seat and Dee would load the luggage and my chair into the back. It was difficult but we were able to manage and we had a great time.

This time we were going for fun and to attend the World Ducati Week (WDW). It was actually just a weekend this year — Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I had never been to one and wanted to go at least once. Since this is a motorcycle blog I’ll omit most of the non-cycle parts. If you want to read a full narrative about an Italian adventure see the description of the 2009 trip at paulanddee.us/Italy/.

Fiat ducato 9 bluerental
The Fiat Ducato we rented. The ramp is steeper than it looks. The van is big for Europe, larger than a Ford E150 for example.

Things have changed since 2009. Damage to my shoulders makes it very painful to transfer or push myself around. We asked Dee’s son Russ if he wanted a free trip to Italy in exchange for helping me get around. He said yes pretty quickly and asked if he could bring his girlfriend Kim along for part of the trip. OK with us. We rented a van with a ramp so I could travel without having to transfer. They took out the central seats so there’s room for luggage but I have to be strapped down in the rear.

The original itinerary was to spend three days in Venice, drive to Bologna and spend three days there, then to Florence for three days. Kim was going to fly home from Florence and Dee, Russ and I would go to the Adriatic Coast for WDW, on July 1-3. Finally on the 4th we would go back to Venice and fly home on the 5th. We almost kept to our original plan.

It was hot in Venice, temps in the 90s. On day two we went to Murano Island to see a glass working demo and do some shopping. Our first disaster struck here — Dee lost her cell phone at one of the water bus stops. This was really sad, all her pictures — and she had some nice ones — were gone. The phone can be replaced but not the photos.  All the proper authorities were notified and a reward was offered for its return but alas no response.

After Venice we drove to Bologna. We arrived on Friday, which was a scheduling mistake. We were too late for a Ducati factory tour and there are no tours on the weekend. The Ducati museum was closed for remodeling. We did get a quick meeting with Livio Lodi, the museum curator. I gave him a signed copy of my book. Livio was very busy with the remodel and his shirt was soaked with sweat (did I mention that it’s hot?). He let us take a quick look at the museum still in the remodeling stage. We saw lots of white walls with stuff that will be hung on those walls sitting on the floor.

Livio said the museum, which was almost completely oriented toward racing, will now include more about production bikes. What we saw looked pretty interesting. Even though there’s nothing to do at Ducati there is plenty of stuff in and around Bologna, so we were tourists for the weekend.

On our way out of Bologna to Florence we detoured to Borgo Panigali and took the Ducati factory tour on Monday morning. Well worth the time it took.

There was lots of fun stuff to do in Florence. We had our second non-tragic disaster though. Kim missed her Thursday morning flight home and couldn’t get a replacement flight until the next day. We ended up staying another day in Florence and missed the first day of WDW. Kim got off OK on Friday morning and the three of us headed for WDW.

passo del Muraglione Color
The road over Passo del Muraglione (in lower center). Plenty of curves and good pavement  made it a very nice motorcycle road. There were terrific views at key spots.

From Florence we went to Gabicci Mare. It’s on the Adriatic coast near the Misano racetrack, site of the WDW. We decided to spurn the autostrada and took Strade Statale 67 over the Passo del Muraglione. Wow. What a great motorcycle road. We stopped at the pass and had lunch at the bar/snack shop there. There were picnic tables under some pines and a great view. We chatted with some of the motorcyclists who are also pausing there. There were quite a few Ducatis, but other brands as well – several BMWs and a Triumph, for example. The bar owner turned out to be a great motorcycle fan, with a tattoo of the Isle of Man logo on his arm. Above is a Mapquest image of the part of the road that led up to the pass and down the other side.

When we unpacked at Gabicci Mare we discovered a suitcase was missing. This was a big deal because it’s the one with my medicines. Did we leave it in Florence? We partially unpacked the van at the pass so I could get out. Was it left behind there? Russ called around and discovered it was at the hotel in Florence. Sigh. Non-tragic disaster number three. Russ really proved his worth. He found a pharmacy that sold some of the meds I need, so I won’t be going completely cold turkey on Saturday. He dropped Dee and me off at WDW before driving to Florence and back to fetch the suitcase.

We had a mixed day at WDW, some good stuff but exhausting. It was still very hot so we ducked into the Ducati University building for the air conditioning. We listened to a lecture on the new enduro variant of the Multistrada.


The Scrambler Contest winner and the team from Thailand. Photo by Dee.


They had a pretty neat setup – the lecture is in Italian but we got a small unit with headphones where a simultaneous translation into English was happening.

Later we got to see a final judging of the top five bikes in the customized Scrambler contest. There were bikes from Poland, Canada, Australia and Qatar(!). The winner was a bike from Thailand, a Scrambler bobber. I liked it except it needs a rear fender. But then it wouldn’t be a bobber, eh? There was a pretty nice Museo tent with some cut-away engines and bikes from the past.

Being Recognized

The guy on the left is the one who recognized me; his pal is in the center. I’m looking down at the phone trying to hit the right button without putting my finger on the lens.


We found a spot in one of the tents for food and Dee got in the line while I found table space. As I’m waiting for her someone sitting nearby asks, “Are you Paul Ritter? AMA Superbikes?” He didn’t speak English very well, but well enough. He made a hand gesture of long hair, so I knew he actually saw me race or saw photos somewhere. I had waist–length hair in those days, braided and tucked into my leathers, but it always managed to escape during the races. He and his pal took selfies with me, so I took one too, and gave them signed postcards. Dee got back with the food and we all get introduced around. It was fun.

We were beginning to struggle, as most of the displays are on platforms about four inches high, and there were very few ramps. It was a lot of work for Dee, even though people were always willing to help. It was hot. There was lots of loud amplified music to go with the party atmosphere of WDW. I guess I’m getting to be an old fogy as most of the stuff was just a pounding beat. No subtlety to it, great for dancing I guess, but finding a quiet spot to rest was difficult. We were looking for Paul Smart. We found our pal Vicki Smith in the International Owners Club tent but apparently just missed Smart.

Late in the afternoon we heard from Russ that he was back from Florence. Finding him was tricky but we finally made connections and we went back to the hotel.

Paul Smart book

Paul Smart getting a copy of my book “Racing the Gods.” Photo by Dee.


Sunday we returned to WDW so Russ would have a chance to see it, after driving all day Saturday to fetch the suitcase. It was a little cooler than Saturday and with Russ to push me around we are managing better. We finally did find Paul Smart, and his wife Maggie as well. After the ritual signing and presenting of books Paul, Russ and I settled down to a good session of motorcycle chat, sometimes called bench racing. Dee struck up a conversation with Paul’s wife Maggie and out of the corner of my eye I saw Dee showing Maggie the picture in the book of our wedding. Later Dee tells me about their conversation. It seems that Paul and Maggie got married and the next day Paul had to fly to South Africa for a race. When the race team found out that Paul was a newlywed they pooled together enough money to fly Maggie there to be with her new hubby. A nice story. All in all we talked for over an hour. It was a delightful chat that made up for the discomfort of Saturday.

Bench Racing

Smart, myself, and Russ Granger talking about (what else?) motorcycles and racing. Paul’s a great storyteller and he’s got lots of them. Photo by Dee.


Monday we left Gabicci Mare to return to Venice to drop off the van and get our flight home. We didn’t go onto the islands but stayed on the mainland in a very new hotel near the airport. We had agreed to pack so that only one suitcase each would be needed and the rest left in the van. A good plan but it failed. Before dinner Dee was hauling all the other suitcases into the room. What!? Why?

Dee had taken the van keys to get something and discovered the van was unlocked. Then, while fetching the item from her suitcase, the keys disappeared. They might have fallen into the suitcase or they might be somewhere in the van. It’s dark and she can’t find them. Dee can’t lock the van because the keys might be in the van. She can’t leave the suitcases in the unlocked van, and it’s too dark to do a proper search of the suitcase that was opened. She has to lug all the luggage, suitcase by suitcase, up to the room.

The room is well lit and she eventually finds the keys in the suitcase. Another non-tragic disaster. We made it into the restaurant ten minutes before it closed. After all that drama the trip home was pretty tame.

Will we be traveling to Italy again? I don’t know. I’d like to see the remodeled Museo at the Ducati factory, so maybe. We’ll see.