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 cafĂ©. 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,

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