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And so it begins

Our long planned trip to Spain began in the worst possible way, with an hours long delay in Durango blowing up our carefully planned itinerary and comfortable seats. We watched forlornly as our Frankfort bound jet taxied away from the gate as we made it into Denver. After an unplanned night in a hotel, switching airlines and crossing the Atlantic, we made it to Barcelona with two bikes, but our other piece of luggage disappeared in the depths of the Barcelona airport. We rendezvoused with our son Riley and carried on to Girona, where a couple of days of rest and phone calls eventually got all of our gear together and us feeling semi-human again.

This was our fourth visit to Girona, a beautiful town in Catalonia. The town is a center for all kinds of cycling. First discovered by Lance Armstrong back in the days when blood doping in Spain was a thing, the town is full of skinny butted roadies and World Tour pros in team kits heading out on the incredible road circuits around the area. It’s an international cast of bikers from everywhere in the world, all packed in to an ancient old town full of great coffee shops and places to eat. The biggest change we have seen since our first visit in 2015 is that there are also tons of mountain bikers and gravel riders as well.

We spent the week doing some cycling, getting the bikes ready, drinking coffee and hanging out with our son Riley. It was great to spend some time with him before he left to join a friend in Paris. We also spent a lot of time shopping for shoes to replace the “sandals of pain“that we had brought from Durango. They ended up on a park bench when we finally got our gear together and begin our ride to the Mediterranean.

A memorIal to Anne Frank tucked into an obscure corner in Girona. Somehow I found this very moving. We planned a couple of easy days headed towards the beach and eventually looping around to join the European Divide.

One of our first Euro breakfasts. Great to have, but already I really miss breakfast tacos from Durango.

We spent some nights camping and eventually joined the route in the mountains near the French Border. Our first attempts to follow the European Divide were met with some really rocky terrain and the general difficulty of pushing our loaded bikes caused us to seek out reroutes. The route is supposed to be the rough equivalent of the Great Divide in America, but so far it is steeper, more technical and rougher. This may be because we are older, but I don’t think we are that old yet, although we often wish for our electric bikes.

By way of compensation, the terrain is stunningly gorgeous and provides uniquely European vignettes all along the way. We find out that it is hunting season for wild boars and ride to sound of hunting dogs. One afternoon we were sitting by the roadside feeling down and a bit lost and a car stopped to see how we were doing. The young driver Noah ended up giving us two giant mangoes and some water, making the day much brighter and enabling us to have a great camp that night. Sometimes we are dependent on the kindness of strangers and it always seems to work out.

When you are confronted with difficulties and the route is too hard, it is easy to get discouraged and frustrated, especially if the route leads you to a dead end and you have to descend 300 meters of hard earned climbing. But the Pedaling Pensioners have learned a few things over the years of touring and one of them is that when the going gets rough we need to slow the ”f” down and apply money to the problem. After a night of wild camping on the rocky shore of a reservoir that was seriously affected by climate change and Europe‘s hottest summer, we headed downhill to find a hotel. It was a fantastic place to stay complete with a herd of cats, a pool and a nearby ostrich. The owner welcomed us with open arms and we came up with a new plan. We will skip a few hundred kilometers ahead and seek some easier riding.

More to follow in the next few days.

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