Happy New Year Gang! I hope this finds everyone making new years resolutions to travel more and do more of what makes you happy. Life is short.
Ville and I are in Spain, riding our bikes and in our happy place. The last time I wrote to you, we were just beginning to climb and by golly, climb is what we did! For three days we climbed over 1297 meters (2,992 feet), which doesn't sound like much after the Peruvian Andes, but it ended up including a lot of disappearing roads where we pushed our fully loaded bikes up washed-out ravines, canyons and mountainsides. We purposefully chose 'mountain bike routes' on our GPS and Maps.me, but the routes that were marked were for downhill riders, not uphill and we did not realize it until we were deep in it and headed uphill. As exhausting, thrilling, maddening and wild as the routes were, it made for a fantastic adventure and that is always what we are after. As Ville likes to remind me, no one becomes a good captain without navigating through many rough seas.
On the way up, we also got food poisoning and each spent a night sick as dogs in Guadix, followed by a day of riding on empty energy tanks. We did have some spectacular scenery and it made it all worth while when we reached the Puerto De Los Blancares Summit and dropped down into the city of Granada. Since everything was closed down because of the holiday, we spent Christmas there and were able to see the La Alhambra (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and walk all over the narrow cobblestone streets. Before leaving Granada, we met a super friendly guy from South Africa, Johan and his wife who invited us to their house for tapas and a chat by the fire. It was really nice to make some friends!
While in Granada, we learned that Ville's brother, wife and two kids would be flying into Alicante, Spain (a town along the coast we had passed through soon after leaving Valencia) and changed our plans a bit to make a trip back to see them. To do so, we rented a car (trains and buses do not allow bikes on them in Spain) and drove west to the port town of Cadiz. From there, we rode northeast to Seville, and had a very eventful couple days to get there. We met a very sweet old man on a bike who led us to a hotel in Lebrija, which was an unplanned stop but ended up being one of our favorite towns because it was full of the friendliest people. Up until then, we had traveled along the coast and through more touristy areas where Spaniards were not as thrilled to meet two touring cyclists and where we had met very few friendly people. Lebrija was a surprising exception. People came up to us in the town square to talk to us, an old lady came up to me to tell a joke while I waited outside the post office and people even waived to us! It felt really nice to meet kind, friendly people.
With only 35 miles left to ride into Seville, we were sure it was going to be a fun, easy day. Oh how wrong we were. After a week of rain AND the fact that we had chosen to ride farm roads through an estuary called Brazo del Este Natural Area (didn't know it was a flooded plain until we were, again, deep in it and our bicycle tires were covered in mud.) It felt like riding in glue and Ville's clearance between his tire and bike frame did not accommodate all the mud that was sticking to his tires and he continually had to get off the bike and carry it, digging out the mud with sticks repeatedly along the way. Let's just say, he was not a happy camper and nor was I. We decided to detour into headwinds far off our route to get onto a paved road and then head back north on a highway into Seville.
Once we arrived in the city, Ville booked us a really nice hotel in the downtown with a balcony overlooking the cathedral for my birthday! What a guy. We spent my birthday walking around the city, not getting into any of the sites because you had to plan ahead (which we do not do) and book tickets into everything and went ice tubing in the Winter Park instead. It was a blast! See the videos below.
After New Years, we rode to Cordoba. It took us two long, boring days along a highway and we had an excellent night camping in the backyard of a truck stop, sandwiched between the train tracks of the bullet train (which travels at 180 miles per hour) and a bunch of parked road construction equipment. The nicest lady working there gave us the OK to camp. In the morning, we watched car loads of farm workers gather and carpool to work, many of them African immigrants. We had a typical Spanish breakfast of pork leg and tomato puree on a white bread roll and shoved off towards Cordoba. We arrived by the end of the day in the city and have spent the last two days exploring the Alcazar De Los Reyes Cristianos (Castle or Fortress of the Christian Monarchs) and walking along the Guadalquivir River.
Tomorrow we will head to Madrid, then take a train back to Alicante to see Ville's family. Really excited we get to see Ville's family on this trip to Europe. I will try and post again soon, thanks everyone for emailing us and following along. Have a fantastic beginning to this new year and we hope to see you all soon. Until then, keep on keepin' on ya'll.
THE SILVER LINING...
And we're off! But...wait...
We started off on our Spain Bicycle Adventure really well! Roy, Ville and I had a few days off to put our bicycles together, run a few errands and see a few of the sights in Valencia. I assumed I broke my foot before we left (because I ran it into our dresser, my little toe went sideways and I promptly popped it back into place before pretending it simply hadn't happened) and without seeing a doctor, I taped it, rested and we flew to Valencia. I was unable to walk more than hobble through the airports, but riding my bicycle seemed reasonable and so we set off into the mountains, Tres Amigos!
The riding went well, the scenery was spectacular and the weather was stellar. Ville and I met a local farmer, Miguel, in a small cafe who took us to his orchard and filled a bag of clementines for us to take along on our journey. What a guy! The route was great, easy climbing, back roads most of the way and our new bicycles were a dream! It was all the other things I had not taken into account that were not, shall we say, optimal with a broken foot: squatting to pee, putting my foot down when stopping the bike and climbing in and out of the tent. On the first night camping in an abandoned olive orchard, I fell on my foot climbing out of the tent and reinjured it. Ville made the call that we would return to Valencia the next day and see a doctor to get a proper x-ray and our buddy, Roy, decided to continue on south without us. We were really sad to part ways and bummed we don't get to travel together, but we were happy he decided to keep going because once we got to Valencia, saw an ER doctor and confirmed a broken toe, we were grounded for a minimum of two more weeks with a total healing time of 6 weeks! No bueno.
The silver lining, is that Ville and I were able to enjoy more of Valencia than we had planned and as it turns out, it is actually a pretty cool city! For a week, I sat in our vacation rental and finished a bunch of online continuing ed courses to keep my Real Estate License active (I work as a real estate agent in Bend and Portland, Oregon, when I am not riding bikes OR writing a book) and I used crutches to get out and about for breaks. No better time to be couch bound. We connected with a local Warmshowers' dude, Alex, and his girlfriend, Alex, and we met for lunch and shared some travel stories. After sending x-rays to my good friend, Sara, in Bend (who also happens to be a Physician's Assistant), I was given the OK to do "light" riding with my taped foot and we ventured out into the city. We rode through a green space, that runs through the length of the city and all the way out to the beach, almost daily. We ingested lots of paella, seafood, pork, goat cheese, pastries and coffee. For those who have not made it to Spain yet, we highly recommend a stopover. The food is tasty, the wine is fabulous, climate is moderate and the architecture is a beautiful blend of old and new.
Tomorrow, we are planning to leave Valencia and head south down the coast. The plan is to, as per usual, not make a plan and ride until we get hungry or tired. We will likely stay in a hotel until I can walk gingerly on my foot. We will talk to strangers, take risks and enjoy life. We hope you will come along with us. Until next time, keep on keepin' on ya'll!
P.S. A BIG Thank You to everyone that wrote us about The Book! It has been the biggest undertaking of my life. It turns out, writing a Blog while doing a two-year bicycle journey was fairly easy compared to sitting at a computer (while in Buenos Aires, Helsinki and Portland, Oregon) and trying to write a book about the ride. Sharing all the stories of kindness from strangers all along the way, was my driving force in doing so and it is our way of giving back. There are so many great people in this world! If you have not already, sign up for The Newsletter and I will let you know when the book is ready to be released and how you can order your copy. Thanks again for your continued love and support.
ADIOS PORTLAND, HOLA SPAIN!
The time it took Ville and I to ride bicycles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Bahia Lapataia AND the time it took for me to write a book about it. Who knew writing a book would be so difficult, time-consuming and vastly different than riding a bicycle? Surely, not me! But guess what friends? The writing is complete! I know, I can hardly believe it either. But first, here is a brief update:
The last post I wrote was from Finland, just after Ville's father passed away and we found ourselves moving there to help out his Mom at the same time a global pandemic shut down the entire world economy. After six months of Ville living with his Mother in Lahti and I living in Helsinki, an hour south of them, we got a flight back to Oregon, where we found ourselves in a completely changed place. My hometown of Bend, Oregon had already been one of the most popular cities to move to in the United States pre-pandemic, but COVID refugees fleeing big city life only worsened the situation. And if Ville and I have learned nothing else, it is BE THE FISH THAT GO AGAINST THE FLOW. So we rented an apartment in downtown Portland, Oregon, a place with a mass exodus of people and also home to my siblings and our niece and nephew, and settled in to finish The Book and The Documentary.
Somehow, a year passed.
A year is 12 months, 48 weeks, 365 days. A year is an exorbitant amount of time. Plenty of time to write a book and complete a documentary, right? Well, yes and no. We are the coolest Aunt and Uncle and wanted to spend time with the kids; playing at the beach, rock climbing, critter hunting and obviously riding bikes. I also continued to work as a real estate broker in Bend and with the surplus of sales due in large part to those moving in partnered with extremely low interest rates, I spent many weeks driving back and forth between Bend and Portland, a nearly four hour drive each way. We also happen to love the outdoors and the Pacific Northwest is full of beautiful places to explore. Although we were grateful to stay employed and busy, non of those helped in book writing or documentary building. So it took a bit longer. Like, a year longer.
No matter, it is done! I had set a deadline for myself a month prior, to take a much needed work break during the holidays and we booked airline tickets for Nov. 17th to go to Valencia, Spain to begin a short bicycle tour. After booking flights, Ville went to hang out with my Dad in the woods and I broke my foot! As you can imagine, it put a bit of a damper on things, but I kept furiously writing. At least I hadn't broken a finger I rationalized. Then, on the evening of Nov. 16th, I completed the writing of the book! I sent all of it to my editing friend, Alison (a saint who has stood by me through the entire process) and a finish editor (Chuck) and we hopped a plane to Spain early the following morning. Phew! What a rush!
How does one do a bicycle tour in Spain with a broken foot you ask? No idea! But, if I can ride a bike from Peru to the bottom of Argentina with a broken tailbone, then I imagine I can figure out how to do it with a broken foot. Positive thinking is at the very least, a fabulous start. :) As I write to you now, Ville and our good friend, Roy, whom we met while biking in Chile, are out fixing Roy's front tire while I am catching up with you good people. Because I hadn't written enough over the last five years, I figured I would haul this brick of a laptop with me on this adventure and keep you all updated.
What is the plan, you ask? As per usual, no plans. We are going to head towards the mountains and see where the trails take us. So stay tuned. We have a tentative plan to fly back to Oregon mid-January because I will need to design the cover and layout of the book and get it printed once the edits have been completed. We are very close to getting a completed book in your hot little hands, so sign up for the Newsletter if you have not already, and I will be releasing the book title as well as announcing Pre-Sales shortly.
We pulled our new bikes from the bike boxes yesterday, put them together and will take them for a short little lap around the town this afternoon, just to make sure nothing falls off, before our planned departure tomorrow morning. I am planning to carry our camera, a couple lenses and a laptop to keep the Blog going. Although it is a lot of work, I just plain miss you all and want to stay connected. I will try and get an update every week or so as WiFi permits, so stay tuned. If you want to connect with us, we would love to hear from you, click on the CONTACT button above or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wish us luck! Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
K.G. & Ville
In New Zealand on bikes.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson