I ended up spending nearly five months in Cape Town working on the project that never ended and not cycling at all. During that time I dreamed up all sorts of crazy and unworkable plans, but in the end I bagged them and went to visit my daughter Noelle in France. Once I was there, I didn't go back to Africa as I had originally planned, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I finally left Cape Town. I stopped there to work waaaaaayyyy back in December, and I've been working on a long project ever since. Since I've just been writing software for the last 4 months, I don't really even consider it part of my trip... except for the fact that it was summer in January. Cape Town was quite a nice city to stay in, and I could easily live there. It's been one of my favorite cities for this trip. I met lots of wonderful people, and the city has a lot to offer. In fact, I quite liked all of South Africa and will recommend it when I get around to writing the page.
I'm currently at my stepdaughter Noelle's house in Southern France, near Toulouse. You can see it on the map on my First France Page from 18 months ago when I first started this trip. I've been staying at her house for the last month and having a great time. I also took a quick hop over to London to visit another friend last weekend.
My plans have gone through a bunch of changes over the last few months. Over the next 2 months, I'll be riding through Spain and Portugal. That's obviously required since I'm about 20 miles from the Spanish border at the moment. After that, I have plans but telling you them now would spoil the fun.
I finally managed to recover all the photos for my Russia page. It involved having Vladimir ship me a hard disk from his computer so I could recover the stuff whomped by a virus while I was in Moscow. You can find them in the Russia Photo Gallery. The Moscow Times interviewed me for an article about the Moscow Cycle Club I rode with, and put my photo in the paper. You can see a copy of the article here.
Hope this finds all well, happy and cycling (I can hope can't I).
Yep, I'm in Espania (Spain).
I obviously rode here over the Pyrenees from Noelle's house in France. I'm a little out of shape (OK, a lot). The ride went well except for having to push the bike partway up the 2400-meter (8,000 foot) mountain. I spent the 4th of July alternately riding and pushing my bike up 28 km (18 miles) of uphill without any downhills at all. It was a great day. The Pyrenees are gorgeous, and well worth visiting.
I've been incredibly lax about finishing my South Africa page. Not only did I sit around Cape Town for six months doing nothing; I didn't even finish the page while I was at it. I'm working on it as we speak, but I skipped ahead and finished the pages for France and the Pyrenees while they were fresh in my head. I expect South Africa to be done in about a month. My camera was not working during part of the trip, so I'm depending on some of my South African friends to supply me with photos and some of the text.
If you don't mind getting out of sequence, you can read my report of my stay at Noelle's house at Wade's Vision Quest - France Pass II, and then click Next to read about the Pyrenees. I should have both the South Africa page and the photo gallery from Noelle's and the Pyrenees in a few weeks.
I'll be staying here in Barcelona for a week or so, and then heading for Madrid. I'll be in Spain and Portugal through September.
Wade The Sloth
Well, I FINALLY got my first 1000 miles in for 2002 (1600 km). Pretty pathetic for the end of July I think, but at least I'm cycling again.
I've been in Madrid for about a week, and I'll head out again on Monday, going south towards Granada. I took a sort of a roundabout route to get to Madrid. I was in Barcelona, and decided I wanted to see the Salvadore Dali Museum/Theatre in Figures. Madrid is Northeast from Barcelona, while Figures is Northwest, but it was only a few days out of the way, and besides that the short distance from Barcelona to Madrid is only about 500 km (310 Miles), which hardly seems worth warming the bike up for, so off to Figures I went... and besides, that let me see the infamous Costa Brava.
As I was approaching Figures, I saw this road sign. By now, you know my map reading skills are barely adequate. This sign said:
That got me to thinking, FRANCE!! I'm only 10 miles from France. Once I made that astounding discovery, I looked more carefully at the map. It turns out that when I went through Andorra, David actually recommended I take a different, slightly lower and easier route that went through the Pyrenees just east of Andorra. I was pretty close to the outlet from that route. After Figures, I was going to go east through the foothills of the Pyrenees again, and then head south to Madrid.
You're probably guessing what I actually did. I just couldn't quite live with my performance the last time over the route to Andorra (or lack thereof), and I was only a couple of days south of it, so I said to myself, "Self. You need to improve your performance over that pass" (I do that a lot when I'm on the bike). It was only a couple of days out of the way, and seemed like a fun thing to do. Besides that, my camera had completely died by now, and so I thought (incorrectly) that I might get a good deal on one in Andorra. So, after Figures I left to ride over the same pass once again. You can see the route on this handy-dandy map.
Now those of you with better map-reading skills than I have will by now have noticed that I had just decided to ride over the Pyrenees from North to South. The only problem with that theory was that I was now on the Southern side of the range. That means... you guessed it. I rode over the pass David mentioned going from South to North, and then immediately rode over the next pass over from North to South. Which obviously means I rode over the Pyrenees twice in two days just for fun.
My performance for this trip was a bit better than last time. I shipped about 10 pounds of books I didn't need to Noelle from Barcelona so I was a bit lighter, but I still did much better. I started the day one mountain over from where I started last time, so I climbed about an extra 500 meters (1500 feet) or so before I started. Other than that, I rode about the same distance as last time in only 4 1/2 hours of cycling which chopped a half hour off my cycling time. I also only stopped to rest 4 times during the climb, and for much shorter periods of time, so my total time for the day was much shorter.
After that, I stopped at the same-old gas station for a drink, yelled my traditional "Let er Rip", and bonzaied back down the other side to Andorra la Vella. I eventually did buy a new camera there, but I didn't get much of a deal on it and the manual was in Spanish which wasn't all that helpful. Fortunately, since I throw the paper manual away and get an electronic one anyway it was no big deal. I just downloaded the English version.
Madrid is pretty nice, but I'm not going to talk about it all that much here because this email is getting long enough it'll just repeat what's in my web page. It's been reasonably warm with temperatures of 34-38 C (93-100 F).
You should hear from me again about the start of September, by which time I will have gone counterclockwise through southern Spain, then up through Portugal and back to Northern Spain where I'll be hiking for a week with Connie.
Wade The Almost Cyclist Again
Yes, I know I said that before, but I'm back in Madrid so I figured I may as well recycle to save brain cycles.
I've now completed my tour of Spain and Portugal. I ended up with around 3,000 km (2,000 Miles) for Spain and Portugal. That's about the same as South Africa, which was double the size. The red lines below are cycling, and green lines are bus/plane because I ran out of time.
There were quite a lot of mountains in Spain. Besides going over the Pyrenees three times, I went to the top of Pico Veleta in Southern Spain. At 3,375 meters (11,250 feet), it's the highest road pass in Europe. I stumbled on it when I was looking for the highest road pass in the Alps, and couldn't resist it. I hadn't really even planned to go down South, but the mountain was calling me... what could I do? In addition to the big mountains, all of Spain had a lot more hills than I've had for most of my trip.
About 1/3 of you have already seen this photo because one of my friends at work was nice enough to print up a few copies of it. Granada is at 700 meters, so I climbed 2,700 Meters (9,000 Feet) to the top. Like an idiot, I set my alarm wrong the day I went to climb it so I didn't leave Granada until after noon. That meant I was an hour short of the summit when it got dark, so I spent the night in a refuge with a bunch of Spanish hikers and climbed the the rest of the way the next morning. All in all, it was a good climb but not as challenging as I had hoped. Of course, it was nearly double the elevation gain of the road over the Pyrenees, but it still wasn't as hard as it sounds. There are lower passes that are more difficult in lots of places.
The weather in the southern parts of Spain has been reasonably warm for most of the trip. Most cycling days were in the 32-38 C (90-100 F) range during the day. I drank around 8 Liters of water most days. Northern Spain was the opposite, with most days being overcast and threatening rain, although it didn't actually rain until the last day and for less than an hour then.
I also made a quick pass through Portugal, but didn't spend a lot of time there because of timing. You would think a wandering vagrant would be free of schedule conflicts, but it doesn't seem to work out that way.
I spent a week hiking in the Picos de Europa mountain range in Northern Spain with Connie (Noelle's mother). It was good hiking. I did an organized trip with a dozen other people, most of whom were from somewhere in Britain.
I'll be staying in Madrid for a month or two, and then I'm off to my next ultra-secret destination. In fact, at the moment it's even secret from me.
I've spent most of the time since my last update in Madrid, but I made a couple of small trips. The first was a trip to Sweden for a week. That's hardly enough time to even say I've been there, but it was nice. I spent a few days in Gothenburg on the western side of the country, and then a few days in Stockholm, which is the capital. Compared to Madrid, Sweden is the ultimate bastion of calmness and order. The Swedish people seem very nice, everything is very orderly and efficient, and people don't seem to be in a hurry or overly stressed about anything. It seems to have been completely taken over by McDonalds and Seven-Eleven. You see a good dozen of each on any given day just walking around. The other odd thing is that ATM machines always have a line at them. I'm not sure if this is some kind of national law or something. I also seemed to have trouble finding genuine Swedish food and paradoxically ended up eating Spanish food several times in Stockholm. Go figure!
I just got back to Madrid after spending a couple of weeks in the Basque country in Northern Spain. The Basques are an interesting group that has their own language and culture, but never actually had a country. A very small minority of the Basques want to be separate from Spain and are using terrorism to try to achieve this, but most of them hate violence and don't want to be separate anyway. They want their culture and heritage to be taken into account in Madrid, but don't really want to be separate. I was in a tiny little Bed & Breakfast in a small town doing work and enjoying the countryside.
I made another minor alteration to my appearance. I had some really minor surgery done on my head to get rid of a few unsightly lumps that became visible when I cut off all my hair, and I also did a newer version of my facial hair system. You can see the changes, along with a very manly looking bandage covering the stitches in the photo below. What do you think? Do I look pseudo-Spanish now?
You may be wondering why I seem to keep coming back to Madrid. Or perhaps, the identity of the mystery woman in the photo might intrigue you. They're obviously related. Let me take this opportunity to introduce my new girlfriend Amalia. We met exactly 3 months ago today. We actually met a week before that but didn't like each other all that much so that obviously shouldn't count. Then we went to see Spiderman, and for various reasons we're considering that our anniversary.
Amalia is a former professional musician (flutist), and is currently a journalist, radio personality and documentary filmmaker. She writes freelance (when we can be bothered to work at all) for several newspapers and magazines, and is also coauthoring a couple of books. Her radio program deals with literature, and is the most popular program on that subject in Spain. Her current big project is a documentary film called American Dreams. This will be a 13 part documentary which tries to investigate what is the force behind the American Dream that so powerfully attracts everyone else in the world. This dream is loved, hated, envied, despised and copied all over the world. Everywhere I go, people have an opinion about America. It's a strong reference point for everyone, and this documentary will attempt to examine why this is so. It will do it through interviews with some of the major players that have been responsible for shaping this dream, along with samples of their work and the dream in action. This project is in the early financing stages now, and will no doubt take a year or so to complete. Most of the production will be done in Canada, so there's a chance I might actually step foot in North America sometime in the next year. She got so involved in this project she decided to import her own American Dream to see if she can understand it from a closer distance. You can think of me as a giant research project. I'm also becoming a sort of consultant on the American Dreams project, so I'll soon be able to claim the probably unique distinction of being a Lumberjack-Geek-World-Traveling-Recumbent-Cyclist-Documentary-Filmmaker.
I have so far determined that I am abysmally bad at learning languages. My Spanish lessons are going extremely poorly. Actually, I need a word that means "even worse than abysmally bad", but can't think of it. Fortunately, Amalia speaks English better than I do so it isn't all that much of a problem when we leave Spain. She does have a few idiosyncrasies in her speech, but I am working hard at teaching her to sound like an ignorant savage like me.
Next - Middle East