I had an early start and a late start today and I had a short hard ride. My early start was at 4:30 when I got up to walk with my wife to the taxi stand near our hotel. Her flight back to the US, via Munich, left at 6:30 AM. I went back to bed at 5 and got up again at 8. It was not a good night for sleeping ;-}, but it was a very nice week for the two of us in Lisbon.
I worked on the Sintra web page, got stuff organized for my tour and checked out about 10:30. Then I rode to the Areeiro-Roma train station and caught the wrong train. No problemo, although that did cost me half an hour. Folks are really relaxed about such things in Lisbon. At 11:30, I left Lisbon on a suburban train and, after one train change, arrived in Azambuja about 12:45.
The suburban trains run from Azambuja to the north to Setubal to the south. The last time I started a tour in Lisbon, I took a ferry across the Tejo and then rode south, through Setubul to Sines. If I were to do it again, I'd take the train to Setubal. The train is faster, safer - you don't have to get to the ferry terminals which are in the busiest part of Lisbon - and cost no more than taking the ferry. Riding near Lisbon is not good - too much traffic - and, especially going north, not very interesting country.
Since I took the train, I had only 100 km, instead of 100 miles, to ride to get to Tomar. I thought it would be an easy start to my tour. It wasn't. There is some 1500 ft of climbing, mostly from Azambuja to Santarem and the last 20 km to Tomar, but that wasn't a problem. The wind was.
It has been windy every day we have been in Lisbon, so I expected wind to be problem today, but it was worse than I expected. There were long periods of time when I had to struggle to maintain 8 mph on the flat and much of the time I had to fight to keep my bike on the road in the strong cross wind as trucks passed me. Mostly the road was good and had a decent shoulder, but the worst section for the wind - about 20 miles from Tomar - was also the worst road. It is narrow, rough - patched potholes, had a lot of traffic including big trucks, and was completely open to the strong wind. I was not a happy camper on that stretch. Fortunately, the last 10 miles to Toman, although they were hilly, were also much better riding because the road was good and the wind was mostly blocked by the hills.
I looked for a place to eat in Azambuja, but its main street was torn up and there was no way for me to ride it, so I headed for Santarem, 25 km away. I found a great place to eat just a few km out of Azambuja. It cost 7 E for the best meal I've had in Portugal, and that included wine with the meal and espresso afterwards!
While the shoulder was inconsistent, this was never really a problem. Even in the sections where there was no shoulder, narrow lanes, and guardrails, I felt OK. Portuguese drivers are supposed to be among the worst in Europe, but I haven't found that to be the case outside of Lisbon.
As I rode towards Santarem, my bike felt unstable. I finally figured out that it was the effect of the gusty side wind. I was averaging less than 10 mph because of the wind and the hills, but riding was pretty good - mostly with a good smooth shoulder and always with considerate drivers - and I had just had a great lunch so I was feeling good.
Santarem is on big ridge, so there is a good climb up into town. I was planning to ride south from Santarem, cross the Tejo, and then head northwest up the other side of the river towards Tomar. In Santarem, I got confused, stopped to look at my map, and decided I could ride north and get to Tomar that way. I rode to the the northern edge of town and, looking out at the steep hills in that direction, decided to go back to my original plan ;-}.
Some 25 km after Santarem, I stopped for pastry and espresso. In this part of Portugal, unlike Lisbon and southern Portugal, services, including pastry shops, are relatively scarce. I was on N118 heading for N110, but I wasn't sure where I was. I lucked out in my choice because the owner of the shop has a daughter living in Boston. He had enough English to tell me how to route and that I had 50 km to go. It was 4 PM and the wind was bad, so 50 km meant I'd get to Tomar between 7:30 and 8 PM.
The major landmark on my route was a bridge. It was 20 km from the pastry shop and 30 km from Tomar.
the ride to the bridge, other than the wind, was quite nice. It was pretty flat and pretty ;-}, with some interesting towns along the way. The bridge itself was hard riding because the wind down the river was even worse that the wind on the flat land beside the river. It was a struggle to keep the bike upright on the bridge.
On the other side of the river, the road ran through a wet area and it was very narrow with no shoulders and guard rails. This wasn't fun riding, but it wasn't dangerous since driver were considerate.
A few miles after the river, the road came to a roundabout - they call them rotunda here - and the road to Tomas headed off back across the flat flood plain. It also deteriorated badly. Up to this point, I had been feeling good about the roads in the northern half of Portugal, and they definitely are better than the roads in the southern half, but this road was bad. The fact that it had heavy traffic and a strong cross-head wind didn't help. My bad knee, which is sensitive to bad roads, started hurting from the beating it was taking, and I started wondering if I was going to make it to Tomar.
Fortunately, after five miles or so of hell, the road improved and, after the road started climbing over a ridge before Tomar, the wind was greatly abated. My knee stopped hurting and I was able to ride into Tomar at about 7:45, exhausted but otherwise OK.
I rode through town looking for a place to stay and, not seeing one, stopped a woman who was crossing the street to ask where to find a hotel. She sent me back a block and, turning right, I quickly found a good place, the Residencial Kamanga. Nice people, and a good value in a good location.