Pedaling Pensioners Veer off to Valencia
Updated: Oct 9, 2022
For several days we have zigzagged across the hills of the Aragon Region in Spain. We are following parts of the European Divide from Alcaniz to Teruel but riding around the rougher sections when we can. I am using every navigational tool possible to make decisions about which way to go and changing routes every few hours. Some of the roads we find are exceptionally nice, with smooth pavement and no traffic at all. It is like having a bike path of our own. We still have plenty of steep hills to climb and descend, but less pushing the bikes over the rocks.
The weather has turned much colder and we are finally wearing some or sometimes all of the clothing we have carried for so many kilometers.
We also go through a phase where we are losing things off of our bikes. Karen loses a shoe and I lose my rain jacket somewhere on a 15 km descent. I am too tired to try and climb back up to look for it. Pedaling Pensioner's are really having some senior moments including some difficult navigation getting in and out of towns and cities. I have succeeded in getting us seriously lost and going the wrong way as we try to get through some of these places. Usually I can manage the last kilometers to our destination with Google maps, but sometimes the narrow roads and unpredictable turns get the best of me and Google. Going through Alcaniz during heavy traffic and navigating out of Tureul made my blood pressure spike and took some time to recover from. I used to enjoy diving into European cities on a bike but now I like the country roads more.
But on the plus side we are much more comfortable seeking out places to camp and we spend several nights tucked into terraced fields or on a side road. Carrying our own meals gives us flexibility and freedom rather than looking for a hotel every night and waiting till 8 or 9 for some dinner. Many times we are able to wake up, pack the tent and ride to a nearby town for a second coffee and more breakfast.
On one of those mornings we ride into Aliaga and meet a fellow biker leaving the hotel. Tom from Belgium is riding his E mountain bike with a trailer and spare battery on the European Divide. He had helped us out on Facebook and it was great to meet in person. Tom may be the wave of the future on this trail, and I am sure that other E Mtn bikers will follow.
Along with the camping nights we occasionally stay in some hotels. Sometimes the stays are not very memorable but in the more rural hotels outside of towns we find some great places to stay, generally with a really nice host and breakfast included. There is nothing like a nice hotel stay with a shower and a glass of wine to get rested and ready for the next day.
Moonlight from a great family hotel- El Secanet
We encountered a flock of bearded vultures, circling overhead on their way to find some food. These rare and magnificent birds are struggling to make it since mad cow disease hit Europe several years ago and it was mandated that road killed animals be removed quickly. Volunteers in Aragon stock organized feeding stations for the birds.
This province in Spain also has a whole lot of hog farms dotted around the landscape. The pigs never seem to get outside and it looks like the only time they might see the sun is on the long truck ride to become an Iberian ham.
A tight squeeze for a big truck and a bad day to be a pig
We pedal into Teruel after a long downhill. It is a bigger town and harder to navigate. The hotels are full since it is the weekend but we find an available apartment and take a day off. The European Divide Route from here climbs up into some big mountain areas with more distance between towns and rough terrain. We have a decision to make about which way to go- whether to continue on the ED or come up with a new plan.
There is a 160 kilometer Via Verde that runs from Teruel to Valencia on the coast. Most of it trends downhill from 1200 meters to the sea. It is too good an opportunity to pass up and we charge up our SIM cards, buy me a new raincoat and roll off on the Ojo Negro, an old railroad track that used to haul minerals from the mountains. It is the most pleasant riding you can imagine with the occasional tunnel, picnic tables and small towns for coffee. We ride through burned areas from recent fires along with Utah colored red dirt road cuts and windmills. We camp along the trail one night and spend another night in one of the best rural hotels we have ever Stayed in. The weather gets warmer as we head down to the Mediterranean and soon we are back to shorts.
Inspired by the local hog farms, I decide to sample some other tapas pig parts. For some reason, Karen is not interested in being a participant in this taste test. After trying pigs trotters (feet), pigs ears, and snouts I no longer need to experiment and can go back to the reliable and delicious patatas bravas. They are available everywhere and most any time. The perfect cycling food for Spanish bike touring and it comes with beer, wine and coffee.
Now we are in the beautiful city of Valencia. Karen has found some new sandals to replace her last ones and is thrilled to not have to wear her bike shoes as we head out for a night of Flamenco. First impressions of Valencia is it is very bike friendly and easy to get around. The bike lanes are like a treasure hunt as they wind around the roundabouts and across the busy streets.
Tomorrow we ride out of town to a local farm where they make a traditional Paella locally sourced from their garden. Local cuisine and Flamenco…Then we are back to more Via Verdes as we head towards the next big city of Córdoba.
Bike touring like this can be pretty intense at times. Sometimes it is in a good way when you feel the wind in your face and notice the colors in the early morning light. Sometimes the intensity rises because navigation is difficult or the route is just plain slow and rough. Either way we feel more alive and more present out here on the road. The good moments are great and sometimes the bad moments are pretty rough. No matter what it is good to be alive and riding our bikes.
We have four weeks left till we need to be in Lisbon to fly home. I hope we can continue to find some easier roads to travel and also stop and sample the Paella along the way.