Goodbye Viseu, Portugal :)

July1

We moved to Viseu, Portugal, in December 2020.

Viseu welcomed us with open arms, and it has been a fantastic home for the last 3.5 years.

We had to move from Spain while COVID-19 was raging, and we wanted to be close to nature. Viseu was perfect, and the best part was the kindness of the people. They made my wife and son feel right at home. And in no time at all, they had friends and a community.

Calico turned 4-years-old right after we arrived, and Viseu is his world. He is 7.5 now and just finished 2nd grade at a Portuguese school. Watching him say goodbye to his best friends, his future wife, and the only world he knows was hard. He is excited/sad and experiencing all the emotions as we move to our new home in France.

Goodbye, Viseu; thank you for being an excellent home for our little family.

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Summary: Spain to France 2024 Bike Tour

June3

Totals?

  • 1,051km
  • ~59 hours of riding
  • 10,010m of altitude gain
  • 17 days of riding (4 rest days)
  • Average km/h of 17.9
  • Average daily ride distance was 62km
  • Average daily ride length was 3 hours and 27 minutes
  • Six days with rides over 700m in elevation gain, five with over 900m, and two with over 1,000m of gain.

This was an amazing ride! I saw a lot of Spain, and I am looking forward to doing more rides here (especially in Catalonia).

I ended the trip in a small French town called Ille sur Tet. Tomorrow, I am going to get a custom bike fitting for my new bike from a local company called Caminade. And then I will pick it up in September!

Here are a few pictures from a hike I did yesterday from this town.

My notes for my next bike tour:

  • Bringing my lightweight wool shoes was terrific. I must keep doing that so I don’t have to walk around in my wet, clunky bike shoes. I’d love to find some relatively compact, lightweight hiking/walking shoes.
  • I should always bring waterproof gloves, socks, a hat (or my wool neck cover), and biking pants, as some mountain houses are not very warm. I got pretty cold one day in the rain and almost had to wrap everything in plastic bags.
  • I felt much better having a rest day every four riding days. I should probably add two days of rest after that first week to recover a bit more. It went okay, but I’d like to time that with spots I want to explore more, like history sites. For every seven days, I’d like to do five days of riding and two days of rest.
  • Don’t forget how much chunky gravel hurts your butt. There is a vast difference between road, smooth gravel, and super chunky gravel on how your butt feels the next day :).
  • Possibly bring lights if I am going to ride on the road.
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Day 17 of Spain-to-France (63km) – last day of the rid!

June1

63km / 4 hours 23 min / 922m gain

It was a beautiful day to end the final day of the tour.

At the highest point in the tour, I crossed the border into France! Woohoo! I wasn’t expecting anything signifying the border… however, they had a little baguette, beret, and bidet station. They were out of baguettes, but I did get a complimentary beret and bidet.

I hit a crazy headwind once I was in France, and that slowed me down. It’s a long day, and I’m happy to make a delicious rice stir fry.

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Beautiful rest day photos :)

June1

I can’t wait to go back to Catalonia and explore it more.

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Day 16 of Spain-to-France (66km)

May31

66km / 4 hours 29 min / 936m gain

A beautiful route through forests, fields, and mountains.

The gravel was super chunky, with huge rocks, so many of the climbs and descents were very slow. I had to carry my bike to a few places, and I had one long water crossing where the water was deep enough that my shoes went under when pedaling.

I’ve got a rest day today, and tomorrow is my last day of the trip. I will cross from Spain into France at the highest point of the ride!

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Day 15 of Spain-to-France (51km)

May30

51km / 3 hours 23 min / 923m gain

Today was beautiful!

It was also a big climbing day again, although a little easier because it was a road. Yesterday was much harder because the climb was full of rocks and loose dirt (which made the intense gradients harder). I was tired today so I definitely stopped to take water breaks and catch my breath.

Today was my 3rd biggest climb ever (633m)!

I ended my day in Olot, Spain. I am looking forward to exploring it!

 

 

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Day 14 of Spain-to-France (60km)

May29

60km / 4 hours 4 min / 1,077m gain

Today was beautiful: from wine fields to pine forest-covered mountains!

It was also the first real climb of the trip… up and up and up and up. It was officially the 2nd biggest climb I’ve ever done on my bike. It had big, chunky gravel, and I did pretty well until the last 10%. To make it, I had to stop a few times in that last 10%. The backside was not fun as it was so chunky that I had to go heavy on my brakes and couldn’t flow down.

I also almost got hurt really badly as a Mercedes Sprinter delivery van was coming around a blind corner on a tiny one-lane road at the bottom of the mountain (really more like 70% of one lane). I had to hit my brakes massively 3 times into a controlled side skid to miss hitting it or going off the other side and a 15 to 20-foot drop-off. I hit my brakes maybe three times, side skidded almost to losing control, straightened, and pumped them again. I made the gap between the van and drop-off, so all is good. The driver didn’t even stop moving, which was quite crazy. I kinda wish I had that on camera, and I am happy I replaced my tires before this trip.

Tomorrow I’ve got another mountain to climb (are these mountains? I am not sure. What is a mountain versus a big hill?). I dumped some food weight out of my bags to help; I was silly and bought a big glass jar of peanut butter I am not eating.

Catalonia is painfully beautiful; I want to return and do many more rides! I am glad we will soon live so close to this area :).

My climb today was roughly ~20km and 600m+ of elevation gain (~2,000 feet). I think it took me ~2 hours.

Notes

  • 15% of gradients are painful even in the lowest gear.
  • I am looking forward to my new bike and doing more mountain climbs!!!
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Day 13 of Spain-to-France (68km)

May28

68km / 3 hours 49 min / 1,025m gain

Awesome gravel ride!

That ride had some of the most amazing downhill gravel runs I’ve ever been on. It had huge berms to get a little air and super wavy loose gravel to keep you focused on your line. It had huge descents and massive fun.

Everything is green and back into rolling hills or whatever is between mountains and hills. There was some decent climbing today, but nothing too intense in terms of gradient. I hit a few spots where I had to bike hike where the path was washed out with 1—to 2-foot erosion drops.

A few days ago, when the gravel was so rough, my bottle holder cracked; part of the metal just gave up. It was easy to replace, and it has lasted four years of good use. For now, I applied some field medicine with triage tape, and it is trucking right along.

Notes for future self:

  • Bringing an additional pair of light shoes is a game changer. I love going on walks around cities and into nature. I need to find a good lightweight shoe that would work better than what I have for hiking. It is especially great when my bike shoes are soaked.
  • For my next trip, I want to aim for 5 days of riding for every 7 days. I think that balance is a little more sane. Doing 4 days of riding and 1 day of rest has been awesome, but still a little much for how much training I got. It results in 8 days of riding and 2 days of rest, which is still too much.
  • For my next ride, I could maybe do a history ride where I follow key Cathar locations or a specific Ancient Rome journey. Then, I can plan more rest days in key spots with museums, etc. (and time it to be there on days they are open).
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Day 12 of Spain-to-France (53km)

May26

53km / 2 hours 47 min / 353m gain

It was an easier day compared to some of the previous rides. But today, I felt like I was moving like mud, as I was physically worn out after the longer rides of the last few days. I am looking forward to my rest day.

I was a little sad to leave town, as Lleida looks so cool; it even has a sunken river park like Valencia. I hope to be back in this area for biking in the future and plan to check out this city in more detail.

I can see the mountains approaching on my left! I’ve got some big climbs coming :)!!!

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Day 11 of Spain-to-France (70km)

May25

70km / 3 hours 51 min / 673m gain

(For my reference: Komoot estimated 4 hours 44 min and 590m gained)

I was surprised by how good I felt this morning.

I didn’t have any food this morning as I ate my emergency rations last night. Luckily, this area is way more populated, and I stopped in a fair-sized town for an early lunch snack, a loaf of bakery bread, and this delicious pastry with nuts and fruit.

The trail was wild today; sometimes, it was fantastic road/gravel, and other times, it felt like a cattle trail that was only used once a year. I had to carry my bike over a few streams and map out a few weird issues. It was a fun day! I am super lucky the path wasn’t rainy, as it would have been sloppy mud and required me to divert to the road.

At times, there were beautiful canyons, and at times, it felt like a post-apocalyptic scene from Fallout 2. Once again, I saw about 50 rabbits (I also saw 2 yellow/green giant lizards yesterday).

And the day ended in Catalonia!

I went out to my first proper lunch at a restaurant in a while (in a lot of very small towns). I had the daily menu to start an amazing garbanzo bean/cod fresh citrus salad, followed by pork knuckle in orange sauce, and then flan with whipped creme. So good!

I am pretty tired after the long rides the last few days, so after lunch, I went to the grocery store for some rations and then to my hotel room. I didn’t feel like walking around today.

Tomorrow I have an easy ride and then a rest day at an Airbnb.

It is nice to be at the point in my ride where my brain is just utterly silent.

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Day 10 of Spain-to-France (89km)

May24

89km / 4 hours 27 min / 508m gain

(For my reference: Komoot estimated 6 hours 26 min and 430m gained)

Today was a long day as I couldn’t find a closer hotel.

It was full of wide-open skies and a good ride. It is nice when you hit the point in your ride where all the chatter in your mind dies away, and it is just quiet. I don’t think I thought, but 2 or 3 things for the entire ride. I got started a bit earlier than usual to try to outrun some of the high heat.

Yesterday, the gravel was super bumpy, and I didn’t realize how much until I got on my bike this morning as my but is pretty bruised. Today didn’t help; the first 40km were constant huge bumps, which really hurt. The last 40km were smoothish dirt, so that was much better. I am going to be in pain tomorrow. I need to get a professional bike fitting once we are in Bordeaux as I am not sure if my seat is right and if this pain is normal. It might be hitting me in the wrong place, and I need a more narrow one (perhaps an even harder one than I have).

I am staying in a nice Casaa with a big kitchen. I just devoured a giant bowl of pasta and am about to catch up on some Shepherd work.

 

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Day 9 of Spain-to-France (70km)

May23

70km / 3 hours 24 min / 116m gain

(For my reference: Komoot estimated 4 hours 26 min and 65km and 70m gained)

I am back on gravel!

The trail was dry, and no problems with mud (knock on wood). For most of today, I followed the Imperial Canal or Aragon. There was one tricky part where I didn’t realize I had to go on a restricted canal bridge, and for a second, I thought I was about to do a very wet river crossing (picture below).

At this lower elevation, it feels like I am getting more into a desert area. I’ll try to get on the road very early tomorrow with the sun/heat (plus, I have a very long ride tomorrow due to hotel locations).

I ended the day in Zaragoza (one of the biggest cities in Spain) and walked around the city center. I had some authentic Chinese food for lunch and tried to find some waterproof biking gloves (no such luck).

The owners of the last hotel said I was lucky as the wind was super low. There are probably 5,000+ giant windmills in this area. I wonder if that luck will last!

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Day 8 of Spain-to-France (62km)

May21

62km / 2 hours 46 min / 489m gain

(For my reference: Komoot estimated 2 hours 3 min and 4370m gained (road estimate and I did some extra exploring around a castle area))

I stuck with the road route as the trails were too muddy.

Today was fun until the last 13km, as those were on a state highway. It was intense since it was Monday, and traffic was back (great drivers, but the speed limit is 90km). I am hoping to try trails again after my rest day.

I went up a huge mountain and then descended ~700m. The mountains were excellent and covered in forests. It is nice to be out of the mountains as it is much warmer down here in the plains.

On the way down, I stopped at a castle and explored it. It turns out the entire town (Trasmoz) is excommunicated due to witch stuff (although probably just the Catholic church were jerks over water rights long ago). The town seems pretty awesome as they made the entire castle a witch museum and have a yearly prize for the person in the village who displays the most witch spirit. Mountain people.

The first two pictures are of the sky last night and are beautiful.

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Day 7 of Spain-to-France (49km)

May20

49km / 2 hours 25 min / 482m gain

(For my reference: Komoot estimated 1 hour 41 min and 410m gained (assuming road bike, I guess))

I took an easy road route today. I didn’t trust the gravel/path route as it seemed too muddy (and there was no rail route today). It was overcast and cold. The sun pipped through occasionally, but otherwise, it was pretty cloudy. I left a little early to make it before some storms hit.

There were some really cool defensive fortifications from where the Muslim/Christian lines were at one point. There were bike trails to get to them, but I skipped it today due to mud and incoming thunderstorms.

I might try to get back on the trail tomorrow…

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Day 6 of Spain-to-France (61km)

May19

61km / 3 hours 3 min / 287m gain

(For my reference: Komoot had no estimate as I had to make up some new routes “live”.))

Today was one of the most beautiful gravel rides I’ve ever done. I wish it had been 100+ km.

It was cold but mostly sunny, and there was no rain (luckily). I wore my rain jacket most of the day for warmth. It is still very wet on the trails, but since this is a rail trail conversion, I knew it would likely be dry (which it was).

It started in beautiful pine forests and just opened up into incredible scenery. I hope to come back and ride more trails in this region. This is part of a route that goes to Sagunto (next door to Valencia).

Notes:

  • I surprised a deer… they are so fast.
  • I saw a fox, I think. It was huge, though. I don’t know if they have Coyotes around here. It ran like a fox.
  • I should have brought a hat.
  • I had hoped that the town would have some open shops, but they are all closed on Saturday (I need some waterproof gloves).

Soria is a really cool town. I can’t imagine having this as your daily ride (plus all the others). I hope to bring Lindsey here eventually.

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This is bwb’s personal blog, so he can share his thoughts with the world, however scary or silly they might be. Plus family and friends can track what I am up to, and where I am in the world.

I am pretty simple. I love Mangos. I love the ocean (although mostly at sunset, as I’m a ginger). I love to travel, eat exotic food, do long bike rides, read, and use my imagination. At some point, I decided it was better to be a pirate captain than an admiral. I am a globalist and see the entire world as my responsibility and playground. And I am married to an amazing woman who makes life even more fun :)! And we are now the proud parents of Calico Jack :).


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