ADVENTURE BY BIKE®
I’m standing, staring at an empty luggage carousel in Bordeaux, France. The belt squeaking around in circles, my co-passengers long gone, and a broken language conversation with the singular attendant reveals that our bikes are currently quite lost.
This is the first day of what is to be a three-week bikepacking trip. The plan, two weeks on the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile dirt path from the French Pyrenees to the Northwestern coast of Spain. Followed by a flight to Ireland to bike rolling green cow-laden hills. My friend and travel partner Fiona and I begin to devise an alternate plan in case the bikes don’t show. Rentals? An expensive shipment of familiar steeds? A different itinerary altogether? We decide on patience, optimism, and a bottle of red wine. It is Bordeaux after all.
We are certainly not in Minnesota anymore...
Two days and many phone calls later, we are delivered two large familiar brown boxes outside our small hotel. It is dusk and there is no space in our 10x10 pension, so we get to building our bikes on the sidewalk downtown. We are excited, laughing, and people stop with curiosity. No longer confined to the city, tomorrow we set out for open country, to a dirt path heading west.
Our hearty steeds...2014 Fargo Ti bikes in special colors...
Leaving the Basque village of St. Jean that morning, we cross the iconic archway and medieval bridge that mark the beginning of the route. I always love this moment, the first day of a trip, knowing there are many days in the saddle ahead, and that with each new day the future is unwritten. We are heading to open country, where nature is abstract, and it gets into your soul a sense of beauty.
We are just a few short blocks out of the village and straight away the road begins to lift in earnest, at first on paved road, then tightening to dirtpack and gravel switchbacks. This was supposed to be my ‘warm weather vacation’, but climbing we are wearing almost all of the clothes we packed and find ourselves crossing large snowfields lingering from an earlier storm.
Up and over the Col...
The Camino is traditionally a walking ‘pilgrimage’ taking most folks 4 to 6 weeks to complete. We will finish in 1/3 the time and never hurry. We say hello and occasionally chat with the walkers we pass, and I’m moved by their wherewithal. These are not all young athletic types, it is mixed bag of ages and abilities, some of them will make it to the end and some will not. At some point, all will have sore feet, legs, and long expanses of time to think. We see a few other cyclists as well but the number of travelers is fairly light. We intentionally chose to ride the Camino very early in the walking season to avoid the crowds seen in mid-late summer. This also makes finding lodging (hostels) easier each night as ‘wild camping’ is ‘officially’ not allowed, and walkers are given priority to beds.
Passing a trekker on trail...
After a long morning of pedaling (and pushing) our rigs, we near the top the Col. Here the clouds open to views back over distant Pyrenean foothills, and forward following the path into Spain. I’m drawn to this path and the unknown. It has always been where I find clarity, where the world makes sense, and I’m sure to return with something new.
A forested section of the Camino...and a free wine stop along the route...
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Origins: San Francisco Bay Area
Location: Minneapolis, MN (Harrison!)
Likes: Bikes, Arturo Bandini, large metal sculpture, photography, design, anything jalapeño, denim, albino squirrels, bock beer, and my backyard fire pit.
Dislikes: Television and beets.