Bike Across Europe 2017

Welcome back to Europe –for the 3rd time

This year our Europe trip will take us across Spain from Barcelona to San Sebastian, up the entire west coast of France, into Belgium and Holland, with a finish in Amsterdam . Total distance is estimated to be around 3500-4000 miles.  Our trip this year is also dedicated to standing in solidarity with most Europeans regarding their disdain for Trump ( and Americans in general).  We will be interviewing as many people as we can in the 5 countries that we will be visiting.  Our intent is to gain a greater understanding as to how Europeans really feel about Americans in the wake of the Trump administration!

We will also be displaying our feelings towards the wonderfully horrific Trump on signs which will adorn our bike bags!  Stay tuned for the actual pics of the signs on the bags.  We have created the signs in all of the languages for each country so that we can effectively communicate to our host countries the fact that THE MAJORITY of Americans hate the loser in chief.  Angela Merkel recently said that both France and Germany must now take the reigns as leaders of the free world and that America is a lost cause for now.  So much for making America great again!  Here is a preview of our signs ( in English)!

The blog can be followed at www.shepedalstheworld.com!

 

 

Bike Across Europe 2017

Barcelona here we come!

 

 

 

 

 

After weeks of preparing, we finally made it to Barcelona! With a total of 16 hours of travel time, we arrived in Barcelona early on the morning of May 31st.  Exhausted and beyond sleep deprived, we spent 3 hours putting the bikes together in the baggage claim section of Barcelona International.  This was awesome as it was quiet and there were very few people around to question are bike building “situation.”

After endless tweaking of the bikes, we attempted to bike out of the airport on what was supposed to be a quick, 2.5 mile journey to our camping location ( on the beach) just south of the airport.  After a failed attempt to ride a main highway ( signs stating NO BIKES were displayed everywhere) we turned around, rode AGAINST traffic back towards the airport, and attempted another small service road.  This ended in a dead end rode blocked by a fence.  Instead of biking back towards the airport, Jeff and I decided to take ALL of the bike bags off of the bike and to throw ( not literally) the bikes over the fence. Bikes, bike bags, and two humans scaling a fence near an international airport must have been quite a site for anyone passing by to see.  Thankfully, we were not spotted by any security forces and made it through this situation without being thrown in a Spanish prison!  2 hours later after more wrong turns we made it to our camping location!  Yes, it took us 2 hours to travel 2.5 miles!!!  This has officially gone down as the longest amount of time it has ever taken us to ride 2.5 miles! Our yurt/fabric “cabin” is in the typical crowded EU campground was just what we needed to get re-established on the European continent.  The campground is located on the edge of the Mediterranean so we took a quick dip in the ocean before heading off for some much needed sleep!  A spitting headache and no sleep for 27 hours would cause any human to “retire” at 4 pm!  By the way.. the Mediterranean ocean and the beaches look exactly like those from Southern CA.  The water temp is in the high 70’s and has the same, dark water look to it. Plus the sand is the same dark brown color.   Did I mention that the planes from Barcelona airport take off OVER the campground and did so all morning beginning at 4 am! Can you say LOUD! Oh the fun of bike traveling in Europe!

A quick encounter with our campground hosts ( two younger gals in their 20’s/30’s) gave us our first inclination on how the Spanish view America at the moment: “We think your president is a clown,” they said.  “We expect this of the Spanish government but not of America. We are afraid for Spain and afraid for the world.  America is no longer the country we look up to.”  And so there you have it.  More EU interviews to come!

Enjoy the quick pics of the beginning of our tour.  Exploring the city of Barcelona tomorrow and then taking off across the country on June 2!

Bike Across Europe 2017

Day 1 – Barcelona to Tarrega, Spain – 78 miles

Barcelona to TarregaWith our bikes ready and our feelings regarding the Orange Devil displayed prominently on our bikes for all to see, we left our coastal “barcelona airport” campground and began what would be come a VERY long ride! 10 hours of riding and 1500 feet of climbing eventually got us to the medium-sized town of Tarrega, Spain. We started out the day navigating through the densely packed “suburbs” of Barcelona and somehow made it out to the countryside without getting hit by a bus or a truck!  Spain is a country that, like France, reveres road cycling so we were passed by at least five or six road cyclists during the first half of the day ( all dressed as if they were riding in Le Tour!). We are in the Catalon region                 ( Catalonia) so there are two languages spoken here: Catalonian and Spanish.  Today’s ride was filled with medieval castles, medieval villages, car-less roads, and endless vineyards.  It it always fun to stop in these small villages for a Coke.  There are no such things as “mini marts” once you leave the big cities.  Only tiny cafes that serve Coke in a bottle for $1.50 ( a glass with a large cube of ice will usually run you an extra .25). We were forced to ride in the dark and did not get to our destination until after 10:30 pm.  The campground we had been aiming for was no longer in existence so we were forced to find a Pension/hotel.  Staying in a hotel was inevitable anyway as within five minutes of entering the town the skies opened and we were drenched.

     

Bike Across Europe 2017

Day 2 – Tarrega, Spain – Tremp, Spain

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Jeff and I decided over breakfast that instead of going due west to the coast, we would change up the trip a bit and go north west into a Unesco World Heritage Region called Le Conca de Tremp.  This region is a mountainous region sitting at the base of the large Pyrenees mountain range ( the Pyrenees lie just to the north) and it is known for its dinosaur remains, huge gorges, and lightless skies.  The region hosts the largest amount of fossilized dinosaur remains found anywhere in Europe and is listed in the top 5 of all places in the world to stargaze ( this is the main reason why it is a UNESCO site).

We unfortunately started this day riding in the rain. We were able to ride on semi carless roads for the first hour but the rain made the ride a bit harder than it needed to be.  Unfortunately, I was not prepared for the amount of climbing we had to do today.  I decided to not listen to my wonderful husband earlier in the morning and just assumed that he had read the topo map wrong. We ended up having to climb 3500 feet in about a 4-5 hour time period.  It took us over 5 hours to go 40 miles!  Luckily the rain did not last and we were able to do most of the climbing without having to deal with wet roads.  In order to get to our destination, we had to ascend to the top of at least one Col ( mountain top) but the view from the top and being able to ride through the valley below was well worth the effort.  We made it into the small town of Tremp at around 6 pm and spent at least an hour in a tiny market trying to find something to eat before we both decided to just try to find a cafe that was open.  Since most restaurants in Spain do not open until 9 pm ( yes you read that right ), we had to settle for a small cafe that was at least serving Bocadillos and potatoes. While eating, a huge thunderstorm moved in and we decided that camping was once again not going to be an option.  So, we headed to the small hotel across the street from our cafe. The hotel owner turned out to be a wonderful young man, who coincidentally hated Trump, so we decided to stay.  Tomorrow is not looking good for riding as there are supposed to be storms all day 😦

Day 3 – Stuck in Tremp due to rain  !  UGH

Bike Across Europe 2017

Day 4 – Tremp – Bennabare, Spain

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55 miles  –

We started the morning by gorging on chocolate croissants and bread and by 11 am we were ready to go. The owner of Hotel Alcatel, David, was awesome and gave us a list of national parks and “nature” hot spots to visit on our route west so we took his advise and headed towards Puente De Montana and Congost de Mont-rebei.  This national treasure is a gorge that is flanked by 250 feet sandstone and granite walls.  We rode through a high desert region and then had to ride five miles down into the gorge area.  There were about 50-60 people in the entire park!  It was spectacular! The day started out at 54° but once we reached the high desert on the gorge it was well into the 80’s.  The rangers at the gorge park held our bags for us and we were able to do a 4-5 hour hike above the gorge! We left the hiking area at 730 pm, climbed a few hundred feet, and after 2.5 hours of riding eventually reached the small village of Benebarre where a beautiful castle sat on top of the small town. We were able to stay at the town campground ( zero people!)  We had expensive but nice meal. We are now in the Aragon region instead of Catalunya.  Another GORGEOUS day of riding!

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Bike Across Europe 2017

Day 5 – Benabarre – Lecina, Spain

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56 miles

We began the day by touring the small village and the castle. We left around noon and spent the next 9 hours climbing the mountain ranges that make up the base of the Pyrenese. So far this was the most SPECTACULAR DAY of riding. NO cars! We have been riding on tiny roads and there are just very few people that live ( or visit ) this region). We were treated to a magnificent view of the Pyrenese later in the day. So many WOW moments again today! Most of the day was spent riding in a dry, high chaparral type area with nothing around except small farming structures. Most of the day was spent riding in a protected national park. Stopped in the small village of Colunga and luckily there was a bar in town ( other than that there was nothing) and they served us a much needed coke! Temps were almost in the 90’s so both Jeff and I were feeing a bit of heat exhaustion. We arrived at another vacant campground at around 10 pm in a mountainous area. The small campground was in the middle of a forest and the nearest town was over 40 miles away! To say that we were in the middle of nowhere was an understatement! The campground was very tiny and did not have any running water but we were luckily able to find a hose. By the time we arrived ( 10 pm), the temps were in the low 50’s but I somehow managed to “shower” using the hose water that I poured into my water bottles. No dinner for us on tis night but luckily I had stashed some cookies and jeff had an old piece of bread and some peanut butter so that got us by for the night. I was also lucky enough to be treated to a bag of fresh plums from a couple from The Netherlands who also happened to be stuck in this campground ( I think we were the only souls within 100 miles of civilization)! A very cold sleeping experience due to the fact that the temps got down into the 40’s that night and I was only equipped with my summer bag! Yikes! I was also treated to a few spider bites. But it was all worth the tranquility of this camping experience (along a river nonetheless)!

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Bike Across Europe 2017

Day 6 – Lecina – Sabaningo, Spain

66 miles.

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We left at 1200 pm after a very cold night in the campground. We also left a bit hungry as we did not have any food left ( I had a few protein bars which we ate but we definitely could have used a few more calories). The sky was as blue as you can imagine and there were no clouds anywhere. It was another long day of a ton of climbing. We spent the day biking through the Parque National de la Sierra Canones de Guara. Over and over we kept saying how beautiful it was and that pictures would not do it justice. Some of the climbs were so steep that I unfortunately had to get off of my bike and push it up the hill! On the back roads we were passed by only two or three cars the entire day!  It was like we were biking on the moon!  We did not go through any towns for at least 40 miles! We did about 20 miles of climbing and got to the base of the Pyrenees. We took picture after picture but there was no way they will be able to take in the amazing beauty we were able to see.  This was one of those days where if I had not actually seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed it was real! We had very little food and very little water so we had to be careful when we were biking all day.    After climbing two different mountain passes and ending up at around 3700 feet, we rode 12 miles downhill along a beautiful river. Our tiny road eventually turned into a larger road.  At this point we had not eaten in over eight hours and we had run out of water.  Somehow, once we hit this larger road, we were greeted by a run down shack that housed a panderia!   This was a HUGE relief.  We each ate three croissants with ham and downed three Fantas ( and fed some starving cats) and then we were on our way! We changed our route and decided to go north to a town called Sabinango.  As there were no campgrounds in the area, we opted for a small hostal. After a few days of camping and not showering, I was definitely ready for a shower and a bed.  Both Jeff and I were extremely dehydrated and I think I was suffering from a touch of heat exhaustion,We went to the local grocery store and got wine, salad, bread, and munchies all for $20.   It was fun getting a wine from the bodega Pineria because it is a winery we went by two days ago. Most of the wine in the grocery store was anywhere between two and three euros! One of the most amazing and scenic days of riding we have ever experienced in throughout our many trips to Europe!

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