Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Hounds of Troy

According to Homer, Achilles was the mightiest, most wrathful, and handsomest warrior in the Trojan wars.  Born to a goddess and dipped in the River Styx itself, Achilles ached with rage until his death from an arrow wound to his heel.  Steel on tendon, steel burning until consumed by the flame of Death itself.

In such an epic fashion, I find myself in Marseille, nursing the wrath of Achilles, known in modern medicine as Achilles Tendonitis, which is when the Achilles tendon, the mightiest tendon in the ever so imperfect human body, becomes engulfed in flames, or inflamed.  These flames that lick like hounds cause discomfort, which is WACK.

So I nurse my tendonitis, while Jaco rides like a man possessed through the South of France from Toulouse to Marseille.  I'm doing the old hot cold hot cold treatment, hitting my damn tendon with a healing regime for which it could not have possibly prepared. It already feels a lot better, and on Sunday I should be ready to soar again on eagles' wings.  If not, I'll take that old iron way to Nice.  Poor poor me, stuck in Provence in the Spring.

Jaco has the camera, so there will be no pictures for the moment.

We crossed into France from San Sebastian, riding on roads made for no bicycle.  Our first French night was spent under a werewolf's howling moon on a beach touched by the Atlantic Ocean itself.  There was a concrete structure there on which someone had tagged WALKER TEXAS RANGER and done a complete painting of this man's face.  Lit by the moon's wafery monstrousness, this face never looked umm, better.

And in the morning we rode like cormorants streaking northward for the summer, riding from the warmths of tropical islands to arctic shores, cutting through plain and coastal swamp, where shore drizzle threatened and did not deliver until we cut through Dax to the tiny hamlet of Candresse.

As gray receded and the evening's abalone pinks and blues and violets took over we found ourselves ramping up a driveway to ask a farming family permission to pitch our tent somewhere notbothersome on their land.  And they
    no: come in for coffee and cookies and here are three eggs from our hens stay a while and chat and here's a pound of pâté from our geese better stop chatting because it's getting late you see that roof down there that's my brother's farm go there and tell him to give you three eggs and i told him to do it and put your tent right under his oak tree in back there next to the stone table and i'll see you at ten in the morning for more coffee and cookies. And we
    thank you so much we don't really know how to thank you here's the address to our blog we'll see you in the morning.

Proceeding to brother's house we found the table already set with vegetable soup from the farm, fruit salad, 2004 Haut-Médoc, and directions to use the kitchen as our own and take showers.  And we did shower.  Then sat to a fancy feast of all this, and they gave us 6 eggs because his sister had told him to give us 3.  We slept well under the moon still full from the night before, and woke refreshed and had hot coffee and rejoiced in the promise of Poseidon's turquoise ceiling overhead.  We thanked our host and their national champion pyreneean donkeys and rejoined his sister up the road for coffee.  After coffee came the morning eau de vie, or water of life, or 60% fermented then distilled grape juice that tasted like the first grape that ever sprouted from the vine.  After all this we left, following the Voie Verte de Chalosse all the way to St Sever.  The former being an old train track turned to path just big enough for two bipedal beasts to ride steel side by side.  We rode a whopping 35 miles that day, stopping for wine and cheese and fruit and the pâté, in the shade of a stone bridge.  And we camped on a jetty, you can see it on the 'Map!' link, it's called Ste Eulalie, and even google maps got it in there.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Edge of Iberia

 A metaphor in Porto
 In the Atlantic Ocean!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 They make Port and olive oil here
 Steel on steel
 A most treacherous border.  Not really.
 Jaco with barrel added for scale.
 Las peñas, near Guardo, Palencia province.
Street art in Bilbao

These are some pictures. I would add more but there are people waiting patiently at the hostel.  The last few days riding from León have been crazy, the type of crazy where you can't look before you leap because you can't see anything, where the wind is behind you climbing one pass in the Cantabrian rain then inexplicably in your face, but you're going the same direction! The type of crazy where the only thing crazier than anything else is you, as you look behind you at the trucks and wait until they pass you, then scream at them, as if you're surprising them.  The kind of crazy where when the sun finally comes out you scream at its wafery appearance, because it's shining right at you and you can't see!

It's been a fine time acclimating back to sea level.  We're in Bilbao, taking a rest day, setting out for Saint Seabass (San Sebastian in Spanish, Donostia in Basque) tommorrow, then taking another rest day because we've heard that this city is the most beautiful city in the world.  Then we leave this peninsula for a hexagon more familiar, la France.  We will eat well, we will eat duck. With beans.

I saw so many eagles in the mountains crossing from León to here.  I saw a fox too, and signs of bears so I hung my ham high in the pines as I slept.

People stopped waiting, so I'll post more pictures.

 People have blotted out the 'Castilla' part of Castilla Y León.  They even got the crest.
 Steel on stone in Cantabria.
 Admiring a flying buttress, in a small abandoned church in one of many ghost villages of Castilla Y León.
 The ever terraced Douro canyon/gorge/valley.  They make Port here, and we drink it.
This rainbow moved with me, and I was the pot of gold at its end.  Burgos province.

For big time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

From the New World

I just ate morcilla and I feel good. It is our first, beautiful, joyous rest day.  It is a day of rebirth, restart, knowledge, information, blood sausage and wine.  The last 9 days have been excellent, and the joy of riding bicycles several days in a row is alive and doing well and pushing us across this continent.

We landed in Porto in March 2, and took off the next day. Portugal was very nice.  On our second day we received some great advice: For lunch, order uma diaria.  This was good, because the first meal we had was francesinha, which is a sandwich of 2 small slices of white bread, 5 hot dogs, roast beef, ham, and a big piece of cheese melted on top swimming in some tomatoey sauce.  It was okay, and was €6.50 at player price.  Back to the diara.  The diaria was explained to us as the ''worker's lunch'', and when you walk into a Portuguese hall you just order it, don't ask what it is.  It ends up being at least 3 courses, with a bottle of wine per person, soup, salad, dessert if you want it and coffee.  It's €6, always player price.  Needless to say, we ridiculed the francesinha and the person who recommended that, we even ridicule it to this day.  I had the best sausage of my life there, right on the banks on the Douro River, where Port and nothing but Port wine is produced.  That's not true.  They make olives there too.

The riding has been harder than expected. There have been many climbs, and many descents.  There are many thorns, and we've already had 3 flats.  But from flats come repaired flats, and we ride on.  After crossing into Spain it has flattened out quite a bit, and our pacelines cut through the Spanish head winds like a falcon diving for its prey.

We create quite the confusion in the villages we go through. We attract many stares and many thumbs ups.  Now we are in Spain, where we'll be for the next week or two, and the riding is about to get nasty and steep again.  Apparently there are storms on the horizon as well, whose names are not Nate and Jaco.  But we're in León now with our great friend Adrian who has met us from France who will be riding with us for a couple days.

The sidra is nice, the cheese is nice, morcilla holy mole, no calimochos yet.

No pictures yet either.  I haven't taken any.  Sike!  I've taken several, but I forgot my camera and I'm in the library.  The best picture yet was of an old, old, old flying buttress in a church in a deserted town in Spain.  Had to be one of the first flying buttresses ever, which I'm all about.