and early morning
from the balcony of my hotel room at Cullidero
and a ship passing on the Atlantic
I rode only 34 miles today, and climbed 1650 feet, but I ended up about 150 miles from where I started. I also met and rode with two American tourists who do touring or hiking 6 months of the year and travel in their RV for the other six months. Both of them were aerospace engineers, they have no children, and they retired early to travel.
I missed my train at 8 AM this morning - because I couldn't get out of the motel - and, when I finally did get out about 9 AM, I discovered that it wasn't very windy. I didn't feel like waiting around for four hours to catch the next train, so I rode east towards Gijon. Riding was good. I was able to hear the birds singing and, while there was a bit of a headwind, It wasn't strong enough to keep my average speed below 10 mph. This was a big improvement!
Roughly 10 km from Cudillero there is a major down hill - a 400 foot descent down to sea level - followed by a several hundred foot climb. As I was most of the way up that climb, I thought I saw a pair of loaded bicycles near the top of the hill. I dismissed that as wishful think and rode on. A little later I passed a bicyclist who was all dressed up and looked to be in good shape, but was just cranking along gently on his road bike. As I did, I spotted the pair of tourists and sped up a little to catch them.
When they stopped - to rest, I think - I pulled up alongside and said hello. They responded in US English, which I did not expect - and we started riding together. That lasted for several, very pleasant, hours. We parted company after shopping together at Carrefour - Europe's Walmart - near Aviles, a big industrial town. I continued east on A-19,headed for Gijon, some 15 miles further east. They are doing a six month tour covering roughly the same distance I am planning to cover in two months. The had left Lisbon a month ago and were heading up the Atlantic coast of Europe. They had been riding the Atlantic coast for two days and said the day before yesterday was much windier than yesterday. I'm glad I wasn't riding the coast then!
Coming in to Gijon, a local bicyclist passed me, then asked if I was going to Gijon- a very gutteral G and substitute h for the j - and offered to lead me into town. He helped me avoid some bad riding and got me into town on a good street. It was just after 1 PM, so I was looking for a restaurant to have lunch. I had purchased some bread, some yogurt drink, some cheese and some cookies at Carrefour, but I wanted a real meal. In the process of looking for a restaurant, I spotted the main railroad line into town. I followed it to a nearby station which had a cafeteria, and had some cafe conleche, a sandwich, and a pastry instead of a real meal. Then I asked the ticket lady / cafetreria lady - who was very nice - about getting a ticket to Santander. She said I couldn't do it there, but I could do it if I went on to the last railway station on the line. Of course she said it in Spanish and I don't have any Spanish, so I was guessing what she said.
I found an English speaking Spanish person to translate the Spanish digits - they are different - and found that the train left at 3:25 and arrived in Santander at 8:30. Then I studied the posted time tables and routes and found that I had to make only one train change at a place called El Berroe. I realized that, if I had waited for the 1 PM train at the hotel, I would have been on that same train, which goes from Oviedo, the third big industrial town in this area, to Santander. So I got in three hours and twenty minutes of pretty good riding in, met two nice American tourists and ended up in Santander, which was where I had hoped to get to by train today.
My bicycle was a problem when the train was crowded, and even when the train was nearly empty, there was no good place to put it. It spent most of the trip sticking into the drivers compartment on the tail - traveling to Santander, it would become the front traveling to Oviedeo - of the train. I had to stand for the first hour of that four hour plus ride. The train from Gijon to El Berroe had three jump seats on each side of one end of each car. Those were perfect for leaning the bike against. Of course, if it had been standing room only like the other train, I still wouldn't have had a place to put my bike. No one complained, perhaps because of the 'bike tourist = pilgrim' equivalence that is common here.
When I got out of the Santander train station, I was unable to find a nearby hotel. I rode quite a way before I spotted the Pico de Europa Cafeteria and two star Hotel. It was about 9 PM on Friday night when I went into the cafeteria. 9 PM is the start of the supper hour here and Friday night seems to be a very popular night for going out. The cafeteria was huge - it occupies two floor of the building - very busy, and chaotic. The hotel is upstairs and one of the workers in the cafeteria let me leave my bike inside while I went up to inquire about a room.
The price was OK, the room was nice and it was getting dark, so I gave the hotel manager my passport and went to get my bike. It turned out there was a street level entrance to the hotel on a steeply sloping pedestrian only, side street, so I was able to roll by bike in rather than carry up three flights of stairs. The manager asked where I was biking from, and when I said I had started in Lisbon and had biked through Santiago, he gave me a 25% discount for a 'special friends on foot and on bike.' I had noticed some Camino - pilgrimage - signs on the way to Santander and he told me they had set up a fourth pilgrimage destination in the mountains southeast of here. They are lovely mountains - I saw them today from the train.
After I got to my room, I noticed that my throat was really sore. Since I have been pushing myself to the point of exhaustion while riding into cold winds for almost all of the last week, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I've developed some king of ear canal infection. My bad knee was hurting today, even with two knee warmers, so I had thought of taking a rest/recuperation day in Santander. I'm staying here two nights and, if I feel better tomorrow, riding to Bilbao. If not, I may take the train.