Beach Time

Posted: December 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

Cathy and I just spent 8 days in one place, I think that’s a record for this trip.

We found this nice beach – we’d actually been searching for a nice beach since Malaysia.  We would try each one on like Goldilocks tried out rocking chairs and porridge.  Some beaches were beautiful, but totally empty – devoid of life except for a few beach dogs and perhaps some fishing boats.  Sounds like paradise but it’s actually not all that fun, beaches are supposed to be fun and we all know from sex that fun is better when you’re not doing it by yourself.  Plus, empty beaches are usually a long way from food sources.

Some of the beaches were the opposite – just too crowded – like Krabi/Ao Nang.  We both remembered this place as paradise – we’d been here 21 years ago.  We rented a bamboo hut on the beach for $4 a night and ate Thai food at local restaurants every night – there were a few westerners there but not many.  Today it’s busier than LAX during Christmas season.

We were so depressed after Krabi that we were going to just skip Phuket – it is after all the largest tourist destination in Thailand, but it is also a damn big island – so we biked there, and skipped all the beaches of memory, going to one we didn’t know about and got no press at all.  Turned out to be a good hit!  The other beaches are like fly paper, and this one just exists.

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We scored a private bungalow for $15 a night.  Dialed in our favorite Thai food stalls, recharged our batteries for the upcoming 500 kilometers of headwinds and hills.  For fun we stacked beach stones, played in tide pools and hiked the coast.  The pictures tell the rest.

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Getting ready to go catch dinner

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Our private island .

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Bike seat on the beach – dedicated to Dave Mo at Rock and Roll Sports – Gunnison, CO

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Cathy’s Sundial – and it works too!

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Waiting for the storm – my favorite so far.

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Cathy’s sunstones

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Leaning tower of Phuket

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More sunstones

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Dr. Suess’s Who’s from Whosville

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And a good night to all.

Peditation

Posted: November 22, 2019 in Uncategorized

Mind set

I often forget how small and insignificant I am until I walk a deserted beach on a clear, moonless night with a billion stars above me and the ocean spilling over the horizon to my side. I am nothing more than a spec of dust hurtling through space on a slightly larger spec of dust, into a universe that goes on forever.

I’m always grateful for this feeling because my normal-self has a tendency to get all spun out about climate change and injustice and my brain goes to work on overtime trying to connect the dots.  How can people elect a gameshow host as the president of the United States and believe him instead of climate scientists?  Is air really odorless or is it just the odor that we’re used to?  And why do we have to wash our towels if we only use them to dry our clean bodies?  These things really bug me – especially the first one.

But when I’m out looking up at all those stars, all that noise goes away, and I think that’s why I like bike touring, and Cathy.

Bike touring is like Christmas every day.  You go to sleep at night in anticipation of tomorrow – tomorrow is a package that you get to unwrap slowly – first you sort of shake it – looking at the map you get a feel for its size and shape.  Then you start taking the layers off – a few miles in and the tape starts coming off, a few more and you’re tugging at the wrapping paper.  Then you pry off the lid and get to have a look inside.  Sometimes you get a lump of coal.  Sometimes you get the really cool shape-changing atomizer you’ve been dreaming about.  Bike touring takes me to the craziest places – places busses and trains don’t bother stopping at – places that will never have airports, places where people have never seen a couple of westerners pedaling a tandem bike with things strapped to all parts of it and pulling a Burley trailer.  Bike touring keeps you outside – when it rains you get wet, when it’s hot you sweat, when it’s cold you pile on layers and sometimes you freeze to death.  Climate is damned hard to ignore when you bike tour.

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Cathy is like Christmas every day too but I’m not going to get into the unwrapping bit because we’re both old and my granddaughters would go “Ewwwwwww!” if I told the story.  But Cathy takes me to uncharted beaches and even the occasional mountain top as well and if it wasn’t for her I’d have been locked up in a mental institution for the tragically sane long ago.

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We all need someone who keeps us crazy – and in lieu of that, something, and when we’re really lucky, we get both.

Galileo was another person who was taken by the stars. Roughly 420 years ago the crazy fool presented the concept that the earth revolved around the sun, not, that the sun and the rest of the universe revolved around the earth as the catholic church proclaimed.  Despite some pretty convincing evidence to support this theory, the church denounced him, put him under house arrest where he remained until his death, and banned the publication of all of his past and future works.  Not unlike the gameshow host’s demand to remove all mention of climate change from all government websites within his first month in office.  Over 400 years and we homo sapiens really haven’t changed much.  Evolution is a slow process.  Galileo had a Cathy in his life too.

Time

Bike touring gives a person a lot of time to think – to ponder some of life’s questions, like “What is Martinizing and why do people wear clothes that require such a thing?” and “If I am just a spec of dust on a larger spec of dust in a very dusty universe, why does it still matter so much to me that so many of my peers are unable (or unwilling) to perceive the fact that they are in fact financing the denial of climate change?  That even if 99% of the climate scientists currently alive are incorrect, and that climate change is in fact some extremely well manipulated hoax (getting the ice caps to melt must be the most difficult part) what’s wrong with weaning ourselves from fossil fuels and shifting to renewable energy?  What’s wrong with carbon offsetting?” and of course my favorite, “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”

Best friends

Tonight we’re on Issara Beach in Sichon, Thailand. The ocean stretches to a horizon that only a few hundred years ago was believed to be the edge of the earth.  I guess we all make mistakes sometimes.

A storm is blowing in. Lightning cracks the sky as crashing waves compete with the thunder.  I’m taken back to when the tsunami that hit the other side of this peninsula 15 years ago and washed away 230,000 lives and thousands more livelihoods; to the cyclone in Myanmar that killed 140,000 in one day.  Nature is a force to be reckoned with, as humans we and everything we do is so impermanent.  I need to remember that.  I need to be that.

As the wind howls, a few stars manage to punch holes in the clouds – and I am dust again.

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Editors note:  Follow this URL ( https://harpers.org/archive/2015/04/rotten-ice/ ) for the article that helped inspire the above – but I will warn you – don’t read it if you don’t want to get pissed off and do something about climate change – and no, it’s not too late.

Thwarted in Malaysia

Posted: November 15, 2019 in Uncategorized

Malaysia is a country of smiles, diversity, temples, mosques, art, jungle, beaches, birds, lizards, monkeys, holidays and food.

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From the minute we entered, Malaysia thwarted all of our efforts to travel slowly.  Our intention was to sample both coasts of the peninsula and then choose some favorite spots to hunker down in.   But we’re on a bike and weather matters.  We didn’t want to be influenced by monsoonal days and nights we wanted to see Malaysia with a medium lens, not too bright but also not through a sheet of water.

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[And, interrupting the flow, here’s a side rant, who came up with left hand traffic circulation?  It’s frightening from the back of a tandem when Curt accidently forgets and turns into the wrong lane and I have to scream “Wrong way,” while leaning away from certain death.]

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On our first ride, from our budget airport hotel to our friend’s house in Kaula Lumpur, we were “Garmined”.   The tricky GPS unit lead us to a muddy two track through stealth garbage dumps, cows and giant polluted puddles before directing us to a paved road that took us on the left side of the road into the city.  At least on the two track there was no worry about what side of the road we were on.  Even when we met the random motorcycle, we would both take the safest, driest available track we could get to, sides didn’t matter.

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We arrived at our friends five minutes before the Kuala Lumpur 4 o’clock deluge.  Our friends were loaning us their 3 bedroom apartment, it came complete with a kitchen, a covered deck and within walking distance of almost everything.  They told us that the only downside was that we had to be home or under some covered space from 4 to 6 PM for the daily deluge.  Only problem was, after they left us, the deluge changed schedule.  It became unpredictable, catching us out and about without umbrellas.  We bought umbrellas and checked the forecast hourly.  Despite our preparations the rain found us on our way home with two bags of groceries.  We trudged up the hill hiding under our umbrellas as the wind blew the rain at our sides, then our fronts, the water in the street rose, we trudged against the current trying to walk lightly to avoid the holes and hidden curbs.  To add to our indignity the passing cars threw the dank water up, over and under our umbrellas.  We arrived home gritty with a couple of dry spots on the top of our heads.  It was time to get out of KL and its crazy climate.  We re-researched the Malaysian weather.  The only place not experiencing monsoonal weather was the northern west coast.  The rest of the country would be wet until the end of February.

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We left KL a day earlier than planned, as the town was mostly shut for Diwli (an Indian holiday). We headed north toward the west coast on the motorway.  It’s a beautiful, dedicated motorcycle lane that was probably as deadly as any major highway during rush hour.  I dared not wave to all of the friendly riders shouting hello and giving us the thumbs up as I feared I’d knock them off of their cycle or I’d get mangled and crushed.

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From KL we spent a couple of days riding flat tropical roads next to date palm plantations.  We saw hornbills,  IMG_3968kingfishers, and sea eagles.  We ate at small open roadside restrons (yup, that’s how you spell restaurant in Malaysia),

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drank gallons of water, slept in small budget hotels in tiny towns and at the end of every ride day we found expensive cold beer at the local 7-11.   What we didn’t find for days and days was an open post office.  We had decided to mail all of our warm weather gear including our sleeping bags to our Thai daughter.  The combined weight was 14 pounds and needed 2 boxes.  We were in Kuala Lumpur during Diwali, an Indian holiday that the Malaysians feel they should honor by closing stuff.  Next time we found an open P.O we were only able to mail one box as the post office clerk finished work at 4 o’clock and didn’t want to process our 2nd box.  In the next town it was an important dead person’s birthday and things were closed. We hit the fourth P.O on the right day and time and the sleeping bags were on their way.  We were riding between Kuala Lumpur and George Town, two of the hippest places in Malaysia.  They are so hip that we were able to get away with riding in bike shorts the entire time without getting stared at, abused or yelled at.

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Malaysians are so friendly and helpful be they Chinese, Muslim, Indian or migrants, if we stopped for more than 5 minutes or opened a map or looked in a pannier someone would stop to make sure we were okay.  We had people buy us breakfast on more than one occasion, a couple stop and give us gator aid, we were offered rides, help and advice.

The tropical flat terrain was nice and without the winter weight we were putting on some kilometers.  And then we hit some hills, beautiful, jungle, limestone cliff hills with monkeys.  We went from riding 100-kilometer days to 60 and drinking a couple of liters of water to a gallon each.  Every day we passed Mosques, Hindi and Chinese temples and occasionally a church or a Buddhist monastery.

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Curt was navigating, steering us safely through Ipoh to our hotel.  I rode sitting upright, snapping photos from the back of the tandem, trying to capture the beauty of the city surrounded by cliffs and the jungle hills.  We had read about the street art of Ipoh and heard about the food from our KL friends.  However, I didn’t understand that I’d get to be a part of the art.  We spent a couple of days playing with and on and photographing the street art while sampling as much of the street food as our bellies could hold.

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From Ipoh we rode and stopped and stayed in small towns on our way to the island of Penang.  We queued at the ferry jetty and rode onto the barge with 100’s of other riders on their Honda 150’s to George Town.

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George Town is a UNESCO site. We played with more art, met more fun people, drank beer, ate something from every ethnicity, got our visas for Thailand and watched the diverse population interact peacefully despite their religious differences.

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Before leaving the island, we had to experience the beach. We booked a budget motel and rode the 18 kilometers to their most famous beach.  Swimming in the sea was not advised.  It is too close to Indonesia, shipping lanes and the portals of raw sewage that escapes George Town to make swimming attractive or safe.  It’s also known for its jelly fish and the bacteria they carry that causes a severe skin reaction that some people attribute to sea lice.  We also discovered and were reminded that it’s a Malaysian beach.  The women of Malaysia do NOT wear bathing suits nor do most of the children, they swim (despite the smell of the water) and play on the beach fully clothed.  The men however can wear shorts and some even go topless.  Thankfully there were a couple of beach bars with affordable, edible food and beer.

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There was also an eclectic clientele of Singaporeans, Koreans, Japanese, Thais and retired Europeans.  The people watching was most excellent.   There were also monkeys in the jungle hills surrounding the beach and monitor lizards prowling the sand and sea eagles and tropical birds and flowers and tropical smells and fruit.

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So much fruit, every kind of fruit and coconuts, everywhere there were fruit stands and fruit shake stands, and so every day we had to have a shake with breakfast, take a coconut shake break after lunch and have a limeade with dinner.

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We left the island the same way we arrived, queued with the motorcycles waiting for the ferry.  The ferry was free for the trip to the mainland.  We rode toward Thailand.  The Garmin counted the ferry kilometers as part of our ride.  We missed 2nd breakfast and elevensies.  We got to our destination just in time for lunch.  Thanks to booking.com or agoda we always have a budget hotel ready for us at the middle or end of every day.

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The biggest problem has been leaving too early, riding too fast, not stopping enough and not learning and doing it again.

Despite the weather reports we have not experienced any rain while riding.  We’ve had a few crazy rains that have lasted minutes, up to 45 of them, that included thunder, lightening and sheets of no visibility water while checking into hotels, leaving for dinner or sitting in our room looking out, but we have not gotten wet since Kuala Lumpur.

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We’ve put on a couple of the pounds we lost riding in cold, wet, mountainous Spain.  Despite the price of beer and the occasional bottle of wine that we carry we’ve stayed in budget.  We’ve not experienced mosquitoes, bedbugs or any other tropical insect bites or terrors.  Malaysia is a beautiful country, full of kind, thoughtful people.  The food is good, it doesn’t always rain and the sea on the east coast is swimmable.  Despite our like of the place it continues to thwart us from returning.  We had plans to come back and cycle the east coast after the rains had stopped in March and truly ride out our three-month visa, but Ramadan starts in mid-April.  A month of hunger, riding, and no beer will not make the place look better in our eyes or our journals.

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Street Art of Ipoh, Malaysia

Posted: November 3, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

 

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Best of show in our opinion.

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Hard to really capture the beauty of this one.

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Cathy having Kway Teo with some friends.

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Of course I went for the beer 🙂

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Failed to get the big flower in the picture.

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Pretty sure this was the line for the womens toilets.

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What’s real and what’s painted in this picture?

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Where all cars belong.

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Let me guess – snow day and no school?

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Cathy having a cup of tea.

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Lovely lighting and lovely model.

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The “Father” of Ipoh Street Art.

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Me on a bad hair day.

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Another one of our favorites.

Or traveling with the Garmin on approved goat paths.  Or whose idea was this anyway?

I haven’t decided what to call this. It’s been a strange adventure, that was the result of a series of decisions that led us onward to more adventure altering decisions. It began when we decided to stay in Europe after Toph left as we had 60 days left on our visas and if we got south fast enough all would be well.  Like it would be warm, sunny and stop raining.

And then we discovered we couldn’t get as far south as we had hoped from Orleans, France.  We wanted to take a train to Barcelona but we had the tandem.  After some extensive frustration and a little research, we learned we could take a regional train. So, we went as far as the French train system would take an unboxed tandem, which was the city of Pau.

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Pau is at the base of the French Pyrenees. All we had to do to get warm was to ride over the mountains and into Spain and then ride south fast.  The problem we found was that we’re old, we have a lot of shit, and we’re slow.  We persevered.  We rode over the Col du Pourtalet, which was a very beautiful but a slow slog that began in the wet but famous town of Laruns and ended on the other side of the Pyrenees in a Spanish campground.

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From there we changed plans and routes a couple of times and ended up in Jaca.  Jaca is a very cool town with a very unimpressive campground.  From Jaca we could have gone to Pamplona but Pamplona does not have a campground so we decided to head kind of sort of in the general direction of Zaragoza, without actually going there.

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We stopped at the last open campground on our chosen route.  It was a cold, cool, ride that took us through parts of what looked like NM, CO, UT and WY.  Instead of wildlife there was old stuff.  We stayed two days.  We used their internet connection to research weather in southern Spain and the Algarve of Portugal for November and again made a new decision.  We decided it was time to call it over.  We researched and secured flights to Malaysia from Madrid while consuming a few glasses of wine.  We mapped what we thought was the fastest, bestest route to Madrid from wherever it was we were over a couple of more glasses of wine.

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Our route took us through always up, farming, pig raising, fly infested, mostly boring, headwind blowing, no campgrounds Spain.  We figured it would have taken us a month to get to sunny, warm, interesting, beachy, touristed, fun having Spain or eight days to Madrid.   And the days were shortening and weather chilling and the fucking headwinds kept blowing hence all of the windmills dotting every hill we had to climb.

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Thankfully we found amazing wild camps where we enjoyed packs of msg enhanced ramen for dinner and breakfast.  We filled our water bottles and water bladder every evening at the local well/fountain before riding another 5 to 10 kilometers in search of the perfect wild camp.

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When we could we’d buy a couple of beers before leaving the last village on our quest for a secluded pitch so we could celebrate our survival.

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Hmm, missed the “Sin Alcohol” part when I bought this.  Tasted good however!

And in between wild camps or if the weather got too drizzly or we ran into a city with an Inn at the right time we’d rent a simple room for the night.  At the Inns we’d take long long hot hot showers and then we’d wash our cloths and hang them from the curtains.  While the clothes kept vigil we’d wander the town to see the sights, have a glass of wine in the square and find the open grocery to buy a picnic dinner to enjoy in our warm dry room.

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The days passed.  The sun set every night around 8 and started to lighten the sky again around eight.  We slept a lot as every ride day was at least 80 K against the wind, with a couple thousand feet of elevation.  By the time the sun would actually appear around nine as there was always a hill or a mountain that it had to climb over, we’d have already stuffed the damp tent and had our camp coffee and ramen or if we were in a room we’d pack dry and leave after bad café coffee and stale bread made into toast.  We however were alive and living.

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We were out of season, off piste, and riding toward Madrid really slowly.  We changed routes daily as the map or the Garmin or the phone or the police would offer us some new information.  The new information was that we could ride Camino Rurals or gravel goat paths.  These farm lanes make the white roads of France look like super highways.  We double tracked our way across a lot of rural Spain.

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The 30K goat path into Guadalajara followed the expressway. While bouncing over rocks and riding through puddles and ditches we waved to truckers and read the billboards.  The goat paths into Madrid were a different box of frogs.  We had nice gravel and evil large rock strewn double track with off camber shoulders.  We had deep sand and river crossings in which we had to take off our socks, roll up our tights (remember chilly as in low 50’s high 40’s) and carry the Burley over the water.  We walked and pushed and rode and prayed our way to the paved white road that took us outside of the Madrid airport.

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The dark brown cloud we saw hanging over Madrid we learned was not pollution from cars it’s caused by the 80% of the population who are smoking, morning, afternoon, in their sleep, no matter where they are or what they are doing they are smoking.  The city is paved with cigarette butts.

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After viewing the cloud we tunneled our way into Madrid.  On the east side of the airport there is a tunnel, a 2500 kilometer tunnel, under one of the runways.   The sign outside the tunnel advised cyclists to wear vests and turn on their lights. I donned my white vest and we turned on all of our blinkies and rode on in.  We had a dedicated bike lane with barrios every 6 or so feet.  It was a loud, ventilated, lit tunnel.  It was the longest 2500 kilometers we’d ridden on the entire journey, including riding over Col du Pourtalet.

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We followed the Garmins suggested route to the campground we had stayed at 20ish years ago when we began our first about the world adventure.  The campground had not changed or improved during the time we had been gone.

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We put up our tent and our clothes line and started to walk the Garmins suggested route to the grocery.  At the main intersection I looked up and realized I knew where we were.  We had stayed at a hotel in the neighborhood last year on our way home from our tour of Galicia.  We knew where the grocery, metro and cafes were.  We were home.

The next day we woke to almost the worst sound you can hear from your tent, the sound of pouring rain (the worst is hearing someone robbing you while you’re tangled in your sleeping bag, but that’s another story from another time).  We put on our best pout as we had not put up the coffee making tarp.  Thankfully by the time we actually decided we had to get up there was a lull in the rain, we got the tarp up under mostly dry skies.  I set up the tent for dining while Curt brewed up some camp coffee under our wonderful cool tarp.  It was a leisurely morning.

We then decided to rain ride to Terminal 1 of Madrid’s international airport. We needed to test the route before we had to take it for our flight out.  It took us about 15 minutes to ride the 4 kilometers of neighborhood up and down and lost.  The wrap your luggage guys and the dry corner to get the bike together are not far from Saudi Air which is what we’re flying to Malaysia on.

Now we get to spend a couple of days getting our shit together and enjoying Madrid.  We are still woefully out of season and trying desperately to stay warm and dry, but we persevere.

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Things did not improve during our second night in Madrid. We got up for our nightly free-range pee to discover that it was rain dusting, not raining, not fog just wet dust that sometimes got so heavy it would sprinkle.  We crawled back into the tent to burrow into our sleeping bags, we could hear the wind, the pitter patter and feel the darkness before the dawn. After a slow morning waiting for it to clear, we rode into Madrid. It was a busy Friday 10:30ish morning.  The GPS refused to find the route to the sporting goods store we needed so we had to use the phone for navigation.  We needed cheap yoga mats for wrapping the bike for travel and a new sleeping mat as our 23 year old thermarest mat had started to delaminate.  The phone directed us to ride past the Madrid bull ring, through throngs of tourists, through a couple of protests and after an hour it said we had arrived at our destination, which was not our destination, it was a grocery store.  Frustrated with technology and the traffic we decided to have lunch at our favorite Madrid restaurant, which was a Basque tapa bar(we had found it when we were here last year).  While eating Curt reprogramed the phone and after a fun meal we really made it to our destination.  They had everything we needed.  And then the Garmin decided to find its brain and got us home on a great route.  I think the Garmin is a bit competitive and wanted to show the phone how to do things right.

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And now we’re also discovering we’re not only out of season and off piste but some of the stuff we brought is in need of replacement or repair.  We now have a daily mission to replace what we can until it’s time to fly.  Next story from Malaysia.

Out of Season

Posted: October 18, 2019 in Uncategorized

Out of Season

Just us and our shadow

Just us and our shadows

Greens are turning to yellows on the tree branches.  My thermometer reads 34 degrees and I can see my breath as I fire up the camp stove to make coffee and heat water for our ramen packets.  Everything is wet from last night’s rain and more rain is in the forecast – I’m thinking maybe a hotel for the next night is in order.

Haunted Goat Run free camp

Haunted Goat Run Free Camp

The last few days were incredibly beautiful, cycling through quilted hillsides of grapes, acres of rosemary, sunflowers, corn, wheat, pine and oak forests, pastures full of newly shorn sheep, and a peculiar region where they grow only acorns to feed hogs, creating a specialty ham famous in the region.

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Patchwork Quilts

View from lunch break

Lunch Stop

Over the last few days we’ve seen very few cars, one day I counted a total of 5.  Typically, we climbed relentlessly – only to descend into some small village forgotten by time – a church, a few stone buildings, always a plaza with a water fountain and a bench, silent, everything in earth tones.  Sometimes there would be a café or bar open and we could score a bit of food, usually not.  Lunch was most often tinned fish of some sort that we’d bought before we entered this region. Dinner was ramen, breakfast was ramen.  Once we found some canned lentils and had them with some leftover cheese we’d been saving.  Then we’d climb out of the village and back into the patchwork quilt of agriculture.  There were days that I felt like a snail on a treadmill.

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Really?  This is a road?

Chruch in town plaze

Church in a town plaza

 

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How bad can tinned fish be when you have  a selection like this?

When I was young, I was curious about my heritage.  My mom was always proud to tell me that she had direct lineage to the Mayflower, my dad always joked that I shouldn’t dig too deep, as on his side I’d discover that I’d descended from horse thieves, our family name originally being “Brander” and morphing into “Bradner” through a spelling error at the immigration docks, my ancestors apparently happy to be shed of their “Brand.”  I tried to imagine myself as being a part of some European ethnicity but I never could – in truth I was I was just a suburban white kid growing up in America with three television channels and crush on Annette Funicello.   That’s why I was surprised to learn that my heart was actually Spanish.  Hearts aren’t tied to ethnicities.

Amazing Cathedral in Siguenza

Church that would rival anything the Loire has to offer

I really love this country.  I have from the first time my feet touched the earth here.  France is nice but really, the language is just stupid – why have so many letters in a word and only pronounce half of them?  In Spain, every letter is pronounced – no waste.  And the French think their wine is good – which is only because they’re too stuffy to try the Spanish wines, which are so much better – and the food…………OMG, you simply cannot out cuisine the Basque region of Spain, but of course that’s not fair because the Basque are not Spanish.

Riverside freecamp

Riverside Free Camp

And that’s why we’re here right now, despite the cold temperatures and closed campgrounds, despite the fact there are no other tourists – we just had to get our Spanish fix before we left Europe.  We had actually planned on cycling to the Algarve and staying a few more weeks but the diminishing hours of daylight and yes, the 34-degree mornings have persuaded us to reconsider.

Pine forest free camp

Pine Forest Free Camp

We fly to Malaysia next, and yes, there is a bit of my heart in SE Asia as well, besides not being defined by ethnicity, hearts don’t really have size and weight restrictions so you can just have bits and pieces of them all over the place.

More later.

Hotel laundry

Hotel room after 3 days of free camping – OMG

 

It all started with a casual conversation which turned into Curt converting Toph’s handcycle into an electric assist bike.  While he was at it Curt also designed and made a hitch so Toph could pull his wheelchair and his own

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While we were contemplating the pros and cons of the trip our friend Alan asked if he could join us for 10 days of the tour.  After a couple of rounds of emails the tour was on, as Alan bought his tickets to Paris, thanks to peer pressure we all followed his lead.  And then our German friend Manfred suggested we ride the route in reverse.  As we had researched in vain ways to get Toph and his handcycle to the beginning we took his suggestion and booked train tickets to Nantes the city in which it usually ends.

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The first ten days of the tour were just plain fun, thanks to Alan’s good nature and the beauty of France.  Alan was not only the recon man, scouting safe intersections and the best way forward on cobbled hills, he was the breakfast guy, riding out every morning after a bit of camp coffee to find the perfect quiche, baguette and chocolate croissant for Toph.  He also taught Topher how to play cribbage.  They stayed up late into the night counting 15-2’s.   By the time Alan left Topher was whooping Alan’s butt in cribbage.

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During the day we rode cobble stone, gravel and paved paths, country roads and bridges.  We rode head winds and tail winds, and up hills and along the river.  We rode under mostly sunny skies with perfect temperatures.  The signage was excellent and the wine and food superb.  Curt and I did the grocery runs and the cooking.  We made one pot meals and humongous salads.  We all contributed to our picnic menus, which might include tabuli, olives, ham and cheese, sardines for Alan and cookies for Toph.  And slept in campgrounds galore.  Every afternoon we set up and every morning we packed up.  We rode around 25 to 40 kilometers a day and climbed seldom but steep when we did.

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We visited villages and cathedrals.

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And then Alan left and we were three.  As Topher said it was like taking two different tours.  The funny one with Alan and late night and cribbage and the old folks one with early bedtimes and early mornings.

We started riding shorter days as we entered castle country. We visited few wine caves, a micro brew and watched hot air balloons galore.  We had some beautiful biking days and some great stay days.

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We spent one morning riding single track.  It was through a forest next to a castle.   Topher hit a root with his chair and tipped it, luckily, he, the chair and bike were all okay.  And we rode on.

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And then the weather turned colder and wetter.  We camped on what we hoped would be dry nights and rented bungalows when we could.  We stayed at a Best Western and with a warmshower host.  We continued to visit castles, cathedrals, wine caves, a pizza truck, chocolatiers and tour towns and villages, and rock out at an outdoor concert but still the weather put a damper on our spirits.

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And then it was over.  We rented a car in Orleans and drove Topher to Paris to catch his flight home.  We returned to the empty carriage house our Warmshower host had gifted us. It had been a grand adventure.  We experienced all of the beauty of the Loire and made tons of friends.  We saw more amazing things than we could possibly describe and had experiences that we will remember for a lifetime.

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