Helter Skelter

I just got up, got ready and went. It was going to be a long day and a hot one, if the guys at eltiempo.es were to be believed. As I struggled through the narrow doorway into reception the girl at the desk started chatting, asking where I was going today. She sounded very impressed and insisted I have some coffee or juice. Coffee sounded too good to refuse and I fancied a couple of those magnificent looking buns but she only offered coffee or juice. I poured the filter coffee into a cup and added some cold water in order to finish it quickly and grabbed the buns on the way out. The girl jumped up as if startled, not sure if this was because I grabbed her buns. But she smiled, wished me well and grabbed my buttocks as I pushed my bike into the front street. You got to love the friendly staff in this hotel.

It was cold this morning (except for my buttocks) but looking at the clear blue sky I reckoned it wouldn’t stay this way for long. I did a little detour out of Avila as there seemed no other way onto the N-110, the road I wanted to get on. The detour meant I cycle six or seven miles before I join this road, adding only a few miles onto my journey. It was a pleasant little detour and the miles went passed very quickly. But when I hit the main road the next few miles seem to absolutely drag. My Garmin showed that I was about twelve miles in and I was thinking something needs to happen to make this interesting. The road was flat and straight, I could see the route stretch directly ahead of me for miles…. give me a kink on the road, a small bend or even a little incline.

Today consisted of three distinct climbs followed each time by a descent steeper and longer, a more than just reward on paper (computer screen). On the graph the climbs looked like just little bumps in the road but only because they were showing in proportion to the third descent, which was of near Alpine proportions. It had a few long straight bits where you could ‘put your foot down’. There were short slopes with sharp corners where you have to slow down to a near stop (at least I did). Then there were the slow sweeping bends where you could just let go, no need to pedal or brake if you used the racing line and dared to wander a bit on the road.. Of course the real fast guys would be pedalling like maniacs and braking like maniacs. A few miles into this I got that old Beatles song into my head…. Helter Skelter but I couldn’t remember all the words, so I just kept repeating what I could remember over and over in my head. If I sang out loud I might remember more, I thought and hey who is going to hear me? So I did but I still couldn’t remember any more, and I found it was all too much for my lungs to cope. So I shut up again! I moved on to other different inane thoughts. It wasn’t hugely relevant to this activity as one of the lines I remembered went ‘When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide, where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride’. There was no way I wanted to go back to the top of the slide, that was about two and a half thousand feet in twelve miles. Huge amount of fun on the descent but I had done my climbing for the day. This was just one of my other inane thoughts.

I planned my first stop for Piedrahíta, forty miles into today’s trip. As I cycled through the town I slowed, it wasn’t much more than a one street town and nothing appealled to me enough to stop. I knew El Barco de Avila was down the road a bit so I could afford a quick change of plan. After I had passed through Piedrahíta I pulled into the side and stopped. As it was getting hot, I removed my base layer and tied it round the handlebars and covered myself in sun screen. I was still suffering saddle sore and had been blaming the poor seat quality but it occurred to me (I had loads of time to think this morning) maybe I should experiment with the seat position. I loosened it, slid it back a centimetre or two and tightened it again, let’s see how that goes. It was worse on the climbs and Piedrahíta was at the foot of the second climb. Whatever I did it had immediate effect, my bum pain was easing.

I stopped in El Barco for lunch four hours and 53 miles into the trip. I was passed halfway, two out of the three climbs were complete and still felt really good. I bought some water from the bar where I had lunch, filled the bottles and went on my way. Cheryl was to change bus in this town but I didn’t want to hang around for another half an hour or try and find the bus station. I stopped before the third climb, it was hot and I wanted to apply even more sun screen. This hill I felt, it was longer and steeper than the other two. Cheryl’s bus passed me soon after I restarted and went out of sight as I passed through the next little village. But I caught sight of it again as I left Puerta Castilla, it looked like a dinky toy as it was a few kilometres ahead of me and over 300 feet higher, ah my climb was not over… feck. I didn’t know at the time but the bus was very near the top and if I hadn’t stopped for a photo shoot with a motorcyclist I might have even caught it on the way down. After that I didn’t stop again until Cabezuela del Valle, a nice little town, where all the buildings had the same slanting red tiled roofs and on the banks of a charming little river.

The gentle breeze at the early start had slowly picked up throughout the day. It seemed to come in waves of constant blowing (in my face) for 5 or 10 minutes and disappear again for a similar length of time. This made the last 10 miles more challenging than most of the day so I put out my head any chance of a detour just to get to the magic 100 mile marker…. It can wait


When I visited here in 2013 with Aldo, Mac and Brian we visited this little square and chatted about the day’s activities. We got talking to another visitor who was sitting nearby getting slowly drunk by himself. He was a sculpture, he informed us and he had a commission with a blank canvas but hadn’t yet decided what to fill the space with. We were not convinced by his story but we listened, He had overheard us talking and was interested in Aldo’s story of how Brian stopped him halfway up the climb through Canaveral the previous day. Brian had specific instructions not to organise the lunch spot until after the climb was complete. We had a laugh but Aldo still seemed a bit annoyed with it. Anyway the art work is called Wadders so not sure if our story influenced his idea.


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