Leaving Portugal

Portugal was beautiful, without a doubt, but there are two things I won’t miss about my travels there – namely, the roads and the drivers.

Rattling my teeth on 10-kilometer stretches of cobblestone highways was tough. Worse was passing dozens upon dozens of flattened dogs, gutted and rotting in the swollen ditches. But when an oncoming motorist left his lane to knowingly run me off the road, I decided enough was enough. I punched my ticket east and didn’t look back.

Bicycle tour on highway near Portuguese border in Spain.The ride to the Spanish border took me through some of the most arid regions of the peninsula, complete with giant cacti, cracked red soil and parched arroyos trickling foul water.

It was no place to be stranded but a magnificent spot to cycle. The traffic was light, the sky smiling, and on the way I felt something I’d been sorely missing for months – my connection to the road.

The surge, that extraordinary harmony of muscle and miles, can turn guard rail posts into picket fences. It sends me whooping over mountains, blasting towards sunsets, and when it’s all over, I’ve conquered the world without ever touching the ground.

I coasted into Spain and celebrated the stars through the green glass of a wine bottle. Tucked between olive groves and vineyards, with only the baying of a faraway dog for company, I finally exhaled the weight of the winter and watched it disappear into the night. Home isn’t a place but a mood, and it surrounded me as I slept, dreamless and content.

The next day I was blessed with an honest-to-goodness tailwind – my first since arriving in Europe nearly three months ago. I tore up the asphalt, covering 70 kilometers before lunch and arriving in Sevilla with energy to spare.

Mike on Bike standing with bicycle near Sevilla in Spain.

All smiles near Sevilla.

After visiting the city centre and punching a pay phone that didn’t return my change (it relented), I met up with my CouchSurfing host and spent the next two nights touring sweltering bars and ogling beautiful Spaniards.

By the time my bags were packed and I was ready to hit the road once more, I’d met countless people and been invited to either cycle to Morocco with a New Zealander or follow an American to the coastal city of Punta Umbria for some rest and relaxation.

It was like a Choose Your Own Adventure book – sweat over the Atlas mountains or walk barefoot on the Atlantic shore. I chose the beach and I’ve been in Punta Umbria ever since.

And I suppose that’s where this chapter ends. I’ve found a wonderful house to share with my American friend and her roommate, a Brit teaching English at the local school. I plan to stay for a month, perhaps more.

The trip may be on hold, but today certainly isn’t. I have a transistor radio and a bottle of wine, so I’m going to the beach! Adios!

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6 responses to “Leaving Portugal

  1. HOME: a concept that requires both a mood and a place/person/fixture in time and space. A home doesn’t have to be just ONE place (e.g. the place that you’re from). It can be many different places at once just as your heart can be in many different places at once. I think a sense of home is most apparent when one’s sense of place intersects with a person or group of people that they feel emotionally connected to. This is when you feel like you’re part of a community….
    COMMUNITY:…

    Just some late night musings inspired by your post, Mike.

  2. “I have a transistor radio and a bottle of wine…”
    I wonder how often this phrase has prefaced a fantastic story?

    I think it is a perfect Bolesism.

    If I know one thing, they better have an ‘oldies’ station over there.

    • By “go to the beach” I mean wade in toe-deep and squeal when the waves come anywhere near me. I’m no swimmer, but damn the ocean is amazing.

      Trouble is, I seem to turn more than my fair share of heads at the beach. You’d think people had never seen a bearded man in pink short-shorts before. Geez.

    • If I´ve learned anything on this trip, it´s that everything in life relates back to Full House. So, in the immortal words of Michelle Tanner, “You got it dude!”

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