San Jose - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

December 1, 2019

San Jose

To lead with the most compelling news of the day, it’s my birthday!  Against all odds, I survived another year somehow.  Some brief statistics on the past year:

  • 2 birthdays spent on the Mediterranean (last year, we were in Collioure at this time);
  • 35 weeks on tour;
  • 7 countries visited on tour (USA, Canada, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Taiwan);
  • 7,100 cycling miles on tour, with 325,000’ (about 60 vertical miles) of elevation gain.

Since it’s my special day, I’m entitled to special privileges.  To begin with one of the most exciting ones, Rachael let me choose the music for today’s video!  This is a rare honor, which I may not be granted again until next year at this time.  So, let’s begin with the video: 

Video sound track: Two of a Mind, by Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond

And, while we’re on the subject of videos: our hotel tonight has excellent WiFi, and so Rachael was able to upload the delinquent videos from the previous two posts (to Tabernas, and the Tabernas loop ride).  Both of those are great and worth a look (even if the sound tracks aren’t the best), so you’re encouraged to drop everything here and go back to view them both if you missed them the first time.  But come back when you’re done.

Today’s Ride

We start the day with another good breakfast at our inn, and another chat with Holger.  At its conclusion Holger takes a photo of us together for his own memory book, and promises to email it to us.  When it arrives we’ll post it here so you can see what I looked like in my birthday suit of the day, with the love of my life standing next to me.

We receive a warm send-off from our hosts Guillermo and Natalia at Casa Rural Jardin del Desierto, a pleasant oasis in the desert that we heartily recommend if you find yourself in Tabernas some day.

We’re leaving the desert today, biking south to San Jose on the coast.  Just 25 miles away, if there weren’t a low mountain range in the way.  Since there is though, it will take us 20 miles more than that and a fair amount of climbing to get over that range.  It will take us awhile at Team Anderson speed, so we get a fairly early start.  Weather here around Tabernas is ideal - sunny, mild wind, moderate temperatures.

Our ride begins with a five mile run to the northeast, working our way toward a gap in the range.  Our route today will take us on a reportedly very quiet road south across the range through the mountain village of Nijar.  Our host in Berja a few days back lived in Tabernas for a number of years, and she and her husband would drive this road on their way to weekend getaways on the coast.  She said they had a standing bet on whether they would see any cars at all on this road, as it is normally so quiet.

Tabernas is so full of surprises! If we’d only known this was here last night we could have gone clubbin’.
Heart 1 Comment 1
Ron SuchanekI wish you'd have gone clubbin' on the eve of your birthday.
Happy birthday a few days late.
Reply to this comment
1 day ago
Tabernas sits in a broad east-west basin, with high ridges on the north and south. This is the view looking north. We’re biking east to a gap in the southern ridge where we can cut through to the coast.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Image not found :(
The view north again, as we begin climbing out of the basin.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Once we leave the highway and turn south toward the hills we lose all traffic, as advertised.  Just to be on the safe side though, I’ve mapped us onto an even quieter route that takes us off pavement for about five miles  (Actually, this was a mistake.  I realized I had mismapped it and planned to stay on pavement when we reached this point, but then didn’t recognize it when we got here).

It’s a very quiet five miles alright - on which we see only one car in the next hour.  And it takes us a full hour for these five miles because it’s no biking route.  It’s  actually a fairly crude hiking trail - the GR 244, the Sendero de los Pueblos del Interior.  Progress is very slow as we traverse an irregular and lumpy path with a variegated surface - quite scenic, but a bit tense as we wonder whether it will really hook up to our planned route and how long it will be before the we return to the blessed pavement again.

Which brings me back to my birthday, and Rachael’s second big gift of the day.  This is hardly Rachael’s favorite type of ride conditions, but she agrees just this once, as it is my birthday, to keep a good attitude and not hold it against me as she alternately painfully bounces along the rideable stretches and pushes her bike through the rest.

And she’s good to her word, though it looks at times like she’s straining just a bit to bite her tongue.

Just below Turrilas we leave the pavement and take the low route to avoid a few hills.
Heart 3 Comment 2
Ron SuchanekThat looks like a spectacular road!
Reply to this comment
1 day ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekDefinitely. I sympathized with Rachael’s discomfort but it was a great place to be. So many roads like this here though.
Reply to this comment
1 day ago
The way is unmarked, save for our GPS track. Here’s hoping the right turn is the right turn here.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Hold on a minute! We’re going where, exactly?
Heart 1 Comment 0
Our confidence in our route starts getting shaky, and we begin to wonder if we’ll reach the coast before nightfall.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Image not found :(
We’re at least on a marked route now, but Rachael correctly notes that Sendero does not mean bicycle route.
Heart 1 Comment 0
It’s my birthday! As a special present, Rachael promises to not complain (audibly) for my having brought us here.
Heart 5 Comment 0
I’m not sure, but it looks to me like she’s straining just a bit to keep her promise.
Heart 2 Comment 2
Ron SuchanekShe's singing to herself:
Happy birthday to Scott
I'm gonna kick him in the nards...
Reply to this comment
1 day ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekNards? Is that a Spanish term? GT didn’t recognize it. It doesn’t rhyme so well either.
Reply to this comment
1 day ago

At just about the point that we’re getting anxious about how long this will continue and how late in the day we’ll reach our destination, the pavement returns.  Hooray!  The next few miles are uphill as we ascend to the divide, but after the last few miles the climb seems as nothing.

Once over the top, it feels like our work is done.  We’ve got a net two thousand foot drop ahead of us, and anticipate a fast, exhilarating ride to the sea.  The winds are surprisingly strong on this side of the summit though, which slows us down and chills us as well.  We layer up and after a few miles pull off into a sheltered bend in the road to break for a late lunch.

Hooray! Barely five miles later we’re back on pavement, biking through Lucainena de Los Torres.
Heart 4 Comment 0
Climbing over the final ridge of the day, I pause for a last look north into the desert.
Heart 3 Comment 0
A souvenir from our picnic spot, tucked into a sheltered bend in the road out of the wind.
Heart 4 Comment 2
Bill ShaneyfeltMight be Spanish lavender.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavandula_stoechas
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Scott AndersonLooks like a decent theory. Nice!
Reply to this comment
1 week ago

The remaining miles of the ride are nothing like what we were anticipating.  It is a fast ride dropping the next five miles to Nijar, but beyond that we’re in for a surprise.  The weather is changing: the sky is gradually turning overcast, temperatures are dropping, and the already strong wind keeps getting stronger.  It’s fortunately an east wind that cuts across our path, but it’s definitely strong enough to be a problem.  By the time we near the coast we’re biking through 30+ mph gusts that leave us fighting for control of our bikes; and the sky is turning grey nd gloomy, leaving us wondering if we’ll arrive dry.  It’s a huge relief when we pull up to our hotel in San Jose, dry but colder and more spent than we’d expected.

Climbing up to Nijar.
Heart 4 Comment 0
Nijar sits in a dramatic setting, burrowed high against the cliffs.
Heart 3 Comment 0
In Nijar
Heart 4 Comment 0
Dropping toward the coast, battling a steadily amplifying wind.
Heart 4 Comment 0
Nearing the coast, we see another broad plain blanketed in plastic.
Heart 1 Comment 0
With still ten or fifteen miles to go, skies like this make us more than a bit anxious.
Heart 1 Comment 0

Traveling in low-low season is definitely a mixed bag.  Roads are quiet, places that I’m sure are teeming with tourists at the wrong time of year are nearly deserted - but services are pretty slim.  We’re the only guests at our hotel, and our host informs us that it’s not really open except for the fact that we have a reservation.  He leaves us instructions to take care of ourselves, and instructs us to call him if we have any problems. 

And few restaurants are open either.   We settle for a modest pizzeria to celebrate my birthday.  Which is fine with me.  The pizza is good, the wine is fine, and we have some unexpected entertainment to liven up the meal.  We thought we were the only diners here tonight, until the host of our hotel walks in.  We smile at him with surprise, thinking he’s here for pizza himself.  But no, he’s here to see us.

It takes awhile to sort out what has happened here since he speaks no English whatsoever, but it explains a mystery - we’ve received four phone calls in the last 20 minutes, from an unknown Spanish number.   We still aren’t sure what happened, but we think that Rachael butt-dialed our hotel (we’d used its number earlier to call the hotel when we arrived), and this poor old man has apparently been trying to find us to see what we needed.  He’s been driving around town looking in the windows of open establishments until he finally found us.  

When we return to our room after dinner we find an additional warm blanket on a chair in front of our door.  It’s quite a cold night, and he must have guessed this was our concern when we called for assistance. 

Heart 0 Comment 0

Ride stats today: 43 miles, 2,700’; for the tour: 2,143 miles, 84,000’

Today's ride: 43 miles (69 km)
Total: 2,143 miles (3,449 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 8
Comment on this entry Comment 13
Gregory GarceauHappy Birthday, Scott.

Rocky, if it was possible to give "hearts" to videos I'm pretty sure Cycleblaze would explode from excessive heart overload. Your videos are that good. Just sayin'.
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Carolyn van HoeveYes agreed!
Happy Birthday Scott (belated now)! Remarkable statistics for your past year. Wow!
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Patrick O'HaraHappy Birthday, Scott!
You're both amazing! But, you're especially amazing today!
Keep on truckin'.

Patrick
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Suzanne GibsonHappy Birthday, Scott! Sensational birthday ride - 43 miles means you just turned 43, right? You always ride your age in miles on your birthday. And the music you chose... Janos perked his ears and shouted immediately Gerry Mulligan and Chet B - no, Paul Desmond! And Rachael, you are a brave trouper not to complain about the lousy choice of roads. Stunning video and scenery! Now I'll go look at the others.
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Rachael AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonThanks for the kind words. You always make my day!
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonThank you, Suzanne. I could have done my 73 miler today of course, but then what would I have to look forward to the rest of the year? I’ll enjoy savoring the anticipation for a few months.

And yes, I had Janos in mind when I picked the music. He has excellent taste, I’d say. Two of a mind.
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraThanks for remembering! Oh, wait - I guess I reminded you.
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Rachael AndersonTo Gregory GarceauThank you so much! I really enjoy putting then together but it’s great to have feedback.
Reply to this comment
1 week ago
Keith ClassenHappy Birthday Scott! Somewhat belated! We just got back from Australia and now catching up on your current adventure. Looks fantastic! All the best to you and Rachael.
Keith
Reply to this comment
6 days ago
Scott AndersonThanks, Keith. Good to hear from you! And yes, it has been fantastic. The two of you should really give this port of the continent a try one of these years.
Reply to this comment
6 days ago
Keith ClassenTo Scott AndersonHi Scott - you are probably right! We have considered Portugal/Spain but keep finding unfinished business in the Alps the past few years. My legs are close in age to yours and hopefully there are a few more hills in them. We have some time to contemplate our next ride over there - likely next fall. Ride on!
Reply to this comment
5 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith ClassenOf course you’ve got more than a few hills still in your future, kiddo!
Reply to this comment
4 days ago
Rachael AndersonYou should definitely do the climbing while you can! Since we’ve been taking longer tours I’ve been carrying a lot more stuff so touring in the Alps sounds less appealing unless it’s without bags. I’m getting lazy. I bet the Mathers would like this area but you would want to be here now or in the early spring otherwise it would be to hot!
Reply to this comment
4 days ago