By and large, this afternoon's cycling was some of the easiest and the most enjoyable I've done so far in Sicily. From the ruins of Selinunte, I continued east along the coastal highway, passing by lazy seaside farmlands, and with Menfi being the only sizeable town along the way. Then, just as I'd finished passing through the town of Sciacca, something very dramatic and very alarming happened. To my utter surprise, I suddenly found that I'd ridden straight into a patch of wet, liquid cement in the middle of the road, and that my bike wheels (and half my boots) were mired in the stuff. Aaaaagggghhh... YUCK!
The story is as follows. I was riding along one of the roads that leads out of Sciacca — for some reason, I'd gone off the main highway, and it was a lesser route out of town. I reached a spot where the road was closed: but a guy at the barrier said that it should be OK for a bicycle to go through, so I rode around the barrier and continued. A few metres on — around a sharp bend — I discovered the reason for the road being closed: there was a crew there doing some fairly serious roadworks.
The crew saw me coming, and they hesitated for a second, but then indicated that I could ride through the area they were working on. One of the guys shouted something at me — in retrospect, I assume it was to the effect of "by the way, don't ride on the right half of the road, it's liquid cement there" — but I didn't understand him, so I just smiled and rode on. Right into the liquid cement.
Boy, did I get the shock of my life! It must have been at least 10cm deep: enough to reach about 1/3 of the way up my wheels, and to cover the bottom half of my boots and pedals. I screamed like a castrated kitten when I realised what had happened: but it only took a few seconds to quickly extricate myself from the stuff, and to get back onto the non-liquid half of the road.
It wasn't too bad after that. One of the construction workers (while trying to contain his laughter) sped over to me, yanked a high-pressure hose off the back of his truck, and thoroughly washed down my wheels, my pedals, and my boots — within 30 seconds, almost all the cement was off. I apologised and thanked the crew profusely, and then continued on down the road — this time being a bit more careful about which side I stayed on.
I didn't enjoy it at the time: but looking back, I must say it was pretty funny. It was certainly a good way of finishing the day with a splash. No damage seems to have been done to the bike, or to anything else — and I didn't disrupt the roadworks too badly, either. But oy, what an utterly nebbish thing to do.