Medina del Campo, Spain: After a weekend rejuvenating and recalibrating in Salamanca, this morning I hopped back on Bubba Too to continue my journey across Europe. With a clean bike, clean clothes, clean shave and polished leather saddle, I felt like a new man as I exited Salamanca. I made it across the Castill countryside to the ancient village of Medina del Campo in under four hours. For a journey of 84 km this represents a decent touring pace for me.
Along the way I stopped in the town of Araejos for a water refill and chocolate donut, and chatted with some amigos just shooting the bull on the street. They were amazed I am headed to Istanbul and even more amused by the bell on my bike, which I seldom get to show off.
I also spent some time in the town of Nava Del Rey, which has one of the more interesting churches I have seen on this trip — and by now I’ve seen my share of churches. Nava Del Rey is a quiet town with a pulse. There was a clothing street market and people were sitting in cafes, on park benches, and just strolling about. It’s the kind of small place where I imagine everyone knows everyone and everything.
Medina del Campo was originally founded by the Arabs a millennium ago. It’s a pretty town in the middle of farming country. The ranches which punctuated the landscape on my approach to Salamanca have given way to crop farmlands, especially wheat and vineyards. Today the Festival of San Antonio, a Christian fiesta dating from the middle ages, was celebrated in the town square. I wasn’t aware they had bouncy castles and whale balloons during the middle ages, but you learn something every day.
My plan is to reach the northern coast of Spain by the weekend. Tomorrow I go to Venta de Banos, which is a convenient mid-way point to Burgos and its famed cathedral, which I will visit on Wednesday. I will arrive in Bilbao on Friday.
Here are a few tricks this itinerant cyclist uses to plan my routes and navigate:
Mapquest is my primary information source. I use Mapquest to plot out my routes using secondary roads. Usually I am planning up to three days in advance on a rolling basis, so if I get caught without internet access on any given day I am not in too much trouble. In terms of navigation, my Garmin GPS hasn’t worked since last Friday and the device has malfunctioned in some form on almost every day. Which is a long way of saying that I am not dependent on GPS. It’s great when it works, but it’s just not reliable. I now use the Cyclemeter app on my Iphone to record distance and to graph my elevation changes.
I navigate by towns. Every evening, courtesy of Mapquest, I write down all the towns and roads that I will pass through to get to my destination, using road signs as the primary markers. If I do my homework correctly I do not need to refer to a physical map during the day. This is very different from my trip across the US, when we navigated by distance.
I also research hotels online, and aim to stay in towns that have at least two viable lodging options and hotels that have some character. I check rates and availabilities online, and usually call ahead to my preferred hotel to make a verbal reservation without a credit card guarantee. This works well, and about half the time I can get a rate better than the best internet rate.
Day 9 summary: Salamanca – Medina del Campo, Spain
Day 9 distance: 84.5 km
Day 9 ascent: 200m (informed estimate from Cyclemeter on Iphone. Garmin GPS not working. Dammit.)
Terrain: mostly flat, some gentle hills
Weather: hot and sunny with clear blue skies
Distance: 645.93 km
Climbing: 5112 meters
Number of rest days: 2
Number of police interactions: 1