To Totana - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

March 17, 2024

To Totana

Our Cercanías departure is scheduled for 9:10.  It’s the last one until early afternoon, so we can’t afford to miss it.  I was advised to arrive a half hour early to get ticketed, but I don’t trust that and want to allow time for unpleasant surprises - including the possibility that we may be refused boarding with our bicycles.  With that in mind, I’ve loaded a route from the train station to the main bus terminal.  If the train option craps out, we’ll bike to the bus station to see if Alsa will allow our bikes, as their website states it will (as long as they’re bagged; and Alsa sells bags there, as we found when we were in Murcia four years ago and caught the bus to Valencia.

And if neither option works, we’ll cry.

Oh, and one other thing.  Rachael woke up this morning announcing that she felt sick, and didn’t know if she could bike today.  She agrees that she can at least make the half  mile to the train station though, and we’ll see how she’s doing when we reach Murcia before deciding what to do next.

We leave our apartment at eight, are at the train station five minutes later, and ten minutes after that I return to Rachael with two tickets I’ve gotten from the self-serve kiosk, thanks to a nearby attendant who helps me out because I can’t figure it out myself.  She punches in my order, and cheers me up immensely when she smiles and says bikes ride free.

Our train is just arriving at the far end of gate 12, beyond the very long MD train that’s in front of it.  A huge wave of arriving passengers fills the platform and walks toward us, mostly arriving for their work shift in the big city from the looks of them.  Our departure isn’t for nearly an hour, but we walk through the crowd toward our train, thinking we might as well get on first and take our seats now.  We’re nearly there when an agent calls to us and indicates we can’t board yet, which makes sense - the work crew probably needs to clean the train first.  So we turn back and take the long walk back to the terminal and find a bench in the shade to wait.

I’d like to have a coffee while I wait, because neither of us has had anything yet - but the coffee shop is on the other side of the entrance gates and I don’t want to chance something going wrong by trying to pass back through a second time.

The long MD train, the one we couldn’t take because its bike slots were all taken. The much shorter Cercanías is at the far end, beyond it.
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She looks like she’s starting to feel better, so maybe the day is going to work out.
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We sit and wait until we see another couple of guys walking down the platform, and then with my camera’s zoom I confirm that they successfully boarded.  No sense walking way out there again until we knew we could board.

It takes us awhile to find the bike car, because the logo is hardly prominent.  We miss it and continued on to the far end of the train without finding our spot.  So I get on the train and walk back through its entire length until finally finding the spacious bike space.  Once I see it, I’m really glad that we have small bikes and are among the first to board.

That’s the Cercanías. These guys got on, so we head right out ourselves.
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Here’s the bike car - so obvious, if you read the fine print.
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Patrick O'HaraCrappy step-up, though!
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2 months ago
Bob KoreisTo Patrick O'HaraMy thought as well. I so appreciate the modern low floor trains where you simply roll the bikes on.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraI forgot to mention this. Boarding was a two person hand-up job which wasn’t bad because we were alone and had time. Getting off in. Rush and a crowd was a different job, but one of the boarding passengers gave us an appreciated hand.
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2 months ago
That’s it for bike space on this train. Best to arrive early and be the first to board, obviously. But we’re on!
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Kelly IniguezIt's a good thing you don't have my bicycle! Or, were there hooks to hang them from?
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2 months ago
Patrick O'HaraPhew! That's a nice feeling when you're safely on a train with the bikes.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Kelly IniguezNope. This is it. Pretty minimalistic accommodations.
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2 months ago
marilyn swettNo room for a recumbent tandem!!
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2 months ago

It’s an hour and a half ride to Murcia, with perhaps a dozen stops along the way.  Pretty uneventful ride other than a bit of a scare when a third bike boards- a huge one - and we watch anxiously as the guy figures out how to cram it into that small space in front of ours.

The ruins of the Castillo de Orihuela.
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A closer look.
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Hope for the best!
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Kelly Iniguezha - nope, no room for my bike!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Kelly IniguezI wonder if they’d allow it on. I hadn’t thought of bikes like yours. Probably just as well you and Jacinto didn’t take my advice and rely on it to get out of Madrid last summer.
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2 months ago

We arrive at 10:45, almost precisely on time.  There’s a rush and a crush getting our panniers and bikes off the train, because there’s a crowd of boarders waiting on the platform already.  This is the final stop on the line, but apparently the train isn’t here long before heading back to Alicante.

So, for all the anxiety about the Cercanías it worked fine as far as getting us to Murcia anyway.  We’re glad we made use of it, and it did save us probably four or five days to use elsewhere.  If you decide to try it out for yourself, a couple of tips or points to think about:

  • You can’t get tickets until the day you plan to travel.
  • There should be no problem getting tickets, as long as you can figure out how to use the kiosk.  It’s all in Spanish, isn’t intuitive, and we had to appeal for assistance.
  • Arrive in plenty of time, and try to be among the first to board so you can claim a bike space.  I don’t know what your recourse is if it’s already filled - cram it into the aisle and hope you don’t get kicked off?
  • And if you have e-bikes, you’re SOL Spain-trainwise.  As of early this year they’re banned from all trains, regardless of class of train.  They aren’t even allowed inside the terminal.  (A correction: I’m not sure this is right.  Electric scooters are banned, but I’m not sure about e-bikes.  I may have misunderstood the signs.)
In Murcia!
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No idea what’s up with these three bewigged beauties, but they seemed worth a quick snap.
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Bob KoreisCosplayers. The one on the left and probably center are the character Jinglui. https://honkai-star-rail.fandom.com/wiki/Jingliu

Far right is the character Miku Nakano. https://hero.fandom.com/wiki/Miku_Nakano

Google Images was more helpful for this than other searches I've used it for.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bob KoreisWow, stellar research! Something about this makes me feel really old though.
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2 months ago
Karen PoretI can top that Scott..I didn’t really know what a Cosplayer is.;)
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Karen PoretShort for costume play. I know what it means, but I don’t get the appeal. We saw this in Brescia last spring also, with a big event with hundreds of people walking around dressed like mythical or occult figures: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/primavera23/a-placeholder-in-brescia/#46786_7r62kqeozttj2k82117fqykuqob
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2 months ago
Karen PoretTo Scott AndersonOh.. “ dress up”, or “ play pretend”, as we used to say/do. New buzz words for old time fun
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2 months ago

The good news when we arrive is that Rachael feels like she’ll be fine to bike after all, as long as we leave open the option of turning back if she finds she’s wrong.  She seems to have suffered from some sort of digestive morning sickness, probably totally unrelated to the fact that she ate four small ice cream sandwiches last night.

So we set out on our thirty mile ride to our hotel in the middle of nowhere near Totana.  It’s nearly a straight shot southwest, gradually climbing at a gentle grade most of the way as it follows the Rio Guadalvalentin O Sangonera upstream toward Lorca, a very impressive name for what looks to be little more than a nearly dry stream with a few small reservoirs where  it’s been impounded.  It’s as long as any ride we’ve taken so far on this tour, but there’s not much to it - and in fact I think of it as only a 24 mile ride, the distance to the restaurant in Alhama de Murcia where we plan to have lunch.  After breaking for a meal the final six miles should feel as nothing and hardly count.

Oh, one more thing to say about the day: it’s a hot one!  We’re in the middle of an early spring heat wave, and even though it’s comfortable when we start biking it will heat up to 80F by mid-afternoon.  And tomorrow will be worse, with the high an amazing 85, with an even hotter one the day after.  I read up on this later and learned that Murcia is one of the hottest regions in Spain.  Other than for these next few days it looks quite pleasant now, but I don’t think I’d want to be out here on a bike in the summer months.

The first eight or nine miles are fairly straight and not particularly interesting.  Accordingly, we race through them to bank some time for the more interesting miles further up the road.

Video sound track: Hanuman, by Rodrigo y Gabriela

 After that, the ride really does become more interesting.  We leave the highway for quieter roads, the valley narrows and hills start encroaching on both sides, and we pass through miles where virtually the entire valley floor is blanketed with citrus orchards without end.

Finally we start seeing some contour to the land.
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We bike past of small agricultural communities, but nothing of any size until we come to Alhama de Murcia.
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We bike past miles of orchards that run to the base of the hills.
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It’s mostly oranges and lemons, but I think there are some persimmons or something similar as well.
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We come to our turnoff to Alhama, where we hope to find lunch.
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Approaching Alhama, fronted by a belt of plasticized orchards.
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Almost there, and just in time. We’re both hot and hungry.
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We’re pleased and relieved when we pull up to the restaurant and find it open and attractive.  We pull up an outdoor table next to our bikes where we’re protected by its umbrella, order an agua grande sin gas, and in the middle of the meal order a second one.  We’ve both gotten a bit dehydrated by the ride so far.

Perfect, and a classier restaurant than we’d been expecting. White tablecloths!
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Kelly IniguezIs that a glass bottle ? ! ! ! I am almost sure that is the bottle I wanted to bring home for a souvenir. Jacinto thought I was so funny. I told him I was a cheap date, I wanted an empty water bottle to remember the trip by. We didn't bring it, because it was heavy. Jacinto said we could buy another one in Madrid, but of course that brand wasn't available. One more reason to head back next summer!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Kelly IniguezYes, good spotting! It didn’t occur to us to pocket it and carry it for the next eight months somehow.
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2 months ago
Kelly IniguezI brought the whole topic up again tonight with Jacinto. He wasn’t willing to carry it for two weeks, forget eight months!

His new toy is a Mibo brand folding foot scooter. Today he kicked 16 miles. Now he has fantasies of taking it on tour. That would be the ultimate, easy touring machine. That’s if I were strong enough to be his sherpa. We all know I count on him to carry some of my load, so the Sherpa part is a problem. He is enjoying the ride.
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2 months ago

Those incidental last six miles come harder than I’d expected.  We’re pushing into a hot headwind the whole way, so there’s that.  But I feel pretty beaten up when we arrive and I crash for the next hour or so.  I think it’s the heat, and the fact that I didn’t use any sunscreen.  My forearms are really pretty burned, an unusual condition for me.  I’ll have to be more careful about that, and probably start putting electrolytes in my bottle on days like this one.

A sight we’re glad to see. That’s our hotel on the far right.
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There’s not much to say about our lodging for the night, Hotel Olimpia.  It’s functional, it’s shelter, and we’ve brought provisions for dinner which is good because their bar closes for the night not long after we arrive.  Later we’ll walk across to the convenience store at the gas station and pick up some cold drinks - two cans of sugar-free pop for Rachael, and a liter of milk for myself.  We’ve got everything we need, and are glad to be here.

Video sound track: Skippin’ (Song for Bri)

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Patrick O'HaraNice work, Team!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraThanks, Patrick. We were happy and relieved that the plan worked out.
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2 months ago

Today's ride: 30 miles (48 km)
Total: 238 miles (383 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 10
Tricia GrahamWe were glaive to get the information about e-bikes on trains in Spain. We are going to stay with our daughter in Murci for a couple of weeks in May so think we will now concentrate on day bike trips of which ther seem to be plenty. Hope your health continues to be on the improve
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Tricia GrahamI just added a note on that. I think I may be wrong and just misunderstood the signs. Electric scooters are banned, but I think e-bikes are still OK. Reference this page on bikes from Renfre’s website: https://www.renfe.com/es/en/travel/informacion-util/luggage/bicycles-and-kick-scooters-_non-electric_
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2 months ago
Tricia GrahamThanks for that We are are actually just going to hire bikes while we are in Murcia. Our bikes are in Paris with my niece and the real cycling part of our trip will start from there (if my body holds together !!)
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonWe will verify the ebike on trains thing when we get to Santiago in about a week. Our hotel reservations are still cancellable until the day after we get there, so the options of trains vs shipping are still open.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesActually, I would try to figure it out now. In the middle of the night I figured out how to reserve bike space in n MD train, but as I learned in Alicante, spaces are limited. You’re better off trying to claim the bike spaces early, assuming they’re available. Assuming I’m successful in booking this morning, I’ll probably write a how-to post about it.
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonEagerly awaiting the results of your researches.
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2 months ago
Susan CarpenterA couple of thoughts re bikes on trains in Spain. The MD trains are the only distance trains that allow bikes and their routes can be limited. For example I could find no MD when trying to book with my bike between Cordoba and Seville.
Also, I took the Cercanías between Utrera and Seville last Palm Sunday, a very busy holiday. Two bikes were already there when I got on and the other cyclists helped me squeeze Vivien George into the handicap space. The car soon filled up with families going into Seville for the day, and everyone calmly re-adjusted their positions so that all could find a little room on the short trip. Best to get on early, but I found that people were pretty accommodating.
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2 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Tricia GrahamHi Tricia - I do hope you will contact me if you are going to be in Paris. I'd love to meet you and Ken if our time there overlaps.
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2 months ago
Tricia GrahamSusan we would love to meet you if it works out. I have followed all your journals getting great pleasure from them. Our bikes are with my niece at Moret sur Loing We fly into Paris on June 1 and will stay around the Gard de Lyon before going to Moret to retrieve the bikes. It may work? In the meantime I am looking forward to your adventures
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2 months ago
John VincentHello Andersen’s

We are John and Darlene from Victoria, B.C. We are following with interest your current tour as we will be heading to Mallorca this May and Andalusia next winter. We cycle tour on E-bikes. Our bikes are currently in Barcelona. We have taken our E-bikes on many trains throughout Europe over the pas two years as well as from Girona to Barcelona last Fall. We had no difficulty doing this. We certainly hope that remains the same as several legs this year throughout Spain will include trains. If you want to communicate with us directly our email is ebikestouring@gmail.com
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1 month ago