Sunday, September 30, 2007

Los Fotos

Finally pictures got uploaded!

Here are a couple of my favorites...

Phil´s Images 162

Phil´s Images 161
Phil´s Images 146
Phil´s Images 114
Phil´s Images 079
Phil´s Images 062

That is about all for now, I could add more but I figure this will slow down the load time enough as is.

Tomorrow San Sebastian!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Barçelona is freaking awesome! Highlight of my trip so far and I have really only had the chance to see a little section of it as of yet. I arrived a little late, there was some trouble with some rocks on the train tracks so we had a little bit of a longer stop and got into BC around 10:30 instead of 9:30. I was lucky enough to find my hostel quickly and got unpacked and cleaned up before hitting the streets at almost midnight. Good thing is that most restaurants are still serving at that time so I had no trouble finding a tapas bar. I didn´t get too much just some patas bravas and albondigas in squid sauce, it did fill the little void of hunger that I had been suffering from a long day of walking around and riding public transportation.

Speaking of walking I was completely off on my assumption of where the bus was going to pick me up from Bonnieux to take me to Avignon. Blakers dropped me off right by the wine cooperative where I figured the stop would be (according to the schedule I had). The cooperative is where the smaller wine growers go to turn in their grapes and avoid the hassle of having to do the wine making themselves. It is also where you can go to buy cheap local wine, they even have it in bulk coming out of these hoses with nozzles that don´t look much different from those that you would use to fill a tank up with diesel. If you go through the hassle of filling your own vessel you are able to get the wine at the bargain price of 1.15 a liter. All the college art students were stoked when we told them about the crazy cheapness.

Anyway after I missed the bus I decided to just walk to where I was certain that there was a stop; Lumieres about 5 miles from where I had been dropped off. Normally a walk like that wouldn´t affect me much, but with the addition of a 50 pound back pack I started to get a little bushed. The worst part about it was that because of some road construction I was forced to walk on the busiest highway in the area for the majority of my trek. But at least I got to the bus stop and figured out how make my way to the train station.

The train ride over to Barçelona was mundane really, I finshed some trashy short detective novel that I had begun the day before and I admired all the graffiti of which there was plenty passing through the train windows. Funny thing about French graffiti (and Spanish to a lesser extent) is that the style of lettering are quite archaic compared to what we have evolved to in the states. Big bubble letter that are clearly readable are the norm in contrast to the wild style in the US. Not to say that it isn´t cool, just it is retro to be sure. Even the hip-hop kids that I have seen are dressed kind of retro, kangol and adidas ala Run DMC.

In the afternoon I walked about 3 miles and randomly I plopped myself down in front of a little cafe for some lunch. Little did I know that it was right accross the street from the OxfordHouse, a school the has a 4 week long intensive TESL certification program. Before I could order this guy Tim from Boston and an older lady Jana from England sat down next to me having both just taken their final exam. In the next 3 hours of eating and drinking I met a bunch of other students who were wandering the streets, I got Tim´s number if I feel like calling him in the next couple of days so I guess that means I made at least one friend.

After the cafe I had to get myself to bed for a little bit to sleep off the afternoon revelry, so I took an little nap back at the hostel. One of the workers was busy passing out blankets, it was supposed to be getting cold that night, read 17c (laughable compared to Minneapolis, I didn´t even use my sheet). I woke up in time to walk down to the beach and drink a beer gazing out accross the sea, I may have had a couple too many or they were too strong because I just got crazy tired quickly. I managed to figure out the metro to bring me back towards the center area and people watched for a bit before heading home. All and all a big busy day, and I didn´t even manage to buy shoes yet!

There is supposed to be some sort of a fountain show tonight that rivals the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, I just have to figure out where that goes on and get myself over in that direction.

The little internet cafes don´t allow photo uploading but I have somewhere around 400 new pictures some of which are easily the best I have been lucky to take in my life.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Still Kicking it.

Yup I am still over here in France, nearing somewhere around 3 weeks so far. I have less than a week left which means I should start planning the Spanish portion of my trip. So far I only have a hostel reserved in Barcelona, I should at least figure out which trains are going to take me that direction.

So I think last time I posted about the "hardest ride of my life" or some bullshit like that?

The pinnacle of this bike tour is when everyone rides across the valley to this mountain that is looking in the distance Mont Ventoux. To say that least it is one of the steepest longest climbs that little old felipe has ever had the "pleasure" of doing. We start off early in the morning with a relatively flat jaunt over the valley, usually everyone is riding quite slow at this point trying to conserve energy for the impending slaughter. There is a little ridge that must be crossed in order to even begin the climb up Ventoux, by little I mean a mere 20k climb which is at a grade that is easy enough to conquer. In Tour De France terms it would be a category 2 climb, whatever that means.

After a 6k downhill the climb up begins, the first 10 or so K is quite steep but not insurmountable, the grade being around 5-7% with lots of switch backs weaving through the lower part of the mountain which is all covered with pine trees and signs signaling the existence of wild boar. The mountain provides a little respite for a couple of miles where the grade is easy to the point of being almost flat, 6k from the top this changes entirely. At Chalet Reynard everything changes though and at the same moment the vegetation ends the rode peaks up to a 8-14% grade.

The first time that I took a stab at the mountain was after a scant 3 days of riding up the hilly country so common in this area. I was proud of myself for the first 40 or so miles until 1/2 way up the last 6 k when I just cracked, despite my best efforts I just couldn't handle the climb and got of my bike 3 times and walked for a couple of feet before finally reaching the top (at least I crested pedaling).

Finally just yesterday I once again took on the Moutain, this time I had a good idea what to expect and I was determined not to put a foot down unless it be absolutely necessary. Right before the climb the majority of the group stops up in a little town called Sault for pastries and espresso before hitting the road, however myself I just decided to forgo the stop and pedal right through. Two others who were a little timid of their climbing skills joined me but with my little knowledge of the area I missed the turn off and lead us the wrong way down the road adding an extra 7 or so miles to our ride, luckily it was all flat. Starting the climb I felt pretty good, just focused on my breathing and did my best to conserve energy up until the end.

Turning the corner at the Chalet I took a deep breath and just started pedaling with gusto, not wanting to be beat by the first couple hundred meters. It was about this time that the category 1 racer/guide Blake showed up behind me towing everyone's helmets and jackets (it gets cold up at the top), also around his neck was one of the guest's digital SLR with one of the biggest lenses I have ever seen. He got me to goof around for a spell and ride no handed up the hill which really raised me spirits.

Up the climb I caught up with a rider who was going just slightly slower than myself, instead of passing him I just grabbed his wheel and paced myself behind him. There wasn't too much in the way of drafting going on at 5-8 mph but knowing I wasn't killing myself helped. Right around the Tommy Simpson memorial (TDF rider who died climbing the hill) I heard the crack of fighter planes speeding off right in front of me, I looked up and saw a speeding jet upside down literally less than 100 yards above me. If my heart wasn't pounding fast before it went into over time and with the jolt I sprinted 200 feet in front of the people I was pacing behind. I had to slow myself down a little after, the excitement and all got me a little carried away. Blake took a picture of me passing in front of the Memorial seconds after the jet flew by, I was with it enough to turn and flash a big shit eating grin, the picture is on a different computer or else I would upload it for all of you all.

Long story short I made it up the mountain without stopping or even feeling too distressed. Hell I even made my second ever century out of the day thanks to my brilliant navigational skills, and even as such my legs aren't too tired.

I think the internet will be more plentiful in Spain so I should be able to update more often.

Until then...


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stil Here.

I am using one of the wacky French keyboards right now in a little library in the town of Lacoste.

I am here and safe, just a couple of days ago did the hardest ride of my life.

Hopefully I will be in a better place to tell you more about it soon.

Till then here is a picture.


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