Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Cleanest Line: Patagonia Blog Post

I shared our Bicycle Geography adventure with the folks at Patagonia. They kindly posted the blog today. You can read the post here.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Peace on Earth

Happy Holidays from the Kehmeiers. Be Well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Final Podcasts...For Now Anyway

Here they are - the "end of trip" thoughts. For the podcasts, visit our website:

What does it mean to you to have traveled around the world by bicycle?

LK: It means that Chris and I made a commitment to each other and a common goal, and then set out to accomplish it. We took a journey together, doing something we love. It means that anyone has the ability to have dreams and follow them.

CK: For me it means that I did something unique. Others have done it, others have gone bigger, and faster, but no one else did the way that Leslie and I did it. I think that our way and our style spoke volumes about how we like to interact, travel and live.

What is it like, a month on, to be back in the United States?

LK: From a personal perspective - it’s been really good and, sometimes, really hard. Life changed a lot for us while it didn’t change much at home. I’m kind of easing back into things. Right now, I’m working on some of my creative business ideas.
From a national perspective – the economy is dominating both the news and our personal conversations. I’m still trying to it figure out.

CK: Being back for a month now, I am finally starting to feel settled. I find that I am restless for several hours during the day, but as soon as I find a job that will take care of that.

What’s next?

LK: Still sorting it out. I thought I had a pretty good plan in my mind while we were still in Europe but I find myself not wanted to rush into anything. Luckily, we have a very supportive family…

Short term – Starting a GIS consulting business. Making maps is what I did before life on a bicycle and I think it’s a profession to continue. I’m also getting myself out there in the photography world. To that end, we’re both jonesin’ to get outside this winter to enjoy a season we missed last year. I’m anxious to get my crampons and ice tools out. Finally, I think Chris and I both are interested in talking to people about our journey so we’ll probably put together a good presentation and slide show.
Long Term – Haven’t given up on the idea of still traveling. Bicycle travel is a wonderful to see the world – probably just closer the home.
I would also like to write a book about our journey. I envision it as something that’s part journal, part geography text book. I really like the “live, learn, ride” motto that we came up with as we were pedaling. It definitely has potential.

CK: I see us doing some domestic traveling throughout the west by bicycle. I would really like to ride the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango or the continental divide trail Colorado north.

Do you think you’ve changed? If so, how?

LK: Most certainly. I think my perspective on how I’d like to live my life has changed. I just read an article in Outside Magazine about Kelly Slater, the surfer. His comments - “I’ve heard that motivation is temporary and inspiration is permanent…I’m trying to have an inspired career, to live an inspired life.” I think it sums up how I feel now. I feel very inspired, my creativity is flowing and I understand limits as boundaries not obstacles.

CK: I do think I've changed. I find that I take notice of details now. Slowing our lives to a crawl taught us to take it all in, and the details of things really started to stand out.

Favorite Country, Best Food?

LK: Tie between Laos and Croatia.
Laos – noodle soup, morning glory, laap

CK: Laos
Tapas in Spain, or street stall noodle soup in Laos.

Best and worst day on the bike?

LK: Worst – Chris’ wreck in Switzerland. I don’t think about death very often. I did that day.
Best – Almost everyday on the bicycle was great. If I have to pick one it would have been day 125 on the Great Ocean Road. I just remember that the pedaling was easy and the views were spectacular. It was one of those days that I knew exactly why I had decided to bicycle around the world.

CK: It will sound weird, but they were the same day. It was when I wrecked in Switzerland. The trauma of the accident was a huge drain on my body and on my psyche. What happened after the accident was a culmination of all things that I was finding out about the world. The kindness of strangers, the beauty of the landscape, the magic in day to day life. It was just such a contrast of things that I think both tend to stand out.

So, is this the end? No way - Bicycle Geography will keep pedaling - we just don't know where yet...

Stay Tuned!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A New Bicycle

I think new is a relative term when it comes to my new bicycle. Chris is been working his fingers to the bone – literally. He’s found a winter project; he’ll be refinishing my 1973 Montgomery Ward Open Road. I bought it a garage sale last summer at a house down the street from my parents. I think the orange, yellow, and brown colors are actually back in style. I contemplated keeping it in original condition but I really want an American Flyer. I want a bicycle that would be worthy of riding in the Crested Butte 4th of July parade. I want stars, stripes, and sparkly grips.
Chris informed me that he’s really looking forward “creating” – the removal of paint currently is, and I quote, “the sucky part”. The actual design has been a secret and I’m looking forward to the result. I think there might even be a custom seat involved.

I’ll keep you posted,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Cork

We're not in Portugal anymore but that doesn't mean we can't talk about cork. As you know, we were fascinated by the cork forests as we rode through the southwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula. After a few blog posts about our observations, we recieved a comment from a company called Wicanders Flooring. They are in the business of cork and were interested in acquiring any photos we had from our travels through the Montado forests. Wicanders has their own blog with a very good purpose:

"The Wicanders blog is about using cork oak to help benefit the world’s health, wellbeing, and socioeconomic development. As the industry leader in cork oak flooring, we are proud to actively participate in the exchange of ideas about health and sustainability, promote green building practices, and preserve the Montado cork oak forests."

We sent some shots their way and were excited to see that they've been posted on the Wicanders blog. You can view the post here. Scroll down below the "Wineopoly" graphic to see our photos.



It’s harder than I thought it would be. I was talking with a friend today and she had a great perspective. She said that it’s hard to notice how busy and stressful life is when you’re home living it. It’s an entirely different story when you return to it after a long break. I totally agree. I think I’m trying to figure out how to balance what I’ve learned on the road with what I didn’t need from the past. I’d like to keep the best parts of who I was and mix them with the person I am now.

So far reentry has been a blessing and a curse. In three weeks I’ve done the following analysis:
Family and Friends
Up - we have been able to catch up with most everyone. It feels really good to interact, share, and sleep in familiar places.
Down - Traveling in the car. For now, it’s a necessary evil.
Up - I feel like a have an entirely new wardrobe.
Down – Too many choices; there is laundry everywhere.
Up – A chance to do something creative.
Down – Do I want a “grown-up” job again?

Despite the roller coaster of emotions, I realize that I am living life. Furthermore, I’m living it as I imagined. It’s real, it’s intense, and ultimately, it’s inspired. We can’t experience the highs without the lows, the exceptional without the ordinary. I think I’m facing in the right direction; I just need to move forward.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Bicycle Commuting Diaries: Studded Tires and Snow Plows

Winter is approaching and in Colorado that usually means one thing; snow. In our previous life, we usually parked the bikes in the garage and set up the stationary trainer as the last fall leaves were hitting the ground. This year we decided to “buck up” and keep riding through the ice, snow, and freezing temperatures.
Enter the snow tire for bicycles. We ordered the Ice Spiker Pro from our good friends at Schwalbe and Chris got them installed this morning. Neither one of us has rolled a bicycle with studs before so we decided to go for a test run. The tires require a break in period on pavement so, per the instructions, we started the “running in” process by riding to the post office.
Even though the route was the usual urban adventure of paved path and busy intersections, we found ourselves very excited for the adventure. With a new blanket of snow and a clear blue sky we navigated our way south with smiles on our faces. Intersections were a little crazy as we had to crash our way through the snow piled up from the cleared roads. We must have garnered some attention because most cars gave us the right away.
The only scary part came when we were faced with a wave of snow being thrown from an on-coming plow. I was about the head into a snow bank when the driver looked our way, slowed down, and lifted his plow. I guess that will be rule #1 on the Winter Riding Guide – “watch for snow removal equipment”.

Here’s to snow crunching under your tires,

Saturday, December 06, 2008

1 World, Two Wheels

Check this out - see what happens when you "go by bike".

Monday, December 01, 2008

Wide Eyed World Photography

I’ve decided to put myself out there. If you have a moment, take a peek.

Save the Trails: Moab

If you’re interested in taking action for the environment, tourism and recreation…

The BLM will be having a lease sale on December 19th. The leases will be available for oil and gas extraction and will affect some very popular and pristine areas in Moab, Utah. Tusher Canyon, Barlett Wash, and Amassa Back are just some of the places that could be impacted.

If you’ve ever been to Moab, you know that it is a very special place. The elements and time have sculpted some spectacular landscapes. Chris and I usually make at least one trip a year and always see something new and amazing every time we go.

To take action, visit one of the following websites. The deadline is soon - December 4 (sorry for the late notice).

IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association)

Access Fund

Firing Up My Fax Machine,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poland to Portugal: How Far? How Many?

Here’s the recap from the Europe leg of our Bicycle Geography Adventure…

Days on the Continent/Days Pedaling: 106/62
Distance Covered: 3,625 km
Hours Pedaling: 244.5
Avg Speed: 15.0 kph
Longest Day: Beziers to Perpignan 104 km
Incidents: 2 (one angry driver in Croatia, one accident in the Alps)

Countries Visited: 9 – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, France,
Spain, Portugal
Languages Attempted: Polish, Slovakian, Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, German, French,
Spanish, Portuguese

Favorite Country: Croatia (CK), Croatia/Portugal (LK)
Favorite Food: Anything at a tapas bar (CK), croissants (LK and only the ones in France)
Best Beer: Zlaty Bazant – Slovakia

Europe was fantastic for bicycle touring. The continent is full of amazing scenery and interesting culture. Despite the language barriers, we found the interactions with the locals to be quite friendly. We weren’t rock stars as we were in Laos, but we got plenty of smiles and waves.
Although the US Dollar is weaker than the Euro, there are many deals to be found. If you’re into camping and self-catering you can live quite well.
We found roads and highways to be in great condition and drivers are used to bicyclists. In fact, most towns and cities were full of people pedaling.

Stay tuned for the entire trip recap…


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thank You

Without a long introduction or philosophic statement, we’d like to give out many thanks to many people.

To our family and friends at home – thank you for your love, support, and encouragement. Your belief in our journey gave us great strength.

To our new friends on the road – thank you for sharing your time with us. You gave us food, shelter, great conversation, and friendship. The universe brought us together and we will never forget you.

To our blog readers – thank you for taking an interest in our journey. You have made us feel special. We have had great fun sharing our thoughts and adventures.

To our sponsors – thank you for your partnership. Your investment in this grassroots project kept us traveling in the right direction (dry, warm, satiated, organized, lubed, rolling, and fully charged).

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." -- Melody Beattie

LK and CK

Friday, November 21, 2008

Travel Circus

Day: 422
Lisbon to Denver
Time: 26 hours

Like any circus you have seen there are big tops, strong men, big men, and the freaks. The only thing missing were the animals, but there was one bird that made a brief appearance.
We caught our early taxi from the hotel to the airport. Traveling with boxed bikes can be a little bulky at times, but with a crazed cabbie and short ride to the airport those weren’t a problem. The cabbie just shoved them in the back and left the hatch open. Leslie spent the first part of the day hanging onto the bikes making sure they didn’t fly out in a roundabout. Thankfully traffic was light that early in the day and the cabbie didn’t have to goose it too much. Once at the airport we somehow got on the same schedule as the ‘pushy’ couple. You know the ones who have to first in line and argue with the ticket agents? They even bossed us on how to run the elevator. Fun beginning to the day. We got a little brekkie at the airport and enjoyed our last cup of Café com leite (½ strong coffee + ½ hot milk). The flight to Frankfurt was mostly spent sleeping so it went quickly. Our layover was short and after 45 minutes of hanging out at the gate we boarded the plane for the long haul. I managed to get behind a guy who had to have his seat leaned back all the way, but as luck would have it there was an open seat on the other side of Leslie next to a nice little Polish Grandma. There was no one in front of me so all was well. About an hour into the flight a guy further up decided that he needed to move and took the seat in front of me. He also leaned it all the way back, but he didn’t last too long in that seat since I placed a knee in his back. He ended up moving several more times throughout the flight, eventually settling in the crew member section on final landing. That flight was spent catching up on movies, eating and napping very little. We finally got into Chicago, where we flew through customs only to get snagged in one of the slowest security lines I have encountered. I love the European style of security; quick, dirty and usually accompanied with a heavily armed guard. We finally got to our gate and lined up with all the other folks. The Chicago to Denver flight was full to the brim with the overheads stuffed beyond belief. I am sure that the flight crews love the charge for checked baggage. There were people in line with big suitcases that intended to carry them on. We finally got settled, got some last minute repair work done on the plane, and vroom off down the runway we went. The kicker was right when we got airborne there was a bang, flash of light and smell of smoke. The pilot turned to plane around and we got a priority emergency landing. We were even met by a fire truck or two to make sure the left engine wasn’t on fire. The official report was that a bird had flown or gotten sucked into the engine on takeoff. The airline handled it all very well and we taxied back to the terminal where we jumped off and got on another plane. We took off a little while later and that flight was nice and uneventful.
We touched down, got our bags and bikes, hustled out to meet the car and off we went. We are a little tired, but did manage to get a good night sleep. The rest of the day will be spent unpacking, checking our pile of mail (3 months worth) and sleeping. Travel is always great while you are on the road, it is the set up and take down that is the wearing part.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The End is Just the Beginning

Day 421

In the beginning we approached the planning of our trip like writing a business plan. As rigid as that seems, it gave us some boundaries to work with. Here are some definitions that helped us to define those boundaries:

Bicycle Geography: The study of the world and all that’s in it (people, places and time) from the seat of a two-wheeled, human powered machine.

Commitment – engagement and involvement

Trust – belief and confidence in the reality, truth and goodness of a person or thing

Adventure – participation in bold and exciting undertakings or endeavors

Humility – having an unassuming nature

Wonder – a state of mind created by something unexpected or extraordinary

I remember many days where I recited those values in my head. It was mostly just a way to keep myself in context, going forward in the direction of the goal. I guess it worked.
Sitting here, writing this blog from Portugal, I laugh at the thought of our first day out in New Zealand. We didn’t really know what we had gotten ourselves into. I think that was a good thing – it made the humility and wonder part all the better.

See you next time on home soil,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Day 419


We want to give out some props to some bicycle people in Portugal. Thanks to Blue Coast Bikes and Loja de Bicicletas.

Blue Coast was kind enough to help us with route and transportation ideas into Lisbon. Without them we might still be trying to ride across the city (we’ve been here for two days now).

Loja de Bicicletas hooked us up with some bomber boxes. They deal in Cannondale, Rocky Mountain, Mondraker, and KTM. Loja’s shop also had that great shop oil smell. It’s kind of like new car smell only better.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just Wanted to Let You Know

Day 418
Setubal to Lisbon
Time: A little riding and a lot of train
Distance: 58.3 km
Avg Speed: 43.5 kph (that’s the train)
Terrain: Flat
Location: N 38˚ 45’ 32.7”, E 09˚ 09’ 10.9”

After 418 days on the ‘road’ I have to come clean. We haven’t left Leslie’s parents basement in over a year. The whole blog and picture thing was made up. It was all fabricated off the internet. The stories from the road were made up with the help of Lonely Planet books. All the photos with us in them were photo shopped.
There, I now have a clean conscience.
On a happier note, Leslie and I just finished riding our bikes around the world. I know that we did ride a train today, but it was in between two riding sections. Where did we celebrate our achievement…McDonald’s of course!!
We are both blind to the fact that we just finished a long sought after dream. I would imagine that in a day or two we will realize that we ‘nuked our foundation’ and have a much different life to return to. The beauty of that is the fact that we are much different people. Sometime, somewhere along the way we both changed. It wasn’t a wake up different change (although some mornings it felt like it), it was a gradual change. We knew we would, we just weren’t sure how much. I don’t think either one of us is sure how much we have.
Right now our priorities are finding a laundromat, finding some boxes for the bikes and doing a little souvenir shopping. I think that the Laundromat may be the hardest one. The nice thing is we have some clothes that are so worn and smelly that they won’t be getting a ride back home with us.
Lisbon isn’t where we thought we would be 416 days ago, or even a month ago. Us being flexible with the weather along with our refusal to ride in the cold brought us here. Not much did go according to our little blueprint we hammered out before we left. I think that our relationship came through the stresses and triumphs with strength and grace. I attribute that to my fellow traveler and partner in crime. I have come to know that wherever I am in the world, I am always home as long as Leslie is at my side (or pulling me through a headwind).

Loving being loved.

The Power of Bicycles

Day 417

The main event of the day was finding the train station and working out the logistics of getting to Lisbon. After our hard fought battle to get to Seville we are reverting back to our habit of thorough transportation planning. After talking to the guy at the ticket window we are ready for another adventure in a big city. Hopefully we’ll have nothing interesting to report.
Our visit to the train station sparked a spirited conversation as we walked to our next stop. We discussed the combination of bicycles, public transportation, and our experiences throughout the trip. We’ve been able to travel with our bicycles on trains and ferries relatively easily (except for Spain). We also chatted about the utility of the two-wheeled machine and the possibilities it has beyond a recreational capacity. We’ve seen plenty of practical use here in Europe but not enough in the US.
Consider the following (fine graphics are available on the World Bicycle Relief Webpage):

During a commuting day of 10 miles traveled, a bicycle saves 3 hours.
Walking – 2.5 miles per hour
Bicycling – 10 miles per hour
Riding a bicycle increases one's capacity by 5 times.
As time increases, effort to travel increases. Riding a bicycle requires less effort, allowing one to travel farther in less time.
Over equal units of time, one can ride a bicycle 4 times the distance as one walking.

After waving our righteous fingers, we came to a conclusion. As fuel prices remain high and people are looking for ways to save money, the bicycle is a very viable means of transport. To that end, it is very important that public transportation compliments the choice of traveling by bicycle.
All of that came from finding out that our bikes travel for free on the train tomorrow.

So, where did we go after the train station? We visited the Igreja de Jesus, a late Gothic church built with the Manueline architectural style. The church was in a very natural state – not pristine, but not in shambles. The pillars of the church were very unique compared to anything I’ve seen in all of Europe. The design is very ornate while the stone is very rustic. Each column twists from floor to ceiling and provides an interesting contrast to the tile mosaics that line the church walls. The structure is apparently the first to use this particular style and we’ll be looking for more buildings in Lisbon for comparison.

Have a good weekend,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Things and Old Things

Day: 416
Grândola to Setubal
Time: 2:52
Distance: 47.2 km
Avg Speed: 16.4 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 38 30' N, 08 58' W

We slept through our alarms this morning. The bed was too warm, and the heavy curtains were keeping out just enough light to fool us. We still made it to the free brekkie before the rest of the guests. Just enough time to drink all the coffee and eat the croissants. We both thought that the croissants are the best ones we have had since France. On a total side note, today is Prince Charles’ 60th birthday. There was a party and the royal cavalry even did a 41 gun salute at his precise birth time. The salute was a request of the queen. I love BBC News.
The riding today was pretty straightforward. The road we needed was off the main roundabout in Grândola and after that it was point it straight and go. Even though the road was a back road on the map it turned into a truck route. The truckers were all nice and waited for oncoming traffic to pass and didn’t buzz us on blind corners. Part of the ride today was along a narrow spit of sand that led to our only water crossing of the day. Leslie wanted to swim it, but I talked her into taking a ferry. We know the game when it comes to ferry boats and after waiting our turn with the cars we were allowed to jump the line and go to the front of the boat. The crossing went quickly and I was able to pass the little time by watching the fishermen lining the beach.
Setubal reminded us both of the waterfront in Hobart, Tasmania. The old classic buildings tumble down the hill to the waterfront where they are met by the wharfs and piers servicing all the ships that port here. We quickly found a nice place to stay and took a little rest before heading out. Our first order of business was internet and the best place for that is…McDonald’s!! They didn’t have internet, but they did have fries and a coke. From there we went to the library where they did have internet along with a huge display of Marxism and Chè Guevara. We have noticed a lot of bill boards and signs for the Portuguese Communist Party. Last night we even stayed across the street from the district HQ. We left the library in the dark and found our way back into our neighborhood. The locals were out and the roasted chestnut vendors were on every corner. Neither of us had ever had them so we parted with a few Euro and got a bag. WOW! They are really good. We both may get our own bag tomorrow night. Trying new things only leads to dead ends (or belly aches) once in a great while. Most of the time you are left with a smile on your face and new understanding of the things that make life tick.
Tick tock, tick tock

Friday, November 14, 2008


Day: 415
Cercal to Grândola
Time: 3:59:00
Distance: 54.7
Avg Speed: 14.7
Terrain: Hills
Location: N 38˚ 10’ 31.8”, 08˚ 34’ 4.1” W

Man, I’m getting tired. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we are on day 415 and 9,500+ kilometers into the trip or if my body just knows the end is near. Fatigue has been setting in around lunchtime and we usually have a couple of more hours to go before the day is done. Perhaps it has something to do with the weeklong break we took recently. Chris equated it to running a car for three months, turning it off, and now it doesn’t want to start again. With one or two more days to go, I think we can muster up the last little bit of energy. I just keep telling myself to be present and enjoy the last bit of pedaling. Soon enough we’ll be home facing the winter months and no regular rides to depend on.
We had another peaceful ride through the undulating cork groves today. I enjoyed examining all of the twisted branches of the trees with no leaves. I’ve become quite fascinated with these oaks. I also tried to soak up the atmosphere; blue skies, rural landscape, and smiling locals. Most people will give a wave if you give them a nod. I’ve had such a good feeling from most rural people across Europe, but the Portuguese are special. I don’t know what it is exactly, but they just have this quiet confidence about them.
And so we come to the eve of the last day riding. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we prepare for the last day of a big ride. I’d like to think that we have many more adventures with bicycles ahead of us. It will probably be a day of reflection and I’m sure we’ll share our thoughts here. You’ll probably get tired of us philosophizing in the next week or so. I’m finding that it’s hard not to think about what we’ve done, where we’ve been, and how life has changed. My mom shared a quote with me yesterday in an email. Apparently it was something that I wrote down when I was in college. Ironically it’s something that puts our trip into perspective.

"Presence: Success is a matter of desire, failure is a matter of excuses. Strength is building a road of dreams into the future, but still following it when weakness arises. And nothing happens unless the mind has presence."

Until tomorrow,


Day: 414
Odeceixe to Cercal
Time: 4:04
Distance: 54.8 km
Avg Speed: 13.2 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 48’ 3.2”, W 08˚ 40’ 20.0”

In case you haven’t read it, or haven’t heard of it there is a great book called The Alchemist. It is about dreams, love, the world and the little signposts along the way pointing you where to go. I don’t know if I have mentioned it before or not, if I have forgive me.

Today we had our own little alchemy of the world. We both fell in love with our little lady at the Casa da Celeste pension. She treated us great, gave us the run of the place and gave us coffee until we were jittery with caffeinated tension. She also didn’t speak a word of English and I think the only Portuguese we spoke to her was good morning and thank you. It didn’t matter because we understood each other perfectly and carried on conversations as if we were speaking the same language. After rolling out (still in a haze of caffeine) we started our first climb of the day. The headwind had gone unnoticed until then and we both remarked that the terrain, the scenery and the wind was very reminiscent of New Zealand. We both agreed that New Zealand was hard for us, but that it being hard made the rest of our trip a lot easier. We fought the headwind for about 30 km (along with hills, hills and more hills) where we passed a couple of blokes from Brisbane, Australia heading the opposite direction. They were enjoying our headwind (for it was a strong tailwind for them) and were on their way down to the southern coast. The were 3 days into their 3 month tour and we laughed since we had about 3 days left in ours. They were planning on hugging the coast all the way to Eastern Italy where they were going to fly home. It sounded like an awesome trip, and we wished them good luck as they were whisked off. I didn’t know if we were looking for parallels with everything today, or they were just there for us. We finally got to our lunch spot in a little town just off the coast called Villa Nova de Milfontes. Not much there except for a bridge, some holiday homes and a gas station. It was on the side of this gas station that we decided to take a break. Right when we sat down a big rig pulled up with a Portuguese license plate that read Pokemon. For those people not in the know that is Leslie’s old manager’s nickname. What was even better was the guy that came strolling up 10 seconds later wearing a tourist sweatshirt that said Colorado Springs on it. I was pretty sure we weren’t looking for parallels anymore, the signs were there for us. We have no idea what they meant, but they were there.
We jumped back on the bikes with a smile/smirk on our faces and headed off to our destination for the night. The gas station attendant at our lunch stop said that there were a few places to stay the night in Cercal so we headed off up the hill. The climb was long, but easy and took us through some of the thickest cork oak groves yet. We knew that we had found a good town to stay in when there were tractors on the road and in the roundabout along with all the other traffic.
Making gold out of what we got.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Culinary Wonderland

Day 413

“You can eat the whole thing; just don’t look at its eyes.” This comes from the server who sets the plate of grilled squid down in front of Chris. Chris nodded as he popped the first one in his mouth. Man, am I glad I ordered a pizza…

Portugal is full of surprises when it comes to gastronomy. It just goes to show that this little country has had a BIG impact throughout the world. For instance, did you know that the Japanese technique of deep frying food (called tempura) was actually introduced by Portuguese traders and missionaries? Wouldn’t you just assume that the curry-based favorite of vindaloo comes from India? Sort of; the hybrid of wine (vinho) and garlic (alho) sauce was developed by the Christian community in Portuguese Goa. At least now I know why we’ve seen so many Indian food restaurants.
It all sounds crazy until you think about the history of exploration that originated from this country. Vasco da Gama, the great explorer, opened the trade route to India. This paved the path for Portugal to become the wealthiest country in Europe in the late 1400s. By way of the Treaty of Tordesillas the country had divided the world in two with Spain. Portugal’s empire would influence and dominate the Orient. Can you say five spice powder? The prosperity of flavor was realized on the first expedition of de Gama when he brought back pepper. It was a small amount but enough to pay for three times the cost of the trip. Amazingly, the spice trade was something that was just as lucrative as the extraction of gold from Africa. In the financial times of today I think you could do better with precious metals rather than table condiments. Isn’t history cool?
Oh, I forgot to mention that marmalade is also a Portuguese original. We had some with breakfast this morning – it was even a little spicy…

Here’s to the world of food,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 412: Sagres to Odeceixe

Time: 4:00
Distance: 62.46 km
Avg Speed: 15.6 kph
Terrain: Hilly
Location: N 37˚ 25’ 56.9” E 08˚ 46’ 11.1”

Our stay at the pousada last night was kind of a random splurge on our giant ocean of nights on the road. The room was nice and tidy, the dinner was worthy of writing home about and this mornings breakfast was a sight for hungry eyes. We both were happy to have voluntarily wanted to stay there and were quite cheery as we got on the road this morning. Leslie started the day off by posing a question (she has become more and more philosophical the closer we get to going home). She asked ‘where do you wish we had gone that had planned to go and didn’t end up going and where do you wish we had gone and didn’t plan on going’. She didn’t want my answer right then, she wanted me to think about it. The first part of the question is easy; Vietnam. I think it has to do with being so close to its border and deciding to head home with a broken wheel in tow. Leaving Vietnam untouched worked out and we were able to have a nice summer in Colorado. The second part of the question was a little tougher and I don’t think I have come up with a definitive answer. Right now I am wavering on South America and the far north of Europe. At least I have it narrowed down to a planet.
With fodder to chew on we rode out of Sagres and north to Odeceixe. The landscape changed from the dessert-scape of the southern coast to eucalyptus forest with agriculture and cork tree groves sprinkled here and there. I finally did some reading about the cork industry here and found out that a cork oak has about a 150 year life span of harvesting. The first harvest of a tree’s bark usually doesn’t occur until the tree is about 20 years old, but after that it is harvested every 9 years or so. The cork taken off of older, more harvested trees is of higher quality and gets better money. The plastic cork revolution has taken its toll on the cork industry in Portugal, but the industry is looking into making cork a fashionable wine stopper once again. Feel free to wow your friends around the water cooler.
Leslie set a new all time record for photos shot on a riding day. Her rest day record is set high at around 150 photos, but today she was able to squeeze in 81 shots even with riding for 4 hours. Nice to see that she hasn’t slowed down.
We were warned that Odeceixe is a pretty sleepy little town in the off season. I think that sleepy is an understatement. The first two guesthouses we went into were wide open, but totally unmanned. Usually there is a sign saying help yourself and catch up with me later, but here there was nothing. Finally we were about to just sit at a café and wait awhile, but when I looked back up the street I saw a little lady waiving to me. I quickly walked up to her and she got us in to her place. I guess a little old man on his walk saw us step into her place and then saw us head down to the café. Not wanting his friend to miss out on business he went and found her and got us all straight. Sometimes it is nice to stand out like sore thumbs.
Standing bigger and better,

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The End of the World

Day: 411
Lagos to Sagres
Time: 2:35:00
Distance: 37.8 kilometers
Avg Speed: 14.6 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 00’ 21.9” E 08˚ 56’ 3.0”

We arrived in Sagres today, one of the most southwestern points in Europe. Before the days of major exploration, it was thought that this was the far end of the world. A man named Henry the Navigator changed all of that when he settled in Sagres and created a school for navigation. He trained the likes of Magellan and Vasco da Gama and the rest, as they say, is history.

The day started with blue skies once again as we pedaled west. We had planned to ride a combination of highway and back roads. There was no hurry since we only had about 35 kilometers or so to our destination. About 30 minutes into the ride we turned toward the ocean and the little towns of Luz and Bergau. The first town was easy enough to navigate through. The second proved to be frustrating enough that Chris took over the duties of map reader. He’s been doing a bit of backseat pedaling and I decided that I couldn’t deal with it again today. There was no scene, no exchange of terse words, just a smile when I handed over the map. “I’ll follow you” I said calmly. Five minutes later we lost the pavement and a dirt road stretched out far into the distance. “Classic Kehmeier…” I thought to myself but uttered nothing to him. I was up for the adventure and it turned out to be a very scenic one. We rolled up and down the coast with ocean views the whole way. It was a nice respite before joining the highway again. The further from Lagos we went the less development we saw. Much of the coast is protected in this part of the Algarve and makes for some really spectacular bicycle touring.
Our ride was short and we rolled into town just after 1pm. We followed the sign to the pousada and parked our bicycles out front. Pousadas are government owned accommodation. They are very up market and offer the chance to stay in unique settings that reflect the character and history of the region. They were first built in the early 1940s so that people traveling would have a place to stay. Eventually, historic buildings were also converted and it was possible to stay in castles, mansions, and monasteries. We’ve had the full pousada experience today, right down to multiple course dinner with several changes of tableware. At one point Chris traded his two forks and two knives for three forks and three knives while I got one fork and a spoon. Even the server had a little trouble remembering what went where. Oh well, it wouldn’t be that memorable if we had known exactly what to do.
Tomorrow we make the turn to ride up the west coast. We’re on the homestretch and looking forward to savoring every minute.



Day: 410
Albufeira to Lagos
Time: 3:48
Distance: 60 km
Avg Speed: 15.8 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 05’ 42.1”, E 08˚ 40’ 28.4”

Portugal has reverted to its old ways for us. When we first arrived in the north it was warm and sunny. Since then a cold front had blown in and cooled things off a bit for not only Portugal, but most of Europe. Today we got back those clear sunny days with enough warmth to roll in a t-shirt. First thing we had to do before getting out of Albufeira was a little laundry though. The laundromat was on our way out of town so we stopped and did a load of wash. It is always nice to have a couple of clean items swimming in your pannier. Leslie watched the wash while I ran over to the grocery store to get some provisions for the day. We had been spoiled with refrigeration for a week and we really didn’t have anything road stable (or hot pannier proof). I timed my shopping perfect to coincide with the mad Saturday rush. I knew the layout of this store so I quickly got what I came for, but had a hard time finding the peanut butter. Peanut butter isn’t a big thing in Europe (or the rest of the world) but at most big markets you can usually find a jar or two. I was looking in all the aisles and paying more attention to the search rather than my surroundings. I stood up from looking down low when WHOOSH, something hit my little basket and spun me around. No voice, no look, nothing, just the back end of a little old lady rushing by me heading to the fish section. I took that as my cue to find that PB and get out of dodge before a whole gang of them came after me. I eventually found it and timed my arrival back at the laundry to help fold. We got on the road with the sun high and the temperature getting into the 70’s. The landscapes around us changed from busy resort towns, to agriculture lands with orange and lemon trees, to sleepy local towns still in the 1950’s, to large river estuaries teeming with birds and fishermen. We eventually located Lagos and eventually found a place to stay. This past week has by far been the longest break we have had this leg of our journey and both of us are feeling a little bit haggard tonight. Tomorrow is supposed to be another nice one and we are looking forward to getting back our bike legs.

ps - Happy Birthday to Makayla!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Once Upon a Time I Used to be a Climber

I’m sitting here in the lobby of our resort downloading the latest episode of CSI. My life may have been simplified but I still have a few vices. Anyway, while I wait for the file to transfer, I have been looking at photos on our Flickr photo web page. I stumbled across a bunch of photos from the spring and summer of last year. Apparently, I used to be a climber. I still am, I’ve just spent a little more time going across the horizontal than up the vertical in the last 14 months.
Viewing the photos made me realize that our journey started long before we touched down in Auckland, New Zealand. It actually started on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Longs Peak, and the Grand Teton. Some summits were successful while others were not. Every adventure was the beginning of our new way of life and it was a chance to spend time with some of the most important people in our lives. Now looking back I realize it was also preparation for the voyage we are now close to finishing. What they say is true; it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

Here’s to the clank of a carabiner and the sound of snow under crampons,

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Geography Lesson: Portugal

Day 408

We’ve been in Portugal for ten days now and it’s probably about time to share some info. It’s the last country we will visit before returning home in a few weeks.
The southwestern-most country in Europe is definitely one of the most interesting. One might think that it is similar to its neighbor Spain. Surprisingly, Portugal is very unique and is proud to stand on its own.
In terms of the landscape, Portugal covers 92,000 sq kilometers of the Iberian Peninsula and is very diverse. With steep mountains in the north, dry plains in the central region and wetlands in the southeast, the country is home a full range of topography. We have certainly experienced the hilly aspect of the interior on our route from Beja south to the Algarve coast.
Economically, Portugal is one of Europe’s poorest countries. Most of the population works in agriculture while tourism is the largest industry. Lisbon has the lowest cost of living for any European capital city. From a traveler’s perspective, Portugal has so far been one of the best values.
Portugal joined the EU in 1986 and is governed by a parliamentary democracy. It gained its independence in 1140 and includes the autonomous islands of Madeira and the Azores.
Here are some more interesting facts:
Population: 10.6 million (2007)
Major Language: Portuguese (300 million people world wide speak this language)
Number of bicycles produced in 2007: 900,000
Coastline: 1,793 kilometers
Major exports: textiles, port wine, over 50% of the worlds wine corks

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Condo Livin’

Day: 403
Faro to Albufeira

Time: 1:52:00
Distance: 32.0 km
Avg Speed: 17.1 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 05’ 36.1”, E 08˚ 12’ 22.7”

“And there’s an immersion blender!” This exciting quote comes from Chris who was discovering the kitchen before he even got his bags in the door. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what you use an immersion blender for - I’m just the dishwasher.

We had a short ride today to Albufeira (Albu-fayra) and a one week rest. After almost 3,400 kilometers we are starting to experience the law of diminishing returns. I guess maybe your legs do get a bit tired after riding your bicycle for over a year. Ha ha.
Our new accommodation is quite a treat. We don’t have to cook, eat, and clean in the same room. We don’t have to watch tv from bed and… we have couches! Don’t get me wrong, all of our lodging has been very nice, but having all of this space is quite a luxury.
The agenda for the next week has little to nothing on it. We’ll need to plan the last part of our route and do laundry. Other than that we’ll probably just check out the area, get caught up with family and friends, and find the best cafe. There’s even talk of another scooter rental. I wonder what color helmets they have in Portugal…

Here’s to fractional ownership,

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Kenny and the Ninja

Day: 402
Vila Real de Santo Antonia to Faro
Time: 3:43
Distance: 57.4 km
Avg Speed: 15.4 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 37˚ 01’ 9.1”, E 07˚ 56’ 14.5”

Last nights destination definitely won the longest name on the trip award. Most of the road signs just shortened it to VRS Antonio. I bet they would have to add a little bit of signage to get the whole lot on there. Most lodging in Portugal has provided breakfast and this morning was no exception. We thought we had really hit the jackpot when we found scrambled eggs to go along with the usual bread and coffee. We fueled up (I may have fueled up a little too much…I was really excited about the eggs) and got on the road just in time for the wind to pick up and the moisture to roll in. The moisture never really developed and we were able to dodge rain drops most of the day. We donned rain gear once, but it turned out to be a false alarm so all we did was sweat in it. The wind never really subsided and we encountered strong, steady headwinds most of the day. The riding was pretty mellow even though it was through coastal development most of the time. We even got caught in a traffic jam in a small town and being too wide to fit in between all the cars and the curb we had to wait our turn like everyone else. After we got through the traffic we stopped for a potty stop at McDonald’s. I now think that Leslie knows where they all are and times them for potty/lunch spots. We now have hit a McDonald’s in every Western European country. I am not sure if I should be bragging about that little feat. They do have them in Eastern Europe as well, we just managed to avoid the timing and temptation. We got to Faro shortly thereafter and staying true to our city experience we got lost. We finally found the lodging area of town and got settled in. It was Leslie’s turn to cook tonight so we headed out for a nice little dinner near our place. The national passion in Portugal is fish, so that is what we had. Leslie opted for prawns the size of my arm and I decided on Dorado the size of my face. Fully bloated but wanting more we ordered dessert and coffee. We think we got decaf-espressos with dinner, but I am pretty awake right now. It could be the sugar coma from dessert though. We head off to a week long break tomorrow and I think we are both looking forward to it. The coast here is beautiful and it is easy to see why it is so developed.
The title of the blog pertains to our Halloween outfits for today. See if you can tell who is Kenny and who is the Ninja. Happy Halloween (and Happy Birthday to me!!)!!!!!

Friday, October 31, 2008


Day 401
Mertola to Vila Real de Santo Antonio
Time: 4:42:00
Distance: 66.3 km
Avg Speed: 14.1 kph
Terrain: Hills
Location: N 37˚ 11’ 36.9”, E 07˚ 25’ 14.4”

You know it’s going to be a long day when the first hour passes and you haven’t even hit 10 kilometers.

This morning we left Mertola by crossing the old town bridge over the Oeira River. We had stopped at the top of town to look for George but he must have had his coffee and moved on. It was really great to spend time with him last evening. The thing I’ll remember the most was his comment that “he is an explorer, not a sailor”. This comes from someone who has sailed across the Atlantic more than once.
I’ve developed a new saying on this trip – what goes down will almost certainly go up. Actually, I think it’s a new twist on an old favorite but it works better for what we’re doing. Since we started with a long downhill from town, I knew it was a bad sign. Sure enough, the first hill began immediately after the bridge crossing. We were destined to climb and descend for the rest of the ride. I joked to Chris that we probably wouldn’t have flat ground until we were right on the coast.
A favorite saying of Chris’ is “it’s all training, right?” He says it to remind us that we can never be satisfied with our preparation for some outdoor adventure. Today’s training would have been classified as intervals. Technically, one would involve a heart rate monitor in the official version of this type of training, but we can’t go fast enough to qualify for that. Instead, we just do a lot of shifting between the chain rings and cassette and wonder if the next ridgeline will be the last set of hills. Unfortunately, terrain like today’s was subject to the infinite curve of disappointment. Getting to the top of one hill usually just gave us a view of the mass of ridgelines ahead of us.
Gradually we worked our way down to the coast and a few kilometers of flat roads. We rolled into Vila Real de Santo Antonio by mid afternoon and didn’t feel too worked over. There was only one moment of distress when we turned in the direction of a hotel and saw the European Union border sign that said Espanha (Portuguese for Spain). Luckily the sign also said 1 KM. Neither of us planned to spend the night in a country we just came from. We laughed about it later – we’ve been in Portugal for four days and we’re still on the border with Spain.
Tomorrow we’ll dawn our Halloween costumes and hit the road going west. Yes that’s right, we are dressing up tomorrow. Don’t get too excited. We were going to construct some lavish costumes but we didn’t think that aluminum foil and wind would work very well on the bikes. Instead we’ve decided to use our existing wardrobe to fit the bill. Should be interesting…

Here’s to working those glutes,

Hannah Brown

Day: 400
Beja to Mertola
Time: 2:39
Distance: 51.6 km
Avg Speed: 19.5 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 37˚ 38’ 20.4”, E 07˚ 39’ 40.8”

We left Beja this morning with a whipping cold tail wind. I guess cold winds aren’t too bad as long as they are behind you. The riding took us from the hill top town, down to the plains and into the rolling woodland and farmland along the Guadiana River. Our riding took us along more cork oak and olive trees as well as several flocks of sheep being tended by their shepherds. The town of Mertola appeared as we rolled over the final hill. We were greeted by more white washed buildings and another castle. Part of the town sits in the walled part of the castle where several museums are situated.
Our little hotel host gave us the low down and told us what museums are the good ones, and that the cheapest museum ticket is a pass that can be bought at the local visitor’s center. We located the visitor’s center and that is where we met George. He recognized our American accents and we recognized his. We chatted briefly and found out that he had sailed his boat up the river and was moored down on the dock. He invited us for drinks at his boat and we agreed to meet later. Leslie and I checked out the castle, which was built on the old Moorish fort and then went onto the Moorish museum and the Roman museum. Mertola’s unique location near the end of the tidal flow of the river and close to farm and mining areas made it an important town on the trade routes. The Romans recognized this first and set up a settlement to take advantage of that strength. The Roman museum is housed in the basement of a municipal building here and the only requisite to see it is to make sure you shut the lights off when you leave. During excavation of the current building, ruins were discovered and instead of moving them, the builders constructed the building around them. We weren’t sure if we were in the right place when all we saw were offices and desks, but we eventually found it. Statues, columns, coins and tools all dating from as far back as the second century AD can be seen there. Very cool.
After some museum walking and a little snack break we headed down to the Hannah Brown docked on the river. George invited us in and showed us around his home for the past 12 years. The sail boat has been all around Europe, the Arctic, the Caribbean and the East Coast of the US. He had promised to take us to his favorite bar in town, but once we started talking, we never left his galley/bedroom/living room. He made us a great salad for dinner and we split a couple of bottles great Portuguese red wine. For dessert he busted out some homemade peanut butter spread over dark chocolate squares. The conversation was great and we grilled him with questions about life on a boat. I warned Leslie before we headed down that he was probably going to corrupt us. I was right, he did. Sailing for that long is probably as romantic as bike touring for several years (which he did as well), but once you make a life for yourself you just keep on living it. He is 67 years old and is pretty sure he will keep this way of life for a little while. He did say that he hasn’t been to some of his favorite places in over 20 years so maybe he will store the boat in Europe and go to the US for a year and tour. His company was well timed and we were sad to bid him farewell. We are going to try and meet him at his café in the morning, but if that fails we at least met another soul from the road.
Living the life we made

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Really Black Coffee

Day 399
Beja Rest Day

We spent a very mellow rest day in Beja. Our lodging is quite comfortable so we weren’t in a rush to get up early this morning. Breakfast was our only appointment and you can bet we were on time. We’re always excited to see what new things are available to eat in a new country. Lucky for us, most everything was on the table and Chris was spared being the linguist guinea pig for one meal. The coffee was very essence-like and we immediately understood why the milk carafe was just as big as the one for java.
After breakfast we walked a few of the streets and visited the castle in the historic part of town. This part of southern Portugal has quite a long and exciting history from what we’ve read. You know how it goes; inhabited by Celtic people, renamed by Julius Cesar, then again by Augustus Cesar. The Visogoths and the Moors did their thing. Later, the Spanish came to fight the Portuguese and then Napolean wanted a piece of the action as well. Unfortunately, his crew massacred everyone in town. Today Beja is an important city of about 35,000 people.
The most interesting tidbit is the story of a series of love letters written in the 17th century by a Portuguese nun to a French cavalry officer. As the story goes, Sister Mariana Alcoforado saw the officer from her window and fell in love immediately. She then wrote him five passionate love letters. The original Portuguese version of the letters no longer exists, but were somehow translated into French and published in 1669. Despite a great debate of the authenticity of the letters, they were wildly popular. The word “portugaise” even became synonymous for “passionate love letter”.
Tomorrow we’re back on the road and headed south. The weather looks like rain and we’ll be digging out those warm and waterproof layers that we had in France. After 400 days on the road we just take it in stride. Hopefully some warm and sunny days are waiting for us in the Algarve.

Here’s to love at first sight,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dois not Douche

Day: 398
Rosal de la Frontera, Spain to Beja, Portugal
Time: 3:59
Distance: 65.3 km
Avg Speed: 16.3 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: N 38˚ 00’ 46.1”, E 07˚ 51’ 45.8”

Spain pretty much shuts down on Sundays and when we rolled into Rosal de la Frontera yesterday, we knew that we would have to track down brekkie in the morning. The new time change helped us get out of bed earlier so we had a head start on the day. After packing up and checking out of the hostal we headed down to the little local bar for some tostada and café con leche. We sat down with the locals and enjoyed our toast and coffee and remarked on how we were seemingly the only non-locals in town. You could have cued the other cycle tourists right then. Two French guys rolled up for some refreshments and we made some small chit chat in our newest language Frepanglish (French, Spanish, and English). They had two days to travel 230 km and were anxious to get on the road. We let them get on there way and decided that we needed another cup of coffee before getting ourselves on the road. After a little more fuel we headed to the store for some road provisions. I figured out where all the little old men and little old ladies hang out in town like that. The men were all in the bar/café to gossip and the ladies were all in the store gossiping waiting for the fresh bread delivery. The store crew was nice and let me cut in front of the line so I could get on my way. They all just laughed when I answered them that I was 2 meters tall. Some things never change. On the road we had a quick 3 km to the Portuguese border, where we hit our 9th country in Europe and our 9th new language as well. Portuguese is a Latin based language, and shares a lot of words with Spanish. The pronunciation is completely different though. We were warned not to speak Spanish in Portugal, because the ‘Portuguese are not Spanish!’ I was a little nervous about slipping up and had done really well most of the day. I got caught up when I was trying to order a couple of beers this evening. Two in Portuguese is Dois (pronounced Doy-sh) and I asked for Douche beers instead. Leslie just started laughing at me as the waiter (who spoke English) quickly slipped away to grab our beers. All is well and we were able to get our bill with no further slip ups.
Here is your food for thought: 50% of the worlds wine corks come from Portugal.

Today Spain, Tomorrow Portugal

Day 396
Calañas to Rosal de la Frontera
Time: 4:00:00
Distance: 57.6 kilometers
Avg Speed: 14.4 kph
Terrain: Hilly
Location: N 37˚ 58’ 3.21”, E 07˚ 13’ 15.04”

We got on the road a little earlier today. Any other day it would have been late, but we gained an hour during the night. Most of Europe is on daylight savings like the US and pushed their clocks back as well. I gave Chris a hard time for setting alarms and making us get up early – it’s a battle I will never win.
As we continued to work our way northwest toward Portugal, we also enjoyed more of the Spanish countryside. The morning was cool and we were greeted with the crisp fragrance of eucalyptus from the trees alongside the road. We didn’t see a single car for the first hour of the ride – it’s definitely a change from a week ago. As we pedaled along, the pavement rose and fell in front of us. I remarked to Chris that it looked like we were riding in Australia and it felt like we were in New Zealand.
In the 57 kilometers that we traveled, we only encountered one larger town in between our beginning point and our destination. Interestingly enough, the autonomous region we have been traveling through (Andalucia), is the most populated in Spain. We just
happened to have found the least populated area – surprise. Apparently riding through the urban areas of Barcelona and Seville sent us straight into the sticks. It’s actually a little strange to find a region with such wide open spaces. We haven’t encountered such a place since Croatia. Europe certainly has its fair share of cities, but so much of it is just endless agriculture and quaint villages.
So tonight we sleep on the frontier between Spain and Portugal. Upon arrival earlier in the day, we got to push our bikes through the bar to be stored in the dining room. It was good entertainment for the Sunday afternoon crowd. Later we got the favor returned when we witnessed a real life “wild west” moment. We were sipping our beers when two young men on horses passed by the front door, stopped, and signaled the bar keeper. The next thing we knew they had two cokes taken out to them. I guess horses aren’t allowed in the bar. Bicycles before equestrians? That’s a first.

Going from adios to adeus,

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Beer and Olives…Mmmm

Day: 396
La Palma del Condado to Calañas
Time: 3:30:00
Distance: 48.4 km
Avg Speed: 13.8 kph
Terrain: Rolling to hilly
Location: N 37˚ 39’ 8.8”, E 06˚ 52’ 51.6”

Yesterday, one of the highlights was sitting in the bar with the after work crowd and having a few cañas of beer. A caña is a small beer served in a wine glass. The bar tender got us our ice cold Cruzcampos (the brand of beer in this region) and grabbed us a small plate of homemade olives. I had never had fresh homemade olives before, and I think I will find it hard to go back. Salty, oily and firm. No canned mushiness there. A couple of Euro for the round and we were set with our little bit of Spain.

We headed out of La Palma del Condado around 9:30 this morning and quickly got under way. We tweaked our route a little last night and shifted from really back roads to a diagonal road to a highway. The diagonal road fell under the really back road category, but we were at home riding among all the bird hunters and pig hunters going hither and yon. They even had signs on the road warning of the pigs and dogs running around. While on the diagonal we kept seeing mileages to our destination tomorrow that were much more favorable than the route we had planned. We were trying to connect bigger towns with the belief that those places would have hotels or hostals (bigger towns being a relative term). The route with the shorter distance went through a wide open area with very few town options. After asking the gas station attendant if there was lodging in Calañas and finding out there was we set off on another back road. The gas station attendant added that the road was ‘arriba, arriba’ (up, up) all the way, so we at least knew what to expect. The riding was pleasant as we wound our way through a massive mining area that seemed to evolve before the time of any environmental conscience. About 5 kilometers out of town we came to the ‘arriba’ that the guy was talking about. At the top we turned off to our place and were greeted with a glowing white town complete with a windmill and 16th century church. The buildings here are almost all white and look like they get painted yearly. We wondered around a bit and finally located the hostal we had heard about. It was deserted, but after some looking we found a number and called it. The owner interrupted his siesta and came over to let us in and give us a room. It is probably one of the nicest and cleanest hostals we have stayed at yet. The bonus is they have a vending machine that dispenses cold beers. A few euro for beers and some canned olives and we are back in the swing of things.

Rambo and Solar Farms

Day 395
Seville to La Palma del Condado
Time: 4:18:00
Distance: 68.7 km
Avg Speed: 15.9 kph
Terrain: Rolling
Location: 37°21'N, 06° 38'W

Getting out of Seville proved to be another chapter in “how in the heck do we get out of this city?” As usual, the city bike path disappeared about the time the web of interstates appeared before us. This time we didn’t find the magic road to take us through the mess. After a boondoggle of about 5 kilometers we began retracing our steps back across one of the major rivers that runs through the Seville area. To our delight we spotted a recreation path along side the waterway. Unfortunately, we were about 40 feet above where we wanted to be. I was thinking we would have to ride back and connect with the road that lead to the path. At the same moment I was formulating my plan, Chris announced his “Well, I guess we’re going to have to Rambo it.” Isn’t it funny sometimes – the differences between men and women?
Finally back on track and heading west, we made some progress towards La Palma del Condado. There was no special reason for our selection of the town, just that it probably had a hostal and met our requirements for distance. Our plan takes us into central Portugal first before riding to the Algavre region in the south.
After lunch we finally left the urban sprawl behind and got into the beautiful rolling hills of western Andalucia. Plenty of citrus, olives, and solar farms dot the landscape. Surprised at the last item? We were too when we spotted the reflection of a major bank of solar panels from a pretty good distance. I can only attribute the unique reflection to a sunrise I witnessed on top of a mountain in Ecuador – it was mesmerizing.
Our rear ends were pretty sore by the time we rolled into La Palma. You’d think after almost 3,000 kilometers in Europe 5 days off wouldn’t be a big deal. We found the hostal, had a little rest, and then strolled the town. In the historic center we found a magnificent church – Saint John the Baptist. Awash in white with yellow trim and blue mosaic tiles, the structure towers above the surrounding streets. Chris read that it is one of the most important churches in western Andalucia.
Tomorrow we head north and into less traveled roads (at least we think). It will be nice to get out into the country again.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Seville Tourist Day

Day: 394
Time: All Morning

We slept way, way late this morning, but managed to roll out on the streets with everyone else. Stay up late, get up late works here, so we are happy to oblige. We were out of stove fuel (I forgot that when I bought it, we would be flying in 10 days) so we had a couple of croissants and some plums for breakfast. With no coffee we set out on the streets to take in the sites of this cool city. Our walk took us through the gardens at Alcazar, a residence of Moorish and Christian royalty starting in 913. The gardens have probably been updated since I don’t think they had plastic playground equipment back then. We took a turn out of the gardens and cruised through the old Jewish quarter in Barrio de Santa Cruz. It was great neighborhood to take in the morning sites of stores opening and cafés starting to buzz. Forgoing coffee at this point, we headed towards the cathedral (built on top of a former mosque from the Moors) and admired the vast open spaces inside. Christopher Columbus is supposedly buried here, but with construction and the throngs of people rolling in we managed to miss it. Recent research suggests that the tomb is actually Christopher’s son Diego and that the explorer is buried in the Caribbean. A little factoid for your next cocktail party. We worked our way out the back of the Cathedral fully entranced with Seville’s charm. This is when we usually let our guard down and today it happened to coincide with a couple of fortune tellers. I managed to keep mine at bay, but Leslie being in the moment got into hers and to make a long story short was lightened by a few Euros. Leslie was pretty upset by it all afterward, and was even more upset by the fact that she fell for it. I think that as savvy as we are, it is hard to be on the guard this many days in a row. It just sucked that getting approached and letting our guard down happened at the same time. Leslie attributed it partly due to no caffeine in her veins so we then holed up at a café for an hour and drank coffee until our hearts content. Fully alert and making light of the situation, we headed off to the river and the bull fighting ring. In front of the bull fighting ring is a statue of a famous bull fighter (can’t remember his name, not really important). We managed to arrive at the statue a few steps ahead of a tour bus group. I was standing in front of the statue when the guide backed into to me and tried to bully me out of the way; Leslie was standing on the statue taking picture of a reflection at the statues feet. She sensed what was going on and stayed there for several more minutes taking all kinds of pictures standing right on the statue’s stand. The tour group now has several pictures floating around of a famous bullfighter statue in Seville with Leslie’s butt in the air right next to him. Priceless timing. We managed to find a store for some more gas so we can properly fuel in the morning and got some groceries as well. Life is good and tomorrow we will began a roundabout journey towards Portugal.
Loving the full measure of life.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Trains and Planes in Spain are Sometimes a Pain

Day: 393
Barcelona to Seville
Time: Seemed Like Forever
Distance: 1,000 kilometers or so
Avg Speed: Whatever a plane flies
Terrain: Air
Location: 37°23'N, 5°58'W

Today was a travel day and it involved most other forms of transportation other than our bicycles. It made me really appreciate how easy it is to travel by bicycle, not with a bicycle.
We bid Fernando an early morning farewell and rode in the direction of the train station. As I pedaled in the pre-dawn darkness, I reflected on how much I enjoyed our stay. I really hope to see our new friend sometime in the future. He opened his home to us and we are forever grateful.
We easily found the station as we had scoped it out a couple of days ago. That was the extent of our preparation for today and, let me tell you, it lead to one of our hardest travel days yet. Live and learn – one of my favorite sayings…
We managed to get on the first train with the early morning crowd and they like to hang out in the area reserved for bicycles, baby carriages, and handicapped spaces. As a result, we had to stand for the 25 minute ride into the city. Unfortunately, Chris tends to get motion sickness so we had to find him a seat before things got ugly.
The train change in Barcelona was pretty straightforward except for all of the steps in the maze of tunnels. I managed to take a pedal in the shin and didn’t do so well holding back the tears as we pushed and pulled the bikes around.
The third train brought us to the airport and a realization that our time was dwindling. We only had one hour and a half and didn’t have the bikes broken down. We were actually planning on just removing the pedals and turning the handle bars. Ha! How could we be so silly?
I selected a low cost airline for our flight and soon realized why they go out of business so quickly. We checked in and I was then directed to the ticket window to take care of the extra charges for baggage. As I was standing in line I noticed Chris having a very animated conversation with one of the airline agents. I realized that they were going to require us to package the bikes in some way. I got my receipt and ran after Chris as he pushed the bikes, now with front wheels removed, to the shrink-wrap station. Doesn’t sound like that big of a problem, right? Sadly, we were in terminal C and we had to go to terminal B.
The wrapping of our bicicletas was both frustrating and comical. I made the mistake of trying to hurry the three boys along and that ultimately slowed them down. Nothing like a rude American…
Back in terminal C we found our ticket agent and she directed us to the oversized x-ray machine. Did I mention we’re down to 30 minutes at this point? The nice security man apparently hadn’t ever x-ray bicycles before and spent a few too many minutes scratching his head before giving up.
But wait…there’s more.
Time to wheel the bikes down to baggage claim where we waiting some more. Luckily, the ticket agent ran to call the gate so we could be “those people” holding up the flight. Finally, a baggage person came and took the bikes. Whew.
The flight was uneventful – surprise.
We arrived in Seville and were greeted with rain. We collected our bags and bikes and headed for the café. The morning’s events hadn’t allowed for any breaks (including restroom stops) so we were pretty famished. We discussed our options and decided to avoid another wet ride into a big city. We stopped by the tourist office, reserved a room, and headed to the taxi stand.
Honestly, there was not a good chance that we would actually get a taxi into the city. Europe has not totally caught on to the SUV revolution. However, in a brief moment of luck, Chris spotted a Mercedes station wagon taxi and I sprinted to negotiate a ride. Five minutes later we had our gear packed in for the “special service” price of twice the going rate. We had been hemorrhaging money all day, so what was a few more euros?
Our driver more or less found the hostal and quickly liquidated his taxi. We payed him and then hauled our gear through the front door. Thirty seconds later, after we found out that the hostal didn’t want bicycles, I was back on the street in search of a room.
So the end of the story is that we have a room, the bikes are with us, and we paid 10 extra euros to have it that way.

That is all,

Supertramp Rules

Day: 392
Sant Cugat to Barcelona
Time: Tapas Time
Distance: Not Far
Avg Speed: 150 kph
Terrain: Highway

We all rolled out of bed around the same time this morning. Fernando had been missing his workouts with work and visitors so he excused himself and ran to the gym for a good sweat. Leslie and I decided that we had better get ourselves in gear while we had time and got our things situated to travel and send home. When Fernando got home we all walked into town to mail our camping gear home. We struck out in France with camping, and most of the campgrounds we had seen in Spain were closed as well. We were glad to see that our camping gear weighed in at 10 kg, that is until the mail lady told us how much it would be to send home. The slow boat was fine with us and now we are a little lighter with our loads. We hit the store for a little lunch and then cruised on back home where Fernando whipped up some vittles. We were in full Spain time mode so after lunch we all relaxed with naps and TV. Leslie and I also received our ballots via fax and took care of voting. We had to set it up before we left the US, but it was pretty painless and now we can say we did something when we wave our righteous finger. Around 8:30 we decided that we wanted tapas for dinner. Fernando had taken us to a great little tapas joint in Barcelona a few days earlier, so we just headed on back there. We all loaded into his little Peugeot, dropped the top, cranked the tunes and rolled through the night. Tapas was a lot more involved tonight where we sampled 10 different yummies (pimientos padron, patatas bravas, bocadillo con chorizo y queso, mini hamberguesas, bacon y queso, langostina con brocheta, solomillo, montadito jamon, tortilla patatas, and finally crema catalana). It was great to go with someone who knew what was good, and what stuff was called. Sadly we were only able to sample 1/10 of the menu. After tapas we loaded back in the car, dropped the top and sang eighties tunes on the radio the whole way back to Sant Cugat. At one point I looked in the back seat and watched Leslie singing Jefferson Starship at the top of her lungs (with her eyes closed). The crowning moment was when “Give a Little Bit” by Supertramp came on and we all belted it out. It was a very fun last night in Barcelona.
Hasta luego

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Way Tapas Was Meant to Be

Day 390
Barcelona City Tour

If you recall, we had a “tapas incident” way back in Slovakia on day 324. Chris had purchased some cured meat from Spain for the rock bottom price of $2 and we spent the next day resting in close proximity to a bathroom. Today we redeemed ourselves by going to a lively establishment in the heart of Barcelona. With the help of our friend Fernando, we enjoyed a “real” tapas experience.

We’re slowly changing our schedule to match the up late, sleep in culture of Spain. After breakfast at 11:30 we did some laundry and then headed into the city. We had our personal (and very gracious) tour guide driving us toward a very exciting afternoon in Barcelona. We had a few sights we wanted to see and were otherwise open to whatever Fernando could think of.
Barcelona is a city of over 1.5 million and is the second largest city in Spain. It covers just over 100 sq kilometers and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the southeast and the Collserola mountain range on the northwest. It’s the kind of city that looks very overwhelming from the outside. Fortunately, it is more than welcoming once you’re inside.
Aside from it being one of Europe’s principal ports and an important economic center, Barcelona has a rich history in the arts. One of the major attractions we wanted to see today was La Famalia Sagrada, a church that started construction in 1882 and is still not finished today. The structure was designed by the legendary artist, Antonio Gaudi. For forty years he worked on the project, even devoting the last 15 years of his life to it. It’s really hard to describe La Familia. If you know anything about Gaudi you know that his work was…unique.
Anyway, I should back up and describe the rest of the afternoon. Before we got to La Famalia Sagrada we had already seen some of the other highlights of Barcelona. Fernando was a most excellent host and guided us through the historical, cultural, and gastronomical aspects of the city. Memorable moments include the bustling, tree lined Las Ramblas and seafood paella with views of the ocean.
Our tour concluded with grand views from El Castell Montjunic (Castle Montjunic). Overlooking the ocean on one side and the city on the other, we were able to piece together our different stops on our personalized tour. It was a fitting end to a fantastic day.


Day 389: Badalona to Sant Cugat

Time: 2:00
Distance: 24.5 km
Avg Speed: 12.25 kph
Terrain: Rolling cityscape
Location: N 41° 28' 0", E 2° 5' 0"

We had a short ride to a good destination today. The only thing that stood in our way was the bustling metropolis of Barcelona. A friend of ours lives north of town and was kind enough to offer us a bed and a shower for a few days. We couldn’t pass that offer up, so we left our little hostal under the cover of rain and clouds. Riding in the rain isn’t our favorite way to travel, but when you can get a home cooked meal the goal outweighs the journey. Getting through town was not as straightforward as we thought and we stalled out a bit running into one-way streets, hills reminiscent of San Francisco, and highways that didn’t allow bikes. We eventually wound our way to a river and got on a recreation path that took us in the direction we wanted to go. A few more correct guesses and we were like rolling wet blankets heading towards the town of Sant Cugat. Our friend, Fernando, gave us his address and with Leslie’s sense of direction (with the help of google maps) we got within a couple blocks before I broke out the cell phone for help on the final approach. We found the place easy enough and before we knew it we had cold beers in our hands and a hot meal in our bellies. A little wine and some little Spanish pastries rounded off our meal before we turned in for a little afternoon nap. Our host’s graciousness and thoughtfulness quickly made our experience of the wet city dash become a distant memory. We will spend a couple of days here taking care of some business, making Fernando play tour guide and resting up before venturing further south towards Seville.

Smelly like a wet dog,