Posts by Country

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Logroño!



On Friday, March 25th, we made our way over to Logroño - the wine capital of Spain. It just so happened that a friend of Preston's, who he knew from Texas but hadn't seen for a while, was visiting that very same day and we ran into him in the street! That friend had a local friend in Logroño who was happy to show us his favorite areas including one in particular that locals tend to frequent:



We had some good tapas and ice cream then tried to find a mechanic so we could salvage the rest of our trip... no luck. Well, that did it - we decided to cancel our travels through the Basque country in the north of Spain which, as it later turned out, would prove to be a very, very good call! Thankfully what happened next didn't change our new plan: we were heading back to Arnedillo for the night when I realized something very interesting - both of the brakes were working again! I later learned that the problem had likely been caused by overheating and that the fluids had simply had to re-condense. After the fluids regained pressure it was just a matter of applying the breaks and 'voilà' - back in action!



That evening we had another look at the hot pools (though they were a bit... nasty, so I don't think we went in) and then, the next day, we headed on to Madrid!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Girona!



On Wednesday, March 23rd, we got the new battery in and continued on our way to Girona - the northernmost point of Catalonia - on the French border. We arrived at the home of Jose Félix and his family and he gave us the grand tour of Girona!


We had some pizza, visited with the church in Girona and climbed the wall overlooking the city. Then we went to some really unique shops and ate at a nice restaurant in the Jewish quarter or "Juderia" with some visiting ones from churches in other cities.


The next day we rode for over 10 hours to get to Arnedillo... it was quite dark when we arrived. Of course, we still had to find our camping spot so we rode around a bit until we found a mountain road. Unfortunately, this road was not for maxi scooters - it was rough. Moreover, it didn't have any areas tucked away and appeared to be a scenic walk that people would be up on early in the morning. So we headed back down the mountain and that's when my brakes went out. Well, one did but then other kept working long enough for us to get to the bottom.

We then took a track along the river (turned out it was more of a footpath) and ended up in a tunnel under the pueblo - this was pretty cool. Nevertheless, we were super tired and just wanted to find a spot to camp before the other brake went out. We went to the edge of town where we found a promising bushy area on a river but, alas, it was not satisfactory. We then went up another mountain, paved this time, but no dice. Finally, we got back on the main road heading out of town and, just like that, we found it. A pull off had a small path heading down to the river and, in the trees - under the cover of a cliff side - was a campsite previously used by other freedom campers - a beautiful and welcome sight to behold!


We quickly set up camp and went back into town to find the hot pools or "aguas termales". We talked to some locals at a bar where a friendly local gave us some advice and history on the pools - apparently they can get quite hot! Fortunately we were there when it hadn't rained too much (or too little?) so the water was a pretty comfortable temperature... if only a little crowded.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Barcelona!


On Sunday, March 20th, Preston and I hit the road on my little maxi scooter loaded down with all of our gear. We soon made our way up into the mountains and arrived at a small pueblo nestled in the hills called Montanejos. The steep drive was probably not the best thing for my little recently rebuilt moto but still well worth it.... hot springs.



Not ordinary springs - these are the "eternal youth" variety... or, at least, that's what the Arabic king Abu-Ceit thought. In the 13th century he built the springs for his favorite wives so that they could “forever maintain their youth and beauty” by way of the nutrients in the waters.



That night we camped out up the hill on one of the many random side roads that branch off into the hillside. This was Preston's first acampada libre or "wild camping" experience and it turned out to be a good one - open enough for setting up a good campsite yet hidden enough by the landscape and trees to insure that we wouldn't be stumbled upon by random passersby. The next day we had another go at the springs then got back on the bike for a ride up to Peniscola (pronounced "penny-scola").



That night we camped out in at another random spot up in the hills. Preston made a magnificent stew with our camping stove and I fashioned a trip cam  mount on the bike windscreen using duct tape!



We continued up to Barcelona where we ate some good Botifarra and then saw the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell - both designed by one of my favorite architects: Antoni Gaudí.



That evening we hit a bit of a snag... our battery died. At first the bike wouldn't start but we managed to roll charge / start it and get on our way out of the city center... at which point the lights started to dim and brighten. Just happy to be on our way, we didn't think much of it until the speedometer started jumping all over the place. Still, it was getting late and I wasn't about to risk what daylight we had left on a potentially complex problem... then it happened. As we were pulling into a small pueblo we lost power and the bike was dead. Now, as incredible as it may sound, we were just a block away from the only bike shop in, not just that pueblo, but any pueblo within 50 kilometers! Unfortunately, they were closing, but they were friendly (and they liked my custom cardboard "Acerbis" hand guards and trip cam mount) and, after showing us around town a bit, they directed us to a campground for the night.



Saturday, March 19, 2016

Las Falles



On Friday, March 18th, I rode over to Valencia to meet with Preston for our big trip around Spain - starting with Las Falles! We stayed the night at Oscar's and, the next day, we spent some time at the beach.



That night we went out to see more of the burning effigies at one of the most famous festivals in Spain - Las Falles! The crowds were massive and the air filled with various kinds of smoke... most from blowing up the giant artworks around the city. Getting around wasn't easy but we managed to park up just down from the biggest "falla" of them all. In fact, it was the biggest one they'd ever made! The next day we got on the bike to start our journey - destination: SPAIN!


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Moto X!



On Monday, March 7th, I taught a class with Isidro (our principal) and then had lunch on Wednesday at Anna's bodega (winery) with the rest of the faculty. It was a really cool place with a historical feel and lots of nice food and people.



After we ate they gave us a little tour around the silos and then I had to run in order to get to work over in Las Pedroneras on time. I missed out though because they went shooting afterward - something I'd like to have seen considering that everyone had had a few...

On Thursday I went to a cultural museum that my school had on. It showcased the local history and culture which was, as you often see in Spain, quite unique!



Later I had to fight Caja Rural again... this time it was because they blocked my account... I don't know why - probably just to show me how much of a valued client I was. Anyway, I called them up and asked why they were blocking my account and they hung up on me. Sure, I said "block-ay-ado" and I should have said "bl-O-ck-ay-ado" but I still feel it was an attempt by them to avoid doing their job... an experience that is more common in Spain than you'd believe. Also in Hong Kong.

I got the moto back from the shop that evening and, the next day, I took it over to the circuit to check out the local motocross scene... which was really just too cool. Now, I would have liked to have ridden my bike on the circuit but, seeing as I only had a maxi scooter, that wasn't gonna happen. Still, there's never a dull moment with Spanish people. I had a good time watching the stunts, meeting the other riders (and wannabe riders) and, of course, there's always some good food!


The next day we all did a fundraiser for a kid who needed a prosthetic. It was also a fun opportunity to ride - this time over to the next pueblo and back.



The next couple of days, I worked and planned the next big trip! Also, I watched the fruit vendors wake up the whole pueblo for the thousandth time...


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mascletás


On Friday, March 4th, I dropped my bike off in Pedroneras and met with Maribel for another trip to Valencia. This time - Mascletas! Maribel introduced me to genuine Gallego bread (my new favorite) and we walked around looking at the city gates, festivities and more of the crazy Spanish murals that I've come to expect.


The next day I wandered around Valencia while Maribel was in classes and then, back at the apartment, she made me an awesome chicken lunch with the Gallego bread from the day before.


Finally, on day three, we went to check out the Mascletas! The following is a description of the event:
A mascletá usually consists of four parts:
  • Start: The show begins with both sound and visual effects.
  • Body: During the central part of the mascletà the intensity and volume goes up.
  • Terratrèmol (earthquake): The stronger fireworks, called masclets, burst in unison.
  • Air show: Intense aerial fireworks. They are always visible for spectators and are accompanied by colours.

Well, believe it or not, the description above doesn't really do justice to the intensity of the "earthquake". Rather, I would use the term "shock wave" to describe the sensation seeing as the impact of the pressure waves could literally be felt in the very core of ones being - no exaggeration. It was the most intense fireworks display I have ever seen in my life. 


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spanishness



On Thursday, the 18th of February, I went on another excursion with my students. This time we went to Madrid to visit Santiago Bernabéu Stadium where the football (soccer) team Real Madrid plays their home games. This was a big deal for my students seeing as soccer is the center of their lives.



After seeing the stadium, my students and I went ice skating and then they went back home. Meanwhile, I stayed in Madrid and spent the next few days with friends from the church. On Sunday Preston and I were on our way to the train station when we stopped at the park. We saw some real authentic looking Spanish dancing and then Preston put on his own show with the swing musicians. After enjoying this unusual meeting of Spanish and American cultures, I got on a train to Guadalajara and met up with Cristina. A couple of days later I was back in Las Mesas watching my students giggle nervously and recoil in fear during an animal workshop with turtles, snakes and scorpions.



The following Thursday I rode over to Cuenca to talk to the Extranjeria about a potential work permit for the summer. Unfortunately, the visit was a waste of time... they had me drive for over an hour to talk to a guy who didn't know anything and he sent me to a lady who promptly sent me back to the guy and, in the end, they told me that they couldn't help me. Still, they had me set up an appointment so that I could come back and be disappointed again at a later date. I later found that they wanted to look at renewing my student visa even though I had been clear that my purpose was solely work related... Nevertheless, the trip wasn't a complete waste of time as I was able to meet up with some friends for a walk around the city and dinner at El Coto - a local favorite.