My new Aussie friends from last night were great fun. Shortly after dinner we headed to a very cool Irish pub that is infamously over-crowded with American exchange students. It was great fun and the two boys I was with decided this was a good time to practice my Australian on unsuspecting Americans (the boys said I was doing well, but who knows...). Anyways, I know I had fun because waking up this morning was a little rough. The two guys from Melbourne who moved into my room the night before last were up and ready to rent scooters.
They dragged me out of bed and we began out trek to find scooters. Fatal flaw number one was telling the guy in the first shop that we had never been on bikes before. We learned our lesson quickly. We had decided that we wanted to get 4 50cc bikes so that we could each drive our own. The second store we came to only had 100cc's and they were twice as much as we had originally bargained for (we had seen an advertisement for 19euro for 24 hours on a 50cc - good deal). We went to two other places who had absolutely no bikes at all (including 100cc's) so we went back to the first place and gave in. We got two matching 100cc bright blue scooters. After picking out our helmets (a process that took much longer than it should have) we signed on the dotted line (well, me and Rangan did because we were the only ones with drivers' licenses) and hopped on our bikes.
Now, since I had been the one who rented, I had to drive the thing off the lot. Mayank was behind me and tried his best to give me words of encouragement but I was petrified. The last time I was on a bike was a dirt bike when I was 13 and I wrecked the thing into a retention pond in my neighborhood. I was driving the thing for less that 25 seconds when I crashed it. I think it was an understatement to say that I genuinely thought I was going to kill us both. I drove out of the lot and up a hill, promptly turned right down the first alley and practically knocked the thing over as I was jumping off it. My turn was up... Mayank's a boy and, being a boy, his ego won't let him harm me or the bike too much. This is a much safer option. At this point, we also name our bike Barbarina. There was some sort of reference made to Welcome Back Kotter... but our bike needed to be named a girls name so we just switched the gender.
So at this point we head out. The boys are driving our two scooters and we all really have no idea where we are going. For some reason, I am dubbed as all knowing when it came to where we were so I did my best to be a good back seat navigator. I'm not going to lie, we got lost quite a lot, but I always managed to get us back to where we wanted to go without too much trouble - well... most of the time. We decided we wanted to go to the beach and we knew the closest one would be straight West so we started driving that direction and when we finally realized we had no idea where we were, we pulled over to check the map only to realize that we were off it. We found a nice guy who helped us find our way back to the main road and then from there we just kept asking people at stoplights which way to go. Everyone was so nice and a couple of people even had us just follow them for a couple km. We realized that we were going to a town called Ostia. It took us about 30 minutes to drive there. We couldn't find the beach immediately and we were all a little sore and wind-blown so we pulled over at a cafe and had some chocolatto (probably the best I've had yet) and sat and chatted for a good hour.
After our little break, Mayank decided it was my time to drive again. I felt a little more confident having ridden on the thing for a little while. After taking a series of nice right turns in a nearly deserted commercial area of town, we headed for the main road that would take us to the beach. We turned onto the Italian equivalent of the Pacific Coast Highway and cruised along the water for a little while. Me and Mayank spotted a great pier where we could watch the sunset but the other flew ahead before we could tell them. We started to chase after them and then... it happened. When I saw it, I initially thought about slamming on the brakes (or grabbing them... I guess would be the terminology) but there was no time, I had already hit it before I could stop... It was my first round-about. One criticism that I have for American driving school is that they should teach us what to do when we encounter these chaotic circular road hazards. I may have screamed when we got there and Mayank was doing his best to coach me through it. I know I cut at least 4 people off and even got honked at once (I honked back at him for being mean). I actually missed my turn off the first time around so I literally went around the circle a full time before I exited. Oh man, it was stressful. After I continued on, we got the other scooter's attention and turned around to go back to the pier. Oh no... Round-about again. But at this point, not only was I a scooter pro, but I was a round-about pro so, it was a piece of cake. We went back to the pier and watched the sun set which was so peaceful. There was a beautiful love letter written on the wall graffiti style in Italian and, although it took me about 5 minutes to translate it, I really enjoyed staring at the beautiful script.
After the sun set, it was starting to get chilly so we decided to refuel our stomachs and our gas tanks before we started the cold journey back to the city. We walked around the city for about 30 minutes before we found a place that was open for dinner (even though it was about 7 PM). We finally found a pizza place and had a couple of slices and then headed to the gas station. After fueling up (these things have the TINIEST gas tanks) we headed home. Fatal flaw number 2: we had no idea how to get back home. I think it was Mayank who said at this point, "All roads lead to Rome, right?" So we tested the theory. We literally just started heading away from the sea. We eventually hit a highway that had signs pointing to Rome and we just followed them. When we finally got to Rome though, we had absolutely no idea where to go. We somehow made it to the Colosseum, but then missed our turn for the hostel and ended up driving way east about 5 km too far. We literally drove in about 3 circles before figuring out where we were and it took us about an hour and a half to make our way back home.
Of course, you can imagine how elated we were when we finally got here. Our whole bodies were frozen solid, especially my knees (for some reason). Unfortunately we didn't make it home in time for dinner, so we went to the grocery store in the train station and I got some pumpkin soup and bread sticks as well as a bottle of wine to prep myself for Nathan (my friend from Pittsburgh that I met in Amsterdam) to arrive. I'm still waiting and it's almost midnight, so I'm starting to get a little worried, but I think he'll pull through... He said he wanted to go out, so he better be ready!!