Portugal

In order to pack a bike with you and carry it on an airplane  to start a ’round the world bike trip one must first break the entire bike down. I’m talking both wheels removed and deflated, handlebars removed, peddles taken off because otherwise it is too wide. Once everything that can be removed is, its time to cushion the hell out of it. Bubble wrap the derailleur, wrap pool noodles around the frame and any exposed parts, and basically pad any area that might be an issue so that it doesn’t get damaged in the travel process. Then slide into a small cardboard box where everything is snug and cozy for the next day and a half hoping that everything goes smoothly and it makes it there okay.

In order to fly over seas to start a ’round the world bike trip, one must be entirely broken down. I’m talking emotionally broken to the point that if you have to say goodbye to one more person you might just break down and lose it. Once all your goodbyes are said and you’ve given your best friend/dog away to a good home with your dad its time to fly 3,000 miles away to a foreign place where everything, including the language, is different. Slide into a small uncomfortable plane seat where you’re nice a cozy next to your traveling buddy for the next day and a half hoping that everything goes smoothly and you make it there okay.

____________________

Shaking, nervous, anxious and excited we quickly put our bikes together in the Lisbon International Airport baggage claim. I could feel myself building back up after months of fear and sadness from saying goodbye as i built this pile of steel back into the machine that would take me around the world. Not knowing a lick of Portuguese, josh and i set out into Lisbon blindly looking for our hostel that we had booked a week ago. Almost immediately we were separated. Josh had his phone with gps. I had my bike and a thought of never finding this hostel, being stuck in Lisbon and living off the streets playing covers of american songs i played on a guitar i made myself. Frustrated and lost after a few hours of attempting to communicate without knowing the language and searching for street signs that apparently don’t exist, i eventually ran into Daniel and his girlfriend who could speak english well enough to get by. They were able to use their smart phone to locate the nations hostel and walked me 15 minutes in the right direction talking basketball and the city of Porto where he was from. I thought if everyone i meet on this trip are half as nice as Daniel then this will be easy. With walky talky in hand i heard josh’s voice come thru, “STRIDER YOU THERE?? COME IN!” holy shit thank god. he eventually was able to lead me to the hostel thanks to a yellow crane in the sky as a vantage point. There he was, the only blonde in Portugal sticking his head out of a 3 story window with binoculars and radio in hand.

Roughly one million stairs up to our hostel and back into our room. The rooms wasn’t much bigger than the closet under the stairs where josh spent the last 6 months living. This closet however had a bunk-bed, lamp, and a window that opened out to the city. It was perfect. Especially considering next door was a convenience store that sold, yes, 2 euro bottles of wine! We splurged and each bought one in celebration of not sleeping on the streets and making our 8 km bike ride from the airport  to our hostel. Two attractive girls from the Netherlands next door were not as impressed with ourselves as we were at the moment. drunkenly trying to have fun with them when all they wanted to do was be alone in their rooms. Lack of sleep from the airplane, excitement, and a bottle and a half of wine each we were slightly intoxicated. i felt, as one does, the need to urinate urgently as we hung out in our modestly sized room. The empty wine bottle in the corner of the room seemed to be as good of a place as any and was way more convenient than walking out our room door and slightly down the hall to the appropriate facility. As I poured the warm liquid out of the red wine bottle, out the window and onto the outside wall i heard a girl laughing from outside. When i glanced to my right i could now see the Netherlands girls standing on their balcony watching the whole act.

DCIM100GOPRO
Nation’s Hostel

 

You’re gonna love Lisbon! You probably wont even leave!!

Well we left. Call it embarrassment from the night before or call it excitement to get on the road and start our journey. Either way we were on our way and instantly got lost.

“lets stick together this time”

We bought a road map of Portugal in the gas station up the street that was pretty much useless in preventing us from traveling in circles and continually getting lost and frustrated.

“people don’t stay in Lisbon because its beautiful, they stay cause its impossible to navigate your way out…”

Once we got out and were on one road north towards Spain the countryside started to open up and our spirits grew. Passing through towns like Villa Franca where the houses and buildings are close to the road and the streets are made of hundred year old stones vibrating through our wheels. Still not knowing any Portuguese whatsoever, we rode over roads that gradually went up in elevation and back down. Cruising past small goat farms and sheep that probably knew more of the language than we did. To the west were rolling mountains and the east vast vineyards that would hopefully eventually be made into another 2 euro bottle of wine for me to drink The town of Alenquer would soon be passed to our left. A whole uniform town of white buildings and orange rooftops with a cathedral at the highest point of this cliffside. Unreal. Still hasn’t set in that were in a whole other continent 3,000 miles from home. We would eventually bike down a winding gorgeous road of mostly downhill passing unbelievable sights of old buildings, landscapes and animals on what josh called “the greatest stretch of road he has ever biked”. That night we would camp in a patch of woods around the corner from an abandoned house from the early 1900’s and set up our tents for our first stealth camp and night on the road in Portugal. I fell asleep next to bamboo stalks with a dwindling fire, no rainfly on my tent, staring at the stars with fireflies in the near distance and the quiet sounds of tchaikovsky playing on my solar powered radio until it eventually went out.

DCIM100GOPRO
Abandoned house near campsite

 

There was misty rain in the morning as we set out. A nice lady opening her shop saw us filling our water and said “Bom Dia!”

“hey that must mean good morning!” we laughed

Cold wet morning mixed with breaks in cement busstops for warmth, however the cement made it like a mini fridge. We didn’t care as we stuffed our face with baguettes with nutella and bananas. Later on that day we happened upon an oceanside restaurant on the ocean overlooking cliffs and an empty beach with what must have been from a distance 10-15 ft waves. Extreme highs when doing this sort of thing. We didn’t have to say a thing, but josh did.

“This shit is free..”GOPR0357.JPGGOPR0352.JPG

 

Round-abouts are everywhere here and the more your ride them, the more they become second nature. Important points: Read the signs ahead of time and stay the hell out of everyone’s way. However i can tell you one time in particular when josh and i were each waiting for each other  about ten miles away from where we thought the other would meet us for hours.

I decided to wait on the other side of the bridge for josh. The most comfortable looking place to spread out my sleeping pad to sit on was a grassy spot in the middle of the roundabout with a small patch of shade. The thumbs up started immediately and my stress for where josh could be seems to vanish instantly. Honk! something in Portuguese. Honk! thumbs up.. Honk! “Peace dude!” in a Portuguese accent, If ever you’re feeling down and need a little pick me up, sit in the middle of a roundabout in Portugal with a bike and a bunch of crap.20160526_165937_resized

                                                             Roundabout waiting for josh

No matter what, this trip in its early stages has been amazing, No matter if its struggling to go up hill or riding downhill at 25 mph with a cool breeze in your face. Riding past a cow farm where the scent of rotting shit fills your nose or a field of yellow daisies and wildflowers in every color fills your vision. From meeting people like David in Lisbon and Joseph, the 62 year old German who rides around the border of Spain and Portugal every year for the past 5 years and gave us a great idea for a route in France. From the panic of not knowing where were going to sleep with only an hour before dark to stumbling upon the most amazing campsite like when we slept in, what i call, the avenue of the giants without the giants. Gorgeous landscapes, incredible old beautiful cities with bridges over water and towns on cliffsides. The extreme ups and downs. The “simplicity simplicity simplicity” of eating bread fruit and wine and riding a bicycle. Eat, sleep, bike, repeat. Tomorrow we’ll ride over the bridge and over the border into Spain. Portugal you were amazing, you were beautiful, you were welcoming, and a great transition/first chapter into this journey.

“this shit is free….”  -Josh Sewell

DCIM100GOPRO
josh hates selfies

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO
Porto, Portugal

DCIM100GOPRO

 

Advertisements

In and out of Portugal

Portugal was a flash, maybe like an emotion from a vivid dream you try to hold onto the whole next day. As I write this I am sitting in northern Portugal, but in about 20 minutes of riding we will be in Spain. After assembling the bikes in the Lisbon Airport baggage claim area we rode to a hostel I booked a few nights previous. Although saying we just rode to the hostel would cheapen the experience quite a bit. We got lost, separated and after several hours of fumbling through the twisted streets with no names we made it to the hostel. I made it there first and after carrying my bicycle and panniers up 4 stories I collapsed on the bed exhausted from not sleeping in maybe 24 hours. But, I knew I couldn’t fall asleep yet. I turned on the two way radios Jason and I bought and I stuck my head out the window overlooking the red cobblestone street. “Jason, you come in!” Here I am leaning out the window holding a walky talky and frantically looking through a pair of binoculars. If the girl that checked me into the hostel didn’t already think i was weird, all it would take was for her to see this. Jason found his way and we went for a walk. We got lost again and decided that the safest thing would be to make our way back, drink 1 euro bottles of wine and listen to the radio.

DCIM100GOPRO
Lisbon

We were going to stay another day but decided that those few hours we spent getting lost and drunk on wine in the city were enough. We saddled up and started trudging our way out of Lisbon. Once out of city limits and on country roads any anxiety we had was lifted. You may notice we do not have many pictures of Lisbon, there is a reason for that, we were trying to get out of there as soon as possible. Cities are not friendly places for bikes. Camping has been incredible, every evening we have been fortunate to find great stealth spots. Our total lodging cost for the entirety of Portugal: $20.30 euro. After riding many miles through skinny village roads, down into vineyards then back up into more skinny village roads we made it to the coast. It is difficult to describe the majesty of the cliffs and the perfect 15 foot groundswell slamming up against the stone walls. So here is a picture.

DCIM100GOPRO
Jason about to be swallowed by the sea.

I ended up getting food poisoning on day 3. I in no way can blame any particular restaurant on the count of we have yet to eat in any. We have sourced all of our food so far from markets. Turns out meat and cheese doesn’t last as long in the panniers as I had hoped. I stayed up for most of the night shaking and vomiting by a big fire Jason had built. Slow recovery the next day but we were still able to do some miles.

Yesterday morning we went through Porto and crossed a breathtaking bridge. Porto is possibly the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It would have been lovely to stay for a few days to loiter in cafes and get lost in the streets. But being on bikes and anxious from the city and not speaking a lick of Portuguese ( not even “hello” for the first 2 days) we decided to hoof it out of the city asap. There is a certain terror that comes with biking through a city no matter how stunning it is. Maybe one day I’ll go back to Porto, get a hotel overlooking the river and drink too much wine and write a book, but for now I will keep biking. On to Spain I suppose.

DCIM100GOPRO
Porto

Key West (on second thought)

Click.

As i flipped off the first light of 7 in my now empty key west apartment of the past year and a half a thought of how I might actually miss this place after all creeped into my head. Before this moment the normal everyday thought was fuck this place with all its mindless tourists and over priced groceries. Fuck this place with its over population and high priced rent. Fuck my job where I’m forced to work 14 hours a day for 6-7 days a week. But now, as i turned out the light and walked out of my bedroom and into the upstairs hall I began to feel a bit nostalgic.

Click.

The light was now out in the hallway where I walked everyday past the laundry room and down the stairs and finally out into the world that is key west. I thought about when i first moved in. Full of optimism and happy feelings about the upcoming times. My coworkers used to get annoyed at the fact that my over all opinion was usually something along the lines of “Man, this job is awesome! why is everyone so down all the time? Were on a boat in paradise!” But as the time past i became one of them. An ungrateful, self centered asshole drowned by the over bearing, never ending work and lack of time to do anything for myself. Id go out, wake up hungover and struggle through the next day until this became a part of my life. Finally ceasing to go out at all and becoming even more “anti-keywest”. However, at this particular moment i was feeling sentimental about the good times. Almost that feeling one gets when thinking about that horrible ex girlfriend from years ago that cheated on you. “She wasn’t that bad, I miss the way she smelled” In hindsight, my job was incredible. I had an opportunity to be the center of attention, to be “the show” and talk about my past stories with the most absorbent audience. I would swim in the beautiful ocean every single day and occasionally see sharks, stingrays, and turtles. I could walk up, at anytime, to a beautiful girl in a bikini with no fear and maybe even get a phone number. (Tourists love local boys with long hair)

Click.

I walked down the stairs to the first floor. Past the newly repaired chew marks on the corners of the baseboards where my dog Mila had chewed probably thinking that her best friend might never com back from work. I thought about the times her and i had gone to the dog park and she would get all the dogs to chase her at full sprint to finally lay next to me in the shade panting.

Click.

Another light out. Time has been going fast. After the past few months that seemed to drag on longer than ever, this last couple weeks has flown by faster than ever.

Click.

Click.

One light remained. As I stood in the doorway about to shut the light out and close the door for a final time i though, this is it. One week and I leave Key West for an undetermined amount of time. One week and all the good that is here will only be a memory. Warm climate all year long. Countless bars open till 4am. I thought about the “snow days” we’d have when it would rain all day and we’d all go day drinking cause the trips were cancelled. I thought about the great friendships i had made at work and the amount of laughter throughout the day. The sunsets and looking for the green flash that would never come. I even thought about Tomas and Austin, the brothers who i feuded with who wished me well, but said i would never make it on this bike trip. So many good times. So much love, but so ready to go. Even after all my angst towards this place, it turns out i would actually miss it. Maybe ill see you someday in the future key west, but for now its over. i love you.

Click.