01/12/2012


There is so much to see here in Spain!

I am a little too relaxed and leave my front set of panniers at the hotel I stayed at last night. I cycle 11 km before realizing it! But when I return they are behind the bar. That’a an extra 22km today, making it a 94.7km day. But the wind is at my back and the terrain is gently rolling, making it a pretty easy if long day.

The rolling countryside here in southern Spain.

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New high speed rail being built.

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Cadiz is a very quaint peninsula beach town.

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Cadiz main plaza.

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You walk through a narrow street that opens into a plaza with this cathedral.

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For me cathedrals are the physical representation of man’s highest and nobelest ideals. I am inspired by their beauty.

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Altar

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This is the flower plaza.

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Cadiz waterfront.

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Freighters steaming past the castle at Cadiz to El Puerto.

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Art contemplating art. Understanding yourself by understanding others.

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Cadiz waterfront.

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I am not out of the woods with my knee. It was acting up a little today, and I rode further than I intended to. We’ll see how it is on tomorrow’s ride…

12/10/2012 Passion and Seville


I return from a Flamenco performance and Sean my Korean roommate asks “How was it?” I answer “I feel like I have just returned from watching someone make love, I feel like someone has just pulled open their heart and proudly displayed their soul. The performance was so intimate and proud that at times I was blushing.”

The Flamenco originated as gypsy music and was rhymnetic clapping, singing and dancing. The guitar is a relatively recent addition, and is not the central idea as I had previously thought. Now I see how integral the art form is.

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One last look at the Muslim Minaret built on a Roman foundation now part of the third largest cathedral in the world.

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Sean and I make a 12 egg omelet with cheese, onions, and mushrooms. We wash it down with peach nectar and mop it up with a roll. Afterwards Sean said he was still hungry!

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The city is growing.

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01/09/2012 Seville in a dream


My dreaming and waking has become inverted. At night I dream of working, of making domestic repairs, of settling little family issues. In the day, as I walk around Seville, it occurs to me that this is all a dream and I am going to wake up soon. I immediately look at my hands as I have trained myself to do when lucid dreaming to stay in the dream. And it works, I don’t wake up.

So I spend my waking hours in a dream, and my dreaming hours in real life.

Other signs of mental slippage include talking to Lisa my mascot out loud, cutting her bangs as she requested, and propping her up so she can see better.

I like going insane. Think I’ll let go a little more.

Lisbon intoxicates me, takes me on crooked wanderings, keeps my head turning with improbabilities.

Horse taxis. Their clopping footsteps echo trots or walks.

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A Muslim minaret that was the tallest structure in the world at the time of its completion. A major earthquake did not destroy it, because it sits on a Roman built foundation, which rocked with the quake!

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Two hundered years later the largest Christian Gothic Cathedral in the world ws built around it.

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Round window over entry typical of Gothic cathedrals.

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Coloumbus set sail from Lisbon. These are the old shipyards.

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All the ships bringing back goods from the new world had to unload at Lisbon. They unloaded here at the “tower of gold,” which is right next to the river. They had to pay one fifth of their cargo in taxes and a fee in gold. All the goods were sorted in this building. At one time a couple ships a day were coming and going from the Americas, making Lisbon one of the worlds wealthiest cities.

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The Plaza Espana.

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The Plaza Espana

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When it was completed in the 1930’s it was an exposistion of all of Spain. These niches each represented one province and had a tout inside talking of wonders and promoting tourism.

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Nowdays they find other uses.

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01/07/2011 into Seville


I’ve had a day of rest in Aracena because my left knee was hurting. I start off the day feeling fine but by the time I have gone 50KM it is hurting again. By the time I have gone 80Km I am having sharp pains. I walk the bike the last 5KM into Seville. My knee only hurts when I am cycling.

Check out the view from my de-luxe hostel. Umm, what is that thing?

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Here’s what it looks like from the street.

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Are they finished building it?

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It has an elevated plaza underneath it.

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The long view.

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I’m walking around on the top of it. And you know what? Directly underneath this entire structure are carefully excavated and displayed Roman ruins. Talk about the old and the new! Oh, and see that small light to the right of the the middle of the picture under the purple bar? That’s the light on in my room!

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There are so many beautiful surprises in this city.

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Many plazas.

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Grand Cathedrals.

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At night.

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I am thrilled to be here. If I have to rest a while because of my knee, this is the place.

01/06/2012 into Aracena


The Saga of the Pigs continues:

The pigs keep getting bolder. It’s dark. I go outside with my pepper spray. I hit the trigger. Nothing. It’s dead. I throw rocks, then go back inside and think about all the miles I’ve carried the can. I have told myself so many times, “Hey, don’t worry, you’ve got the pepper spray.”

I decide to leave at the crack of dawn, and start packing with a flashlight. he pigs know something is up, and get bolder. I stuff the sleeping bag, then go scare the pigs. I load the food panniers, then go scare the pigs. I pack my lucky pajamas, then go scare the pigs. I don’t dare eat, I dont want food-smell induced pig insanity.

Finally I am ready to pack the tent. Like I always do, I unzip it, and with the poles still keeping it in a tent shape, shake it overhead to empty out crumbs and bugs. I hear a chorus of terrified snorting and oinking. In surprise, I put the tent down and turn to catch sight of a dozen rubbery pig butts bouncing over the hill as fast as their little peglegs could carry them.

So there you have it: When you want to scare off pigs, shake your tent over your head.
Now I ask you, where else can you get this kind of useful info?

The morning was frozen as I rode away into the first light.

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I could hardly see them.

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Light and trees and frost.

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Soon this field will be green.

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“I think half a house is better than a whole barn. And I don’t have any neigh-bors.” (Yes, it’s a pun)

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My left leg has muscle issues, it is quite painful after only 35km, so I decide to check into the next hotel in the next town and end up here in Aracena. Just a small city on a big map, and it turns out to be lovely. It is hard to go wrong in Spain and Portugal.

I have been pushing it for three days, riding 106km, 86km, and 78km through mountainous terrain, when I usually would ride maybe 65km, and now I pay the price. I must think long term and underride underdistances.

01/05/2012 into southern Spain


This Mediterranean climate makes up for all the rain in Ireland. I am fully dried out. Today I crossed into Southern Spain as I make my way south into Sevilla then Algeciras, to cross into Morocco.

Typical olive groves in Portugal.

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Wonderful gently rolling country.

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As I was cycling past Serpa, Portugal, I saw an old aqueduct in the distance and decided to check it out. It is hard to go wrong in Portugal. Serpa is off the tourist radar and is a gem.

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Serpa turned out to be yet another walled city with a castle.

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Living in Serpa.

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Serpa, like many Portuguese cities has orange trees along the roads. Hungry cyclists have been tempted, but found the oranges quite sour!

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Cemetery in Serpa.

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About 10 KM into Spain I decided to camp. I am 50 miles from a hotel. I timidly open a ‘no passage without permission” gate and hustle the bike up over a hill, where I can’t be seen from the road.

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It is lovely back here in the oaks, and I have a great view.

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My right to be here is soon challenged by a herd of about a dozen pigs. They trot right up to the tent, snuffing, and fortunately bolt if I do something threatening. They are more massive than I am but timid. They are intelligent, staring right at me trying to figure me out. Three of them approach as a team. You might laugh, but I am thinking Jurrasic Pig. The one on the left grabs that piece of wood and crushes it with his jaws. I get the message.

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A few hefted rocks causes them to retreat. They regroup in a loose circle around my tent out of the range of thrown rocks.

I sleep fitfully, waking to chase them off when I hear them snuffing just outside my tent.

It’s cold, there is ice on my tent and bicycle. My new quarter inch thick foam pad is a quarter inch better than nothing. I put everything fabric underneath it and keep turning.

Phew. I’ve had better nights sleep!

12/20&21/2011 to Padron then Redondela


There are a handful of pilgrims trails that lead to Santiago. One of them comes up from Portugal. I decide to follow this trail south into Portugal. I can pass through old towns and hopefully stay in Albergees.

I am ready for rain as I leave the Albergee in Cee. I climb over the costal mountains and descend back to the sea twice. The day is spent in rain and fog, I’m thankful for the uphill because I get warmer. I keep moving to stay warm through five and a half hours of cycling and only twenty eight minutes stopped.

Occasionally the fog lifts a little and I can see what I’m cycling through.

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Cathedral in the fog.

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The river in Pardon.

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The river walk. The trees are communicating.

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View of Pardon from the cathedral.

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My albergee from the cathedral. It’s behind the blue door. I’ll probably have it all to myself tonight.

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12/21/2011 to Redondela

Hey, it’s not rainy this morning, just foggy. I had the albergee all to myself last night. Looks like tonight in Redondela will be the same. I am just cycling, not doing much sightseeing, just headed for Portugal. I’ll be there tomorrow, it’s 35 Kilometers away.

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In the afternoon the sun comes out. I actually eat lunch in the sunshine, very nice.

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Stacey, I found the missing space shuttle. The first model with the flapping wings. I’ve arranged to have it shipped to your home and installed in the front yard. I’m sure you’ll have it flying in no time. (I’m so proud-my sister is a rocket scientist)

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12/19/2011 to the End of the World


Finisterre is the name of the peninsula that pilgrims would come to after walking to Santiago and seeing the crypt of St. James, one of Jesus’s apostles. The name means literally, “the end of land”. It was the end of the world for early pilgrims who would watch in amazement as the sun went into the ocean.

My how things have changed. Now people bicycle around the world. A hotel and lighthouse clutter the point. Normally thronged with tourists there is a bus parking lot and public bathrooms.

I think I would have liked seeing it 500 years ago. I would have liked to have felt that awe that earlier pilgrims felt. But I can’t get past my global awareness. Alone on a cold December morning I console myself with peeing off the end of the world, a rare opportunity on a small planet.

But oh, what a beautiful morning to be out on a bicycle.

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Looking east into the coastline of Spain.

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Fishing boat.

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Ahh, the Finisterre peninsula. The town is Fisterra.

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Pilgrim’s progress.

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The hotel and lighthouse at the tip of the Finisterre peninsula.

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The goats of Finisterre.

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Finisterre looking west.

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Hey, someone left a brass boot.

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Looking East, up the coast of Spain. That is a radio tower.

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On the ride back to Cee, where I spend a second night. Cee is tucked into the inlet before the mountain.

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Once again the truth of the saying “It’s the journey, not the destination.” is verified. My thoughts now turn south towards Portugal and Morocco. I am excited to wake up tomorrow, pack my bike and ride. How wonderful to look forward to each day with enthusiasm- and a little trepidation. I’ve made a cheat sheet of Portuguese words which I have tucked into my handlebar bag to study as I ride.

12/18/2011 to Cee, on the Finisterra peninsula.

Some days are vast spaces of inner quiet. I only get tinges of frustration or impatience on these days. The rain? No problem. 37 degrees? More layers. The rain came and went and so did the sun.

For me the body power thing is humbling. Everyone else rushes past with enormously superior power and speed. I inch along. Sometimes I fall into rightousness about superior ecology or present moment awareness, but it just means I’m defensive.

What I am doing is slow and takes work and the payoffs are not outwardly evident. What a colorful oddball I am inching along ignoring the vastly superior transport that flies past. How blind can I be? What a simpleton!

Taking a car makes so much sense for most people’s mindset, it’s hard to argue with! But which came first, the mindset or the car? Could it be that cars have changed the way our minds work? Could it be that cars have changed our values?

Riding a bike is not an economy, but a luxury- of time. I feel rich in time. Rich in pleasure. Rich in health and connection.

Driving a car is a type of poverty.

Ok, Ok, my soapbox is shattering under the weight.
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Leaving Santiago, headed for Finisterra the end of the Medieval world.

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I’m cycling in a cloud.

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They’re not crypts or mini churches or covered bridges to nowhere. They were built to store grain. They don’t appear to be used anymore. There are many scattered around the countryside.

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Overlooking Cee.

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Cee Harbor.

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The Finisterra peninsula.

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12/17/2011 Santiago


If you can overlook religion you can look at cathedrals as works of art symbolizing the noblest thoughts and feelings of mankind.

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Here, hopefully, you are lifted from your ordinary state of mind into something more sublime, reflective.

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Set dogma aside, know nothing of religion, and enter one of these works of art in wonder.

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Find testimony to the beauty and power of the human spirit and your own spirit will be moved.

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You pass through this simple door to receive the credentials for completing your pilgrimage. I was moved, almost crying to be here.

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I linger in the cathedral afterwards.

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The Cathedral

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There is a lot to feel and think about.

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A minister is giving a sermon. He is small and old, his sermon worn and monotonous, his coughing interrupts his frail voice. How wrong in such a place. Man, there should be a rippin drum circle instead. Or George Cluny and Angelina Jolie shooting lightning bolts. Or Mick Jaggger swinging upside down from the ceiling and rockin “Satisfaction,” the pipe organ shaking the stones, and 100 nuns interjecting “hallelujah.” You get the idea. Alas, I may never see anything so appropriate, so I use my imagination.