Posted on 2/24/03
Have you seen our two new features? There’s a button on the Home Page called
“Languages of the World” where you can see and hear friends from around the
world say, “You’re riding your bicycles around the world? You must be
CRAZY!!!!!!! Also, on the home page, you will see, “Find out what you are
saying.” This is a place where we can post e-mails from friends of WorldRiders2
sent from around the WORLD!!!! Check it Out.
ESPANA AND COSTA DEL SOL
We were really ready for change and Spain was change. Though the language of
Portugal is similar it is quite different, too. Since I had studied Spanish in
High School I felt certain that it would be easier to get by here. Well, it has
been almost 50 years since those classes and I’m not sure I paid very close
attention back then. There was also a change in food and thanks to our course
correction, a change in the weather, too. As always, it’s our hope that you
enjoy what we’ve written and that the pictures will speak for themselves.
Salamanca was a flurry of traffic. Every time we get into city traffic it’s
tough but dusk and rush hour really added to the challenge. Circling in the
narrow one-way streets we finally pulled up on the curb at a Hotel. I went in
and found it to be less than so-so. More circling and following the arrow signs
led us to Hotel Don Juan. It sounded romantic but was just slightly better than
the other although it was a better location. Oh yea, and the price was almost
inside our budget.
I was dealt the duty of finding a bottle of Vino. The very nice lady at the
front desk gave me a map and simple directions. Of course I was soon so lost I
couldn’t even find the streets on the map. How could I have missed so badly? As
if to add insult to injury, it started to rain, cold wet rain. After passing the
same steps twice I decided that I needed to turn to the left. Then things began
to look a little more familiar. The Plaza Mayor was there but it had turned
around since I last walked past? It was the signs for Don Juan Hotel that
finally led me back home. I bought the only bottle of white Vino they had,
tucked my tail between my legs and went back to the room.
December 12 and 13, 2003
Falling in love with Salamanca
Our normal Motis Operindi, fruit in the room then coffee down the street. The
never ending quest for the perfect Internet connection then the need for urgent
care for Lil’ Scotty. After asking for mechanics at the desk we gave up and
found the Renault Dealer. Once there, we were the only ones who could understand
what we were saying. Through sign language and pointing we got the point across.
The price was right where Nuna said it should be but we were caught off guard
when he indicated we should leave the car. At first we thought he meant they
would work on it in a day or two. We explained that we were leaving in two days.
(Simple words like “Iramos en dos dias” hadn’t completely escaped me in the past
50 years since Spanish classes.) He assured us that he would have it ready for
us by 5:00 PM, today. Wow, great service. We grabbed a taxi and headed back to
Food is a whole different problem. None of the words appear in the Lonely Planet
food guide. We parried with the waiter until he seemed to be tiring of the
charade game. Then we went to plan two and took his suggestions. I knew that
conejo was rabbit so I ordered. Cat wanted something less meaty so she ordered
an egg dish. My rabbit was tasty her egg thing, chopped egg with mayonnaise and
catsup, was pretty bad.
It was cold as we walked around the area, found the Tourist Office and got maps.
We strolled through the Plaza Mayor (Main Plaza) and window-shopped. Some of the
places are very upscale then there are street vendors with the same old stuff.
It was off and on again showers so we went back to the room and relaxed until
We taxied again and at 5:00 we were pleasantly surprised to fine Lil’ Scotty
fixed and ready to roll. On the way back in we found the Champion Super Market
that had completely escaped me last evening. Even inside the center it wasn’t
that easy to find. We bought Vino and food for breakfast.
Back to our room, relaxed, sipped the wine and watched BBC World in English.
What a treat. By 7:30 we were on the pedestrian street. It was beautiful but
cold. We just had to use up some time, as Restaurants don’t open until 9:00 PM.
It was an easy choice, the restaurant, allowed us in at 8:30. We were the only
people in the place. By 9:30 we were just finishing as the next customers were
being seated. How will we ever adjust? Our mistake, we had Paella. The tour book
says that it is heavy and that most Spaniards have it for lunch. It was like
lead soaked in oil. Too rich and too late.
Frog Spotting in Salamanca?
The next morning I got coffee from the café downstairs and we did breakfast in.
It’s Friday the 13th, and my brother Bob’s 57th birthday. Some think it is an
unlucky day but for Brother Bob the Friday thing must happen every few years. I
think any day you get another year is a good day! We reserved today for a
walking tour of Salamanca. We walked and looked, following the Tourist Map. Even
though the season is finished we were amazed at how many others were walking
around studying the same map in different languages.
Salamanca will become our favorite city in Espana. It is a University City and
that always seems to add life to a community. In fact, the University was
established in 1218. It became equal to Oxford and Bologna, and the focal point
of rich artistic activity by the end of the 15th Century, according to our
Lonely Planet, and thanks to the patronage of Queen Isabella. Salamanca was
designated the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2002. The old center is compact and
the Plaza Mayor that I mentioned earlier that has been said to be Spain’s
Churches, college, two wonderful open markets. Pizza at Pizza Hut for lunch. It
was as expected, not great but filling. More walking map in hand. At the
Universidad Civil there is a frog, or they say there is a frog, sculpted into
the facade. We had read about it and weren’t surprised when we rounded a corner
and ran into a group with heads back pointing upward. The story goes that if you
can find it without help you will have good luck. Students say that it will
guarantee good grades? We tried and failed then checked our guidebook for
directions. That too failed and our efforts degraded to trying to understand
directions in Spanish of those who seemed to know, as they pointed upward. We
blame the rain, it started spitting down and the crowd thinned. Without those
uplifted arms we were destined to leave Frogless and face the possibility of bad
luck. We decided that it was time for a glass of wine.
The only place on the street that was open at 8:00 PM was definitely a tourist
trap. Nice enough looking but pricey. There were a few other foreigners eating
early. We had another tough time choosing food. I had the suckling pig, a whole
half of the little guy. No vegetables or potatoes offered. Cat chose Salmon and
it was good but very oily. My pig was a pretty big baby and the meat was rich
and greasy but good. We both needed antacids for dessert.
South toward Marbella
Packed up and headed for Plasencia, we stopped for gas and that led to a broken
key in the gas cap. The more I get to know Lil’ Scotty the more protective I
become. She is old and fragile, I don’t know how she ever survived without me? I
got that sinking feeling when the attendant held his hand out, asking for the
key. I knew the gas cap, it was interesting, it doesn’t turn, just the key
turns. When he took the key I assured myself that he must open these types of
caps every day. I watched him struggle but he couldn’t get it off. I stepped up
to take over but it was too late, he had broken the key off. We tried to work it
off, he used pliers and a screwdriver, all to no avail. He would only look at me
out of the corner of his eye. Then he gave up and sent us back into town looking
for a Ferreteria, (Hardware Store.) to have a key made.
The problem was greater than that because the old key was in the cap. I love
solving problems but this one was tough because of the language gap. I remember
a few words but the lessons taught 48 years ago in Spanish classes had somehow
escaped me. It was like a treasure hunt. Each stop led to another then the
search for another. Maps drawn on scratch paper, notes on our city map, soon we
were completely across town. Finally a very nice lady in a Locksmith shop got
the point across that they couldn’t help but a mechanic could. She tried to
explain how to find the shop then gave up and set out at a fast pace to show me.
She was worried that he would be closed because it was Saturday. He was there
but we had the same language problem. I tried to ask if I should bring the car
there. He used sign language to have me lead him. When we got to the car he put
his screwdriver into the key slot and twisted until the cap broke. He handed it
to me and pointed across the street to an Auto Parts Store. Using my very best
Spanish I asked, “ Cuanto Senior”?
He almost laughed then shook his head, “No Charge”. Well he didn’t actually say
that in English but I got the point. What a nice guy.
The store did have a cap with 2 keys that worked. It cost 6€, a bargain in Euros
but the cost in time had added up to 2 hours. Oh well, another opportunity to
solve a problem and what’s time to a WorldRider? Of course we went back to the
same Gas Station. The guy sort of waved back from a distance and had another
serve us. He probably felt guilty because he did break the old cap. I didn’t
fault him because I had been saying for days that we should get another key OR a
new cap. Cat had found bread, meat and cheese close by while we fueled up. We
picnicked in Lil’ Scotty as we drove in the rain. Yes, it began to pour down as
we drove the narrow road toward Plasencia.
After cruising the tiny streets for half an hour we decided to treat ourselves.
The only inside parking available was at a place called The Parador Hotel. It’s
an old Convent and absolutely beautiful, inside and out. The room was a suite,
all of their rooms are suites. One of the unique features of the parking was
that we drove into an elevator that took us up to the garage. There was a
wedding rehearsal going on. Cat climbed the stairs to get a look. That led us on
a tour of the hallways. Almost a step back, into a time when silence and prayer
ruled. We wondered what use the booth for a pay phone had before phones were
invented? Dining was in the elegant surroundings but the meal was only so-so.
They begin to serve at 8:30. We were the first patrons of course. The room was
filling fast, as we made our exit.
The next morning we hunted down a great cup of coffee and walked around the old
Convent. A family of Storks lives on the rooftop, on the facade. They made for
interesting pictures. There is a feeling of history and beauty that surrounds
We continue to take Spain in baby steps. Yesterday was only a 130 Km day and
today, Merida lays only 165 to the South. This is the famous Spanish plain.
There are giant black bull silhouettes on the rolling hills and plenty of the
real deal in the fields. They say the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.
(Shades of Henry Higgins.) We found no rain on the plain but it remained cold
and windy. I have long been an admirer of Don Quixote de la Mancha. The idea of
the crazy old wanderer was born unto Don Miguel de Cervantes just north of here.
When we almost ran head long into the Hotel Cervates, we had to take a room.
They did have secure parking, another elevator ride down, but the room was just
a room. The offsetting factor between Cervantes and The Parador was value. The
cost was less than half that of the Convent.
Somewhere on those plains, in a damp moment, a young couple was married and we
were there to witness the celebration. It was cold but the girls in the wedding
party, as girls will, wanted to show off their dresses so they went without
coats. Everyone milled around as we ate inside, they were waiting for the food.
They had a tent set beside the restaurant and a big beef barbeque crew working
hard to feed them. We love to observe social circumstance and this was a special
moment. Not much unlike a wedding party in California, with our Hispanic roots,
there was obvious family pride.
Merida is a little larger than Plasencia and older, dating back to 25 BC. We
scurried out to get a look at the Roman ruins. Our first views were of only
moderate housing that was far from ancient. Finally we backtracked, rounded a
corner and there they were. The Aquiducto is like all we’ve seen but across from
it lays the Circo Romano. They say that it could seat 30,000 spectators. It was
witness to the usual chariot racing we think of in a place like this but this
one could also be flooded for spectacles involving ships. Today it is only a
depression in the ground with several low walls of stone scattered around. By
the time we reached the Teatro Romano and Anfiteatro it was near closing time.
We bought tickets but only made a hasty visit and decided to come back in the
There is a walking street but it was fairly empty. They did have holiday décor
up but no music. The cold and ascending darkness chased us back to Cervantes. We
waited as long as we could then asked the guy at the desk for a restaurant that
would start serving early on a Sunday night. He suggested one that was nearby.
It was a Tapas Bar but had a room in the rear for serving dinner. All in all it
was a strange evening. We would be the only people seated there and the server
only checked back occasionally. A bit cold, lonely and the food was less than
so-so. It was almost 9:00 PM when we left and still no sign of any other diners.
In fact even the bar area, where there had been 6 drinkers when we entered, was
vacant when we left.
December 16, 2003
Stephanie Patterson-Haney’s Birthday
Stephanie is the youngest of our children and perhaps our most courageous. She
is the single Mom of three and works hard to keep her little family together. We
are really proud of the way she has picked up the pieces, gotten an education
that led to a Medical career and provides for them. It is tough and we know it.
Sometimes we think of it as her continuous tread mill. Up early every week day,
kids off to school then she to work by 8:30 AM. The kids go to a Day Care Center
after school where she picks them up at close to 6:00PM. Then there is homework,
dinner, baths and bed just to get up the next day and go at it again. The only
words of consolation we can give her is it will all be over in another 15 years
but then it will seem like it all past by in moments. Life is like that. I often
think that I will try to spend more time with the Grandkids when we get back to
Well, although Steph is 33 today we will spend our day surrounded by rocks put
into place more than 2000 years ago. Yesterday there were quite a few people
wandering around the ruins, today we have them to ourselves. The guard at the
gate looked at our tickets and shook his head. We argued that we were told they
would be good for today. I doubt that he knew what we were saying but he could
tell that we adamant and wouldn’t back off. Besides, what did he have to lose,
we were the only people there. It is a wonderful place and must be even more so
during musical and dramatic presentations held and warmer times here.
As a continuation of today’s exercise program we decided to walk to the Alcazaba.
It is across town and overlooks the Rio Guadiana. The Muslim Fort was
constructed in 835 AD on the site where there were already Roman and Visigoth
ruins. It is only partially reconstructed with the exception of one part that is
now used as offices for local government. In fact we thought they were ticket
takers and went inside only to be directed around the corner. We did walk the
wall above the river and take pictures of the river and bridges. In fact we
enjoyed the day so much that it was well after noon before we got under way
Our longest drive, 200 Km, in several days took us up and over a fairly
mountainous area that challenged Lil’ Scotty. It was rush hour and nearing dusk
as we drove into town. A series of hotel signs led us directly to our second
Hotel Cervantes. Our basic criteria was that it should have secure parking and
be walking distance to the heart of old Seville. Although it would be a pretty
good walk it was again do-able. Lil’ Scotty had to zig and zag to make it into
the elevator and down, again, into the garage. We were at home in Seville for
the next two days.
This Cervantes is totally unrelated to the other and it is a nicer place. The
walk is through several tiny streets and pedestrian shopping streets to the
center. It is probably close to a mile but a good walk for us. We strode briskly
to the Tourist Info Center, which wasn’t that easy to find. The girl working
there was very good. She offered information and ideas including the best places
for Internet connection as well as National Treasures. We just walked, enjoyed
and yes, even found an Internet place. It was jammed full of students, many of
them from the US. They were all giddy, in anticipation of the upcoming Holiday
break. We wanted to meet Brandon, the young guy who shared our sandwich in
Portugal. He is a student here and we don’t know whether he will be going home
for Christmas or not. We sent a message and were hopeful he would catch it
We have found the best way to have an early dinner here in Espana is to eat in.
We bought food, too much of course, and set the spread on the bed. Our feast was
accompanied by English language television, another treat we haven’t had in
several days. Oh, in a minor quest, I did find a model of Lil’ Scotty. It is
rare here and will be unheard of back home.
Tuesday, December 17 would be a day of sight seeing. First though, we went to
the Internet. One of the disappointments was that the message to Brandon had
been returned, undeliverable. We were working on memory only as we had lost his
e-mail address to thieves in Portugal. We had transposed part of it. Ironically,
he had sent us a message at almost the same time last night asking where we
were. We shot an answer back and suggested that we get together for dinner.
Our first idea was to take the city bus tour but the cost and ideas from our
friend at Tourism led us to walk rather than ride. Most of the interesting
things on the tour are in the center. Our first stop was the nearby Plaza de
Espana. We think most of the space is Government offices. The exterior is a
wonderful collage of architecture with towers at each end. The huge area out
front of the buildings has a fountain centerpiece and the tile paving is that
wavering style that feels as if it is in motion. During our wandering we came
upon a young couple. He was taking a picture of her in front of the reflecting
pond. I volunteered to get a picture of both and that led to conversation. They
are from India and on Honeymoon. It was a treat for us to meet and talk with
Maridra and Naride. We even had them do the “You must be crazy” thing in Hindi.
You Must Be Crazy, Hindi
The University covers several square blocks and was in our pathway so we just
walked through. It is several buildings with courtyards between. All were full
of chattering students, hustling to and from classes. Exiting on the opposite
end, we crossed the street and found a Tapas Bar for lunch. We were seated when
a couple came in, surveyed the lack of tables then asked if they could share our
table. They were a delight. He is a retired publisher she a Medical Scientist in
the Cancer field. They’re from London, they take several weeks each year and
spend most of them in Spain. They love it here.
Though the weather’s cool and damp it is a far cry from the cold we have
experienced in the past couple of weeks. We walked in the Jardines de Murillo, a
park full of trees, plants and statues. We had to have a picture of the
Poinsettias, they like the orange trees that line the streets, reminded us of
Having just visited a Moorish Ruin in Merida we almost passed on the Alcazar and
that would have been a tragic mistake. What a fantastic place. We rented the
recorded tour guide and immersed ourselves in the atmosphere of a blend of
histories dating back more than a thousand years. It was a Moorish Palace for
over 300 years when it was lost to the Christians in 1248. Fernando III, the
conqueror, moved in and died here in 1252. The image on tapestry and the taped
commentary of his last days were poignant. I hope you can view the movie we
took, you can hear for yourself. Later the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and
Isabella set up court in the Alcazar. It is said that the 1492 voyage of
Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) was planned here. She, Queen Isabella,
took the risk on the Italian mariner and it paid off, for sure, for Seville. It
was granted the rights to trade with the Americas which brought great wealth and
made it one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities. We spent hours wandering and
wondering. Even met a family, brother-in-laws and a daughter. They just came to
visit, she is a student here.
Lost a little in time, we went back by the Internet Connection only to find that
Brandon had sent a message right back that he would be available at 5:00 PM. It
was just a few minutes after so we immediately left one telling him our Hotel
phone number and the Pizza place we were going to dine in. We waited until 8:00
then left without a call. The rest of the evening was just walking around and
enjoying the sights and sounds of the shopping streets of Seville.
The next morning we stopped for café con leche at a place we had walked past. We
were drawn in by the weird looking churros in the window. Churros in Mexico are
straight, fried like a donut and covered with powered sugar. These were coiled
like a long snake. Curiosity more than culinary desire made us order them. They
were almost salty and the grease ran down our arms and dripped off our wrists.
Feeling freshly lubed, we went on to the Internet Connection and tried to get
together for lunch with Brandon. The best we could do was to leave him an e-mail
message and tell him we would check by 11:00 AM.
We spent most of the morning in the Seville Cathedral just across the street.
What a spectacular building. Started in 1401 it wasn’t completed until1507. It
is a Gothic Monster. The interior is broken into lots of small Chapels. It
almost takes from the grandeur until you look up at the columns and vaulted
ceiling so far above. And, we must mention that the remains of Christopher
Columbus are entombed here. Well, they are assumed to be his but they made the
rounds of the globe from the Caribbean. They were moved here from Cuba in 1899.
Of course, when you go you must climb the tower and view Seville from the belfry
vantage point. It was spitting small drops of rain but didn’t dampen our
spirits. It’s a sweeping 360-degree panorama of the entire city. While there we
were subjected to the ringing of the “One o’clock and all is well, bell”.
Brandon was taking finals in class until 5:00 PM again, today. Our visit was not
to be. We suggested that we would be back in this direction on our bikes in
May/June. He would later send back the message that he was going home in April.
What a shame, we love to make contact with those we have met along the way.
It was 2:00 Pm and raining by the time we finally got up the elevator and out
the door toward Malaga. We noticed that one of our headlights was out as we
drove into the elevator. We really didn’t want to drive after dark and that
discovery sealed the deal. By 4:30 we decided to stop in the village of
Antequera just 160 Km east/southeast of Seville. Off the main route, it is a
small historic village in a hilly area. We found a modest Hotel, 35€ with
covered, secure parking. It was dusk and the temperature was plunging as we
settled in. The room was stone walls, marble floors and cold. We talked with the
young girl, daughter of the owner, we think. She wheeled one of the Ostersund,
Sweden type radiator heaters in, we cranked it up and went to dinner.
The sign said they opened at 8:00 and that was a good thing for us. When we
walked down the courtyard area the place was dark. We could see a guy in the
kitchen through a window. The door was open but it was dark inside. We knocked
then let ourselves in. After a few minutes, lurking around in the dark, a woman
came in the front door and turned on the lights. We surprised her, she pulled
herself back together then told us to sit anywhere. We had our choice of seating
because we again were the only ones there at 8:15. We chose a table near the
wall heater and the lady brought a pole with a hook on it to turn it on. She
struggled then I finally stood on a chair and got the thing going.
The lady disappeared then reappeared in a few minutes dressed in a black and
white tuxedo looking dress. She would be our server. The food was rich. We met a
couple that came in later. They were from Israel. When we discussed the
difficulty of dining so late they told us about their problems with food. They
were devout Jews and couldn’t find any kosher foods. He seemed especially
cynical about Spain and it’s only real tourist attractions, Churches.
Back home, the room was still pretty cold. It is actually an apartment and the
bedroom was an icebox. We moved the heater in next to the bed and pulled up the
Antequera was a great walking tour. They have a little map that was hard to
follow but it had all of the sites spotted. We walked up the steep narrow
streets to the top and reveled in the views of the town. The old church is now a
museum and another treat. Below it, off to the left, are the ruins of early
Roman citizens. Antequera itself is very picturesque and we hope you will agree
when you view our photos.
Of course it would rain as we drove over the foothills toward Malaga. We were
there in short time and in shorter time we decided that it was too big, too
overcrowded and not our kind of place. We chose to move back toward the west. We
considered the town, Torremolinas but had a tough time trying to get off the
freeway. It didn’t feel good either so we moved on to Marbella. We stopped in
the next little village for lunch. It began to pour down rain as we ate. In fact
the water ran deep at the curb and held people on our side of the street for
several minutes. We had hoped to find sun and warmth but it was to be a rainy
welcome. Even in rain we decided that this was a beautiful place, it reminded us
of Santa Barbara. Oh it was definitely a mid-rise jungle along the beachfront
but it seemed to have preserved the charm of earlier days. After driving back
and forth several times we chose to splurge. We took a room at a beachfront
Hotel. They did give us a small discount but we were definitely beyond budget.
In the morning we took a walk along the Promenade. There were several rental
signs in windows of mid-rise buildings on the beachfront. We loved the place and
knew that we wanted to stay for a week, at least. Maybe it was the sun that came
up early and began to warm the air, or the look of the place. Whatever it was,
we were sold on the place. We took a brisk walk on the promenade interrupted by
stops to write down phone numbers from signs on the mid rise condos. Back at the
Hotel we partook of the of the included breakfast, a concession made by the guy
who checked us in. It was as good as it should be for a 4 Star Hotel.
After breakfast we went seeking help in finding housing for a week or two in
earnest. We drove into the old area of town, the NO PARKING SPACE part of town.
There were cars parked and double parked, everywhere. Cat jumped out and stopped
a couple that was walking. They pointed up the hill and told her that if we were
walking it would be easy to find the Plaza de los Naranjos. The Plaza of the
Oranges in the heart of the old town is where the Tourist office is located. You
can’t drive into the plaza, the streets are pedestrian only. After driving in
circles for half an hour we finally found a parking space and walked in. The guy
in the Tourist Office seemed detached from our questions? Maybe a language thing
and he didn’t want to admit it? He finally got one of our questions, walked to
the door, raised his arm and said, “There.” He was pointing at a sign across the
square for an Internet Café.
Well, that semi-unfriendly guy would be the impetus that would lead to the best
thing that would happen to us in Marbella. Jesus and his wife Sonia just
happened to be working that afternoon. They are partners in the shop. If we had
met their partners we would have used the machines and gone on our way. However,
Jesus and Sonia could both speak English. They had even spent their Honeymoon in
California. When we told them that we would like to find an apartment Jesus
said, “My Partner, Jose has a place,” and he called him. He turned to us and
said, “He will rent for 60€ per day.” We told him that we wanted a place for a
week or two and 60€ was above our budget. He talked with Jose on the phone then
hung up and said, “You wait, Jose will come here.” (Just a note regarding
pronunciation, we’re in Spain now to Jose is “Hoe-say” and Jesus is “Hay-Soos”.)
We took a computer and had just started checking our e-mails when a Cop, excuse
me, a Motorcycle Police Officer, walked in. Knee high leather boots, and helmet
under his arm, it was Jose. He and Jesus are both Police Officers. Jose didn’t
have the language skills of his partner and he sort of gave orders like a Cop.
We met him when he got off work, at the Police Station, and followed him to the
Condo. The toughest part of the decision for us was, Location, Location,
Location. Jose said it was just 5 Km out of town. It seemed further and down a
road that we would hate to cycle. However, the place was very nice and he
offered it to us for 300€ per week. (For you non-math types that’s about 43€ a
day, less that half what we paid for our room last night. We took the deal but
in order to bridge the language gap he called his girl friend, Naomi on his cell
phone. She talked with Cat to make sure we were all on the same page. Jose was
shocked when he asked how soon we would move in. “Today, right now,” we told
Home, Sweet Home in Marbella
December 20, 2002 to January 3, 2003
We had a home and the weather was clearing. The condo had a strange floor plan
and a few flaws that we would discover once we took residency. We have been
witness to the best and worst of design in houses. It never ceases to amaze us
how two people can take two lots, side by side, and develop two totally separate
buildings, one great and one terrible. This place was okay except Jose had opted
not to have heat when he bought it new from the builder. That is one thing that
is never an option in California. We were freezing that first night so Cat
called Naomi. Jose showed up with a heater that we would move from the dining
area to the bedroom and back, as needed. Another anomaly was the lack of an
oven. The range top was electric and very high tech but, no oven? There was a
microwave and a dishwasher but no oven? We even had a washing machine but then
again a missing link. There was no dryer which meant that we spent several of
our days working around clothing hanging in the living room or on the patio.
The bikes had their own room, the second bedroom. The floor plan put the kitchen
in the first door on the left as you enter. The bike’s bedroom was on the right.
There were two bathrooms, across the hall from each other? Then came the master
bedroom on the left and the combination dining/living room to the right. The
patio, through a large sliding glass door, was almost like another room and we
took advantage of it every sunny day. The difficulty of course was that the
kitchen was completely separated from the dining area. With two baths in the
hallway we soon settled on which belonged to Cat and I got the other.
Our new best friend, Jesus, told us of a bike shop that he used and liked.
Between the time we met Jose and followed him to our new home we dropped the
bikes for service. The mechanic, Hugo, is from Chile and spoke no English but he
did know las biciclettas. A guy there sort of helped translate but Hugo really
didn’t need language, he spoke bicycle. I made a mistake when we first pushed
them in. I leaned mine against a small fence. When we began talking and pointing
Hugo grabbed it and pulled it away as an elevator came extremely close to
crushing my handlebars and front fork. They have a parts room upstairs, they
sell bicycles and motorcycles.
The next morning we excitedly started our first load of laundry. That was when
we learned that it takes 2 hours to finish a load. We waited then hurried to the
Internet Café to check messages and to the bike shop because it would close at
noon. The bikes were ready and they looked like brand new. We checked them and
took short test rides. They were running like new, too.
We were so anxious to take a ride that we threw them on Lil’ Scotty and headed
back to the Condo. With bike cloths on we decided that we would take a picture
to put up on the site for our Christmas card, first. It was a tougher job than
we had thought. At first we took some shots just outside the Condo gate. We had
Santa hats, Cat’s had braids on it. There was a family from Germany who could
see us from their deck. They really had a good time watching, laughing and
getting into the holiday spirit. They had rented their place for a week and were
very friendly from a distance. We never saw them again after that moment.
Wanting a Christmas picture with the ocean in the background we cruised around
looking for the perfect spot. We shot lots of seemingly perfect pictures then
ended up choosing one of the first we took near the Condo.
On our second morning there we decided to take the bikes into town. We set off
riding but were soon pushing and struggling on the side of the busy road. It is
free of cross traffic and there is a 3-foot high divider in the center. We had
to drive more than a Km east before turning back toward Marbella. Rather than
attempt a crossing we decided to push along the shoulder facing traffic until we
could find an overpass.
The roadside narrowed so we lifted the bikes over the
guardrail. Soon we were pushing through bushes and trash. It took a long time to
get to a street and it didn’t have an overpass. We chose to try to ride down
toward the beach hoping to find a street or even a path leading to town. In a
short time we were on the beach. At first there was a walkway but it dwindled
down to the sand. We tried riding, it was impossible. Pushing, we finally found
another a path that led back toward the road to town. Finally we crossed over
the big road and decided to try going further up the hill to find a route to
town. Another dead end but one heck of a climb to find it.
We had to back track and finally give in and rode the narrow shoulder in fast,
heavy traffic. Pretty scary! Jesus had told us about a local favorite ride that
had a big climb in it. By the time we got to Marbella we had done enough
climbing and we had spent two hours on the bike seats. We did cycle the
promenade all the way to the end, about 5 Km. 10 Km round trip.) It is a
wonderful ride but hampered due to the number of strollers encountered along the
way. A lunch stop, at a waterfront place without a toilet. The nice lady told us
we would find one in the nearby park. I went, only to find it locked. The walk
set the urge aside long enough to finish my sandwich.
Ride in a Restaurant
The route home was a tough one. We tried to ride the side roads and outside the
guardrail but finally had to give in and make a dash for it on the highway.
Traffic, at rush hour, really motivates you to ride like the wind. We may have
set our personal best, land speed record on that leg of the journey.
All right, lets talk about cycling in Marbella. All cycling in Marbella began
with us loading the bikes on Lil’ Scotty. Yes, we would never again challenge
the freeway. On Christmas Eve we loaded and decided that we would find the hill
that Jesus had told us was his favorite. We parked and unloaded at the Marina
and stopped to say hello to our newfound cycling friend, Luis, who works as a
waiter at the restaurant adjacent to the parking lot. He is from Argentina and
ride to and from work every day on his mountain bike. He has in the past,
completed a tour of Argentina on his bike and dreams of starting in the USA and
riding back down to Argentina. From that pleasant experience we started by going
back down the Promenade then up Marbella City streets trying to get to the
climb. Traffic was horrendous and we blamed that on the Holiday. When we finally
got to the real beginning of the mountain the narrow road and the wide stream of
traffic intimidated us. We turned back and rode the Promenade out to the end,
again. The good news was that we met a couple from New York and one from Iceland
while we had a Christmas Eve sandwich.
Pushing the bikes up toward our favorite Internet Café we met a couple from
Holland. Paul and Roos are avid cyclists. They were inspired by us and went
looking for rental bikes. We only saw them one other time, from a distance, on
Bikes. They found them!
Over the MOUNTAIN from MARBELLA
WorldRiders2, back on the bikes
On the 29th we drove up the hill, past the point where we had turned back and
parked at the tiny town of Ojen. Ojen (pronounced O-Hen) clings to the side of a
very steep mountain. We thought that we might have climbed most of the climb so
we unleashed the bikes from Lil’ Scotty and started toward the summit. Whew, we
soon knew that we were still in for one heck of a climb. The road slithers back
and forth up the canyon like a Diamond Back on sand. It would prove out the fact
that we were not in condition! Our goal was to ride to Coin but we fell short.
The road out of Ojen is steep for about 5 Km then crests out and it is down
toward Coin. There is a village, Monda, on the way down then the road takes a
turn for the up. It was cool and getting on toward dusk so we turned back after
a little picnic on the roadside. The pull back up warmed us and the glide down
to Ojen was exhilarating.
With renewed confidence, having seen the road, we rode from town up to Ojen on
the 31st. Funny how things seem almost impossible then you just do it and the
second time it is so simple? Isn’t that just like so many things in life? It was
a 40-minute climb and a 15-minute descent. We felt full of renewed confidence
and strength on this, only our second climb. The legs still have it but they
need more of it. We did ride the Promenade several more times and build up seat
time. That is almost as important as building the leg muscles.
A late night with Luis and WorldRiders2 Holidays
On Christmas Eve we drove into town and parked at the marina. Luis, the young
guy who cycles to work at the restaurant near the Marina invited us to come to
his place for dinner. Hesitant at first we cycled and talked about it then
stopped and accepted his invitation. He was really excited but when we asked
what time we should come he said, “How about 10:00 tonight?”
We had to laugh, he was almost offended until we explained that we’re usually
sleeping by 10:00 PM, and then he laughed. We compromised, had dinner at the
condo then joined him for after dinner hors d’oeuvres at 8:00. He had several
friends there, all guys, and none of them spoke English. It was a little
intimidating for them and us, we all shook hands, Luis interpreted a little then
they drifted off into the kitchen. He told us that they would eat later then go
out and party the night away.
Though Luis has a pretty good English language vocabulary it soon became a
limited conversation. He is a very spiritual guy, and quite true to his Catholic
upbringing yet he also seems to be searching. He is a fan of Depok Chopra and
was surprised to hear that we knew of Depok and had ordered some of his tapes.
He talks of his mother but never mentioned a father. He seems close to his
mother but hasn’t seen her in almost a year. His goal is to work and save enough
money to take a 6-month bike trip. He had pictures of his previous cycle tour of
Argentina. We enjoyed them and his stories and time escaped us. It was 11:00
when we finally said our goodbyes to him and his friends who had spent the
evening in the kitchen. (2 or the guys were Luis’ roommates. Sharing the flat
and rent. It was a nice place and nicely furnished, too.)
Christmas Day we had intended to ride again but Cat felt terrible when she woke
up. Her nausea and need to stay close to the toilet defined our holiday. We just
watched music videos and were fortunate to find a couple of English language
films with Spanish subtitles. We read the Lonely Planet books on Spain and
France, getting acquainted with the places we would visit. Poor Cat, feeling bad
and going stir crazy. I can just relax, read or watch TV but she needs to be on
Wally got our Christmas message out on the web site the day after Christmas. We
knew the minute that we opened our e-mail that it had been delivered because we
had more than 100 messages. What a great gift for us, to sift through and answer
the friends, old and those new that we have met along the way.
A WORLDRIDERS HOLIDAY WISH
PAT, CAT AND LIL' SCOTTY
Where ever you are in the WORLD
What ever the HOLIDAY you celebrate
We hope it is filled with
Family, Feasting and Festivities
We are in sunny (sometimes) Marbella,
We hope that Lil' Scotty will get us back to Finland.
Thanks you for all of your encouragement and support.
We're anxious to get back on the bikes ASAP (Let it thaw, Let it thaw, let
Pat & Cat
New Years Eve would be the day we rode up to Ojen. As is our custom, we were in
bed by 10:00 that night but felt almost at home when we heard the commotion and
fireworks at midnight. (Randy and some of our other neighbors back home always
party then shoot off fireworks.) One interesting thing about this year was that
when we got up on New Years Day and turned on the TV they were celebrating,
shooting off their fireworks and hoopla at 9:00 AM Marbella time. This was the
first time we could remember being awake at the stroke of twelve, Pacific
One Year Ago!
It would turn out to be another lazy day. We threatened to take a walk on the
beach but never got around to it. So the first day of 2003 would be just another
reading and TV day. I again enjoyed the rest but Cat felt cooped up. We made a
run to the only market in town that was open about 4:00 for goodies and that was
the extent of our celebration. Happy New Year!
The other special Holiday for us is December 27, our 5th wedding anniversary. As
a treat and a gift to ourselves we called Cat’s parents, the kids and grandkids
and our adopted Mom, Celeste. It was great to hear their voices. Unfortunately
Cat’s Mom was already out getting her hair done. We did have a good talk with
Earl, her Dad. I’m sure that we liked talking with the Grandkids more than they
enjoyed being on the phone with us. Well, I take that back, the boys, Timothy
and Patrick were pretty quiet but Aubrie who is now 6 years old, was very
talkative. She even got back on the phone twice to tell us little things she had
forgotten earlier. All in all a really great connection with home and it didn’t
cost as much as we had feared it would.
A WorldRiders2 Health Report
Cat is and always has been a product of her Mother and Adopted Mother. They are
both “Itchy Pickles” as Celeste always says. She was ready to get out of
Marbella by Friday, the end of our first week. We are really getting to be
Gypsies. We both feel a need to move onward, even when there isn’t really a
place to move to. On Thursday morning, when we were ready to call Jose and tell
him we would leave the next day I broke a tooth. Well, I didn’t experience a
moment when the tooth fell apart as I took a bite but woke up and felt a real
change in my mouth. We called Jesus and Sonia to see who they use as their
Dentist because they have such great looking teeth. Unfortunately, they go to
Malaga and their Dentist is not easy to book. They called friends and taking
their word, including Jose and Naomi, they recommended Clinic Ortega. I called
but the earliest appointment, even with my emergency, was Monday.
So, we were locked in to being here until Monday and I used my best persuasive
effort to convince Cat to stay another week. Getting to the Dentist was not a
problem, getting a parking place was a major issue. We toured the streets until
minutes before my appointment then I jumped out and dashed in as Cat continued
to cruise and search. What a surprise, the place is an entire clinic, medical
and dental. The Dentist is in the basement. Checked in, I was in the chair and
talking with a Dentist and Technician who couldn’t understand a word I was
saying. However, they did know how to diagnose and fix a broken tooth. We were
sure that they would prepare the tooth today then complete the job during
another visit. That would be the way in the good ol’ USA. They cleaned up the
tooth then began putting layers of material on and drying them with a sort of
heat lamp. I asked if this was temporary, well somehow I got that across and the
lady Tech shook her head and said, “Permanente!”
I was out of the chair, paid the bill, only 60 €, and upstairs where Cat was
waiting all in less than an hour. She was as surprised as she had just finally
found a parking space.
The other health issue would be Cat. Because she has suffered a heart attack
just two years ago, we get nervous when it acts up. It all started on Christmas
Day. First she started a bout with diarrhea then she felt weak and her heart
began to pound. She was nauseous and weak, too. Most of the day was either on
the couch or in bed for her.
At 4:00 AM the next morning I woke up to find her shaking uncontrollably. It was
as though she was cold but she was actually clammy, sweaty feeling. Her heart
was now pounding in an irregular beat. We didn’t mess with it, we bundled up,
loaded up and drove to the Hospital. The place was sort of like County Hospital
back home. Poorly furnished and staffed. We couldn’t communicate with anyone.
Cat wanted water, the girl motioned toward the door? We didn’t get it, finally
she walked over to the window and pointed to a vending machine, outside. I put a
Euro in and got nothing. I complained to her and that got even less. Finally we
got in to see a Doctor and she got Cat a cup of water. They made me leave the
room while they did an EKG and took blood. The Doctor seemed to know what she
was doing. They sent Cat back out into the hall and we sort of camped out for
almost 2 hours. When we would question they motioned for us to be patient. They
gave Cat a sedative, a pill to put under her tongue and let dissolve. She
drifted off to sleep on the awful chair in the hallway. Finally the Doctor had
us come in and she reviewed the tests. All were normal and of course Cat was
feeling fine by then. We’ve both had our share of these kinds of events. They
are scary when they seem to have taken over your body.
Language kept us from discussing the issues further. We were just happy that
there were no signs of heart problems. Our own diagnosis was that she had become
dehydrated from the diarrhea. That led to the clammy feeling. The heart rate
thing may be related to the change of life that she may soon be facing. At any
rate, we were glad that she was okay so we went home and back to bed. When we
woke up she felt almost normal.
Lil’ Scotty Health
The other member of the family, Lil’ Scotty had a health check-up. Well, we had
the oil and filters changed and had the Renault Dealer check the brakes and
adjust the headlights. We were now all felling healthy and ready to roll on up
The final health issue for WorldRiders2 was an end to the sick feeling we’ve had
since our computers were stolen. We are used to Sony and we liked what we had.
They sell Sony cameras, televisions, in fact almost everything electrical but
they don’t sell Sony computers here in Spain. We learned after several e-mails
back and forth with Sony that they can’t even ship a computer here from the US?
Trade restrictions? We don’t know what creates the problem but it is a problem,
for us. Then, there is the other problem, if they did sell them or, if we chose
to buy a different brand, we would have to adjust to the European, Spanish,
keyboard which is quit different from the keyboard we’re used to.
It was Cat who spotted a commercial on the TV that would lead to our purchase
and a trip to Gibraltar. Yes, just 100 Km from Marbella is a very British place
where they do sell Sony. Our plans didn’t include Gibraltar now because that is
where we will jump off into Africa later this year. Plans changed and we made
the hilly drive. It turned out to be well worth it. Strange, it sort of felt
like going from San Diego into Mexico to us. Everyone recommended parking in
Spain and walking over then taking a bus into town. When we drove up there were
a lot of people doing just that so we followed suit. The street parking is
metered but there was a crowd gathered around a guy who had a small badge and
look of authority. He was telling everyone that the machine for parking tickets
was broken and he was the official parking person. He looked about as official
as a Tijuana taxi driver but we all gave him money. He made a note of our
license plate numbers on a very unofficial looking piece of cardboard but
offered no receipt.
We had a very British lunch of Pizza and salad, watched as the unofficial
changing of the guard took place for the tourists then got down to business.
It’s easier to ask questions of people who speak English but their answers don’t
always make sense. After walking up and down the street and up and down
stairways we finally happened upon THE ONLY STORE that sells Sony products here.
Our salesperson had a very British accent, for a guy from India. He did know the
product and was quick to display the computer most like the ones we had lost.
Red Coats at The Rock
Friends in HIGH PLACES
On our last day in Marbella we loaded the bikes on Lil’ Scotty and took them to
town. First stop was the Internet Café. Sonia was there and helped us. She
called Jesus to tell him that we were leaving. He got me on the phone and asked
us to stop by the Police Station. I told him that we had several e-mails to read
and send so he said that he would meet us here. When he came in he was all
smiles, he had wanted to do a little ceremony for us at the Police Station but
rather than miss us he came to present me with a Police Officers Patch from the
City of Marbella. What a great surprise, we took pictures, he even put the
handcuffs on me and we sat on his Motorcycle. These guys are the great ones that
we would meet here! The two kids were there so we hugged and promised to see
each other again when we cycle back through Spain in the spring. It was an
emotional goodbye with the traditional kisses on the cheeks and handshakes then
We cycled the Promenade for a couple of hours then went back call Stephanie in
California. I wanted to talk to the kids when they were at home and not up to
their elbows in Christmas. Oops, we didn’t have the phone book with us so we
couldn’t make the call. We bid Sonia one last goodbye a cycled back to where we
had parked Lil’ Scotty. There was a lot of Police activity all around her. As we
cycled up the tow truck was hooking up the car next to Scotty and preparing to
haul it away. We didn’t understand what was happening when we heard a familiar
voice. It was Jesus, he was running toward us and had the look of a nervous
father whose teenaged kids were late coming home. “Where have you been,” he
barked with authority?
Although he had never seen Lil’ Scotty he recognized her from the photo he
helped us e-mail to Wally for our Holiday Greeting. He saw our cards on the
dashboard and knew that we were going to be towed away and there would be
nothing he could do to help us. Yes, we would have been the next car towed away
from the bus stop where we and the others were illegally parked. This really
capped off our relationship. He saved us 130€ fine and a day of aggravation by
letting us load the bikes and drive away. It pays to have friends in high
From Costa Del Sol to Costa Dorada
Marbella to Barcelona January 3 to 16, 2003
Hard to believe that we had spent 14 days in Marbella. That is the longest time
we’ve spent in one place since we set off on the Odyssey, last April. Our
initial quest was to Malaga to retrieve drugs that our pal Charlie had sent. It
was supposed to have been delivered to the condo in Marbella. When Cat finally
connected with FedEx they had record of Chrono Express, their Spanish affiliate,
had tried to deliver but failed. They had the package in Malaga. It was noon by
the time we finally rolled west along the Mediterranean coast and what a
beautiful coast it is.
Once in Malaga we reconfirmed our feelings about the place and were again, glad
that we had discovered Marbella. The ever-helpful Tourist Bureau wasn’t very,
but they tried. Phone calls went unanswered, they felt that it was due to that
long lunch hour that the Spanish love so much. They gave Cat an address so we
went looking. Hunger overtook us during the quest and we stopped at a local
place in an industrial area. The food was very good and the people there treated
us like we were extraterrestrial. Well, they were strange to us, too. One guy
even pulled up in a horse pulled cart.
We found the place and found it to be deserted? Cat walked around and knocked,
pounded, on the doors and windows but to no avail. We had planned on making it
to Granada but the side trip and time driving in circles, trying to get into and
out of Malaga changed that plan. Salobreno is a tiny town hanging on the coast
at the junction of N323, the road that goes inland toward Granada. Convinced
that there would be better Hotel accommodations in Motril, the next town to the
west, we drove into and around and around the place. If there was a Hotel there
it escaped us. We backtracked and took a room on the top of a cliff overlooking
the sea and a setting sun.
There was no secured parking so we spent time searching for the perfect spot.
Once inside I noticed that they did have surveillance cameras and moved Scotty
under one. Dinner was a buffet, not that great but we did meet Willy, a guy from
Germany and that was great. He is here on his one-month vacation, fishing,
drinking and hanging around. A very nice guy, Willy told us that his wife is
recuperating from surgery and She urged him to take his time away while she
healed. He told us that he gets 2 months vacation each year. After dinner we
strolled around the pool then went out front to check on Scotty. She was sort of
hidden in the darkness on their security TV so we went out and pulled her right
up under the lights, in front of a big black Mercedes Benz. She really made the
Mercedes look good!
Today, January 4th was my Mother and Father’s Birthdays. Yes, they were born on
the same day, two years apart. Pappy would have been 87 and mammy 85 today. They
have been gone for sometime but you just never forget big days like this.
Oh, an interesting piece of trivia, there is a sugar cane farm near the beach,
they say it is the furthest north that cane is grown. Maybe because of the
moderate temps the Med. Provides? Breakfast was another bad buffet then we were
on our way. It is a climb, away from the coast and up toward our second Sierra
Nevada Mountains. The road follows a river at first, under imposing cliffs. Once
it started up in earnest Lil’ Scotty had to work hard and I had to shift down, a
We pulled in to Granada at noon but spent an hour driving round in circles,
trapped in one-way streets with hard to read signs. Since we were only
interested in seeing The Alhambra we decided to drive up and find a place,
there. The chance of getting a room just across from the gate and parking would
be impossible in the summer but we just drove up and got a great room. Our view
of the pool wasn’t that impressive. It was full of leaves and junk but the snow
covered mountains were majestic. We planned to stay two nights so we unloaded
the bikes. That worked out well because their parking is across the street in
the Alhambra lot.
Another feature of the place is that the bus into town stops just down the
street. We got settled in then ventured into the heart of Granada. The air is
crisp, fresh and cold. We found a terrific Internet place, lots of machines and
cheap rates. You buy time and enter a password. It is only 1€ per hour. Back up
the hill on the return trip of bus 10 then we just lounged in the room and
watched the hills turn orange as the sun set off to the right. Too darn cold to
walk so we just went down and had another Buffet but this one was great and only
The next morning our plan was to skip The Alhambra because it was Sunday and
even though it was off-season yet the parking lot was pretty full yesterday when
we pulled in. As we started out, the crowd didn’t look imposing so we chose to
go in. Although it was cold it was clear and still. Alhambra is derived from an
Arabic word that means Red. The exterior walls are sort of red-ish? We spent 7€
each to get in and another 3€ for the audio guide. The girl was sort of
disappointed that we only took one but we had learned that we could both hear
and neither of us likes to stand for long with the thing in our ear. We also
spent 2 ½ hours walking around, up, down and through the marvels of the place.
Although it’s wonderful and a must to see, when you visit Granada, it only dates
from the 9th Century. It was, of course, Moorish in the beginning then slowly
drifted down to barracks for the military during the Napoleonic occupation and
was almost used for target practice. Rescued from decay it is most famous for
“Tales of the Alhambra” written by Washington Irving in the 1820s. We weren’t
disappointed but after you’ve seen Alcazar in Seville, it’s a tough act to
We walked down the hill and to the Internet place in the afternoon. I had all
the photo disks that we’ve accumulated, transferred to large CDs so that we can
work with them. It began to drizzle we walked through the small streets of the
old area and out along the creek that runs into town. When the rain began to
pour down in earnest we took the bus back, hibernated in the room and worked the
pictures and journal. We felt lazy so it was the Hotel Buffet again and sleep.
When we got back to our room from dinner it sounded like all HELL was breaking
loose somewhere in town. Flashes in the sky were followed by claps of thunder
rolling off the hills. Perplexed, we turned on the TV and became witness to the
final day of Christmas Celebration. The parade is like Carnival in Rio and of
course the fireworks put the finishing touch to the holiday. We thought about
taking a bus down the hill and rubbing shoulders with the locals but decided to
just watch in comfort.
Granada Holiday Parade
More Holiday Parade
When we woke up it was pouring down and cold outside. We were really glad that
we had made the trip to The Alhambra yesterday. In fact we though it over and
decided to move on, we had seen all that looked interesting. We did walk back
down to Plaza Nuevo at the bottom of the hill, check in at the e-mail place then
ride the bus back up. The bus driver had to race with a bike on the way.
Bus Beats the Bike
Cat headed up to get us packed and I liberated Lil’ Scotty from the Alhambra
Parking Lot. She was a little cranky after sitting idle for a day. I drove her
down to the Parking stand then had to wait while the guy finished his coffee.
Scotty and I were both out in the cold rain watching him. When he finally opened
the window he didn’t want to accept the discount ticket that the Hotel gave us.
Then when he did give the 2.50€ per day deal he tried to charge for three days.
It may have just been a misunderstanding, he may have been getting even for the
way I stood and watched him drink his coffee or he may have just been having a
bad day? At any rate Lil’ Scotty got the chance to warm up thoroughly.
We got the bikes and bags down to the lobby then loaded under the awning, almost
out of the rain. We were off for the coast, we were off to look for warmer
weather. The tail of the Sierra Nevada stood between us and Alicante. Lil’
Scotty earned her keep today. There was a lot of UP involved and the weather,
God that weather. Scotty made the hills, we were grinding them out in third gear
with an occasional drop to second but it was the wind that really held her back.
We had rain, hail, snow and sleet but it was the wind that felt like it would
rip her doors off! In the end she delivered the mail, so to speak.
It is only 200 Km to Lorca but we felt we had pushed Scotty as far as we should
for one tough day. Lorca is about 40 Km off the coast and it looks like desert.
We awoke on January 7 to a gorgeous, sunny day. We couldn’t believe the change.
It was like walking down a street in Palm Desert, California as we sought out
coffee. In fact it was like driving to Palm Springs, among the rocky desert
mountains and cliffs. Almost a vacation for Lil’ Scotty, we would only be on the
road 120 Km today.
In to Alicante early, we then suffered the fate of the unknown. Circling and
struggling to read the signs we finally made our way to the Tourist Office.
Traffic was horrendous, and I had to wait in a “No Parking” parking space while
Cat got info. The Office recommended a Hotel on the Port with rates from 60€.
When we finally figured out how to find the place they informed us that the T.O.
was mistaken, their rates started at 84€ and Parking was public. Great place but
not for us, we moved on. Almost by accident, we found The Maya Hotel. It looked
like something out of Mexico. It has a hard looking maroonish colored brick
exterior with a Mayan, sort of, design. It was the Parking sign that drew us in
and the rate made us stay. We assume that it was because they are re-doing the
place or off-season or both but it was a bargain. We may have been the only
guests they had. They gave us a room at the top, corner with a fabulous view of
Castillo Santa Barbara.
It was 2:00 by the time we got settled in so we just went downstairs and had
lunch. Walking back into town was tough at first as we were on the tiny sidewalk
of a really busy street. Once on the main, it was like old home week. Our
driving around in circles now had value. Our quest was to find an AOL disk to
install on the new computer. That was to no avail but it did lead us to a
combination video game/Internet connection place. It was loud, the combination
of the crashing and din of the games and the screams of dismay and joy from the
players. The guys there were great, they helped us print some pages that Charlie
had sent to Cat for income tax accounting. They tried to print the picture that
Dave and Lori had sent us of the family, for Christmas but that effort failed.
It proved to be impossible for them to get the AOL downloaded onto a disk, too.
Our favorite store, El Corte Ingles, is a department store with a food market in
the basement. We have shopped there in other cities and they have a great
selection of foods and wine. The food looked so good we decided to buy and
picnic in the room. So it was dinner on the bed, guidebooks and maps of Spain
and lights out, early. We did enjoy the sunset and the lights on the Castle.
It was clear but windy and cool but that wouldn’t stop us. We bundled up and
walked up, up, up to Castillo Santa Barbara. The view was spectacular and it was
inspiring being swathed in history as we scanned the Alicante skyline and
sparkling Mediterranean. Very good exercise, too. After a quick breakfast we
were off to Valencia.
Three Days in Valencia January 9, 10 and 11
Another easy day for Scotty, except for a few hills. The road follows the coast
out to a point or cape then turns almost due north. We were in some of the most
spectacular scenery we’ve seen. The mountains again were like those around Palm
Springs but much larger and more severe. It’s only 120 Km to Valencia so we
arrived early. Lost, again, we found the Tourist Office then began the process
of circling and searching. We pulled up to a space near a restaurant and parked.
It wasn’t a legal space but we were just going into a place right there so we
chose to take the chance. As we stepped out a guy walking by said something to
us. We didn’t understand but thought he was telling us not to park there. When I
tried my lame Spanish on him he shook his head, walked around the car and
pointed to the rear tire. It was flat.
Hungry and in a hurry to get food before the place would close, we decided to
eat then deal with the tire. A girl seated next to us and eating, helped us
order. She didn’t have great English but it got us by. We were surprised when
the guy got our sandwiches ready she delivered them. She was the waitress. Once
we finished both she and the guy tried to be helpful as I struggled with the
tire. When we bought it I checked to make sure that it had a spare and tools.
There was a scissor jack and jack handle lug wrench so I assumed? You know what
they say about ASS/U/ME! Of course, the lug nuts were smaller than the wrench.
The guy and gal were clearing the tables and chairs from their patio seating and
keeping an eye on us. He got his lug wrench for me but it was too large, too.
Using my best pigeon Spanish I asked about an Auto Parts Store. Yes, fairly
nearby but closed until 4:00 PM. Then in a flash of brilliance that shone on his
face he said, “El Corte Ingles!”
Terrific, they even pointed it out on the map. It was almost a mile walk. I took
our little adjustable end wrench set at the size of the nuts and walked.
Language was a handicap but after a charade kind of struggle I got the point
across. They had a star wrench, the kind with 4 different sized lug wrenches. I
checked and the smallest one matched the end wrench. Once back I realized that
we had another problem. When the bikes are on the car we can’t open the trunk.
It wouldn’t have been a problem because the spare hangs under the car but the
bolt that holds the rack it is on is in the trunk. God, I hated to think about
unloading so I held the trunk lid open slightly and got a wrench on the bolt,
ingenious, and very lucky. I do love to solve problems, especially when it works
out like it did today. Lil’ Scotty was back together and road ready by 4:00. The
walk paid off, both in exercise and time.
Just luck led us to a very nice little Hotel in a great location. The only
problem with Hotel Excelsior was parking. It was public but secure and we were
unloading the bikes and bags since we would be here 3 days. The problem was 15€
a day, that was 25% of what the room cost. As I waited when Cat was checking us
in I watched a guy in the parking area. He was like so many and we have always
thought of them as homeless who watch cars and take handouts like the ones who
wash windshields back home. Well this guy seemed in control and knew the people
who were coming and going. He came to the car and said, “If you park here the
Police will give you a ticket.” That sort of caught me off guard, not the ticket
thing but the fact that he spoke very good English. His name is Raphael and it
was soon obvious that he was the BOSS of the parking area.
For dinner we found a place that opened at 8:30 PM and as usual we were the only
customers. A family came in and they were seated near us. When we heard English
being spoken I turned and said, “We knew you had to be tourists, you eat too
early.” They laughed and we talked. They told us they were from Australia but
their accents didn’t quite sound Aussie. Well they have been living there but
came from Israel and have live all over the world including the US and
California. The Mom told us that we should check in with the B’Hai’s they really
take care of their members and there are groups everywhere in the world. We
think that they work for the church. They weren’t pushy about it but talked
about the places where they’ve traveled and worked. I checked the Web Site and
it isn’t Jewish, as I thought and the name seems to imply. It is like a new
religion, less than 100 years old and it seems to base the beliefs on the usual
Churches with a sort of Middle Eastern twist. At any rate we enjoyed chatting
with them in our native language.
Although we had hoped to ride the bikes the busy streets and crazy traffic kept
us from it. We did discover Jardin Del Turia, the old riverbed. It was has been
converted to an exercise park with jogging and cycling paths as well as soccer
fields. We spent our mornings there, fast walking for as much as 2 hours up and
back the 10 Km length. The weather remained cold and rainy at times but we did
have some sun, too. A couple from England told me that the locals told them that
they only have one cold week each year and this is the week. We were lucky to
have gotten out of Granada when we did. The rain, sleet and wind that had
buffeted Scotty was the leading edge of a real storm. We watched as the TV
reports showed pictures of the streets of Granada and The Alhambra under more
and more snow. Just two days later, we would have been stuck. We wouldn’t have
tested Lil’ Scotty’s tiny wheels and tires on ice and snow.
We did a little sight seeing daily but spent our last day in town visiting the
narrow streets of the old city, the monuments, statues and buildings that are
Valencia. In the midst we checked with CitiBank, they have purchased our bank,
CalFed. The girl there tried hard to help us with a signature card problem.
After several attempts to find e-mail addresses of the people at our bank she
learned that they wouldn’t be completely combined until March. We tried to use
the ATM there but it wouldn’t spit out the cash we needed. We had been having a
problem the past two days and were getting worried. Leaving, we decided we would
have to call our bank to make sure the cards were still valid. Just across the
street was another bank, we tried their ATM and hit pay dirt. Oh what a relief
Walking the streets we found the Market Place. Cat always loves to walk through
and look. The Cathedral is famous as the home of “The Holy Grail”, a goblet that
Jesus purportedly drank from. There is also an interesting tour of the Crypt,
Roman ruins that have been excavated and a building built over them. The
streets, monuments and Cathedral were all well worth the walk.
Other major events that filled our time in Valencia, we did our laundry. Not
earth shaking but when everything you won has been worn for almost 2 weeks it is
a BIG deal! Scotty would get new shoes, well we found a place that installed two
new tires on the front wheels and took the other two best and put them on the
rear. The tires look good, the guarantee will last a lot longer than our time
with Scotty and at 58 € it was a bargain.
The other interesting story of our stay in Valencia would be Raphael, the
parking guy. He really is an entrepreneur, of the truest sense. He doesn’t just
watch cars, he manages parking spaces. That is, he knows the people who work and
live in the neighborhood so he holds spaces for them when he knows they are
coming or going. It was pretty amazing to watch him. Locals would pull up and he
would have them wait for a few minutes until a car would leave and he knew, when
they would leave! He really managed the parking lot. He convinced us that we
could save a lot of money by parking in his area. It is metered and you must get
a new ticket every two hours. He performs that service, too. We moved from the
15€ parking to Raphael’s discount deal parking. Everything went well until
Saturday morning. He moves tickets that aren’t expired from car to car, too but
he didn’t get to the lot early enough to beat the Police on Saturday. We got a
ticket?? He was really upset, he took the ticket from the windshield and
disappeared. The guy at the Hotel knew about our ticket. I was upset because it
would cost 90€. He told us that Raphael was going to fix it with the Police?
Parking is free on Sunday and Raphael takes the day off. He was there early
Monday morning and told us that he had talked with the Police and fixed the
ticket? It was gone from the windshield so we decided to forget it? Could he
really fix a ticket? Or did he just tear it up and throw it away? Only time will
tell! One way or the other, I really admired the guy’s business know how and his
January 12, Our 9 Month “On the Road”
Onward toward France
Yes, nine months ago we were just riding away from Oxnard and today we’re just a
few days from France. We’re ready for a change and for some French Wine! We had
reason to be homesick, the drive was along the coast midst alluvial plains
covered with orange groves. We stopped at a truck stop for lunch. First one we
have visited in a long time. It had a lot of similarity with those in Nevada and
Wyoming back in the USA. Cat really clobbered her head when she bent though Lil’
Scotties door. The blood flowed and a bump swelled up almost immediately.
Speaking of Lil’ Scotty, we cruise at 90 Km per hour. We could sustain 100 but
feel safer at 90. Everything on the road passes us. The legal limit on some of
the freeways is 120 Km per hour. When some of the cars go by they almost draft
us into them. They must be going 140 or more. However, it’s the trucks that
present the challenge. They all run at 100 or more. They all pass us but they
have to catch us then follow, right on our bumper, until the fast lane is clear
for them. Then in a mighty burst they come past and really tug at Lil’ Scotty as
though they want her under their wheels. When we are pulling an uphill Scotty
climbs faster than the trucks. Oh, we get down to 50 Km an hour on some of them
but we still out pull trucks that are loaded. That means that they pass us on
the flat or down and we pass them going up. Kind of a game, a scary game
sometimes, but a game. They get to know us, flash their lights or waggle their
blinkers. Some even give us the THUMBS UP.
Thinkin' about Ventura
The otherwise uneventful drive had us in Tarragona by 3:30 PM. Using the Lonely
Planet we found a Hotel and were in camp shortly. This is a working town, like
Porto, Portugal. Our view, over some pretty plain and rundown buildings, was of
the harbor and several large freighters. Just nest door was an Internet Café and
next to that a Sushi Restaurant, we were in heaven. This was the first Sushi we
have eaten since Cat’s birthday in Trondheim, Norway. We felt like we were in
Long Beach, CA except for the almost freezing temperatures.
Our Days in Barcelona
It’s only a couple hour drive, even in Lil’ Scotty, from Tarragona to Barcelona.
Though we got there before lunch we did the circling thing then gave up and
parked illegally and ate lunch. We were so concerned about avoiding a ticket
that we sat near the open door and froze while we ate. Cat spotted the Tourist
Office at the huge Plaza Catalunya. I double-parked and she dashed through
traffic and out of sight for more than a half hour. When she returned, she was a
little shaken, she had strayed in the wrong direction in the subterranean
shopping area. We were glad to see each other.
We were especially paranoid about leaving Lil’ Scotty out in the streets of
Barcelona. It has a big, bad reputation for theft and we didn’t want to go
through the parking problem we had in Valencia. Hotel Rhonda had parking and a
good rate. The street was so narrow that we had to jump up onto the curb to pass
a parked car. The ramp down was narrow and steep, too. We loved the location, we
walked everywhere, we even cycled on one bright sunny day.
We also walked, miles and miles, through the streets, squares and historic
sights. We ate our favorite meal in the room. We wanted rotisserie chicken. When
we finally got the point across to the lady at the desk she said, “Oh yes,
Queenie’s is best!” She sent me off winding down the tiny alleyways and streets
with map in hand. I was ready to give up when the smell sort of led me in.
Queenie’s does chicken and potatoes and they do them well. Surprisingly, the
owner and all the employees were Philippino. One guy who spoke some English
filled me in on the fact that this is a big Philippino neighborhood. Needless to
say the chicken was fantastic and the potatoes, wow.
Another great find was CLICK-ON, the Internet connection just down the street
from Rhonda. Spanish Internet has been reasonably priced ranging from 1 to 2€
per hour. When we first walked into CLICK-ON we were disappointed when we heard
4€ for an hour. When we expressed our dismay she said, “You should buy a 6 day
pass.” We explained that we would only be here for 4 days and she said, “Too
bad, it is only 6€ for 6 days.” “
“Wait a minute here, how often can we come in and how long can we stay?” we
asked. She said they open at 8:00 AM and close at midnight and we could be there
as often and stay as long as we wanted. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to
figure the math. We bought two tickets and it was a great investment. Cat worked
hard on getting our contact list back after the loss of the computers and I
completed and e-mailed the second part of the Portugal Journal to Wally our Web
There were two couples from Ireland staying at The Rhonda. One couple owned an
electrical contracting company the other a Pub. They were on an eating, drinking
and laughing holiday. The electrical guy asked so we explained our trip then he
asked where we got the money. I told him that we are spending our children’s
inheritance, which made him laugh. Then he sort of pushed up against me, looked
me in the eye and said, “In Ireland we have a saying, They aren’t sewing any
pockets in shrouds!” We enjoyed a great Irish laugh, together.
Another was a man I saw through the window of his office. He is an Architect
with a wonderful classic look. Another fun stop in an artist’s shop and I caught
a picture of the Artist, Evan Deval and what I thought was his son. When he
talked with the boy he seemed to be teaching him Spanish. I asked and he
informed us that the boy’s father works with him and they are from Pakistan. In
fact there is a large Pakistani population in this neighborhood. I was on a
roll, taking portrait photos of the faces I thought had “The Look”. There was a
young girl, a student, just leaning on a post and smoking. When she tilted her
head back a light shone off her face. I asked, then took her picture, too. Did
she think that I was an old weirdo, maybe she was right?
We were on a mission, headed for El Cote Ingles, when a woman with a bomb box
caught our attention. She was dancing around and asking for tips. Most of the
young people near her were making fun of her cavorting. I thought it was
creative so I pulled out the camera and started to take a video. She made a fuss
then I figured out that she wanted money before she would perform for the
camera. I let the camera fall as I dug out 2€ and put it in her basket. She
flipped her skirts, undulated her hips and did her dance. Then she sang our “I
love you, capitalist”? Or something like that? Then pulled her hat back over her
face, again. The show was over!
Dancer for Money
So there you have a look at Spain, through our eyes. We have loved the
experience and know that it will help us tremendously when we cycle back through
later this year. We’ll have reports on Picasso, Dali and Van Gough in the next
segment. France is a favorite for more than just wine. We’re definitely moving
north and it is definitely getting colder. Join us for the France to Finland
segment. Will Lil’ Scotty take the strain? Will we survive the cold? Stay tuned,
there’s lots more to come!
POST SCRIPT, The words of war have been flying around in the news. Many of
our friends have e-mailed messages urging us to be careful or asking if we have
had any problems. People here seem to reserve their dislike for the Government
or the Iraq Policy. Several have expressed dismay with the tremendous build up
of troops going on near here. We’re hopeful that it is just a saber rattling
show of force. It will be interesting to get into France, one of the most vocal
opponents to war. Don’t go away, we’ll keep you informed, from our perspective.