March 8, 2003 - Evora, Portugal 127k**

We toured the impressive plant. Antonie, the plant manager, and Joao Peres, the production manager showed us around. I gained a newfound respect for bicycle chain. It is much harder to make an more precise than you might imagine – dozens of steps in the process, tolerances in the thousandths of an inch, and no margin for error. Sorry there are no pictures of the plant.

Coimbra is also home to the second oldest (600 years or so) university in the world. After the tour, we did a drive by of the University. Here’s a view of the University from the river.. at the top of the hill.

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Then it was back to the Marriot for dinner, pick up the bikes at 9:30PM (I haven’t seen a bed in 40 hours at this point) and went to sleep. Lisbon seems like a fairly typical European city – mostly smaller (less than 10 story) buildings, and a combination of new and old. Here’s a shot form my balcony at the Marriott (west side of town, new).

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THE RIDE BEGINS

We had a slow breakfast and a slow start and caught the 9:30AM ferry (the bridge heading east does not allow bikes) across the River Tejo to Montijo. Here’s Charlie on the boat, pointing to the bridge heading south, which looks just like the Golden Gate bridge,

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After wandering around the poorly signed town a bit, we finally found the N4 heading east, passed a horse cart heading to market with an older couple on it, and began the trek that, with luck, will end in Moscow. We rode about 125km/73mi east, all on the N4. It’s a beautiful 2 lane highway with good shoulders all the way. Here’s a shot of the road.

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Impressions of Portugal? No natural areas left. It’s all towns, cattle and agriculture. There were tons of Eucalyptus trees (!) which reminded me of Australia, but the rest of it could be in southern France, except for the incomprehensible language. We had 35km of flat, and the rest of the way was rolling hills or long, slow steady climbs. Charlie trained well and rode better than me(!).

1ST NIGHT – EVORA, PORTUGAL

We set our targets on a town called Evora, and it was a good choice. Evora’s history goes back well over 2000 years. Like many cities in Europe, it has Roman ruins from the 1st century AD..

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This is at the top of the hill that the town is located on. Here’s Charlie riding up the narrow cobblestone streets to the top.

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Evora is a comfortable town, with people milling about in typical European squares.

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We found a quaint little four star hotel, the Riviera, for only 40 euros a night – everything in Portugal seems very reasonably priced – had a great dinner at the Paseola Hotel at the top of the hill, and that was about it. A nice start to the trip.

More to follow.

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