Desert Skies, Warm Showers and Church Bells

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Monday 25th January 2021

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 265: Desert Skies, Warm Showers and Church Bells


HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Donna Tocci and Sylva Florence

TOPICS: Solo cycle touring. Donna and Carlton chat with Sylva who — among many other bike trips — rode solo from Berkeley, California to St. Augustine, Florida on Adventure Cycling’s Southern Tier Route. Carlton was in Newcastle, Donna was in Boston and Sylva was in — as you will hear thanks to some melodious bells — a small town in Italy.


Sylva’s website: The Sylva Lining

Sylva on Instagram

Warm Showers hosting

“Penny” — Sylva’s bike, a Dahon Tournado

“Dirty South”

242km Tour des Stations, Switzerland


Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge

Carlton’s Kickstarter tips for crowdsourcing a book or other projects

Our show sponsor: Jenson USA


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to episode 265 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast. This show was published on Monday 25th January 2021

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at And now, here are the spokesmen.

Carlton Reid 1:08
I’ve got a good mic but have yet to fully soundproof my home office so if you listen carefully you may be able to hear, as the white noise beneath my voice, birdsong and the distant rumble of traffic but later in this not-quite-an-hour-long show you won’t be craning your neck to hear a wonderfully different smattering of extraneous audio. I’m Carlton Reid and on this episode of the Spokesmen podcast you’re going to hear — for a wee while at least — some Italian church bells. They’re the sweet sweet background noise that comes as a package with my guest Sylva Florence who’s an American living in a small Italian town near Bologna. Joining me to quiz Sylva about her solo cycle touring is show stalwart Donna Tocci.

Carlton Reid 2:03
Hi to everybody. It’s another recording of the Spokesmen. It really isn’t the men today. It’s it’s the spokes people very much. And I’m outnumbered In fact, very happily to say I’m very outnumbered. We’ve got one guest who is a regular, who you’ll have heard many, many times over many, many years. I can’t say how many years but a good number of years. And then we’ve got a complete newbie to the show. So that person who is the old hand, but I haven’t talked to for ages. I’m afraid to say it is Donna, Donna Tocci over in Massachusetts.

Donna Tocci 2:40
Hi, everybody. I don’t know this old you said old like five times. And I’m not really sure that what that means. But yes, Carlton and I have known each other for a very long time.

Carlton Reid 2:52
It’s not so old that you can get a vaccination that we know you

Donna Tocci 2:57
No, I’m not that old. And we haven’t known each other that long. But yes, Hi, everybody. I’m so excited. I thought we would do more spokesmen, you know, with everything going on in the world and everybody being in their home, but we haven’t. So it’s really great to be back

Donna Tocci 3:12
with us. I know that’s so cool.

Carlton Reid 3:16
To be fair, and to give an explanation that is just still so difficult to get everybody you know, it’s herding cats stuff, it’s getting everybody in the same place at the same time, even though every is in the same place.

Carlton Reid 3:29
By by law almost. It’s still difficult to track people down. So Hi there, Donna, it’s good to hear you again. And the new guest who who we want to bring in today and who we’re gonna kind of like semi interrogate is Sylva Florence, hi Sylva.

Carlton Reid 3:48
You’re American, but you’re not in America.

Sylva Florence 3:51
No, I’ve been living in Italy now for almost three years.

Carlton Reid 3:54
So why Why are you in Italy? And where are you in Italy?

Sylva Florence 3:59
I am very close to Bologna so northern North Central Italy, but I’m in a town called Faenza, which nobody knows about. And most people confuse with the, with Florence — Fiorenze —, which is more more known.

Sylva Florence 4:16
I came here first in 2009 to be a cycle tour leader. But it was always kind of like

Sylva Florence 4:25
seasonal work. And I kept going back and forth but I had something that kept pulling me back to Italy. So eventually I decided okay, it’s time I’m gonna come here and study language and and try and stay so

Sylva Florence 4:39
I’ve been here about almost three years in May now.

Carlton Reid 4:43
And which which companies, if any, we are actually doing bike tours for?

Sylva Florence 4:48
The company is called Experience Plus, and our clients are mostly Americans, Canadians, some, some Brits and some Australians, but largely English speaking people.

Sylva Florence 5:00
So, obviously in the last year, we didn’t have anything we had no seasons. So

Sylva Florence 5:07
yeah, yeah, but I do like a lot of English speaking people over here in Italy, I do a lot of things. So I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to still kind of

Sylva Florence 5:18
make ends meet even though I haven’t had any, any bike touring over the last year.

Carlton Reid 5:23
So we are gonna be talking very much bike touring so so Sylva got in touch with me and gave me her backstory, which is fascinating about that the cycle touring, which will go on to, but I’m now going to drop Donna in here and just say, you know, drop her in it really is have you done any cycle touring Donna? Have you read any cycle touring? What is your connection to cycle touring, so if any?

Donna Tocci 5:46
Sylva is my new connection to cycle touring

Donna Tocci 5:54
and she’s in Italy, so when we can travel again, I am all on board. But I love I can totally understand the pull of Italy. Obviously, my last name means that I have an Italian heritage. So I was wondering, actually, I would like nothing better than to tour around Italy. Um, that would be wonderful. But no, I do not have any prior cycle touring experience, but very happy to hear about it and learn about it. And

Carlton Reid 6:25
let’s go to Italy. Well, let’s let’s get your Italian background then. So how far back is your, your heritage there? Ms Tocci?

Donna Tocci 6:35
Um, my great grandfather and great grandmother both were from Italy. So not that far back and down near in Naples.

Carlton Reid 6:46

Carlton Reid 6:48
and have you been Do you do do you go back and have you been back?

Donna Tocci 6:51
No, I have I have only been to Italy once I am sorry to say it was actually on a press tour for Kryptonite. So there we go with the mic but and and we were we’re in a couple of different cities but then spent the weekend up at Lake Garda for there was happened to be a mountain bike festival up there at the time, and went up there and hung out with mountain bikers for the weekend. And yeah, it was beautiful. I mean, I it’s always been on my list to go back and especially go back to that area.

Sylva Florence 7:22
It’s beautiful.

Carlton Reid 7:22
So for sure. So one of the theories that many people are touting and certainly in the tourism sector is that there’s going to be such an aptitude for travel, after these lockdowns have finished and that could be travelling all sorts of different forms, including bicycles, but certainly people are going to be wanting to get out of their four walls. And, and travel. So don’t Is that something you are? Definitely, if you’re thinking about that right now? Yes, we are absolutely thinking about the first place we will go.

Donna Tocci 8:01
When we’re done. And I think for us, it will be it won’t be Italy, unfortunately. But fortunately, it will probably be Ireland because my better half.

Donna Tocci 8:10
And the bigger cyclist in this family is from Ireland originally. And his family is there. So we will probably go there first.

Carlton Reid 8:20
You might be racing your president.

Donna Tocci 8:23
What’s that?

Carlton Reid 8:24
You might be racing your new president because he’s he’s got Irish ancestry and he looks like he’s gonna be going to Ireland pretty soon.

Donna Tocci 8:31
He does. I know. I’ve seen that and a cycling president. Well, yeah. But with the the big controversy now is is peloton in the White House.

Sylva Florence 8:42
See what happens?

Donna Tocci 8:43
I know.

Donna Tocci 8:46
Yeah. Yeah. So where will you go, Carlton?

Carlton Reid 8:51
Uh, I don’t know. I mean, I have got a very, very hard cycling ride to do in the Swiss Alps in August. So touchwood I can get out there but not touchwood. It’s going to be absolutely brutal. It’s basically every tough climb in Switzerland. 280 miles or something [NOPE – 240kms] . It’s just crazy. So hard to do it and then half of me doesn’t want to do it, because it’s a tough one.

Carlton Reid 9:23
But yeah, that’s that’s that’s kind of like what my goal is to maybe get to Switzerland. So so that even though you’re now living, and you have lived in Faenxa near Bologna, for three years, you’ve done some cycle touring, and you went across America. So when when did you do that? That that trip?

Sylva Florence 9:44
So I did that trip. I started in October of 2017. And I ended in February of 2018. And that was the longest cycling trip, second bike touring trip that I’ve done alone.

Sylva Florence 10:00
But I have done other ones alone. And I’ve done other bike tours in other parts of the world. But that one was particularly important because it was one that I did by myself across America. You did all by yourself no support vehicle or anything? No, it’s just me how, yeah, just me

Carlton Reid 10:21
in what kind of accommodation at night times.

Sylva Florence 10:24
So I brought a tent and I bought a stove and I bought everything. So I had, I was very self sufficient. I was able to stop wherever I wanted more or less,

Sylva Florence 10:34
which I did for about the first month.

Sylva Florence 10:38
But then it obviously because it was over the winter, even though I was going, I went from

Sylva Florence 10:44
Berkeley, California to Florida, so it was very far south. But we still had a little bit of winter weather I ran into like a blizzard in Louisiana, which was incredibly strange, and not normal at all.

Sylva Florence 10:59
But I ended up using the Warm Showers network a lot. Are you guys familiar with that?

Donna Tocci 11:04

Carlton Reid 11:05
Donna is not. I am but you explain it. I’ll tell you why I’m familiar with it in a second.

Sylva Florence 11:11
Yeah, because you ‘ve bike toured too I think I read right, Carlton?

Carlton Reid 11:17
Many, many years ago in a previous life when Warm Showers did not exist. fantastic to be able to hook up. The internet didn’t exist when when I was cycle touring.

Carlton Reid 11:28
Computers had only just been invented, you know, it’s like

Sylva Florence 11:34
Hey, bike touring his bike touring no matter how you do it. So for sure. So yeah, it’s a warm shower. Isn’t it really cute. Thank you. Yeah, but basically warm showers is like, if anybody knows couchsurfing.

Sylva Florence 11:47
It’s very similar to couchsurfing. And that it’s a hospitality based website, which people offer for free their homes and you never know like, maybe you’re going to be putting a tent up in their backyard, maybe you’re going to be sleeping on their couch, maybe if they have an extra room, you can sleep in a bed. And then like the name suggests, you’ll get a hot shower. And then part of the culture is that usually you share dinner together or and or breakfast. And so you get to know the people that you stay with, which is really cool. You feel like you’ve walked into a family or something. So I use warm showers a lot and it was a really enriched my my trip. It was it was a really beautiful part of it.

Carlton Reid 12:31
I know why people use it but alone woman using it. Do you have any extra worries when you’re you’re hooking up with somebody? Or you’re thinking ‘I’ve got to go with a couple I can’t be going with this …. You know, do you have an antenna for thinking ‘I’m not going to go to that one. I’m gonna go to this one’. How do you cope? That I wouldn’t have to think about these things. But But I’m presuming you you would have to sadly.

Sylva Florence 12:55
Yeah, it’s true. It’s a little bit different for a woman still, unfortunately, I’m just kind of the way the world is. But honestly, it’s not as scary and dangerous as everybody thinks like them the 95% of the experiences and the people that I met were positive and were helpful and curious and wanted to in some way help me out.

Donna Tocci 13:19
But as far as warm showers,

Donna Tocci 13:22
I’d lucky or we’re all lucky because there’s kind of

Donna Tocci 13:25
a system in place. So when somebody stays with you, you leave them a review, and vice versa. So I could go on to these profiles of people I would hope to stay with and I could read reviews about them. And if they didn’t have any reviews, maybe I would choose a different one.

Carlton Reid 13:44
For example, that had so it’s kind of like Airbnb, but you’re not you’re you’re not paying for it. This is given gratis. And then I’m presuming that’s bells in the backgroun. And it’s not your strange

Donna Tocci 13:55
I love that.

Sylva Florence 13:56
Oh, that’s my house.

Sylva Florence 13:59
Can you hear that?

Carlton Reid 14:01
Yeah, totally cute. I mean, normally we say can you turn your phone off? You’ve got strange Italian

Carlton Reid 14:06
bell ringing as your your your ringtone is like no, no, no, that’s, that’s where you live. That’s cute.

Sylva Florence 14:11
I didn’t even notice because it happens like several times a day. I live like very close to a church. So beautiful. Yeah, yeah, it’s nice. I like it to actually kind of like a nice soundtrack to my life.

Carlton Reid 14:25
And how often do they go off? Are they you know, that soundtrack to your life is how frequent?

Sylva Florence 14:30
Well if you’ll notice right now it’s it’s 5.18pm so they go off at really weird times. Like actually my neighbour and I laugh about it because it’s never it’s never on the hour like on the quarter hour it’s always like a weird time so it’s it’s Sunday though so they go off maybe like three times a day on Sundays.

Carlton Reid 14:49
There’s something I’m presuming it’s religious then it’s like as in not a time thing is like taking you to Vespers or something I don’t I’m not religious.

Sylva Florence 14:56
I don’t know but I don’t know either cuz I’m not religious.

Donna Tocci 15:00
I feel like yeah, I feel like it’s connected. Because it’s Sunday. So, yeah, strange time.

Donna Tocci 15:05
5.18? I mean, that’s just an odd. It’s not like five o’clock or even 5.15 or 5.30.

Sylva Florence 15:13
I mean, I feel like there’s something about like six o’clock. So maybe it’s like, go quick get your coffee because you’re Italian and then go to Vespers.

Sylva Florence 15:24
I love living here. Yeah.

Carlton Reid 15:27
So it’s still going on. So it’s quite,

Donna Tocci 15:31
it will go for a while.

Donna Tocci 15:34
So, Carlton, have you done any bike touring around the US, like when you were here for maybe Interbike, or Sea Otter or anything like that?

Carlton Reid 15:43
Yeah, for many, many years, well, every time I came, I’d always try and fit in a bike tour. So sometimes I’d hire a car. So I’ve done a lot of desert trips. So I would hire and get out somewhere, getting a bike out, do some trips around, then getting the car go somewhere else when I was connected to, to

Carlton Reid 16:03
the kind of the schedule of doing trade shows, but even before that, I would now this is now in the 1980s. So he’s now dating me very much. So then I would fly in, and I would just do American deserts and spend a month. So every every

Carlton Reid 16:20
university holiday I had, after I’d already I’d already spent two years cycling around, and and just doing stuff on a bike somewhere in the world, generally in the Middle East. And then when I went to university, I then spend one month, every year, somewhere exotic, and it would either be the Sahara

Carlton Reid 16:41
or I then went to the Kalahari Desert. And then I decided to do some of the American deserts so so went out and spent time doing solo bike touring, or sometimes with an Israeli friend In fact, who I had who we did the

Carlton Reid 17:01
we went into Mexico and so did some of the the deserts that part of the loss I’m very much a desert cycle tourist. That’s what I like the best is, is getting really dusty.

Sylva Florence 17:12
Deserts awesome. Why do you like it?

Donna Tocci 17:14
Yeah, why?

Carlton Reid 17:17
I’m, I’m British, I get rained on a lot.

Carlton Reid 17:24
Going for the opposite. Let’s go somewhere the opposite to where I am. Okay, deserts.

Carlton Reid 17:30
I just I just absolutely loved, literally getting dusty.

Carlton Reid 17:36
riding along. So I’ve done lots and lots of deserts in my time and even took so that’s why my son Josh, that’s why he then graduate become a cycle tourist. So we used to do some pretty adventurous trips, including to Iceland. So Iceland, you might think of as a like a snowy, you know, ice place, but it’s actually the biggest desert in Europe, in that there’s no there’s no rainfall, very little rainfall at certain times of the year. And enormous expanses have in effect volcanic sand. So Iceland is a is a place we went to, and spent time in with my son. So in fact, teaching him desert

Carlton Reid 18:21
survival techniques, even though it wasn’t a hot desert, it was a cold desert. But I would go to the deserts wherever they are. Even now.

Sylva Florence 18:31
They’re pretty awesome. There’s something about the desert, like there’s like a silence in the desert that you find, especially at night that I’ve never found anywhere else. I guess

Carlton Reid 18:40
Yes. So I’m looking at this guy as well, the sky, it tends to be amazing in deserts. Obviously not going to get clouds. And so you just lie back and I’d lie back in the Sahara and literally the Sahara and I’m in a in a sleeping bag. And just look at the amazing amazing sky which I’ve never seen anywhere else apart. You know the desert you just see just masses of stars. It’s just incredible.

Carlton Reid 19:07

Donna Tocci 19:08
no, I would think you would have to prepare very differently for a desert tour rather than what Silva did. You know, going from coast to coast. I mean, where there’s a tonne of cars and people and all of that what would be the differences in preparing?

Sylva Florence 19:28
Well actually went through the desert through from from Eastern California until until midway through Texas was all desert pretty much. So

Carlton Reid 19:41
cute. Nice service stations. So you can just pull in and getting a coffee and a donut in in the middle of the desert, which is just kind of cool.

Donna Tocci 19:53
Did you find that a healthy way

Donna Tocci 19:59
when you’re cycling

Donna Tocci 20:00
You need a lot of calories. So it’s true. And caffeine never hurts.

Carlton Reid 20:05
And I found that American deserts were less populated than deserts elsewhere in the world. So Kalahari, the Sahara, there’s, there’s probably habitation every 5 or 10 miles. Whereas in an American desert, it’s literally how far you can get in a car.

Sylva Florence 20:24
You know, that actually devastations would be, actually, so I was I went, because most when you cycle as you know, you don’t take the main routes, because they’re traffic up. And maybe not. Because when usually when you travel you, you look to kind of enjoy what you’re going through. Like, some people do want to ride as much as they can in one day. But I’m, I’m not necessarily one of those people. I tried to cover some distance if I can, but I really like to also enjoy what I’m going through. And the route that I followed took me away from interstates unless there was no other road, sometimes I had to read on an interstate. But the the towns were actually about maybe 100 kilometres 60 miles spaced apart, because it was where the train used to stop. Mm hmm. So So between those those 60 mile 100 kilometre points, there was absolutely nothing. And some and sometimes it was there was a town on the map, but it wasn’t actually a town, it was like a ghost town.

Donna Tocci 21:29
And so you really had to think about water, you really had to think about carrying water, enough water for the day or even the night if you’re going to camp or something or you didn’t know. And really getting, I asked a lot of people because sometimes there was like a faucet maybe behind like the library or the post office or something. So I could fill up water. But other than that there was nothing. So it was it was logistically interesting for sure. Now

Donna Tocci 22:02
what what’s that? I’m sorry, sorry. Go ahead. Carlton.

Carlton Reid 22:06
Donna said How did you plan the route? And my question was about clothing through a few different climate zones. So how are you planning? Were you jettison clothing and mailing it back? Or do you carry everything? So planning and clothing?

Sylva Florence 22:20
So okay, so for planning, I started in Berkeley, where my brother lives, and I rode to San Diego. And then I followed what’s called the Southern Tier Route, which is the American cycling associations route that they’ve kind of already come up with. And it’s, like, well known enough in in cycling culture, I guess. So they give you the route, but they don’t tell you where to stop. So you have to you have to figure it out on your own, where you’re going to stop where you want to stay that kind of thing. So, after a while, I kind of just got into a pattern where I was contacting warmshowers hosts on the road ahead of me, maybe, because I discovered that they appreciated you know, a few days to a week of notice. So I tried to contact them with some notice if I could, and I was also contacting churches and fire stations and police stations to ask them if I could camp or stay

Donna Tocci 23:20
there, too, to save money because it was almost a five month trip. Um, and then as far as, as clothing and things that I brought, I brought everything because I started in October and I finished in mid February and so I kind of needed I needed everything honestly.

Donna Tocci 23:41
When I started in in California, I was dealing with heat waves, like over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which I think is like 35 maybe Celsius.

Donna Tocci 23:54
And then when I got to Louisiana, I had a blizzard. So I needed everything and had absolutely everything. So I carried it all with me but luckily having done this for many years I have kind of accumulated a lot of the gear so I’m very lucky. Like I had everything that I needed light like gear. So

Carlton Reid 24:17
you’ve told us why you started in Berkeley because your brother Why did you end in Louisiana?

Sylva Florence 24:24
I ended in Florida,

Carlton Reid 24:26
Florida, Florida sorry Florida. Why did you end in Florida?

Sylva Florence 24:28
No problem. Um, because that because I was going coast to coast. I was going from the the Pacific to the Atlantic basically. And I was I was following this already more or less established route even though I went off of it a few times, which started in San Diego and ended in St. Augustine, Florida. So I basically just followed it until the end till till Florida.

Carlton Reid 24:54
Mm hmm.

Donna Tocci 24:56
It’s something I always wanted to do this this Southern Tier trip.

Carlton Reid 25:03
I don’t want to get too rude here and you can, Americans can absolutely stop me here if you say you can’t say these sort of things, but

Carlton Reid 25:12
it’s the states you are going through are very rudely called flyover states. Yeah. And and are you gonna stop me here now? Or should I

Carlton Reid 25:23
pick on flyover states for a reason? Whereas, you know, obviously, people go from one, one American coast to the American coast, and then don’t go in to the hinterland. And in elearning, see the comments we’re gonna get for this. Go ahead. Well, especially where I’m going with this. So the hinterland

Carlton Reid 25:47
also has a reputation for certain kind of politics. When you were going through, did you see any massive changes in politics and how you were treated? Why? I don’t know how you can skirt around these things, or whether you even never saw any of this, because because it just didn’t come up. But describe how, where I’m going here and what you think I’m talking about, and how the political how people view politics can maybe even change how they view a stranger coming into their midst?

Donna Tocci 26:28
Or a cyclist. I mean, we all know that, in, in every part of the world, there are folks that are very accommodating to cyclists, and that there are other parts that are very much not. So did you encounter any of that as well?

Donna Tocci 26:47
These are very interesting questions. And actually, Yeah, seriously, we’re not answer. So no, I’m happy to. Okay. So I, when I wrote in, I told Carlton that I wrote a book about this trip. So I bought a wrote a book while while I was writing across the United States, which I’m now trying to pitch to editors and things and decide what I want to do with it. But I talk about this kind of stuff, because, for example, like going into the Dirty South, as we call it, like it’s not, it’s not necessarily a place that people think would be like, Hey, I would love to go like ride my bike through

Donna Tocci 27:26
the Dirty South because there’s not, in general, a lot of infrastructure for cycling, and for cyclists. And when you ride through some of these areas, and I didn’t even really understand it. So I’m really grateful to have experienced this so that I understand my own country better our own country. But when you go into the south east, and in particular places, for example, like Baton Rouge, which I wrote through

Donna Tocci 27:55
a bicycle is kind of seen a bicycle as seen as either maybe like, not not probably by everyone, I’m generalising but as a as a rich person sport, or as something that people do when they when they’re really poor, and they can’t afford a car.

Donna Tocci 28:14
And so I was kind of like, in the middle of this so like a weird like, what what in the world is this girl doing? You know? So they were I have a lot of problems with traffic and had a lot of people with not not giving me space, like really brushing me very close. Like a few times, I was almost knocked off the road and things like that.

Donna Tocci 28:35
But I think it wasn’t it wasn’t a point of like them trying to be mean or aggressive. It was more like they just didn’t understand where I fit into the scheme of things. Like I wasn’t, I wasn’t a super poor person. And I wasn’t like somebody on a fancy road bike. I was like this weird girl going through with a pirate flag and bags. Because I had a pirate flag on my bike. Hired flag I found it on the side of the road in eastern California and I just like couldn’t help myself. I I flew it all the way to Florida. So the Kenny Chesney fans would love that.

Donna Tocci 29:09
It was the pirate ship and my back was the pirate ship.

Carlton Reid 29:14
Tell me about your bike. What kind of bike are you talking about here?

Sylva Florence 29:19
Well, I’m one of those weird people who likes to name everything. So her name is Penny because she’s the colour of like a penny. A US one cent

Sylva Florence 29:30
and it’s a it’s a Richey bike but it was like Richey made it for Dahon the the brand Dahon but it’s a Richey. It’s a Ritchey Tournardo basically. And it’s coupled so it comes apart and you can put it into a suitcase. Basically, it’s made for this kind of stuff. Thank you, Richey.

Carlton Reid 29:50
Is that the s&s couplings. It’s that that thing?

Sylva Florence 29:52
Yeah, yeah. Mm hmm. And then like the brake cables come apart and it’s got it’s like suitcase and

Donna Tocci 30:01
I carry like a collapsible cloth bag which I had my brother send me from Berkeley and I had him send it to my warm shower hosts in St. Augustine so that I could bring it to a bike shop and have them put it helped me put it into a bag, but you’ve got to like take a cardboard box apart and make a sort of an internal frame for the for the box. It’s a bit involved, but you can do it.

Carlton Reid 30:27
And then you old school with like panniers, do you have a trailer or are you like new school in that it’s bike packing.

Sylva Florence 30:36
I’m I’m a little bit half and half I guess because I’ve done bike packing. And so I’ve got what’s called a sweet roll which I absolutely love for my handlebars where I put my tent and my fuel and a couple other things. And then I have panniers on the back.

Sylva Florence 30:52
And I often also use a front rack with panniers but it broken right before the trip and I didn’t have time to to buy a new one and get it all figured out. So I’m I guess I’m like middle school.

Carlton Reid 31:05
I’m older. Yeah. Yeah. Whatever works, really? And is that bike, the collapsible bike, something you’re still riding is that your like your go to bike.

Donna Tocci 31:17
I brought it over here to Italy. And actually after the first after the lockdown that we had that ended in June, I rode

Donna Tocci 31:26
18 days, I think by myself from where I live to very southern Tuscany. So I use that bike as well. So yeah, it’s it’s still in action.

Carlton Reid 31:37
A pretty flexible machine that if you can take it apart, that’s a good bike to bring with you from America into Italy. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So it’s very much in use. I have I have four bikes, if I’m going to be honest. So

Sylva Florence 31:53
with you that just in life in general. With me now with me now. I have four bicycles.

Donna Tocci 32:00
Every bike person has more than one.

Sylva Florence 32:03
Brava. So I would say yes.

Donna Tocci 32:08
So I have a question, Sylva. So you did this all by yourself, which is amazing. And Awesome.

Sylva Florence 32:15
Thank you.

Donna Tocci 32:17
Did you know where you were going to end? And did you have to some days because I’m sure some days it was like, Yes, this is fantastic. I love this. And other days were probably a little bit of a slog like, okay, I just want to get through the miles today. Did you did you use any visualisation to like, I know exactly where I’m going to end? Or did you not know where you’re going, and you just knew you were going to end on the coast of Florida?

Donna Tocci 32:44
Well, because I was followiong this route to St. Augustine, Florida, I knew that I was going to end there. And honestly, I didn’t. I didn’t want to stop riding. When I arrived in St. Augustine, I was so happy with bike touring and, and just the feeling of being on the road and being so free to an autonomous will all the stuff that I had, I would have loved to continue. But by that point, while riding, I had already planned my move to Italy. So I kind of had to return to my parents house or had my stuff in the interim and start getting my visa and everything together to move to Italy. So

Carlton Reid 33:26
I suppose Yeah, maybe maybe I’m wrong here Donna. But maybe the question was a daily thing, even though you had your your your eventual

Carlton Reid 33:35
target. Did you know each day where you were going to stop? Like was it just literally you just rode until you stopped? Was that? Would that be right? Donna?

Donna Tocci 33:44
That’s kind of the question. I’m kind of how you’d write every day. But how do you motivate? How did you get that motivation every day to go out on the days that were hard? Because there have been some days where you were sore? Or you just kind of didn’t feel it?

Donna Tocci 34:00
Maybe? I mean, in five months, there’s had to have been a couple of days that were not your favourite. So did you do any visualisation? Or did you just say no, I just kind of grit through it and got to do it.

Donna Tocci 34:14
I think I don’t know. I think it’s probably a bit of both. I’m really a very stubborn person. And I’m, I’m rather determined. And so when I when I see something that I want to do even I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do it or figure it out. I kind of keep looking at that and saying I’m going to do that. And so there were definitely some days that were really rough like I had had a lot of I mean as any long bike tour anybody that ever goes on a long bike tour, there’s all sorts of things that happen to you. I had back problems I had blizzards, landslides, heat waves, knee problems, like everything imaginable, which is kind of normal and but

Donna Tocci 35:00
For me, it actually became kind of a joy to, to problem solve and to say, Okay, I’ve got this problem, but how am I going to figure it out? And then, like not seeing it more as, as a problem or as like a fun challenge or something? And definitely there were some days where I was like, What am I doing this is so stupid. But then the next day would be completely different. Or some or I would meet somebody that would just pick my spirits up in like a second.

Donna Tocci 35:32
It was, I don’t know, bike touring is is one of those things that it’s like, incredibly hard, but it’s also really rewarding. And so by the time you get to the end, you look at the whole thing as being something more rewarding than it was punishing or hard.

Donna Tocci 35:50
Because you’re changing. Sorry. So do you feel like your 18 days to Tuscany was like, going around the corner for milk?

Donna Tocci 36:03
I mean, actually, at the end of that, too, I didn’t want to stop either. But I had some bureaucratic stuff. I had to come back and go to the police, that deals with immigration, so

Sylva Florence 36:18
but my friends were laughing at me because I could have just gone the easy way. And I could have, like, not climbed like 1000 metres a day, but I chose a route in which I really pushed myself and climbed a lot. So I made it not necessarily very easy for myself, but it was incredible.

Donna Tocci 36:39
So you and Carlton with the mountains?

Sylva Florence 36:42
Carlton, you like to climb too?

Carlton Reid 36:45
Yeah, that’s my favourite. My favourite is climbing bags on so yeah, it’s nice to go up in a nice you know, incredibly light, light road bike, but it’s also really nice to go up with really heavy bags.

Carlton Reid 37:00
Sharing you and and and cars to be stopping and, and that kind of stuff. So that that’s also cool.

Carlton Reid 37:09
No, you go first Donna,

Donna Tocci 37:11
I might have missed it, Carlton, how long is your event in the summer in Switzerland?

Carlton Reid 37:18
Well, that’s a one day thing. So that’s 280 miles in a day over every single mountain. So that’s why I was going Oh, it’s not it’s a tough one. Wow. Cool. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s the tourist action, if you go over every

Carlton Reid 37:36
Swiss ski resort, in effect in the summer, and it’s an interesting thing as well. So it’s new for this year. So you’re definitely doing the height of Everest, in your in your day of punishing climbs. So they’ve extended the distance of an already brutal course. And how dare the Tourist Board invite me across for such a punishment?

Donna Tocci 38:06
How are you training for that?

Carlton Reid 38:10
I’ll start soon.

Sylva Florence 38:12
And how will you train for it?

Carlton Reid 38:14
I’ll do hills.

Carlton Reid 38:18
I can get out and do some hills.

Sylva Florence 38:19
You have some good hills where you live?

Carlton Reid 38:22
Yeah, yeah, it’s okay. I can do some elevation. But you’d so tough to do a trip like this, because it’s just Hill after Hill after But on the plus side, you’ve also got down hills, plenty of downhill. So it’s not the whole way.

Carlton Reid 38:38
So my question, Sylva it was was

Carlton Reid 38:41
was going to be you’ve talked about where you’ve been or what do you haven’t talked about every one of your your places you’ve you’ve been to. But one of the things we started talking about in the beginning was all about how are our dreams about lockdown? So have you got dreams about cycle touring? independent cycle tours coming up? Have you got stuff planned?

Donna Tocci 39:02
planned, planned now because it’s just really difficult here. Like I don’t know how the lockdown stuff is where you guys are. But here we have just kind of a seemingly never ending series of regulations that right now where I live in Emilia Romagna is in what’s called the orange zone. So we have kind of tiers of yellow, orange and red and we’re in orange,

Donna Tocci 39:26
which signifies that we can’t leave our towns.

Donna Tocci 39:31
And we can’t and we have a curfew, which we’ve had since the beginning of November at 10pm. And a lot of different other things bars and restaurants, clothes, blah, blah, blah. So it’s very difficult to actually plan something because we don’t know when it’s going to end. But you know, like those of us that travel and they love this kind of stuff. We’re always dreaming and we always have like four trips in mind. So what I would really like is to ride from here to Spain, because I’ve got some friends there and

Sylva Florence 40:00
I’ve never been to Spain. And so I would absolutely love to ride from Faenza to Spain, by myself.

Carlton Reid 40:08
Mm hmm.

Carlton Reid 40:11
by yourself. So that’s that. I mean, that is one of the things I also do get asked loads of times is about the solo stuff. Why? Why do it solo? So that was gonna ask me, I’ll just ask you why? Why solo?

Sylva Florence 40:27
Um, for me, um,

Donna Tocci 40:31
well, a lot of the people that I talked to, especially a lot of other women and Donna, I’m not saying that you’re in this group, I don’t know what your experiences are. But there’s a lot of women who don’t feel comfortable travelling by themselves, because they really are afraid of

Donna Tocci 40:48
I hate to say it like men and just the way that the world is. But

Donna Tocci 40:53
I guess I don’t necessarily see that for myself as a barrier. Because I, I trust and expect that like good things will come my way. And they always do. And I’m very, I’m very aware, I’m not going to be naive. And if I feel something weird, I’m not going to go to that person’s house, I’m not even going to necessarily talk to that person. But I love to travel by myself, because I feel like it really opens people’s influence people’s doors, it opens people’s minds. And it opens people’s hearts. Like it’s a very, you meet a lot of really cool people.

Carlton Reid 41:29
That’s my answer as well, that as well. Because it’s the people think, oh, you’re just so low that you’re not, you’re just being horrible, you’re not you’re being incredibly social, because I found that when you’re, I don’t know how it’s, it’s for you. So when you travel with two or more people, you’re in that little clique, you’re in a little bubble, and you can’t miss stuff, because you’re with somebody else, when you’re by yourself, you see everything, and you are open to talking to anybody. And people also come to you more, if you’re in a group or if you’re in just even just two people, a lot of people just won’t come up and talk to you, because you’ve got a friend, you’ve got somebody to talk to you No need to go and talk to that that strange, exotic person over there. When you’re by yourself, that strange exotic person is all of a sudden, very approachable, because it’s only you. So that that was my fight wasn’t an anti social thing. It was actually the opposite he, you’re more likely to talk to people, if you’re by yourself.

Sylva Florence 42:23
Sure. And you’re free to for example, say you meet somebody who’s really cool. And they invite you to say come to this town. That’s maybe not the direction that you would plan to go. But you’re the only one that decides if you’re going to keep going left or if you’re going to go right. So if you meet these people, and they say let’s go right, then you can go and it completely changes your experience. It’s really cool. It’s like going with the flow.

Carlton Reid 42:49
Huh? No, no, I I it’s all flooding back, Sylva.

Carlton Reid 42:56
I am mad. I haven’t done solo for so long. That I haven’t been asked why do you do solo Tours by now remember why I did solo tours? Yeah, for that reason that you’ve given as well. So thank you. Thank you for the memories.

Sylva Florence 43:08
You’re welcome. Anytime.

Sylva Florence 43:11

Sylva Florence 43:14
Donna, you’ve got to get out there by yourself.

Sylva Florence 43:17
would you do it? Donna? would you do it? a solo tour?

Donna Tocci 43:21

Donna Tocci 43:24
I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s me. I would go out for solo rides? Sure. I don’t have any problem doing that. I have done that. So and I think you’re right. I think just in general, no matter how you’re travelling, that if you’re by yourself, you’re more approachable to others. I think, you know, like you said, If you already have a friend with you or two friends, somebody’s not going to come up and talk to you necessarily, but when you’re by yourself. Sure people feel like they can approach you more.

Donna Tocci 43:54
So a solo bike tour? I don’t know. Just because I have not done it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t but but bike garage or Absolutely. I have no fear about that.

Carlton Reid 44:08
So but also, this, I guess to many people, this would sound odd but

Carlton Reid 44:14
because because most people would think of bicycling in the boondocks as an inherently dangerous thing to do. I mean, you probably don’t don’t think that but many people do. But do you think actually as a solo woman, actually a bicycle is actually a really good way of being a solo woman because actually, it’s easier because you are absolutely in charge of the vehicle that’s taking place. Whereas if you’re a solo woman on a bus, on a train, there’s potentially actually more

Carlton Reid 44:49

Carlton Reid 44:51
connections with with people who might not be as nice as you think. Whereas on a bicycle, you can just go well, there’s somebody up ahead, I want to see them. I’ll go that way. instead.

Carlton Reid 45:00
Do you see a bicycle as actually a means of, of a very good way of of a woman travelling, for safety reasons?

Donna Tocci 45:07
I will take that I will say not only travelling, I do a lot of walking in the summertime, because I try, I actually trained Carlton, you might want to train for that whole thing in Switzerland. But I train for doing a marathon walk every year for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute here in Boston. And when you’re walking, I’m very much more aware of my surroundings, and who’s around me and all of that, as I’m walking, you know, 15 miles on a day and all of that. But when I’m on my bike, I, it’s not that I worry when I walk, I live in a safe neighbourhood, but I do look at all my surroundings and all of that a lot more. But when I’m on my bike, I, I don’t it’s not that I don’t pay attention to cars, and people and all of that. But there isn’t. There’s just another element that’s not there. So I think you’re right. Yeah, bike is, I think a little safer. In some ways. I don’t know.

Carlton Reid 46:03
Same same question to you than Sylva. Yeah, I mean, I think that when you’re definitely when you’re on a bike, you have the decision of where you’re going to go because you’re in charge of the vehicle.

Donna Tocci 46:14
And also in your bike touring, as you probably know, Carlton, like you don’t go through main avenues so much are kind of on the periphery. And so you kind of you kind of seek by things, like if you don’t really want to be seen, you don’t have to be seen, like, and so for me, I would just really use it as like a tool of exploration. And I would go where I felt good and where I didn’t feel good, I would kind of choose another route. And I encountered a lot of people that were really afraid that would ask me like, well, aren’t you afraid to be doing what you’re doing your I would never do, I would never be able to do that. Because with the world as it is, or whatever, but

Donna Tocci 46:55
I don’t I don’t really see the world as being that way. And so

Donna Tocci 47:01
I don’t know, like I found such good experiences. And this is like, not only this trip, but over almost 10 years now like touring. And so as a solo woman, there are some places where I probably maybe I wouldn’t go by myself or maybe like the Middle East, perhaps I would want to have another girlfriend or somebody with me. But most places also in Italy and Europe, I would feel comfortable going on my own on a bicycle is such an amazing place a way to see the world. I agree.

Carlton Reid 47:34
I think we’re gonna have to wrap up for today. But by doing so, I’d like to ask somewhere where can people who are listening to this where can they find out more information and and perhaps how they’re going to be able to find your book eventually? How are you on social media where you can tell people where your books can come from? And

Carlton Reid 47:53
where do people find you is what I’m trying to say?

Sylva Florence 47:55
Sure. Yeah, I have a website which is so my name s y l v a lining dotcom. And my Instagram is also thesilverlining. And Facebook, thesilverlining everything is the silver lining,

Carlton Reid 48:13
Does your Instagram have tonnes and tonnes of bike touring pictures or is it your life in general.

Sylva Florence 48:19
I just started a new a new Instagram for specifically for to promote the book and just my life experience in Italy and that kind of thing, which is the silver lining. Otherwise, if you want to see some pictures of the trip, it’s Silvana Firenze, which is kind of my name translated in Italian. So

Sylva Florence 48:41
So yeah, and I’m not exactly sure how yet how I’m going to get the book out, but it’s ready and I’m just trying to find the best, the best course for it.

Carlton Reid 48:52
How about self publishing.

Sylva Florence 48:54
I thought about that too. Mm hmm. If I can find enough people who would be interested in it as as an audience I would absolutely self publish it as well.

Carlton Reid 49:04
So right now it’s research talking about experience there and that I’ve done to crowdsource books

Carlton Reid 49:12
which in how much American money well 25,000 pounds now that a book well first one’s 15,000 pounds second one was 25,000 so there is definitely an audience for books out there even niche niche urban Cycling is nicche, niche books.

Carlton Reid 49:30
So I would I personally I’d recommend

Carlton Reid 49:34
rather than waiting for the world to come to you on this one get out there and get it self published and and perhaps crowdsource it to begin with.

Sylva Florence 49:44
I guess we should have a chat off, off podcast.

Carlton Reid 49:49
totally happy to help. Yeah. And Donna where where can people find you at the moment and your dog?

Donna Tocci 49:58
Oh, my dog.

Donna Tocci 49:59
You can always find me on Twitter at DonnaTocci, and you can find me on Instagram and that’s what Carlton was talking about. That’s more my dogs and my life and all of that. But it’s all there at Donna Tocci as well on Instagram.

Carlton Reid 50:15
Beautiful. Well, thank you both ever so much for chatting today and and Sylva, thank you for getting my memories flooding back.

Carlton Reid 50:27
After after lockdown I’ll definitely have to get out and do more solo bike touring. Yeah and Warm Showers this time.

Carlton Reid 50:35
Wasn’t able to in the dark ages when I was last cycle touring, but I’ve got that to look forward to. So thank you ever so much for being on the show. And thank you to for Donna for asking some great questions too, and for keeping the conversation flowing.

Carlton Reid 50:51
Thanks to Donna Tocci and Sylva Florence for today’s cycle touring chat. This has been episode 265 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. Links to things we were chatting about — such as Warm Showers, the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge and the Southern Tier Route and more — can be found on I’ve also provided a link to the Tour des Stations — I just looked it’s not 280 miles it’s 242kms — I was scaring myself. But 242 Kms is the thick end of 150 miles so still brutal, and still with 8,848 metres of ascent, or the height of Everest. No doubt I’ll do a podcast on it. A very huffy puffy podcast Anyway, tomorrow I’ll be talking with mountain bike legend Gary Fisher and then the following day I’m booked in with the Guardian’s political editor Peter Walker — both have got great new books out which I’ve now got to read. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.

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