Portugal & Spain -2016
Well quite a lot has happened since my return back from the USA at the end of May.
For once I left myself a good spell at home before tackling the first tour of the year (for me) to Spain and Portugal.
It was fortunate that I did, as we had first take a ride up to the beautiful Borders to see Alison and collect the office computer and paperwork. Alison did a brilliant job of running the office whilst I was away and I was tempted to leave the job in her hands all the time, but of course she and Roy have a busy business of their own (Coldstream Bike Training) teaching people how to ride and pass their tests.
Alison did however shed a little tear having to go back to her laptop after being spoilt with the 24’ desktop I use. (My eyes are not what they used to be you know.)
Also waiting for me was a new (to me) bike. I had asked a friend to look out for a 2nd hand Pan European and he found a 2009 with just 14k on the clock. I just had time to get it checked over, satnav fitted, taxed and insured before taking it to Portugal. I am pleased to say it behaved immaculately and on my return I gave it a special treat of a 16,000 service and change to my personalised plate D6 WRT.
I considered many bikes before going for another Pan, there is no doubt they are very heavy to push around, but for my job they really do take some beating. The other alternative is a BMW, great bikes, but as people know I am not a fan of the boxer engine. Having said that I have just seen a limited edition Red RT in Jefferies, Shipley and it was stunning, but perhaps not 20k stunning !!
You will be pleased to know that my previous Pan has gone to a good home, as I sold it to Roy and Alison who will be using it for tours. To say the bike has done 126K it is still a joy to ride and I am sure will serve Roy well for many years.
So onto the Portugal and Spain tour, I was really looking forward to this tour until checking the weather prior to departure and finding that courtesy of the Jetstream the whole of Europe was due for a soaking. However, the lure of lovely hotels, good food and some fantastic roads overrode all this and I gaily set off for Plymouth. We had a dry run down, until admiring the bowling green on Plymouth Hoe when the heavens opened as if to give us a warning of things to come!
Good crossing, but dull, low cloud and light rain on our arrival in Santander. But I have seen this many times before and as usual, after 75 miles we passed through the mountains into the plains and a found a funny yellow thing in the sky.
Good night at our first Parador many familiar faces and new people to meet, you always get a feeling for a group and it was obvious that this was going to be a good one.
Bit grey but dry the next day and we were soon enjoying some great biking roads as we rode west – unfortunately into the rain which came to meet us. Fortunately the clouds rolled back in the evening allowing everyone to see the reason for choosing the hotel – which has fantastic views.
Wet before we started the next day, but the weather slowly improved as we rode down the beautiful Douro valley with its fantastic ‘Rhine Valley style’ vineyards home too many famous Port wines with the ‘Sandeman ‘figure towering over the valley. Our day ended in the Star Mountains, highest in Spain they were covered in cloud, but those who chickened out like me and went down the motorway stayed in the sun and dry, whilst the young and foolish (sorry I mean intrepid) went over the top and reported poor visibility, freezing temperatures and sleet!
We arrived at the hotel to be presented with room keys with not only our names on, but a picture of the bike we were riding – now that is what I call attention to detail.
The following day many stayed by the hotel, enjoying the beautiful pool, massages and general pampering (well they were on holiday). Foolishly I thought I would do our normal run over the mountain and found that the conditions were just the same – but once down the other side had a great ride on the roads that make this area so good. Unfortunately we did find the road blocked due to a landslide, but not to be beaten we slid round the edge of the barrier – ( see picture gallery for Uncle John’s worried face).
The ride from the mountains back to Northern Spain was great; it really is a fantastic road that had everyone grinning from ear to ear.
Along the way we had a local rider come alongside gesturing that the group should follow him for a coffee at his place. Now I have always been told not to talk to strangers, but he seemed very amicable and a biker, so we followed him into the historic town of Pinhel.
We twisted and turned through the narrow streets until arriving at the clubhouse of the rider’s gang…I mean club. The club was Motoclube Falcoes da Estrade. I forget how many members they have but it was a lot, and the clubhouse had its own bar, games room and even a glass covered 8 metre well!
Our host generously fixed everyone up with coffee and soft drinks and insisted giving one of their club mascots to some of our riders who belonged to a biking club in the UK. We in turn bought several of the club T shirts as souvenirs. His English was barely better than my Portuguese and so he called in two of the local ladies from the Ministry of Culture to translate (stunning or what!)
With still many miles to do we reluctantly left, being put back on the route by our hijack rider who indicated that the road was a ‘little curvy’ – he was not wrong!
Our journey continued into Spain and the Picos De Europa via the Riano reservoir. I was delighted to see that is was full for the first time in many years. When we visited last September it was so empty that you could see the old road and bridge uncovered. But of course it was full.... it was raining again……. Happily it was short lived and the remaining time in the Picos was stunning .
So despite the initial poor weather, things bucked up and we had another memorable tour. We had a really good group of people who all gelled together to create a great relaxed atmosphere. I have to pay a special tribute to the people, who rode with me, rarely have I had such a ‘together’ group – thanks for making my life so easy.