You know you’re in the middle of a hellish travel experience when you have two major end-all-travel-for-24-hours bike break downs in five days. Here’s a brief rundown of our trip:
Day 1: Leave Pamplona at noon. Blistering sun overhead. Get on the highway, whatever, Google said to do it. Get escorted off the highway. Right. Detour to a minor road, popping a tire along the way. Slip a chain. Continue on. 15 km in, find a spot to stealth camp off the main road.
Day 2: Ride entirely uphill all day. Pass signs that say, 8% grade, 10% grade, 12% grade. Walk up hill pushing your bike so much that you have competing soreness from biking and walking. Make it 45 km, then after coasting down the most spectacular road of your life, blow your tire out completely, with no spare tube. Beg a farmer to camp on his land.
Day 3: Walk 7 km with busted bike to the next town. It’s Sunday. Nothing is open. Send husband off on bus after we’re told we can’t take the bikes with us, and hope he can find something in San Sebastián. Wait in the playground with both kids, high noon sun, all the gear, when a soccer team of children descend. Play super mom for a few hours, until Drew returns, with nothing. Defeated, head to the hotel. 0 km biked.
Day 4: Husband takes the early bus to San Sebastián. Bike tube! Head out way too late and lose sight of the path. Crazy man notices us and tries to escort us to San Sebastián himself and in an effort to bike off without him, Drew goes too fast and bounces the trailer hitch into his wheel. Done, his bike is trashed, he needs a new wheel — the gears are rubbing the tire now. Drag everything into the woods and camp on a slope. Crazy man won’t leave, then returns at midnight to offer us a place to stay. “NO THANK YOU!” About 25 km.
Day 5: Walk bike to the next town 5 km. Set up in a local park with the kids and Drew takes his bike to the San Sebastián Decathlon (we’re becoming regulars). New wheel. We’re off! It’s the hottest part of the day, again. We whimper into San Sebastián and after downing a few beers on the beach, we decide to get a hotel room. Book the hotel, then get turned away because we have children. Oh and they are keeping our money. Shit officially lost. Bike 10 km to another hotel, get lost, get directions, then arrive at the best hostel ever, located in the middle of a massive park.
Day 6: Pack up to go, then decide to not go. Lay in bed. Play soccer with the kids. Make spaghetti.
Day 7: Pack up to go again, decide to bike around the park and hike around with the kids. End up spending the entire day playing. Children are happy! Take a nap in the shade under a massive tree, with both babies lying on my chest. Sneak around and find a place to camp, right there in the park. Have weird dreams all night about getting caught.
Day 8: Finally start biking out towards France and when we cross the border, feel pure, clear, relief. The Euro Velo 1 beckons us with it’s well-marked bike paths and carefully thought out route. Hello, biking mecca.