Timeline: July 2nd – 7th
Our plan for the day was to get a bike ride in and then head into town for dinner at the Mercado and potentially a haircut for me at a barbershop we’d see on the tour. We wanted to also stop in at a bike shop, Cyclos Otero, as had been our habit in each town as I continued my search to try and find a small bell for the bike that would fit on my handlebar (the European mounts we’d seen were all to small).
We asked about bike routes at the reception desk and they suggested riding in the direction of the University we’d seen earlier. As we pulled out of camp we rode on the access road that runs along the M501, a nice stretch to start on. When we got to a second round-a-bout, we stopped to get a fix on the direction we wanted to go in when another cyclist pulled up to ask if we were OK. He spoke some English and so we asked about where we could ride in the area.
He said that if we continued on the access road and then onto the M501 towards Brunete, we could cycle in the direction of Villanueva de la Canada for a good ride. We continued on our way and then joined the highway, not ideal riding conditions, as it is a busy four lane divided road with cars passing by at high speed. But there was a good shoulder and as we’ve observed many Spanish cyclists riding on this same type of road, we continued on our way.
We had to climb a bit to get to the turnoff from the highway but the road that beckoned us was just two lanes and as we rode towards Brunete we encountered numerous cyclists riding the other way. This was surely the route to take. On the outskirts of Brunete I pulled over to stop for a minute or two, more tired than necessary given the amount of the ride we’d covered. We sat for a bit, drank some water, ate some food and discussed turning back as I wasn’t sure I felt entirely well.
Thinking we’d head back to camp with maybe 18 miles total for the day, when I got to the round a bout to take us back to camp, for some reason, call it faith in my experience as a cyclist, I turned right instead of left and continued on the way to la Canada. I’ve expounded on this in the past, but have found over time that the first twenty or so miles or say the first hour on the bike, are the hardest if you are contemplating a long ride.
The lure of returning and being done, the fact that your body and/or mind are not quite into riding, can conspire to cut a ride short. If you can pedal past that point, you settle into the rhythm of a long ride, and the miles and time spent become a zone you inhabit. Some of my very best rides were those I thought I was going to abandon in the first hour, but instead kept at it and was rewarded with the type of experience that athletes are familiar with, a melding of mind and body.
We started to climb up to la Canada, or what we thought might be it and began to become concerned about the temperature and the time we needed to get back to camp and get into town. Part way we found a place to pull out, then turned around for an exhilarating downhill to the flats that led us to Brunete.
We stopped briefly at a gas station for some water and food, and then rode back to the M501 for what we thought would be an uncomplicated ride downhill back to camp, figuring we would just return the way we came. As faithful readers will have discerned by now, navigation and certainty are not two words often associated with our bike riding exploits.
As we rode along on the M501 we approached what should have been the turn off to go to the access road to camp. We were only a half a mile or so away, it was so close you could taste the end of the ride. But no, the road curved up to the right and headed up a long but manageable hill towards the suburb, Villaviciosa de Odón, where we’d been parking our car for the bus. We followed three other cyclists up the roadway and at the first opportunity, at the top of the hill, exited the highway and crossed over it on a bridge to head into the suburb.
We’d passed the tall lights of a soccer field as we climbed and they seemed familiar, similar to those I’d glimpsed outside the bus window as we commuted out from Madrid. I felt like I knew where we were but wasn’t certain and knew that Joanna was counting on me to try to get us back to camp. We rode through some narrow streets that weren’t recognizable, but being of the male gender of the species, I’m a firm believer in riding or driving around until you either find your way or finally admit you are lost.
So how relieved was I when we approached an intersection that looked correct, turned left and started down the street. That’s when I spotted that restaurant on the right I’d passed twice already in the bus and I knew then we were on the way back to camp. We followed the route that we’d used in the car, with the exception of crossing over the 501 on a pedestrian bridge that landed us right at the entrance to camp, with a nice 33 miles in total, the best for us on the trip.
For the next day or so we’d ponder if there is a way to ride back without climbing that hill at the end. If we’d ridden another day in Madrid, it would have been our quest. But a ride was not to be as will be discussed in the next post. In fact, our lack of riding to this point has been one of the disappointments, minor at best, of the trip. I’d thought we’d have plenty of time and would easily find compelling, safe routes to ride.
Boy, was I wrong. Being a tourist still means lots of time sightseeing, particularly when you are in a country like Spain for the first time. Add in that some of the places we’ve stayed in do not immediately lead to carefree rides means that the 100 miles a week I thought we’d accomplish, with multiple forty mile rides, has morphed into a few good rides that we happened to fall into.
But that’s life on the road. Make your plans, pump up your expectations, and then be prepared to make choices about how you will really spend your time. In the meantime the bikes are seeing a lot of Europe; unfortunately its from the top of the car. That could all change at a moments notice but for now, I’ll take the walking and the sightseeing as a reasonable trade off. There will always be miles to ride. But this trip will only come once.
Ciclos Otero: http://www.oterociclos.es/
Villanueva de la Canada: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villanueva_de_la_Ca%C3%B1ada