Barcelona, Spain - May 3, 2012

Hola Amigos!

Actually, I probably shouldn't yell that so loud as I think from the graffiti promoting independence that I must be in the Catalan region of Spain. I did notice today that at the gas station, the attendant was speaking something akin to Spanish but not quite. Anyway, I am about 25 km east of Barcelona. We'll call it Barcelona. I was looking on the internet for a place to stay but I couldn't find anything in the city less than $100/night that was not in a 4 to 8-person dormitory. And it went up from there. So I was only going to do a drive-through today, but coming along the coast I got a small flash of... something. There's the beach, then the train tracks, then the road. And a train station. Maybe I could stay out here for less money and take the train into Barcelona? So I looked high and low around one station and there were no hotels to be found, and so followed the tracks to the next station. Then just a block or two away I found this place. Very nice, just a small midnight wander across the electrified tracks to the beach, and 20 minutes by train into the heart of Barcelona. And this place has a bath tub. No plug though, so I made a disk of some inner tube material I have for such things and perfecto... I've had one good soak already. I'm thinking that the people here like to party. When I checked in, the lady said that breakfast was served from 7 to 11. 11? Can you still call that breakfast? Isn't that second-breakfast or elevenzies? Also, she said that if I come back after 2 AM that there is a door code. Lady, the last time I was up till 2 AM was the night of the Gore-Bush election and we were waiting to see which way the hanging chads in Florida were going to fall.

Beachfront (?) Hotel

"Beachfront" Hotel

But, as you can see, I've had a small change of plans. Originally I was going to hug the north coast of Spain, going to Bilbao and such, then down to Portugal. Well the weather that way is just not cooperating. Here is a small clip of the most recent forecast:

"An interesting weather pattern will set up for the continent Wednesday as a large storm system off the northwest coast of Spain will spin in place throughout the day. This storm will push moisture into Portugal and western Spain throughout the day...The remarkably stationary movement of this storm will be its main characteristic with no movement expected until the weekend. This could mean a prolonged rain event for Portugal and Spain."

When was the last time that a weatherman forecast the weather as "interesting"?

So I decided to come south to avoid the mess up north and will stay here in Barcelona for a couple of days until things change farther west. As a result of that deviation south, I've now had almost three days of... wait for it... wait for it... SUN! OMG! I'M MELTING!! Yes, and yesterday, I was actually hot. Imagine.

So the last time I wrote I think I was in Parthenay, France after the upset in the traffic circle. Stayed a day there doing repairs and housekeeping, then left the next morning in a pretty thick fog. Before leaving town, however, I stopped to get gas and as I was leaving the gas station, the guy behind me was honking. Well, I was pulling out into another traffic circle (what else) with a "Cedez le passage"... Yield... and there were cars coming. Dink. So about 10 kms later, still thinking about that jerk honking me, I decided to draw on my vast and wide-ranging experience... in screwing up... and thought about other times people had honked for no apparent reason. There was the time that the girl pulled up beside me, honked, pointed at the bike and gave me two thumbs up, but unfortunately this was not like that. Then there was the time in Montana when the guy behind me honked, I ignored him, and 100 miles later I discovered that one of my straps that hold the side cases on was missing. Ah... yes, this was more that that situation. So I looked back in the mirror... which requires a half-standing maneuver and sure enough, one of the straps was gone. Merde. Well, he wouldn't have honked if it was missing at the gas station (how would he have known), so it must have come undone and was hanging. So maybe I dragged it for awhile before it came off. And maybe it's just lying in the road somewhere. And maybe, just maybe, no one has driven over it yet and smashed the plastic buckles to smithereens. So I U-turned, retraced my steps a few kilometers, and sure enough, right there in the road was the strap. Perfectly fine. See, it pays to reflect frequently on one's own stupidity.

So that day eventually turned nice but the GPS took me on some very winding, slow roads and so while I was headed for Toulouse, I was just beat by the time I got to the small town of Moissac. It was May Day and so everything was closed. The only thing I saw really happening was a couple of towns before, that looked cute from a distance. I told myself that I would just stop there for the evening. But coming into town, cars were lined up on both sides of the road for half a kilometer or so. Flower Festival. Music, markets, people carrying large flower displays from their cars. Would have been fun, but there was no way that there was going to be a room available anywhere near that place. So I went on to Moissac. Even the cafes were closed. But I did find a take-out pizza place, got a pizza and went to a square, sat on the steps and ate it dry, with nothing to wash it down. The pizza shop sold pizzas. That's it.

A Napoleon Road

A Napoleon Road

Another very winding day yesterday through I guess what are outliers of the Pyrenees. One of those days where you're grateful for a short stretch where you can get all the way to 4th gear. Very tiring again. I think I just don't have the stamina that I had even two years ago. Or maybe I'm still in training this trip. I hope so. Last night I stayed in Perpignon, just in the southwest corner of France. Perpignan was nice last night. Got a place across from the train station, and while it was down with the tattoo parlors and kebab joints, it was an OK place. Sat outside at a cafe with a beer... watching the local cops hassle some kid on a scooter about something. Eventually four cops showed up and the kid got off the scooter and wandered off into the train station. I couldn't hear, but I think he didn't have a licence or the bike didn't have a licence or something. While I waited for a while to see if they were going to impound it or something like that, the drama was moving way too slowly for me and it was bedtime.

Country Stream

Country Stream

Awesome Spring Day

Awesome Spring Day

So, somewhat excited about Spain. Except for the fact that there are traffic circles every 200 meters... or less in places. Still haven't decided quite where to go after here. But I was thinking as I was coming in today, that Spain did have a huge empire (squandered it like most empires), but that almost 500 years ago, they were wandering around the desert southwest of the US, writing their names on rock faces. I mean, that really was an accomplishment. I remember being at El Morro rock in New Mexico a few years ago, where the early Spanish explorers scratched their names as they passed by. I remember only the gist of one in particular where it was something like "I, Juan Jose Vasquez Domingo, Honored and beloved Governor of somesuch, passed this way on special business of Queen such-and-such of Spain, 1609"... all carved in the most ornate and elaborate script. And below it, a couple of weeks later, one of his compatriots passed the rock and scribbled for all to see... "Juan Jose Vasquez Domingo is a pompous ass"... or words to that effect. So be careful what you post on Facebook. It's there for all time you know.

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Samuel Longiaru
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