She was only 10 years old and she had just won the “best crash” award. Our family was on a 140-mile cycling trip through Tuscany. Tuscany is robust with massive hills and we had spent every day going up most of the time, or so it seemed. Gaining altitude on a bike is really tough for me and on most of the steep inclines, my daughter rode in the van with our tour guide, which in Tuscany, means almost every day, for most of the day. I was so excited for the next day since that was going to be the only day with a long, steady decline and then flat riding for the rest of the day until we got to the village where our hotel was. I was excited for my daughter to be able to ride, and I was super excited for me. I couldn’t wait to enjoy the ride that day. The 99-degree weather with 100% humidity was draining all of us.
Desiree was one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. On her time off from her regular vocation she would plan to lead tours for this cycling company. My in-laws, husband’s step-sister and the five of us (my husband and three kids) met Desiree then, who was about to astound all of us a bit. Desiree drove the sag wagon, trailing and tracking the eight of us as we rode to make sure no one got lost on that day’s route. She would load all the bikes on top of the van by herself, probably faster than if we were all trying to help her. She spoke six languages and she knew all the best local spots to take us, one my daughter and I were about to discover unexpectedly, and will never forget.
The day was perfect, the sun rising high in the sky and we had headed out for the day we were looking so forward to. When on a group cycling trip, people have a tendency to separate, riding at their own pace, often pairing off. On days when my daughter was riding, either my husband or I would stay with her, of course, and this day, he was letting me take in my own pace. I was looking so forward to being able to ride since I was unable to do some of the steep inclines on previous days. As we rode, we held water bottles over our heads and poured cool water over our helmets. It was already hot enough that we needed to do that, but relief from the scorching sun came as we began coasting down the curvy road dipping in and out of the shady spots where the trees hung over.
With hardly a car in sight, we probably coasted down that hill for several miles, perhaps as many as ten, I really can’t remember. When I got to the bottom, I was met by a tiny market and a couple family members were already out front with a soda. I was just about to go in, when another family member came charging down the hill and directly to me in a hurry. My daughter had crashed and I needed to get back up the hill. From what I can remember, it was less than a mile back up to where she had gone over her handlebars, but it seemed like I was pedaling in slow motion.
Coming to one of the shady curves, she had slid into leaves and went right over the handlebars. She had a badly scraped arm and a hefty bruise where the handle hit her leg. Desiree pulled up right behind her when it happened since she had been following in the van and quickly began administering first aid. By the time I got there, she was placing the bandages on. Once she was all bandaged up and the bikes were back on top of the van, my daughter and I climbed in with Desiree. The rest of the family continued on their bikes.
I was certainly feeling very bad for my daughter, worried about her, and wondered if she would be willing to try to ride again at all for the rest of our trip, or if she would feel up to it. And, I was feeling a bit bad for myself too. I was going to miss the day with about 20 miles of flat riding.
Desiree chatted with us in the van and she drove us down the windy road, turned left past the little market where I had stopped, and she took us through the beautiful countryside. It was lunchtime and she clearly had a place in mind to cheer us up. It wasn’t long and we were at the most stunning, tiny village lined with cobblestone streets. Being from the US, I remember being astonished that we were driving on the cobblestone street and I was enraptured by its charm. We parked the van and walked across the street to the café that Desiree had in mind for us. We sat outside at a little table for the three of us, and ate lunch and talked and laughed. Desiree was so relaxed and at ease. She cheered my 10-year old daughter up even though she was hurting, and she wasn’t in a hurry to track the other riders. She was 100% focused on us, and this moment, this lunch, became one of our best and most favorite memories.
I’ll never forget this itsy bity café. I stepped inside to order and was surprised by the small space inside. I was so hot. The weather made sweat drip down our backs and I just couldn’t seem to cool down regardless of how much water I poured over my head. Desiree said I just had to try a Shakerato. And so I did. Oh my goodness. I have never had anything that has tasted as refreshing as this. With ice in a cocktail shaker, the barista added Italian coffee and sugar. Once shaken, he poured it into chilled martini glasses.
That day, my daughter crashed pretty bad and our plans were immediately changed, but we experienced one of the best moments on the entire trip because we had to get in the van. We ended up having lunch in a charming, cobblestone-lined village with buildings made of stone with our new friend, Desiree. When I got back home to the states, I bought a cocktail shaker, and I still make Shakeratos on hot days and think of that fantastic trip to Italy. And my daughter? Well, she got back on her bike two days later and finished with the rest of us. I was so proud of her, and she was proud of herself too.