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Location: Atop the Passo di Gavia, Italy
Why: Coffee, cookies, and refuge from the climbing
I walked in shivering, started taking off my clothes, and threw them over an old chair next to the wood stove, its glass a deep orange, my face wet and white. My jersey, soaked with my own sweat, then the rain. My cap, my gloves, my warmers. I laid them out in the melancholy hope they’d dry.
The woman and the man behind the counter didn’t care; this is probably something that happens all the time in the fall in Rifugio Bonetta atop the highest paved road in the Alps. I asked for two or three cappuccinos, I really can’t really remember. I ordered a cookie of some sort, there’s probably a better word for it than that in Italian. But I’d just climbed the Gavia once from Bormio, and was planning to go down its more famous side, then climb back up from Ponte di Legno. I was already wet and freezing.
The coffees arrived, decorated with care. I drank one fast. There were still riders coming in out of the cold from my group. My aunt stood next to the stove, taking her wool legwarmers off so that her skin could feel the heat.
I drank the second coffee slower, and crunched the sugar at the bottom between my teeth. Good. I rode off the back with Andy Hampsten a few moments later, through the rainclouds. It never stopped raining. We stopped again on the way up the second time. I did the same thing. More coffee. Always more coffee.
So often when we think of the meal, we think of the taste of the food, or the company we were in. But sometimes a meal is a break from the elements when you’re riding, a way to stop for 15 minutes and cobble together your thin courage before yet another 30-minute descent in the beating rain, in the icy mist that pastes your shins through your warmers. Sometimes, a meal on a bike is refuge, and little else. This is the place to find it. They’ll understand.
Back and forth over the Gavia >>