My ex is from Spain and since she has a brother in Pamplona and a sister in Madrid and her parents are in La Rioja I made sure that when we went our separate ways that we went with a smile on our faces. One has to keep ones priorities right and having a place to keep a mountain bike and to stay is a priority I wasn't about to mess with over a little thing like divorce.
So every year I go visit the ex-laws and pick up my bike in Pamplona and head on out. There's a couple of pilgrimage trails that cross Spain and it's almost entirely off road.
Used to be that the trail, about 500 miles, was pretty empty but since the Pope visited the final destination back in the turn of the century it's picked up. Doesn't matter 'cause once you leave a place it's easy to pass the pilgrim walkers heading out and then you don't see anyone most of the day.
Biking the route has also picked up and you see a bit more bikers but most of them do the road route so it's not often you see other mountain bikers. Basically you've got an entire day of mountain biking all to yourself, occasionally passing a few pilgrims.
Depending on my destination for that day a ride can last anywhere from 7 to 10 hours.
Now, you might think that going through villages where there's live stock in the middle of the main road one would learn to speak to the locals. Well, I'm an American so I never bothered learning the language. I simply say "soy Americano" and the people shake their head in that kind of exasperated yet understanding way as they either try to speak to me in English or ramble off to find someone who can. It's a universal thing and it explains everything and we're all instantly on the same page.
On this particular day I had just finished this hour long climb and got to the top and there were a couple of pilgrims from the Netherlands up there resting and we got to chatting. In English of course.
and down the other side
So we started down the other side, me walking my bike, enjoying a pleasant conversation for a few minutes before I would say goodbye and mount the trusty steed. We've reached the bottom and are going along laughing and carrying on when suddenly a ruckus behind us made us turn. There were two bikers barreling down on us, maybe 20 yards away, giving no warning and hauling some foreign ass.
They buzzed us as we just stood there too startled to move.
I can't tell you how comforting this was. I'd been out for almost a week and was kinda getting homesick. Getting buzzed by tools was like getting a little taste of home. It's that universal thing. Just as no one expects an American to speak another language, you don't expect to encounter bikers without a tool emerging.
Tools or not, it's a wonderful way to spend a couple of weeks.