Monday, March 14, 2016

Podcast: Searching for Spadino

Even though Spadino's actions were described in the newspapers of the day, no one's talking about what he did any more, because the French and Italian governments (who jointly administer the tunnel) have decided keeping the investigation into the fire open, and the gag orders in place, is safer than placing blame anywhere.

A monument on the French side, listing victims of the fire.
Michele Troppiano was the tunnel's administrator at the time I researched this story.
Photos were forbidden, but I snapped this one anyway.
The Italian portal. 

Local cafe. Scooters outnumber motorcycles in Aosta, obviously.

Funeral. I think that's the Italian Prime Minister in the car. Not sure.
Sign pointing me to the high-mountain cemetery where Spadino is buried.
All Saint's Day, Aosta.
The plaque that Italian bikers placed at the Italian portal, the year after the fire.
From the newspaper. Eva kept it.
Her only snapshot of Spadino.
Following the flow of pedestrians and cyclists to the Aosta cemetery.
Spadino lived in this building for a while.
Perhaps the most-underrated motorcycle of the early 'Naughties. If you find a good one for sale used, please contact me. Seriously.
Spadino's friend Mauro has heard plenty, from co-workers who were in contact with Spadino for an hour after the fire broke out. But he'd be fired and face criminal charges if he told me what he knows.
No translation needed.
It was the ultimate bike for the job. And, as you can see, it didn't rain all the time.
Yes, there's a HOG chapter in Aosta. One of their members was a truck driver who died in the fire.
Writer's life.
You'd be surprised how well this works. Though I suppose now, I'd use a translation app.
She rented this garden plot to Spadino. He brought his friend Eva fresh vegetables. 
Ironically, the only photo they had for this purpose was his wedding photo. 
Losing hope.

By the time I was researching this story, the Tunnel had switched from BMW K75 motorcycles to these C1 scooters. They don't carry passengers, as configured. But Spadino would have found a way.
Cemetery in Aosta.
I noticed this tiny button on one of these guys (below). That was the lead that led to the whole story unfolding. Motorcycle -riding Carabinieri (state police) also bent the rules to leak the info I needed to find Spadino's sister.

"Be ready, for the hour of your death is unknown". Indeed.
If you're called upon in that hour, what kind of man will you be? 
Spadino's final resting place is only a few miles from the Tunnel.
Italy's highest honor for civilian bravery.
Writer's life.
Eva told me, he was "brave" — which really just means, "a great guy" in Italian. But it was a good choice of words.
Warm wet boots and gloves are better than cold wet boots and gloves.
Ridden hard and put away wet. I got the bike back to Bologna, and got on the train to Milan, just in time to get home (which, that year, was Paris.)
By the time I rode through the tunnel, to get to Chamonix and read the French newspaper accounts of the fire, I'd already alienated the Italian tunnel administrator. So, I didn't dare break the rules and stop in the tunnel for a photo. I took this by pulling my Nikon out of the tank bag one-handed, and snapping it en route. In the middle of the tunnel, surrounded by a mile of rock in all directions, it's always about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That's why Spadino was able to patrol on his K75 all winter.
A version of Searching for Spadino was recently printed in Iron & Air, with terrific illustrations by Ryan Quickfall. 

Want to read dozens more stories like this? Buy a copy of On Motorcycles: The Best of Backmarker


  1. Here is one for you

  2. Once again, your words remind us that on occasion we are graced with the best of humanity.