Murcia - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

December 9, 2019

Murcia

Alerts

  • The video’s from the previous two rides are completed, and have been added in where they belong.  We’ll hold your place in line here if you want to go back for a quick look before proceeding.
  • Today’s video is done too, and is included below.  Watch for the rabbit!
  • Reptile alert!  Frank: you may wish to stop right here today, or just quickly avert your eyes and scroll quickly by.

The Reptile Alert is a new feature you will see here from time to time.  My good friend Frank took objection to the recent snake photos as he suffers from  severe ophidophobia, and threatened to quit following me if this happened again.  We negotiated an agreement and he consented to continue following as long as I posted a warning to protect him.  Seems the least I can do for such a faithful friend of 40+ years.

Today’s Ride

This country is so amazing, and this tour has been so exceptional.  On the morning after today’s ride Rachael wakes up and presents her thoughts on yesterday’s ride (this one, that I’m just coming to) and the tour as a whole.  The trouble with this tour, she says, is that it sets your expectations so unrealistically high.  One fantastic day, one fantastic ride day after day, week after week.  It lowers your defenses a bit, takes you back a bit when you come across a few miles of mundane road, a few more cars than you care to share the road with, a bit more wind than you want.  

Such a problem to have.

Today’s ride begins very nicely, with a lazy climb away from the Gulf of Mazarrón to a low pass in the range to the north.  Just two miles from town we find ourselves on another beautiful, quiet road, climbing a bit more slowly than we might have done if we weren’t pushing into a moderate headwind.  Poor us.  

As we climb we see occasional painted signs of encouragement on the pavement, presumably still from Stage 6 of La Vuelta 2018.  Eight  miles into the ride we reach the summit of this small pass, look north, and see a vast plain spreading out below us.  Our work for the next 20 miles is to drop down into it, cross to the other side, and climb back out again.

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Leaving Puerto de Mazarrón
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Immediately after leaving Puerto de Mazarrón we begin climbing, on a short gradual ascent that would have been much easier with help from the winds instead of pushback.
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Another tomato volcano.
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I should have shown a photo of one of these signs before. We’ve seen these often on this tour, an indication of Spain’s commitment to cycling. They must be serious about enforcement too, because the drivers really seem to respect us.
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Patrick O'HaraHey Scott. Sue and I thought exactly the same thing on our recent tour. We were always impressed with Spain's courteous drivers; consistently giving a wide berth when passing. Lovely shots, by the way! I must admit that I will be at somewhat of a loss of what to do with my mornings now that your tour is winding down. Can't you just keep going....for my sake?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraWell I hate to ruin your mornings, but our time in the Schengen Zone is about spent. The world doesn’t end with Europe though, you know.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyThat is a beautiful sign! And 1.5m seems safe. I've never seen a sign in the US specifying the safe passing distance and it makes me wonder what it is from state to state.

I think in Oregon it's 3ft. And from what we've observed in CO, it's "We don't have time or patience for cyclists and pedestrians." That's how it feels in suburban Denver, at least. There may be safe pockets somewhere in the state(?)

Anyhow, good for Spain! Almost everything you've shared in this journal will make it a likely tour destination for the Grumbys. I, in particular, am especially fond of feeling safe from vehicular assassination.
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1 month ago
Surprisingly, this is the only summit sign we’ve seen in the whole tour. It’s not that high of a summit, either. We’ll let Rocky take the honors since she’s usually at the top first.
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Jen GrumbyRachael - you look relaxed and happy enough to take on a few more summits today.

You go, girl!
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonIt’s nice to see I can still do climbs. Fortunately it was gradual!
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1 month ago
The view northeast from La Cuesta. We’ll be crossing this broad agricultural basin for the next 20 miles. I’m not sure but I think we’ll eventually leave it through the low gap just left of center.
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And the view southeast, toward the sea. It’s quite a pretty basin, especially at its margins where there’s some contour.
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It’s much greener on this side of the ridge we just crossed.  For the next twenty miles we bike through extensively cultivated farmland supporting a great variety of crops.  At the lowest level of the basin we pass field after field of green row crops - lettuce, cabbage, broccoli.  It’s harvest season, and in some fields crews of migrant laborers load large bins by hand, while in others the crop is in and the next cycle is already just breaking through the ground.  At higher elevations we see fields of squash, lemon groves, nut tree orchards, what have you.  It all reminds me a bit of California’s Central Valley.

We follow generally quiet, low traffic roads all the way across the valley.  Still though, we do see the occasional car or farm truck; it’s windy and a bit dusty; and it’s not really dramatic.  We apparently get bored easily and have come to expect more, so we hope the ride will get more interesting beyond the basin.

I like this ramshackle mill on the outskirts of Fuente Alamos. The valley hasn’t gotten too carried away with beautifying itself yet to attract the tourists.
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We made a brief foray onto this dirt road I’d mapped us to - just long enough to take a photo and to convince ourselves of how much nicer the pavement sounded.
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The gleaning crew arrives.
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A few residual cabbages.
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A tumbleweed invades the brassica.
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Jen GrumbySo much nicer to look at than hectares of plastic!
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1 month ago
Very bizarre.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesA field of ??? breasts ????
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesMy thought also. I was going to caption it along those lines but Rachel thought it might not be PC. Actually, it looks like they’re individual plant protectors.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyVery unusual, indeed! Would love to know the full story .. purpose, cost of labor to place, etc.

Let us know if you find out anything.
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1 month ago
Our lunch buddy today.
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I give up on this one. Lemons?
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Steve Miller/GrampiesMaybe a squash of some sort?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesCould be. The granularity could be about right for either squash and lemons, and both are growing in the vicinity.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekYellow boobs! (Sorry, I'll stop)
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekJen! Get a handle on this guy!
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1 month ago
Another scary monster: the Giant Tortoise of Murcia. This is turning into a great tour for reptiles.
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Jen GrumbyAaaaagh! I might have nightmares.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbySorry. You were warned though.
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1 month ago

It does get more interesting.  A lot more interesting, as we cross over our second low ridge of the day and stare at yet another landscape we can hardly fathom for its uniqueness.  For the next mile and a half we descend slowly through a brittle and broken gorge that reminds me of the clues of northern Provence.  The color and texture of the rock formations is completely arresting, stopping us often to take it all in.  What really sets it apart though is the extensive tiered sculpting of the ridge, presumably from surface mining activity in the distant past.  Oh, and Rachael says that she saw a number of bunnies scampering ahead of her (and as proof, will later show me one she captured in the day’s video).

Spain.  Incredible.  I can’t even find any description of this place, or any indication on the map that there’s anything special here.  Just another place.

Another surreal landscape. The next two miles cut through a pair of intensely scarred ridges, presumably reflecting large scale surface mining activity from long ago.
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Our road cuts through there. If you look at the contour of the ridges below, they form a sort of tilted letter Z. That’s our route.
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Peligro I get. But desprendemientos? That’s a new one on me. It means detachments. So, falling rocks?
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Jen GrumbyYep! At least it's not 'flying rock'.
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1 month ago
Peligro. Uno desprediemento grande. See? Such an easy language.
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Jen GrumbyUm, that would be 'un' preceding a singular masculine noun.

But pretty close! ¡Muy bien, Señor Anderson!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyOK, not so simple after all. I give up. We’re going back to America.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekBoobs? (Sorry!)
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1 month ago
Can this be anything other than the result of mining activity? I’ve never seen anything like it.
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Arresting.
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Several spots on this road reminded us of the French clues.
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Video sound track: Do You Believe in Magic, by the Lovin’ Spoonful

In Murcia

We have to make our way to Valencia tomorrow.  Our research indicates that we can take our bikes on the regional train here, but from past experience we need to verify this so we can make other plans if need be.  We decide to swing by the train station, a bit off route to the hotel.  We approach it by following a small road that parallels the tracks.  We’re brought to a halt though by a construction project, with a giant piece of equipment that blocks the road wall to wall.

We look at it, wondering whether we can get around or whether we need to turn back and find a different way forward.  One crew member waves us forward, so we start to bike up the side.  Another waves us to turn back, so we do; but then the first guy shouts, beckons us on again.  He’s in the process of adjusting one of the giant supporting legs of the equipment so we can get around.

There’s barely room for us to squeeze through, with us lifting and passing the bikes through the narrow gap with his help.  Which is good.  We smile broadly and say Muchas Gracias; he smiles back and says You’re Welcome.

So that‘s good, and pretty cool.  Unfortunately, the narrow gap was a river of mud, and everything’s a mess.  Our shoes are so clotted in mud that we can’t slip the cleats into the pedals, and Rachael’s feet keep sliding around.  So that’s bad.  Better that we should have turned around and taken a detour.

At the train station, I find a helpful ticket agent, a young woman, who works with me to ticket us and our bikes.  Yes, we can take our bikes on the train.  On the Talgo (fast) trains though, we need them bagged.  I explain that we don’t have bags.  She looks surprised, but then says unbagged bikes are allowed on either of the two regional trains departing tomorrow.  They have a space in the middle of the train for bicycles.  So that’s good.

She starts to select seats for us, brings up the layout of the trains, consults a colleague, and then explains that we’re out of luck.  The regional trains allow unbagged bikes, but these specific regional trains don’t.  They’re too small.  So that’s bad, and just a bit baffling.

We decide to bike to the hotel next, and just go to the bus station in the morning and assume we can take our bikes.  If we can’t, we’ll break down and rent a car.

The same construction project is still in our way though.  It has completely closed off the route north across the river.  We could bike a long way around, but there are a pair of temporary elevators in place (this is obviously a long term project), so we take the elevators, barely cramming our loaded bikes into one.   Twice - once up, once down.  We dislodge Rachael’s chain doing this, and I get myself very greasy putting it back on again.

So, we arrive at our nice, four star hotel a bit of a mess.  We’d have been much better off just assuming the train wouldn’t work out in the first place.  We’d have gotten to our hotel clean, and early enough that we’d still have time to look around before dark.  

Murcia looks great.  Maybe we’ll come back some year and actually see it.

Thanks for the help, but you shouldn’t have. Really.
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Between elevators.
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Yuk.
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In Murcia, a city that likes its reds.
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In Murcia
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The cathedral at Murcia
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The Murcia cathedral surprises me. It looks like one we might see in Italy.
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Celebrate! We’ve still got five nights in Valencia ahead, but in a lot of ways it feels like this is the end of the road. Appropriate to end on a bottle of Albariño, from the region where the journey began.
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Bike stats today: 45 miles, 2,300’; for the tour: 2,338 miles, 98,500’

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 2,338 miles (3,763 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 7
Comment on this entry Comment 2
Jen GrumbyWhat a day! For all its spectacular-ness (spectacularity?), I think the muddy shoes are just a blip on the AdversityMeter.

Look forward to reading about Valencia!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyIt’s really been an outstanding tour, and eye opening. After three months it will be nice to get back to our own culture for awhile, but we’re both going to miss it. Some of our best cycling ever.
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1 month ago