Time to leave Soller. Enjoyed it, but now off to the heart of the cycling trip, the tour group meeting and starting in Girona.
My flight was at 8:40 but I didn’t really know what to expect enroute, so I got up early. I’d made arrangements with Toni, the proprietor of La Vila, to leave a light on down stairs and that I’d need to leave my key when no one was around. He said they’d even leave me a little snack in the fridge behind the bar since I wouldn’t be able to have breakfast. Sure enough, at 6am I found a little bag with juice, fruit and a ham and cheese sandwich waiting. Nice.
I needed to get gas, drive in, drop off the car, find out where to check in… it all took a lot longer than you might imagine. It was a good thing I got up early. As it turned out, the timing worked out pretty well. The Palma airport was just jammed with people and I ended up having to deal with special luggage handling. Iberia didn’t have a handy option when I purchased my ticket to account for the bike – at least as far as I could tell – so yeah, I was the guy in line holding everyone up as they figured out how to arrange for my luggage. In the end I had to pay an extra 55 Euros for it! But good thing I told them it was a bike. Originally had it just been “luggage” and been the same weight, they would have charged me 100 Euros for the baggage! That’s more than the ticket cost for me!! Anyway, we straightened it out and I was off to endure the long security line. They have one of those security line setups like a ride at Disneyland where you snake back and forth. There were a LOT of people flying Monday morning.
The flight was otherwise uneventful. Barcelona’s airport was even more jammed. Just a sea of humanity. I had about an hour wait till pickup and just grabbed a coffee and hung out. Jill from the tour company (Marty Jemison’s wife) was doing the pick up of me and one other, Hallie from Salt Lake. The pickup was pre-arranged and she found me right on schedule. Hallie, was there soon after and we were off to the van ride out to Girona. The weather was fantastic and we rode with a windows open till the expressway traffic just got too loud.
The tour I’m doing is hosted by Marty Jemison Cycling Tours. Had it not been for a recommendation by Amy and Richard, a couple Kem and I had met on a previous tour, we would likely have not head of it. Word of mouth – an email with some pictures – got us looking and interested. The tour starts and ends in Girona and cycles parts of Catalonia – a region of Spain, though they seem to think of themselves as Catalonian’s first here. It ventures down to the coast and stays a couple days in Tossa de Mar and a couple days in Calella.
Our Girona hotel is right in the heart of the city. I didn’t realize quite how large Girona would be. For some reason I was expecting it to be smaller but it’s a reasonable sized metro area of a couple hundred thousand apparently.
First order of business was to reassemble the bike again and get it down to Chris, one of the ride leads and mechanic who would be looking to ‘fix’ my headset issues. Sure enough, as hoped, he was able to get it squared away without much drama. Big sigh of relief. I was hoping it wouldn’t take a long time to correct and we were expecting to ride later in the afternoon so all worked out. About 4:30 we all got together – all 7 of us in the tour group – plus the two ride leads Jill and Chris, to do a warm up ride.
The pictures here include one of part of the old town right next to the Onyar river. The river is mostly a trickle at this time of year. The other two are of our ride leads: Jill and Chris. Jill is Marty Jemison’s wife. I was a little bummed that Marty wasn’t going to be on the tour. The tour company is, after all, named after him and he is the former pro cyclist. He was on a custom tour in France. Jill and Chris have been fantastic though. Chris is our ride lead most times. He’s mechanic and tour guide rolled into one. If you need anything, Chris will have it. You can’tn miss him: he’s the one with the argyle socks. Gotta get me some of those.
Aside from the urban riding and traffic, the route out of the city on the first ride and into the foot hills was quite nice. We climbed some and began to work up a sweat but we were only going to be doing about 20 miles so nothing too bad. It was a loop ride and the route back was awesome. Just a quiet, smooth and narrow country road. Most of the way back we could coast or practically coast. Very fun. A little more urban riding and we were back to the hotel. 20 miles give or take. I don’t have my bike computer hooked up so I’m just going by what they told me.
The beauty of this kind of tour is that you don’t have to stress over the logistics, maps and route planning. That’s all been done. You just get to enjoy the riding. Granted, the fun of scouting a route in an area you’ve never been can be fun. I’d just done it in Majorca. But it takes time and a lot of map reading or just trying roads to see where they go. Sure is nice to have had someone already figure out a route and have had it tested and honed over many groups before you so that what you get is the best that area has to offer. There are just so many roads. You of course pay for the privilege of having had someone prearrange so much, but the difference is peace of mind and a more relaxed outting. Same goes for restaurant planning. They have selected placed based on previous good luck.
After the ride we had some time to kill and then we all met around 8 for dinner. Jill took us on a walk around the area and pointed out were George Hincapie lives and were Lance Armstrong used to have a place.
Dinner was a the restaurant associated with the hotel: the Blanc. We had a great salad with some kind of mustard dressing and a chicken brochette dish with rice to follow. A couple of nice wines too. A Rioja from Juan Gil and a verdeho that was good.
Tomorrow, we’re off to the coast.