It's December 7th, 2018. I left home at 6:40 in the morning. Around two degrees Celsius, thick fog as it is customary around here. Three layers under the leather jacket, touring pants bought around twenty years ago that are a bit tight (I'd like to say I'm fitter than I've ever been, but the waist size doesn't seem to notice), two sachets of hand-warmers to stuff inside my winter gloves.
Off I go, leaving the town still tucked in bed. I will not see another motorbike today until I'll get to Guareschi in Parma for the first service of my Moto Guzzi V7, the one that will finally allow me to crack the throttle wide open without the fastidious blinking red light commanding me to switch gear.
Yesterday my friends told me that surely I was going to crash, because with near-zero temperatures and wet leaves on the twisty roads, what else can you expect. What I did was a beginner's mistake, obviously; I showed them my grand plan, with a nicely manicured itinerary drawn in the safe comfort of my office that would have taken me from Milano to Parma without ever touching the motorway (sometimes it seems that all my motorcycling life revolves around this, avoiding motorways whenever I can, because really, there is no greater sin than riding a motorbike along a straight line with lunatics driving boring Audis over the speed limit while fucking around on their phones).
Yes the error was mine; I thought my friends could share the excitement but what they saw was only a colossal fuck-up waiting to happen.
Well that was the grand plan. The reality is this: right after I start I decide to take the motorway because I really couldn't see shit with all the fog, and at least I will not have to guess which way the road would go (the motorway goes straight down to Parma).
I stop after 10 minutes because my fingers are freezing. I open the hand-warmers but they don't seem to work. Is there a way to activate the heat release? I twist and squeeze and punch but cold they remain. I put them inside my gloves anyway, maybe later they will start to work (they will start to work in fact, but the heat is not sufficient to warm up the tip of my fingers). After another 30km I stop again, the fingers are surely frozen and I will be the first idiot with frostbite from acute motorbiking sickness. Guess what, they're not frozen yet. I warm them up using the cylinders of my Guzzi as a stove.
Finally I arrive to Piacenza and despite the awful start, I still have faith in the day. I leave the motorway and go down south trying to retrace my original itinerary. I ride the SP654 to the south deep down in Val Nure until I get to Bettola; the sun comes up and the fog disappears. It's still cold but the mood is up; sunshine is the best drug ever.
I take time, I refuel, then I ride to Farini, where I take a detour because continuing on the SP654 to Boli then taking the SP8 to Le Moline then Montereggio, Carpana, Bardi and get to Parma by eleven seems to be too optimistic even for me.
So from Farini I take a little twisty, narrow and broken road up to Groppallo which cuts off the larger loop and allows to rejoin my original itinerary in Bardi where the roads will open up and become faster, running along the river Ceno.
The ten kilometers from Bettola to Farini are a promise of fun that will have to wait the spring to be tasted, likewise going up to Groppallo, but honestly, this is almost fun if I stop to reason in terms of lean angle=fun and just enjoy the very slow and tentative trajectory I trace with my Guzzi.