How can anyone, even Lance at his druggiest, ride a bicycle from Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal to Linxe, France in four days? Here’s how:
Above is a touring bike in what might be the single worst job of “protective wrapping” in the history of transportation. I’m almost proud of how badly I “wrapped” this bike, but only after getting it back off the bus in Irun, Spain in just about 100% shape. The choice of “sage” colored duct tape really sets a mood of “professional workmanship,” don’t you think?
You see, I basically skipped Spain on this tour, taking the overnight bus from Vigo to Irun (yeah, that’s a crossing of the entire northern part of the country) in an epic 12 hours of bus epicosity, after having biked right up to Vigo’s Bus Station from Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal.
It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, really.
The reasons to expedite my journey in this seemingly just as bad as it sounds manner are sound, reasonable, and I’ll spare you almost all of them. Instead, I’ll just mention that it would have been far too slow to manage my ways through the hills of Galicia and have any chance of meeting my wife in central France by July 4th.
Here’s a bit of a write-up on how it went down. Readers may feel free to use any psychological methodology they choose in determining how insane your humble blogger was/is.
Day 10: Ponte de Lima to Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal
Man, I am behind on these posts! I did have some photos from beautiful Ponte de Lima in the last one, however, so I’ll focus on Ancora here..
The view from a Portuguese “highway” so devoid of cars I could just stand with the bike and take pictures. This from atop the only real hill between Lima and Ancora.
Stone “cones” warning drivers, if there were any, of a possible sharp fall into a river.
The rocky coast near Ancora. I discovered that distant peak is in Spain, ending up riding up much of it after the Caminha-A Guarda ferry.
Day 11: Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal to Vigo, Spain Bus Station
Prescient of a big day and night o’ bus ahead, I woke up early and sprightly rode the 10 km to Caminha. Getting there early for the 9:00 ferry, I was informed that there was no 9:00 ferry, or 10:00, or 11:00. That the only ferry was at Noon.
After digesting all this information, and figuring out I would probably still have a few hours to do the greatest protective bike wrapping job in transportation history, I decided to get a few things done in Caminha. I needed a wrench to get the bike’s front tire off, and a print-out of my bus ticket confirmation.
The wrench took all of two minutes, thanks to a hardware store staffer who was very willing to come outside to make sure the wrench was the right size. The print-out took about an hour, and involved this incredibly nice photocopy store owner walking me 300 yards to the travel store unnecessarily, as he thought I told him I needed to buy a ticket.
The Portuguese are truly the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Skipping ahead a bit, the ferry that was supposed to leave at Noon actually left at 11:00. No reason was given and I’m glad I got to wait for the “Noon” ferry early. Maybe it was due to the fact Spain is an hour ahead. I’ll never know. Then I rode the spectacular coastline of Western Galicia to Vigo, performed the worst bicycle protective wrap job in history and experienced the overnight bus to Irun.
In the hyper-competitive category of “Nicest Person in Portugal,” here’s the aforementioned photocopy store owner, helping a woman in a striped shirt. He wanted to charge me 10 Eurocents for about an hour’s work.
Ferries are truly the bike tourer’s best public transportation friend. This fellow ferry rider is touring his way back to his homeland of France.
After climbing the aforementioned peak near A Guarda, Spain, ho hum, another scathingly beautiful beach.
And the more you ride to Vigo, the more beach beauty you see, tide pools and such included.
Heck, even the vista across the area water treatment plant is fucking gorgeous.
Okay, I’ll stop now, but this A Guarda to Vigo stretch has got to be one of the ten most beautiful bike rides in the world.
This, on the other hand…but hey, at least they let me take it on the bus in this condition (long story) and it ended up in one piece 12 hours later.
Most people take photos of the city’s Guggenheim, but this is my only photo of rainy Bilbao, “proof” that I was there due to the Euskara/Spanish dual language usage.
Day 12: Irun, Spain to Tarnos, France
Wearing the same clothing (and sweat) with which I rode into Vigo, I removed and discarded the world’s worst bicycle protective wrapping, loaded up and rode away from the rather unattractive bus/train station in Irun.
A few wrong turns righted, I eventually escaped Irun and headed up another steep hill toward better croissants. The traffic between Hendaye at the border, past Biarritz and Bayonne to Tarnos was the most intense I’ve run into this tour. Saturday morning beach traffic and woozy sleep-deprived cyclists don’t mix well. Eventually I reached my turn off from the roadway intensity, pulled off the main drag and was suddenly enveloped by the most invigorating silence, countryside and…France.
Typical view of my Saturday morning ride, with one important twist in Bayonne: They let cyclists ride the extensive bus lane. ABQers, remember this idea w/r/t to Albuquerque Rapid Transit.
One big reason for the weekend throng
The ride was jarring and unnerving, but somehow this first French baguette and apricot beignet made all memory of the bus ride, the sleep-deprivation and the maddening traffic vanish.
Staying at a wonderfully idyllic gite (French guest house) with Percheron horses surely helped the jangled nerves, too. And yes, I call the little one, “Bitey.”
And I’m just re-posting this because: 1. I’ve noticed Facebook usually shows the last photo in a blogpost; 2. It’s just so hilariously unimpressive.