Broto, Spain - May 20, 2012
Still in Spain. Just barely. Hopefully I should be able to cross over the Pyrenees into France tomorrow. Thought I would today but the weather was too lousy and so am I'm holed up instead in a very, very pretty little town on the western slopes. The weather has turned ugly again after a nice long stretch of the good stuff, so I can't complain too much, except for the fact that if there are mountains here, I can't see them very well. Just the bottoms as the tops are in the rain clouds.
Anyway, spent my last night in Toledo wandering around looking for a vegetarian restaurant I had seen earlier in the day. Took me about 30 minutes to find it as the only way was to retrace my steps as best I could remember them. As it turned out, the restaurant was only one street over from the hotel, but I would never have known that. Such are mazes. Had a great traditional Spanish dinner of vegie sushi and caneloni. There were only three of us in the restaurant the whole evening. Not too many vegetarians in Toledo I guess.
But I got out of there the next morning with no catastrophes. The "street" down from the hotel to the main road was very, very steep, very narrow and cobbled. There was a woman walking down the hill in front of me, so I had to use the brakes all the way down as she was slower than what I could do idling in first gear. She must have either been deaf or had nerves of steel as I just squealed behind her the whole way down and she never once turned around to look or tried to step out of the way. I really thought I was going over the bars there for a while. But finally made it out of town after pulling over a couple of times and letting the GPS sort itself out as best it could. With not much signal... garbage in, garbage out.
A Cool Valley
But had an unexpectedly great ride that day. I imagined central Spain to just be flat and hot, but was surprised to very quickly start following some cool lush streams winding along the bottom of some deep, rocky gorges. Sometimes the road would climb out onto more prarie-like areas of wheat fields and rolling hills, then drop again. Great ride. I was headed for the area around Saragossa, but came over a rise into a very wide golden valley where off in the distance there was a medieval castle, that looked in pristine condition. It sat within a complete set of walls above the town of Molina de Aragon. Oh well, it was late in the afternoon and the town and castle deserved a little exploration. Checked into a hotel and after it started to cool down a bit, climbed up the hill towards the castle. It was easy to imagine myself back in the 1200's coming up to such a walled city, declaring myself to be a traveler from afar and asking to be let in. But alas, they were having nothing to do with me. The gates of the city remained closed. By appointment only in groups of 10 or more. So I just walked around the outside. Well fortified I'd say. No way in. But I took a bunch of pictures and hiked back down to town for dinner.
Castle Above Moina de Aragon
The ride yesterday from Molina was also spectacular as far as the town of Daroca, then became a little bland after that. But to Daroca, I kept stopping and taking pictures of farmland. Kind of strange, but the colors were just very rich there. Deep red earth, deep green and lime green fields... just excellent. Also, wild poppies along the road. The best stretch of poppies were along the last couple of miles leading into Huesca, my destination for the day. I felt like the conquering hero traveling along the flower strewn path on my steed of steel as my sister-in-law calls my bike. Ha ha, funny! Alas... Huesca was not worth the effort. Bad vibes in that town.
Beautiful Eastern Spain
There was a campground in town and so I went to check it out anyway. It was a walled compound in the industrial section. Not what I had in mind. And I was burned out on towns and hotels. So I checked the GPS to see if there were any other campgrounds close by. I've downloaded into the GPS a free list of 30,000 campgrounds in Europe from Archie's Campgrounds dot com... there had to be something close. So I found something out in a "Natural Park", whatever that is, and headed for it. I have to admit to getting a little nervous when the next turn indicated by the GPS is given as "Turn Off-road". Something didn't seem right. So I got to the spot where the GPS indicated to turn, and indeed there was a track there... but it didn't seem like it would lead to any campground like I had ever seen. Maybe a hiking campground. But that's not what Archie lists. The track started down below the paved road and would have required about a 4-foot drop over the graveled shoulder. Sure enough, there were car tracks down there... but it was not a developed road by any means. Just a bulldozer trail cut into red clay. No gravel even. No signs around indicating a campground. I don't know. Something didn't smell right. And with the weather darkening through the day, I could just imagine what that clay track would like like after a night of rain. Gumbo paste. The GPS said that it was only 0.8 km. I debated with myself for a while, then decided to forget it. Looked on the GPS to see if there was another campground close by, and it listed the one I was headed to as the closest... 9 km away. What? I thought the one I was headed to was 0.8 km along this mud track. Then realized my screw-up... another for my book of things to avoid in real life. The GPS can get into a mode (or mood) where when you touch the screen, it takes your touch point as your destination. Here I had inadvertently touched the screen while it was in that mode and it was taking me off-road to some nonsense point. Just a point out in the countryside somewhere. I was really glad I didn't go down that bank!
So I got to the real campsite, just in time for it to start raining. They had a little cafe and consoled myself with a beer waiting for the rain to stop, then pitched the tent. No more had I got it set up when it started to rain again, and except for about a 30 minute break when I got out to set Little Spot off, it rained solid until 4 in the morning. Got a small break this morning, just long enough to dry out the tent fly, then I headed out. Didn't get very far, however before it started raining again... and it's quite cold now. Electric vest, liner, jacket. Electric grips on. Found this very cute, very little town and bailed. The road was winding, wet, mud-covered and few views due to the clouds. It is just a muddy day in the Pyrenees. Yuckers. I see snow level is 1300 meters. Just wondering how high the road goes tomorrow.
I think I am about on schedule distance-wise to make Budapest mid-June. I should have ample time to explore the countries of old Yugoslavia. Once I get across the mountains here, I should be able to make tracks. Headed to/through Lourdes tomorrow. Not that it is a big attraction for me, but it is in the general direction that I am headed and I think it is something that my grandparents would have liked to visit. I'm sure my grandpa would quite willingly give up his little spot in heaven for the chance to do the trip I am on now... so at least I'll go there for him. Maybe not visit the grotto. That could be a zoo. I can imagine the souvenir stands.
OK... weather forecast is sucky for the next two days, turning nice on Wednesday. Too late. Like the iChing says, when danger is about, the most important thing is to keep moving forward. So forward!