Thursday, April 17, 2008

Risky vs. reckless

So we´ve changed SIX tires -- count em, six! -- in the last four days.

And we both agree ..... this is starting to suck.

This sounds like an obvious statement, but the roads here are nothing like Colorado´s roads. At home, a bike ride means cruising down a country road where traffic is sparse, slow and consists of passanger vehicles.

Here, the traffic speeds its Autobahn, and the backroads are covered with blind hills, blind corners and narrow -- if any -- shoulders.

Cycling here means riding downhill around a completely blind corner without a shoulder while a semi-truck whizzes by at 100 km per hour, creating a side wind that throws your bike off balance.

Kim, our resident cycle-touring expert -- she once pedaled from Colorado to Michigan -- declared days ago that she hates this. She said she´s only doing it because I want to. And I only wanted to because (1) it was the origonal intent of the trip, and (2) I keep telling myself that if we keep persisting, it´ll become fun.

Yesterday, both of us took spectacular falls (mine was behind a semitruck, though fortunately it was in town on a local street, where traffic was going slow and there wasn´t a car in the path of my fall), and fixed ANOTHER flat tire. We´re physically fine but mentally exhausted.

We decided to pull into Villasequilla, a town so small its not even on the map, and raided the candy store for comfort.

At that point, I decided life is too fragile to do something that´s not fun.

"I´ve been listening to the book The Alchemist on my ipod," I told Kim over ice cream. "It talks about the importance of listening to omens."
"And?" she asked.
"We´ve had 6 flats in 4 days. The airline almost lost my bike. And a black cat has crossed my path twice."

An old lady gave us directions to a park where she said we could sleep, but it turned out to be a playground -- unsuitable for snoozing. We biked a few kilometers south and took a dirt road deep into an olive farm, where we pitched a tent behind some trees and slept as rain fell overhead.

The next morning we started the 22-km bike ride to Mora, hoping to catch a bus from there to Andalucia. Unfortuanately, the winds were howling, and our bikes kept blowing off course -- especially as trucks whizzed by.

I turned to Kim. "We could backtrack 2 kilometers, or keep going another 20."
She shrugged. Neither of us wanted to quit.
So we flipped a coin.

True to the omen, the coin told us to backtrack to Villasequilla.

We asked a girl on the street about train schedules out of town; she said a train appears once a day, at 5:30, and goes to Aranjuez. We spent all day sitting around waiting for 5:30 to appear, but unfortunately - with no actual train "station," and with no signs or schedules to guide us - we were waiting on the wrong side of the tracks. The train passed by without stopping.

It rained overhead as we watched the only train out of town disappear into the distance. To our left, a shephard and his dog led an enormous flock of sheep at the edge of the fields along the opposite side of the track.

So we´re here for another cold, rainy night. We´re going to ask the owner of the cybercafe if we can sleep on her floor in exchange for cleaning the place. Hopefully she says yes. If not, we´ll return to some field out of town and catch a bus to Toledo tomorrow. There´s only one bus that runs out of town each day, and it leaves at 3 p.m., headed for the ancient Spanish capital.