Plain loco!

Trip Start Apr 18, 2009
1
23
31
Trip End May 19, 2009


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Where I stayed
Colón Spa

Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  , Castile-León,
Monday, May 11, 2009

I slept really well last night on what was the most comfortable bed of the trip so far. On rising however, I noticed that my hamstrings were very short and tight so I spent a few minutes giving them a good stretch before making my way downstairs for an unusually late breakfast (8 am). Filled myself up with lots of tasty morsels and with drinks bottles and Camelbak refuelled, rode out of this lovely city across the old Roman bridge to the south. Except I took the wrong road, not once but twice and as a result did 5 km further than I needed to!

Finally got myself onto the N-630, the road that I will follow all the way to Seville. The N-630 follows the route of the Via de la Plata, originally a Roman road that ran the whole length of what was its province of Lusitania (now Spain and Portugal). The pilgrims adopted the route in the 11th century as a way to reach Santiago de Campostella from Seville, linking with the main Camino de Santiago (the one I was following until a couple of days ago) in the city of Leon.

Once again the wind was blowing for all it was worth and making the going very tough. As if that was not bad enough the main Autovia (motorway) running parallel to the N-630 came to an end and all its traffic was pushed onto the road that I was on. Then things started to get REALLY interesting: some wise person had decided the N-630 needed resurfacing at the time it is at its busiest. Normally these roads are pretty safe for cyclists because they all boast a nice wide shoulder on which to ride. When I reached the road works I was confronted by a long queue of waiting vehicles travelling in my direction. So I rode on the shoulder towards the front of the line where members of the team controlling the flow waved me through. As far as I could see into the distance I had the complete road to myself, or at least the reduced width of one lane of it while the other lane was being resurfaced. Then I realised, with more than a slight gulp, that I was very soon going to have to share this lane with traffic coming from the opposite direction! And the lane having been narrowed meant the traffic would also be sharing MY hard shoulder!! (Well, I thought, at least it´s better than having to share with traffic coming from behind me.) The look of astonishment, not to say disbelief, on the faces of the oncoming motorists will remain with me forever. One clearly irate lorry driver (and there were lots of VERY big lorries!) honked at me and tapped the side of his head indicating that he thought I was completely Loco! And, I have to say, he was right! I also have to say a word of thanks to all those drivers who somehow managed to avoid me - it cannot have been easy to steer 40 tonnes of articulated vehicle slalom-like between the traffic cones to give me sufficient room to pass.

But I knew that before too long the oncoming line would pass and traffic would be released from behind me, so big headwind or not I pushed those pedals for all I was worth until I cleared the roadworks. And right on cue, a roadside restaurant and a very welcome break for lunch!

Lunch proved quite entertaining as I watched a guy, who had driven into the car park as I was locking the bike, drink a bottle of red wine without eating a thing! From his slurred speech and loud voice I thought he was causing grief to the woman behind the bar - until I spotted them holding hands! Takes all kinds.

After lunch of tortilla and ham I rode on into Guijuelo, where all the traffic had been diverted to avoid the road improvements: what a nightmare for the local people, never mind the poor drivers. It was a complete log jam, so being on a bike proved a real bonus. Then I heard sirens, lots of them. And sure enough more than a dozen emergency vehicles went screaming past on their way to what must have been a serious incident back in those roadworks. Hmmmm.

As I left Guijuelo the road engineers played a nasty little trick on me by signing two roads identically - one a new road and one clearly very old. My satellite device could not help because it did not recognise the new road. So I decided on the old road and, as uneven as it was, it proved to be a most pleasurable ride. Beautiful countryside through silent, sleeping villages (enjoying siesta time!) soon giving way to winding mountain roads taking me higher and higher into increasingly strong winds and increasing numbers of rain showers. I endured some really tough climbs that tested all my bike´s gears, but I took my time and was enjoying myself. During one particularly heavy shower I took shelter under a tree and whilst trying to decide whether to push on or wait, a deafening clap of thunder made my mind up for me and I headed out into the rain. Within seconds the shower had become a downpour and for the final 5 km into the mountain ski resort town of Béjar the heavens opened, the roads flooded and the brakes became very dodgy indeed!

So it was with no small amount of relief that I rode up to my hotel for the night, the Colón Spa, now a little dated but doubtless a grand hotel in its heyday. It was warm and comfortable and after I had showered off the day´s grime I went into town to buy my drinks and snacks for the next day. Unfortunately the rain refused to abate so photos were not to be had and I made my way back to the hotel. With dinner not served until 9 pm I settled down in the bar with some tapas and wine and people-watched: the place was packed with locals. Dinner was outstanding: for just 12 euros I enjoyed three excellent courses, plus a WHOLE bottle of red wine (but I didn´t drink it all!), plus water and bread. Entertainment was provided by a large group of elderly French tourists who spoke not a single syllable of Spanish between them and resolutely avoided even attempting to do so in the face of waiting staff who had not a word of French!

DISTANCE FOR THE DAY: 81 km
TOTAL SO FAR: 1731 km
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