The journey from our first stop in Evora over the Portuguese/Spanish border and onto Madrid was completed in the time planned. We stuck to the agreed route, stopping at Badajoz, Caceres, Plasencia, Poyales del Hoyo and Navalcarnero. This was just as well as although I had booked accommodation with free cancellation, most times this only applied if the cancellation was more than two to three days in advance.
We only have a few rules on the European Extravaganza. The latest one being handshakes all round before the start of each journey. We have kept to this every morning and after lunch each day. This new custom outside the hotel in Evora on the morning of day two was tough. It wasn’t tough because I didn’t wish the other guys luck, I did, I wished them the best of luck. It was tough because I didn’t have my cycling gear on and I was feeling so damn sorry for myself. The decisions we take in life are ours to make, though I can call on the influences and opinion that surround me, the choices are mine. If I get it wrong, I have to live with it, hopefully learn and move on. I am making it all sound like I’m cool about it, but my decision not to previously cancel or postpone my involvement in this stage was kicking where it hurt.
I awoke at six that morning in Evora with my mind racing. I was thinking of the practicalities of getting home and the reasons for staying. In the end I’d like to say the reasons for staying and being with the guys and supporting them and enjoying the trip was the defining factor of why I stayed. But I didn’t really need to ask myself too many questions on that, as getting a return trip from Madrid home (I had a second holiday in Madrid organised straight after the cycle trip) would prove too much of a financial burden. So having not entirely moved on yet in my mind, I decided to enjoy the rest of the journey and get to know the madman driving the car.
The planned route from Evora to Badajoz was 63 miles and was straight and relatively flat, much like day one. The journey was pretty uneventful, Brian hadn’t hit any pedestrians today and the guys never fell off their bikes when I frightened the hell out of them, shouting from a slow moving car, which was only metres behind them. I didn’t mean to startle them but I think they saw the funny side when they met us a few miles up the road and their senses of humour had returned. And they didn’t let me forget it for a long time on the journey, and after.
After dumping the gear in Badajoz (a big city on the Spanish side of the border), we returned to Elvas (a not so big city on the Portuguese side of the border). Elvas was a pretty walled city, with winding cobbled streets and lots of charm. Although the Casino Hotel in Badajoz was luxurious, by far our best overnight stop on the journey, the city itself was everything that Elvas was not.
Aldo and Mac had another straight forward ride and they seemed fresh when we met them for lunch in Alandroal. They most likely passed through Elvas while we were dropping off the hire car as we drove passed them on the taxi back to Badajoz. They looked for a landmark or sign post that would mark their arrival into Spain but nothing existed along the roadside, they drifted into Spain without noticing. The closest to this that we saw was the overhead sign on the A5 which read ‘ESPANHA 0.5 KM’, which Brian found pointless and hilarious.
On our second time arrival at the hotel (after dropping the hire car off) our Portuguese taxi driver, who never attempted to converse with us the whole trip, declared – words to the effect or as far as I can remember – ‘Here now Espanha! The City Espanha’. We both laughed at his broken English but it struck me how I must sound in my near non existent Portuguese or broken Spanish
Badajoz didn’t open until ten o’clock, well at least any restaurants that we found. Except for a Chinese that we found after walking for ages. We were all so hungry that Aldo Brian and Myself helped ourselves to Mac’s special rice while waiting for our own.
Brian noticed the drains were emblazoned with a big S that looked like the Superman motif and decided to play the part.