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Old 11-05-2012, 03:00 PM   #28
MikeO OP
Wage slave...
 
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Joined: Jul 2002
Location: Scarning, Norfolk, today...
Oddometer: 6,624
5th November 2012

I sleep well and I’m loading the bike at about 0800 on a bright and sunny day...



Whatever rain fell overnight has long gone and I’m looking forward to today‘s ride. I make a last trip to my room, in Schindler's Lift...



Before returning to have breakfast...



It's an excellent spread, including a suspicious looking sausage...



...which I decide to avoid. I snaffle some food for lunch, then say adios and head for the bike.

It's now just before 0900 on a Monday morning. I am caught in a seemingly interminable series of back roads, trying to get back to the ring road - local Spanish yummy mummies doing the school run. It's chaos...

I eventually get onto the ring road and discover that the hotel I stayed at is, in fact, 10 km north of Barcelona, so I slowly wend my way through the city centre. Still, it's 60° F already, the sun is shining - what's the problem?



Quite suddenly, all six lanes are stopped at a red light. I think to begin with that it's to allow traffic to merge from the tunnel emerging to my left, but no traffic emerges until all the lights turn green again. It wasn't a junction and this was not a pedestrian area. I guess I must have missed something...



Bettie sends me on the diagonal across town, which is occasionally clear, and occasionally snarled completely...



As ever, the main threat opt everyone's safety is the low flying scooters, which appear in their hundreds...



...being ridden as if there's no tomorrow. Which will eventually prove to be true for some of them.

Barcelona is famous for its art (particularly the ceramic art of Antoni Gaudi) and architecture. You're not going to see any.

Well, maybe one bit...



OK, so this isn’t an Antoni Gaudi creation. This sculpture, named “Woman and Bird” was created by Joan Miro, another (a bit less) famous Spanish artist, who I suspect was at least a bit inspired by Antoni Gaudi. It's the only thing I saw during the hour it took me to cross Barcelona...



Bettie eventually spits me out onto a large dual carriageway heading southwest down the Mediterranean coast. The hotel on the right had a huge domed terrarium on its roof - reminded me of Silent Running...



Pretty soon I turn off the motorway and get onto the coast road. It does not disappoint...



The air is clear and the view up the bay, with its waves breaking, is beautiful. A hundred yachts roll gently in the swell in the marina. It's 70° F now and it's difficult to envisage better weather to be on a motorcycle in this part of the world...



To begin with, I'm stuck behind some traffic. There's no visibility for a safe overtake here, even if there wasn't a solid line in the middle of the road, so I just take my time and enjoy the view...



Back in Norfolk they'll be building bonfires for our annual burning of anti government effigies.

Think I'd rather be here, on balance...

I have a bit of a headache and stop at a pharmacy to buy some paracetemol (Tylenol, for my readers in the USA). I'm rather impressed by the dispensary, demonstrated to me by the very pleasant Vanessa...



All medications are kept behind the glass wall you can see behind Vanessa. She types a code into the computer and the drug is retrieved mechanically and drops down the spiral chute you can see. Vanessa explains (I think I have this right) that prescriptions have a code which needs to be entered before any controlled drug can be dispensed - this makes falsifying prescriptions much more difficult. Vanessa kindly gives me a glass of water and I take a tablet there and then.

I also note that they have a 24hr-automated service...



...although understandably, there are restrictions on what is available.



Onward!

I've set myself quite an optimistic target for today - Albacete. Bettie's route is a bit longer - over 600 km - than I had originally envisaged (she is keeping me off toll roads). I stop for fuel, opposite an unfeasibly tall chimney and check to see if they have an iPhone charging cable - they don't...



I contemplate my ETA - 1750 without stops. It's too late. By the time I've stopped for fuel (and I'm going to be using a three stop strategy today) and lunch, I'll be riding the last hour and a half in the dark...



I carry on and decide that I'll cut a corner when it seems right...



Never seen a footbridge with a wheelchair access lift before...



Bettie's route keeps me on the coastal road - through Tarragona...



...which has a great piece of statuary in the main square.

Eventually Bettie steers me to a junction where the road is completely closed and no diversion signed. I decide that this is the time to cut the corner and get some time off my ETA. I recalculate the route allowing the use of toll roads and - as if by magic - two hours are shaved from the route. I will now be arriving at about 1630 (plus stops)- that sounds more like it.

I get on the toll road...



...and set the speed at about 130kph.

The motorway is virtually empty. I criss-cross the old road, which is thick with traffic - clearly avoiding the cost of tolls.



From a government's point of view it's a fine balance, isn't it? Ideally the tolls should just be at the level that makes them a good choice. Pitch them too low and the everyone will be on the tolls and choke it up. Pitch it too high (as I think they may have here) and you have choked standard roads and underused tolls (and a subsequent drop in revenue). Of course, the current rate might not have appeared too high before the recession hit home…

Anyway, for today, they are the ideal option for me. I make great time heading for Valencia...



Are these olives? If so, I stop by an olive grove for a spot of lunch...



...courtesy of the Hotel Sidorme's breakfast buffet.



I have two small ham, cheese and tomato rolls and an apple. I also drink a litre of water (which I bought whilst refuelling). I'm usually fanatical about keeping hydrated, but have not brought my CamelBak with me (D'Oh!) - I'm clearly in winter riding mode. I'll just keep stopping and drinking.

Back on the road and it's glorious - 80° F and sunny - a few mare's tales of cirrus in otherwise unbroken blue...



The world moves past at 130kph - occasionally there will be a hilltop fort or something to look at...



...and everywhere there are vineyards and olive groves...



Ooh look - a Lego bridge...



Be serious - how thirsty would you have to be?



Another fuel stop - they don't have a cable for my iPhone either. Sod it - I'll listen to music anyway - it can run flat...

I ride off to the sound of the Killers and crank the speed back up to 130kph...



I eventually come to the tollbooths - €22.35 Ouch! No wonder the bloody roads are empty...

I then head inland along further soulless dual carriageways...



...have a final fuel stop and then spot this old gentleman rusting away on a garage forecourt...



Can anyone identify the make, model and year for me?

And then, at Requena, I am directed onto the N322, which has just been rebuilt and resurfaced.

What a road!



There are long straights, followed by mile after mile of beautiful sweeping bends. There is NO traffic - I think I overtake a total of four cars in the 100km I ride - and the road surface is perfect...



...I'm also feeling ready for a fast ride and have one of those (increasingly rare) rides where I seem to be able to get everything right (in a complete contrast to my normal riding, as anyone who has accompanied me will vouch )...



...it's helped by being as good a piece of road as I've ever ridden and the complete lack of traffic makes it a slightly surreal experience...



Eventually I slow down as I approach Albacete just before 1700. After a quick ride around town...



...I ride through the Lego quarter...



...and soon find my hotel...



Where I check in to my very modern and pleasant room...



...with its outstanding shower...



...before riding down to the local shopping mall...



...and walking up their sloping escalator to do some shopping. I buy an iPhone USB lead for €5, some fruit and something for dinner. They have some impressive looking hams on display...



...I can remember seeing ones like this curing on stands by the roadside back in 2003 when I went to Gibraltar with Boxertools (RIP) and Bilks...



Back at the hotel I find that the Wi-Fi upload speed is pretty slow, so I read my current book (Bomb Hunters by Sean Rayment - recommended) whilst I wait for SmugMug to do its stuff.

I have no idea where I'm going tomorrow...

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