Wednesday, July 6, 2016

France Bike trip - part 1

July 5 - July 9 

We have entered France.  For most of our trip through France, we will be following the "Euro Velo 1" bike route.  Euro Velo is a network of bike trails throughout Europe.  More information is available at  

Here is an overall map of our planned route through France: 

The goal is to make it to Roscoff where there is a ferry to Ireland.  

My last post showed us crossing the border and reaching Bidart, France.  We pick up the journey there. 

I. Bidart, France to Soustons, France (approximately).  

We actually stayed in a campground near Soustons.  It was really nice, right on the ocean. 

If you need a helicopter rescue, dial 112 from your flip phone.  

We camped next to some German surfers who were extremely nice to us.  They gave us 4 chairs (traveling by bike we don't have camp chairs) and they gave us 4 German Pilsner beers.  Here is a shot of the bottle.  Evidently brewed with pine cones?  

II.  Soustons, France to Pelouche, France. 

The ride today was about 50 miles of bike route through sand dunes and a forest.  Here are some shots of the bike route and the signage that is available on the Eurovelo route.  Excellent cycling - well paved and easy to navigate.  

The blue and orange sign on the top right is for the "Euro Velo" route.  We did not see any in Spain or our first day in France.  But after Bidart, the route was clearly marked.  

Some shots of what today's route looked like:

We ended up stopping about 15km short of our goal for the day.  But we stumbled into an amazing campground.  Our previous campgrounds had tons of amenities (pools, bars, horses, etc...), but also tons of people.  This campground was quiet and on a lake.  The lake water was really warm.  

Also had a nice little bar/restaurant.  When we paid for the campsite we got a free drink coupon, so we visited the bar....when the check came, we realized that free drinks meant non-alcoholic.  Oops.  

III. Camping du Lac to Camping Le Petit Nice

Parking for pregnant ladies only outside a grocery store.  

Cement airplane.  Brian told me he thinks it has something to do with the Spirit of St. Louis...but I think he is full of crap.  

On this day we decided to split our group.  Julie and I were having trouble keeping up with Marlene and Brian.  On previous days we had tried picking points to meet during the day but ended up losing each other.  So this day we decided to meet at our end destination - Le Petit Nice Campground.  We picked it solely based on the name.  

By miracle, Julie and I beat Marlene and Brian (they took a 20km detour and went swimming in the ocean).  When we first checked in to the campground we were not that impressed.  It seemed very crowded - lots of RVs and lots of kids.  But the campground is located at the beginning of the a giant sand dune named Dune of Pilat.  It turned out to be an awesome campground for several reasons.  

Reason #1: great view of the Atlantic Ocean.  Our campsite was near the bottom of this road.  

Looking down at the dune from our campground. 

Julie and I spent an hour hanging out on the dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  We were just cooling down after a hot day and waiting for Brian and Marlene to show up.  A bunch of young guys started setting up for a concert later that night.  Pictures below show a quiet bluff transformed into a concert venue.  They were an awesome band playing a range of French and American music (Prince, Chubby Checker, Cindy Lauper, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, etc...).  This is the kind of thing I dream about when bike touring.  

Here is Marlene and I as the concert is about to start.  

Reason #2: free concert

Front row seats... (yes I am drinking beer out of an old Powerade bottle).  

Sun setting and band playing.  That is our group front row.  

Our group with free style French dancer in background.  

At the beginning of the show, not many people were there.  Private viewing...


They lit off some fireworks towards the end of the show.  

Foot wash at the campsite.  

IV.  Le Petit Nice Campground to Le Canon, France

Julie and I took a shorter day and stopped in Le Canon, France.  Marlene and Brian continued on for another 25-30 miles.  We plan to meet them by bike, plane, train or automobile in a few days.  

Here is looking at Dune of Pilat on our way out of the campground.  

We went to Arcachon, France to get another ferry across the Bay of Arcachon (see map above).  We saw a guy who created these amazing animals out of sand.  He didn't speak English, but I assume he painted the sand.  Incredible.  (Yes these are all sand...including a sand banana for the sand monkey!)

On the ferry...

One last look at the giant dune from across the bay.  

V. Le Canon France to Carreyre, France (Lodging Le Lac)

A couple shots of Julie from today's ride:

Come on...catch up!

Mid day yesterday we split with Marlene and Brian. We couldn't keep up with their pace.   We will hop a train and meet them in 5 or so days.  Last night we stayed in a lackluster campground.  Crowded, lots of RVs, ants everywhere....felt like we were in Des Plaine, IL camping.  

But today we found our bike angel: 

We have found that aiming for lakes leads to great campgrounds.  Today we headed for the two lakes near Lacanau that you can see on the map above.  Our bike angel pointed us to this great campground (with tree houses!):

The inside had a little trampoline surface.  It was nice not to have to set up the tent for one night.  The lake was right across the road from our campground.  

I have been collecting data on what makes for a good bike trip.  Here is what it boils down to: 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Spain Bike trip

June 27 - July 4

We pick up the journey in the city of Bilbao, Spain.  

I. Bilbao, Spain to Deba, Spain

Hospital/immediate care center on the way to Bilbao (Chicago Bulls??):

Some cool photos of Bilbao:

Two days in a row I stumbled upon "street music." This was some sort of fundraiser for the "Walk on Project." Not sure what that is.  But they had a whole riverfront fair with games, food, a zip line and this 10 piece jazz band (in the distance).  

Cool spider outside Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum. 

Some great graffiti/street art, including this 3-4 story high piece. 

Bilbao has a free architecture museum which has a glass bottom swimming pool on the top floor that looks down at the first floor.  My pictures do not do it justice, use your imagination. 

Lots of gay pride posters and banners.  I am unsure if this is in response to the Orlando shooting or there is always this display. 

Love old churches and cemeteries.  This said it was the entrance to a cemetery...but there was no cemetery.  Maybe there used to be one. 

This is what happens when I order lunch in Spanish.  Thought I ordered a hamburger.  In their defense, there is a hamburger included with this heart attack plate.  Also came with ice cream. #fatamerican

Nice balls:

Marlene, Brian and Julie arrived.  3 more bikes to assemble.  Julie's bike with Brian coaching from couch of our AirBnB. 

Brian tackling Marlene's bike: 

Our AirBnB in Bilbao had these umbrella/canopies to hang drying laundry under.  Funny to see laundry hanging out 6 floors up. 

Beers in Bilbao with Brian and a member of some boy band in the background: 

Some large flower-dog-statue in Bilbao, Spain. 

Possibly the coolest merry-go-round ever! Notice the hand crank to operate it.  

Cool house on the Bay of Biscay, only had a footpath to it...what a view they wake up to. 

Bike repair near the Bay of Biscay.  The first two days saw us repair/adjust Julie's headset (handlebars), gearing, switch seats, remove a fender that was rubbing and I ripped off some piece of plastic near the rear cassette that was also rubbing.  Think we got the bike in proper working order....

View from our campground outside Deba, Spain - over looking the Bay of Biscay.  

II. Deba, Spain to San Sebastián, Spain

If you look closely, France is in sight.  This turned to be a very steep ride.  We did the first 40ish kilometers in one day and then finished the ride to San Sebastián on the next day (which turned out to be rainy).  

Some photos from this stretch: 

Stopped in this seaside town (Getaria) for a rest.  

Resting by a bank:

Julie and Brian looking for the nearest bar: 

First injury: Julie fell and skinned her knee on day 2 riding as a group.  But..she got back on and rode another 25 miles (mostly uphill).  #spiritaward

Marlene pointing to yet another church. No shortages of churches and cathedrals in Spain.  

Look how angelic my sister is in the church.  

A unique depiction of Jesus - speared and curly hair.  Never seen this version.  

Donkey close-up...he was laughing at us as we tried to biked up a steep hill. 

Rainy but short bike ride into San Sebastián. 

We heard music upon getting into San Sebastián.  Turns out there was a Crossfit competition going on by the beach....with a wedding in the background....with a motorcycle rally driving by.  The wedding party was not happy with the music and noise from the Crossfit competition.  But it was good people watching for us. 

After camping and biking in the rain, we checked into Hotel Terminus in San Sebastián.  Here are the bikes lined up outside the hotel while we check in...Marlene and Brian in the back.

Intimate street art in San Sebastián. 

Bike parking only:

We visited a really cool wooden boat building museum.

Back story:  Brian is a shipwright who does a lot of work at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle.  A few years ago, he met a guy named Markos who was from San Sebastián, Spain and was interested in starting a similar museum in San Sebastián. 

Well the museum is in existence and they are currently involved with a lengthy project (years) to recreate a whaling ship from the 1500s.  We visited (unfortunately Markos was out of town - coincidentally in the U.S.) The whaling ship used to sail from northern Spain to New Foundland to hunt whales and bring the whale oil back.  It sunk in the late 1500s near Canada.  

The guys at the boat center are building an exact replica (down to the rope, fasteners, etc...) and plan to sail it to New Foundland when complete.  They will sail it as it was in the 1500s (clothes, food, etc...).  The scale of the project is huge.  Here are some pictures of what it looks like:  

Brian talking to Peter who is a carpenter from Florida.  Peter has been volunteering/working on the boat for two years. 

The hull/frame

Museum sign:

Bird's eye view of the work area:

Poster of original ship

Scale model of the original ship.  Hard to imagine they are going to create a huge version of this:

Look alike alert: 

Walking back from the boat museum, I spotted this poster in an alley...

...which looks exactly like Phil, the life partner of my niece Laurie.  The "real" Phil:

"real" Phil and Laurie together:

Waves crashing onto the sidewalk in San Sebastián.

More graffiti/art. 

III. San Sebastián, Spain to Bidart, France

Looking down at some city on the way to Bidart. 

Jules after a long climb....

Marlene seeking shade...

That is France across the river!!!

We took a short, 5 minute ferry across some water way to enter France.  No immigration or passport check in Europe.