To Ávila - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

April 30, 2024

To Ávila

(Modified to add the correct video, because the one from yesterday was added again by mistake.  Unfortunately the previous one is still in here too because I can’t figure out how to delete a video.  Fine if you watch it again if you like.  No extra charge.)

Deciding out how to travel from Piedrahíta to Ávila is a complicated story problem, an algebraic expression with too many variables.  It’s roughly forty miles with a significant climb at the front end followed by about 25 miles of gradual downhill - a reasonable ride, providing we have reasonable weather.  If it’s too cold or too wet though, that’s a different story.  So the weather is one big unknown to factor in.  Another is Rachael’s health - she’s been having dizzy spells in the last few days, and it makes her anxious to think of biking forty miles with that to worry about.

Three options are in the table for consideration: we can bike the whole distance in one go; or we can break it in half by overnighting in the village of Muñana: or we can try find alternate transportation - presumably a taxi.

We don’t know enough to make a decision, so for now we hold off making a booking, put Rachael through another iteration of the Epley Maneuvers to hope for relief from her dizziness, and wait to see what the morning brings.

I wake up early, check the weather, and go back to sleep in hopes that Rachael will feel up to biking the whole way today.  The weather report is clarifying - it’s to be cool but not cold today with little chance of rain until late afternoon, and it looks like we can expect a significant tailwind.  Once we make it over that big hump at the start, we should have fast, smooth sailing the rest of the way.

So that’s one important consideration.  At least as important is tomorrow’s forecast, which looks pretty miserable - rain or even snow, winds, and temperatures about ten degrees colder than today’s.  If we break the ride in half with a stay in Muñana tonight, we’re apt to be pretty miserable tomorrow.  We should either ride it all today or plan on getting a taxi.

When I wake up again a few hours later I’m wondering how to bring this up with Rachael, but she beats me to it.  I’ve barely opened my eyes when she says she thinks we should bike the whole way.  She’s read the forecast too, and her dizziness doesn’t feel like an issue this morning.  So we’ve got a plan.  We make a booking in Ávila, go downstairs for breakfast at eight, and an hour later we’re on the road.

She’s got a different concern she wants to talk about though.  She was just looking at our credit card account and saw a set of recent transactions she doesn’t recognize, and neither do I.  Uh oh.  We decide it can wait for our attention until we get to Ávila though because we need to ride.

Leaving Piedrahíta.
Heart 1 Comment 0

The ride begins with five easy, gradually downhill miles to the Coneja River.  We’re well layered up, but as soon as we cross the river and start climbing Rachael pulls over to shed her leg warmers and jacket for the work ahead.

Looking back toward the Gredos Range at the start of the climb. I’m ahead of Rachael for pretty much the only reason that ever happens any more, when she stopped to layer down.
Heart 2 Comment 0

It’s not an especially bad climb - 1,100 feet in six miles - but it’s pretty badly back-loaded.  The first four miles don’t really take much of anything out of us as we climb at around 3% helped by the robust tailwind that we’d been hoping for.  About halfway up though I catch up with Rachael stopped by the side of the road staring at her phone.  She’s just gotten a text from our bank - they think these transactions look suspicious too and want her to verify them.  We know what this means - assuming they’re not ours, our card is going to be cancelled and we’ll be without it until they issue a replacement.

This still isn’t the time to respond though.  We need to get over this pass and to Ávila in time for lunch and before we lose our weather window, so we keep climbing.

The first miles of the climb go down easy.
Heart 1 Comment 0

The last mile and a half are a different story, a steady grind at 8-9%.  The tailwind definitely helps though, and the exertion keeps us warm.  When I catch up with Rachael at the summit though she’s staring at the phone again.  The bank reached out again - and when we look over the transactions in question again - a set of about a half dozen of them - it’s clear they’re not ours.  Rachael decides to respond telling them so, but the message doesn’t transmit.  I think we’re just too remote up here.

Looking back. I’m stopped while Rachael’s staring at her phone anyway, so I might as well take a few shots.
Heart 3 Comment 0
A look to the side.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 5 Comment 0
So is this the high point of the tour? I’ll have to look back and see where we topped out on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada range last month.
Heart 7 Comment 0

We’re over the top though, and our work is done for the day save for hanging on to the brakes and keeping warm.  We layer up for the descent and then we fly like eagles all the way to Ávila as we’re blasted down the road on a steady wind that must be 15 mph or more.  I stop for a few photos but mostly we just put away the miles, fast.

It’s all downhill from here.
Heart 4 Comment 0

Video sound track: Wintersong, by Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond

Video sound track: Fly Like An Eagle, by the Steve Miller Band

Heart 0 Comment 3
Karen PoretNote about the video..that was really refreshing! The mid point view of traffic climbing the road reminded me of traveling on Highway 80 towards Lake Tahoe in California..a long slog of semi trucks in the “slow lane”.. Better to be on a bicycle to view it all, though!
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Karen PoretThanks for pointing that out. It’s the wrong video! I posted the one from yesterday by mistake - it’s also in the previous post. I’ll correct it.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Karen PoretTo Scott AndersonWell, we are all going in one direction or another anyway, right? ( don’t answer that) 🤣
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
We’re really flying. Another music choice for today’s video could have been ‘3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds’. Have we ever featured a Grace Slick song here before? I don’t think so.
Heart 1 Comment 0
The sky is interesting and ominous looking back. It looks like the rains could be blowing in earlier than expected. Another reason to keep moving.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Definitely an ominous look back toward the pass we just descended.
Heart 3 Comment 0
For a few miles it felt like I was right on the edge of the rain, but I got ahead of it. The skies started lightening up again for the last five or ten miles of the ride.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Entering Ávila.
Heart 6 Comment 0

We arrived in Ávila before one thirty, and after passing through the city’s famous medieval walls and pushing the bikes up about a quarter mile of steep, brick surfaced road we came to the Italian restaurant we were targeting and were relieved to find they had an open table for us.  While we waited for the first course to arrive we got out our devices, checked the mail and messages, and were really distressed when we found that two different credit cards were involved.

And matters get worse before they get better, because after we’ve checked into our room we hear from the credit union - my debit card with that bank has also been hacked.  Completely mystifying and very disturbing - over the last few days we’ve had fraudulent charges against two credit cards (for the same bank account) and one of our debit cards with our credit union.  It’s hard to imagine how something like that could even happen, and it definitely makes us feel vulnerable all of a sudden.

Lots to think about and decisions to be made, but first let’s enjoy lunch.  Might as well have some dessert too as long as we’re here.  Afterwards though, while I’m waiting for the bill and finishing off my wine Rachael walks over to the nearest ATM and withdraws cash from both of our checking accounts - the credit union (her card has a different number and is still OK for the moment) and our second one with a different bank.  We’re not sure yet what our plan is, but we’re pretty sure that stockpiling some cash while we can is a prudent idea.  We don’t want to find ourselves stuck like we were last spring when I lost my wallet and we needed friends to bail us out by zooming some emergency funds to us (thanks again, Kelly and Jacinto!).

Next up, we bike to our hotel, a palace on the plaza in front of the cathedral.  We have another scare though when I try to check in and the hotel has no record of our reservation.  After a few iterations with them I go back to the bikes to get my iPad so I can show them our booking confirmation, but when I return with it they point out that I’ve come to the wrong palace.  There are two palace hotels on the plaza, and ours is just around the corner.  So that’s a relief.

The Ávila Cathedral. Our palace is the one on the right, with the flags whipping around in the strong wind.
Heart 5 Comment 0
Nice view from our room. Were really close to the cathedral.
Heart 6 Comment 2
Karen PoretResembles a chess set ;)
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Karen PoretYou’re right! Pawns can’t be in the back row though.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Nice view off this way too.
Heart 7 Comment 0

We take a few minutes getting settled in and admiring the view from our window, and then start in on dealing with our financial crisis.  And rather than drag out the suspense I’ll fast forward a bit and give you the full story of where we stand, two days later.  The short story is that we seem to be fine.  All three cards have been canceled and all of the fraudulent transactions (totaling to over $2,000) have been removed from or reimbursed to our accounts, so we’re not out anything.  Replacement cards have been ordered and will be sent to Elizabeth (we share the same home address), so once they’ve arrived she can activate them and give us their identifiers.  And in the meantime we’re still coping OK - we can get cash from the ATM, and we have a third credit card that hasn’t been hacked and cancelled to work with.

(A side note about the fraudulent transactions.  The ones against one credit card were all labeled Amzn mktp US; the ones against the debit card were all labeled as Apple.com charges that the bank representative said were described as recurring; and the third one, a large amount, was labeled Muscat).

So that’s all good.  It still leaves us perplexed, anxious, and feeling insecure though.  Hopefully we’ve seen the end of the episode, but who knows?  And if anyone has any thoughts on how that this could have happened we’d be interested in hearing them.

By late afternoon though I’m ready to move on.  The weather is actually quite nice now so I decide to go out for an exploration.  These could easily be the best conditions we’ll see in our three night stay here.

The cathedral again.
Heart 4 Comment 0
I decide to walk toward the walls, so I pick a direction at random. You can’t go wrong, because Ávila‘s walls completely encircle the historical center. They’re perhaps the best preserved medieval fortified walls in Europe.
Heart 6 Comment 0
The Mercado Chico Plaza. Ahead is the town hall, behind my back is the San Juan Bautista Church, and all four sides of the square are arcaded.
Heart 4 Comment 0
By chance I’ve stumbled on the route to Compostela (the Levante Route, that begins in Valencia). There are shells on the sidewalk, but the yellow arrows point the way as well.
Heart 5 Comment 0
One of the lesser highlights on the Levant Route.
Heart 5 Comment 0
I don’t remember ever seeing a wall surface like this, except possibly in Salamanca. I’ll have to go back and look through some old photos for other examples.
Heart 5 Comment 0
The San Estevan Hermitage, the oldest Romanesque structure within the walls.
Heart 5 Comment 0
It looks like it’s still early spring here. Feels like it too.
Heart 4 Comment 0
The medieval bridge across the Adaja, now pedestrianized, is the route out of town if you’re bound for Santiago.
Heart 7 Comment 0
The Puenta de Madera, a newer footbridge across the river that provides a more direct crossing from the north side of the city.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Los Quatro Postes provides the best viewpoint of the city walls. Reading up on this, I see that we missed something significant in our stay here: the city walls are illuminated at night, and photos taken from here look amazing. If it weren’t so cold out it would be worth walking up after dark.
Heart 6 Comment 0
The views are still pretty spectacular in the daylight though.
Heart 5 Comment 0
Construction of the walls began in 1090 AD and continued for about three centuries. They and the city itself have been a world heritage site since 1985.
Heart 6 Comment 0
The north side of the walls are maybe the most dramatic, with a large green space below them. The gate toward the top is the Carmen Gate.
Heart 11 Comment 1
Keith AdamsAnd so dramatically lit! Yet another in your ever-lengthening string of superb photos.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
It’s been a dream of mine to see these walls for a long time. Rachael and I biked to Ávila almost 30 years ago at the end of a too long ride from Segovia, arriving just before a cloudburst. We left the next morning for another long stage to Salamanca, so we never really saw the city at all.
Heart 6 Comment 0
It’s too cold out! It’s really nice to just look out our window to see the illuminated cathedral.
Heart 8 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 39 miles (63 km)
Total: 1,239 miles (1,994 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 13
Comment on this entry Comment 11
Suzanne GibsonYou have had to deal with some really bad weather! So sorry. And Rachael, I hope the dizzy spells stop and you feel better. I'm so glad you were able to get the fraudulent transactions on you bank account cleared up.
Imagine cold, sick and penniless in Spain! No thank you. The people were so kind to us when we were there, but that doesn't cover all your needs.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesAarrgggh! We are dealing with fraudulent charges on one of our cards also, and it has been blocked until we get home to deal with it. Fortunately we have enough cash for the rest of our stay, and some backup cards that still seem ok. Checking all accounts obsessively though. Fingers crossed for you. Hey Rachael, feel better soon!!
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Bob DistelbergJust a thought, but when you get those new card numbers, you might want to set them up in Google Pay on your phones. That way, not having the physical card wouldn't be a problem. Seems like it would be much easier when you're trying to pay in restaurants and stores.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Betsy EvansI’m sorry about your cards. You’re smart to have things spread across different banks.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Betsy EvansWisdom born of more experience than we like to remember.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Bob KoreisShouldn't every day have bird content? Thought you might find interesting this story from home about a rare bird spotting. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/extremely-rare-bird-spotted-on-oregon-coast/
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bob KoreisYou’re right, I’m slacking off. I feel bad, and will try to do better. Be Best, as someone once said.

And yes, I heard about that amazing rock bunting sighting. They have them natively over here, and I’ve got my eye out hoping I’ll get lucky.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Gregory Garceau"And if anyone has any thoughts on how that this could have happened we'd be interested in hearing them."

This is not coming from a tech expert, but quite often when I open my browser in a motel (even some libraries and fast food restaurants) I get a message from Norton warning me not to enter financial information because the wifi password is not secure and intruders might be viewing. Too often, I took my chances and made reservations with my credit card anyway. Fortunately, I was never hacked, but a few times I got those messages from my bank asking me to confirm unusual purchases and my heart jumped past my throat and out of my head. Huge relief comes when I find those purchases are legit.

Anyway, now when I get those security messages from Norton, I get the option to turn on my VPN before paying bills and reserving motels and campgrounds. I don't know if a VPN is really more secure, but I'd like to think so.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonTo Gregory GarceauI’m definitely going to set up a VPN and use it as soon as I have a new credit card number. My sister in law should have it soon and then she can give us the info over the phone.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanWe keep our credit/debit cards inside little foil pouches, usually the ends of bags that once contained coffee since they are more decorative and they smell nice. There are people who walk around with scanners and if you don't have the aluminum foil to deflect their nefarious signals they can obtain your credit card info just like that! We had it happen in the Portland airport moments before a long trip in Asia.
Most likely not appropriate for you is the option of taking cash. Our trips are to countries where things are super cheap so taking a large amount of cash is no big deal. I never remove my credit card from its little pouch on our trips. It's only there for emergencies. U.S. dollars are easily exchanged into the local currencies so for us it is the best way to go. It's never been a problem for us to walk around with a load of cash stuck here and there but mostly in my money belt which is an actual belt. In Asia there is only a small risk that anything would ever be stolen. But we are also as careful as we can be. I'm sure there are ways to hide money inside the bike frame as well but we have never had to do that.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanThanks for the comment, Bruce. I don’t remember being aware of this, although maybe you mentioned it over coffee once. I read up on it though, and it’s obviously a thing. It makes sense for our scenario too, because it looks like I specifically was hacked. Something new to worry about.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago