March 15, 2003 - Amposta 172k, 102m*

HEADING NORTH ALONG THE COAST OF THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA

Puerto de Segunto, where we stayed last night, was a preview of much of today’s ride. It’s full (dozens) of maybe 8 story tall buildings, almost all vacant. Along the coast here, these are ‘holiday’ communities. In Europe, holiday means vacation, vacation means August, and you get a month off work. Before and after August there are people in these communities, but not very many. It seemed like “the day after” riding past probably a couple hundred apartment/condo buildings, plus single family homes, all shuttered up as if a hurricane were approaching.

But, as you would expect, ride we did. Our first second 100 mile (170km) plus day in a row. The first 50km or so were on fairly poor, disjointed, coastal roads. The nicer roads, by the apartment/condo’s, were joined by dirt roads where the potholes were repeatedly filled with asphalt until the entire road became a blotchy asphalt thing. Much of it was through orange/tangerine/Clementine groves (you pick, think Valencia oranges). Here’s Bob riding down one of them.

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We made it across the Iberian peninsula to the Mediterranean Sea yesterday and here’s a picture to prove it.

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The story of the day (sorry no picture) was the police. Heading out of Oropesa/Orpesa (different from the Oorpesa we stayed at 3 nights ago) on the coast, the road did one of those things where it climbed up into the foothills – a long, steep, crushing sort of climb. I alternately spin, crank, grind, and for the third time on this trip, walked part of it. Charlie grinds and chicanes back and forth across both lanes. Somehow we usually make it to the top.

On this hill though, Charlie stopped and a bridge where another road went under ours. As I rode by, he suggested we climb down and try that road. I suggested we’d make it to the top on the road we were on, but as I made it to the other side of the steep bridge, Charlie called out that “it’s not going to end.” Looking up, I noticed that for the foreseeable future, he was right, so we turned around, carried our bikes down a steep hill, over a fence and onto your typical interstate highway.

Of course the hill didn’t go away, it just moderated. A km or two down that road, a cop car passed us by, stopped, and one of the two officers began to inform us in 30% English/70% Spanish that we were not supposed to be on that road. Charlie smiled a lot, started talking about living in California, biking from Lisbon, something about the Jesuits and gosh knows what else (I turned away). Somehow all these irrelevancies shifted the cops’ attitude from confusion (how did we get on, as we were to find out later, this limited access, high speed toll road) and anger, to frustration and maybe even sympathy.

My sole comment to the police, toward the end of the episode, was “We didn’t know.”, but by then the police realized we needed help beyond their capabilities more than any punishment. They escorted us, lights flashing, 4 km to the next exit and through the toll booth. They didn’t stop watching us until they were certain we weren’t going to sneak back on.

Back to the riding… Here’s a beach shot of the vacationland at Benicasim, a partially inhabited (in March) seaside resort. There were a few towns like this, with nice beachfront boardwalk riding.

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We had a late lunch at a relatively huge café along the N340 Torreblanca. The varying rain/spit/drizzle started as soon as we left, and continued for the next 3 or 4 hours, but we made good time. The historical point of the day was supposed to be the fortress at Peniscola, where the 1961 Hollywood flick “El Cid” was filmed. On arrival, Charlie said something like, “It’s just going to be another ancient town with narrow roads and a castle at the top.” followed by something about blowing it off. Sick of the rain, but happy with our progress, I concurred. Charlie called Austin (son) to congratulate him on his acceptance to some hard to get into school, I took a photo of the fortress.

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(I need to rent that film.) We continued up the coast to Benicarlo, where there was some whimpy Yamaha sponsored sand motocross riding, and (like many other towns we rode through today) preparations for the big annual festival. Here are pictures of the motocross riding, and of another of those grandiose ”carnival” sculptures.

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The net of this day was covering ground, heading along the coast between Valencia and Barcelona, on a very cool, dreary day. (I lighted most of the pictures above so they’d seem more cherry. Bryan Lawson flew in via Rome to Barcelona, and took a train to Amposta, Spain, our prearranged meeting place. Charlie and I rode into darkness and got there in time for a tapas dinner.. Tomorrow, for the first time in my 3 continental crossings, I will be riding with two other people.

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