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,

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