Days 11 Through 20

Day 11

Decided last night to take it easy if my knee still felt soar. Woke up, it felt better but not 100%, took the day off. The no pain no gain mentality works for a lot of things, but the knees are a special breed. I've learned the hard way not to mess with your knees. If my knee were to get really out of whack I could easily be out for two weeks. So today I got to sleep in, work on my bike, practice my Spanish (by watching tv...), and chill in the town. Back on the road tomorrow.


Day 12

Today started a bit iffy. As soon as I got on the bike I realized my knee was still not completely better. Good enough to keep riding though. I climbed up the valley towards the snowy peak wondering how my knee would hold up. I didn't know exactly how high up I needed to go because the top was covered in super thick fog. The views were awesome until I got towards the top where I literally couldn't see more than 15 feet in front of me. Complete white out. It was supposed to rain so I finally took the proper time to put my home made rain bag over my gear in the back before I left for the day. With this thing on man I look really homeless haha. Maybe it was just me, but I though I was getting some strange looks as a result. I did however get approached by some other bikers and we talked for a bit. They were interested in the blog, so hola to my 3 friends from El Barco de Avila... I figured this big foggy mountain pass would be the only really steep part of the day but that was not to be the case. Ended up having to climb three mountains before the day was done. Exhausting but also a good amount of fun. Pretty dope views all day. Got to town, used the internet to pick a hostal, and was surprised to realize that it was inside a castle haha. In fact, a big chuck of downtown is inside this huge fortress thing. Pretty cool. To top it all off I have a memory foam mattress in my room for the night. Nice. And of course the niners won.

The 3 biker friends I ran into

Day 13

Today was cold. At some points it was really cold. The plan for today was an easy 40 or so kilometers, followed by and really tough mountain climb, and then a confusing ride through the suburbs of Madrid before finally ending up in downtown. Well the part I projected to be easy wasn´t too bad, however, about a half hour into the ride today, not only was it freezing, but it was also snowing. It didn´t snow for more than five minutes, but it was enough to make me pretty worried about what was about to lie ahead on the significantly higher mountain pass. Fortunately everything turned out ok, as the road to the summit was steep and incredibly cold, but not filled with snow. At the top, I got my first view of Madrid. Went down towards the city, and after spending a couple of hours figuring my way through outskirts, I got to the city center.

So I finished the first leg and made it to my first major rest stop. 1 down, 30 to go... A couple days off here, and then a week to Barcelona. Due to my late bag and my soreness, I´m currently 6 days behind schedule. I´m pretty sure I can get back on track, but most of my opportunities for making up time are not until the second half of the trip, so it might be a while.

First glimpse of Madrid

Day 14
Nice day off. Get my laundry done, got some couchsurfing requests sent in, checked out the sites, met some people, and went out a bit at night. Made the Facebook page of the hostel I'm staying at.

Day 15

Second and last day off in Madrid. Hitting the road tomorrow morning.

Day 16

Just as it took me forever to get through all the urbanness into the the center of Madrid, it was equally hard getting out. Constant stop and go due to both traffic and needing to look at my map. Spain has great roads out in the country, but the avenues in the Madrid suburbs were full of potholes and cracks. As a result, I got my first flat tire of the trip. Fortunately it happened right in front of a park, so I could sit and relax at a picnic bench while fixing things up. Don't think I'll get that lucky again. I figure I'll be doing alright if I get less flat tires than I have major stops. So far one flat and one major stop (Madrid).

Got in to the town of Guadalajara and met up with the first couchsurfer of the trip, Giovanna. She was a great host and we drank some beer and talked about life. Now that I am in better biking shape my schedule is much more predictable which makes couchsurfering easier. I'll be doing a lot of staying with locals on this leg to Barcelona. In fact, I only anticipate staying at a hotel for one night on this week long stretch. Should be fun. Its also a lot more economical, as you eliminate the cost of lodging. Today was great, free breakfast at the hostel in Madrid, cheap dinner and free housing allowed me to only spend 5 Euros on the day.

Day 17

Giovanna showed me to an awesome breakfast place today. Spanish omelets, churros, and some other great stuff all a super cheap prices. While in Madrid I decided to change up my route to Barcelona a bit. Still planning on the same amount of time to get there, but I opted for a shorter, less car intensive route. The only trade off is that I'll be hitting a lot more hills. With that being said I rode out of Guadalajara today into the hills. Spending a good chuck of the day on one lane farm roads, I finally felt like I had completely left the Madrid metropolitan region. A bit cold and a bit hilly, but a real nice day nonetheless.

Day 18

The weather forecast today called for a 50% chance of rain. Well I certainly saw a lot of rain, but never really got to that 50% of the day without the rain... Ya it rained a lot today. And the rain turned to snow while I climbed up a mountain. The snow fell heavier and heavier. At the top of the mountain I felt like I was in a snow globe. Looking back at the pictures though, it actually wasn´t that bad... It looked really nice. It was kind of fun. It was freezing. My feet, which got covered in rain down below, were literally frozen. Besides from that though, it was good to know that the rest of my body was alright. Today was a bit of a test run for the larger, forthcoming snowy roads, and I'm happy to say that everything more or less checked out. I still got to wear my shorts the whole time too haha. I got to town, and met up with couchsurfer number two, Sara. It was her friend's birthday and we met up at a bar where they were all celebrating, so I knew it'd be a fun night. Stayed out pretty late, bit worried about getting the ride in tomorrow.

Castle in the city I stopped in
Couchsurfer Sara and her friends

Day 19

Today I slept in, ate breakfast at my couhsurfer's house and then we went to check out a local national park with some of her friends. Nice views, impressive looking rocks, "just like Utah" one person said. I finally packed up and was ready to hit the road at about 12:30. As everyone came outside to bid me farewell, I very unceremoniously realized I had a flat tire... It was exactly the same problem which caused my first flat, loose metal threading in the tire itself. I patched everything up and finally left town at about 1. The roads were relatively flat and I made good time. More or less every supermarket in Spain is closed on Sundays, so I stopped at a gas station to get some cheap food. The lady working there, realizing I looked hungry and probably thinking I was impoverished too, offered me a whole bunch of food which she couldn't sell because it expired yesterday. Free lunch. Got to my destination an hour after dark, but it turned out alright because my couchsurfer for the night, David, didn't get into town until about 10 minutes after me. He was kind enough to cook me a great dinner and shared some local knowledge. David is the only couchsurfer on the site from this small town of about 1000 people. I wasn't too surprised to hear I was his first guest haha. Rural couchsurfing at its finest.

Received news today that my grandmother died. It was kind of expected that this would probably happen while I was on the trip, as she was more or less on her deathbed when I left. During World War II she rode her bicycle from Washington to San Francisco. As I kid I remember thinking that that was a ridiculous thing to do, especially for my grandma haha. Her bicycle trip definitely fascinated me while I was growing up, and it was my first introduction to long distance bike touring. She is partially responsible for helping me discover how much I love traveling by bike, and, although she may not have know it, she definitely had a hand in motivating me to take this trip. Rest in peace Grandma Betty.

Sara and her friends in the Alto Tajo national park


Day 20  

David showed me around town in the morning and we went see this cool valley a couple of miles out of town. It was really interesting because the rocks were bright red, and they really stood out a lot with the light green trees below. We also walked through a farming village where they built most of their buildings from the local stones, so the buildings blended into the rocks in the background in a really interesting way. It was a great start to the day. I wasn´t in too much of a hurry to get on the bike because today was a relatively short 75 kilometers into the next town, Alcaniz. We drank some coffee, and then I took my time getting everything together. Big hill out of town, but besides from that the ride wasn´t too bad. The only problem was the wind, coming at me diagonally and almost knocking me off my bike a couple of times. For an hour or two I was constantly turning left in order to stay on the straight road. Got into the town of Alcaniz and met up with another couchsurfiner, Oscar. I knew this would be fun because he was really into bicycle touring. When I arrived at his house I was amazed to see how many bikes he owned. A couple a mountain bikes, some road bikes, hybrid bikes, even a tandem, probably ten in all. This was definitely the right guy to stay with on a bike trip haha.I got to meet his family, and he wanted me to practice English with his children, which was kind of funny. Oscar was also really into environmental sustainability, and he had a really cool custom built house which minimized energy consumption. Great guy, nice family.

Couchsurfer David