Saturday, June 03, 2006


Tarragona-Barcelona.

Trip dist: 99 kms. Trip time: 4 hrs, 55 min. Tot dist: 2238 kms.

So how is it, you ask, that I managed to average 20 kms/hr on this trip again, even though I had to pass through 3 minor ports along the coastal cliffs of the Spanish Mediterranean?

Ah. Because I was cycling with Antonio, a sport cyclist from Vinarós I caught up with about 30 kms from Tarragona (and how did I catch up with a sport cyclist, when these guys pedal, on the average, about twice as fast as I do? Because he had just repaired a flat tire, and was getting up to speed at an intersection, and was a bit undecided on which direction to take, so I passed him, yelling [I was a bit giddy about passing a sport cyclist, I confess--I had no way of knowing he was just starting up again and he was taking it easy--,hence the yelling]: "Hola ciclista!", and two minutes later he catches up to me, and starts chit-chatting: "Where are you going?", "Barcelona", "And are you going inland or by the coast?", "Inland has a high pass, I think I'm taking the coast", "The coast has 3 passes, inland only 1", "Oh, is that right?", "Yes, inland has a 400 m pass, the coast has 3 100 m ones." "Ah," said I. "Where are you going?", "I am just cycling as far as I can without stopping". Brief pause. "Which road are you taking then, inland or coast?", I asked, finally. "Well, you're taking the coast, aren't you?" "Yes, I think so." "The coast is prettier." And so we rode together). When you're cycling with someone else, you tend to try to match paces, he slowing down for me, I speeding up in order not to disturb, since, as conversation continued, his "as far as I can without stopping" was literally that: his plan, turned out, was to cycle 900 kms in 65 hours or less, nonstop.

Sleep? "Oh, I'll only sleep perhaps 4 or 5 hours. When you're cycling you don't get too sleepy".

And at night? Isn't it dangerous? "Yeah, a little, but..." shrugs. "Done this many times before."

Ha ha. I was cycling with a certifiable nutcase. Still, nutcases are way fun to talk to, here's for instance, another little snippet:

Him: So, all the way to Istambul, eh?

Me: Well, that's the plan.

Him: And how do you plan to deal with languages? Isn't that a problem?

Me: Nah, can handle most of Europe, I'm o.k. until I reach Hungary.

Him: Yeah, Hungary will be a problem. Nobody understands Hungarians, and I think sometimes they don't even understand themselves!

Chuckles on both sides.

Me: And you, you said you've biked through Hungary before, how did you deal with the language issue?

Him: Oh, that's not really an issue for me. When I biked through there I was again on one of my nonstop trips, so I didn't talk to anyone.

Me: [Pause]. Er...all the time you were there?

Him: Uh huh.

Me: (!) But you didn't even order food or have a drink at a bar or something?

Him: {shrugs} Before entering Hungary I bought a bunch of food at a supermarket. Cooked for myself, no need to talk after that.

Can you believe it? :o

Anyway, riding with Antonio was great, he was very considerate and even though he must've been in a hurry ("Don't worry, I'm expected at Premia de Mar at 4 p.m., but I guess I'll just arrive at 5 instead..."), always waited for me at the top of the hills, treated me to lunch at the half-way point ("Hey, my pleasure, a woman cyclist is not something you encounter every day!"), and continually and sometimes at no small risk to himself shielded me from traffic, boldly signalling for cars to slow down or to watch for our turns around the highways and into the city, and even recommended a great bookstore in downtown Barcelona ("A traveller's paradise: they have the best maps in that shop and you find shelves and shelves of guides arranged by country! Buy your France road atlas there!"), and guided me, right to Plaza Catalunya at the city center, where I thanked him with a drink at the nearest bar and we parted, with the entreaties to take care and be safe, and perhaps, who knows, we'll run into each other again in the roads near Berlin or Paris, ha ha, and three cheers to cycling, my friend!

A Catalán gentleman through and through.

1 comment:

p.s. I Love You said...

How I love a true gentleman no matter what country you find him in. It makes me feel even more feminine without feeling like a simpering idiot.