Écija - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

November 15, 2019

Écija

We spent a fair amount of time staring at the map, discussing the most promising route to Écija.  There are conflicting considerations.  We want a safe, quiet, efficient ride of course, but we also want one that minimizes and preferably avoids entirely unpaved or rough roads.  Rachael is suffering a bit from saddle soreness, and some of our riding has been painful for her lately.

The most promising option requires a short dash on the A-4 the Autovia for just a mile until the exit onto SE-226, the road to Fuentes de Andalucia; but RideWithGPS won’t even draw this route.  This makes me suspicious and uncomfortable, and in the end we decide to go with the route the planning tool suggests.  It starts with a five mile dirt road that picks up just below the Cordoba Gate and ends when it intersects SE-226.  It’s only 5 miles, it’s flat, and the surface looks reasonable from what we can see on the satellite view.

Before we set out the door though, a pronunciation note so you can read today’s entry properly.  Note the accent mark in Écija.  The accent is on the first syllable.  It has an odd pronunciation to my ears, and is a bit hard to say.  Something like eh’-the-huh.

Leaving Carmona through the Córdoba Gate.
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So, we have a plan.  First though, we have to get to the dirt path.  After a too short but exhilarating coast down from town and through the Córdoba Gate, we soon turn off for our dirt road - a few hundred feet further down the hill on a steep, rutted, rocky slope.

At the bottom, the road is actually better than we had expected.  After about a half mile of slow, grass/sand surface, the remaining miles are in general quite comfortable riding that we can sustain a 9 mph pace on - with one small exception: the crossing of the Carbones River.  I’d wondered about this and have been anxiously waiting for it hoping that it wouldn’t be too awful to cross so that my name would be mud with Rachael.  

When we arrive at the river crossing, we face a fairly small puddle that spans the trail.  I‘m resigning myself to wading through the undoubtedly cold water barefoot when Rachael notes that she thinks we could skirt the edge of the puddle.  She’s right!  There’s a row of small stepping stones beneath the reeds that edge the water, just enough to carry across if we watch our steps and balance carefully.  Not long afterwards, we find ourselves on pavement again, and remain so for the rest of the ride.

It’s going to be a long day at this rate.
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It’s a bit rough when we reach the bottom, but rideable.
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The view back toward Carmona.
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More colorful than a lot of the ruins you see out here.
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It’s great being here in low season. It’s so quiet! We don’t see another traveler on the whole road. This trail is probably crazy crowded in high season.
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Once you make it down the hill from Carmona this dirt road is pretty good except for this bit crossing the Carbones River. It’s dry for much of the year, but I wonder how this would be in the spring. You might want to bring your hip waders.
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Coming to the end of our five mile dirt road, we return to pavement again. Far back in the distance now is Carmona.
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Time to shed a layer.
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The next ten miles, to Fuentes de Andalucia, are about as great as cycling gets in my opinion.  We’re on a poorly maintenained, low volume road that seems like maybe it’s working it’s way toward obsolescence.  For now though the surface if fine and we have the road all but to ourselves.  I think we are passed by only three cars for the next hour.

On a sealed road again, the Carretera de Fuentes de Andalucia, which we’ll follow to (you guessed it) Fuentes de Andalucia. Not the smoothest ride we’ve seen, but one of the best. We don’t see a car for the next five miles, and only a couple for the five after that.
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Corduroy carpet
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Jen GrumbyA fashionable field!
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3 weeks ago
For the next several miles we watch this ridge rise before us and wonder which way we’ll get past. Eventually we’ll skirt it to the left and then back to Fuentes de Andalucia which is hidden behind it.
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The interloper has been noted and given fair warning.
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With Fuentes de Andalucia in sight, I’m a bit sorry to be coming to the end of this delightful road.
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Fuentes de Andalucia
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The final twenty-five miles to Écija are a different story.  We pick up more traffic, but more importantly we pick up a significant threat of rain.  We’re quickly reminded of our race with the rain on the ride to Oubrique three weeks back.  As then, we’re really in barren country here with nothing at all that represents shelter for miles ahead of us.

Nothing to be done for it but to plow ahead with all the speed we can muster.  We’re hardly speedy any more, but with the help of favorable winds it’s enough.  We arrive at our hotel at about three, dry but a bit chilled and ready for a warm shower.

Leaving Fuentes, the weather has rapidly taken a turn for a worse. Suddenly we seem to be in another race with the rain with no hope of shelter as far down the road as we can see.
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It’s grey for 360 degrees around, except for a small break in the clouds that briefly illuminates this hill.
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Looking back at Fuentes de Andalucia, and still dry. It’s too early to be getting smug about it, but it’s looking like we’re winning this race.
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Biking northeast again, for the final 20 miles to Écija. We’ll be anxious about the weather the entire way. At one point it starts sprinkling enough that I decide it’s time to stash the camera in the pannier and just ride like the wind.
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Until Rachael told me to look back over my right shoulder, for this amazing view. Sprinkling or not, I have to haul out the camera again. They look like white sand dunes.
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Jen GrumbyWorth the stop to take out the camera .. beautiful!
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3 weeks ago
Just before the outskirts of Écija we ride into this amazing landscape.
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Video sound track: A Manolo, by Abel Sanchez

Hotel Plateria, our home here in Écija for the next two nights, is just a bit quirky.  Well, that’s not quite true.  Actually, it is quite strange - particularly in its access through the locked external door of the hotel.  It’s locked from passage both inside and out.  We aren’t given a key, and every time we wish to enter or leave the hotel we have to buzz the door and wait until an attendant lets you in.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a setup quite like it.

For dinner we walk to a nearby restaurant, Las Ninfas, that Rachael ferreted out.  We walk briskly, because even with my wool shirt and raincoat on it is quite cold, nearly enough to wish I’d brought my gloves.  It’s worth it though - one of the best meals of the tour.

Our dinner tonight is in a restaurant inside a museum. Rachael has a interesting objet d’art overlooking her shoulder.
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Iberico, migas and green peppers - one of my favorite meals of the tour. We’re coming back tomorrow night, and I’m tempted to order it again.
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Or, I might choose this amazing salmon with ratatouille dish that Rachael ordered but sadly could not finish all of without my help.
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The view from our hotel room this evening - a nearly full moon shines on the bell tower of San Juan Batista Church.
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Ride stats today: 43 miles, 1,400’; for the tour: 1,650 miles, 52,300’

Today's ride: 43 miles (69 km)
Total: 1,650 miles (2,655 km)

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Steve Miller/GrampiesHere is a topic that is coming late, since Portugal is now so far behind you. We are in Montreal right now, where among the many multi-ethnic treats is the Portugese custard tart - Natas , or "pastel de nata". There are websites waxing ecstatic about which are the best bakeries for natas. Our son favours "Romados" which is a location mainly known for Portugese BBQ chicken. So belatedly, did you run into natas? And is "iberico" in the photo above, chicken? If yes, would you call it BBQ chicken?

Obrigado
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonIberico was a lazy shorthand for jamón ibérico, or Iberian pig. Also known as black pig, or acorn fed black pig, the type you see grazing under the oak trees on the dehesas here. One of my favorite dishes here - Rachael keeps commenting that we’re stuck in a rut, as she often orders salmon, and I often order iberico.

No, we didn’t try natas. We don’t stop in many pastry stops actually, because Rachael likes to preserve her calorie budget for other things she prefers more, and I was apparently born missing my sweet tooth - which I attribute to my also missing senses of taste and smell.
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3 weeks ago
Carolyn van HoeveI took much delight in reading this entry, and as I began I thought yikes the biking app is taking them to the River Carbones, where our day completely unravelled. But you crossed it! We were unable to traverse it and had to double back to the SE 226. None of our apps either would allow us to take the A-4 which was the most direct path (are bikes not allowed on these main roads). Our only choice was to go back down the SE 226 (which we loved also, not so much the second time) and either go up the sand road with the 2 stone pillars you've stopped to take a picture or head nearly all the way back to Fuentes de Andalucia and then turn right onto the road heading to Marchena which we decided to do. This ended up on another dirt track that went for 17km and thankfully, very thankfully we arrived on the main road before we got pummelled by the hail storm. Glad you had some photos to look at, this was more than we got to see!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveOh, my gosh. I can’t believe that was the same road you were talking about! That’s really amazing. I feel pretty stupid for not connecting the dots on that. What a long day you had then!

So the water must have been significantly higher then? I was worried about the river when we first came to it, but it really wasn’t difficult to pass through. Did you take a photo of it?
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2 weeks ago
Carolyn van HoeveI wouldn't say significantly higher but definitely looked worse than the photo you posted, enough for us not to be game to attempt to cross it. No, I didn't get a photo :-(
I can't believe how cold it's become in just 4 weeks since we were there!
I'm actually just reading your Cordoba post and haven't got to your bus trip yet. We had to take our bikes on the bus too but they insisted on them being wrapped which luckily I knew about, so we came prepared with some cheap black bike covers. It was quite an effort getting them in and we were worried for the whole bus ride that we had damaged them.
It's wonderful being able to revisit our trip. We're still talking about it Beautiful photos on the excursion you took from Cordoba!
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2 weeks ago