Seems like ages since this guy has been alongside of me, its good to see him.
While in Burgos, laying in a dry bed and thinking of what lay beyond in Gods creation, trying to decide a route and permitting sleep too overtake my eyelids. It wasn’t until the following morning while Jeremiah sat astraddle his Surly bikes crossbar that an escape route was actually formulated. Small roads, almost impossible to see on Google maps due to the poorly chosen color scheme they use, would wind there way south towards Salamanca and beyond. My only real Prayer that previous night was, Dear Lord, if yer really there and listening, then please put all these rain clouds over California and give me a little sunshine!
I should explain this image, no ticket, just that every person in the station came to my aid in finding a car wash to clean my pedals. The young lady, Patricia, walked me around the town.
I would be remiss to say that I woke to beam of sunshine poking thru the hostel window. quite to the contrary, it was foggy, dull and ominous looking. I was dressed to get wet, and mentally prepared for the worst. Burgos, lay along the banks of a slow meandering river, skeleton trees lacking the splendor of autumn leaves, brush, wild berry vines line the rivers banks. Forming a near impenatrable wall along the cold unwelcoming waters edge. My Surly bike, is pointed almost due south, taking me up and over the first major ridge. Churning thru the thick grey mire of fog, Jeremiah began to see a certain brightness under the cloud in front. Funny how a little Godly optimisim can give one extra pedaling strength. The fog soon lifted, and by 10am and just a few ridges I was stripping off Showers Pass gear to ride in a wind breaker and my cycle shorts. It was glorious to have sun washing over me rather than rain. My mood was ebulient.
Noon on days such as this, will find Jeremiah pulled over, among young olive trees,grapevines, or grazing pasture, making a cup of tea and enjoying a cheese sandwich and my favorite rich Spanish Chorizo. The vista before me is huge blue sky vault and beautiful Spanish countryside. I realize that much of what is the beauty of Spain has slipped past me, shrouded in the fog that is Spanish winter. Its a beautiful country, with splendid huge vistas, and rich ranching and farm ground in every direction. For the next 3 full days I would be given sunny clear skies underwhich to ride and enjoy Spain. Somewhere along in this row of undulating hills there is a wine growing region that encapsulates the city of Villadolid. I was enjoying the crisp clear morning aire while churning the cranks of my Surly, noticing to my left a vehichle much to nice to be field hand, obviously an owner out checking his vineyard. Well, me and my big mouth and small brain, as I ride by I see tbe vehicle owner walking up to his car……..I holler “Drink California Wine” as loud as I can. The recipient of my misplaced humour, yells right back “Alto mi Amigo”. Now surely after yelling something like that to a total stranger, he deserves a chance to defend himself eye to eye with his eristic assalant.
Would he understand if I told him that I was simply giving him the advice of close friends Walter and Jim…….both producers of fine California wines…..no, I doubt it. So, taking my lumps is in order and I turn around to face the fellow. As I roll up and even before I can tender an apology, he (Valantin Daniel Olariu), offers me 2 bottles of HIS wine from his back seat, and kindly recommends I try this before shouting California obscenities. What can I do, or say, he is so gracious in defeat. Turns out my new friend whom I know will someday drive into my yard, is a wine grape specialist from Romania. He is one of only 3 people in the world who is licensed to perform a very special type of grafting procedure. I think the most ironic twist in the whole story is when with a huge smile he tells me, “you are partially correct about one point concerning California wine, this grafting procedure was developed in California and is indeed revolutionary within the wine industry”. I leave thankful,”burdened and blessed” with 2 bottles of wine to carry to Lisbon and enjoy over the Christmas Season with my family. Burden, is wieght. Blessing, is a gift.
Spain is gradually flattening out under my Schwalbe tires as I roll south towards Salamanca. The day I actually arrive in this small Spanish city on the countries western edge, it is raining once again. Cathedrals and interesting town squares make up the center most region of the city. Salamanca, resides along one of the Pilgrim routes to Santiago de Campostella. The Gothic Cathedrals within Salamanca are quite simply huge and grand, but not a single one was open for me to view insice. This is a pnenomenon that I have found within Spain almost everywhere, the churches are closed up…..period. My camp for the evening was at the outer footings of one of the Cathedrals that lay along the rivers edge, tucked between a hedge and 800 year old rockwork, I would make a simple supper and then go for a walk up among the Cathedrals in the evening. Feeling pretty safe to leave my camp for an hour unattended since i could barely refind it myself upon my return.
From Salamanca south towards Portugal lies the the country most known for producing Spanish fighting bulls and the black pigs known for producing thier local favorite “Pata Negra Jambon”, ham made from the leg of a black pig…….not just any pig mind you. Just this one special Iberico breed of pig. It was along this trek thru the countryside that I sought to learn a little more about the pig since there seemed to be a ham producer in almost every village. These oinkers, are raised much like cattle, meaning that they run outside year around. They live in fields that look manicured with lush green grass and well groomed Oaks overhead. The Oaks are important within the whole storyline, as they play heavily into the flavor of the pigs meat. The heavily groomed or pruned Oaks produce abundant numbers of acorns due to the pruning. The only other food given the pigs, is a warm mash made of locally grown garbonzo beans. The sows, during farrowing season, are run in lots with large doghouse looking affairs. Each sow takes on one house, has her piglets and raises them till weaning time. The odd looking solid black pigs, with thier very small snouts and huge rear ends, still graze as a pack undisturbed for a full year before the “Grim Reaper” comes to call.
Here is where it all got much more interesting for me. The hams seem to range from expensive to costly, yet every family has one thru this festive season. The simple family hams (jambons hung for approx. 6 months) are about $40.00 € euro per kilo. The hams are hung, only lightly salted, in special underground rock rooms where they can slowly dry for as long as 20 years. Those hams that hang for multiple years are the premium jambons and only procured by the wealthy. They are collected and sought after very much like aged wines, with certain ham producers conditions allowing better drying and flavor, as well as color and texture. Nothing is wasted from these pigs and thier production. At one stop, I had a local favorite, which consists of pig snout and lips in a stew looking consistancy made of local red peppers. It was indeed good, once you got past the rather rubbery, squishy texture. At yet another little village cafe, I had a small plate of deep fried bacon and jambon ends, these were especially good with a local hard sheeps milk cheese and a piece of bread. Spain came to and end under an umbrella of puffy cumulus clouds enveloped in azure skies and sunshine. The open road west now leads me into the eastern frontera of Portugal.
The “Ice Challenge”, it seems to be the latest cause du jour, and for that purpose it has done well. My own ice challenge has gone on for now…..5, maybe 6 days. No, not the usual 3-10 seconds of cascading ice over the head. This is pretty much an all day affair, no kidding. You can say that the fun has wore off completely. Some of you will notice that there seems to be about a week of Jeremiahs life missing since he arrived in Bilbao. The reason is, I was back in China doing a little work that had to get done or else we would have bigger issues to slay when I finally do get home.
Ever since we climbed out of Bilbao on those steep roads which take you further west, it has been very heavy overcast and dreary. First day out was 3 hours of heavy rain and the higher I climbed it turned into ice pellets as they pinged off my steel framed Surly bicycle. Somewhere along the route I had to stop and buy some food for that evening camp. I took advantage of being able to buy a newspaper and got some extra plastic bags for my feet. By the time I got moving again, well everything was trying to sieze up, no joint wanted to move. Just too darn cold. All totaled that day we hit 61 miles and were on our way towards Parc de Europa. Camp that night was by God cold. REI, states quite clearly…..NEVER LIGHT A FIRE INSIDE YOUR TENT. I understood the dangers, and did it any how.
Like most everynight this last week, I have been in the sleeping bag by 6pm…….and shivering. No sitting outside by the campfire cause there ain’t one to sit by. I use an alchohol stove to cook with, it is very efficient for a one burner affair, but thats the extent of it. My day starts and ends pretty much the same way, wrap the feet in newspaper…..I try to find pages of Obama news, wrap my feet with 2 or 3 sheets and slip on my socks, followed by a plastic bag or 2, followed by my rain sodden cycle shoes. Long johns and my Showers pass rain suit and then hit the open road with a seriously forced smile. Yes, I know, there are things called hostels and hotels, but some of this trip has to have an edge to it. I used to put all my riding clothes down inside my sleeping bag on just cold dry days, but now that the clothes are soaked thats a different story. I know just enough about cold weather survival to know, you do not want a damp, wet sleeping bag. So I came up with a different alternative, its does nothing for drying anything out, it just leaves you with clothes a little warmed up. I use my compression sack for the sleeping bag filled with the wet clotbes as my pillow. They are a little bit warm when you put them back on with great reluctance in the morning. I am so glad I finally decided to bring my pistol along after all, cause I dont think I could/would put those clothes on without holding that gun to my head.
Not alot of stops being made thru the day, my photo count has dropped right off for instance. Couple of reasons, the sky is so low and so heavy that it renders most images pretty useless. But to a greater extent, my darn fingers are so cold I just dont want to bother with getting it all out waiting for fogging to quit, wipe the lense, keep it away from your face because the diopter will fog……..OMG, by then the fingers are really shaking. I also dont stop very often thru the day for coffee or to talk, for the very same reasons, plus if you step inside and have coffee…..at least for me, I am about done. Everything just comes to a halt when the body is allowed to cool. Starting back up can be a real struggle.
As you read this blog, understand 3 things…….yes, first off I am complaining……I signed up for a bike ride……no where in the tour literature did it mention an uncomfortable bike ride. Lesson two, you will look at the images and say to yourself……..what the heck is he talking about……..the sun is always present. Correct, in the images it is, but over this however many days, I really doubt there have been 4 hours of sunshine/bluesky total. Every other moment is iether dark of night, or foggy rain soaked days with strong winds to make it all the more pleasant. And third, there is no place flat in Spain…….and that came as a surprise to me, also not mentioned in the tour the world literature.
This is what it looks like warming wet feet over stove.
My route to Parc de Europa, which is a must see…….some other time for me unfortunatley, the park is a jewel among the Cantabrian Mountains of northern Spain. It is the home to the Basque people, they were the first people group to make a stand against the Muslim hoarde’s invasion. From this region and its strong will to fight, it was passed onto other regions to do the same ( only Obama seemed to miss the message) but that momentum began right here where I am. “Sorry Senior, but dee park is no bueno for jew I tink. To mucho mas cloud and too mucho dee snow, plus dee hills Senior are mui more dificile”. This was a real common piece of advice that I was hearing as I asked about my route in that direction, several people told me the same basic thing, and combine that with a ten day forecast showing heavy rain and snow as what I had to look forward to…..gott’a rethink things. Somewhere north of a Soncillo, I climbed one ridge at 17%, and when I topped out I could not see more than 100 feet in any direction……thats it, I lost it officially. No, no, not that bad. I didn’t break the tissue out or nothing. I just made the choice that with the current weather scenario, I could ride right thru and yet not see a thing. I rode right back down that same steep SOB and never thought twice about it……once my mind is made up, not much alters me from my course.
With my Surly LHT, pointed south by south west I fairly flew…….till the next hill, which wasn’t very far away. It has been a steady routine of climb and coast,climb and coast. The coasting, because you just can’t take all the cold air coming at you right after a climb, at least I sure can’t. And my climbs now are broken up, I climb for a while, then get off and push. We changed things up so as to keep the hands and feet warmer, its the only way I can figure to keep enough blood moving to make everything else work as it should. In the end it still comes down to one simple fact. You can ride as hard you wish, you can boast of conquering a very steep grade the likes of which we never see at home. But within 2 days, everything you own is soaked, and you have no way of drying anything out……..none, zip, zero, na’da…….and you are done. That simple, the body will not work frozen.
The climb out or over the Cantabrian range going south takes me into a deep gorge, imposing rock walls corridor me towards a tiny village called Villarcado. Home to maybe 300, and as I go thru I realize, YUP, you done it again JW, left it till to late in the day and nothing is open in this sleepy little town. Its not like other days inwhich I literally had nothing including water. But I was low on a few things essential to make a meal, apart from tea, water and sugar and a half a stale loaf of bread and half jar peanut butter……..so, now you also know what supper consisted of as well. The climb out of this berg was a beast, partly because I was cold, but also its just a long steep slog. As I ride the last few ridges, it is apparant that the trees faded away several miles ago and have been replaced by thick manzanita and a little sage in spots. The wind is howling, I can see snow on the very top of my hill I have to get over. I make the climb, nothing pretty, no pro-teams have tried to sign me up, but I did make it without the aid of any drugs as well……more than alot of them can say.
“What the heck……..did you see that………..can’t be……..those are only in the remote parts of USA.”, I even rode back to make sure it was what I read. Sure enough it said “next services 61km”. Well, on I go for the briefest moment actually down a gentle grade, but am soon climbing again after having topped the pass. As I will soon come to know, its is a huge treeless mesa, undulating at times thru deep gorges. But nonetheless a huge plateau. The wind is fairly ripping across from my right to my left on the diagonal, the clouds are heavy and dense with …….snow…….theres some more. Its builds up to maybe 1/4 to 1/2 inch on the ground but is melting equally as fast……it is snow though. Let me see……..treeless……..windy……..wet………cold………dang, a person will have to pay attention to his dwelling place or one could end up in trouble. Not sure, but maybe a little over 5 miles later I ride past a small old rock barn right beside the road and decide I had better check that out. Upon doing so it does not take long to figure out that God himself put this thing here just for me. After clearing aside alot of plain junk, then a couple inches of sheep dung aside I had a resonable place to throw down for the night. Just a mat and the bag was all there was room for, I was in the bag by about 4:15 and shivering. Sure enough, about 9pm it really started to pour rain and I found my roof had a few……many, leaks. So, I dug out my rain fly and threw it over my sleeping bag.
Up and riding by barely 7am, almost too dark but couldnt sit any longer…..or lay any longer for that matter. Official sunrise here is 8:10am. Real steady diet of decent and climb, just not as steep as the mountains I had come from a few days past. To the south, I can see brightness within the heavy cloud convincing me that maybe the sun lives down that way, we shall see. Onward thru a tiny Spanish ghost town, repleat with an old church and many stone houses and barns. Nothing stirring but dust from the frigid wind sweeping thru vacant windows and doors. Rolled into Burgos about 2:15pm, hit a store and bought a few groceries for the evening. There is an outstanding Cathedral in town, I seen its beautiful Gothic Steeple on the ride in. I took in the cathedral and left to the west on a tiny road. Right along side my road was a park of sorts with many benches. The sun had just broken thru for the very first time this day. Nothing like a little sunshine to dry things out, so I took everything I had and tossed it over benches to let sunshine and wind do thier job. Heavy cloud threatened to close down my drying episode, that was easy to see. I was just trying to time things to get maximum exposure and drying, the rain began and with it so did my race to get it all packed back up. All in all, I was doing pretty good really…….or thought I was. I began with my tent parts to my right, not knowing that the wind had whipped my sleeping bag off the back of the bench……..MURPHYS LAW # 212 came into effect. There I was, rolling my tent ground cloth up, and looked to my left to see my bag, upside down in a dang puddle……soaked. I mean really soaked.
As I type this, the sleeping bag hangs over a vent on the room heater in the Hostel. For $18.00, yes, I will splurge and take a room. We can conquer the beasts of cold weather and solo cycle travel on another day, for now I have a dry room and better yet a dry bed for the night. Good night to you all and may God indeed Bless those less fortunate.
The stay with Pierre was a great Basque expierience, getting a taste of both the foods and the warm hospitality that are hallmark of the Basque people. However, I still had a few more miles to travel if I was going to claim a circumnavigation of all that God created, soI left Pierres and I charged on into Spain. The route is simple enough, from Ustaritz you climb almost vertically till you get to the top of the mountain…..then go down the other side……after that it is the same except a taller mountain….you see…eets easy. Thus you are riding thru Pais Basque country on our way to Bilbao, Spain.
My road selection out of the area was perfect, simple narrow roads with virtually no traffic……at least for a little while. For as long as possible I was trying to stay off the coast and away from shore, hopefully till I hit San Sebastian. The hills are huge, the grass still sickeningly green for the time of year, and an abundance of trees in fall color are the crowning touch to a beautiful ride. Down thru little villages I whizz, stopping only if there was a bakery, fromagerie (cheese) and occassionally at the butchers…..otherwise nothing could slow my steed down. Unless ……..its a road side stand selling homemade jams. Can’t actually have too many flavors of jam while cycling…..can you?
Made it to San Sebastian, and should have listened to that little voice in the head that says “quit early jim-bob, or you will pay the price”, confidence tells me that this town aint all that big……I’ll be just fine. Well, I could have had several really great camp sites had I listened to the little voice. Rather than do that, I barreled on into San Sebastian and got thouroughly turned around. The GPS blue dot decided to go on stike twice which initially threw me off my course. Should have listened to Pines advice ” Dad, if ever this blue dot begins to act sort’a funky and unreliable, just turn on all data and get it back to where its supposed to be in proper orientation….and begin again”…..didn’t do that iether. There are miles of bike paths thru the city and I found solice on them more so than the roads. What I found is that they dont nessasarily follow any and all roads……, mistake number two. Third mistake is trying to capture every last ray of sunshine and every last kilometer I can in a day…….I had no pressing need to do iether. Chalk it up to my anxiuos nature.
San Sebastian sits tucked into a atlantic coastline cove, with sun bleached sand as its doormat, a huge Cathedral occupies a prominent piece or realestate right at shores edge. Everything from the glistening sand inland is housing, apartments and people. And its getting dark now very quickly. At this point I already know that I will not be beyond the grasp of city lights and sounds of its nocturnal opera, so I need to start considering how to camp tonight. NO, a motel room is out of the question and budget. I decided quickly that I would have to do the “bum sneak”, making myself as quiet and invisible as you can when fully surrounded. Riding past what I think was a University of some sort, I noticed what appeared to be a stairwell that ran behind a hedge but immediatly infront of a main building. That would work for me and I head over to investigate……nearly perfect, no street lights close by, the stairwell is about 8 feet wide and flat for a section then drops further down…..and, best of all, its a dead end stairwell that leads to a locked basement door. The hedge mentioned, which is also my clothes changing screen, is about 5 foot tall. Cant get any better than this when your in a pinch. My choice was to set up a minimalist urban camp, just my matt and bag on my ground sheet, that way if the Policia did show up it would not be such a major chore packing up. Had a couple of fried sausages and a baguette for supper, desert was dried figs and sweet tea. Got into the bag about 8, read my bible and then some Tom Clancy, shot the yard light out at about 9.30 and went to sleep. Peacefully. Sometime about midnight, the wind came up and I began to feel rain drops. Figured since no one stopped by to complain nor ask what I was doing, it would be safe to set the tent up incase it raIned hard.
The rain never amounted to anything really, although my bag would have gotten pretty wet had I not set up, the morning sky consisted of broken cloud and anxious sunshine. Packed up camp and was gone before any students or staff showed up…..no one would ever know I had spent the night there. From San Sebastian west, my route hugs the old coast road which as it turns out does not really hug the coastline. Every few miles the road veers off inland for a ways to take yet another pitch allowing it to vault over yet another rocky headland on its march up the sun sprinkled Atlantic shore. The headlands, tall, rock strewn eddifices of Gods hand at work, eerily reminiscent too those we summited while plying Italies coast. Once summited, the ashphalt ribbon plunges equally as steep and contorted on a death spiral towards the imposing shoreline far below. Jagged boulders placed as if by giant toddlers, having no rhyme nor reason as to thier placement, except that they are there. Whatever rocky surface isn’t swept clean by wind and salt spray from an angry Atlantic ocean, is left with a heady coating of brilliant green moss, from the rocks edge the shoreline rises like a wall of granite. Imposing and stark against a blue sea and the green that is Spain. The patterns and rythms repeat as if timed by a “Metro-Gome”, every fourth or fifth alcove within the stoney shoreline harbors a sleepy little fishing village repleat with at least one church which was often acts as the head of the town square where all socializing takes place in a quiet Spanish manner.
The twisted bitumen that I traverse, ribbons its way on around a huge Atalantic bay to the seaside viilage of Onadarrua where a traveller can take one of two possible routes available to him. My intention was to ride further west into the Spanish hinterlands and visit a Monestary and a very remote hilltop village, but advice from two other cyclists convinced me that heading north on a more major road would be the better part of prudent. My original route was actually closed in two places where the road had slid away. I wind my way north, along the course of a minor waterway, constantly rising up and away from waters edge and into the tree lined mountains that are its stronghold. You will work hard on a loaded tour bike to attain any of the coastal mountain summits. Roads of 10-15% grades are the norm. Quiet camp one night, had me setup right beside a clear stream, while on another evening I found shelter between two huge boulders allowing me to take refuge from a wind whipped into a frenzy over the cold Atlantic waters and sent in search of ME.
Rays of far off sunshine, tinted red and bright pink, broke thru the envelope of heavy grey cloud that had moored itself over Pais Basque region thru the night. Who would win this battle for occupancy of the sky was as yet unknown too all who looked up at it. Three miles of stiff climbing takes me skyward towards the ancient Basque retreat of Mixtiopien, harbored in an alpine valley that lay infront and below me. Its the award for slogging up thru the climb, my reward would be robbed from me on this morning by a mob of clouds fighting for thier piece of heavens expanse. At this point I have left the seashore far to the north of me, having crossed two main mountain ridges to lay siege upon the valley that will now permit my access to the city of Bilbao without major interruption.
While not exactly flat, it would best be described as gently undulating with just a few stiff climbs right as you approach the city. My steed had a freshly cleaned chain, oiled and running as slick and smooth as a Nascar machine would be inclined, the legs felt strong for being well into the afternoon. The events that transpire, I blame it on the one and only RC-Priest I have met thus far in my entire journey…..keep in mind I have now been to over 100 cathedrals and allowed into no Mosques. However, during this same time I have met and visited with 3 “Sheefs is the way it sounds, yet I think the spelling is Shiek”. A huge cathedral came into view near a vintening region, maybe the first wine region in Spain, La Riolla. I decided I would add it to the list of cathedrals I visited. Locked tight, its a condition that I find many Spanish Churches in, quite different than when in Italy for instance. Just some bums cardboard bedding lay outside the alcoved front doors of the church, and me, thats it. Off to my left, I hear voices and head that direction hoping to maybe find there is another point of entry to see that beauty that it withholds from me at present. 3 men, walking from two vehicles, come thru the parking lot. I try to talk to the first pair as best I can, but they blow me off without any desire to to engage. The third man…….what the heck, he’S THE ACTUAL PRIEST, he is wearing the classic black strait collar shirt with a notch of white at its center, a wool vee neck over that S he is headed into the church. His adress in okay English to me is, more accusatorial than inviting, “What seems to be your problem”? Guess I am caught off guard, or speechless, as I register the manner of delivery and the expression on the face that delivered it. Sorry folks, but I am accustomed to my Pastor backhome, whose face wears a warm smile, his heart beats with a yerning to help. These are attributes of a man who carries the word of God out in deed, these are the attributes of a shepard to his flock……not what seems to be your problem! When my mind finally engages the words and actions of the passing Priest…..my first thought is to hike him strait off the ground with a size 11 right in his rotund butt……..but then how “christian” would that make me…..maybe we upset christians are supposed to keep all kicks below the knee…….what are the rules, anyone know. Instead of expressing the anger and dissappointment I am harboring, I try a different tact. ” I dont actually have a problem, actually, I am quite Blessed. I was however wondering when or if the doors to the Cathedral will be opened today?”…..He is still walking away from me……he waves his hand over his shoulder in more or less a get lost fashion and says……..”maybe one hour….maybe two”. Really, thats it. And you wonder why faith in Europe is sitting at such an abysmal level……could it be the shepards have forgotten how to shepard…..or maybe have lost sight of the lost since they themselves seem to be a little lost from Gods directions. Some of you may read this and take offense, while thats not my intention it may be the result. I make no claim that my observations are scientific by anymeans, they are simply the as it happens circumstance I found myself in. I would ask you this, how the heck can anyone ride thru this much so called christian country, and only meet 1 priest out on the street……..Sorry folks but God did not hide the lost inside the church like some teenage prank, he intends our appointed shepards to leave the safety of the sheepfold and hunt for the lost, guiding them back to the salvation that is our safety. So, take it from this episode that as I leave I am just a tad cranky.
Out onto the road I go, pondering the chain of events that just took place. Only a few miles later and maybe 3 roundabouts later, I think I had better check my GPS to be sure I didnt get messed up. Just as I am putting my phone back in place 8 cyclists go past me, riding in classic paired peloton form….2 by 2 up the road. Thier faces house those smiles that are mostly mocking, and sometimes even a look of discust at those of us who choose a less beautiful but more functional “ROAD TRACTOR” ……( NOTE TO SELF- when I get home, I am painting Agnes in the iconic colors of American farming……John Deere green with yellow deep rimmed wheels ) Fine, be that way I say to myself, while I may not be able to smartly spank a Priest……I can however soundly spank you smug @#%*!’s. I thouroughly jumped old Agnes out onto the pavement, didn’t quite squeal the tires upon entry to to the road but that was only because the pavement was wet. Fell into the drops and put 14000km of leg muscle to work, they were maybe 500 yards out in front of me, but I was closing like a fighter jet on them. My intentions where to simply catchup and ride into thier tiny overly smug peleton…..hard enough to do on a loaded tour bike coming from behind. My arrival was rather shall we say, unexpected, even maybe, unwelcomed……..to darn bad, here I am now deal with it. About the 3rd rider back, a taller fellow, with an all black carbon fiber bike and clever yellow appointments…..he seemed to notice first and was shocked that such a primordial creature as Agnes and I are when teamed up, would have sought refuge in HIS well appointed and groomed peleton. It was obvious that I was not welcome, did not belong, and would not be allowed to stay and taint such a lofty pool of riders.
He did it…….he did it first…….he said something over his shoulder to the man beside and behind him in order. His long muscular “shaved” legs came under tension causing him to levitate from his saddle and gain speed as he left the fold of the peleton. First the one, taunting, daring, throwing down a gloved challenge to the “unsightly” moored in thier midst. Dont hide in our folds, ride to the front or ahead of us if you want our respect. His shaved leg cohorts gave a quick look over thier respective shoulders at me, as they too fled the coop and peeled off ahead. The Priest slapped me, but you guys sure as heck aint. I had 2 gears reserved as of yet unused in my “catch” of the peleton. Lesson one a real road beast does not have to have shaved legs, and lesson 2 never mess with a guy upset after church. I buried myself in the drops and cranks, no standing for me to leave the rest behind as the bike is too heavy for that. Just keep the back flat, the toes down and the hips locked level on the seat frame while you transfer every ounce of energy you can to the whirling cranks. Agnes is loud in flight, like the rush of wind over feathers passing you with all her bags catching the air as she passes you. Within maybe 100 yards I drop the first of three making up the breakaway. He had no chance, being maybe 30, brain stem not even fully developed yet, what chance did he have but that of foolish youthful pride…..he’s gone and licking his wounds with the catching group. Drop a gear, and get the arms buried in those drops, tight, neat and taunt, now pull deeper with each pedal stroke, listen to your breathing and count the 3 beat of in and out, make sure its deep and full like an opera singer. His bike, the 2 man, is a pure model of “tour de france envy” every carbon fiber wieght saving gadget known to man, I know, I own 2 of them back home…..bin there done that. Those shaved legs are whirling, flailing really, as he sees that he is about to be passed, and smartly so by…….”what the heck, how old is that guy…….omg, but this is embarressing…….when I get gome, I am selling this bike and taking up golf”. By the time junior realizes he was just soundly spanked by grand’pa on a fully loaded tour bike…..he cant even see all the bags clearly due to the tears in his eyes. He is now in my past, and just the road warrior lays ahead.
Harboring one gear to my benefit, and a reserve of “I’ll teach you mentality” I find a slip stream of softened air behind him some 30 feet behind and close my approach…….finger is ready for the shift into my last gear……..the ashphalt passes as smooth grey now, no contour, no shape…….just smooth grey………..races are not won by pure muscle alone nor by the fastest car…..skill and cunning come into play…..I slide Agnes out to his left allowing him to see me from the corner of his left eye…….then slide off behind to the right of center and wait for my pounce. You can see his radar at work, his head turns left, anticiparting that I will be sitting there……..he glances and I am not………his back softens in his anticipated victory, his mind assures him that he has dropped the neandrathal on a stinkin loaded tour bike….with his head still alittle higher ( a telltale sign of less tension in the legs )he searches to his left again before claiming his prise……I am not there, nor have I idled my bike so there is no freewheel noise…….I lay off his right shoulder as quiet as “Red October” waiting for the moment to spring the trap layed…….there it is boys, time to fly and give it all, hit the shift lever and grab that last gear, bury those legs as deep as you can and try not to distort the smile you wear as you pass him on the left side…….his misstake, was thinking he had dropped me, then double checking to his right after having checked the left side first. I was passed him, and he jumped onto the cranks now in anger and made the chase a tight one, my 4 length lead would shrink, he would get to my back wheel and give me a thumbs up in appreciation for my courage………….no more than did I get to see his salute than we both hit a tight 5 way round about……I am telling you folks we were flying and the road was literally just smooth grey.
I had no choice but to bail because I had to be sure that I was still headed in the right direction, towards city center Bilbao. My check was quick, and they, and I are headed towards Bilbao. About half mile further on I once again caught thier peleton, I didnt even stop nor slow to allow the jumpers to react, I simply frieght-trained them. they bailed into it and gave chase, our run lasted for some 3 miles, and yes, they made a game approach to the second affair. Leap frogging thier strongest rider to my hind wheel, that tall shaved leg fellow gave me a broad smile and a second thumbs up as he finally rode past without ease but past. The very last rider in the group gave me an equally broad smile and wave, then with hand signals warned me that the big hills lay ahead yet and I should back off and take it easy.
Good advise, I took it to heart. Backed off ol’Agnes enough that the flames on the tires went out and the Holy Smoke cleared……what’d ya think, that I was alone in that race…….what’da’ya think I Pray for. Within maybe 5 miles we drop down off the last row of hills that surround the port city of Bilbao. Thouroughly sweated but rejoiceing in a quiet victory. Praise God for good health, strength and yes even a little old aged foolishness……….I know there is no paramutual betting allowed in heaven……but I am sure they were watching the race play out. Good night and God Bless…….better yet………go be a blessing, from what I hear about the goings on in USA right now, we need Jesus in a large demonstrable way.