Astorga loop - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

October 3, 2019

Astorga loop

Poor Rachael has been unable to use her GoPro before today because we shipped its mount to Valencia in error.   Now that she’s picked up a new mount, I think we should lead today’s post with the first video of the tour!  Don’t you agree?

Video sound track: Viajero, by Miguel de la Bastide

Astorga has two big attractions (well, three if you include the chocolate museum): its striking cathedral, and the Gaudi-designed Episcopal Palace that stands right next to it.  We mean to visit both of them before leaving town, and our plan had been to get our for our ride early today and visit the sites in the late afternoon.

When we wake up this morning though, it is a surprisingly chilly 42 degrees out.  The day will be sunny and warm up to seventy, but it’s going to take some time getting there.  We decide to take in Gaudi’s Palace first while the day warms up.  It’s a remarkable place, well worth a visit (photos in a separate post), and we don’t make it back to the room to suit up for the ride before about noon.

Astorga looks like it is in the center of some great cycling country.  It lies in the middle of an open plain, but you don’t have to go far in any direction before you start seeing some contour.  We’ve picked out a promising 40 mile loop for today - we’ll bike south for about fifteen miles, to the base of the nearest low ridges; follow them east for about ten miles; and then double back toward town.

Once we’re rolling, we’re immediately taken with the landscape.  It’s more varied than I’d expected - at times very open, with a vista that extends for miles; and at times we’re biking through mixed pine/oak forests.  It’s all quite depopulated, with a largely empty terrain broken by the occasional small, still village with only an occasional lone figure walking its streets.  

There is virtually no traffic on LE-133, the main road south from Astorga.  The road is in excellent shape with a silky surface, and we enjoy a fine 17 mile ride south to Quintillana de Florez, where we stop for lunch sitting on a rickety wooden bench in the shade of a squat stone building.  We’re there for about twenty minutes, enjoying the solitude and shade and admiring the character of the village as we down our bread, cheese and meat.  In the whole time we sit there I don’t think we see a single car pass by, and no other sole but for a short, bent  lady who exits the door of one house, slowly walks down the street past us, turns our way to say hello, and then enters different door.

Leaving Astorga, direction south. It’s impressive the way the cathedral dominates the skyline. I don’t think I’d confuse Astorga with anyplace else.
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Still heading south from Astorga. I think the highest peaks in the distance are the mountains south of Oviedo.
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In Santiago Millas. We’ve quickly become enamored with these quiet stone villages.
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We’re on a rolling, lazy climb to a low ridge south of Astorga.
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Lunch stop, in Quintillana de Florez.
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The smart ones take their lunch on the shady side of the street.
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The ride so far has been excellent, but the next miles are on another plane altogether - in fact, it almost feels like another planet.  Leaving LE-133, we turn east on a smaller, more primitive road with a courser surface.   No one is on it but ourselves, and there is little sound but the occasional bird.  There’s a noisy gang of crows at one point, and at another I see a pair of grouse ahead, running off the road into the brush.  I stop and watch for a minute, hoping to get another sight of them; and suddenly a dozen of them take flight all at once and weakly fly off, staying low just above the brush.

It is a really beautiful ride, approaching and then following the base of a low, rocky ridge.  When you can see so much open country, you don’t need much texture in the land to give it beauty and a feeling of drama.  The other quality that makes the ride special though is the land itself - totally empty save for a ruined home here and there, and unfenced.

Eastbound on Carretera Herreras. Just the two of us.
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A few folks lived out here at some point in the past.
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Not a fence, not a utility line in sight for miles.
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We rode in the oncoming lane because the surface was a bit better there, and just kept alert for oncoming cars. We were passed from behind once and saw one oncoming car, but could hear them coming from far off.
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Shortly after Tayubo del Monte we turn our way back north to Astorga again.  We’re back on a primary road again, but it’s still very quiet.  The villages we pass through really capture our imagination - their older stone buildings are such a striking reddish hue, and each is unique.  One building after another draws our attention.  Perhaps because it’s midafternoon now, we see more signs of life - a group of men sit in the shade in front of a cafe and wave as we cycle through town; here and there some domestic labor is occurring - tree trimming, wall maintenance.

In a few miles we zigzag up the face of a low ridge, its exposed face the same rocky red that we saw in the villages - it’s not hard to see where they get their building materials from. 

Over the top, we start gradually dropping toward Astorga.  The first few miles bring a surprising amount of traffic - a series of twenty or so military vehicles, some towing artillery behind them, all kicking up an unpleasant cloud of dust.  It looks like we are crossing a small military reserve.

We make it back to the room by about five, rest up and clean up, and then walk over to the cathedral.  We’re too late.  There’s a service on tonight and they’re closing early.  We’ll come back in the morning before leaving for Benevente while we wait for the day to warm up a bit.

In Tayubo del Monte, I believe. I loved this village, with its red stone structures.
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Wall art, Tayubo del Monte. Ideas on what we’re looking at here?
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In Tayubo del Monte. The coloration is so amazing here. It reminds me of some of the sausage we’ve been having for breakfast.
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This could be set in Southern Utah.
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In Priaranza de la Valduerna, another red stone village.
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Here comes the major climb for the day, switching up the face of this low ridge.
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Another shot for the ‘Where’s Rachael’ album.
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Jen GrumbySlightly behind the first red Rock, up yonder.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYou’re too good at this, Jen. We’re going to have to find something more challenging for those high achievers out there.
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2 months ago
You can see where the color of the local villages comes from.
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Q
Looking back south, behind us. Such a varied landscape - alternatingly lush and arid.
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Just some oaks.
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Water tower? Windmill? Silo? What’s your guess?
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Must belong to a very big stork.
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The last ten miles back to Astorga, off on the far right, are mostly a relaxed glide downhill and downwind.
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Since she’s got some catching up to do, I think we should let Rachael end today’s post with her second video of the tour!  Don’t you agree?

Video sound track: El Arco Iris, by Cordero

Three AVD’s (adversity free days) in a row! Celebrate!
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Ride stats today: 41 miles, 2,000’; for the tour: 299 miles, 17,100’

Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 299 miles (481 km)

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Jen GrumbyAVD x 3 .. woohooooo!!

Love seeing the red stone villages in both the photos and videos. Beautiful!
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2 months ago