Can you be super out of shape, walk out of the house with nothing more than a backpack and your street clothes, hop on a bike with two kids, ages 1 and 4, and bike up the coast of Spain?
For context, here is the route we took, it’s about 60-70 km total if you include the diversions, but we biked about 25 km a day.
I kept Barcelona on the map for reference. Girona is a big biking hub, and there’s lots of pro and very serious bicyclists that tour the area because it’s really great biking, beautiful scenery and a lovely coast line. We went here to do a little biking before setting out on our 10 country route across Europe, so we’d have some experience under our belts before buying bikes, trailers and other gear. It’s early in the travel season for Europe, so we mostly had the roads to ourselves, the beaches were only dotted with the occasional other tourist and many cafés were completely empty.
On the first day, we biked downhill to Llafranc from Parafugell, a little beach town that is surrounded on both sides by cliffs and there’s only small cove-like beach next to a small marina. That first 5K on the bike was glorious. All down hill. The blue of the Mediterranean peaking out at us between trees and cottages along the way, the breeze ever so gently cooling us as we cruised down to the coast. “This is so fun!” I thought, entirely confident that I discovered the most magical way to travel ever — by bike.
After unloading the kids at the beach, playing around a bit and taking photos, we got back on the bikes and realized, “right, now we have to go uphill.”
Drew googled it and found a route that followed the coast, we just had to pedal over this big hill, the same cliffs we had sailed down the hour before. About 30 minutes into that ride, on the lowest gear, sweating and grunting, we couldn’t go any further. We literally couldn’t bike up any more. We got off and started to walk.
There was no breeze. The sun was now beating down on us. We were panting. I had a moment of pure panic, the thought that flashed across my mind was this: “Well maybe we can just take the bus to the next town and figure out how to get fit enough to do this later.”
Oh god. I just quit my bike tour in the first day.
My worst fear, what if I can’t do this, was realized. I can’t do this. I am not in shape enough. I am a fool.
We pulled over to hide in the shade for a minute. I didn’t confess my condition to Drew, but he pulled out his phone, “Well we could do the other route, the one that goes straight through town.”
Oh my god, Drew.
“Yes. Let’s do that. There’s another route?” I hopped on my bike and headed down the hill we just spent 30 minutes trying to climb. It was sort of devastating that it took me less than 30 seconds to get back down.
Bike tour not quit, confidence restored, we slogged through the 25k from Parafugell to Mas Pinell, swearing never, ever to attempt hills again.
Happily tired, with the sort of endorphin punch-drunk you get after biking for half a day, we collapsed for the night, patting ourselves on the back for doing it, for making it this far, the first day of the trip, and we didn’t quit.