Monday, 24 September 2018

313 The ride home.

24th September 2018  Miles Today,  200  Total Miles 3,121
We set off for the 300km trek to Bilbao. We had originally intended to get the ferry at 3pm today from Santander, a further 100km down the road but asked to move to the next day as it was just too tight and did not allow for any hold ups. We would have needed to be there by 2pm. We were lucky to be able to postpone our boat by a little over 12 hours and 100km closer. This does however mean we get back to the UK almost a day later.

With the GPS having no map we set off on a compass bearing of 280 degrees and it worked out just perfect and put us straight on the motorway that we were looking for. The shock was the wind. We left with our chin guards up and as we exited the built up area the wind caught our helmets and tried to rip them off. It seriously caught us by surprise and sadly that was the shape of things to come for the next 150(ish)km. It was horrible and we were riding lent over all the time. We kept the speed down to about 60mph and it just made the journey longer and more tiring.

What did surprise us was that it was relatively cool. We were expecting it to heat up like the previous day but it did the opposite and ended up, as we approached Bilbao at 18 degrees. The day previous it had been 36 degrees. We were cold, for the first time in over a month and had to close down all the vents in our jackets. I even stopped to put a jumper on.

What a difference a day makes - as they say! Respite from the heat at last.
We arrived at our hotel that was also a Spa at around 3:30 pm and did nothing. It was out of the way and rather than go out we ordered a takeaway and went to be early to catch the boat the next day.

312 The Aragon MotoGP

22nd September 2018  Miles Today,   92  Total Miles 2,795
This weekend we had looked forward to for some time. It was the Aragon, (Spain) round of the MotoGP, the Formula1 equivalent of the motorcycling world. Today, Saturday, was qualifying day and the morning was dedicated to practice so we set off later to see the actual qualifying runs scheduled for the afternoon. Fortunately, as we were coming back to the hotel later, we were able to leave most of our luggage behind.
The qualifying was due to start at 12 noon and we had a bit of spare time before that so we decided to get a beer. We went into the beer tent and I asked for a couple of small beers.  The young girl started to pour the beers from the pump and I noticed the numbers that stab fear into the hearts of mice and men, '0,0' (zero point zero, i.e nil.). Oh my God !
I realised that the beer had no alcohol in it. I screamed in a low voice "ZERO !!.....".
"Si, senor" came the reply. I faked bursting into tears much to the amusement of the Senorita doing the serving. It was going to be a long day.
Sadly, none of the British riders or Valentino Rossi, an Italian who is our favorite non-Brit, did very well.  We were in a grandstand that had no shade and the sun was merciless. It was 34 deg C and we were sat out in the blistering sun for about 3 hours. We were to do it all again tomorrow for longer, again with no shade.
Valentino Rossi being chased by Alvaro Bautista.

Bradley Smith.

Cal Crutchlow.

We left the circuit along with hundreds of other bikes and after about 5 minutes we were clear and on our way back to Valderobres, the nearest large village to the Katmandu Hotel. We stopped there and had a beer, intending to eat too. Sadly, the Spanish siesta was in full swing and the chefs were not due to start work again till 8 or 8:30. We decided to ride to a few more villages to see if we could eat earlier. We eventually found a place that had sufficient Tapas available to fill our bellies and ate on the terrace in the semi dark.
We rode home in the dark. It was the first time I had ridden in the dark for several years and it was nice just to roll left and right with the road markings and the stars. The last 2 km of dirt road was fun in the dark too.
There were two more couples in the hotel tonight.  They had all flown in via Barcelona and hired cars for the duration. One of the couples were two ladies about 30 years of age and both mad about bike racing. One of then was an Aussie who was like a walking text book of bike racing. She was a a two wheel groupie but was a charming young woman. She and her friend were travel agents who worked together and were both serious travelers. We shared a few beers and generally chewed the fat  about bike racing before retiring to bed, hot and all but sunburned from the grandstand earlier.

23rd September 2018  Miles Today,   126  Total Miles 2,921
Race Day.....
We arose early as getting into the course was likely to be a lot more difficult today. We packed the bike up, completely this time, said our goodbyes to the other guests and the hosts, and were on our way by 9 am.
We arrived and were in the circuit by 10 despite the monumental number of bikes doing the same thing. We regained our seats and sat waiting to be cooked again for the next 4 hours. It was already about 30 degrees C.
There were 3 races today (as is normal), the first was called Moto3. This is basically the 250cc class and the British interest is a Scot called John McPhee. He ended up in 10th position having started 9th. Not too bad but he has done a lot better previously.

First corner Moto 3. It was very loud.

Moto 3 is often the most unpredictable as the need to slip stream all the time and change place on each lap.

Jorge Martin the Moto 3 winner.

A photo of the TV screen showing the prize giving.

The second race is the 600cc class. The British interest is a guy called Sam Lowes, a likeable and positive Lincolnshire lad who we have mentioned (and posed with for pictures) in the past. He is a good rider but has trouble staying on the thing. This time he was up to about 10th position and then ran off onto the gravel and came back on in last position. He managed to gain 4 places before the race finished. His race speed after the run off was comparable with the fastest riders so he is still in the running.

First corner Moto 2. Not quite as loud.

Brad Binder a South African. Overtook the leading Spaniard, Alex Marcquez (Marc's brother) in the last few laps. Again the Spaniards around us were not happy. He he he...

The third race is the biking worlds equivalent of  Formula 1 car racing. It is the best of the best with bikes only weighing about 160 kg and pushing out over 250 BHP. The bikes are generally 1000cc.
We have 2 riders in this race, No. 35, Cal Crutchlow and No. 38 Bradley Smith who we saw many years ago winning the 250cc class at Jerez in southern Spain.
Wwe were watching the first corner which is often eventful in any race. We were not disappointed and the race started with a bit of a bang.  2 Spaniards were in front. Marc Marquez and slightly behind, Jorge Lorenzo. One the first bend Marquez ran wide and Lorenzo was on his outside with a different riding line. From our position it looked like they touched but it was shown from different camera  angles that they were 1/2m apart. Never the less,  Lorenzo crashed and as is the norm with Lorenzo, he blamed someone else, this time it was Marquez for forcing him out wide. Lorenzo has a reputation for being a cry baby so we were not surprised. Race direction viewed the incident and did not apportion blame. Needless to say, our surrounding Spanish friends were not amused.

The first corner. Marquez and Lorenzo in the lead, far right.

Same photo, close up, Lorenzo, at the back, is riding a different line (direction) to everyone else.

.... and Lorenzo crashes.

Same photo, close up. Looks like they contacted but no, other camera angles say not. Lorenzo airborne about to break his foot,

At least he has something to cry about  - and blame Marquez.

About half way through the race Cal Crutchlow decided to dump his bike on the deck right in front of us. He was running 4th at the time and we were distraught. Bradley Smith ended up in about 12th position.

A very disappointed Cal Crutchlow walking off.

Valentino Rossi finished 8th from a starting position of 18th.
At the end of the race there was an exodus the like of which we have never seen. We were in no particular hurry so we waited for the stands to clear and then went in search of Wallace. It took a while. There were thousands and thousands of bikes trying to squeeze through a gap a bit wider than a car. The Spaniards are manic about their biking and they were revving their engines against the rev limiters and spinning their wheels on the gravel. It was mayhem but for them I would say it was normal. We waited another 20-30 minutes and then saddled up and joined the queue. We eventually got to a road junction where a female cop was directing traffic. We were held there for a while by her, and the Spaniards were getting impatient and some were revving their engines and peeping their horns. The cop joined in and gesticulated for them to do it all the more before she would let them out. They did not disappoint her and we joined in. Karen did not see the cop so I got the obligatory bollocking. She saw the funny side of it when I explained what was happening.

We intended to drive direct to Zaragoza where we had a hotel booked and  knew where we wanted to join the road to it. It was a major road just south of the circuit. Sadly, the police had a different idea and initially took us 180 degrees in the wrong direction for about 6km. We were about to join the main road only to find that they had also closed that. We had a detour that meant out 103km journey was now 149km of back roads. We had been sat in the blistering heat for 4 hours and out 1 hour journey had become 2 hours. Our butts were already sore and this did not help. The temperature at the circuit had been 34 deg and it steadily climbed to 36 by the time we got to Zaragoza,

We found the hotel easily enough but found that there was a tramway outside the front door so we could not get Wallace anywhere near. We eventually found a back street behind the hotel and the receptionist gave a room close enough to it so we could pass our gear through the window, albeit with the use of long bungees and Karen hanging out of the window.

We rested for a while and cooled down with the rooms air con and then went out for some cooling beer and food. We found the main square which was actually oblong and the architecture was amazing. The main church was in full service and photography was not allowed, except for us of course.

Better not use the flash !

311 More Peniscola

18th to 20th September 2018  Miles Today,  0   Total Miles  2,591

We spent the next 3 days chilling in a beautiful beach resort spending much of our time either sunbathing, in the sea or in the bar. Karen bought a couple of handbags, one of which she had wanted for some time, style of which is specific to Spain, namely a saddlebag style. I picked up a couple of T shirts with Knights Templar themes printed on. Unusual for me, I normally only have plain ones because I am a boring little sod most of the time.

21st September 2018  Miles Today,   112  Total Miles 2,703
It was time to leave for Aragon area. We set off knowing today would be an easy ride despite it being seriously hot.About 3/4 of the way there we stopped for a coffee and a bite to eat. I went for a wee and was a bit confused as to which door was for men and which for the ladies. It took a few seconds but I go there in the end.
See if you can figure out which is the Mens from the Ladies !

We arrived at our hotel in the early afternoon after finishing off the trip with a 2km dirt road. To be fair, the hotel, which was in the in the middle of nowhere, was more of a house with en-suite rented out rooms. It was run my an English lady called Gina and her Spanish husband Cesar. They had 3 offspring so to speak, a child called Rueben and 2 cats. Karen was in her element and got her 'cat fix' that she had been missing. Most of the cats we had come across so far were semi feral and not very friendly so she was now happy.

The Masia Katmandu Hotel
Our bedroom. Small but more than adequate.
The pool that we did not go in.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

310 Peñiscola.

17th September 2018  Miles Today 183   Total Miles  2,591.
We tried before we left Benidorm to get our tickets for the MotoGP printed out. They had been sent by email a few days previous but the staff at the hotel were a bit anal and kept moaning about virus' etc so no joy there then.

I figured out that if I put some Voltarol cream (sort of liquid Ibuprofen) on the cheeks of our bums the journey would be much less painful. So after an application of said cream we set off and managed a huge 60m journey and stopped for breakfast at an British cafe. This is Benidorm after all. I was a bit miffed at the ticket thing but at around 11am we were off and running.

At about 3pm we arrived at Peñiscola and booked into Hotel Maria. The Voltarol had done it's job admirably.
The Hotel was delightful. It was clean. bright, had air con and was just nice. We chilled out for a bit and them changed out of our bike gear and into shorts etc and wandered down to the beach.

WOW....... What a fantastic place. We had never heard of it before but the place had 2 beaches, one was about 100m long and the other went as far as the eye could see. They were either side of a peninsular with a castle on top. The bonus was that it was spotless and there were no drunken Brits gobbing off and competing for the most embarrassing outfits.

The Castle on the peninsular.

The place had lots of clean and charming back street shops.

The beach went on forever.

Sand castles on steroids.

Only the Brits found this funny.

This place is all about St George and the dragon. Hence this kiddies play area,
I'm not much good at this 'selfie' malarky.
18th September 2018  Miles Today 0 Total Miles 2,591.
We had a greats night sleep. No drunken morons shouting at each other from the balconies and the room was cool.
We decided to visit the castle today and it was brilliant.

The peninsular was liberated from the Arab Muslims in 1233 by James 1st of Aragon. The castle was built by the Knights Templar around 1300BC and was garrisoned by the Knights Montesa. It is believed to be that last place the Knights Templar built. We were sad to learn that the day before we arrived there had been a huge festival or the kind they have in Rio de Janero. We bumped into some Belgians and they showed us some video of the festival. As said, it was just like Rio. They also had a some street 'bull running' on but alas we missed that too. Bloody Benidorm !!!

View from the top of the castle.

Beach as far as the eye can see.

The church at the top of the castle.

With all the usual Christian models.

The altar. We lit a couple of candles for lost relatives and friends.

Pope Benedict XIII 'Papa Luna' who lived in the castle around 1400AD.

It was hot and glorious.

A model of the castle in Templar times.

A kind of historic Beaux tapestry.
Dungeons and Dragons time.

In the garden they had a bird of prey exhibition.

On the way back down.

We finished up getting our costumes on and going into the sea for a cool off but as soon as we got in, it clouded over but the sea was very warm so it was not a problem. A great day all round.

309 Benidorm

12th - 16th September 2018  Miles 0 Total 2,408.
Benidorm: Bloody hell what a place. It is a heady mix of drunken youngsters on stag/hen parties and old folks in mobility scooters. It is a truly bonkers place where both these groups mix happily together - at least at the times us oldies managed to stay awake.

The view from the beach inland

The Tiki bar. More flesh, implants and testosterone than you can imagine.

Apparently the dress of the day for this bunch was ridiculous swimwear.

The mating game in full swing.

When you get drunk, you fall down. It's worse for us oldies !

Street performers.

This guy made us laugh. He was as camp as I had ever seen complete with voice and mannerisms. He asked me to take a picture of him and his sister so I did. When he looked at it he said to me, "You have just taken a picture of a model". I replied, "What, like and Airfix kit ?"   His face was a picture.

The gay guys sister.

Front end of the dress of the day.

The beach and venue itself was actually very nice.

No comment !

The Red lion Pub near our hotel.

The promenade at night,
Benidorm was a mad place and like most mad places it is easy to get fed up with it very quickly and we did. We were glad to get out of the place after 5 days and wished we had moved on earlier but sadly we had already paid for our accommodation so we did not have a great deal of choice.

We booked a room at a resort just over half way to Barcelona to use it more as stopover for the night. The place was called Peñiscola. Yes I did say that right. It has an accent above the n so it is pronounced 'Penyiscola'.

 The day before we left Benidorm, we did decide to bin the idea of going to Barcelona. We decided we would leave that for another trip so we had to rethink our hotel bookings and added another 3 nights onto the Peñiscola hotel dates and go to the MotoGP (motorcycle racing) from there.

Benidorm was a bit like Las Vegas, great fun but too much in your face. What did surprise us was the number of elderly (our age ?) British people that live in Spain and travel to Benidorm for a holiday or long week end break.