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Old 05-01-2013, 11:16 AM   #46
pip_muenster OP
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Saragossa

In the elevator down to the parking garage a sign caught my eye. These are blurry cell phone pics, but you get the message. In the week before the trip I had been in a hotel elevator of similar size somewhere in Oregon which was also limited to 6 people. That one stated a max. capacity of 2,200lbs - or about 1,000kg. So they calculate about 167kg for the average American - compared to 75kg for an European.




And while I'm on it, here's what I got at the Houston airport (IAH). Note to self: when you order a small rental in Texas, you get a small pickup.



Back to the story ...

The whole morning I was following secondary roads towards Saragossa, and in every single village the traffic was jammed. It was Good Friday and there were Easter Processions everywhere.





The route took me through Albacete and then Teruel with a great, constantly changing scenery.





Does anyone know what these things on the left are? They looked like vents for some kind of an underground structure ...



Deer crossing caught on tape ...





I especially remember the town Daroca where the road on the hillside allowed a beautiful view on the old houses. Unfortunately there was no way to stop safely, so here's a Google Streetview image instead.



Later in the day the sky started to overcloud. I also saw a lonesome GS rider, anyone here?



It was raining when I entered Saragossa. The hotels in the center were quite expensive, so I decided to just keep going and find a hotel somewhere else. I used the highway to leave the city and took the first exit once I left the congested center behind. There was a signpost for a hotel, but it lead nowhere. At this time I was tired and eager to get a shower. I asked someone for the hotel and was pointed back to where I came from. You can see how desperate I was by a look on my GPS track: The hotel must have been nearby, so I went forth and back, trying side roads until I finally found the hotel. It was a huge building in an industrial area and probably visible for miles from the highway. I however came from the backside and was too close to notice the gigantic 'H TEL' on the rooftop (the 'o' was out of power). Although the lcoation next to a truck parking lot suggestest a cheap hotel it was actually a 4star place with spa, massages etc. At this time I was prepared to pay almost any price, but the receptionist offered me a small room for reasonable money.



There was a nice Triumph XC800 with Dutch plates in the garage, and later in the restaurant there was a man on the table next to me ordering with the typical accent I know from many of my Dutch colleagues. So I invited him over to my table and we had a nice conversation. It turned out that we were working in the same industry and had both seen many parts of the world. He was fleeing the rain and wanted to get south fast as he expected heavy rain everywhere else in Spain these days.
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Reports: Nordkapp - Mt. St. Helen - Black Sea - Iceland - Morocco - Balkan

pip_muenster screwed with this post 05-01-2013 at 12:15 PM Reason: added some snapshots
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Old 05-01-2013, 05:53 PM   #47
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Isaba

From my hotel window the sky looked nice and blue the next morning, but only when I left the hotel, I could also see the sky in the direction where I was heading. It was overcast and might bring another rainy day, just as the Dutch had indicated.
I had seen some photos of an interesting area Bardenas Reales south of Pamplona which I wanted to see. Luckily the weather kept dry.



When I passed Tudela I had a déjà vu. I was pretty sure that I had been here before - in fact, my avatar shows my bike in front of the same Osborne bull I was standing at.



Here's the photo from 2006 for comparison.



The Bardenas Reales are a semi-dessert with some nice chalk, clay and sandstone sculptures. It's a protected area, and while offroading is forbitten, some of the gravel roads would be quite difficult in a normal car. As there was no entry fee I just passed the tourist office and only stopped shortly at a sign showing a map of the area. It seemed impossible to get lost.
There were a few mountain bikers and some hikers on the track, as it was the shortest route to the Castilledetierra, the best known spot in the park. With all the rainfall in recent days there were a few puddles on the road. I must have been a bit overexcited to be back on gravel, so I charged this larger one without giving it much thoughts. The water splash came up to my helmet, leaving me with wet boots and face and I had to shift down into 1st to keep momentum. Lots of fun!
When I met another biker on a GS further down the road I warned him not to take this track. With Tourance tires and all shiny armor it seemed he was not planning to get dirty. He then showed me a map he had gotten in the tourist center, and they had marked this part as unpassable ...




As you can see on the photo above some dark clouds were closing in and I seeked shelter in an abandoned hut. Also waiting for the rain to pass was an elderly French couple and the man offered me his leather drinking bottle with red wine. It was a fun conversation as my French is basically non-existent.





I spent half a day in the park riding the gravel roads and having fun. Somewhere in the middle was even an airforce base.



Then I continued towards Pamplona. One thing I noticed in the villages were these steel gates and other solid structures protecting doors etc. I guess that 'running with the bulls' is not only done in Pamplona, but also in the smaller villages and towns.



About 30km from Pamplona I turned east towards the Pyrenees. My plan was to follow a route to Lourdes I had been riding before in 2006, and it had been the most amazing border crossing ever: Coming from France, it was an endless band of tight turns and serpentines. At one point the road had been blocked by horses. I stopped and when I greeted the accompanying men 'Bonjours!' one of them replied: '¡No, no bonjours, Buenos días! - ¡Esto es españa!' That was it, I was accross the border.
LIving in Europe, I'm used to border crossings withour flashing a passport or even being stopped. But here, the total experience with the horses up in the mountains and the friendly horsemen had been incredible. I remember that I kept smiling in my helmet until the thought crossed my mind that I had been riding for the last 3-4 hours without seeing any gas station ...



So this was where I wanted to go. The pass wasn't too high, so even in April my chances to get accross should be good.

As soon as I got to the bottom of the valley the sky opened and it was raining cats and dogs. I turned around and raced back to a gas station I had passed a few kilometers back. Under its roof I struggled to get into my Bibendum costume (aka rain coverall) much to the amusement of the other people staying around. Of course, when I closed the last zipper, the rain stopped. Well, it would help protecting me from the cold in the moutains.

I made it to Isaba and saw a large hotel, when it dawned on me that I was about to ride to one of the world's largest places of pilgrimage on an Eastern Saturday to find a hotel. Not a bright idea ...
Anyway, the hotel here was fully booked, too. A few hundred meters up the road I met another biker who was in discussion with some locals. I stopped to see if he had similar plans, but he couldn't speak English. So I continued and found a room in a small hotel on the other side of the village.
Maybe an hour later I heard the sound of a motorcycle and went down to check on my bike. It was the Spanish biker again who had also decided to stop here for the night. We ignored all language problems and after a while I understood that the road wouldn't be passable before the next morning. Then we agreed to have some beer and dinner together. His friend came in as a 'telephone joker' helping translate between Catalan and English, and we made good use of an online translator on his cell phone. The beer was probably helping, too.

So Isaba was another great evening for me. Unfortunately it shouldn't be my last night here ...
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pip_muenster screwed with this post 05-01-2013 at 06:00 PM
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Old 05-02-2013, 09:32 AM   #48
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Enjoying your report immensely!
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"Even though my trip turned out badly, I don't regret the kind of life I chose to live. Adventure!" RIP-Clay Schwartz 9/14/07
The bike never has been, never is, and never will be the limiting factor in my, your, or anyone else's ability to have an adventure. -jake28-
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Old 05-02-2013, 05:11 PM   #49
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Aaaaand home

We had agreed to go and try the pass together, but the next morning brought bad news: My companion's plan was to ride a number of the Tour de France passes, most of which now turned out to be unpassable. So it made more sense for him to turn around and try a completely different route for his vacation. We said goodbye, and I headed up the pass. The sun was shining and everything was fine for the first three kilometers. Then, my engine warning light came back up.


Remember, the bike had just been in a workshop for just that reason, merely 1 week and 2,000km ago. I let the engine cool down and checked the coolant level. When I restarted it, I had the feeling that the coolant hose weren't as hard as they should be under pressure. Also, the warning light came up very quickly. That wasn't good.
I turned around and coasted back down the mountain. Luckily it was all downhill to Isaba, where I stopped and called my roadside assistence (ADAC). As my policy covers all of Europe I knew they would take care of me and the bike. I explained my problem and we agreed that it seemed unlikely to get the bike fixed in time (I only had 3 days vacation left). So they would pick up the bike and ship it back home in the next weeks.

My transport was a bit more complicated. First, it was Easter Sunday and I was more or less in the middle of nowhere. They would pay a rental or an airline ticket, but first I had to get out of here. The operator and I agreed to do some research and talk again in a few hours. Meanwhile my Spanish companion passed by me without noticing. Well, he wouldn't be able to help anyway. When I went back to the hotel I learned that there would be a bus to Pamplona in 2 days time. It only took an hour for my bike to get picked up.




It turned out that there were also no reasonable flight connections and it would be better to just get a rental car. Now one-way rentals across borders are extremely expensive, so we would save a lot of money if they could find a rental car with French or German plates. They found a VW bus in Madrid and another car in Barcelona. All I had to do, was taking the bus to Pamplona, finding a taxi to the rental station, drive the rental to Barcelona, change the car and drive to Mulhouse (where they had another car waiting for me), change again, and be back home. Easy, right?

Demotivated I spend the next day mainly in the hotel, only wandering around town a bit. I'm convinced the weather was better then it had been all week. The sun was shining and the sky was perfectly blue, one interrupted by a few spots of white clouds to give it some depth. I did miss my bike. I asked around for the bus stop, as there was no sign. I was told to be at the pub at 10am. Ok ...

The bus ride was another experience. I can't remember when I've last been a passenger on a twisty road like this, and I didn't take it that well. I felt better when we left the mountains and could actually sleep a bit. The taxi driver was a motorcycle enthusiast and dropped me right in front of the Europcar office, where I got the keys to an Opel Corsa (?) parked in a shady garage. The guy tried hard to sell me a tire insurance, probably quite unnecessary as I would be driving solely on a well maintained highway.

When I dropped the car at the Barcelona airport, the clerk went straight to the boot, opened the spare wheel compartment underneath and pointed out a flat tire in there. That was a joke, I hadn't even opened the boot as I couldn't open the trunk lid in the garage. All my luggage had been on the rear seats.
I had to wait for another hour for my car (which they hadn't ready for me yet) and spent it watching other people returning their cars. Although they were busy with cars coming in and going out, not even once they checked the spare wheel when a car was returned ...

Now, it was of course my responsibility to check the car when I had received it and I just had forgotten to check the spare. I do rent cars frequently, in fact it seems my usual rental company just started driving me directly to the gate instead of pointing me to the shuttle bus. And I have to admit I only check the spare when I'm heading for the desert or maybe the Australian outback. Maybe I'm just not used anymore to the habits on tourist spots like the Mediterranean coast ...
I had to pay for a damaged tire I never touched, and I won't do business with Europcar again anytime soon.

One thing I have to admit is that the bill seemed quite resonable: about the same what you'd pay in any garage plus maybe 30EUR administration fee for Europcar. And tires are not that expensive here. I recently sliced a tire on a Hilux in Australia and everyone in the office back home asked if I had to replace the whole WHEEL when they saw the bill.

By the way, as I could see on the receipt, getting a car with French plates saved some 1,500 EUR on extra fees.

That day I made it into France where I stopped at an Ibis hotel somewhere near Montpellier.



It was like spending the night in a vending machine. You checked in with your credit card on this screen and received a paper strip with a PIN code which would grant you access to the parking lot and your room. There was CCTV, but no personnel. They did however have a 'breakfast lady'. I think the chairs in the breakfast room were bolted to the floor ...



I returned the car at the Mullhouse airport which is close to both Switzerland and Germany and created some confusion when I dropped the keys at Europcar, just to head straight to Sixt and ask for my reservation. They had a nice car for me which even had a navigation system on board. I came home a few minutes before midnight.

And the bike? It was delivered straight to the BMW workshop, and is still there to be checked thoroughly.
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Old 05-02-2013, 05:28 PM   #50
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Note

I had considered writing a report when I came back from Morocco, but had decided against it. Our trip was aimed at riding in the Anti-Atlas, and we only did that for a few days. There are many other reports here on ADV with much more interesting stories which I enjoyed tremendously. Every one of them.

Only when I was sitting bored in that hotel in Isaba, looking at the beautiful sunny weather while waiting for a bus, I thought that all the mishaps would make for a report worth reading. So that's when I started. Back home, I had to face the fact that I had little time for writing, so some of the days are short in text. But in the end, I'm happy I did it as there were already a few details I had forgotten about. And it's kind of fun, practicing English in a not work-related context.

We've been using English in University for years and all my business correspondence is English, but sometimes you find yourself in a conversation, helplessly searching for the name of that thing in the kitchen where you store the plates in. The thing hanging from the wall, you know?
I do however know how to pronounce 'inhomogeneity', do you?
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Old 05-02-2013, 05:38 PM   #51
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Great report!

I enjoyed reading along.

Thanks for your efforts.

Cheers,

JM.
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Old 05-04-2013, 01:33 AM   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pip_muenster View Post



It was like spending the night in a vending machine.
I had the same reaction to my Ibis Budget experience in Troyes a few nights ago. I'm pretty sure these hotels exist only to convince you to spend the extra money for a better experience the next time.

Thanks for taking the time to write your report. It's good to read someone's report who doesn't mind admitting that it wasn't all fun and flowers along the way. Hope your bike is OK and the next ride ends on a happier note.
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Old 05-04-2013, 05:54 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by jbar28 View Post
It's good to read someone's report who doesn't mind admitting that it wasn't all fun and flowers along the way. Hope your bike is OK and the next ride ends on a happier note.
It might be worth pointing out that this wasn't an 'unhappy' ride for me. Yes, there were sad moments e.g. when we realized Maddin had to quit riding dirt roads - but on the other hand this was supposed to be an adventure ride. And it isn't a real adventure without unplanned or inconvenient moments.
I was never outside my comfort range, whatever happened, there was a solution at hand. So basically every of these moments made me initially think: 'That's interesting, let's see what happens next.' Unless I forgot something, I was worried twice: Once, when Maddin's knee gave up, and the other time when I realized in Malaga, that I couldn't drink faster than I lost fluids.
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Old 07-16-2013, 05:16 AM   #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pip_muenster View Post
So they calculate about 167kg for the average American - compared to 75kg for an European.
Sounds about right

Quote:
Originally Posted by pip_muenster View Post
It was Good Friday and there were Easter Processions everywhere.

The route took me through Albacete and then Teruel with a great, constantly changing scenery.
Good Friday I was arriving in Algeciras, so we just missed each other! I even rode through both Teruel and Albacete (and past the same bull haha) I also tried an Ibis Budget... once!

I definitely need to sign up for ADAC before the BMW assistance runs out

Great report
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