Searching For the Perfect Motorcycle Adventure: A Scout's Life Part 3

A final night in Bologna and perennial generational ties.

Ken Lee Scouting Adventure
This brooding mountainside and ancient castle overlooked our B&B in Cefalù. Can you imagine trying to mount an attack by scaling those cliffs?Photo: Ken Lee

We did not, however, rate rock-star-priced hotels. Because this was a working trip that was not generating revenue, the Edelweiss office had put Manuel and me on a limited budget for accommodations: no more than 60 Euros per night per man. Priced out of the more posh places that tour clients enjoy, Manuel put his well-honed guide skills to work and dug up outstanding B&B accommodations that often ran way below our financial ceiling. His picks posed no hardship at all and, in fact, we enjoyed an edge of sorts; with only two guys to house, he readily found centrally located B&Bs nestled in the heart of historic, old-town Agrigento and Cefalù, places far too small to handle a full tour group of 12 or more. Yeah, they sometimes included a stout climb up multiple flights of stairs, but they all offered a homey character plus a more intimate, insider's look at these towns. And Manuel unfailingly placed me in the better of the two rooms if there was any discrepancy; always the thoughtful guide.

Ken Lee Scouting Adventure
It seems in Sicily everyone’s conspiring to feed you to death. This is a traditional set appetizers, serving for one person! Main course and dessert to follow… ouch!Photo: Ken Lee

Having completed our scouting loop around Mount Etna, we rolled onto the ferry for the mainland. Manuel's final task focused on getting me and our two motorcycles back to the Edelweiss home base in Meiming, Austria. Our wandering days were done; this would be a straight autostrada sprint up the full length of Italy. Fast, but not especially entertaining.

Ken Lee Scouting Adventure
Departing via ferry, you pick up an amazing view of Sicily and Mount Etna.Photo: Ken Lee

We did decide, however, to spend our layover night in Bologna. Manuel spent seven years in town as a university student and several of his old friends still resided nearby. Ever the helpful guide, he wanted to show me his old haunts and filled me in on the background of this magnificent city. We ate in his old hangout that specialized in local cuisine, and with obvious pride he squired me around town so I could enjoy some major historical spots before his friends joined us.

Ken Lee Scouting Adventure
With Sicily behind us, we approach the Italian mainland.Photo: Ken Lee

Lorenzo, Fabio and Paulo were all excited to see Manuel once again, and while sitting outdoors at a wine bar we shared tall tales, past adventures and outright lies. After one polite glass of wine I stood to take my leave amidst many protests. Feigning fatigue, I had planned to ditch Manuel early. We would finish our last ride together the next day, and after taking care of all my needs splendidly for the past week, he more than deserved to spend this last night off-duty.

Ken Lee Scouting Adventure
Air temperatures plummeted as we finished our leg north to Austria.Photo: Ken Lee

The Road to Palermo

Every now and then, if you’re very, very lucky, the vicissitudes of life will transcend time and space to converge upon your being, gifting you one bright, shining moment to cherish and remember for the rest of your days. I was fortunate enough to enjoy just one such phenomenon in Sicily.

Look back, way back to 1943 when the combined forces of the USA and our allies battled to free Europe from the grip of the Axis forces. In July of that year, America’s 3rd Infantry Division landed in Licata, Sicily, on the far left flank of the Allied invasion, kicking off the assault on Italy. The thousands of soldiers in this Division included a young man born and raised in San Francisco: my stepdad, Ronald Ho.

Ken Lee Scouting Adventure
My pre-trip explorations took me to the Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Catania, and this map tracing the path of the 3rd Infantry Division during the battle of Sicily during WWII.Photo: Ken Lee

Dad had never even traveled beyond California’s borders before he enlisted in the army at the age of 20 on December 8th, 1941. But assigned to the 3rd Division he spent 531 consecutive days in combat operations in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Germany and Austria, serving with the 39th Field Artillery Battalion.

Like so many WWII veterans, dad never talked much about the war and the role he played in that world-shaping conflict. He never returned to Sicily and never will; he’s been gone more than a dozen years now. And so in an incredible happenstance, during my time in Sicily Manuel’s itinerary took me down many of the same roads, through the same towns my dad had seen during the war. Licata. Agrigento. Prizzi. Corleone. Palermo.

As I rolled through the sunny Sicilian countryside free as a bird, gliding along on two wheels, my thoughts kept returning to a young 22-year-old staring in wide-eyed wonder out of a star-spangled deuce-and-a-half towing a 105mm howitzer in trail, taking in the views of the same hilly countryside. Two men, same roads, separated by 70 years. And oh, so much more.

Ken Lee Scouting Adventure
My dad, Ron Ho (right) and his friend Jerry Deprizzio made it through the battle for Sicily and the subsequent Anzio invasion to have their photo taken in Rome in June of 1944.Photo: Ken Lee