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Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

I just completed a most interesting, challenging, and fun bike tour from Seville to Granada through the countryside of Southern Spain known as Andalusia. The trip was organized by the company Backroads.com and I can highly recommend their service. They supplied our group of four couples and myself with bikes (I wisely choose one with an electric assist motor to give me a boost up the many hills), helmets, and a GPS device that was loaded with our route each day.  To usher us through the experience we had two group leaders and a support person who managed the logistics for the trip. The group leaders made certain any need we had was taken care of. They also took turns riding with us each day making certain we were doing OK and helping with any mechanical problems. The leader not riding with us drove a van and the support person another. They took turns leapfrogging ahead to setup our rest stop or staying behind us with repair parts, spare wheels, etc. At each stop for the night we arrived pre-registered with our luggage waiting in our rooms. When we checked out the luggage was collected and taken to the next stop.

During each day’s rides, morning and afternoon, one of the vans was waiting every 10 km, or so, with ice water, soft drinks, electrolyte replacers, juice and a huge assortment of snacks including fresh fruit. When we arrived at the carefully chosen reserved spot for lunch the leaders knew everything about the owners of the place and were obviously welcomed guests. The same reception awaited us at each hotel we were booked into by the company, all first- class establishments. The lunches were uniformly spectacular, in spectacular locations, and with panoramic views of the country we had just traversed. It was impossible for me to eat even a taste of everything that was prepared for us even though it was uniformly delicious. Then we were off again for our afternoon ride, again with rest stops. 

Each day there were several choices that one could make about how far and how much elevation gain you felt you wanted to ride. I think the longest day I had was about 80 km, but with a couple of thousand feet of elevation gain. We usually finished the day of riding about 4 or 5 pm. Those of us who opted for a shorter day were given a ride in one of the vans to that night’s hotel. Others could extend their day with an extra loop and/or ride all the way to the hotel. After a nice hot shower and, for me, a generous slathering with topical analgesic pain relief cream, we had the choice of a dip in the swimming pool or a (paid separately) massage. We would gather again about 6:30 pm for drinks and then some sort of cultural/educational event. We had tours of an olive oil plant, another most interesting lecture with sampling of wines and highest quality extra virgin olive oils from the region we were in, and a walking tour of Rhonda with lots of history. There was also a nature walk through a national park on top of a mountain where we started our day of riding with a long descent. One of the choices for the more experienced (gung-ho) riders was to ride up that mountain in an attempt to break the existing speed record for participants in these tours. I did NOT participate but one of our two experts managed it in just a little over an hour. The record is 55 + minutes. On our last night we were treated to a rousing performance by an accomplished guitarist, two flamenco singers and an elegant and beautiful flamenco dancer. The performance was interrupted by two standing ovations from the 12 of us. 

Our dinners were, as well, uniformly well planned and of outstanding quality. Nobody could go hungry on one of these trips or complain about the chow. 

The routes we took were almost all on low traffic back roads, carefully managed to keep us off major roads except for short stretches needed to get us to another back road. My concerns about having to ride on narrow roads with heavy car, bus and truck traffic were unwarranted. Perhaps surprisingly my 83-year-old knees handled the bike riding just fine. The same cannot be said for managing up and down stairs particularly ones of flagstone with no handrails. There seem to be a lot of those in this part of the world.

A close up of a hillside

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On day 2 I was the first in to the rest stop at the top of this long hill, thanks to my electric assist motor. No way was that going to happen without that motor. That’s Rhonda in the distance, where we started. If you zoom in on that last curve you will see two of our group rounding the curve and heading up to us.

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Charlize doesn’t know we’re home. For over a month at six-thirty or so each morning she pressed her cold nose on my cheek and uttered a soft whine to get me up. I let her out and then get on with whatever the day has in store. We wandered for over a month, asking questions without answers but gradually discovering that decisions can be made unilaterally after almost fifty-three years of collaborating with Rosalie. Of course I discuss everything with Charlize but she has yet to voice a comprehensible opinion, except for exuberant enthusiasm for walks and playing ball.

I went through thirty-nine days of accumulated mail, paid the overdue bills I couldn’t identify on-line and restocked the refrigerator. Now what? During my travels I rekindled some old friendships, now I have to work at keeping them viable and active that will require both time and effort.

Frog needs some repair and renovation to improve her ability to travel rough roads. I was disappointed with how she responded to the rough spots we hit along the way. They are just minor things. She needs improved access to the storage space under the bed, clasps on cupboard doors and drawers to prevent them from coming open when I hit a bump in the road, a method of keeping the table from sliding and banging around loose and into the corner of the cupboard and the refrigerator. I should be able to get her in good shape for our next adventure planned for May.

I also have my writing projects. A novel, PSILOCYBE DREAMS, that I just finished editing for, I hope, the last time. Now I have to start submitting it to agents and publishers.

I am starting a new project that I am very excited about: Samuel Ha-Nagid was born near the end of the 10th Century. He was a Rabbi who wrote poetry of love and God and wine and war in both Hebrew and Arabic. Some of his poetry survives today. He became the Caliph of Cordoba’s right hand, his Viser, his Chief-of-Staff, the General of his armies. He was never defeated on the field of battle. They were a team, a Muslim ruler and a Jew in a time of enlightenment, education, literacy and tolerance that lasted over three hundred years. What happened? There’s a story to be told and a trip to Cordoba, Spain for research.

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