Journey home - Land of the Rabbits - CycleBlaze

July 31, 2023

Journey home

Well I made it back to the ferry port with time to spare. Writing this sipping coffee on the slightly bucking restaurant deck of the Pont Aven and we've just rounded the coast of Brittany. Stomach is a little unsettled but nothing too bad.

I'd somewhat underestimated just how much of a distance I needed to drive on the last day - it was around 500km, and I needed to be at the port at 5pm at the latest. Given the ride out of Santander wasn't completely trivial, my lacadaisical plan of "maybe I'll take some diversions and do some sightseeing" became more like "drive like a demon on the fastest roads". I'd also planned to have a very lazy morning and really enjoy the Parador, but grieviously I had to run off pretty early, even moving my breakfast earlier from the positively debauched time I'd picked of 10am.

Fortunately things went pretty swimmingly. I had a great breakfast and was checking out of the Parador by 9.30 (amusingly, I did have a bill to pay - my single beer in the beautiful courtyard last night cost me the grand sum of: 2.50 euros). Then it was easy to find the car which I'd parked on the town streets below and to exit Monforte. It was totally safe and of course nobody had bothered to break in to steal the Shift.

Other than being drawn into a small town to get petrol, and a comedy wrong turn when I started driving towards Madrid which involved a lot of swearing, I powered along at 120 kph. Psychologically I had a great tendency not to retrace my route, and to drive overland via Burgos - it was only the toll roads and the emphatic advice of Google maps that made me take the autostrada back via Vilalba, to the coast at Ribadeo, back other the bridge I had cycled across, and then due east right along the coast through Asturias and Cantabria. It was weird seeing places that I'd cycled through flick by so fast, and on a couple of occasions even spotted roads I'd cycled *on* when the autostrada got near the national road on the north coast. Even the motorway stuggled with the mountainous region between Vilalba and the coast, which made me think my hard day of climbing there hadn't all been in vain. On the other hand it sometimes took me an hour plus to cover single cycling days, which did make them seem pretty epic. Ocassionally I'd glance back at the tangle of blue metal and rubber in the back and pat the Shift affectionately.

It was a fantastic road, extremely fast and I only hit traffic once near Gijon. The Spanish drivers were excellent, a great mixture of laid-back but not careless: people let me in, I let people in, no horns (even when I inadvertedly blocked the overtaking lane) - it was chilled out. I drove without stopping until I had to refuel, and it was just past 3pm when I swung into Santander airport, found a spot, *carefully* applied the Monty Python parking brake and extracted and reassembled the Shift from the boot. Ideal, since my hire lasted until 4pm.

The car hire staff at Enterpise were taking their siesta so I wrote a little note and popped the keys through their letterbox. It seems pretty funny to just leave the car and, whistling complacently, cycle off. I'm sure they'll get back to me if there are any problems.

I had the elaborate cycle route back through the motorways and heavy industry to the town and port mapped out, and followed it on the Garmin watch. That thing really has been a invaluable, a real star. If you want to get in and out of Santander to the south I strongly encourage you to map it out in advance - while there is a continuous cycle route, it's completely unsigned and you'll never find it otherwise, and the roads are not nice.

Checked in at the port, sat down with some coffee, and immediately found I'd left my phone in the car. After a good combo of anatomical swearing I remembered that a large proportion of the people around me would be English now and shrunk into my cafe seat (though this wasn't as bad as when our train was cancelled in Chicago, and me and Caroline exchanged a full minute of increasingly outrageous and comedic swearing in response ... only to look behind us to see an Amish family politely waiting).

I knew exactly where I left the bugger and it even crossed my mind to cycle back and try to reclaim it - it was only 7km each way, and I had 90 minutes before the ship sailed. Then it occurred to me that was a ridiculous idea: they wouldn't let me on the ferry at the last minute, and it'd take a whole load of explaining for the car hire people to give me the keys back and let me root around in the front seat (even if they were back from siesta). On reflection, compared to most people for me the loss of the phone isn't a big deal. I use it minimally so it has no vital data on it; I can access all my stuff through other means; and it's totally secure, and I doubt anyone who finds it would know what to do with it anyway. The only annoyance is the cost of replacement and the fact it has some 2-factor keys for work on it. Oh well, those can be reset.

Into the belly of the whale
Heart 2 Comment 0

The crossing has been much rougher than the way out. On deck yesterday evening the staff were scrambling around frantically gathering all the plastic chairs, while the wind blew so strong it literally blew my eyelids closed. I asked and they said it was quite rough, but not the worst this week! So yeah, it can get pretty bad out in the Bay o' Biscay. It also occurs to me that it's a bit weird it's called a "Bay", since it's formed by one whole side of France and Spain. I think such a big feature is normally called a "Bight"?

Actually it was pretty hairy on deck. I must confess my irrational fear - I have bathyphobia or fear of depths. This makes the ocean both scary and thrilling for me - especially as I know it's about 3 miles deep at this point. The thought of landing in those inky depths scares the hell out of me. I think if I ended up in the water I'd die of panic before the more usual cold or drowning. Since the wind was blowing my legs around and lifting me up, I kept a strong hold on the rail. I didn't want to end up going in the drink.

But I did (easily) get hold of a cabin. Fun fact - the tiny cabin cost (considerably) more than my Parador *with* fancy breakfast last night in Monforte. But it was worth it - I didn't feel sick at all lying down, and slept for about 10 hours.

Docking in Plymouth in about 5 hours, so lots more time to appreciate the ship. Probably won't go swimming though, the pool is tiny and full of kids and frankly it would look a bit weird if I started ploughing butterfly up and down its 10m length.

Today's ride: 7 km (4 miles)
Total: 852 km (529 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 7
Comment on this entry Comment 0