Day 53: Irun - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

March 30, 2024

Day 53: Irun

Peregrinos in Basque Country

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The first step in managing our situation in Irun, at the no breakfast Pension Lizaso, was to find a grocery store.  There was a restaurant nearby that we could see, but a restaurant meal is a temporary and time consuming fix, we say. We need long lasting packages of essentials, like potato chips!

Google Maps found a Dia market nearby, so the walk there was our first thing. Dia has that contraption that processes whole oranges into juice, and that is a big plus. The pick me up ability of totally fresh orange juice is amazing.

The next task we threw Google was to find bike shops. Of  six or eight in Irun and nearby, Google listed three or four as closed and/or opening Monday, or even Tuesday.  I began to phone the others, and the first three did not answer. This made me willing to phone places that were further out, and someone picked up at Basoa Bike Shop, in nearby Hondarribia. The person, who turned out to be Beñat, spoke excellent English, and he allowed that he probably had a stem wedge. Wow! We threw on our clothes, fired up the GPS, and were off.

Now by "off" I mean we started walking. Someone more worldly wise might have called a cab. But while I am not saying calling a cab would be beyond us, if really pressed, cabs are just not part of our personal culture. By rights, we could have sent one of us on the remaining working bike. But again, we don't do that. For  57 years, if we are doing something, we do it together.  So we walked.

Irun is just normal, not a gorgeous place. But as we started out we we were pleased to see some fruit stores and also bakeries.
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Jeanna & Kerry SmithKerry and I have done everything together for over 50 years now. People used to comment that we were joined at the hip. When we started riding the tandem, Kerry said we weren't joined at the hip, we were chained together.
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2 weeks ago
This is a really well done trompe d'oeil. Can you see where reality ends and the painting begins?
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Irun is a kicking off point for the Camino del Norte, so peregrinos are often seen.
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We could tell them which direction to take.
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Karen PoretSo, did you?
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2 weeks ago
Today we are peregrinos, or at least walkers, ourselves. Note how all the direction signs are in Basque.
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This is an area of inlets from the sea.
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24174 Great Northern Diver, that at first we thought was a strange looking Cormorant. Others have apparently made this same mistake, according to some birding sites.
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We are nearing Hondarribia
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As we walked along, we tried out various pronunciations for our destination, Hondarribia. In Basque it means Sandbank.
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Google Lens seems to title this "Tribute to St John", but I don't get it.
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Karen Poret“San Juan de Dion has apparently been knocked from his horse by the Archangel Gabriel..Maybe his conversion?” Comment from PopWars..
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2 weeks ago
Part of Hondarribia.
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The French border is about 100 yards offshore at Hondarribia. So this shot is of France.
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The shoreline walk.
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We arrived at the bike shop, and had a twinge of anxiety as we tried the door.
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But yes, Beñat, was open.
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Our elation turned to despair as Beñat looked at the twin part, from Dodie's bike, that we had brought to show what we needed. He explained that ours is an old old system, for which he had no parts. Nowadays, the stem is held on with two bolts, and a part that presses down into the head tube. This is wedge-like, but it's not at all the heavy cylindical wedge we needed for our "quill style" stem.

Modern parts, on a bike at the shop.
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Our bikes are nothing like this.
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It was really looking like curtains for us. Even if we waited till Tuesday, it was not clear we would find a solution.  But Beñat set about trying to find an answer. He thought about some alternative bolt and nut solutions, but no.  So then he took a stroll through the bikes in the back, awaiting repair. Each one had the not ours system, except one! This is where we see the mark of a really decent person. Beñat decided to pull the part from that bike, and to gamble that he could source a replacement before its absence would cause a problem. He also guessed at the cost of the replacement, in suggesting to us a totally modest and reasonable price.

This kind of thing has come up twice before in our experience. In one case my Bike Friday rear wheel disintegrated  at Noirmoutier, near Nantes. The bike shop did not have a replacement. But I pointed to the very wheel needed, on a bike standing there, and was told no deal, because that was a rental bike. I asked our French friend, Michel, to continue the discussion, but Michel famously opined that with my broken French I sounded more pathetic. It worked, and we eventually bought the wheel from the rental bike. 

In another case, in Louisiana, I was ready to buy a whole kid's bike at Walmart, and throw away all but the needed front wheel.

Today, we are grateful to Beñat for his flexibility. It is so great when you run in to people like that! If you are ever in Hondaribbia, drop in and see him, or check out the Basoa Bike Shop website.

Walking back, we looked at the anchored boats, and saw how one gets out to them - rows of little boats with wheels permanently mounted underneath.
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This man is headed out to his bigger boat.
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In person, I remember this guy's neck as green, which viewed at a different angle it is.
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This little one, and a few of his siblings, were roaming quite a way upstream from their parents.
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We trudged on home, and put the new used part into the bike. While we were at it, the bikes got new front brake pads as well. So we have gone from being dead in the water to being ready to roll into France tomorrow. Ah, the Basque Coast. We hope we will get to our 17th century hotel near the cathedral in Bayonne tomorrow!

Today's ride: 12 km (7 miles)
Total: 2,383 km (1,480 miles)

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Susan CarpenterThe experience of meeting people like Beñat is one of the great joys of bike touring. So glad things worked out - I wouldn’t want to miss our early May rendezvous
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonThat is such a moving story. What a good man! I’ve been worrying about you two all day. On to France!
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2 weeks ago
Suzanne GibsonWow, so glad you got the missing part. Great that you encountered Beñat.
We must have passed very close to you today in the car!
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2 weeks ago