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Old 06-15-2011, 02:53 PM   #1
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Roman to Segovia (Spain)

For many years I've wanted to go to Segovia, Spain to see the huge Roman aqueduct there. However, this is not an interest my wife shares, and we usually vacation together. She said she'd be willing to go 'about 20 minutes' out of our way to see it, which doesn't really work. My wife and I are living in Germany courtesy of the US Air Force (and US taxpayers, thanks!) and she's back in the States for continuing education for 2 weeks, so I took off on my 650 V-Strom headed south.

I want to see the huge highway bridge at Millau, France while I'm on the way, and lots of other stuff. I mapped a 4000 mile track that would take me all the way to Gilbraltar and past many other Roman ruins sites, but I don't know that I have time to make it all the way there. I'm for quality over quantity, so I may have to cut this a bit shorter than that. This is my first ever multi-day road trip with luggage and the whole deal (I'm not camping, I'm not THAT crazy. Yet.) Heading off to Spain with a vague idea of where I'm going and not much Spanish vocabulary may not phase those of you who've been down the Road of Bones, but it's a new experience for me.

Of course no highways (well, full disclosure, I rode the highway the first hour just to get the heck on the way and avoid rush-hour traffic, but it's territory I've covered before) . I'm thinking I should call this the 'Tour D France', because I'm mostly riding the D roads that slow down through every village along the way. Today I rode about 300 miles (470 KM) and with stopping to take about a hundred pictures, it took me 10 hours.

Here's the equipment in the "just before leaving" photo: 2009 650 V-Strom, basically stock. Centerstand and luggage are good additions, but the Corbin seat makes the bike livable.

It's a drive-up Baguette dispensing machine! And it's heated!! The sign said 'don't touch, it's hot!'. 85 cents for one or 1.70 for two. And the sign in the window tells you what bakery makes the baguettes and what time they stock the machine (between 0615 and 0630). My goodness, only in France. About a block later I drove by a boulangerie (bakery) that was closed up. I wonder which happened first. And I wish our town in Germany had one of these!

My favorite church steeple in St Dezier, but those clouds don't look so friendly. Luckily they wee just passing by.

Soulains, France. Just another one of hundreds of pretty villages along the way.

I used to work for a company that did timber frame work in Ohio, so these things interest me more than most people.

About 4pm I came over a hill and saw this. The car off the road had been coming the other way and had gone off the road. Texting while driving? Asleep? I don't know. His car went between two of the trees that line many rural roads in France, hit a ditch, and must have cart-wheeled because it was facing the direction he came from. The driver was the only person in the car, and was laying next to it talking. Airbags everywhere, surprisingly little blood, and car parts littering the field he rolled through. There were four other people who seemed to speak French there already, and they were talking with the driver and on the phone with some one (EMS I assume) so I got back on the bike and got out of the way. Within 10 minutes a medic car, an ambulance, a fire truck, and a police van passed me headed towards this site, so I assume he was in good hands. Luck to have gone between those two trees, I think. Glad I stopped for a minute to take a picture a few miles back, or I might have been in his way.

Rest break.

Bar-sur Aube, one of three towns I went through today called Bar.

More pictures at if you want to look.

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Old 06-15-2011, 03:06 PM   #2
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Pretty fancy knee braces !

I think I get the connection with you and old school engineering. Post plenty of pics.
RR's Catnip Hill to Peoria ___Loopin' Seattle to WestFest
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Old 06-15-2011, 04:45 PM   #3
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Lookin forward to the rest of your entries. Do the whole 4000! You may never get this chance again... You don't HAVE to be home the exact day the wife gets home!
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Old 06-16-2011, 01:44 PM   #4
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Day 2

Had the most unpleasant half day on a bike ever this afternoon. I got into sightseeing at a 15th century cloister, then hopped on about the time storm clouds were gathering with my picnic lunch. Chevre cheese tart, Quiche Lorain, apricots, and cherries only 3 Euros a kilo here and free if you pick some off the tree at the roadside rest stop! I thought I was going to scoot under the rain before it started. Uh, that's a no. I ate the picnic in the car wash stall watching the rain, then changed my pants and underwear to dry in the same place and put on rain pants. It stopped after 25 min but I waited 20 more to avoid catching it, but boy did I. Rained so hard two times I thought it might be hail. I could feel individual rain drops through my leather gloves. Rained from about 1330 until just before I got to Millau at 1830. Ugh. Back and shoulders are sore from trying to hunker down behind the windscreen and stay a little dry. I gave up two thirds of my fun route and just got on the highway just to get here. Rain pants worked (Frog Togs), boots are about 90% waterproof (Tourmaster Solution) , jacket's not too bad but for the water coming in the ends of the sleeves and going up the arms. Should have put on the rain suit jacket but I wanted to see how the regular jacket did. Well, now I know. Duh.

But I'd still do it again. Luggage was totally dry inside. One case had even vacuum sealed itself.

Enough of that, too tired to explain it all. On to some pictures.

Autun, last night

Ceiling of the Cloister church

At Millau.

Lots more pics at

Headed over the Pyrenees to Spain tomorrow if I make it that far.
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Old 06-16-2011, 01:45 PM   #5
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Beautiful ride!! Keep those great pics coming please

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Old 06-16-2011, 05:30 PM   #6
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Nice ride and pics, Jim.
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Old 06-16-2011, 07:57 PM   #7
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Excellent eye for architecture and texture there, looking forward to more. My father spent many mini-vacations in the area on his early CB's in '69-70.
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - Hunter S. Thompson
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Old 06-17-2011, 02:54 PM   #8
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Day 3, the Yellow Gloves

After a rough and rainy afternoon yesterday, today was almost certainly the best afternoon I’ve ever had on a bike. I’d ride through yesterday four times just to have another day like today, but the race officials and the Gendarme might object. But I get ahead of myself. It’s a long story, skip it if you wish.

Two obvious problems right away this morning. My only pair of gloves were still soaked from yesterday’s rain, and my mid-calf Tourmaster boots had rubbed a raw spot on both calves. My socks are just tall enough when I start off, but they slide down and my boots rub. So what to do.

After a quick pan au chocolat breakfast in Millau and a ride under the big bridge, I found the first open store I could. Irony that Millau has been known for years for it’s hand made sheepskin gloves, and even has a glove museum. Might be just the thing, but none of the shops were open when I left. What was open was a garden store. Hey, gardeners use leather gloves, right? Except the ones they had that fit my big hands were bright yellow.

I almost skipped them, but then thought maybe they didn’t look too bad with my jacket having yellow highlights, and I can’t head into the mountains with no gloves. Done! I also got a pack of cheap socks, picked the ugliest color ones, and cut the toe section off with my handy Swiss Army knife. They pulled up over my calves and just under my knees, and stayed put all day. Done!

The road to Albi (D999) is a nice ride with amazing view after amazing view. Every town has a Chateau or a castle ruin. I could spend a week or two just in that area. I got to thinking that the only thing missing here is someone to take my picture so I can see how cool I look slicing through the French countryside. And wouldn’t you know, around the next corner were two guys dressed in blue, with a blue van, with blue lights, taking people’s pictures. How nice! They didn’t take mine, I guess 95 in a 90 zone won’t get your picture taken here. Thankfully.

At Albi I committed two grievous sins. I stopped at a McD’s for coffee, and decided to get on the highway. My trusty GPS (Betty) told me that getting to the town at the foot of the Pyrenees I was headed for would take me until almost 4pm on back raods. That’s just too late to head up into mountains, I thought. And I had to get around Toulouse anyway, and I hate riding surface streets in big cities. So I took the Autoroute for about 2 1/2 hours and got to Bagnères-de-Bigorre. At a rest stop I grabbed Betty to put her in my pocket and the plug for the power adapter broke off. Uh oh. Not so good. The rest stop store had a few phone chargers, one of which would have worked if I hadn’t taken the power socket off the bike last fall when I put on the German battery maintainer. Well, now what. Umm... I do have a map, right? Kinda old fashioned now, but, um.. I guess I could try it. And I can’t be getting too worked up about this, I’m on my way to Col de Tourmalet, one of the most famous high mountain passes on the Tour de France.

While researching for this trip, I read the story of Eugene Christophe, who in the 1913 Tour de France, carried his broken bike 10 kilometers to Ste-Marie-de-Campan at the base of the climb and welded his forks back together in a blacksmith’s shop to finish the race. Not the kind of guy who would be impressed with the cut off socks, and certainly not with someone panicking because his GPS plug broke. Of course blacksmith are a bit hard to find nowadays...

So I started the climb up Tourmalet, noticing a few cyclists along the way. Now, France is full of spandex-clad bikers with all kinds of logos on their clothes. They all look like, well, serious bikers. Some are, most aren’t. So a few bikers were no big surprise. There are big banners in town telling you that you can get a certificate for ‘conquering Tourmalet’, so why not? Well, because it’s a hell of a climb, but people do it, and this being a Friday in June, there were more than a few out there doing it.

About a third of the way up I started passing groups of bikers. Then I passed a car with logos on it. Like, a race support car, the kind you see on TV. Around the next corner I came up on a whole line of support cars, all with team logos on them. All slowly climbing up the mountain, behind a cement mixer, going 10 kph. Well a motorcycle can pass on a windy road a lot easier than a car can, so I zipped by the whole lot of them, cement mixer and all. But in front of them was another group of bikers, and another, and more support cars, and.. well.. this got to be a bit strange, because lining the sides of the road were spectators. A few at first, but eventually LOTS of spectators. With cameras. Cheering. Not for me, or the cement mixer, or for the donkey walking up the road, but for the bikers, who I now noticed had numbers pinned on their backs.

You think I’m making this up? Who can make this stuff up? Look

Cement mixer

Donkey at lower right

So it seemed to me I was in the middle of some event (The 2011 Route du Sud, it turns out). But the road wasn’t closed, was it? No, it really wasn't. There were a few others like me just going along our merry way. And why not? I can’t exactly fire up my GPS at his point and find an alternate route, can I? So I keep going up. At the top, there were hundreds and hundreds of spectators lining both sides of the road, some jumping out to give riders a push.

What they thought of me I don’t know. Some thought I was some sort of official, I think. Some thought I was lost. Most didn’t seem to notice me. Motorcycles are common enough at bicycle races, so one more is nothing interesting to them.

But it was to me. I had planned to stop at the top and take a picture of the statue of Christophe, but it was too swarmed with all those people. And it seemed I’d finally gotten in front of most of the bikers, and was in a hurry to stay out of their way with a peaceful ride down.


On the way up there were frequent patches of loose gravel, which seems as bad for a bicycle biker as for me, so I was taking it a bit slow. Don’t want to wreck and have to carry MY bike 10 km to a blacksmiths, do I? So I’m taking it easy, enjoying being by myself, when I suddenly hear shouting. Over the noise of the engine, through my helmet, through my earplugs. I glance at the side mirror just as a spandex-clad biker goes past me, and he’s not pedaling. Having a bicycle go by me at about 40 miles an hour NOT PEDALING is a surreal thing. And he has three friends behind him. So I pull over to the side, and with my yellow-gloved hand, wave them around. I’m content to just be here, I don’t have to win the race. I never thought about the race continuing down the other side, but I guess it does.

Pretty soon I come into a village, and the streets a lined with people. A group of school kids cheers the bikers in front of me, and then cheer me, too. After the first village a guy on a fancy BMW and a yellow vest that says “Officiel” goes by and gives me a quizical look. But I let him zoom off, along with the Gendarme car and the Red Cross van. I’m telling you that van was MOVING. I wondered what would happen if he met someone on the way up the other side, since he was using both sides of the road, when it occurred to me that there isn’t anyone coming up. Nobody. Not one. Now I feel really conspicuous. But what else can I do?

I stay behind the “officiel” guy and the group of bikers he’s leading. The next village we come to is a one-street town, long and straight, and nobody slows down, so neither do I. We whiz pas the 30 sign doing over 70 kph. In France if you are caught driving 30 kph over the posted speed you loose your license for three years, I read. But not me, I get waved along buy a Gendarme holding yellow signal flag. The same color yellow as my gloves.

I must have gone by over a hundred Gendarmes (plural?) today, WAY over the posted speed, and most of them just waved me on. A few seemed to notice I wasn’t in the right place, but like I said, the road wasn’t closed, was it? No, it really wasn’t, not going this direction. It was almost like having a personal police escort to speed as fast as I wanted down a long, twisty mountain road. Does it get any better?

Finally got to the bottom and around a traffic circle, and into a wall of four Gendarmes. One was talking to a car driver in front of me, then came back to me. With the idling motor, my helmet, my earplugs, and my utter lack of comprehension of more than the most basic French, we didn’t get very far. Finally he said “Where do you go?” I told him “Jaca, in Espana”. He looked confused, and asked “Jaca? Jaca? Oooh, you say Jaca, in Espana!” Isn’t that what I said? The look on his face seemed to say that while this was a reasonable thing to do, it would not be easy. He showed me on the GPS how to get around the rest of the bike race, and I was soon on my way.

The next three hours were an nearly endless road of twists and turns, ups and downs, roads like a kid from Ohio has never seen.

It was like having a free pass to the amusement park full of roller coasters and nobody else was there. I went over four mountain passes this afternoon and just can’t believe there are places like this.

If you've been here, you know it's better than I'm saying. If you haven't, GET OVER HERE!!

Heavy Traffic, Pyreness style

Finally a long smooth descent brought me down to Jaca, with bright sun in my face, thawing me out, and I found half a parking spot in front of a hotel with only one room left. Why so full? There are bikers EVERYWHERE! Tomorrow there is a race, the man told me, over the mountains to France. If you wish to go that way, you cannot, the roads they will be closed to all the traffic.

Except maybe one lucky moto rider, who happens to stumble into the ride of his life. I wish it for all of you.

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Old 06-17-2011, 03:09 PM   #9
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Pyrenees traffic

Must be some better way to post this, but don't know how.
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Old 06-17-2011, 04:59 PM   #10
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Like this, great ride, pictures.

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Old 06-17-2011, 05:22 PM   #11
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Wow great photos, amazing scenery!
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Old 06-18-2011, 12:00 AM   #12
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Great stuff Jim! Watch yourself when you head back into France though, not all Gendarmes are as flexible as the ones you've encountered so far...
Expecting life to be fair to you because you're a good person is like expecting a bull not to charge because you're a vegetarian.
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Old 06-18-2011, 02:38 PM   #13
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Day 4, Unexpected blessings in Colorado

Leaving Jaca under bright sun, I took the N-240 towards Segovia. It's a nice road for easy cruising, nothing that would excite the sport bike crowd but a pleasant twisty road, especially around the huge reservoir. But go quickly if you want to ride it, it's disappearing under the new highway, the A21.

I knew if I didn't find a solution to the GPS problem today I would be out of luck all weekend, as nothing is open here on Sunday. I think. It isn't in Germany or France, so I was going on that assumption. I tried looking things up on the web, like "garmin Pamplona" and things like that but only came up with a store called Autozona, but it's not open Saturday. So I figured I'd try to find the modern 'zona comercial' and see what was there.

Just inside the city limits I hit pay dirt, a giant billboard for MediaMarkt, a German chain I know that's like Best Buy only louder and with worse service. I found the GPS section but they didn't have any extra chargers. What they did have was a Garmin Nuvi 245, new floor demo unit with lifetime Europe maps updates, for 99 Euro. Of course it had a new Garmin charger, even better it would fit my Ram mount. I checked the price of just an off-brand Mini-USB charger (25 Euro) and grabbed the demo unit and a power socket extension cord.

Across the street was a big box hardware, where I got a voltage tester (10 Euro) and some zip ties. Twenty minutes in the parking lot and I was back in business! I started to remove the old hard-wire charger that I had zip-tied to various parts of the wiring harness, then thought better of doing this with the Swiss Army knife. To great a chance to make a bad mistake, I'll wait to cut it off 'til I get home with the right tools.

I plugged in Old Betty to the new charger and headed out of town. On the way I passed this sign in a traffic circle

I rode back around it to check it again, then stopped at a hotel next door and asked about it.

"Is that sign showing something that is here?"


Long pause. Quizzical looks.

"It's out by the highway"


And indeed it is.

What is this? It's 3/4 of a mile long! A Roman Aqueduct right here on my route, and I didn't even know it? No signs, no plaques, no anything. I've since learned that it was built only a couple hundred years ago (1790), so nothing to get excited about. Practically new by the local standards.

You see the strangest things:

Betty and I took off via the NA-132 and A132, great road, smooth & twisty, with great scenery.

All day long I kept thinking how much this area reminds me of western Colorado. If the north slope of the Pyrenees is like the eastern slope of the Rockies, then the southern side of the Pyrenees looks like Grand Junction, Colorado.

Until you get to the ocean.

The highway is really the only choice for getting along the coast. There are section of smaller roads here and there, but you have to double back over them to get around bays and giant rock outcroppings. Besides, it was getting late and I hadn't eaten lunch. I finally made it to Comillas, a pretty seaside town.

With a Renaissance Fair going on, including a trebuchet throwing a rubber ball about 150 feet. .

Seafood tapas (called racions around here) for dinner and now I'm back in the hotel, with a very fun jazz concert outside my window that started at 10pm. Hope it doesn't keep me awake.

There is a decision to be made at nearly every turn. Do I stop and see the interesting thing in front of me, or ride past, heading for what I came here to see. If I don't stop now, I may never get here again. If I do stop, I'll never get where I wanted to go. Four days and I've covered about 1300 miles. I think I once did that in a car in one day. But this is a different kind of trip. What I can't decide is whether it's a motorcycle trip with some nice scenery, or it's a trip to Spain using a motorcycle.

I'm still not sure, and may not know until I get back home in a week.
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Old 06-18-2011, 03:18 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by jbar28 View Post
What I can't decide is whether it's a motorcycle trip with some nice scenery, or it's a trip to Spain using a motorcycle.

I'm still not sure, and may not know until I get back home in a week.

I was over there 2 years ago. With so much to see, I just decided to not worry about destinations and enjoy the moment. Worked out well for me. You could always beg for another week from your wife.
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Old 06-19-2011, 11:39 AM   #15
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Being there or getting there?

Originally Posted by Dirt2007 View Post
I was over there 2 years ago. With so much to see, I just decided to not worry about destinations and enjoy the moment. Worked out well for me. You could always beg for another week from your wife.
Exactly, so much to see. I started out with what I now see was a crazy list of places to see. Of course I knew that, 4000 miles in 11 days plus stopping to see lots of stuff, and no highways. Can't be done, not here.

I am trying very hard to enjoy being where ever I am at the moment, and not push on to get to the next 'big thing'. You just never know when the next big thing might happen in the least likely place. Another fantastic ride today, pictures and story to follow after I get a shower. But I'll end this 'debate' by saying if I had to end it now and take the freeway home, with only having been to two of the things on my list, it would have been worth it. It really is all good so far.

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