August 5. Seville, Spain

Hi guys,
I have made three really bad errors in planning for this trip. I’ll tell you about them in a bit. But first, I would like to tell you about a conversation that I had with Rich Dixon some months ago. We were having lunch in Fort Collins, and Rich was giving me some advice about the ride that I was planning. I had told Rich about how I had planned out every city that I was going to be in and the actual calandar date that I would be there. I was confident in this schedule, because I had built into it a lot of resevere; continegency.
Rich laughed at me! He looked into my eyes and laughed! And he said, “Make all the plans you want.” He shook his head side to side while he said this. “It will happen the way it is supposed to happen.” He said this with the confidence and conviction that could only come from a man who has a possitive exepectation about the outcome of the future. In other words, a man who lives by “hope.” Hope. What a simple concept. But it is everything. Hope allows us to go forward and to continue, even though the evidence says otherwise. “Hope changes what’s possible.”
You’ll see why I brought up that conversation in a moment. But first, let me get you caught up on a few things. I’ll start by showing you some of the pictures that I couldn’t upload the other day, due to the poor internet connection. I just drop in the photos with descriptive captions.
This is the road that was covered in sand. It should have been a warning to me that all was not well up ahead.

This is the road that was covered in sand. It should have been a warning to me that all was not well up ahead.


It wasn't long before the paved road turned to dirt, and the this sandy hiking trail.

It wasn’t long before the paved road turned to dirt, and the this sandy hiking trail. I thought that the truck was a military vehicle. The man inside was very helpful.



An interesting combination--sunflowers surrounding a farm of solar panels.

An interesting combination–sunflowers surrounding a farm of solar panels.



Some kind of snail was all over the sides of the roads. They like to climb up on thins, but I have no idea why.

Some kind of snail was all over the sides of the roads. They like to climb up on things, but I have no idea why.



A lot of the towns I went through looked like this

A lot of the towns I went through looked like this.


The route had me biking through this town square.

The route had me biking through this town square and through the dining area.


The next day was a bit harder; I really bombed as the day got hotter. I ended up having to backtrack a couple of miles to get to a campground, since I knew I could not make it to the next one. This was at about 3:00 PM. I was very disappointed in the mileage I had made (30 miles or so) and I vowed to start earlier the next day, which I did (but not much). The problem is that it just takes me 2.5 hours to get on the road after waking up. If I skip breakfast, I can cut that down by 30 minutes.

The ride the next day was uneventful until I went through a village and, following the route, ran into one of those dirt alley things that I had been on so often in the previous days. My attitude was that I had had enough of the random wanderings of whoever put this route together. I was just going to ride over to the local highway and skip all of this dirt road stuff.

I took what looked like a logical route from the map… until I encountered a concrete barrier blocking the road. I was able to slip around it through the brush, only to encounter about 6 inches of sand. I would have been better off carrying my bike!
Eventually, I ran into an older man walking his dogs and asked him if he spoke english (no). But I managed to work out with him that parts of the highway up ahead did not allow bikes, which is probably why the bike route avoided it. I rode along the part that I legally could and then exited on another dirt road. Eventually, I ended up back in contact with the original route. This is the problem: whenever I try to improve on the downloaded route, I end up worse off. It may be that this is just the only way to cross this part of Spain.
The ride took me through several small towns, each being very difficult to navigate. It is easy to get lost, and there is so much overhead associated with getting through them, riding on cobble stones, dealing with traffic, people, etc.
Crossing the river on an enormous wooden bridge.

Crossing the river on an enormous wooden bridge for pedestrians.

This bridge in the distance has an interesting design.
Eventually, I ended up following a proper road, which took me along a bike path through what seemed like a nature preserve of some sort. But the only wild life I saw were flies. They took quite an interest in my sweaty body, (so they must have been female flies. Too much? Sorry.)

Earlier, I had a conversation with a man at an ice cream store about the best way to bicycle into Seville; He recommended following this little river thing, which I show below in a map of the area.

River route into Seville

River route into Seville

The actual planned route followed this river a ways and then cut inland, because it does not go through Seville. I needed to go to Seville, however, to pick up a package at Fed Ex. So, I took off along this river which had something resembling a path. The road was actually quite bad; it had potholes sometimes 8 feet in diameter. It was mostly dirt, but you could occasionally see the remains of asphalt. I have seen this a lot in Spain. Its almost like something happened to the infrastructure about 60 years ago, and they stopped repairing roads. The frequently traveled roads are very good, but there is this entire network of heavily damaged roads that were, at one time, paved.

This is about the time that the heat started taking its toll on me. I still had plenty of water, but–worse case–if I needed to spend the night out there, I would be in trouble the next day. I spotted what looked like a farm house about a mile off of my route and I rode up to it to see if anyone was home. I found a partially-open door and shouted “Hola!” An old woman came to the door and looked at me and my bike very apprehensively. (I can imagine!) “Senora, agua por favor.” You pick up a few words. I handed her a empty liter-sized water bottle and she came back with it full. No other words spoken, and the door closed. At least I would not die of thirst in the next 24 hours.

My main problem, however, was cell phone life. This is what I am using to navigate, and when you are way out in the middle of nowhere, in avery hostile environment, getting lost can be really bad. And, I was concered that my phone would die before I got to a place to camp. I need to point out that I only got into this positon because of the campground I was at the previous day. They don’t allow you to charge your electronics! I have no idea why this was, but I have seen this attitude many times and it is universal. It is almost like if they make life convenient for me, it certainly must be costing them something. It is quite frustrating.

I gave my devices to the management and asked if they would plug them in, and they did for about 1 hour–but a full charge takes about 4 hours. Meanwhile, I sat down in a nearby pub and talked to the bartender about JWST. He is really into astronomy, and I showed him my complete presentation. So, I got to give a talk in Spain after all!

Anyhow, I stopped by an abandoned structure of some kind and powered up my laptop, to see if I could suck the remaining juice out of it and put it into my cell phone. It helped a bit, but I knew that if I had to spend the night out it would certainly not get me through the next day. (Note to Scott K. and Koby S.: in the end, I left the Pocket Socket back in Colorado. I found that it did not have enough power to charge the laptop. A decision that I was regretting very much a couple of days ago.)

I need to add that the heat was now really beginning to take a toll on me physically and mentally. An unfortunate consequence of that fact is that I left my tennis shoes sitting by that old building when I left there. This also means losing my bike shoe covers and my swimsuit, since they are stored inside the tennis shoes. A real bummer.

I was fading fast and knew I would never make it to the campground with what daylight and energy I had left. So, I had no choice. When I left, I made the decision to deviate from my route and instead ride to the town of Labrija. Turning away from the water led me through an agricultural area devoted to Roma tomatoes. The fields were full of them. Made me pretty hungry. But once there, the temperature increased by what felt like at least 10C. There was no effective breeze, and the air was full of biting flies. Eventually, of course I made it to this small village and asked Siri to find me a hotel (there was no campground, of course). Fortunately, the town did have one and it even had a small AC unit inside of it.

This was my 4th day of biking, so I figured a rest day was in order. The hotel was only 22 Euros per night. It had no hot water, but was quite comfortable. Not a single person in that town spoke English, so that was going to be a problem. I used the next day to work out some logistics and to find a new pair of shoes (which I did for 25 Euros).

I had a couple of really fun conversations, all via Google translate. One was with the proprietor of the restaurant associated with the hotel. I asked him to give me the official drink of Spain. The most Spanish drink that he could think of. And he poured me a glass of white wine. I took a sip, and normally would have just drunk it down. That’s what I think of white wine. A little girl’s drink. But I could not drink it down, for such an act would’ve been a desecration. This was amazing, a work of art. It started out tasting of white wine with this expectation of fruits, but immediately that disappeared to be followed by a mellow suggestion of butter. It’s like the true taste is locked away, waiting to be discovered by someone better than yourself. It is a mystery, a drink to be studied. Wish I new what it was!

Now I need to go back to the three big mistakes I have made in this stage of the tour. The first mistake was, of course, trusting my bike with an unreliable airline. That cost me a week and about $500.

The second mistake was the heat. Of course, I knew what the temperature was going to be like, and that the humidity would be high. What I did not anticipate was my body’s reaction to the heat. I have biked in some really hot places. Take central Kansas, for example, in July. You just get an early start to avoid most of it and then just tough out a couple hours of being scorched. But I can’t seem to handle that anymore. This is a post heart surgery thing, or maybe a post turning 55 thing, or a post something. But that fact is, I can’t take it like I used to. Now please note: I am not saying that the heat is taking away a lot of the fun of the ride (it is). What I am saying is that my body is shutting down as a result of it. I pour water into it, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I get cramps, nausea, and mental confusion. I cannot keep doing the ride the way I am doing it.

One solution would be to ride in the cool of the day. I tried that yesterday, and I will tell you about it in a bit. But, suppose I am willing to ride 1 hour each day in the dark. The sun rises at 7:20 and it gets light around 6:45. That means I could be on the road by 5:45. I know from months of experience that I cannot get out of a campground faster than 2 hours. That means that I would need to get up at 3:45, and be asleep by 9:45 the night before, if I wanted to get 6 hours of sleep. (Keep in mind that these campgrounds are basically a party unil about 1:00 AM, so that would be quite difficult.) So, in theory, I could bike 7 hours without being in the worst part of the heat. That should be doable, if it were not for the 3rd mistake I made.

I assumed that a published cycle tour route would actually be rideable. The one for this part of Spain is not. Of course, that is just my opinion, but keep in mind that I am actually on it, so I am in a good position to know. On occasion, I have spent 7 hours of hard riding on this route and gone only 20 miles. I recognize that this may be the only way to transverse this part of the country. Under other circumstances, this might be quite an adventure. But I really want to do more than push my bike through sand for two months. (And, quite honestly my road bike is not up to the abuse.)

Those of you who know me know that I would not let a small things like my health get in the way of pursuing a dream. But as far as including Spain in that ride? I can take it or leave it. And, I am leaving it. I am currently at the terminal in the Seville airport waiting for a flight to Nantes, France. I will cross france and head into Switzerland, picking up my planned route. What I have read of the new route is much more encouraging than the previous, and the temperature will be a full 10C cooler on the average. This is slightly shorter too, so I will regain some lost schedule as well.

Back to the town of Labrija. I still had the problem of getting myself to Seville and to the airport, picking up a box for my bike. If you think this through, you will find that it is a classic 3-body problem: Me, my bike and my gear. When together, I can move quite easily. Take it all apart, and you are stuck. So, boxing a bike and sticking it on an airplane has to be done carefully.

I asked Siri to find me a bike shop in Labrija, and she said there actually was one. But she was wrong this time. Eventually, I found a bike store within walking distance of the airport. Using the google translate app I was able to ask a young woman who worked at the hotel to call the bike shop to see if they had a box they could sell me or donate to the cause. This was quite a process given the language problem. It was also complicated by the fact that the need to put a bike in a box was outside of this woman’s experience. But eventually, the goal was completely communicated to her and she made the call. They had a box for me, and understood that an American man, who was biking around the world, would be by the next afternoon to pick it up. They said “fine” as long as I was there before 8 in the evening, because they were closing after than for the holidays. Excellent! Now I just had to get to Seville.

I found that this town actually had a train station and, on Thursday at 4:15, there was a train going to Seville. Unfortunately, I learned this at about 3:45, and that was the last train that week.

I even thought about renting a car and driving to France, but could not seem to make that happen on the internet. So, I figured I’d just bike it. This was risky–the distance (about 50 miles), the heat, and the fact that this would be on a completely untested route. I was using the bicycle feature on Google maps, and it came up with a very creative route that avoided the main highways (which did not allow bikes).

By the way, maybe one of you knows how to fix an annoying feature of Google maps on my iPhone. It will give verbal instructions, but not if you lock the phone (which is good to do before you put it in your jersey.) I have to take my phone out repeatedly and unlock it to see where I am. Now–if I accidentally blow by a turn, Google maps will stop and reevaluate things, coming up with a different route. That change might even take you back the way you came! You can drive yourself nuts with this. Any help? Anyone? My daughter suggested tuning down the screen brightness (to save power) and then clipping it to my handle bars. Seems like there should be a softwhere fix or something.

So, I took off yesterday morning at 6:20 AM, 90 minutes before sunrise. I expected it to be dead since these people party every night until about midnight. This is just the social time; dinner is not eaten until about 10:00. I found, however, that there was quite a bit of morning activity. I encountered large groups of people waiting to be taken to the fields to work, and a lot of trucks. Some of the roads seemed very dangerous in the dark. At one point, an old man on a regular bike passed me and I figured if he was doing it it must be safe. So I followed that guy for quite a while.


A sunrise in Spain

A sunrise in Spain

I started this day in a village amidst workers ready to go harvest the tomatoes, plowed through 30 miles of dirt roads through fields, eventually ended up on paved roads near Seville, biked through the heart of the metropolis, and finished on actually bicycle paths conveniently painted green to remind me that I was doing the environment a favor by choosing to cycle. I rode right up to the Fed Ex office and met a really nice fellow who offered me my package, a toilet and a glass of cold water.



He was the nicest fellow. And man, do I need a shave. Earlier, I had booked a room at a Marriott near the airport using precious awards points. I spent about an hour trying to bike to the hotel but, this time, google maps kept insisting that I bike over a pedestrian overpass that did not allow bikes and stressed that point with a very creative barrier. In the end, I decided to use the traffic feature, which put me on the forbidden roads. I had no choice because I was beat and it was getting hot. Fortunately, when I got to the highway, there was a sidewalk and I had no problem from there on.

At the hotel, I met some of the neatest folks I have encounted in Spain. They were Christina and Jose Antonio and the hotel is “AC Hotel Sevilla Forum.” These folks just did me one favor after another, starting with a phone call to the bike shop where I needed to get the bike box. Unfortunately, this shop decided to close starting their holiday an afternoon earlier. Sheese!

Jose Antonio spent about an hour finding me another box in another shop. “Bicicleta Mateos” was the shop and they were really helpful too. The owner took a new bike out of a box just so he could give it to me. The box fit into a taxi no problem. The ride was 22 Euros, so I am still a little upset that the other placed broke their promise. But it worked out.

So, now I am heading to France. My next challenge will be figuring out where to spend tonight. There are 2 hotels near the airport but they will be 100 Euros and, to be honest, I can’t afford it. There are warm showers options, but none near the airport and I would be stuck taking a taxi ride (40 Euros) or biking in the dark in a French city. So, my plan is to sleep at the airport. If they throw a fit, then I can always bite the bullet and go to the hotel. Until next time!





5 Responses to “August 5. Seville, Spain

  • Oh–my–goodness! You are having quite an adventure, Scott! My prayer for you: May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace. Numbers 6:24-26. A-men! Hope is alive!

  • I hope the route is better from now on. It’s just crazy that someone doesn’t have a well-established bike route…but I suppose you’ve already had that thought.

    Get the wheels turning and put this behind you.

  • Scott, I’ve had the cell phone Google route problems too. I ended up creating the route Google, exporting it as gpx or tcx to my Joule GPX bike computer (Garmin has many options that display a route too), which also displays turn-by-turn directions. The bike computer battery lasts ~8 hours of riding, and cell phone is saved for emergency access or I change my mind on the route and need advice. Do you download the local Google map every day so it’s available when you don’t have connectivity? Are you carrying a solar panel to recharge? Best of luck to you! Doug

    8 years ago

    hello! I am the man who you mentioned:

    “Earlier, I had a conversation with a man at an ice cream store about the best way to bicycle into Seville; He recommended following this little river thing, which I show below in a map of the area.”

    I wish good luck!!!!

    • Thanks! In the end, I had to give up on Spain and fly to France. Glad I got to experience at least a few hundred km of Spain. I could do it in cooler weather sometime.

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