Northern Spain Sept 20109

Dramas, anectodes, and fairytales. Cock-and-bull stories, too.

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Northern Spain Sept 20109

Post by tuftywhite » Tue Oct 22, 2019 8:27 am

Cuatro grandes cabezas aéreas.

(Four big airheads)

A plan was hatched. Four of us on Overland & Classic bikes go to Spain, travelling mostly on the Trans European Trail (TET).

Two weeks before we were due to depart, Mike finishes the two remaining bikes. This is going to be an excellent shakedown ride.

Tuesday 10 September.

Meet at 7.30 to set off. (Colin’s bike isn’t in the picture as he arrived at 7.30) (I should also explain that my 5 year old daughter insists that Travel Bear comes with me and I have to take pictures)

ImageIMG_7472 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

Filled with the excitement of a holiday we set off down the A46 towards Plymouth. After a brief stop for a break and petrol at Exeter services I tried to start my bike and there is nothing. My display flashes up 8.6 volts. Not good.

I get pushed across the car park, the bike starts, all good, but there’s obviously a problem. We’ll sort it in Plymouth says Mike. I got to the A38 and pulled over in a lay-by. Not sure why but I thought there was a problem.

Mike looked at the bike and it turns out that the owner hadn’t been maintaining the bike properly and the bike had a corroded terminal.

This was temporarily cleaned up and the battery was taking its usual 14.7 volts at revs. Happy days. Although it wasn’t quite right as when I tried to start the bike, I’d get nothing, but then it would start. Tricky badgers these lithium batteries.

We embarked the Pont Aven, the bike deck was full, we went to the bar to start the 24 hour crossing.

After retiring to bed Colin and I had to try to sleep through Andy and Mike having a snore-off. Never again having a 4 berth cabin.

The next day was spent loitering around the ship. Andy found somewhere quiet to have a snooze.

ImageIMG_7475 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

I had booked a hotel in the centre of Santander which we found fairly easily which had off street secure parking which was great.

A quick shower and change and we were out for beer and tapas.

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Thursday 12th September

Colin had a plan for the next morning. A route which wasn’t on the TET but was supposed to take us up through a national park and deliver us near the start of the TET. He failed to tell us before we started that it had been described as difficult.

After 10 minutes of off-road riding, I was upside down in a hedge with my bike on top of me with a distinct smell of petrol. The track had been used by 4WD vehicles whose tracks had been washed away, leaving a narrow section in the middle to ride along. I told myself I was going to fall off, and did so.

Mike, my usual saviour in these circumstances, shouts, ‘I can’t help you mate, I can’t move or I’ll drop my bike’.

After hearing the commotion from the top of the hill Colin saunters down to help me lift my bike up and very kindly rode it back down to the bottom of the hill. I helped Andy turn his and guided him down the hill.

Not the best of starts to a fortnight’s riding, but no-one died.

A decision was made, that we would ride on the road, to our start of the TET.

This bit of the TET started off very gently, mainly guiding us along maybe not disused roads but ones that had been superseded by more direct routes. This was great, and we made good progress.

ImageIMG_7489 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

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We stopped at a petrol station for petrol, coffee and a sandwich and then the TET went on to farm tracks, making its way between fields. Despite the land being largely flat around this region, there was still enough to make it interesting riding. It was so bumpy that Mike lost his bottle of petrol.

Around mid afternoon we arrived at the outskirts of Santo Domingo de la Calzada (Saint Sunday of the Shoe). We booked ourselves in one of the Parador hotels in SD and rode through the pedestrian area to the wrong one. We then carried on through to the right one and were allowed to park in the entrance to what was once a monastery. Nice place to park.

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Beer, wine, gin and food were taken, along with some very large Whiskeys (Irish) for a nightcap. Aren’t Spanish measures great!

Friday 13th September A poignant date.

Next morning we were up and out. My bike was out too, out of electricity. The battery had given up completely. Andy and Colin rode off to Logroño to a KTM dealer to get a battery for me whilst Mike and I sat outside the hotel and rested.

I got a text from Andy saying that they had managed to get one and they had to wait 20 or so minutes for it to be charged. Fair enough.

40 minutes later I get a call from Andy saying that Colin had had a blow out.

He did not come off his bike at 50 mph with a lorry carrying a bridge support following him.

He didn’t heroically steer himself and his sliding bike on the hard shoulder of the motorway, because NONE OF THIS HAPPENED. NOBODY AT HOME NEEDS TO KNOW, IT’S OUR LITTLE SECRET.

ImageIMG_7499 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

Once it was ascerpertained that he was okay, Andy brought the battery to us to fit to the bike. It fitted perfectly, the old one had swelled somewhat.

We arrived under a bridge where Colin had pushed his bike and had found a stick with which to prop up his bike and had taken the front wheel out. Apparently a screw had worked its way through one of the large tread blocks until had poked itself into the tube. We think it may have been picked up at the hotel as we had parked next to where there was some work going on, but it could have been anywhere.

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After fitting a new tube, a fuse and bending some stuff we went back to the petrol station in Santo Domingo to fill the tube properly with air to get the tyre to seat properly. Mike blew up the tyre, quite literally. It went pop. Another spare tube was used. This time all was well.

Andy went and foraged sandwiches and a decision was made to cover some ground today on the road and end up somewhere near the TET.

We went to Arnedo, which is a shoe manufacturing place. A small town but pleasant enough.

They sold beer there and we found a very nice restaurant with a limited menu, but the food was very good.

Saturday 14th September

During the early morning, I’d had to make use of the Imodium tablets I’d brought with me. I didn’t eat too much for breakfast and popped down to the pharmacia to top up on tablets, just in case. Fortunately, there were no further issues, but it pays to be prepared.

From Arnedo, Colin navigated us back on to the TET and along to a little town called Alfaro.

The route was excellent, going over mountains and through an abandoned village.

ImageIMG_7510 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

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Not sure why Andy took the centrefold shot below.

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We stopped at a café to discuss our options. We checked for hotels and there was nothing in the area. Everything was booked up. Deliberations went on before deciding to go to Zaragoza, a large city that would have hotels to spare. Andy booked it and we aimed ourselves at the hotel and rode.

The hotel was a boutique hotel and was on the equivalent of Bond Street in Zaragoza. We arrive on the pedestrianised square outside the hotel, with the two bigger bikes growling at the folk sitting out enjoying their late afternoon drinks.

If you’re into house breaking I reckon this is the place for you. From what I could see, nobody in Zaragoza stays at home on a Saturday. The place was rammed.

Two chaps approached me with a sense of urgency and in pigeon English explained that the police were very strict and we would get fines for having our bike here. Very kind of them. Andy was dispatched to ask where the parking was, and the hotel receptionist had drawn the equivalent of a children’s maze puzzle where the rabbit has to reach the carrot. Eventually we worked it out, and found the underground carpark.

Despite a sprinkling of rain we had a top evening. We stopped at first at a bar with a huge garden and had some drinks and light tapas. We then moved onto a rather good restaurant which did great pizzas.

Some people stayed out late drinking whiskey.

ImagePhoto 14-09-2019, 21 04 57 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

Sunday 15th September

We breakfasted at the hotel and headed for Huesca where we stopped for coffee and we rejoined the TET. I also took the time to change my rear light bulb as it had blown the day before.

The TET today took us in to the hills and some fantastic scenery and some fairly nadgery trails

ImageIMG_7519 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

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We stopped for lunch in Nocito and had the most wonderful meal at the restaurant there. The lady who served us didn’t speak English but managed to explain the menu using various mimes and animal noises. We ate well.

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After deciding not to TET in the afternoon, after the meal came with a carafe of wine, Colin guided us on to the TET and on some of the most technical riding I’ve ever done. The other three managed to guide their bikes over rock steps, whilst my technique was more point and hope. It worked.

At some point we must have decided to look for somewhere to stay, close to the route. Colin found a log cabin at a camping ground which was quite cheap for the night and could sleep all four of us.

There wasn’t much there. No bar, no restaurant, it was pretty much closed for the season, however, the lady did let us in the bar to buy some beer, wine and crisps. As it turned out, we’d eaten so well at lunch time we didn’t need that much in the evening.

ImageIMG_7541 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

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Monday 16th September

After getting up and packing, we set off to a nearby place for breakfast. After messing about for an hour or so getting petrol and lunch etc, we set off back on the TET to a final push to Tremp.

This again had quite a few technical bits but they were all overcome.

ImageIMG_7553 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

ImageIMG_7554 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

Tuesday 17th September Rest Day

A rest day was needed and so was a bit of light maintenance. Andy adjusted his needles, Mike adjusted his suspension and tightened something or other on my bike. Colin couldn’t quite get his bike to run properly. Along with Mike they deduced that something was wrong with the LHS carburettor. The problem was eventually found and resolved.

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After lunch we went our separate ways for the afternoon, reconvening in the evening for something to eat.

Wednesday 18th September

Half of us got up early and had breakfast and shopped for lunch. Half of the early half went to La Pobla de Segur for a coffee to wait, whilst the other half of the early half waited for the other half, and then went to join him. Then Andy nipped back to the hotel in Tremp as he’d forgotten to put on his armour.

ImageIMG_7568 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

We had a good morning of trails, stopping for lunch at a church.

ImagePhoto 18-09-2019, 12 11 53 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

Whilst eating lunch, we watched the storm clouds amassing overhead. Once we were on our way, we were hit with an almighty hail and rain storm. We stood up to reduce the surface area hit by hail stones.

ImageIMG_7571 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

Some of us had left our waterproofs at the hotel. I certainly got that nasty feeling that motorcyclists get in the trouser department. Once back down to tarmac, near the hydro electric station, Colin wanted to do more so went off to tackle some more trails, whilst the rest of us went back to Pobla for afternoon refreshments.

That night, we dined at a Chinese restaurant where Andy ingratiated himself by chatting in Chinese to the waitress, which was brilliant as his Spanish is shit.

Thursday 19th September

This was a great day. Colin did a fantastic job of guiding us around the trails. The day was a good mix of trails and winding roads.

ImageIMG_7574 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

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During the morning we stopped for a break. We were about to get back on our bikes when Andy noticed his back tyre was flat.

Without delay, the team sprang into action and a patch was applied in next to no time. It was like a fine tuned machine.

ImageIMG_7582 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

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When we first returned to the roads there were two really steep trails going up a big hill on the other side of the valley. Colin fancied a challenge and Andy joined him. See if you can spot the helmets.

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The trails then took us to a little hill village, Abella de la Conca, that three of us had visited two years ago when we did The Vince.

View of the village from the trail

ImageIMG_7606 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

View of the trail from the village

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From there, Colin guided us virtually all the way back to Tremp along trails. Some of which looked like they were going to disappear. A long but rewarding day’s riding.

We arrived in Tremp and parked outside our favourite corner bar for a quick beer before returning to the hotel.

That night we had a kebab dinner and a bottle of wine at a nice bar, then few final drinks at our favourite bar, followed by a few final drinks at another bar.

Friday 20th September

Getting back into the swing of packing everything up. Over breakfast I decided that after yesterday’s epic trail riding, and also remembering how technical the ride into Tremp had been, that I would ride the N260 to Torla while the others did a chunk of trails and then road.

I made it to Torla by lunch time and checked into the hotel and sorted parking arrangements and generally relaxed.

ImageIMG_7624 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

The hard core of the group arrived at around 18.00 having had a big day and talked of technical bits, river crossings and evading a family of wild boar.

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We dined at the Pizza restaurant which has an impressive view of the mountains of the Ordesa National Park.

Saturday 21st September

ImageIMG_7627 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

This morning we had a light breakfast in the hotel bar. Mike wasn’t feeling too well and I didn’t need too much persuading to miss the trails. Andy and Colin set out on an heroic day of trail riding whilst Mike and I enjoyed a gentle ride to Tudela.

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We arrived and headed off for lunch and a walk round.

Got a text from Andy saying they weren’t far away so went out to meet them.

Half of Andy’s kit had turned brown and some point in the day and seemed like his bike had tried to collect Spain in the cooling fins.

ImagePhoto 21-09-2019, 16 43 49 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

As we walked through the Marriott reception we walked in a line to guard him so that reception couldn’t see the state he was in. Mike said that he’d made a complete mess in the bathroom, but it was okay as they’d wiped up all of the mud with a towel.

The evening was spent drinking and tapassing until it was time for bed. Mike and Andy went for a nightcap in a place where they were old enough to be the grandfathers of the other customers.

Sunday 22nd September

After breakfast we had a guided tour of the industrial estates of north Tudela. It wasn’t explained why, but I think someone needed oil but didn’t find any.

Then Colin led us to the TET and in such a direction I was convinced he was going the wrong way, but followed obediently. It turned out, he was going the right way, just the ‘value for money, as much trail as you can get’ way. We rode through the Bardenas Reales National park, which many of you will know, is where the spaghetti westerns were filmed, along with many other films too.

This was a top route with lots of different terrain. Andy noticed his oil light was coming on when accelerating hard so took it gently, it was nice for me not to be at the back for a while.

We aimed for the road and went to Ejea de Los Caballeros and found petrol and oil and coffee and tapas.

We then rode back to the national park and found the spot where everybody takes pictures.

ImageIMG_7637 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

After this stop, it was on to Logroño where Andy had booked us a hotel right in the centre, with convenient underground parking.

Once showered and changed we joined the throngs celebrating the Rioja grape harvest. We drank and tapassed and walked around watching the spectacle.

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Monday 23rd September

This was how we all felt.

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We rode to Santander via Vitoria-Gasteiz on a combination of motorways and wigglyways. Between Andy and Colin, we managed to cover ground and still have fun too.

Once in Santander we got straight in the queue for the ferry and were on quite early. Upstairs changed and beered in no time, dinner and retiring to bed.

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ImagePhoto 23-09-2019, 14 45 06 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

Apparently the crossing was supposed to be choppy however, I’d followed the Mikeyboy approach of drink plenty, eat plenty. I did both and was too drunk to notice the ship wallowing around.

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Tuesday 24th September

Disembarking was a nightmare. The ship docked precisely at 15.00 as advertised. We probably left the boat at 15.45 and it took us over an hour to queue out through the 4 passport control booths. Unfortunately, whilst Andy, Mike and I had been pushing our bikes in the queue, Colin had been starting his to move and by the time he’d got through customs there was no more juice to start the bike.

We gathered in the handy carpark. Tried to bump start it but it wasn’t having it. One of the problems with having high compression motors and wet carpark.

Andy was dispatched to Halfords for jump leads, but came back empty handed. He then got talking to another biker who had been watching us pushing Colin’s bike for 30 minutes who then says that he’s got a jumpstart pack.

That was applied to the bike and hey presto! Colin’s AA man turned up just as the bike started.

Andy and Colin had more fuel that we did so off they went off and with one stop for fuel they were home by 11.30.

Mike and I fuelled up in Plymouth and stopped for a coffee in Taunton services, with another stop for fuel in Gloucester and a goodbye at Leicester services, we were home for not long after midnight.

A great holiday. The bikes were outstanding. Not only do they look good, but they actually do the job too. I was surprised at what my bike went over by just pointing it at stuff. It was well worth packing light, I’ve learned some tricks from both Andy and Colin to go with even fewer clothes next time. Thanks to Colin, every hotel room is an opportunity to look to see where I can fix up a washing line!

More thanks to Colin for being first up to navigate the trails and for keeping us on track.

It goes without saying that without Mike this trip wouldn’t have been possible. It is a credit to him that the bikes were so reliable and dependable.

ImageIMG_7639 by tuftywhite, on Flickr

Also, thanks to Simon_100 who is the Spanish TET linesman. If I ever meet him I’ll be having a word about some of those technical bits!!!
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Location: Spain
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Re: Northern Spain Sept 20109

Post by jsocana » Wed Oct 23, 2019 4:03 pm

Great story boys.
Just one thing: domingo is a name besides a day of the week; calzada means road or track, not shoe.
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Re: Northern Spain Sept 20109

Post by mspenz » Thu Oct 24, 2019 8:47 pm

Nice report and pics Dave . I followed a similar route in places and have hundreds of photos to sift through and try to get a few up on here at some point.

Agreed, some of the trails are reasonably technical and very entertaining :D

Also great to see that the bikes performed well.

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