Thursday, April 26, 2012

Meh. Just, meh.

You ever have one of those weeks where nothing truly awful actually happens to you, but there's just a lot of little (and some not-so-small) things that add up to one big blob of suckage?

First off was the fleas. The indoor cats and Elias became absolutely overwhelmed in a matter of days. They are on Frontline and Sentinel and they were STILL covered in fleas. And by "covered," I mean I was picking at least a dozen fleas off Elias 2x/day. WTF? And, GROSS. We didn't want to dip the critters in pesticides and bomb the house, so instead we put down diatomaceous earth in the rooms with carpet. Unfortunately, DE is really dusty, so now the house is covered in dust. Then, when we went to vacuum up the DE (and dead fleas), we managed to clog the vacuum motor and filter. Hubby then spent an hour dismantling and cleaning the vacuum - awesome! We also dusted the critters 2x daily, so of course we had DE pretty much on every surface in the house. So now I feel like I live in a dust bin. Gross.

Even after bathing Freya (an extra opportunity for hubby to wear his chain mail), there were STILL fleas. We ended up with an "all-natural" spray that we soaked everyone with, which has FINALLY made a difference. We now seem to be down to a manageable number, with fewer every day. About damn time.

Unfortunately, that's not the only bug we've been dealing with. From time to time we'll see a scorpion, but usually it's one every few months. This week, we've seen four in as many days. As an extra bonus, I got stung by two of them (and one of the little bastards got me twice). Scorpion stings HURT. The first time I got stung, my hand went numb and it hurt for like 45 minutes. This makes the 5th time I've been stung, and luckily I seem to be building up an immunity - it really didn't hurt for more than a minute or two. But the worst part was one of them was inside a sweatshirt I put on (at 6:10 a.m., on my way out to feed the horses), and the little bastard stung me on the neck. It then proceeded to hang out in my hair, pincers and tail at the ready - I could see it in the mirror. Although I wanted to run down the hall screaming "GET IT OFF MEEEEEE!" like a little girl, I realized that it would probably only make things worse, so I calmly informed my (still sleeping) husband that I needed him RIGHT NOW DAMMIT, and to GET THE SCORPION THE FUCK OFF ME.

Yeah. Hell of a way to start the day. Funder, sorry, but your spider in the bathtub just doesn't compare.

Also? Saga feels off behind again/still. We have a vet appointment next Tuesday, where I will write a blank check and tell them to please figure out WTF is wrong with my horse (since the stifle injection a month ago apparently did absolutely no good) and fix it if at all possible. Or if it's not fixable, tell me what to do to help him heal. Did I mention that hubby is supposed to joust on Saga in the big Lysts on the Lake competition in two weeks? Awesome.

Oh and speaking of Saga, I was planning to take him and Cash to a dressage schooling show this weekend... except the show is full. Our entries didn't get in. So, no show for us. Maybe that's a good thing though, given everything else.

And finally... last week, a good friend of mine and former co-worker was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. It has metastasized across her torso, including her liver. A little time on Google shows that breast cancer involving the liver has a very, very poor prognosis, but my friend is choosing to fight it. She lives by herself but has an excellent support network, and I'm helping where I can. Yesterday I went and sat with her for six hours of chemo, and although she's in good spirits, she's really struggling physically. It's hard to see, and especially difficult when the individual involved is so kind and caring, and has been such a support and role model to so very many people. Life just isn't fair.

I also realized that she is the 10th person I've known personally with cancer, and the 6th with breast cancer. Jeez.

So on that note, go hug your horse, your spouse, your children... and go do something you've been meaning to do but just haven't found the time. Tomorrow may not turn out how you expect.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Because my vote actually counts for something

You'd have to live under a rock these days not to be aware of the upcoming presidential elections, and it seems like every time I turn on NPR (my go-to radio station for the drive to and from work), it's another story about someone's campaign, or some gaffe, or finances, blah blah blah. Yes, I care, but most of the time it feels like as an individual, I can't make a difference in politics at that level. I am absolutely there to vote in every election, but let's face it, I'm on the wrong side of the ticket in a very conservative state.

However, politics in our small town of 400 is very, very different. Here, every individual has a voice, literally. You can stand up at the podium in town hall, in front of the council, mayor, and other citizens, and voice your opinion. You can argue with other citizens. If you manage to sway the council members who actually make the vote, then you have just made a difference in the law. Ok, yes, it's for a small town, but the point is that you can actually have a say in politics. Heck, I could run for city council if I wanted! That is just too cool.

Anyway, we have an election next month for the mayor and two city council positions. This year, the hot topics of conversation are the city's water supply (we have an old well, but we also get water from the LCRA), the long-range financial plan (we don't have one), and, for us, whether horses will continue to be welcome in the city.

Two of the three individuals running for city council are horse owners, and keep their horses here in the city. Both of them live on our street, and we know them reasonably well. One of the candidates for mayor is a horse owner, but we don't know her at all. Tonight was meet the candidates night, and given the recent bruhaha around horses and how much the next elected officials could potentially affect our lives, we decided to go.

So we sat and listened. The candidates are really pretty similar in their views. Whether they are conservative vs. liberal isn't terribly obvious given the topics at hand, and frankly I don't care, as long as they make decisions that are going to be the best for the majority of the citizens in our city. It was also interesting to hear some of the people who asked questions - some were inflammatory toward our current mayor (who is running for reelection), some were sympathetic to her. Some folks were clearly "nosy neighbors" - one guy put up a slide show about a 12 inch deep hole on the trail that hadn't been filled in for a WHOLE WEEK, and he wanted to know how candidates would handle that sort of issue in the future. FFS, really? I guess there's at least one in every crowd! This same guy happens to be on the zoning planning committee, and that's the committee that will make the recommendation to the council about what to do about horses in town. Oooooh boy. We met some new folks, chatted with some that we already knew, and generally got the feel of things.

I remember the first time I voted in a national election, I chose my candidate solely on a single issue that was (and still is) very important to me. It's the sort of issue that if the candidate didn't support it, I wouldn't even consider voting for them. Well, I'd like to think that I'm a more thoughtful, considerate voter these days, who considers the whole "package" of the candidate rather than a single issue. Alas, in reality, our town's election all comes down to one issue for me: who is going to support my right to have horses on my own land. Kind of funny when you think about all the issues that will sway voters on at a national level - healthcare, the economy, the jobless rate, etc. Here I am, most concerned about keeping my horses at home.

I guess it puts things in some sort of perspective?

Monday, April 23, 2012

How not to wear a flymask (and... jousting!)

Have you ever noticed how putting a flymask (the kind with ears) on a horse is sort of like putting clothes on a baby? Stuffing horse ears in the right spot is rather akin to trying to get baby arms and legs into the proper sleeve or pantleg - they're bendy and flexy and move quite on their own, often independent of where you want them to go. A bit of perseverance, though, and you'll get it eventually.

However, apparently SOME horse thought that I didn't get his flymask on properly this morning, and it required rearranging.

Just landed: my four-eared space alien horse. 

Saga is definitely not allowed to dress himself. Ever. 

Now, on to the jousting part. Since hubby built a quintain at Wyvern Oaks, he's been out practicing on it almost daily - good thing too, since it's only two weeks till Lysts on the Lake, the big jousting competition. He's been working on getting Saga to run straight, keeping his rein hand low, and turning his body to target his opponent. The basic idea is to drop your lance into place and then let your opponent run into it, as opposed to trying to reach over and hit your opponent. It's hard to do from the back of a moving horse, especially one like Saga who is new to the sport. There's a lot going on, and it happens very, very quickly.

Saga's canter isn't as steady and rhythmic as it could be, and he's not straight. Hubby's hand is also much higher than it should be, which would ruin his shield presentation (causing it to go flat) if he had his shield on.

Reddums the Feerless War Pony demonstrates how to do it, with our friend NH aboard. NH commented on how easy it all is... nothing like having a made horse to do it on!

Sunday we hauled to the usual practice spot. I warmed Saga up for about 30 minutes before the hubby hopped on, which I think helped a lot. Saga had a few tiny issues with the armor, but settled right down. They started doing passes without lances down the lane, and Saga did really well. Hubby practiced lining Saga up and then just letting him go, instead of trying to control every step, which causes him to go sideways. He also worked on staying with Saga's launch, from halt to canter. It's much harder when you're wearing armor and your center of gravity shifts upwards 50 or 60 pounds.

Finally, NH put on some borrowed armor (he's new to the jousting thing, although he's a long-time and very good rider) and they got out the lances. They made about 6 successful passes with lances, and broke almost every time. An excellent successful practice!

Last-minute armor fixes before the joust.

Of course, I don't have any actual pics of the joust since I was handling horses and lances. Oh well, there will be plenty of the real thing in a few weeks.

 Back home, and Saga takes a well-deserved roll in the sand!

In case you're wondering why we're using Saga instead of Red to joust... Red is 14.2, and many of the horses that we joust against are 17+ hh draft horses. Here's what that looks like in an actual joust (bonus points if you can figure out which one is Reddums):

It's like Me and Mini-me.

Basically, if the horses are more than about 2 hands in height difference, it becomes really difficult (and somewhat dangerous) to joust. Saga, at 16.2, is just about right. He can still joust against horses that are Red's size, with no problem, but he can also go against an 18 hh draft. Of course, if anything happens and Saga's not up for the joust, hubby will switch to Reddums. It just means he's got a more limited number of people he can go against.

Oh, and this coming Sunday I've got a dressage show. I think I'm taking Saga in Hunter Versatility as well as one dressage class. Too bad they don't have a jousting versatility class... we'd rock that one!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I have NOTHING to wear!!!!

This weekend, there is a local hunter-jumper schooling show not far from me. I really, REALLY wanted to go, just for the hell of it. I was thinking about doing the 2’ beginner hunter classes. Because Saga jumps 2’ about like this:
WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Looks just like a hunter, doesn't he?

NOTE: Yes, I know, technically I’m not a beginner, because I’ve shown over 2’. But it’s been 12 years and it was on a different horse. And besides, I’m an eventer, so it doesn’t count. Right? Right.

 Probably this does not qualify me for the 2' beginner class, but let's pretend.

So I started chatting with my jumping instructor. I haven’t jumped Saga for about a month, but it’s not like he can’t jump and it’s not like it’s very high. Paige and I decide that it would probably work out.

(Translation: Paige would not have to go hide under a rock and pretend like she doesn’t know me if I decided to go to the show.) 

She didn’t have any lessons available this week, but I could come to the show grounds and school Friday afternoon. Uh, still mostly OK. I mean, I can hold it together with just one school the day before. Sure, no problem. Eventers are good at ‘getting around’ and ‘making it happen’.

But then we started to figure out the really tough issues:

Me: Should I wear my black jacket or my grey hunting tweed?

Paige: Wear your navy jacket.

Me: No navy. Black or grey.

Paige: ????? Wear the grey coat. With tan breeches.

Me: All my nice breeches are white. Full-seats.

 See? Black coat, white full-seat breeches. We look AWESOME in the dressage arena!

Paige: Full-seats are not allowed. You sure you don’t have anything tan?

Me: Well… I have one pair of tan breeches, but they suck.

Paige: Wear them anyway. And bring a brown bridle to match your jump saddle.

Me: Uhhhh… I have black bridles, or black bridles with white padding.

There was a long pause in our text conversation at this point. I’m pretty sure I could hear her eyes rolling, wondering WTF she had gotten herself into at this point. I did take a moment to check out Craigslist, where I found a nice used brown Stubben hunt bridle for $100. The inner tack whore in me wants that bridle…

Paige: I’ll bring you a bridle. 

Dammit, no new bridle for me. 

So, that’s why I’m not going to this H/J show this weekend: I don’t have a navy coat, nice tan breeches, or a brown bridle.  Fortunately, there’s a schooling dressage show NEXT weekend that we ARE going to. Hopefully THEY won’t mind my choice of attire.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The devil Saga wears Prada – and (almost) jousts!

Ok, just to clear up a few things: Saga is not the devil, and he’s not actually wearing Prada shoes. However, a pair of Pradas cost about the same as what I’m paying for the special vet farrier to shoe him. Of course, I’d probably buy a new pair of Ariat tall boots with that money instead of Pradas, but I digress.

Saga got front shoes put on last Thursday. Just plain, normal shoes, fronts only. His feet look pretty good, without having been rasped like crazy. And you know what? He’s 100% comfortable and happy with front shoes. He moves freely and strides out. He is comfortable in the pasture, comfortable under saddle. He’s alert and perky and interactive, instead of being sullen and in pain.

As much as I hate to say it, shoes seem to be the right thing for him. 

I’m not sure when exactly I became such a barefoot advocate, but I can’t say I’m terribly happy about him having to wear shoes. Probably it upsets me because it means there’s something I’m not doing right with his feed that is causing him to continue to have thin soles. I’m still arranging for a private nutritional consultation, but even if I get everything perfect, it will be the better part of a year before he’s got enough sole to be comfortable without shoes. At this point, I’m planning to leave the shoes on until he’s got thick enough soles to give barefoot another go. If that time is never despite everyone’s best efforts, then OK. At this point, I’m doing Saga a disservice by not having shoes on him. Such is life.

This Sunday, we took Red and Saga to a jousting practice about 1.5 hours away. It was a super windy day, with a massive storm system blowing in. As an extra bonus, there was a train track on one side of the pasture where we were riding. The train scared me more than it bothered Saga and Red, haha! Unfortunately, Saga had apparently completely forgotten all about armor, and had a couple of OMGWTF!!! moments when riders in armor went by. I rode him for about an hour with no armor, and we chased people wearing armor, watched others joust, and practiced going up and down the lane.  He gave me good, strong, balanced gaits in both directions out in the field, and did a great job standing at the entrance to the jousting lyst and stopping at the end. Unfortunately, the actual lyst was a single rope with no counter-lane, and he did a lot of crazy lateral stuff lovely half-passes going down the lane. Definitely not ideal, but he got straighter (and stopped looking at other riders in armor) as time went on. 

The hubby took Reddums and jousted on him. Reddums was, of course, the star attack jousting pony. As usual, he got antsy waiting for the run, and was a little crooked down the lane. However, we had an experienced show jouster there who suggested that the hubby push his rein forward going down the lane, and really let Red go. Red ran straight and true after that, so it was an excellent learning experience for everyone. 

The hubby also learned that he needs to work on targeting and shield presentation. His shield tends to hang a little to the side, instead of straight on, which makes him a harder target. You want to present a good, fair target to your opponent, so this is really important. We’re working on changing how his shield is strapped so he won’t have to worry about it so much, and we’ll also be doing some work on the quintain to improve his aim. He got some great tips from the show jouster, so he’ll be working on that as much as possible. After all, Lysts on the Lake is only a few weeks away!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Spring cleaning continues

It seems like we've been doing spring cleaning/tidying since, like, February. Mostly because it got warm then, so we've been outside doing yard stuff ever since.

With the warmth and the rain (we're still in drought, just not as severe), it seems like we can't keep up with mowing, and the horses can't eat fast enough either. To make matters worse, we managed to shred the drive belt on the mower, and naturally we have to order a new one online since Lowe's and Home Depot don't carry the belt for our model tractor.  So, hubby finished whacking down some nasty thistles (before they went to seed) with the bushhog attachment on our weed-whacker. Not the most efficient method, but it works.

Picture it like a light saber, killing giant weeds.

We still have a bunch of other places that we need to trim, mostly around fencelines and such.  We're hoping to get it done before a massive storm system hits, but who knows if we'll make that timeline. There are so many other things to get done!

The composted manure has almost all been spread - I've got about 6 more wheelbarrows to go. The stuff we spread a couple of weeks ago has almost all been grown over, which is awesome! Tomorrow we're going to take the last of the uncomposted stuff to our friends who take our manure, and then we'll be able to start a new big pile to compost for next year. I just wish I had a better, less labor-intensive system for dealing with manure. I don't have a place to store manure for four horses for the 6+ months it takes to compost, and it's really quite time intensive to spread it, one wheelbarrow at a time, once it has finished composting. On the other hand, I really want to use the manure to put nutrients back into the soil. I've considered trying a couple of different options - manure spreaders (REALLY PRICEY!), using the chickens to speed up the compost and spreading process, etc. - but haven't gotten around to trying them. Maybe soon.

Speaking of chickens, we cleaned out the coop today. We spread the used shavings all over the back pasture, aided in part by very gusty winds! We used the spent hay that the horses have left around the track to re-bed the coop. We have quite a lot - apparently the boys have been picking the alfalfa and tastier bits out of the hay and leaving the rest. It's annoying to have so much wastage, but I guess we are reusing it as chicken bedding, after which it will go into the compost pile, so it all gets used eventually.

We also FINALLY pressure-washed the trailer. With the water restrictions for the drought, we haven't been able to wash any vehicles for over a year. While we're still under restrictions, we were able to quickly wash the trailer. Yay!

 Dirty vs. clean. Makes a huge difference, no? (PS. My husband is awesome and I love him very much!)

A friend of ours had some volunteer cottonwood trees, which he very kindly gave us. The trees are native to Texas, grow very quickly, and are one of the largest North American hardwoods. We really wanted to plant some trees for additional shade, as well as to replace several trees which have died since we bought Wyvern Oaks. These guys should be 30 feet or so within 2-3 years, which will be fantastic!

 Already 6 feet, and it just sprouted this spring!

 We also ended up with a few "blind" (that is, no spines) prickly pear cacti. They're a good start to our succulent planting!

 Maddy spent quite a lot of her day supervising.

 Today I also *almost* finished the never-ending weeding project that is our patio. I keep weeding... and weeding... and weeding... and then new weeds start growing where I already weeded. Dammit.

 But it's looking better.

I also spent some time working on the garden. The onions were a big fail this year, only producing tiny bulbs. The broccoli grew really well, but produced tiny florets that promptly went to seed. However, we've had a bumper year for lettuce and spinach, so much so that we're pretty sick of salads.

Lettuce, lettuce, and more lettuce. Good thing I have an excellent recipe for a homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing!

I had planned to purchase some tomatoes this year, but ended up with over two dozen volunteers and decided to go with them instead. Today I tied up the largest ones and moved some of the smaller ones around. It's a little challenging since I'm planting around the lettuce, which will soon go to seed when it gets a little warmer.

 I also dug up the potato plants that weren't doing to well, and found 16 potatoes!!! Not too bad. I ended up replanting the potato plants in another bed, since each plant still had a number of little thumb-sized potatoes on it. Maybe they'll grow with a bit of TLC and more water (the original beds dried out too quickly).

Tomorrow we are supposed to go joust, but we've got severe thunderstorms, high winds, and hail forecast for the day. Somehow sitting in a thunderstorm, in metal armor, while riding a horse just seems like a really bad idea. If we end up staying home, it'll be more spring cleaning... inside, though!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Saga is one of those hothouse flowers who gets twitchy if a fly so much as buzzes three feet from him. This year has been particularly bad for flies, so I've been putting fly sheets and fly masks on the boys since February. However, poor Saga has been stomping almost non-stop - despite being drenched in fly spray and slathered in SWAT - and he's just been miserable. I finally bit the bullet and ordered some additional gear for him, and it arrived today (THANK YOU State Line Tack for taking TWO DAYS to get my order to me, even though I only paid $6 for "regular" shipping. Y'all ROCK!)

Armored to the max with his Cashel fly mask (from last year), new Cashel fly boots, and new Horsewear Amigo fly sheet.

It's what all the cool kids are wearing!

So far I am SUPER impressed with both the Cashel fly boots and the Amigo sheet. The Cashel boots are super sturdy, but soft, and they are form-fitted. The velcro is extra sticky and there's elastic too, so it's easy to get them just the right amount of tightness. Saga stopped stomping by about 95% as soon as I put these on him, so they get four hooves up from him.

The sheet is really nice too. Soft, but you can feel it's a sturdy material. I love the way Horsewear does their closures, and this one is no exception. The chest closure has a double velcro fastening with a tab to make it easy to open - no annoying buckles that gape in the front. The neck is quite long and covers very well, even when the horse is grazing. The neck closures are a very sturdy velcro through a metal tab - super sticky but also easy to get open when you need to. There are no leg straps, just the standard crossed straps under the belly, so two less things to do up, which is nice. If this sheet holds up, it will be very much worth the $70 I paid for it, and I would definitely not hesitate to buy another.

In other news, Red sports his Weatherbeeta fly sheet from two years ago - still holding up well. I like these sheets, but I like the Amigo better. Cash has a tacky cheap sheet, but it's more for sun protection than flies. We'll see how it does.

What are you doing to battle flies this year?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cash is such a good schpotted pony

I've been a little down since getting home from our trip - Saga is lame lame lame, even just out in the pasture. His digital pulse has returned to normal (it was pounding before I left due to a change in feed, but I quickly changed him back), but now even boots aren't helping him much at all. So, I bit the bullet and made an appointment for Thursday with the vet farrier to get him shod in the front.

I know, I know. I'm still working out the nutrition angle, but even if I get everything perfectly balanced, it'll be months before proper nutrition lets him grow a sole that is thick enough for him to be comfortable. I don't have enough conformable surfaces to support him during that time, and I just can't stand watching him limp around the pasture. Shoes it is.

It sucks.

ANYway, I figured a ride would do me some good, so I tacked up Cash tonight and off we went. I decided to do a little real work with him, to see he how he's doing. Andrea's notes on cantering Pangea to warm her up reminded me that I used to warm Cash up with a little canter early on, so we did some nice long canters (both leads) on a good straightaway on our way to the arena. I could tell that the canters really helped him be more forward-thinking and supple right off the bat; I'll have to keep that in mind for future warmups.

We did a good bit of trot work each direction, mostly just 20 and 15 m circles. We did a little shoulder-in at the walk, then threw in a few canters each way. He felt really, really good - very responsive and quite forward, where lately he's been pretty lazy. He's stiff, yes, but he's going to be 24 this coming Saturday, so I'll cut him some slack! I had no problems getting him round even in just the sidepull, although to the left we had more trouble keeping it. We finished the ride with a few leg yield to canter departs, which were brilliant as always. He was maybe a little slower to depart on the left lead, but he was very uphill and balanced the whole time.

Damn, I love riding him!

He was a little warm after (it as 85 today), so we took the long way home. This involved passing up the trail to the short way home, and he then spent the next 10 minutes trying to convince me that I'd made a terrible mistake and we were LOST IN THE WOODS and were going to DIE.

Are you SURE this is the way home? I think that time driving in Italy has really messed with your sense of direction, mom.

I've been toying with the idea of going to a schooling dressage show at the end of this month. I could take Cash and Red if I can't take Saga - it would be fun to see if we can fake out the judge with a gaited horse. I'm trying to convince MC to ride Cash regardless... we'll see!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Home again, and last pics of Italy

We arrived home this weekend from our trip. We really enjoyed our time in Italy, but it's good to be home!

We spent our last two days in Sienna and in Florence. I didn't have very good Internet access either day, so here are the last pics.

 On the road to Sienna, we discovered that they include signs for the most important things at each exit. Gas, food... and espresso. Natch.

 The interior of the duomo in Sienna. It's known for the amazing black-and-white striped marble. Beautiful!

 One of the many frescoes in the duomo. Of course I took the picture of the one with the horse ;)

 On the way back from Sienna, we stopped at an Etruscan tomb. The word "Tuscany" comes from Etruscan.

We also visited a museum that had a number of finds from the tomb. These pottery vessels are perhaps 3 inches tall... so amazing to see the delicate artwork on something so small, and so old! It's not hard to see how this region became famous for its pottery.

 The agrotourismo where we stayed had a tractor made by Lamborghini. The hubby now wants one, but only if it comes in a red convertible model.

 View from the second floor of the Uffizzi Palace in Florence. The building at the end, with the tower, is the Castle Vecchio, home to the Medici family for hundreds of years. The Uffizzi houses many of Italy's most famous works of art, so we spent a lovely morning staring at incredible art. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside. 

 Beautiful interior courtyard in the Castle Vecchio.

 Everything in the castle was painted. The ceiling is on the arcade surrounding the courtyard.

This is the main meeting room in the castle. When Florence declared itself an independent republic, all 1700 citizens of Florence gathered in this room to witness the signing of the document.

 One of the paintings in the main meeting room, depicting some medieval battle where Florence was victorious (of course).

 The palace is home to many of the Medici treasures. This is an inlaid curio cabinet, with the inlay done with marble from the region (yes, all those tiny details are ROCKS. The geologist-husband loved it!)

There was an amazing map room, with every map from the mid 1600's, of the entire earth as it was known at the time. The detail on each map was incredible.

 Here's the detail from Egypt. You can even see the tiny pyramids next to Cairo!

 Another amazing painted ceiling - this one was original from when the castle was built in the 1400s.

And finally, the first of our many plane rides home. Ciao, Italy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tips for driving in Italy (or, how not to die in a fiery car crash)

Driving in Italy is... different. In a nutshell, you should drive like you own the road and show no fear. Here are a few tips we've compiled:
  • Never, EVER hesitate - people will just honk if you do.
  • Drive as fast as you can, regardless of the posted speed limit.
Yes, you should go a minimum of 90 kmph around this hair-pin turn. Really!
  • Actually, you need to go the posted speed limit in certain places. Fortunately, they are clearly marked.
This is your warning...

Go the speed limit. Right. Here. (If you're a true Italian, you slam on your brakes just before this, then speed up immediately after).
  • Maps are useless. Make it up as you go.
  • Street signs are somewhat more useful, but you have to know where you are going to be able to get there
I wonder which way to Firenze (Florence)?
  • If you miss the first option for getting to a particular place, don't worry, you'll have other opportunities.
It doesn't matter which way you go, you'll end up in Firenze!
  • Parking on the sidewalk is perfectly acceptable.
 Look, even my hubby can do it!
  • The road doesn't actually ever end, it only looks like it does.

Just keep driving...

In addition to these handy tips, we've included a list of road signs and our interpretations of them, as well as a few driving situations.
If you think the road is narrow now, just wait! It gets narrower ahead!

This road is only minimally turny and twisty. It gets much worse in 700 meters.

Left! GO LEFT!!!!

Italians also have creative ways of combining signs. I believe this one means "don't fall off the road while trying to avoid leaping deer."

"Fire hydrant after the turn."

"To avoid falling rocks, swerve a lot."

"If you don't have snow tires, you're going to swerve off the road and die."

"If it's raining or snowing, you're going to swerve off the road and die." (At this point, we just abandoned hope.)

"Jumping deer going 50 kmph. You should be going at least this fast."

And my personal favorites:

"Boobs ahead."

And of course...

"Don't run off the road when you're staring at the boobs ."