March 14, 2003 - Sagunt 198k, 119m**

Last night was our worst hotel night, and today was our best riding day. We left the Hotel del Sol in Morilla around 8AM. The hotel – not a bad place for $38/night – was typical not exceptional. It was very foggy and the coldest morning yet as we headed east on the rural road just north of the A3 highway. Both Charlie and I thought the misty farm fields worth a photo. Here’s the digital version.

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About 30 km into the day, it looked like bigger hills ahead, so Charlie determined that we should switch to the highway. They just carved the A3 through the “mountains” 120 km west of Valencia. Here’s two examples from the same stretch of road. First a misty river gorge, and then a photo of the road as it goes over a 300 meter gorge and straight into a tunnel.

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We were making great time. We haven’t had a tailwind yet, but at least there was no headwind today, and we averaged over 15mph/25kph through the mountains. After 85km we stopped at Requena for lunch. We’ve developed the “supermercado” habit of buying groceries, riding to a random location (in today’s case the local “social security” office) and making our own lunch. The following two photographs show the outside and the inside of the store we supplied ourselves at in Requena.

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The scenery along the highway was often dramatic here – few farm fields, some olive groves and pastures and a lot of steep valleys. The signage along the road was not always decipherable, for instance:

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From personal experience, my translation of this is, “Here comes a bridge way up in the air amidst a steep downhill and lots of gusty winds, so good luck if you’re on a bike.” Anyway, that was what followed.

We made Valencia around 3PM, and they (whoever “they” are) were setting up the older part of town (narrow, pre-car district with old churches, etc.), plus a section across the former river just north for carnival. Flags were draped between buildings, roads were blocked off, stands (beverage and whatever) were being set up, and there were elaborate, huge sculptures of weird characters every other corner or so. Here’s one of them:

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Valencia, probably like most significant European cities over 500 years old, at one time was surrounded by a wall. Unlike some other European cities (Evora, Toledo, Peniscola (tomorrow), Avignon…) they tore down the entire wall, except for one gate – a preferred destination of Charlie’s. Here it is in all of it’s magnificence. We took turns guarding the bikes and walking up. The following picture is Charlie waiting for me after my tour, and the third picture in the set is of the older part of Valencia from the top of the tower/gate.

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Around 4PM we headed northeast out of Valencia, heading north on the A3 highway to Sagunt/Sagunto (most towns for the next couple of days will have Spanish and Catalonian names). Charlie on this road:

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Arriving in Sagunt, we split up and rode around the town looking for a decent hotel. All there was were two dive joints on the main “highway”, but a couple of police officers suggested that we go to Puerto de Sagunto, the harbor town 5 miles away, for decent accommodations. There we stayed at the SH hotel, for dinner and for the night.

The end.

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