Encore 04/10/2010Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: border, france, marseille, mountains, pyrenees, spain
Nearly 2,000 km have passed beneath my feet since my last update and all I left behind was wonder.
The roads of southern Spain were a marvel, baked and shimmering under the sun, delivering me to some of the most unbelievable terrain I’ve ever seen in my life. Between blue-green lakes and distant castles I cycled the narrowest of mountain passes, in awe of the world below as much as the sky above.
How it will resonate, I can’t say, but I know the experience defined something within me, something apart from my travels. I’m only sorry that words are all I have to help me share it.
Winding my way up coastal points and down to rocky coves, I crossed the French border in the first days of April. My final descent thrust me through an alpine tunnel, and at the other end were the grind and gravel of the flatlands I know so well.
I got lost in my thoughts for days. Peripignan, Narbonne, Montpellier – they all clicked by and I hardly noticed. It wasn’t until I collided with the limestone heights near Marseille that I realized I was pedalling and stopped wondering why.
People often ask why I left home to do this, and still, after 10 months on the road, the only answer I have is that something was missing. Pouring money or alcohol or people through the cracks only made them wider, more obvious. Yet now, with nothing, I am beginning to feel whole and sometimes all I want to do is rush home to prove it. But in my heart I know it’s too soon, and what scares me is the idea that it always will be.
Enough about that, more about Marseille.
The place is filthy, greasy as the paper in a pizza box, and when I hold it up to the neon lights as I walk the streets, I see all the rich and repulsive flavours that make a city spin.
I passed one-legged skippers and hopeless beggars, Gypsys and gentry and lipstick in the shadows, a soiled drunk who undid his belt a moment too late, ice cream chins and the dreamy song of a carousel, lemon rum ladled from peanut butter jars, fountain cherubs, slick harbours, and, oblivious to it all, there was a puppy chasing a plastic bag through the trash.
It’s been an experience like no other and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it.
The rain in Spain just ain´t the same 12/31/2009Posted by mikeonbike in cycling, travel.
Tags: basque, bordeaux, border, france, mountains, pyrenees, rain, spain
If the gods were to gather for a winter convention, it would surely be held in Spain. After spitting out buckets of rain in Belgium and freezing my particulars in central France, the Basque region was one of the most welcome changes of the trip.
I´ve been following the northern coastline from the border – nothing but miles of beaches on one side and the velvet green peaks of the Pyrenees on the other. The mountain climbs have been leg-screamers at times, but the descents make them worth the effort. There is nothing like blasting down a winding pass at 60 km/h - you have to enjoy every second because the next might see your guts painted on the highway with a 400-meter brush stroke.
I´m still trying to figure out the Spanish people, which is rather difficult since my vocabulary is limited to ¨I like¨ (I don´t know what I like, but I like), ¨water¨and ¨please¨. So far the folks seem incredibly laid back, kind of like the French without appointment books. But there are definitely two things I don´t like here:
- The Spanish don´t eat soup. I´ve checked every supermarket. No soup.
- Motorists think the frequency of horn blasts is directly proportional to the speed of traffic.
These are just minor annoyances, though, and since the temperature is hovering around 20°C, I´m not about to complain.
Still, I have to admit that a teeny tiny part of me is still in France. I crossed the border just when I started feeling comfortable with the language and culture, and truth be told, I miss it more than I would have ever expected. The cities there were so alive, so vibrant, that sometimes I´d just lean on my bike in the downtown plazas and soak it all up like some blue-eyed sponge, always thirsty for more. Here´s a clip of a random 30 seconds in Bordeaux:
There are so many things I want to experience that I´m starting to realize the only enemy of this trip is time. It´s like a bird overhead, always circling, perched around the bend, and yet never seeing what I see or feeling what I feel. All it counts are these days away.