We left Barcelona the same way we entered, by train. Staying off the main highway is the safest way to leave the big city!
The more kilometers/miles we cycle the more we realize that the little roads are the ones we like to be on and are the most enjoyable to ride.
We boarded the train and took it to the end of the line, about 50 kms north following the costal path. The commuter trains are the ones you can wheel your bike on to, but you’re not supposed to do that on the high speed ones! (As long as they don’t catch you, maybe it’s possible? Or so we have heard?) From there it was National highway again until we reached Sant Feliu. That’s when the road turned nice, from that point on (around 20 km) we followed the Costa Brava on a winding squiggle that was some of the best riding we had cycled in all of Spain. There you get to enjoy the best of both worlds. Mountainous terrain with some good climbs (Brian’s favorite) and the you had amazing vistas of the towns and inlets of the Mediterranean’s blue waters. Best cycling yet! Hardly any traffic! A roadie’s paradise!
Most of the way out of Spain followed this sort of pattern. Lots of squiggles, trees, valleys, and not much for cars. The pass Brian chose to exit Spain just happened to not be very popular with cars. It’s not that fast way but I would guess it is the more scenic option? I’m not sure because the way we went split from the National highway. One went the Auto Via route (American Freeway, bicycles aren’t allowed) and the way we chose went though the countryside.
We didn’t make it far up this little idyllic road before it started to storm on us. Not just a little rain either but a full thunderstorm! It was just a stroke of luck that we rode into a village with a nice large parking lot with a small creek running beside it and a little green space to pitch the tent. Together we set up the rain fly and ate a little lunch (if you know any cycle tourists there is no such thing as a little lunch, large lunch is more accurate), hoping that the storm would pass. We waited around two hours and then it was beginning to get late. The rain wasn’t letting up, luckily for us our tent allows you to pitch it under the rainfly. So the decision was made to stay in the parking lot for the night. It had everything we needed, access to fresh water and it was the only dry spot in town. (The town of Sant Salvador consisted of 3 barking dogs, 4 people, and a few buildings.)
The weather cleared by morning. We on mostly empty stomachs got on our and rode up the first pass. Since we had not anticipated camping so early on our climb we didn’t have much for food and nothing to cook for breakfast in the morning. It became important to make some distance just for food!
The cycling took us a bit longer then expected with many distractions along the way, a new born horse, crossing paths with our first North American cycle tourist, picture taking, and of course our stop for breakfast. All this before our first real pitch up. In reality it took us 3 hours to climb from 980 m (breakfast) to 1517 m (France) in around 30 kms. And it took forever to break 1200m all the up and down almost drove me crazy! The strangest part was when you finally arrive in France there is no one there to greet you and welcome you in. The old borders still exist but not in a proper sense. We we arrived at the top and there wasn’t anyone to stamp our passports or give us entry. Just some horses for border guards and eventually some French mountain bikers getting ready for the ride down the mountain. I think they were doing it the right way, I wish we could have rode down the mountain on their bikes.
I failed to mention earlier that the entire way up the Pyrenees I had a strange clicking going on with my bike. It’s a little unnerving when something is going wrong with your bicycle on a big climb and you don’t know what to do to fix it. Day 2 in France was spent entirely in bicycle shops trying to convey the problem to bike mechanics that speak no English and us no French. Finally at the end of the day right about around the time we were going to head 20 kms out of our way to find a shop we found a mechanic who understood! Bottom bracket! Sec! Dry! He lubed it right up with no charge and hopefully that’s the end of it.
Maybe now we can finally break our recent streak of 40 km days for something more respectable. That is if the weather holds and so do the bikes.