If you think what I’m doing is glamorous (No? You never thought that? Oh…) then think again. At least as far as today’s cycling goes. It was most definitely a Mercedes day (see Paul, Mercedes Days and Seville).
I knocked on the door of Dirk’s dormitory (we had one each until the older German guy turned up and picked mine) to wish him well on his continued cycle to Santiago. There was a faint grumble from inside the room so I eased the door open to speak to him. I explained that I was about to leave: “But it’s only 7:20am” he yawned. Err… No it wasn’t. More like 9am. Dirk’s phone has been playing up and he clearly hasn’t fixed the problem. I left him to crawl out from his bunk and returned to the centre of Benavente to find a coffee. Easier said than done. The Spanish, unlike the Italians and the French, are not great when it comes to early morning coffee. They are not that brilliant at selling fruit either. I’ve struggled to find my stock of fruit at the start of each cycling day (usually a banana, apple, clementine and avocado) over the past few weeks and have resorted to buying it in the supermarket. I did so today only to find, a few minutes later, a large fruit and veg market in full swing just outside the town hall. Some you win, some you don’t… It was at least something at which Benavente excelled as in other respects it was a very ordinary town.
I found the road to Palencia without too much hassle. The N-630 was about to be replaced, for today at least, by the N-610. A little busier than the 630, in other physical respects it was very much the same; single carriageway with generous band to the right of the road in which to cycle most of the time. But whereas the N-630 did offer a varied landscape on either side of the road (see the last week of entries below) I suspected that the N-610 wouldn’t. After 20km of the 100 I needed to cycle, I was cold, bored and rained upon. My suspicions had also been proved to be correct, at least to that point. I paused for a coffee in a small town (where each of the five guys propping up the bar ticked the box of a different rural stereotype; all five glanced in my direction and didn’t look impressed by a stranger entering their realm) to warm up. It would, I resolved, just be one of those days when I am cycling for the sake of moving from A to B. I decided to take a picture at each of 10km points on the N-610 to later (i.e. now) compare. Ready? Spot the differences:
OK. I know one says ‘Palencia 59km’; it’s not that I forgot to take the picture it’s just that the 610 was out-ranked for a few kilometres by another N road as they both shared the same stretch of Tarmac and the 610’s signs disappeared for a while. I arrived at the final sign with not inconsiderable relief. Such was the monotony of the day that when I saw this, I got quite excited:
It’s a cheese museum. Alas, it was closed.
So, it hasn’t been the greatest of days on two wheels but the evening is yet young. I have now warmed up in a bar adjacent to the cathedral in central Palencia. At 7pm I am being met by my very first WarmShowers host of the trip. The hosts that I have contacted so far – about ten of them – have either given me a negative response (3) or simply ignored my email (6). So all credit to Juan – the host I’m staying with tonight – for giving an enthusiastic ‘yes’. He’s an English teacher in a local primary school so the language barrier shouldn’t be an issue. Let’s hope that he is the first of many to come.
Boring days in the saddle do however give you time to think. Two things were themes of the day when it comes to my thinking today. Firstly how impressed I am with my choice of clothing for the trip. Once I had got into today’s cycle, despite the temperature being in the low (very low) teens I was comfortably warm. My Mountain Equipment waterproof jacket is wonderful, keeping me dry and at the same time helping maintain my body temperature. My thermal top and (again) Mountain Equipment (they aren’t paying me!!) sweater are perfect combined with my Buff neck warmer. All this bodes well for Norway in a few months. Secondly, I’ve been thinking about my journey through France. If you had plonked me at a random point on today’s road I would have guessed that I was in rural France. Do I want more boring countryside through which to cycle? Would a more interesting route be to continue cycling along the Altantic Coast as far as Nantes (on Eurovelo 1) and then follow the Loire from the mouth of the river (Eurovelo 6). I’m meeting friends in Bordeaux and near Tours but the coast and the Loire are much more interesting places along which to cycle between the two. The timing of an extended French cycle might also work to my advantage. I have tentative arrangements to meet some staff and students from my old school in Henley in Paris on May 18th. I am at risk of getting there before them but if I cycle the coast and then the Loire… It’s one to think about.