To Arévalo - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

May 3, 2024

To Arévalo

We receive our daily dose of stress early today when Rachael accesses our checking account to determine whether we’ve prepaid tonight’s hotel and we find that there are four new Apple.com charges posted to it.  Looking at them, we see that they were all posted yesterday or the day before - that is, after we had already reported the previous transactions to our bank and my card was presumably cancelled.  Alarming obviously, because these presumably would be against Rachael’s card since mine’s been deactivated; and if we lose Rachael’s too we’ve lost access to our checking account completely until replacement cards are issued.  In a really mystifying detail, these four transactions match the previous four exactly, except for the transaction dates.  

We of course call the bank immediately, but it’s still dark out on the Pacific Coast and we won’t be able to talk to anyone until this evening so there’s nothing to do in the meantime but worry.  It provides a grey backdrop to what otherwise is a beautiful day out - it’s sunny, and just as importantly it’s significantly warmer than it’s been for most of the last week.  The cold snap is over.

Our hotel is a conversion of one of the two grand historical palaces bracketing the cathedral, Palacio Valderrabanos. Might as well take a photo before we leave.
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Before leaving town we bike to the nearby electronics store just outside the Alcazar Gate.  We were directed here by an agent at the hotel when Rachael asked where we might find a replacement for the outlet adapter that apparently got left stuck in the wall a few hotels or apartments ago.  Rachael watches the bikes while I walk into the store and return a few minutes later with my thumb up and two new adapters in my pocket.  So that at least went well - and I paid in cash, because we’re minimizing our card usage now.

After a quarter mile spent slowly rattling across the bricks and cobblestones we finally escape the city and find pavement again; and not long afterwards we pull off at the four poster viewpoint to shed a layer we won’t be needing today after all, or at neast not at the moment.  The smallish but most significant climb of the day starts here and will keep us warmed up for the next few miles.

Leaving Ávila.
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Today starts the last segment of this year’s tour of Spain - a more or less straight shot north to Santander on the Bay of Biscay, where we’ll catch a ferry to Plymouth in roughly two weeks.  There’s pretty easy riding ahead - almost two hundred low profile miles across the Castillian plain, and then we’ll thread through a gap in the Cantabrian mountains.  Overall it’s only about 250 miles, a distance we’d have probably budgeted five days for years ago but that’s not our style now.  We travel slower, with shorter days  and more layovers for hikes and exploration.  Long gone are the days when we biked from Segovia to Salamanca in two days, slowing down long enough to see pretty much nothing.

Climbing away from the Adaja River.
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It’s a fairly uneventful ride - hilly at first without being too strenuous as we gradually pull away from the last hills of the Gredo Range and transition into the beginnings of Spain’s version of the Great Plains.  There’s a bit of traffic for the first two miles until we come to the nearest freeway access, and after that we bike nearly empty roads until we near our day’s destination, Arévalo.  Once we’ve crested that first hill and start dropping we remember it’s still not that warm so we stop to layer up.  After that we pretty much bike straight through the rest of the way.  I stop for few photographs, trusting the GoPro to carry most of the load for helping us remember this ride years from now.

At the high point of the day, I think looking back toward Ávila.
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As we bike the sky starts clouding over, and it’s breezy enough that the coat is needed again.
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The landscape in these first few miles is still quite rocky, the fields littered with boulders. Here’s a ruin of some sort from the edge of an old quarry.
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Oaks and granite, the same sort of landscape we’ve seen a lot of ever since Trujillo.
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A crested lark, for Bob.
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We’re out of the hills now, very slowly losing elevation the rest of the way as we follow the descending Adaja River. Every few miles we pass through another small farming village. Who knows which one this one is?
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I can almost figure out where this must be. With a little clearer photo I could make out that sign.
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Maybe ease off on that breakfast wine, Scooter.
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Abruptly we’re out of the rocks and scrub oaks and into a much more open landscape of plowed fields looking like they’re waiting still for their spring planting to emerge.  After a few miles of this we come to a managed pine forest, a large monoculture that we bike through for nearly ten miles.  I’m startled by it though, because it’s apparently not being managed just as a woodlot.  Many of the trees are scarred with tin buckets nailed into them, something I don’t remember seeing before.  They’re for collecting resin, and apparently resin harvesting is a centuries old industry in northern Spain.  I’m surprised I haven’t noticed it before.  Iberia is the third largest resin harvester in the world, after Brazil and China.

Definitely into a different landscape now.
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I assume this will all be in grain in a few weeks. Were coming into one of Spain’s bread baskets.
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Resin-harvested pine forests are reminiscent of the cork forests in the south, with many of the trees scarred and their bark stripped away.
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That poor tree has been brutalized! Shouldn’t this be reported to the SPCP?
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Keith AdamsThere's a wisecrack in there somewhere about the unvarnished truth but I'm ding-danged if I can find it. I'm just a poor sap, I guess.
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2 weeks ago

Video sound track: After the Storm, by Yasmin Williams

Arévalo makes an excellent first impression as we bike in and pick up a bike path right at the edge of town that carries it all the way to its commercial center where we pull up to the restaurant Rachael’s booked a table for us at.  It’s a classy place - white table clothes, new silverware between courses - and fairly spendy.  We like our waiter, who speaks fluent English and shows an interest in our journey.  And we like our meals, though I failed to capture any food photos.

Over our meal we realize that in the stress of the morning we failed to research where we’re staying here for the next two nights.  It’s an apartment, one we’re supposed to have contacted in advance to arrange our arrival.  After our meal Rachael sends a message through Booking and I  go out to a sidewalk to phone our host, who unfortunately speaks quickly and knows zero of our language.  Fortunately we’ve bonded a bit with our waiter, and he’s happy to help out when we fly him down - he takes over the conversation, speaks with the woman for a few minutes, and passes on what we need to know: she’s sending instructions through Booking including the access code for the keypad, and we can just let ourselves in.

Easy enough, but unfortunately it’s not.  We manage to get ourselves into the apartment building well enough - we buzz the number of our room, which automatically opens the outside door; and there’s an elevator up to our room on the second floor that’s large enough for one bike at a time as long as you take the panniers off.

The the room itself is a different matter though.  It has a different style keypad that’s integrated into the door handle; but when we enter the code nothing happens.  After several tries and some experience we conclude that you’re supposed to enter the code and then press the button with a key symbol.  That elicits a reaction, but it still doesn’t result in an unlocked door.

Several tries later we finally give up and call the host.  She hasn’t learned English since we spoke last so it’s a very confusing interaction - she doesn’t know what we’re saying, we don’t know her responses, and then suddenly the line goes dead and a few mystifying minutes later a smiling young woman shows up, pantomimes what to do, watches as I repeat it myself, and miraculously we’re inside.  We feel like dopes, but the apartment itself is very nice and worth the embarrassment.

Oh, one more thing about the day.  In the evening I call the credit union.  There’s a lengthy conversation, with me filling in all of the background details because apparently there’s been no record or notes on the account of what happened a few days ago.  It’s still pretty much a mystery, but the good news is that these transactions are against my card (the destroyed and supposedly cancelled one), not Rachael’s.  The best theory is that somehow the same transactions got recycled through again somehow, but who knows?  They get written off (again), it all gets referred to the fraud department, and we’re set for a new card to be mailed to Elizabeth.

So we think we’re still in good shape, but we’ll continue monitoring our account to verify it.

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Today's ride: 33 miles (53 km)
Total: 1,272 miles (2,047 km)

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Rich FrasierThere are few things that are more stressful than dealing with credit card issues while traveling. I hope your blood pressure is staying under control! Mine is elevated in empathy...
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Rich FrasierThanks, but no need for all of us being stressed. We’ve got it covered.
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2 weeks ago
Andrea BrownIn the Portland airport, waiting for our first flight, on our first bike trip, I got a message that my card had been compromised IN the airport, and of course, canceled. A new one would be mailed to our destination, ha, nope! Not to Yangon, that would be a disaster. As it is, I rarely (never, actually) use my credit card on tours but of course you want it for emergencies so that was a bit of a stressor indeed.
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2 weeks ago
Carolyn van HoeveHi Scott & Rachael, Just read a review about a weather app called Epic Ride Weather, specifically for cyclists. It connects with Ride with GPS and Garmin. Could be worth checking out. We're like you comparing about 3 different apps to try and determine some accuracy.

Glad you got the card sorted! We've been hacked once a year for the last couple of years. The first time so called Uber transactions and the second time Ebay - $15,000 over 3 transactions. So there seems to be a theme with yours listed as Amazon and Apple.
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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesI am trying to follow the keycode saga. I take it the first code, obtained through Booking, got you into a vestibule downstairs, from which buzzing the room number got you to the elevator. After that was it in fact the same code for the door handle? and what was the trick beyond what you did to get the reaction but not admittance?

We find that these private apartments are almost always more expansive than a hotel room, but of course they lack 24 hour, or any, reception, and have no chance of breakfast. We generally go for the hotel, given a choice.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesIt was confusing, and hard to describe. A few clarifications though. There was no key or code required for the street entrance. All you needed to do was buzz our apartment, and the street door automatically unlocked. An interesting solution, as it would allow anyone to enter who had figured the building who had figured this out.

So only the apartment itself required an access code. And the trick after that was very deep - you had to turn the handle counterclockwise, and push. I would swear I had tried every possible combination of actions, but apparently not. Like I said, embarrassing.
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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonAnother trick worth knowing - in France anyway, to lock an exterior door that has an "L" shaped handle, with a key , you have to pull the "L" upward first. We had to drag an owner out to show us this one time as we tried to leave, though we had gotten in just fine. Ian Satoor tells us everyone in France knows this.
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2 weeks ago