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.

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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?

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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.

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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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Getting Back into the Groove

Posted: August 14, 2019 in Uncategorized
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Home at the Bradner/Fanning Campground

We’re moved out of our house and, while waiting for our departure date of Sept. 2nd, are living in our daughter’s recreational trailer up behind her house.  Life could be worse!

While it would have been ideal if we could have scheduled things so we could leave for the airport the day our renters took over our house, this method allows us to ease back into the touring lifestyle while still being around to help Topher get his gear to France, and to help our daughter ease out of having us around to help with Zoe and such.

To keep in the touring mode we’re biking everywhere possible, to get groceries, take Zoe to school when she’ll let us, and really just being tourists in our own town and picnicking in the parks.

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Looking north from our pitch

 

It’s About the Pens

Posted: August 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

It was the pens that I noticed first.

Cathy and I are cleaning out the house because we’re going to rent it again (yup, another bike trip and it could be a long one) and as I went through our drawers and all the nooks and crannies, I was amazed at the number of pens we’d accumulated.  I mean, we just went through this a few years ago – the purging of our belongings, and we got our possessions down to what would fit in one 10×10 room – no extra pens.  So, where did all these pens come from?  I don’t even write much on paper any more.  I found a pen in my underwear drawer, some mixed in with the chop sticks, some were actually mechanical pencils but I classified them as pens – some were Sharpies – same thing – probably fifty to a hundred by the time I’d piled them all up on the kitchen counter.  Funny thing is, I can remember having to look for one last time I was writing a grocery list.

Next it was clips – the metal kind that you use to bind a bunch of loose sheets of paper – only my general use was clipping bags of chips or nuts shut – and I could never find one when I needed one – but I learned they were like pens, quietly breeding in my underwear drawer and other obscure places.

Every time we pack up our house for an extended bike tour, or just to move (last time we sat down to count we’ve received mail at over 40 different address in 6 different countries and on four different continents) I’m simply amazed how much stuff we manage to collect, so as I’m filling bags and boxes with stuff to take to Goodwill and give to friends, I always find myself asking, “What about people who never move?  How many pens might they have lying around?  Do they reach a critical mass and then stop reproducing?”  I suspect the latter is the case.

At the time of writing this, we have 32 days before we board an airplane for France, we’ve paired our belongings down to even less than last time (5×10 room), we have the house rented with the promise to the renters that they can have it for at least two years.

Once in France we’ll be biking the La Loire a Velo with our old friend Topher, and Alan, our sidekick for 10 or so days.

Over the spring months I put together an E-Assist hand bike for Topher and made a hitch for it so he can pull his wheelchair behind it – see attached pics.  We plan to camp most of the way as campgrounds are abundant on this route and we want to see if we can do it on less than $75 a day.  Once we get Topher, hopefully alive and unbroken, back to Paris and on a plane to the USA, Cathy and I plan to run out our EU visa in Spain and Portugal before we head to Malaysia and the rest of SE Asia for the winter.  We’re bringing 2 pens each.

All the best,

CnC

The 20-year Anniversary Tour

Posted: September 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

In 1998 we sold our house and business and left for a tour about the world.  This year to celebrate we decided to revisit Galicia.

Here’s my version of the ride.  It really began the morning we put O and Nomada (tandem and trailer) together in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain, with a little help from our new friend and Warmshowers (https://www.warmshowers.org/) host Iria.

Iria

We rode from the park where O was assembled and Nomada was loaded to Iria’s small bulk food shop to drop off keys, on to breakfast, a bike shop for a new odometer and finally to our first campground 10 kilometers away.

Our adventure was off to a leisurely pace.  We had decided after a jet-lagged dinner the night before to head west/north to Ribadeo and onto Lugo (an amazing world heritage site) where we would plot some more.

On the road to Ribadeo we followed the coastal cliffs, rode/pushed over a mountain, saw wild ponies, slept in a surf camp, the bushes and with more Warmshower hosts.

We were wet and dry.  And we were reminded almost to severe dehydration that the Spanish keep strange hours.  Grocery stores close from 2-4:30, and lunch is from 1:30-3:30, dinner starts at 10 and nothing but bars, restaurants and gas stations are open on Sundays and holidays which can be local and random.  We also learned that in Galicia on good days the sun rose at 7 (if it was not hidden by a mountain or cloud) and set around 10.  In the villages we watched the bread get delivered and the food grow, they had no need for groceries closed or open and so we learned to always carry lunch, an emergency dinner, and emergency snacks.

If not for the public water fountains in every town, village and crossroad we’d have ended up sun-dried and shriveled on the side of the road we took from Sarria (Camino pilgrim central) to Parada de Sil.

The road to Parada was long, hot, steep and beautiful.  We rode this particular route for the mirador (view) that waited for us at the end of the 10-hour ride/push.  Curt reminded me that the last 5 kilometers of that day took an hour.

From the Parada de Sil to a hippy campground, Portugal, a bird sanctuary and back to the coast.  I didn’t want to miss an inch of sand, sea and surf.  We followed the river from Tui, to A Guarda and on to Baiona.

From Vigo to O Grove, Muros, Fisterra, Malpica and on.  We rode by, watched, walked on and through, castles, beaches, old stuff, food trucks, music acts, dolphins, Viking battles, sunsets, sculptures, really old stuff, the end of the world, goat paths and highways.

We traveled with an opinionated Garmin (electronic mapping device).  It always showed us the shortest route whether it took us through a gypsy camp full of junkyard dogs, a church cemetery with shocked nuns, a long narrow heavily trafficked bridge, up 18% grades or a divided four lane highway around a city.  We love and cursed the Garmin depending on the ride. During the five weeks we spent riding O and pulling Nomada we lived, laughed, cooked, sang, smiled, walked, sweated and loved almost every minute.

And then it was over.  We were back at the beginning, camping 10 kilometers outside of A Coruna.  We had a few days to reflect on our adventures, sight see and compare the Galician maps from 1998, 2015 and the one we used on this tour.   And then we re-boxed O, said our goodbyes and headed home.

Galicia – Part I

Posted: September 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

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I packed too many socks. You’d think I’d know better, I mean this isn’t exactly my first bike tour.

In fact, Cathy and I were in this region 20 years ago; of course we were younger then, and the hills weren’t so steep. Funny how things change.

We came back here because it’s a blank spot on the map. Every time we ride though this region we wonder why there aren’t any large cities along the northwest coast, why this area that was settled by the Moors  around the time Joseph and Mary were trying to find a room at the inn , and then 800 years later by the Romans, remains so unpopulated.

We flew into A Coruna, the largest city in Galicia. Our flight out of the state’s to Madrid left four and a half hours late so it was a mad dash to get our bags, get through customs, and to our next flight; but we did, and we high fived our tired 63 yr old selves as we boarded the plane with 5 minutes to spare and looked out the window to see our bike and gear getting loaded as well.

As is our custom we hadn’t made any firm plans for where we’d bicycle once we got here. We had 3 basic choices. South towards the Mecca of Santigo we Compostela, east along the coastal route towards the Basque country, or west along what’s called ‘La Costa de Muerte’.

We put O together in a park and drew a crowd, I suppose it was because it’s not every day that two old people drag in two suitcases and assemble a Tandem bike out of the tangled entrails. One old man brought us his bike and asked if we could fix it – which of course we did. Fortunately we have a friend in A Coruna who is letting us store our bike cases at her house – she also picked us up at the airport and has now been elevated to Saint status.IMG_1831

Bike together, bags packed in Nomada, our new (and third) Burley trailer, we pulled out the map and flipped a coin. To my relief it came up East. I really didn’t want to start the trip on ‘The Coast of Death’, much better to save the best for last.

The name for this general region is ‘Costa Verde’ – made this color thanks to generous days of rainfall, reason numero uno for the lack of population.  It also has the highest seaside cliffs in Europe and it was our good fortune that we both survived the climbs to get to them,and that it just happened to be one of the two sunny days this area gets per year,so we could actually experience the full 360 degree vista instead of stumbling through the fog and tumbling into the ocean as so many tourists have done before us.IMG_1886

It was on our way up this climb that I started thinking about the socks. This is why I like bike touring, it breaks life down into the most simple of terms. You’re struggling to go up, something’s holding you back, what is it?

In my case it was a general lack of fitness combined with gravity, 16% grades, and 80lbs of gear in tow, but i needed something else to blame it on so I started obsessing on the socks. I mean who needs 6 pairs of socks on a bike tour in the summer?

Four days of rain followed. This region of Galicia makes Seattle look like a desert. We turned inland at Ribadea and headed south. The sun came out and we rode some of the most beautiful routes i can remember.

The Romans had come though here, and god bless their wine loving,fun having,Christian souls, they terraced the hell out of the hillsides to grow grapes, to produce wine, to keep themselves happy, (actually, first they enslaved the heathan  Moors, then the slaves terraced the hills and grew the grapes and made the wine to keep the Romans happy), and they developed all of the hot springs into resorts for tourists, so now tourists come here,drink wine and boil they’re asses. The upshot for us cyclists are a network of beautifully winding mountain roads that go on forever and only connect beautiful vistas with more beautiful vistas, hot springs,and more good wine. Combine this with the current livelihood of Galicia and life doesn’t suck. IMG_1991

But we weren’t content with just being happy. No, as typical homo saphians we wanted more. If this is good,maybe just around the next corner is better? So we went to Portugal. Didntlastlongdriverswerecrazyalmostdiedwentbacktospain.

Found a nice campground, drank some good wine, ate some good food, met a woman from Boulder, and had dinner with a Portuguese man who makes a living impersonating Neil Young, all in a bird Sanctuary at the southwestern end of Spain. Life doesn’t suck.

This reign of Galicia doesn’t see as much rain and has about 1500 miles of incredible coastline. History goes from believable – like Christopher Columbus’ first ship to return to Europe and report that the earth was NOT in fact flat, did so in the area of Vigo; to the absurd, that Noah’s arc is buried somewhere on this coast. Regardless, this area is beautiful and relatively undiscovered.

Now we have the opportunity to ride those dream days, quiet coastal roads that hang on the side of cliffs for miles before dropping down into small fishing villages forgotten by time and then climb back up for no expliciple reason, before dropping down once again into a town of ten shacks and a tavern. IMG_1904

Cathy and I are both falling in love with this region, which is kind of funny when i think about the fact that we miss half of what goes on here.  As Cyclotourists we’re usually sleeping by 9:00 because we have to get up tomorrow,make breakfast,break camp,and ride another day. At 9pm, most people in Spain are just starting to cook dinner, or are getting ready to go out. While we sleep, they live out their evenings, often staying up past midnight. Somehow they all manage to get up the next day and get into work by 9, then quit at 2:30 or so, go eat a big meal, siesta for a bit, and then return to work until 7 or 8. If we ever come back to live here,which is a distinct possibility, it will be fun to see if we can adopt this rhythm of life.

I started writing this weeks ago and have been adding to it bit by bit, coupled with the fact that I’m composing it on a tablet with a swipe keyboard and word processor that frustrates me to no end, I apologize for the lack of style and continuity.

We have just today turned the corner, hiked to Finisterre (end of the earth) and will now head north to bike La Coast a de la Muerte for the bit so I’m thinking now would be a good time to send this off. I’ll save writing the exciting conclusion (did they survive the Coast of Death, what about all of those socks?) for our return to the U.S. where I will have a proper keyboard and word processor,IMG_2195

All the best,

CnC and O