In fact, too busy. As a full time teacher, co-editor of WIMA’s anniversary book, WIMA Sweden board member, MA student and a lingustics researcher, riding has been something that other people did, but I had no time for.
However, it is time to listen to the master, Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by”. (Quote from The Salmon of Doubt”).
I shall now spend more time taking baths and drinking tea – preferably on the beach (although to my knowledge he drank his tea at home).
Also, we’ve instated the rule of weekend rides 😀 So we’re now exploring a new place in the Penedes region every weekend, this weekend was Santa Oliva, a village only 20 minutes ride from our house:
We have a very old GoPro camera which we use sometimes, and for this trip Christopher was wearing it. I love riding through little towns and villages, the houses are so cute and and the streets so narrow and winding. This was during the siesta time so there was virtually no-one out.
It was a windy day, as you can see on the flag. Christopher was nearly blown off the road on his little bike and I had to wrangle against some heavy gusts as well.
The Catalan text next to the drinking fountain says: the fountain, brings water – like a river of tears from the mountains far away to the foot of the castle – for me and for you and for the foreigner. What a beautiful message!
We don’t have one language in common, instead we speak three languages in between the three of us, Japanese, English and Spanish, as we take shelter in a local Spanish restaurant in Gracia. I had wanted to show my international friends the area in Barcelona where I used to live, before moving to Calafell. My plan for this evening included our normally pleasant weather – not a steady downpour. But the food is excellent and the company better still, despite some occasional confusion when we speak the wrong language to the wrong recipient. The bartender is amused by our group and absolutely thrilled when he learns that Selma is originally from Argentina and they even have a common home town. He brings us strawberry gazpacho to celebrate this. Selma orders Argentinian meat, Sono is excited by the idea of Spanish tapas and we share three little plates followed by three rather large cakes for desert. It’s been a busy week for them, when you come from Japan to spend a week in Catalunya then you must make the most of it. They have been riding in the Pyrenees together with Sue from WIMA GB and, in addition, managed to see some of what Barcelona has to offer in the culture department: Gaudi’s architecture and Picasso’s art. To complete the list, we managed some shopping for Spanish goods before dinner.
On my behalf, it’s been a couple of eventful weeks, moving houses, starting a new teaching position and in the midst of it all my WIMA friends from England and Japan basically arrived on my doorstep. Sue had rented a house up in the Pyrenees and I joined her for some amazing riding. We were lucky to be recommended a brilliant route by fellow bikers. It was 200 kilometres filled with twists and turns, it kept us busy until evening in fact, with various coffee and photo stops along the route. We started off in Col de Nargo and headed to Berga along route L-401, in the morning the road was quiet, but we soon met lots and lots of bikers, it was evident that the road was popular and we could see groups of bikers on different viewpoints along the route, as well as bikes passing us when we stopped for photos. Our return route took us up north approx. 20k and then back through the villages Saldes, Gosol, Tuixent and Sorribes. This road was not accepted by my GPS, possibly because some of the roads were tiny – my TomTom app does that sometimes, it overrules my choice of road. A small part of the route was on gravel, which reminded me that my bike isn’t suitable for gravel and I had better stay off it. Well, there are smooth gravel roads like the one to my parents’ house in Sweden (which is a piece of cake to ride), and this looked like that to begin with, but soon got loose and my road tyres were sliding. Arriving on tarmac made me both praise civilisation and wish I had a smaller, lighter bike with offroad tyres so I could do it all again. I can definitely see myself on a smaller bike in the future.
After the weekend, while I had to return to work, Sue was expecting our Japanese friends for a few days riding. However, our planned ride out to meet them as part of my return had to be drastically changed due to some very expected events. While lifting my very sleepy head to check the time early Monday morning (public holiday here so I wasn’t going to go to work anyway) I found out that it was 4:30am. I also found out that Sono had ended up on Mallorca instead of Barcelona and that Selma, who had arrived in Barcelona on a different flight, had been pickpocketed and lost all her money. They were on a tight schedule, since Japanese people hardly ever get more than a week off work consecutively, and their hire bikes were waiting for them. The decision was easy, I would await sunrise and head down from the mountains and try to help. I’m spoiled, being used to a completely different work culture. I would personally never even consider flying to another continent during a week’s holiday, but they must make do. I absolutely admire their ability to make the most of it and I would do whatever I could to make things easier for them.
So, I met with Selma and we tried to locate the rental place. Firstly, I feared that the place didn’t exist and that their booking offer was fraudulent. Luckily, it turned out that the company had not announced that they had moved place and changed phone number and we did track them down in the end. When we finally arrived, and explained Sono’s predicament, the owner kindly offered to keep the place open until 4pm. I had already offered Sono to take my bike up to the Pyrenees if she wouldn’t make it, but since her booking couldn’t be cancelled we were still hoping she would be able to make it – and she did – literally in the last minute her taxi arrived. I was very happy to contribute to making their arrival in Barcelona a little less stressful and be able to escort them out of Barcelona and on their way up to the Pyrenees, no doubt they were tired after their long flight to Europe and their respective mishaps, and I wanted them to have a smooth start to their riding at least.
While they enjoyed the mountains, I returned to work. We had scheduled to meet up again on Friday, Sono’s last day in Europe and in the restaurant in Gracia we closed the circle. Selma’s flight was a couple of days later so we made plans for the weekend – we learned that we both have a passion for books so we spent Saturday morning in bookshops. I was amazed to learn that she was named after a Swedish author, Selma Lagerlöf and I secretly sought out a Spanish edition of one of her books as a present. Selma, the author, is native to my region in Sweden and her house Mårbacka is now an impressive museum and celebration of the author’s life. She was also the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Not a bad character to be named after, I must say!
Since Selma had dreamed about having dinner next to the sea, we had to make this happen for Saturday night, and then we did the same for Sunday lunch but here in Calafell. I was happy to welcome her as my fist visitor to my village and we were both quite surprised as we stumbled upon a local charity ride in support of children with Dravet Syndrome here in Calafell harbour, “Rolling for Kids”, it was called. We had an interesting chat with the organisers and showed our support before continuing our Sunday stroll along the beach, our feet in the water and the sun in our faces. We shared a typical Spanish three course Sunday lunch before Selma had to return to Barcelona.
Later the same day, while reflecting on the recent events during my evening tea on my balcony, I felt a sincere happiness to be part of WIMA. There are a lot of barriers and discord in the world, that is for sure, but I’ve had the time of my life together with people I wouldn’t have met without WIMA – considering the four of us come from four different countries and three different continents – to me this is amazing networking and great WIMA spirit.
I’m off to Spain, finally, sailing to Bilbao on Wednesday. It’s been a long autumn. I’ve been without a home since June, living out of my panniers, travelling all over Europe during summer and then studying and trying to maintain a daily schedule since September. Now I’m off to Spain, not Japan as we had prepared for; a sad event more commonly known as the UK referendum has changed the way we see our future possibilities, safer to return now while Christopher still is part of the European free movement.
Summer’s been long and filled with exciting travels, I’ve ridden my bike more than ever and from one corner of Europe to another. Firstly, we rode together in Wales, Christopher’s first adventure on his own motorbike. Although I feared that he would remain pillion forever he quite happily took up riding and enjoyed the small mountains roads in Wales immensely. He soon became a specialist on hill starts and single track country lanes. We had some terrible weather at times and he surely experienced what it is like to be completely soaked – while touring you make the best of what you get, the greatest difference between travelling and making daytrips I believe.
After a few but thoroughly enjoyable weeks in Wales it was time for me to head towards Hungary and the WIMA rally. I picked up pace a bit, instead of riding tiny mountains roads and having continuous coffee breaks and photo opportunities I had to cover distance every day. The fact that I had some problems with the bike didn’t help, because of the struggle I swore that this would be my last solo trip, but yeah, I know – it isn’t very likely. After an action-packed WIMA rally I aimed for Sweden, with a slight detour to see a good friend in Slovakia. Now I could take it easy, enjoy the mountain roads and chill again. I spent a few weeks in Sweden before returning to the UK. We were to spend a few weeks up in Scotland because people continuously tell me that if I like Wales I will love Scotland. I actually love Wales. So, the expectations were high but as often is the case, I was disappointed – only by the sheer fact that Scotland is so huge, and with the little CG 125 in tow we just never covered any distance and we didn’t get to see the islands or very much at all. Having said that we had some fantastic days riding, up through the north of England and we did ride some very scenic roads at times. We also had some very foul weather with rain and gales which strongly challenged Christopher on his featherlight bike. A couple of nights we struggled to pin the tent down and had to use the panniers to weigh it down. Admittedly, I loved it – but Christopher less so. The riding was just a bit too hard for him and I suspect that he will never be anything else than a fair-weather camper. Although he did put up with muddy fields, cold showers, midges and mosquitos without complaining I did realise that it wasn’t something he enjoyed and it will probably be filed away as “things you do for love”.
The summer ended too soon and it got cold. In September, we were happy to be able to house sit for WIMA friends, little did Pat and Sheonagh expect that we would end up staying for the rest of the year… Well, partly I blame the unavailability of test dates for motorcycles. Christopher managed to bag it all just before Christmas, I was admittedly proud of him doing his riding training on some rather frosty days in December. Hopefully, and quite possibly, the weather in Spain will treat us better.
We’ve had a great couple of years in England, and despite being disappointed of the current state of politics and the way it affects our freedom of movement I’m looking forward to returning to Spain and starting all over again, new city, new job, new house, well – pretty much new everything. We are all responsible for our own lives and for making our own happiness. Fuck Brexit – I’m European!