Monthly Archives: August 2013

Day 30: Códorba!

Hello from a campsite in Córdoba!

Today we rode a mammoth 25km to reach our current spot. Despite having empty stomachs, the riding was pretty easy. The hilly roads gave way to flatter, steadier ones and we were able to make fantastic time. After the 170kms travelled yesterday, we were glad for a short ride!

After setting up in our new campsite we headed into the centre of the city, stomachs screaming for sustenance. We caught the bus, and darted for the first decent bar we saw. To stave the pangs, we had a pretty hearty triple decker toasted sandwich each, washed down yet again with our favourite drink.

Unfortunately this wasn’t enough. Albeit hearty, the sandwich just didn’t fill the cavernous gap created yesterday. We got seduced by one of Córdoba’s many Burger King’s and had another meal there.

Stomachs finally almost full, we decided that we had a city to see so walked off looking for interesting architecture.

It started slowly, but eventually we found some of the beautiful buildings the city is famous for.

After this, we stopped by the supermarket to pick up supplies before heading back to the campsite for a chilled out evening.

Just as we were finishing our food, I went off to check how my phone was doing. I’ll admit, I get so sick of waiting in toilets for it to charge via the shaving sockets that sometimes I use the electricity most people pay for when camping.

I unplugged my phone and said hi to what turned out to be a British couple out travelling Euope! We got chatting to Andrew and Val about where they’d been and where they were going.

They’re driving around in their car, the brilliantly named Aphrodite, seeing Europe and camping for 6 months! Aphrodite was covered in big stickers from places they’d seen. There were a lot of butterfly stickers dotted around too. When we asked them what they were for, they gave us one and asked us to write our names. People they’ve meet have been writing their names on a butterfly and sticking them on to Aphrodite!

We thought this was an awesome idea and have now got our very own butterfly sticker on the bonnet!

After drinking a warm, yet delicious Mojito, we bid each other goodnight and wished each other well for the rest of our adventures. Who knows, maybe we’ll bump into one another again sometime!

Tomorrow we’re aiming to do another epic ride to Seville, we’re not too bothered if we don’t make it the whole way there though. There we’ll take a day seeing what the city has to offer before making the final push towards Gibraltar!

Before I sign off though, I’d privately like to say that I think Matt 1’s gone mad.

He’s talking about getting a crazy haircut if we hit a running total of over £900 for Mustard Seed Communities before we reach Gibraltar. We’re getting close and I’ve got a sneaky suspicion you guys can make it happen. This is the hair cut he has in mind…

So yeah, if you want that to happen, please dig deep into your virtual pockets and donate! (link is on the menu above or just click here)

We’ll even video the atrocity while it is being created if you play your cards right!

On that note, I’ll bid you goodnight!

Matt 2

Day 29: 105 miles!

Hi guys!

Today Matt 1 rode over 100 miles for the first time and we both rode the furthest we’ve ever gone on a bike. We did it fairly comfortably too!

Our route began as a fairly flat one. This allowed us to build a good pace and keep our legs spinning nicely. This lasted for a good while as we rode through a valley with some big hills on either side. Unfortunately for our legs, the road turned south and we had to scale a few of these hills! Both of us coped fine though and we stopped for lunch just off the main road.

As we set off again, the elevation became a series of climbs and descents. We were very grateful that there were more of the latter though!

With about 30km to go, we both made the decision to push on for the campsite and complete our ambitious 100 miler. It was at this point that we had to walk along another stony track which would have been too risky to ride.

As we neared our destination, the road became a nasty series of steep climbs and descents! The last of which looked like it had been fearsome enough to have been used in a road race. The writing on the road spurred us on to complete the last few metres before we descended, swooping into the campsite as the light was failing.

Now we’re sat after eating dinner, tents up, ready for some well earned rest!

Tomorrow we’ll saunter in to Córdoba, it’s around 20-30km from where we are now. There we’ll see the sights before moving towards Seville on Saturday.

Gibraltar is getting closer and closer and we’ve still got plenty of time to spare!

Matt 2

P.S. Today we cleared the 2000km point on our tour so far! Crazy times!

Day 28: Spinning to Ciudad

Hi readers! Our crazy plan ended up being a complete success!

Yet again, we think we’ve just had a crazy day then another one comes along and tops it!

We set off from the campsite this morning with no certainty of anything. We were unsure if any bike shops existed (google helped, but we’d learned lessons from our time in Toledo). We were unsure if Matt’s (or my, for that matter) bike would hold out. We were even unsure if we’d make it to civilisation before searing heat or even storms rolled in!

Either way, we hit the road with high spirits. Nothing could bring us down.

Matt was using today to practice his Chris Froome style, über cadence accelerations. Froome had used these to devastating effect in the tour, sometimes looking as though he was riding downhill, when in fact he was ascending.

Unfortunately for Matt though, he had no choice but to ride like this, as the only gear we could safely leave his bike running in was too low to maintain a decent speed on the flat.

I did my best to help him out, I sped up from behind and gave him a push when the road was flat and he could use a boost. We both just cracked up with laughter though on the occasions when Matt spontaneously flew past me, legs a blur, before coasting to a crawl again. It was like watching someone continually hit the pause and fast-forward buttons on a DVD player.

Despite this weird way of riding, we made it to the first town that google said may have a bike shop. We were even surprised at how quickly we made it there!

Unfortunately for us though, the shop had been closed. Peering behind the sheets of paper in the window, we could see it was to become a sports equipment shop in the near future

We’d have to ride to Ciudad Real, our intended finish point, in the same crazy fashion as we had been before.

Again, we made it there in surprisingly good time! Admittedly it was helped by a long yet gentle descent on which Matt could hold a great speed for about 8km. We must have looked like complete weirdo’s to passers by, coasting to almost a standstill before the road sloped down again. We didn’t care, we just laughed at having a few more metres where we didn’t have to pedal!

We made it to the city, immediately found a bike shop that would be open after siesta, then set about finding a room for the night and some food. We achieved both of these with great success. After having a nice lunch in a big square, we hunted down our 1 star hotel. The friendly receptionist showed us to our rooms. We guessed that we could pay online, and it all seems to be going okay for now!

After freshening up and taking the weight off our feet we set off for the bike shop. Just before we left, I consulted google maps and worked out that there was another, only a few hundred metres down the road! Thanking our luck, we scooted over there and set to work explaining our problems.

Describing complicated bike problems with extremely limited knowledge of Spanish was not easy. With the help of the friendly guy in the shop and google translate on our phones, we got by.

After changing the chain and making some adjustments, we asked him some more questions and made sure we were satisfied before paying up. They were so friendly that they gave us a discount on the price! For that we were very grateful.

Before leaving we made a point of showing our appreciation for a gorgeous road bike in the shop. I’ll spare you the details but it was worth a lot of €’s and was top spec in most departments. It turned out that the guy who had fixed our bikes owned this gorgeous piece of machinery!

Upon further questioning, we discovered that he had ridden for (or worked for, we’re not totally sure!) some of the big pro teams years ago. This was awesome, a pro had just fixed Matt’s bike! He’s even liked our page on Facebook!

We can’t believe the day we’ve just had!

A chinese meal later, we’re now just chilling in our cushy 1 star hotel watching the Barça v Atletico Madrid second leg.

Tomorrow we ride as close as we can to Cordoba. We’re still on target for Gibraltar and spirits couldn’t be higher.

Hopefully it will be even better and we’ll have no more bike problems to report!

Matt 2

Day 27: Beautiful ride, but more problems!

Hi guys!

Today’s ride has been a weird one!

We left Toledo with everything going our way! We’d eaten, left at a good time and looked set to arrive with no problems.

As we climbed out of the city, we thanked it for the surprisingly great day we’d just had.

Looking ahead, we had a normal distanced ride to the middle of a national park. I’d suspected there’d be one fairly big climb but our plans seemed to cater for that with no problem.

As we reached the small town at the base of this (actually pretty imposing) climb, I began to question myself. It suddenly dawned on me that I was working waaay to hard for the speed and elevation I was travelling at. It was as though I was riding with a brake slightly on. This was made even more suspicious when Matt started dropping me with childlike ease on even the slightest of gradients.

We stopped in the town to see if my suspicions were true, or if I was just having a really bad day. To my partial relief, I spun the front wheel and it stopped immediately after I let go. A few adjustments and a coke from the nearest bar later, we flew towards the climb. It was actually a fairly long, twisty climb that the owner of the bar said was regularly used in the Vuelta a España.

We reached the top with relative ease! Freed from the shackles of my front brake, I was able to zoom up, with Matt also putting in a really good pace. We reached the top in really high spirits!

At the top, I also remembered that we’d charged the GoPro camera up whilst at Pablo’s house. With a long and twisty descent ahead of us, this seemed the perfect time to film some of our riding. We’ll upload the potentially stunning video as soon as we are able to use a computer. We can’t even view it before then, so it may just be a video of Spanish tarmac, or a blue sky!

At the bottom of the climb, we met a cool guy on a beautiful road bike. His name was Carlos and we spent a few minutes chatting before wishing each other luck on our respective rides.

Almost immediately afterwards, we had a potential scare with a stealthily placed pothole. We checked the wheels, no punctures and they still spun true. A very lucky escape.

With 30km to go we hit the final climb of the day. Things were going well, we both tapped out a comfortable rhythm on the pedals, aware that out blood sugar could be running slightly low.

Then the big problem hit.

Matt’s chain came of in almost exactly the same way as it had a few days earlier. This confused us, as he’d just had all his gears adjusted to perfection by a well trained mechanic!

“No worries”, we thought… We’d just put the chain back on, feast on some strawberry laces and be on our way. Only this didn’t work, the chain came straight off again.

Upon closer inspection, we realised that this would become the latest chapter in our encyclopaedia of bike problems. Matt’s brand new chain had twisted through about 35°, this was causing it to slip around and eventually get dumped off the front cogs. By some miracle, I managed to bend the chain in such a way that Matt could ride single speed in a mid ranged gear. We’d make it to the campsite 20km away, where we’d assess our options.

On previous days this would have hit both of our moods badly. It may have been the sheer beauty of the national park, or we had just got used to our almost daily bike problems. Either way, spirits still remained surprisingly high!

We spun the rest of the ride, admiring the landscape and joking with each other.

We’re now sat in the campsite, bellies full of food, with a plan for tomorrow. It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s the only one we’ve got.

Tomorrow we’re going to ride, single speed, to Ciudad Real (which would have been our next destination anyway). There we will have a choice of bike shops who will hopefully take pity on us and help us out.

The only problem is that the city is an 80km ride away, and there are storms forecast for the afternoon.

We don’t have any other realistic choice though, so we’re going to set off and pray that Lady Luck gives us some help!

Thank you for reading and for recent donations. We’re even closer to a massive £1000 raised for Mustard Seed Communities now!

Matt 2

Day 26: Unexpectedly awesome day in Toledo!

Hola Readers!

We’ve had a great day today!

Our plan was to get the cable on Matt’s bike changed, then ride on when the temperature drops. In the end we had a great adventure in Toledo so are staying another night before hitting the road again tomorrow!

We got up at a leisurely hour and set off in search of a decent bike shop. Google had told us there were about 6 in the local area so we thought it wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately we forgot to tick the “Spanish economy” filter button so instantly ran into problems!

The first shop we tried had a sign in the window saying the owner was on holiday for the whole of August. We chuckled and moved on to the next shop, which didn’t exist! In it’s place was an empty shell. We concluded that it had obviously been a casualty of the recent economic downturn in Spain and set off across town.

The next shop was closed too, for the same reason! We laughed but still had plenty on the list so weren’t disheartened at all. We rode around the corner to the Merida bike shop. We had bumped it down the list as they sponsored a Tour de France team, so we thought they may charge a premium.

How wrong we were!

Not only did the shop actually exist, they were open and had staff in! A friendly guy took away Matt’s bike and immediately set to work on it. He returned shortly after saying he’d done it and wanted €2 for the trouble. We thought either his English was bad or we’d misheard.

The checkout didn’t lie though! We happily paid and after a couple more adjustments to the gears and set off in search of lunch.

This involved a awesome burger washed down with a coke (still feeding the addiction). Yet again we’d gone off the beaten track and found a great pace to eat!

During lunch, we were finally able to quantify the awesome extent to which Matt’s beard has been developing. A crumb of crisp had decided to cling on just above his chin. I sat there, mildly amused, waiting for it to fall off. Ten minutes later I gave in, it was still there and I supposed it was my duty to alert Matt.

He brushed it away but we were both silently impressed with his beard’s new found food catching ability.

Also at lunch we’d decided we were making stupidly good time in our quest for Gibraltar. We concluded that as Toledo was such a beautiful city, we’d spend the afternoon exploring it!

After returning to a surprised receptionist at the campsite, we dozed in the afternoon. We managed to catch the end of the Vuelta a España stage which was on tv. Another British guy and his kids were watching it too so we shared cycling stories as the pro’s destroyed their legs.

The evening has been awesome. We stripped our bikes of all panniers and headed for the old part of the city. It was awesome to weave our way up it’s cobbled streets, stopping to admire it’s plazas, churches and mosques.

We decided to stop by a particularly fascinating church for dinner. What interested us most was that there were chains bolted to the north face of the building. After consulting google, we found out that they were from Christian prisoners, freed when Granada was liberated from Muslim rule.

We chatted and ate calamari baguettes with some beer. What a way to end the day!

Tomorrow we ride for a national park south of Toledo, where we hope to reach another campsite. Until then, we’ve got a pile of food and a few more beers which need seeing off.

So we’ll bid you goodnight and set to work “fuelling our legs for tomorrow”.

It’s tough being a cycle tourist sometimes, but today makes it all worth it.

Matt 2

Day 25: Toledo, Tracks, Tents!

Hi guy’s and girls! The two Matt’s are back on the road!

It was a shame, but we had to leave Pablo, his friends and Madrid at some point. They had another gathering last night, these Spanish people sure know how to party! After a conversation and resisting the strong urge to have a few more drinks with them we turned in at about half past midnight.

We solemnly got up at about 8, packed our stuff up and ate some breakfast. Then we woke a mildly hungover Pablo up to say a big thank-you and be on our way. Eventually we rode away from his house, with Rocky (his dog) barking a few times as if to say goodbye.

We were back on the road, riding south past Madrid to the city of Toledo.

After consulting various gadgets for route planning we ended up going for a patchwork of all of them. This resulted in a very strange day’s ride indeed! Along the way we hit many dirt/gravel/sand tracks, got locked into a deserted Uni campus and hit another motorway! The latter fortunately only for a couple of km’s though.

It was a long days ride. The heat didn’t seem to affect us too much. We rode through the afternoon after stopping for some lunch about 20-30km from our destination.

When we finally reached Toledo, we were pretty impressed with what we saw! It seems to be a city based around an old walled section probably used for some strategic reason many years ago.

We set up camp and hammered our pegs in a few inches into the super hard ground. We have only put up the inner sheets of our tents tonight, let’s hope that doesn’t tempt fate with some rain overnight!

After adjusting Matt’s front derailleur, we’ve run into a few more bike problems! We need a new cable for the gear mech. Simple problem but I was stupid and haven’t brought a spare. We’ll have to spend the morning tomorrow riding through Toledo’s streets to find one of the many bike shops.

After that we’ll tackle a few hills as we head in the vague direction of Cordoba.

We’re just cooking up a late dinner of spaghetti, spanish sausage and a tomato sauce right now. After eating that it’ll be an early night for us. Fingers crossed we can sleep on this hard ground!

Good night everyone!

Matt 2

Days 22-24: Madrid!

Hi guys, sorry for the lack of blogs over the past few days, we’ve been very busy living it up in Madrid!

The past few days off the bike have been amazing. We’ve enjoyed the fantastic hospitality of Pablo’s family, met lots of his friends, and seen a fair bit of Madrid. We’re sad to be hitting the road again tomorrow, but we knew we’d have to eventually.

During our time here we’ve enjoyed some awesome Spanish food and learned how they deal with the heat. In the summer, it’s all about the evenings. The day times are spent either lazing around in the shade or sleeping! Matt found this far easier than me as I’ve always found it difficult to nap during daylight hours.

We had an evening in central Madrid (where we took most of these photos). It really is a beautiful city, with very clean streets and some stunning architecture. Sinking a few cervezas in a bar was a great experience, especially when you’re with people who know all the best spots!

Most of the time however, has been spent with Pablo’s awesome friends. We’ve definitely upped our carb intake, mainly through cervezas & spirits though!

We also took my bike for a couple of repairs while we have been here. Fingers crossed that will be the end of my brake problems. We’re spending too many Euros on bike maintenance for our liking so far on this trip!

Tomorrow we ride for a town south of Madrid called Toledo. We’ll be back under canvas and are surprisingly looking forward to it. The bed’s we’ve stayed in for the past few nights have been awesome, but there’s something great about staying in a campsite while on the open road!

Hopefully the heat won’t be so much of an issue too!

Anyways, I’d best get to sleep as we have an early start tomorrow. We’re not looking forward to 0700 alarms, that’s for sure!

Matt 2

Day 21: Reaching Madrid!

Hi guys! We’ve arrived in Madrid!

Today’s ride was relatively simple, if a little hilly for our liking. We weaved through the hills for just shy of 100km before reaching Torrelodones, the town where our friend Pablo lives.

We arrived at about 1530, which meant we were beginning to absorb the full heat of the sun. Surprisingly though, we coped rather well with it. Could we be starting to acclimatise? Either way, we’d rather not ride that late for a long while.

After arriving at Pablo’s house we had a drink and a chat, then tried to get some sleep before the evening. Pablo was going to sign up for the gym with a friend so that suited him fine.

He’d invited a few friends over for the evening too as the football was on. We had a great time with a few cervezas and some delicious food cooked by his mum.

I’ve always loved how football seems to ascend over nationalities. While the game was on (Atletico Madrid v Barça) we mulled over some of the hot stories in football.

Eventually we went to bed, really happy that we’re not going to be on the bikes for a couple of days. We’re off to have a look at Madrid (in the evening when it’s cooled down) and further continue our long awaited catch up with Pablo.

Thanks for reading!

Matt 2

P.S, if anyone has any questions you’d like to ask us, please feel free to either comment, use the email section in our contact us page, or fire away on our facebook or twitter! It would be cool if we could do another Q&A blog sometime!

Day 20: Guadalajara!

Hello guys! Our trip has just got even better after today!

Firstly, we woke up in our small hotel and ate breakfast. We left a little later than planned, 0900. As soon as we got on the road, it became obvious that this wouldn’t matter though!

We made the decision the day before to chance it on the motorway, seeing as it was technically legal. There were no other viable routes so we hit the road and got our heads down. After the first few kilometres, it became apparent that we were flying again.

Our average speed would skyrocket to 27.2km/h before we hit Guadalajara just after midday. The trip was uneventful apart from me performing a graceful dismount at a service station. This which involved me rolling around on the tarmac and grazing my leg slightly. Two Spanish police officers rode round the corner soon after and asked if I was okay, with a smirk on their faces.

After arriving in Guadalajara we found a suitable bar and sat down to some cokes. They eventually turned into beer and lunch, a spanish sausage baguette. As we were just about to pay the bill, an older Spanish guy came over for a chat. Unfortunately the language barrier once again prevented us from properly communicating. We did, however, manage to work out that he used to race bikes to a fairly high level (not professional though, in his own words!) and proceeded to force a €10 note on us!

Despite our greatest efforts, he wouldn’t allow us to give him his money back. We said a huge “muchos gracias” as he went on his way. We then moved up the street a little and sat in a square. This turned into sitting at another bar, ordering a lemon fanta for a change and some more food for good measure.

We’d contacted Alicia, our saviour from
warmshowers.com, who’d asked us to meet her by a church at 1700. We ambled over and she appeared just a little later and showed us to her house.

She insisted that her English was terrible, but we were actually impressed and had no problem understanding her most of the time. She suggested that after we’d freshened up, we’d water her plants, then she’d take us on a mini tour of interesting buildings around town. Following that she said she’d already arranged to meet with friends but we were welcome to come and have a drink too.

We saw some amazing architecture, and weaved towards the bar where she’d meet her friends. Somewhere along the way, one of my recently repaired rear brake pads fell off, rendering me single-braked once again. I intend to sort this once and for all when we reach Pablo in Madrid tomorrow.

Matt and I chatted while Alicia and her friends were speaking in Spanish. We later found out that they are a music group and they were organising what to do for the next year. We just enjoyed being in the company of some local people, one of which happened to be an English teacher by trade!

She accompanied us to another place, where a waitress, who turned out to be Alicia’s daughter served us some lovely food! We learned that saying “dos cerveza, por favor” was not always very helpful when the bar in question offered a range of different types and sizes of beer!

After having a long chat about all things Spanish and English, mainly education related, we headed back to Alicia’s house. It’s been an awesome day, once again filled with nothing but generosity and friendliness from complete strangers.

Tomorrow we should reach Pablo before lunch time, where we’ll spend a few days catching up (and celebrating his birthday!).

We can’t wait!

Matt 2

P.S. Matt 1 would like to thank Uncle Pete for his very generous donation to Mustard Seed! It puts us to within touching distance of a huge total of £1000!
Check out the Mustard Seed Communities page on this website to find out more.

Day 19: Stumbling Across Mochales

Hi guys,

Great day in the saddle today. The pendulum of luck once again swung into our favour!

We awoke early from our luxurious beds, feeling well rested and fully recovered from yesterday’s problems. After leaving the hotel room, we asked the man on reception if he could fill our water bottles. He took us to the bar and stuffed them full of ice and mineral water for no extra cost!

After giving us some advice for our route, he wished us good luck and sent us on our way. We stopped at a local petrol station to fuel us with carbs for the day.

After that we tapped out a good pace on the open road! Unfortunately we got forced onto a motorway, so we rode on it for a few kilometres and then escaped. A while later I found out that it was perfectly legal and neither of us felt in any danger, so we’re intending to ride on another one for the bulk of tomorrow’s ride. This is mainly because it’s by far the most direct route to our destination.

After escaping the motorway, we were then funnelled onto a pretty long climb. This was made annoying by the fact we weren’t quite heading in the direction. We didn’t have any other choice though so took it at a steady pace.

After this we rode a fun descent into a gorge, which seemed to be littered with tiny villages. It was getting pretty hot by this point so we decided to see off the afternoon in the next one.

When we rolled into Mochales and saw it had a bar, we had no idea what the afternoon would spring on us!

After sitting down and taking the first few sips of our Coke (yep, we’re still addicts) we heard an American accent. A man had heard through the obviously thriving village grapevine that two English people were having a drink. He’d come over for a chat!

The guy’s name was Kurt, he was on holiday with his wife and two kids. His wife had grown up in the area so they often made the trip over the Atlantic for their holidays.

He was very friendly and interested in our ride, so we sat down with a map and showed him where we’d been. Unfortunately today’s route had apparently missed out a very beautiful area, which was a shame!

Ellie, his wife, arrived and joined in the conversation. She even offered to make us a tomato and omelette baguette, which we accepted very gratefully!

Unfortunately for us, they had a family meal planned for lunch. Despite this, they extended their generosity, gave us some water, and showed us to a nice shady spot by a river. We said we’d probably be there for a few hours and if they fancied another chat, they knew where to find us!

We spent the next couple of hours lounging around in the shade and attempting to chat to some of the local kids. They’d taken an interest in our bikes. They knew more English than we did Spanish, especially when it came to swear words! They took great delight in explicitly telling each other to go away (in far nastier words) and commenting on each other’s weight.

Eventually Kurt rolled down on his bike and asked if we fancied coming to a local spot to jump into a deeper part of the river and further cool down! That sounded like a great plan!

We arrived at the spot, some local youths were leaping in the water and generally having a good time! We took our cue and followed suit.

After another hour of chatting and jumping into the water, we decided that we’d best leave, or we wouldn’t make our destination before dark. After thanking Kurt for his generosity, we shared contact details and rode our separate ways.

We’d both like to wish the whole family a safe and swift journey for their return to the U.S tomorrow. The offer still stands if they fancy coming to Bournemouth at any time!

The rest of the ride went very quickly! After a fairly long climb, we got onto flatter land and discovered the holy grail, a tailwind! We surfed this all the way to Alcolea, where we found a cheap 2 star hotel which seemed ideal for us.

In a bed for the second night running, bliss!

Tomorrow we surf the motorway to Guardalajara, where we have made contact with a person called Alicia through warmshowers.com. She’s very kindly offered to put us up for the night!

We’ll let you know tomorrow how it all goes!

Thanks for reading!

Matt 2