23/10/2018 • Marbella, Spain — As I sit at a the café next to Motos Ortiz patiently waiting for siesta time to end – and hopefully with it my parts delivery purgatory – I have dug out my phone to tap away another update to the ride report. Truthfully the last few days have been a bit testing, which is probably not a good indicator of my ability to withstand tests, given that it’s about to get a lot testier once I cross the Mediterranean. More on that later, but for now I’d like to fill in the gap between my departure from Paris and my arrival in Marbella in southern Spain. I set off from Paris mid-morning with plans to ride a section of the TET which starts (ends, actually) on the outskirts of the city. I had no idea what to expect and my hyperactive imagination oscillated between the two worst case scenarios of girly country lanes and a French hard enduro course. In reality it turned out to be the perfect introduction to the trip with flowing twin-track and grass lanes between the corn fields interspersed with little public thoroughfares through patches of forest. It was great feeling the bike in its element and all the preparation finally coming together. The 990 felt planted and well balanced even with the load on it, and the front suspension now with heavier springs was a big improvement on stock. I’m used to babying it over any significant bumps so that the front doesn’t bottom out and kick the rear end up in the air like a racehorse running into a ditch. [Having trouble getting videos uploaded so will add shortly.] I was also pleasantly surprised by the tractability of the Mitas E-07s and they’ve continued to prove themselves throughout the European leg. I even had a bit of sand to deal with and remained pleasantly upright throughout. After finishing the GPX track section I switched to Google Maps and ducked onto the motorway towards Bordeaux where I was planning to stay with a good friend from high school for a couple of nights. Had a nice evening camping along the way and test driving my new pot set, but having forgotten to fill up the stove bottle I had to get creative and extract some fuel from the balance line. The motorway proved to be a poor choice as I got stung with a €33 bill as I exited near Bordeaux. Highly recommend allowing a few more hours and taking the slow option... or possibly riding around the boom if you have a foreign plate! After a couple of days of living, laughing and love (platonic) in Bordeaux I pried my bike away from my friend’s precocious daughters and got back on the road towards Spain. It was an easy day of blacktop towards the Pyrenees where I camped at a caravan park in the foothills of the mountains near Lourdes. The following day I caught up with a different section of the TET, having camped in a village very close to the track. As usual I was a bit nervous about venturing far from the main drag in foreign lands but my fears quickly dissipated once I actually got into it and I found it relatively easy going with quite a bit of (small) paved, country roads in amongst easy forest twin-track. But just when I got a bit too comfortable I got the wind taken out of my sails by getting stuck down a narrow, down-hill dead-end which took me a long time and a lot of calories to get out the bike out of. A few hundred metres later I got stuck on another rocky up-hill of small step-ups. I had a pretty tough time getting out of there, too! [Having trouble getting videos uploaded so will add shortly.] There's always a way out of these situations but it sapped my energy and confidence quite badly and I was really exhausted by the end of the day and a bit gloomy. I decided to take it easy the next day and just see how I felt, and not push myself to go off-road, but I started getting itchy wheels again after a few hours of comfort zone and I found myself turning off the bitumen for better or worse. This time it was very much for the better and I had an absolute blast on what was now a section of the Spanish TET. In the end it was a long day riding through undulating, arid country and olive groves with not another soul to be seen. Even the little villages I passed through felt completely deserted because it was Sunday. [Videos to come.] The end of the day the thunderstorm I'd been outrunning all day caught up with me and I had a chilly few hours finishing off the section and finding a warm, dry bed. I headed for a town called Margalef and after finding the campsite flooded out (some of it axle-deep) I opted for the hostel, where I learned that the village was a climbing Mecca and apparently in the top 10 climbing destinations in the world. The riding is pretty good, too. The following morning I was off to Madrid, which was a fairly big day in the saddle. This was a bit of a detour to meet up with a good friend Stefano, who has done some epic trips in his time on his WR250R, which is currently in Alaska with some blown elections after having completed Africa and the Americas. I had a great couple of days with Stefano in Madrid, and miraculously, despite all the horror stories of European bike thieves running riot, the bike survived being parked in the street for a couple of nights.