Monday, July 22, 2013

Bilbao by day and North Coast night ride

 Spent the day in Bilbao although still feeling on the brink of heatstroke with the 90+ degree temperatures and a body which had acclimated to consistent 40°, wind, and rain in Iceland.
Met up with an old Basque friend of Monica's, a wildlife/fish biologist who now spends his days surfing, climbing, biking, and evenings partying. Still working on his PhD dissertation two years after leaving Alaska,"It is hard get any work done. The waves have been great and There's a awesome party every night."   Just Relax! It's the Basque way.  

A Modern master piece with a skin of titanium;  Seeing Frank Gehry's Guggenheim has been on my bucket list for over a decade.  Took more than a few  titanium lust shots with my Merlin. 


Dual lane bike path, with clear separation from auto traffic.

The day slipped away, and our goal of being on the road by 7:00 pm to reach our goal of Sopelana Beach by a reasonable time was pushed back to 9:00 pm due to drawn out  conversation  with Pablo, some vino tinto in the park, and our first flat of the trip.  We had managed to ride for a week through volcanic debris and razor-sharp obsidian shards without a problem, but one day cycling in the city resulted in the first flat of the trip. There are worse places to change a tube; Serenaded by a Vivaldi  Concerto, we relaxed in the shade enjoying a gelato and café cortado.

 Fully embracing the Spanish lifestyle, "don't rush, just relax and enjoy, it is the way of the Basque" Pablo had lectured earlier that day. Our goal wasto be on the road by 7 PM but we didn't end up leaving until 9.  I wasn't in a hurry forgetting that the sun actually went down at this latitude.

Being on the road for a month, I put together a tool kit would provide the necessary fixes for a variety of problems, while minimizing bulk and weight. Tool kit: Crankbros multi tool, S&S coupler spanner wrench, compass, presta valve adapter, leatherman, misc hex bolts, spare brake and shift cables, P-clamp,  gorilla tape, sewing kit, heavy duty thread, Ti tire levers, zip ties, spare buckle, Tenacious Tape, Lenz road pump tube patch kit, chain lube, lithium grease for S&S threads, Phil-wood waterproof Grease, pen, and paper.
Thankfully only needing to patch a tube today and the gorilla tape to fix the quick release that self-destructed in Iceland.

Once getting the bikes sorted, I was excited for nighttime biking, for the first time in almost a year I saw the stars in their full glory and ad a chance to test out our dynamo headlamps.

Snacks on the road to save time.

Industrial sunset; our route out of the city took us through lesser traveled sections of the city for tourists like ourselves; Another advantage to touring on bicycle seeing the other facets of Bilbao, industrial park, small neighborhood concerts, government housing high-rises.


Biking through the cool darkness of the night was enjoyable, I'm glad we took our time leaving the city.  The ride was an interesting variety urban pavement, ancient cobble stones, and dirt single track on the coastal bluffs, arriving to make camp near Sopelana Beach around 2:00 am, fell asleep to the sound waves promising a cool reprieve from the morning's inevitable heat.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Barcelona to Bilbao

The daylong train ride from Barcelona to Bilbao  was uneventful, restful, and beautiful.  I slept through most of the landscape through Barcelona and surrounding communities.  Fortunately was awake to capture some of the scenery from the train car as we gained elevation and latitude entering the Basque Country.

The countryside shaped by centuries of cultivation and human habitation has a unique and elegant beauty to my eye, and feels worlds away from the harsh and unforgiving landscapes of Iceland and even Alaska.
Arriving to Bilbao late at night,  abandoned city streets and a full moon were a quiet welcome to the Basque; a stark contrast to the chaos we had left behind that morning in Barcelona.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Barcelona is Hot

Mission Barcelona: eat food, see the sites, dry out our camp gear,  tune the bikes, don't get pickpocketed.
An hour before our flight left from Reykjavík we realized that we were landing in Barcelona with nowhere to stay. A quick Internet search helped us find the cheapest hotel within a couple miles of the the historic city center, and it had with a free 24 hour buffet to scavenge food from. 

 We were astounded to arrive and find a luxurious goldleaf interior and bottomless cappuccinos, it felt like a dream after from the previous weeks' extreme weather, harsh landscapes, and freeze-dried dinners.

Careful kids, that's not grape juice it's wine.

Priority number 1: find a bike shop for new brakes for the Travelers Check. Given Spain's alternative schedule we figured mid day before 'siesta' would be a good time to find a business open. No such luck, thisbike shop's  business hours are 4 PM until 10 PM. (I want to work there)

A look in the window revealed a Surly Big Dummy and several Brooks saddles, we came to the right place.

Waiting for the bike shop to open, we killed a couple of hours in the 95 degree heat by walking the city and checking out some of the phenomenal architecture.

I realized my obsession with cycling had surpassed my interests in art and architecture when i took more pictures in 20 minutes in a bike shop than during my 6 hours walking the city of Barcelona.

Here are some shots of the Espaibici


Brooks galore.

Wooden flat-bar for your fixxie.

Full suspension folding travel bike.

Window to the basement to watch their mechanics work.

Dynamo light heaven.

Representing AK in the bathroom guest book.
 The owner of Espaibici was a huge Surly fanboy and had a Puglsey and Moonlander stashed in the back of his shop, we exchanged e-mails for his eventual pilgrimage to the Fatbike Mecca of the world: Alaska.

Since arriving to Spain, people had constantly been warning us about pickpockets and getting robbed. One of the guys at the bike shop had a nice way of explaining this phenomenon in Barcelona. "People in Barcelona are always looking for an opportunity. So if you have your back turned or you don't pay attention they will see the opportunity to take. No one will ever aggress you. They will not come with a knife and say give me your money.  But if you're looking over there, they will open your bag."  His advice was to never leave our bikes outside even  locked up, "take them inside" he said.
As we walked around Barcelona throughout the rest of the day, I did take note of the style in which people's bikes were secured, typically with at least three locks.  Anything not locked up was taken, if you didn't lock your saddle to your frame people would "take the opportunity" to have a free bike saddle; and why not have a wheel while your at it?

This fixie had the most stylish solution of all the bikes I saw locked up that day.

Here's some more shots from Barcelona.

DIY Bike wheel wagon.

Crazy sculpture

"Free Tibet" rally

Barcelona was nice, but far too hot and bussy for my taste. After one full day in the city we both had enough. Time to get back on our bikes and into nature. That night we booked our tickets North to Bilbao.