I really was at a loss as to what to do next! I called my wife at home and explained the situation to her; my GPS unit had failed! I was on the top of a Tuscany hill at about 8 in the evening, it was damp, I was tired and I had no idea where I was!!! I knew at least that I was still on the track, but I didn’t know which way to go or how far the next small town or village was. I texted the race organiser to let him know my situation and then I just sat down next to my bike to weigh up my options: Do I ride to where I can see the street lights? Do I bivy nearby and restart in the morning, should I crack open one of my dried meals and at least get some food inside me? Regardless I would have to give up the race if the GPS did not work. This was not fun anymore! It had been an early start that morning, in the gym where we stayed for the night close to the start at Massa, people had already begun to wake and pack up at half past five in the morning! Why so early? It had been a good day more or less, although this being my first time participating in an organised bikepacking event, I really didn’t know what to expect. This first day I had already done over 100km of the 560km, and was feeling pleased with my progress given my slightly relaxed attitude to actually training for this ride. I knew I was capable of riding 140km on a fully loaded bike for at least one day as I had done it last year, even though at the end of that day I had my nice comfy bed waiting for me. But I hadn’t really planned, or even looked at a map, on when and where I would stop. I had just thought that I would follow the little line on my GPS unit until I felt tired then I would stop; I had brought a bivy bag with me, although again I had never actually slept in it before! I hadn’t really given any thought as to what to do in the unlikely situation that my GPS failed. It had never failed before! But here I was, with no working GPS and, well, I did not have the faintest idea as to what to do next! Luckily for me after what seemed like hours; in fact I think it was only 20 minutes a group of three riders came up and I explained to them about my predicament and without hesitation they said that I could go with them. And that is what I did, we descended a while, actually leaving the track as they knew that there was a small hotel nearby and it should have a room. Now this hotel was not luxury, but it was cheap, and it had one small room left, as all the other rooms were full of other Tuscany Trail riders. But the feeling of relief was fantastic; I would have a roof over my head that night; which as it happens it rained a lot during the night and I was very grateful that I did not have to bivy in the open. So the next morning it was decided that I should ride with Carmelo, Franco & Renato, three guys from the Piemonte region of Italy who were actually using this ride as training for their sponsored ride in Patagonia later this year. I hadn’t really planned on riding with others, hell I hadn’t even planned! I just thought I would let fate take it’s course; of course I didn’t think fate would include my GPS not working! The morning ride through the woods and down towards Prato was wet, very wet, and we all had to don our wet weather gear. At least I used it, I thought, as I was bombing down the last descent on my Surly Puglsey. Before the race I was unsure as to bring the Pugsley or my Karate Monkey. On the one hand since getting the Pugsley I had hardly ridden any of my other bikes, the Pugs was just so much fun. But it is a little heavier than the others. In the end I opted for the Pugs, and on this particular descent I was having so much fun that I forgot about the extra weight on the up bits. The rest of the day passed by quite quickly, I can remember not particularly liking Prato, but I think that was mainly due to the fact that we only rode through the more industrial areas. In fact it wasn’t until we got to Florence that I really started enjoying the views. In Florence we were joined by two other riders from Como, Marco & Daniele, we continued on as a group of six. The climb out of Florence was quite stiff, but at least in every village or two we passed by there was a fountain to replenish our water supplies. That evening we decided to press on for a while in the dark until we got to a town called Certaldo, where after eating a pizza we bivied down for the night on the terrace of the pizza place! In the morning, after a few hours sleep, not helped by the Carabinieri arrivingat about 3 in the morning and asking WTF we were doing there, we drunk our cappuccino and ate our pastries and cracked on. Again towns passed by, I did not even noticing the names of the places. I really felt lost without my GPS, at least it told me of the towns coming up and how far I had cycled that day. I was totally reliant on the others for any information concerning distances, time, elevation and so on. It was quite a weird feeling not having this information to hand and certainly made me think about my preparation for the event. That evening the group decided that they wanted to carry on until 11 at night, they felt there was a particularly demanding climb to a town called Radicofani that they wanted to attempt first thing in the morning. Unfortunately at this point I felt I couldn’t go any further that evening, plus I think I needed a few hours to myself, so we parted ways at a beautiful little mountain town called San Quirico D’Arcia and I luckily found myself a room for the night at a great hotel with a massive bed and a shower. That evening I had mixed feelings, on the one hand I was happy to shower and spend a little time by myself, but on the other hand I was a little down about the fact that I might have to scratch the race in the morning. Regardless I slept well, and after a very civilised breakfast, I looked up the track on the internet and tried to make some notes about how to carry on; but I realised that without the GPS it would be very difficult to follow the route precisely, and so after phoning my wife and telling her of my plans, I left the hotel looking for the main road to take me to the finish. Now once again fate intervened and as I approached the town square not even 200 metres from the hotel, I saw another group of riders on the Tuscany Trail and asked if I could join them. Of course they agreed and my rollercoaster of emotions rode up again to the top of the ride. Then another rider arrived, this time a solo rider and after exchanging a few pleasantries I explained my GPS situation and asked if I could join him. Giuseppe agreed almost straight away and then Beppe and I rode together for the next two days through the wonderful Tuscany countryside right down to the coast and to the finish. I or rather Beppe and I took 4 days and about 8 hours to complete the 560km ride with over 11,000 metres of climbing. This was the only thing that went to plan as I thought that more or less I would complete in 4 days. Did I enjoy, despite the lack of GPS? Hek yes, in fact I think I enjoyed it more; I got to meet and ride with some great guys, who through this adventure together we are now planning the next one. What will I do for the next ride? Well that comes up in July, here in the South Tyrol region of Italy where I live; despite the fact that I am more familiar with the route and the countryside, I will definitely look into at least writing a roadmap to complement the GPS, which I intend to replace! I will look at possible places to bivy at the end of the day; I will plan how much KMs I intend to do every day, taking into account the amount of expected climbing. Or if this sounds like too much planning I might just wing it again – maybe that is part of the fun.