the First Month -- 4,000 miles
When we began our Journey on May 20th from New York's
Kennedy Airport, we had no idea what to expect. The last thing I expected was that
this would be a longer version of any other vacation we've taken: Zip around and
cram in as many sights in the shortest amount of time, sleep when you get home from the
trip (at work?).
Obviously, on a 15 month trip, this theory would
either kill us or require a good divorce attorney. And so my first lesson is
learned: We can't see it all, and we need to spend more quality time with what we do
choose to see. We also need to arrive to places early enough in the day to enjoy and
then write about them.
With that said, this Journal Entry will compress the last
two weeks, and bring us current -- I find it easier to write when the emotion of a sight
When Fede & Inma invited us for a ride to the Sierra
Nevada Mountains, we thought we were in for a pleasant afternoon of lazy riding into the
hills. The "special" route Fede chose led us through the steep back
streets of a forgotten village, with streets so narrow the steps went up the middle of the
Gradually, the trees gave way to rolling pastures and farm
animals. After about a half hour, the road disappears (Fede claims it was there 2
month prior) and we were forced to negotiate a very steep, loose gravel road. When
we finally got back to the main road (paved), we thought the lazy ride would begin.
As the altimeter on my GPS rose to 8,000 feet, and we saw
the base of the ski area approaching, I assumed we were nearing the peak of our ride.
Instead, we continued up alongside the chair lifts to a barricade at 9,000 feet.
Here we met 2 of Fede's friends who were hanging about. After introductions
and a few photos, I thought for sure we were ready to descend.
Instead, we road around the barricade ('cause bikers do
that) and continued up the trail. At 9,500 feet, the view was spectacular. At
10,000 feet, I was chuckling like a little boy. At 10,500 feet, awe was competing
with the rapid drop in temperature. When we finally stopped at 11,400 feet, there
were so many emotions running through me, I just shut off the engine, and sat for a
moment. I don't know if it was to make sure my equilibrium was OK, or to pay respect
to the Gods since we must be on their front steps. Either way . . . WOW!
We dismounted the bikes and climbed another 30 yards to the
peak. At the top, we climbed onto the concrete platform, grabbed the vertical pole
like a life-line, and looked around a full 360°. We were above everything! We
had to look DOWN and squint to see the top of the chair lift, something I have never done
in 25 years of skiing.
One of Fede's friends who guided us to
the peak, José Benito Martín, sent me an email last week. He said if anyone would
like to come ride or would like more information on the Sierra Nevada, send him an
We left Granada and rode about 200 miles to Sevilla. A
wonderful Spanish city which resembles (to me) Paris. We stayed at the one
campground in/near the city. The guide book stated it was close to the airport.
Our tent was about 100 yards from the end of the runway. Two days in a row
the 7:00am DC-9 flight departed "on time". Fortunately, it was an
otherwise small airport with limited flights. Every night, we could here the
festivities and see the fireworks from the local bullfight. Although not much will
be said here, if you are travelling in the south of Spain, it is worth a visit to Sevilla.
We left Sevilla and headed towards Lisbon, Portugal.
The ride was relatively uneventful, although we passed through quite a few quaint little
villages. When we got to Setúbal, an Atlantic Ocean coastal city about 25 miles
south of Lisbon, we knew we had entered a resort getaway for the rich and/or the
lucky. The high cliffs, many coves, and narrow beaches attracted sun worshippers and
windsurfers alike. The mountain road northwest to Sessimbra was narrow, tree lined,
winding, and without a painted center line. These are great conditions for
motorbiking, except I kept trying to look out at the sea while staying on the pavement and
avoiding the occasional oncoming traffic.
We found a
campground above the Port in Sessimbra, high on a cliff overlooking the ocean and the
beach. In July, we were told, the calm serenity would be replaced with chaos,
confusion, and crowds.
After a day of sightseeing in Lisbon, we met up with our
friend José Ramos at his boat in the Marina. He invited us home to meet his wife
and 2 daughters, where we had a fabulous meal including fresh cod casserole. After
hours of great food and Port wine, we retired like happy pigs. It was José who
helped us bypass our ISP (internet) problem and we were able to upload our initial
We left Lisbon
and headed to Porto, home of Port wine. The grapes for Port are actually imported
from another region, but processed in the caves of Porto. This is a great historical
city to visit, but no information here at this time.
From Portugal we headed east to Pamplona, Spain, located on
the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. Pamplona is a relatively large city with
lots of museums and history. It is also the place of the famous "running of the
bulls" -- a 1 week celebration in July, and the only week of bullfighting in
We left Pamplona and spent 2 days riding the magnificent
twisties and passes of the Pyrenees. This, to me is a very underrated area.
We've all heard of, and many have toured, the famous Alps. I don't know what
you get in the Alps that you don't get in the Pyrenees. Actually, it was filled with
German motorcyclists who were on vacation. Hmmm . . .
Towards the east, we rode through Andorra, a mountain city
so large, it's like its own country. Along with all the ski/snowboard shops, it also
had dealer shops of every motorcycle brand. The villages leading into and out of
Andorra each had their own ski area. We will need to come back one winter and try
We left the Pyrenees and arrived in the south of France, one
month and 4,000 miles into our Journey. Going forward, we will reduce our rate
to about 3,000 miles/month, and spend more time in each place we stop.
For some great pictures, check out the photo pages of each
of the following: Sierra Nevada, Portugal,
(more Portugal) and the Pyrenees.