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Mike's Around-The-World Trip Update #2 - 4.12.2004
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"so what does it mean when they wave their white
handkerchiefs?" i asked.

"it means they want him to get one trophy, which is
one ear from the bull," said Bernardo from Eucador.

"cool. why did he get that and not the last guy?"

"because this matador had a good fight and killed the
bull with the first stab of his sword," responded my
eager teacher.

"cool," i said under my breath as the matador strutted
slowly around the ring waving his "trophy" to the
adoring crowd.

...a little excerpt of my conversation with the
english-speaking Bernardo while at a bullfight in
Plaza De Toros in Sevilla, Spain on Easter Sunday.

greetings from madrid, spain!! it is 11am in the
morning here on monday, april 12 - i offer you now an
update on what i´ve been doing since i last left you
in london:

i ditched my backpack at my buddy andrew´s place and
loaded all my stuff into two disposable shopping bags.
i threw the gig-bag for my travel guitar on my back
and headed for the train station. i caught a train to
bridgwater, somerset, england where they make the best
touring bicycles in the world at st. john´s street
cyclery. i had put a deposit on a bike there, a thorn
nomad, and was off to pick it up on tuesday, march
30th.

i got there after getting directions at the bridgwater
train station and within minutes was watching the
construction of the bike that was to transport me and
my stuff thousands of miles across europe. for those
who don´t know, for the europe leg of my trip i plan
to cycle the entire way, save for an occasional train.
my planned route is something like: england, france,
spain, morocco, portugal, spain, france, ireland,
scotland, iceland, norway, sweden, finland, sweden,
denmark, germany, netherlands, belgium,
france.......i´m flying from paris to new mexico for
my buddy jason´s wedding in july so i hope to complete
the route by then (perhaps with the help of a train)
or continue it when i get back...anyway....

i bought all the things a bike needs (like bags to
hold my stuff, a bike computer to track my progress)
and all the things a person needs (helmet, gloves,
pants) to ride said bike and took off. this part of
england, the southwest, is gorgeous. it was a perfect
day, cloudless sky, approximately 60 degrees, the bike
felt great, i felt great....all i needed was a
direction to ride. i got a map of southwest england
and a map of france and headed toward the english
channel where i could catch a ferry to france in a
couple days. with the help of a detailed map, i biked
down long-forgotten yet well-paved roads over rolling
hills, past pastures filled with grazing sheep, over
small bridges spanning narrow canals, past castles
perched on grassy peaks...amazing. i had two full
water bottles and by the time i settled for the night
(in crewkerne, england about 30 miles down the road) i
had sucked them dry. i am in good shape but this
biking takes something extra which you only develop by
biking out on the open road; the months in the gym on
the bike-machine didn´t quite emulate the real deal.
i took a hot, hot bath in my hotel room (a splurge for
me since i usually stay in hostels or camp, but i
figured i earned it) i hit the sack.

i woke up the next day and headed for weymouth,
dorset, england where i could catch the ferry
according to someone i met at a country pub called
dinnington docks the day before. i wanted to see the
english channel asap and figured the coast would be
lovely to bike along so i headed for bridport, dorset,
england where i could pick up the road to weymouth.
the route was rough once i got to the coast. later
that night when i described my route to the owner of
the b & b i stayed at he said, "my god man! that´s
nothing but hills!". "i know this now," i said as i
dragged my half-dead carcass up the stairs to take
another bath. i biked about 45 miles that day and it
was all uphill - i swear to you - it was ALL UPHILL.

i spent two nights in weymouth since the ferry to st.
malo, france didn´t leave until friday morning and it
was only wednesday. my legs were happy for the rest.
weymouth was great - it served as a launching point
for many of the boats that stormed normandy which lay
just across the english channel. normandy is like a
county, an area of france - it´s not a town like i had
thought.

i took the ferry over on friday to st. malo - what a
town. it´s an old medieval city right on the coast.
it has a high wall all around it and up against the
ocean. long-dormant cannons face out toward would-be
invaders. i busted out my map of france (the wrong
kind of map to use for a bike trip) and headed for
dinan, france. the area, or county, or departmente as
the french call it, i was in is called brittany, or
little britain, or as the french call it, le bretagne.
i said my map was the wrong map because it was way
too general; almost every town i passed through was
not on the map. later i bought a michelin map
specific to brittany and found all the roads and
little towns i sought. i biked to spectacular dinan
and spent the night at a hostel.

the next day i biked to rennes. cycling along at
about 20 kilometers per hour on a bike path into the
city a 6 inch curb decided to jump out at me. i
looked up and it was there. i nailed it. i fell off
my bike to the side, my water bottles went flying and
i yelled "SHHHHIIIITTTTT!!!!!" i had not seen the
curb coming, i was in a bike lane for god´s sake. the
bike looked ok but then i heard: sssssssssssssssssss,
i watched dejectedly as my front tire went flat.
"well that´s what i bought a repair kit for," i
thought to myself as another ssssssssssss started up.
that was my back tire going flat. it started to rain.
crux. i looked for a cd player to throw in jeremy´s
cd. instead i set to work repairing my tires. the
repair kit didn´t work on the massive tears in my
tubes so i used my only two replacement inner tubes
and got back on the road. i spent the night in dumpy
rennes at a youth hostel.

i woke up the next day with a long ride ahead. i
needed to get to madrid, spain by tuesday where
stephanie would be waiting for me. to do that, i
needed to catch a train from nantes, france to
bordeaux, france and then from bordeaux to madrid,
spain. wasn´t sure if tickets were available - i
certainly didn´t have any....i was winging it. i rode
65 miles to le garve, france where i camped for the
night just outside a national forest.

i headed for nantes, only about 25 miles away in the
morning. i got there (extremely sweaty) two hours
before the train to bordeaux. i changed into civilian
clothes at the train station and cleaned up a bit. i
hopped on the train and was in bordeaux, france 4
hours later. i couldn´t catch a train that night
(since i didn´t yet have a bag for my bike; you need
to take apart and bag your bike on the high-speed
trains), so i bought a ticket for the next afternoon
and went off to find a hostel. i bought a bottle of
bordeaux wine for 4 bucks to take to spain. i met a
couple fellow youth-hostelers, one from germany and
one from canada. the canadian helped me buy a bike
bag the next day and later we played aerobie in the
yard of a giant cathedral. i caught the train to
spain later that afternoon......

i shall end there - i will update you on the amazing
spain trip next time...this is getting far too long.

i am cycling toward morocco starting tomorrow - i will
update when i can. keep your emails coming, i enjoy
the news from home. sorry if i haven´t responded to
some of your emails, it´s been hard to find the time.

happy easter.

keep on keepin´on,
mike

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