Europe and Turkey 2013

The Continuing Adventures of Myrtle the Turtle


Valls and Lleida

Date: October 31 and November 1, 2013

Today's Mileage: 79 Total Mileage: 952

Garmin Info:

Vilanova to Valls to Lleida


Happy Halloween! Suprisingly, Halloween is celebrated in Spain although differently than the US. There isn't any trick or treating. Instead, there is a festival in the street with costumes where chestnuts are roasted and they eat sweet potatoes. It was fun to see kids dressed in costumes.

I woke up at 7 am at the Bombers in a foul mood after a night of minimal sleep. Omar was already up getting his bike packed. I made us some oatmeal and a cup of coffee. Even though the shift changes at 7 am, most of the guys we met the night before had stayed to see us off. I really enjoyed these guys and I think the feeling was mutual. Omar was impatiently waiting for me to get ready. At 8 he was pushing me to get going saying the Bombers didn't want us to hang out. They were all very chatty in the morning taking pictures of the bikes and I couldn't see that they were bothered or wanted us to leave.

I had charged up my new Acer tablet over night and was having trouble getting on line. A brand new tablet and it wouldn't connect to the wifi - bummer. Omar kept on me saying we had to leave. I don't usually get on the road before 8:30 and couldn't understand what the hurry was. I felt really rushed and this didn't help my mood.

We said goodbye to the firefighters and took off at about 8:30. Right away I thought I heard something rubbing. We hadn't even gone 2 blocks and I already had to stop and take the bags off my trike to diagnose the sound. I never did find anything and am wondering if I was hearing something on Omar's bike.



It was a beautiful day and the climbing started early. The ascents were gradual but quite long. Omar started walking. There was a lot of road construction and not many places where I could wait for him. Our lunch stop was at a small tienda where the people were super nice. We took a fun Halloween photo to post on Facebook. Omar bought a bottle of wine and we used a table in front to make our food. I don't drink while riding and passed on his wine offering. Drinking alcohol makes me groggy and lethargic. He polished off half the bottle and then took a 1/2 hour nap using a cardboard box as a sleeping mat. I asked if the tienda had wifi and got the passcode. My tablet connected this time and I was feeling a whole lot better about my purchase. When I was traveling with Kathryn, in Malaysia a year ago, we had 5 devices between us. Even though most were Apple products, they all connected differently. Sometimes devices mysteriously won't connect to wifi.

We continued on and had a very long climb up Col Cristina. Again, it was gradual but took a very long time. At the top was a restaurant and Omar suggested we pitch our tents there. It was 3 pm and we had only gone 20 miles. I figured it would be downhill the rest of the way to the next town. At least we could try the Bombers again. After a rest break in the restaurant, the ride was mostly down but then there was another very gradual hill into Valls. Omar still had to walk. It took 3 1/2 hours to go 10 miles and we arrived in Valls at 7 pm. 30 miles in 10 hours. Today we went straight to the fire station to look for accommodation. This Bombers was huge. It was a new, state of the art facility. They had the emergency radio channel playing outside over loudspeakers high up on a pole. It was so loud we could hear it a block away.

Omar pulled into the firehouse saying that he was completely fried and concerned about his high blood pressure. He had pushed his bike for hours up at least 2,000 ft. This tour was way too much for him. He thought it would be best for him to go back to Barcelona. I wasn't surprised. 250 lb bikes are simply too heavy for touring. During the day it had become clear that what Omar does and what I do are very different. Omar doesn't bike tour, he lives from his bike. He needs time everyday to sell his stuff and make money. Whenever we got to a town, he would stop, tell his story and try to make some money from whoever he could get to listen. This takes time. He bike is too heavy to do even 20 miles and have time to take care of his business. For me, I have a healthy budget and don't need to make money. 30 miles is a relatively light day and I am capable of riding much farther. I spent a lot of time waiting for Omar to tell his story, try to sell things or finish walking up a hill. Our riding styles and reasons for travel really weren't compatable. I couldn't understand why he would want to suffer so much. I also think Omar needs to go back to Barcelona to take care of his high blood pressure. This is a very serious condition that should get professional medical attention.



The experience with this Bombers was very different from last night. Most of the firemen were out on a call when we arrived and the guy who answered the door didn't have the authority to make a decision. We waited for close to an hour for the firemen to return. Omar spent a long time talking about his bike, his philosophy and the trip before we were allowed to stay. But no one said where we would stay. It felt really weird that no one was telling us where to take our stuff. Eventually, I found a guy who could speak a little English and he said we could set up tents outside. I don't know why, but it really tweaked me that there was this enormous building and we had to set up tents outside. Really guys, that's the best you can do? Not only that but the building would be locked over night with no bathroom access. This didn't exactly make me feel welcome. At least we would have a shower and be safe. They also had wifi but it was so slow it was useless. At 9 pm, the guys invited us to share a meal. Ok, now we're talking. They were much friendlier at dinner and even made us a huge bowl of pasta - very nice. There was one firefighter, Tony, who was especially freindly, spoke English and talked passionately about his paragliding experiences all over the world.

In the middle of the night the wind really kicked up. My tent was sheltered by Omar's. He woke me up saying we had to move. I rolled over saying I was alright. As soon as he moved his tent I got the full brunt of the wind and got up, grumbling and swearing, to also move my tent.

I woke up at my usual 7 am and Omar was still asleep. I packed up my gear and got ready to go. It was nice having a kitchen to leisurely cook my oatmeal and make coffee. I even did some stretching in the gym.

At about 9, Omar and I left the Bombers, said goodbye and went our separate ways. I started riding toward Lleida and he rode to the train station. So long Omar, it was very enlightening learning how you live and I wish you all the best.



I rode feeling relieved to be on my own. Omar is a nice enough guy but his style of travel was much more complicated and demanding than I had anticipated. Although I learned a lot and really appreciated experiencing another way of living, it felt good to get back to my simpler riding style.

I had a big climb up and over Col Lilla to get to my first stop - the sweet medieval town of Montblanc. It was such a nice town I thought about stopping for the day but I had only gone 7 miles. It was a holiday for Halloween and many of the big grocery stores were closed. I found smaller groceries open to pick up snacks. It was a gorgeous day but very windy mostly coming at my side. The terrain was turning more arid and it felt like I was headed to the desert. I took one road the whole day that was mostly moderate ups and downs.

The big event of the day came after a long descent. Since today was a holiday the road had been quiet. At the bottom, suddenly, there was lots of loud traffic for about 5 minutes. When the traffic passed I could hear something wasn't right with the trike. I pulled over and discovered my flag pole had come apart and the top half was dragging behind me. This is probably why traffic had slowed down. Luckily, I have el wire on my flagpole otherwise, I'm sure I would have lost the flag! Looking closer, I noticed the fiberglass piece that holds the 2 pole halves together had split at one end. This would make it difficult for the 2 halves to stay attached. I had pulled over far enough from the road to take a break and got out some snacks to give me time to think of how to do a repair. I have some duct tape which I used to support the splits and then some more to attach the middle piece to the bottom pole half. I also used some nylon string to tie around the duct tape at the place where the piece had split. I got on my trike thinking of how I could give the split fiberglass more support. It took me awhile but then I realized that zip-ties would offer the perfect solution. I stopped again and used 3 zip-ties on the middle connector piece. This way the fiberglass will still be able to move with the wind. I was very happy with my repair and think it will hold indefinitely.

The rest of the ride into Lleida was simple riding and I got there around 4:30. 49 miles in less time than it took me and Omar to ride 30. Lleida is one of the oldest cities in Catalonia. I found a hotel in the heart of the old town spending more than I wanted but I was too tired to look for anything else. After 2 nights of poor sleep with the Bombers, I needed some rest. I booked in for 2 nights to recover and check out this historic town.