Palencia, Spain: When I was growing up I used to watch a cheesy television series called “Lost in Space.” I just created the 2011 reality version of this show, “Lost in Espana.” Cycling through Spain was going so unusually well until I found myself mired in a massive Spanish pothole named Valladolid , a northern industrial city and transportation hub which I was hoping to circumvent. I knew getting around Valladolid would be a headache. I was right.
I found myself cycling on a ring road on the city’s perimeter. It was just before noon and traffic was heavy. As I was trying to find the VA-20 road which I had so carefully plotted the night before, it occurred to me – duh! – that I was looking for an AutoVia, one of three types of highways in Spain for which bicycles and tractors are expressly forbidden.
So I stopped, pulled out the map, retrieved my reading glasses, and squinted to find any little squiggly line emanating northward from Valladolid that I might take. I found one, toward the suburb of Cigales, and decided that’s where I would head.
I stopped at several gas stations to ask and confirm directions for the road to Cigales. I travelled about halfway around the city on the ring road when I found myself at the convex of not one, but three highways, all of them unwelcoming to cyclists.
It was a fine mess, with traffic whizzing by in all directions. I eventually made it to a nearby hotel to ask for directions in English. They also did not know the small road way to Cigales. At this point I had been trying to get out of Valladolid for over two hours.
I went back to that convex of highways to see if there’s any small road which I had missed. There was one, unmarked, and next to a Michelin factory. I followed the road through a sleepy town behind the factory and continued and continued until the pavement stopped. And then I continued some more, hoping that the dirt road would somehow lead out-of-town. It was a dead-end.
Upon retracing my path back I met a cyclist who quickly understood my dilemma and led me to a small dirt bike path nearby, next to the Canal de Castilla that ran parallel to the highway north.
I finally exited the major industrial city of Valladolid on a dirt path.
About ten kilometers north, I crossed a bridge over the canal and over the highway and was on the road to Cigales with the intent to find a patchwork of small roads from Cigales to Venta de Banos, my original destination. I passed through Cigales without stopping, and through other small villages in the beautifully quiet Castill countryside, Spain’s heartland.
At the small village of Trigueros, a town of only a couple hundred people, people perked up as the wayward American cycled into the town square. I don’t think Trigueros gets too many visitors, which is a shame because the city has a pretty church on a hill and a castle to boot. But then again, so do most towns in Spain. I stopped to recalibrate. There were a few amigos drinking wine in the early afternoon in the village’s only bar-café. We found a common language through French and they advised me there’s no way I can get to Venta de Banos without going on the highway. They got their regional maps of the area and spread them out on café tables,, discussing various route options and the challenges of each option.
So on the spot I decided to change course and head for the larger city of Palencia. The amigos thought that was a sensible idea and told me the straightforward directions three times so I would not get lost. They insisted I have a drink with them before I took off. I had a coke, we shook hands and said adios.
On this journey I want to follow my nose, and go where the road takes me. Today it took me to Palencia, a city I had not planned to visit and knew nothing about. It was a beautiful, hilly, and quiet ride to Palencia and perhaps one of the highlights of the whole trip, passing through small villages and the golden countryside.
Once in Palencia I rode around for about half an hour until I found a hotel that seemed ok, and went in and got a room. It was that easy. Today was the first day of this journey that I did not end up where I intended. There will be many more such days, I am sure. But hopefully tomorrow is not one of them.
Day 10 summary (Tuesday, June 14): Medina del Campo – Palencia, Spain
Day 10 distance: 115.53 km
Day 10 ascent: 682 meters
Weather: hot and sunny with clear blue skies
Distance: 761.46 km
Climbing: 5,794 meters
Number of rest days: 2
Number of police interactions: 1