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Wandering Loose in the Rain in Italy.

We are in constant danger of this

Over the mountains and through the woods.We spent the afternoon recuperating in our (unheated) hotel room, one or two steps above camping. Dinner was excellent pizza and a very good bottle of Pinot Noir.

Steeper than it looks

Up into cold, windy, wet mountains today. Tomorrow, more of the same. Saturday we ended in La Verna, miracle town.

Entering Badia Prataglia
Gabi and Monica singing

Gabi and Monica (Austrian) sing-at the table, in a church, in the forest. It’s quite magical.

Fording a river
Saint Francis was here

We are in La Verna tonight. This is a special place. It took us 10 hours of walking, two mountain ranges with a 4000 foot game total, a couple of miles in incredibly bad mud, but here we are.

Pilgrim dinner. Wow!
Monica and Gabi
Carolin and Utah

I have accumulated a great number of friends here, I have lots of people to visit on my next trip to Europe.

Wandering Way Loose in Italy

Laura and Giuseppe

Yesterday when I got lost, Giuseppe was in our finish town with his car. They were going home later. I had ended up on the other side of the Mountain, 25 km by road. I was very happy to see him pull up that little road in the rain.

A medieval pilgrim

We are staying in hotels and eating fine meals. This medieval pilgrim would have a significant chance of dying on his journey to Rome. Bandits, disease, and accidents were ever present dangers.

Modern day pilgrims

Giuseppe and Laura are gone now, but they were a huge part of our group. When I was a flight instructor in the Air Force in 1980, he was an Italian Air Force student pilot in my squadron. I never flew with him, but his flight instructor, came over to my flight to be my last flight commander (Connie Engel, in the first group of 10 women to be allowed into pilot training).

I didn’t take a lot of photos yesterday because of the rain and being lost an all. We spent the day in wooded mountains, peaceful and quiet with only the cuckoo’s call to break the silence. Today is a short day but lots of uphill.

Wandering Loose In Italy: Stia


We land in a village each afternoon. So far they qualify as quaint, slow, scenic; everything we want in the USA and don’t have. You can walk around here.

Rest Area

We came down long hill to a paved road, and there was this lineup of chairs for us. We took full advantage of them! It was a pretty hard day with lots of up-and-down and about 15 miles. Yesterday though was a lot more elevation, 3300 feet of up, and 18 miles, so I was still a little beat up from that. But at least when we started in the mornings, I feel good.


Last night at dinner we all ended up singing songs, Gayden sang “lounge” songs, two Austrian ladies sang clever sing-along songs, the Irish girls sang an Irish folk song, and our Italian friends sang Italian songs. It was absolutely a blast. We were all back together tonight at a restaurant so we’ll hear more songs. When I was arranging for a sandwich for Gayden this morning, because she didn’t stay in a hotel and there was no food in her hotel, I told the manager that she was the blonde who was sitting over there. And he said oh yes, the singer!

Austrian songs
Our “team”

Wandering Loose in Italy-UP -UP-UP!

We did 1020 m meters (3,300 feet) of up today, and about 15 miles horizontal. It was a hard day, but not painful! The weather was great, and we were in vineyards, Olive Groves, then forests of tall pine trees.

Medici bridge over the Sieve River

We started across this bridge this morning, which has held together for over 500 years. it was steady up all day today.

Sandwiches here are wonderful

We stopped about 1030 at a nice little place and got coffees. Then got some sandwiches to go, the only food available on this entire day. from the photos I have you think that the only thing we do is hang out at bars and restaurants.

Wine estate
Abandoned chapel
Rest break.

We are all looking at our phones because we’re trying to figure out the rest of the day, which is already been very hard.

Overlook enroute Hotel Miramonte.
Almost done walking. 7 hours!
The first beer is the best!

Wandering Loose In Italy: Firenze

Well, I saw none of the famous buildings from the inside in Florence, but I had a great meal of pasta pescadora with Chianti.

We are two Italians (more on them later), two Texans, one Irish woman, and a guy from Illinois. Turns out, he is the one who brought this group together.

Moi, Ann Marie, Gayden, Giuseppe, Laura, Kenton
Which map are we following, anyway?

We used the Cicerone book (Sandy Brown), Cicerone GPX track, way marking, Apple Maps, and common sense. We are at our first stop,, 24 kilometers.

We are on our way to Rome


I went to the Andover Tesco grocery store with Simon. Many familiar products, similar pricing, except the Italian wine, which is less expensive than H-E-B. But-Simon got a handheld scanner at the door, and scanned each product as he put it in the bag.

Tesco scanner

At the self checkout, the list of purchases transferred instantly into the payment system, and we were gone in seconds. Except that we still had to have a checker verify that he was of age to buy alcohol.


I learned what a henge is in an excellent interpretative center, then walked almost 2 miles on a path to the actual stones. (We could have taken a bus). When this was built, people had been living in the Texas hill country for at least 7,000 years. However, all they left behind were stone tools and points.

London Pride Bitter
May Fly Pub

Afterward we enjoyed a beer and chips at the May Fly Pub beside the Test River. I’ll be back to England in September with my sister Adele to rediscover our childhoods. I love England.

My hosts here -Simon and Ann Marie-have been fabulous. Ann Marie and I head to Italy tomorrow for the Way of Saint Francis. She is a friend from the trail in France. I hope I’m as enamored of Italy by the end of May as I am of England and France and Portugal.

Getting There

Enroute to Italy I am spending time in England. Yesterday I spent several hours with my longtime friend John and his partner Angie. We walked from his place (a boat) to Kew Gardens.

John and Angie

Then I successfully took the train to Andover, where I met up with Ann Marie and her husband Simon. We did some walking today on a public footpath in the hills.

Public trails on private property

Then we parked at Saint Martin’s Church and walked to a point to view Highclare Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed.

Downton Abbey behind me

We did about 6 miles yesterday and 10 today. They drive on the left side of the road here. It’s disconcerting.

Church built of flint
Break for tea and cake
It would be nice to have this place at Enchanted Rock
Tomorrow- Stonehenge

Subscribing to Wandering Loose in Italy

I have been messing around with my blog and found unpublished posts and a lack of widgets. I plan to post regularly on the Way of Saint Francis beginning May 1st, 2022. If you want to receive notifications about new posts, subscribe below. Note- you may already be subscribed; if so, it won’t take your email address.

Writing About War

I met with a couple of guys recently to share ideas about writing.  Each of us have experienced something we called “My War.”  One of us fought in Vietnam, one in Iraq, and I was in the Cold War.  They are very different stories, but we found much common ground.

Aooooga!  Aooooga!  Aoooga!  Klaxon Klaxon Klaxon!  Boots pounded on the pavement as I ran to my waiting KC-135 tanker.  A security policeman with an M-16 at the ready queried me with a code as we approached the jet.  I responded and climbed up the ladder into the right (copilot) seat, strapped in, and put the checklist on my lap, open to Start Engines.  The Aircraft Commander was already strapping in his seat to my left.  I started reading the checklist – Battery Switch – and the AC flipped the switch up and said, On.  Reserve brake pressure – Check.  I opened my side window and gave the signal to our crew chief, standing in front of the #4 engine with a fire extinguisher. Four’s clear.  The Navigator was in his seat right behind me, copying the coded message coming over the radio. Usually the message was Shut Engines Down.  Sometimes the message was Taxi, and as soon as we had all four engines running we would taxi the short distance to the end of the runway and wait for instructions.  No one I knew ever flew off alert.  We didn’t really talk about it.  Between the seats was a red notebook with SECRET on the cover, and it held our flight plan, our map and the point and time we were to meet our bomber.  It even had his call sign.

My war was the Cold War.  It was misguided and unnecessary and an enormous waste of money.  My part in it involved flying a big jet around the world refueling fighters and bombers, but most of my time was spent waiting for the blaring of the klaxon, perhaps announcing execution of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), colloquially known as World War III.  For a week or two each month I lived in the molehill next to a parking ramp where my airplane sat, loaded beyond safe limits, with fuel for bombers heading for targets on the other side of the world.  We were ready to be airborne in 8 minutes, after which our base, our families, our friends would be obliterated in a brilliant flash.  There, and in trips to other countries, the living conditions were very good.  It wasn’t scary very often, or even uncomfortable.  I was surprised to learn that the war would have an announced start time.  Once on Christmas Eve, we had freezing rain.  Rather than spend the money to de-ice our airplanes, SAC HQ agreed to delay the start of the war by one hour so we could de-ice.   I have parts of this story in my novel Awol 21, the story of an Air Force pilot.

Robert started writing his stories down in 1970.  Night ambush.  Search and destroy.  Living in the dirt.  Death and destruction were everywhere. For many it was terrifying.  He published Out of the Nam hoping that his story will help someone, especially another Vietnam veteran, particularly the guys waiting in line at the VA hospital with stooped postures and sad faces and a myriad of debilitating symptoms and diseases.  He shouts out, startling people walking by the library patio we are sitting on, “You didn’t deserve this!  You didn’t do anything wrong!”

Our other friend’s war was Iraq, a different place, but much the same.  Hot, dirty, violent, frustrating, endless, and often immoral.  He isn’t sure why he is writing just yet, but he knows he is compelled to, and he is a good writer.  I am excited to be in the loop on his story, to provide encouragement, and sometimes criticism.

The truth is important.  Governments lie about wars, making them sound necessary or inevitable.  It was true of the Cold War, it was true of Vietnam, it is even now true of the War on Terror.  The enormous suffering, destruction, death, and financial loss are beyond comprehension to me.  People often assume veterans are in favor of war.  Ask some who have been.



Weekend Edition – Of Writing and Riding, Stories and Horses — Live to Write – Write to Live

I don’t have a conscious memory of my first time on a pony, but I do have a photo. In the blue-tinted picture, I am three-and-a-half years old and sitting astride a shaggy, black steed named Cricket. I’m sporting a red bandana, and the look on my face says it all – this is love. […]

via Weekend Edition – Of Writing and Riding, Stories and Horses — Live to Write – Write to Live