To Piedrahíta - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

April 29, 2024

To Piedrahíta

We’re gratified this morning when we look out the window and check the weather report.  Fair, fairly calm, and enough warmer than it’s been for the last few days that we won’t even need our coats when we start.  It’s a balmy interlude, with a few colder and windier days still ahead.

We’re out the door not long after ten.  With thirty miles and some consequential climbs ahead of us we want to make sure we make it to little Piedrahíta in time for lunch somewhere.  The first mile is easy as we drop to the Curepo de Hombre River, but then it’s all up for the next four miles as we gain around a thousand feet at a fairly steady 5% grade.  Were warmed up when we reach the summit, but it’s colder and windier there so we don’t hang around long before dropping off the other side of the pass.

We’ve got more visibility into the mountains this morning.
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Summit! Not that it was any great climb, but the acknowledgment is appreciated.
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Susan CarpenterAnd merits a little fanfare - Ta da da da da dah!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Susan CarpenterThanks! You owed me a fanfare thoughtfully . Our account is all squared up now.
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3 weeks ago
Kathleen JonesAnd the snowflake sign - not a good sign in spring.

Chapeau!
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3 weeks ago
Karen PoretTo Kathleen JonesI doubt they remove the sign at all! Keeps the tourists guessing ;)
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2 weeks ago
Keith AdamsFour miles at five percent isn't nothing, friend. Respect.
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2 weeks ago

The next seven miles are excellent - downhill all the way to the Tormes River on a smooth, quiet road with a good shoulder but little traffic anyway.  We’re descending through attractive country that keeps your attention: a stony land with granite boulders scattered around fields, interesting walls and structures, lots of reasons to stop and look.  Mostly I just mentally catalog them though, not wanting to hold up the show too much with most of the ride still ahead of us.  As usual, we don’t want to risk missing lunch.

Easy times ahead: it’s all downhill for the next seven miles as we drop to the Tormes River.
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We’re dropping into different country here - more open and agrarian. We’re just inside a large new Region, Castile and León, and it definitely feels different. We’ll be here for most of our last three weeks in Spain.
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Sorihuela ahead. The descent levels off some from here, but we’ve still got a few more miles to drop before we bottom out.
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Have to stop for this one though, with the structure built right around a huge boulder.
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Kathleen JonesReally want to know how they used it inside … is it flat and it’s a wall? Carved out for a fireplace? Just for animals and was the only flat land around? Inquiring minds want to know!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen JonesI had similar thoughts. I’d like to have stopped and explored it.
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3 weeks ago
And for this amazing church tower in Sorihuela sprouting up from a cluster of boulders.
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Looking ahead across the Tormes at another section of the snowy Gredos range.
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Such a stony land! Actually I remember this look from our first traverse through here on our way from Madrid to Lisbon almost thirty years ago.
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Built right into the land.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesAdds new meaning to "if you can't beat 'em, join them".
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3 weeks ago
Karen PoretWell camouflaged with age..
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2 weeks ago
We’ve leveled off as we near the river.
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We have stunning views of the Gredos Range as we near the river and the views widen. I should have taken the time for a panorama shot or video - we’re probably only seeing about a fourth of the visible range here.
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Finally we bottom out and cross the Tormes, and I’m held up by a visually arresting town I hadn’t even noticed on the map: Puente de Congosto.  Spain!  There’s no end to remarkable places like this you’ve never heard of.  You could keep coming back year after year and still be blown away.

The new bridge over the Tormes is attractive in its own right.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesNice bridge shot. If this is a new bridge you have to wonder how old the old bridge is/was.
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3 weeks ago
Puente de Congosto. On the right is Dávila Castle, begun in 1393 on what I think were the ruins of an alcazar.
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The town gets its name though from its older bridge. I’m not sure how old the original one was, but I think it was largely rebuilt in about 1500.
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The view south from the new bridge: the Tormes River, and the Gredos Range.
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The complete bridge, and the castle. A wonderful view.
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We’re only thirteen miles into the ride by now, and there’s still more up than down ahead including a pair of minor climbs.  I’ve fallen about a half mile behind Rachael from my stop at the bridge, and as I’m partway up the next climb a text pops up on my Garmin: “keep a good pace.  Lunch!”

And so I do.  I don’t stop even once for the next fifteen miles until I allow myself one quick snap as we’re approaching our town.  I’ve earned it, and I’m sure Rocky will understand.

I’m sorry this is so backlit, but it’s always a profile I love seeing.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesHoopoes are definitely worth stopping for every time.
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3 weeks ago

Xx

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

There’s not much to Piedrahita, although it is large enough to support a pair of hotels and a couple of eateries.  And it’s just large enough that we have trouble with the navigation and throw ourselves into a loop trying to find the cafe Rachael’s picked out as the most promising in town.  It’s worth finding though, and we enjoy a fine meal sitting outside intermittently basking in the sun when it’s out and then feeling chilled when it passes behind the clouds.  

Above us is the blocky roofline of the church, with storks nesting on it.  From time to time we’ll hear the clacking of beaks as a bird approaches the nest or flies off.  Were the only customers save for a quartet of diners in constant animated conversation, two of them with their heads shielded from the sun by scarves or maybe even their napkins.  Partway through our meal a young girl skips onto the square, burdened down by a bulky backpack and presumably just home from school.  Our server is apparently her father, gives her a warm welcoming hug, and then kneels down to tie her shoelace while she prattles on. 

Our lunch stop in Piedrahita.
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Our fellow diners.
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Our benevolent server and his daughter.
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The situation at our hotel is a little confusing when we arrive.  The woman who runs the hotel speaks no English and it’s not even clear at first if we’re expected.  Fortunately her son is there and knows a few words to help out.  They have a good place for the bikes, the room is small but fine, it’s all good.

Afterwards I go out again for a look around town and along its small green spaces.  No luck birding, but it’s nice to get a feel for the place.

The Plaza de España. Even modest places like this often have an attractive, pedestrianized public square. It’s one of the most appealing things about traveling in Europe.
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It can be frustrating though, especially in this season. If you’re not paying attention you’re often getting photobombed.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesIt took a moment to spot the stork zooming in from the left.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesMe too, darn it. I hate it when they sneak in like that!
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3 weeks ago
Looks like a happy place.
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In Pietrahida.
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The ducal palace. The map shows a large garden behind it, but I can’t confirm the fact. The place is locked, the garden walled. The garden is likely hopping with exotic birds too, darn it.
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Today's ride: 29 miles (47 km)
Total: 1,200 miles (1,931 km)

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Bill ShaneyfeltThe quality of your photos speaks well, but the fact that the website cover photo is one of yours that CB put up a long time ago reinforces that. I do remember your trip through the southwest... to some degree, contingent upon my slowly failing mental capabilities, but that photo says a lot.
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3 weeks ago