Thursday, July 14, 2011

Home - after 2,420 miles (3,895 kilometres)

I arrived home early this morning after 3,895 kilometers on the road (km sounds much more than 2,420 miles!). It was good to finally arrive home at 01:45 and park my bike in the shed. I gave it a hug and a kiss for getting me home. Right than I felt at one with my bike - we had been through such a journey together.

The main highlight of the trip was Andorra. Coming out of the top of the clouds into superb scenery following Pat on his bike was awesome - an unforgettable moment. Also highlighting for me was the perfect roads, easy navigation, the trip to La Manga with Roma, the perfect riding weather in Spain, making the ferries on time, and the (mostly) trouble free mechanical performance of the bike.

The lowlights were few - but rain in France and North Wales, a sore ass on the way down, some twisty motorways, tolls, wearing a helmet with sun burn, and driver behavior in Spain gave me some things to remind me that such a trip cannot be perfect.

The best drivers in Europe
On this trip I traveled through five countries: Ireland, France, Andorra, Spain, and the UK. Easily the worst (in this unscientific study) were the Spanish. They drive far too fast and much too aggressively. From motorways to the twisty narrow roads of northern Spain, they drive too close up behind you, wait, pass you out if there is at least 10 metres of road available, and then cut in front of you as if there was a prize going for who could get the closest. One old guy in a Merc did this to me three times on the Autovia between Valladolid and Santander - the one and only time I gave an "up yours" signal on the road. In France - they are not much better, but the French are much better at lane discipline. In Andorra - clearly the presence of a tourist on a low bike that cannot corner too fast on the many twisty roads was an annoyance to them. They also don't see the need for having lights on in very low visibility in the clouds. So who are the best drivers in Europe? This falls to the drivers in the UK. They are much better at keeping to the speed limit, and they are less aggressive on the road. I felt least threatened on the UK roads. The only place I saw a police check-point? In Blackrock about a mile from home!

This has been my third trip to Europe on the bike - I went to the Algarve in 2005 (3,210 miles), and Sigean in France in 2008 (2,072 miles). So where to next? I'll probably not ride down to Murcia in Spain again. I would definitely like to tour Northern Europe, with Finland a probable destination. Southern Germany and the Austrian Alps would be good - riding around the mountains in Andorra has given me an appetite for this scenery. France is always a good bet in that the weather is a bit milder, je peux parler un peu de fran├žais, and it is easily reached by ferry. So I've done trips in 2005, 2008, 2011 - will 2014 be next to kept the three year sequence going?

Ride to live, live to ride.

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