Nov 20th Our second to last day biking

Today was an intense day of riding. It didn’t start out this way but as we pedaled on the intensity grew little by little, along with the precipitation. We got a late start due to the heavy morning rains and waited for a window to get going. The last two nights were spent at a surfer’s hostel in a small town named Aljezur, where we were stuck due to incredibly heavy rains that brought the small river below the hostel to a raging force that would swallow anything in its path. Finally we were off and onward to Vila Nova Do Milfontes. We climbed several hills to start and descended again through vast stretches of forests and small farms. At one point after heading  north for 40 k we turned west for Vila Nova as the began to darken and the temperature began to drop. The rains became steady from here to our destination, along with the traffic from both sides. At this point we also lost the shoulder of the road and the traffic began to zip by us with only a couple feet of clearance between us. Then came the lightning. I was behind Maudie at his point by just a few feet and we were both looking a little tense. Just then in the distance a group of cars came toward us. As they came nearer one decided to pass which left us in opposing directions of the car as it came forward faster and faster. I yelled for Maudie to give her a heads up to get off the road, as there was no room to spare as the car barreled down at us. Just then Maudie was able to brake and pull off into the ditch. But as I tried to do the same my back wheel skidded throwing my entire back end and trailer toward the oncoming car. I screamed and with all my strength and will, pulled my entire self and bike to the right avoiding the car by a matter of inches. We both screamed bloody murder toward the car as it passed and suddenly the road was empty again. My adrenaline was at high at this point just as another huge bolt of lightning struck in the near distance and we pushed on through the rain. This would be the closest call of the entire trip thus far, on our second to last day of the tour.
~R
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Portuguese Rain

Huddled up for a day on the west coast of Portugal. We are now on the home stretch and only a long two days of riding to our final destination. It’s not so frustrating as it may seem to be cooped up here in a warm hostel, and rather a great time to reflect of the past three months of our travel. There have been many times that I questioned our trip. What are we doing here? Why are we spending the money? Are we wasting our time when we should be working for the future? But now all of these questions seemed to be answered. This trip has turned into a priceless experience for me and looking back now my heart is continually warmed by the adventure. The places that we have seen, the people we’ve met, the towns that have blown us away with beauty that we never knew existed, and more than anything the wonderful moments that Maudie and I have shared together. There are really no regrets to making this trip. It’s the experiences in life that allow people grow and change, and it has been wonderful to see this in the both of us.
Last night was a good example of this. We decided to go for a walk in the rain behind the hostel after a delicious homemade soup had warmed our bellies. The streets of cobblestone rose with delightful character with no symmetry in their structure. We followed the winding road to the ruins of a castle that has been around since the Bronze Age and found that it was the last castle to be occupied by Islamic influence in Portugal. On top of it the wind gusts brought upward moisture that blended with the lights that shined on the castle at night forming swirling ghostly figures. We asked each other our top 5 favorite towns of the bike tour and discovered that our lists were super similar. They included Biarritz and Bordeaux, France, Gothenburg, Sweden, Granada, Spain and somewhat of a tie between San Sebastián and Pamplona, Spain. Many of these places we had only heard faintly of and never even planned to visit on the original plan of the trip. But yet in the spirit of travel and the openness that it allows, you are able to mold completely new perspectives for the world that you live in.

From Oslo to the End of the World!

Originally Oslo to Istambul, but that changed due to the conflicts with Syria. Then we tried Oslo and On and it stuck because who really knew where this adventure was going… but today we became Oslo to the End of the World!

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(We went all the way out there)

That’s right, today we cycled to the furthest most southwest point in Europe. Farol do Cabo de Sao Vincente is now marked by a lighthouse and gift shop, but to the early Greeks and Romans these cliffs were know as the end of the earth.

The lighthouse at the end of the earth

The lighthouse at the end of the earth

It’s no surprise they felt this was the end of the world. All you could see was deep blue and sheer cliffs.

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We decided to celebrate the many accomplishments of the trip with a celebratory beer.

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We think we have covered over 5000 km (with more to go to Lisbon). We’ve conquered the famous Cols of the Pyrenees from the Tour de France. We have definitely savored the flavors of every country, maybe a little too much :). We have met many beautiful people and felt the kindness of strangers. We’ve seen countless old structures and castles and most importantly Rory and I have grown closer then ever. We joke recently that we’re excited to have our own thoughts again when we get back to “regular” life. Rory told me today about a quote from the wise Bill Murray and I had to look it up. Here is the direct link, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/27/bill-murray-bachelor-party_n_5397239.html

but is goes like this…

“If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s pick a date. Let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.”

We did it a little backwards, but the effect is the same. I am very lucky to have such a wonderful husband and travel companion.

The tail end of Spain

As promised…

We had some wonderful days of cycling from Sevilla, a town famous for their flamenco music. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any except for a little guitar in the street, but the town was fun to explore. We had to take a train there from Granada due to the fact that there are only autovia’s or mega highways to cycle (illegally). I had to put my foot down and refuse to go on one ever again after a horrible day of cycling of the medditerainian coast of Spain. So after that, we covered some big stretches with a train and the blood pressure instantly dropped. I wish we had a good train system in the states!

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(Relaxing on the train and drinking some piña)

We did however get some funny advice from the cops… We had a challenging time getting out of Sevilla (due to the mega highways blocking us in) and we were stuck looking at our map when two cops came up to help. They told us the only way to do it was to go the wrong way on the highway for awhile and then look for a bridge to exit and there will be a cycle path. I was not too excite, but we put on the helmets and high vis gear and did it after a “but, be careful” from the police officers.

We made it to the other side without much trouble we started riding to Huelva. It took us two day due to the late start out of Sevilla, but we made it to the hostel in town and had a funny experience. After a long overdue shower, Rory came into the room and told me to follow him for a surprise. The surprise was a friend we had met for one night at a birthday party in Arreau, France on our last night in Paris. What a surprise! We felt like it was a sign we were at the right place at the right time. We chatted and wished him a “bon voyage” as he was trying to get on a boat to sail across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands.

That morning while we were packing up we met another bike tourer and struck up a conversation. He was Spainish and didn’t know much English and vice verse for us, but we were able to figure out we were all headed in the direction of Portugal. After deciding to cycle together, we hit the road on the Camino Verde which brought us through the estuaries and pine forests of Southern Spain. While riding we saw large cranes nesting in electrical poles, egrets, and other song birds sang for us as we road. Elias, our bike friend, also confirmed my hypothesis for harvesting pine nuts from the surrounding pine forests.

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(The Atlantic ocean)

The previous day I had seen many men with long poles and at first Rory thought for fishing, but then we saw them in the trees and I figured it was for the pine cones. It was cool to see them harvesting. Apparently the roast the pinecones and they’re full of many seeds. Elias couldn’t beleive how expensive they were in the states, because they’re so prevelent here in Spain. Local flavors are always fun to experience.

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(Some local flavor of Portugal)

Elias was also a musician and recorded music for work. He told us he’s been recording musicians along the way and plans to make a video. He and Rory had a recording session on the ferry dock right as we parted ways. It was awesome to see and hear. We had only 25 minutes, but they still banged out two songs and gathered a crowd of fans. I am excited to see the end product.

That ferry short ferry brought us to Portugal, our 9th and finally country. Amazing. More on Portugal later 🙂 must keep biking.

Following the Mediteranean

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We have just arrived in an amazing little town on the southwest coast of Spain by the name of Calp. The town is separated by a huge mountain that juts up straight out of the sea and is surrounded by ancient blue water of each side. White sand beaches are on the edges and beyond that one can only wonder what lives under the great blue waters. It’s been a great couple of days riding through Spain south of Valencia. We have been robing the Orange and tangerine orchards daily and have been cooking wonderful meals daily by the sea. Mornings have been spent in consumption of deliciously cheap coffee at small cafes and early mornings with breathtaking sunrises. Each night is followed by variant colors of richness that eventually fade to blue and black as the moon rises. Many people warned us of the coast not being great for riding, but I have a feeling now that they never rode it before. Advice from people can always be taken with a grain of salt.

So today we have decided to stop at mid day in Calp and do some snorkeling and swimming in the majestic blue water of the Mediteranian, and maybe we come across some fishing gear to catch dinner.

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Back to France and deep into the Pyrenees

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This morning we have decided to leave Jaca by bus and head back up into France to check out some suggested places by the man who ran the organic produce store is Pamplona. Yesterday was a great rest day besides the fact that someone had stolen my phone from the bathroom with all of our priceless pictures on it. It kind of messed with us the entire day until we finally left camp for a beautiful hike in the mountains. We decided yesterday as well that we are going to make an effort and encoorperate more hiking to our trip.

It’s pretty wonderful to be climbing in the mountains in the comforts of the bus. I feel like you can really take in the beauty of the land scape when there is no agony of climbing with all your gear. So we move of through picturesque valleys of pines and sparse deciduous trees that are beginning to change from green to yellow. The mountains come up sharply in the distance in shades of off white and have some what of plateau shapes. These are then carved again in th the valleys by deep trenches where streams lay to pour into the larger river. The Pyrenees are truly wonderful in so many ways are exceed my expectations every day. I am so excited to be traveling deep into them again, and for the first time experiencing the French side of the mountains.

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The journey

The Camino De Santiago or the hike of Saint James pilgrimage has been with us now since we entered Spain. It’s a hike through France and Spain and we had thought it only followed one route, but apparently there are many paths to follow as long as you end in Santiago where you will find Saint James remains. This Christian pilgrimage has thousands of hikers and apparently bikers each year. You must hike at least 100 km or bike 200 km and log your travels in a passport to obtain a “certification”, but originally it was from ones home to Santiago crossing thousands of miles in all types of terrain and relying on the kindness of strangers for food and shelter.

Today it’s a bit different. Honestly, it seems a bit posh compared to the Appalachian trail, or the even more secluded Pacific Crest Trail that we are more familiar with in the States. Here you cross through countless small towns and are never far from a warm bed and yummy food for cheap and even free (honoring the pilgrimage). This causes the packs people carry to be small and lightweight. I am a bit jealous as I bike by with four packed panniers crawling up mountain passes. It seems like a great idea, but maybe isn’t what it used to be. I would like to know more. Does anyone have anymore information to share? Anyone done a stretch, or know someone who has? I am interested to know more on what hiking the Camino is like today.

One thing I do know though is whenever you set out for a journey, wether It be a spiritual pilgrimage or a three month honeymoon, there are highs and lows. The obsticals you face may be different from others (even if it’s the same road), but there is nothing better than overcoming them and learning about yourself and the world around you. I am so happy to have had this opportunity to strengthen my mind, body, soul, and relationship.

Does anyone have any experience to share? I know a lot of you have done some wonderful journeys and I would love to hear more about them.

The beginnings of Spain

Country number eight! We’ve made I to Spain after many “last nights” in France. That country just kept sucking us back in with beautiful people, places, wine, and bread.

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As we headed into Spain we stopped for the night in San Sebastian which is famous for the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in the heart of Basque country. The coast line was just as beautiful here as in Framce. San Sebastián was a great small town with a vibrant nightlife. There famous for a type of tapas called pintxo. Rory and I were intimidated at first, because there are so many people gathered around plate after plate of different appetizer-esque tapas. They had a ton of variety and you just went up and grabbed what you wanted to try. We both loved it.

Our campsite sit was on top of a mountain, which was a surprise when we did the 4 km climb fully loaded. It was a surprise after a realitively flat trip, but the view was worth it.

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Miles and and miles of foothills before the Pyrenees.

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Were heading out from Pamplona (famous for the running of the bulls) today and about to give it a try in the Pyrenees. Wish us luck and more nice weather!

Last days of France

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Tonight we are camped out on cliff side along the Atlantic. We are pretty much on the southwestern most tip of France and the topography has changed a lot. In the distance the Spanish coast curves west and juts up as the Peerynees come into play with the ocean. This creates epic sunrises on a nightly basis, as well an mystified days. The last few days of cycling have been some of my favorites. Below the sand dunes that stretched from west of Bordeaux lies a vast park and through it an amazing bike path called the Velodyssy. It wraps along the coast and through pines growing out of the sand. Sections of the parts are separated by sandy rivers and small quaint towns. Our most favorite town was Biarritz. It is a coastal town with world class waves and sea arches that jut up from pristine beaches. This was such an amazing place. There is a part of me that never wants to leave Biarritz. It’s love at first sight.
Our first night here we decided to splurge on a hotel right off the beach. It was a big expense, but after two nights of very little sleep it was definitely worth it and actually felt like a honeymoon.

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