24 February 2006

Trucking along.

Well, as you can imagine it was a long drive, it took a couple and a half days and felt a lot longer. After leaving The Netherlands I was looking at the temperature gauge on the truck and it was reading a cool 0’c and it was raining hard. Travelling through to Belgium and the rain was still strong and I was glad to be heading south to warmer weather. I had to pick up our German Soiegnier Nicole, (masseuse, hotel, food and girl wrangler) at the airport in Paris about lunchtime, the traffic in that city is worse than Auckland so I timed her flights around the quietest time that I could find. After travelling the length of Belgium the temperature had risen all the way to 3’c and was getting warmer.

Paris was busy as usual, and trying to keep my eyes on the nine lanes of traffic while trying to get the good shot of the Eiffel Tower is always difficult, I missed it for the third time, but will be back in a week or two for another try. Our destination for the day was the Bordeaux region on the southern border of France. This is where a collection of cheaper hotels hang out, so finding somewhere to sleep is easy, finding something in Spain, 200km later, at night was pushing it.

Out director Jean-Paul was following in the new team car which we had picked up just the day before. He was watching his son race the last Cyclocross race for the season, and was going to try to catch us up before Bordeaux. His son had won the Junior World Championships in the CX the week before so he was pretty stoked, so his last race was important as he was wearing the rainbow jersey for the first time. I had left at 9am, he was hitting the road about 1pm, and we were taking bets as to when he might catch us. The roads in Belgium were pretty slow and there was rain, but when you hit France you can drive almost as fast as you want. We had a limit of about 130km/hr in the truck so our trip was always going to be a lot slower. He, on the other hand had a maximum of about 200km/hr so it was going to be interesting if he caught us.

Through France we started to see the sun come out, almost the first time that I had seen it for a week since arriving in Europe. From what I had been hearing, most of the girls had been having a rather harsh winter, so they were looking forward to a little sunshine and some warmer temperatures. Where we were heading was almost the bottom of the whole continent, so you can’t get any further. (Look up Faro, Portugal on the fantastic Google Earth, if you have not seen it yet you will love it, watch out as you can waste a lot of time if your not careful). The temperature was starting to come up to double figures, and the countryside was changing into some cool vineyards and orchards. And as always, it was good to see some hills again, after the flats of The Netherlands.

We were about 120km from Bordeaux when JP came screaming past us with a big smile on his face. He had caught us way earlier than both of us in the truck predicted. We find out later, he had reached speeds of up to 210km/hr and had managed to gain almost five hours on our 1000km journey. It would have been great to have the same speed….

We slept, and then left for Spain, then down through to Portugal, only about 1500km to go, yeha. Just in case you need to know, we are travelling from Auckland to all the way to Wellington, then back to Auckland and then once again to Wellington and Back again. Spain was only a couple of hundred km’s away and already we could see the sun beaming our way. The temperature had reached up to 12.5’c and was climbing. The roads were getting quiet through Spain and the trucks on the road were getting thicker. Of course you always know when you are in Spain as there is the huge metal Bulls on the side of the road, these are always in the coolest places, and they make the coolest photos. But travelling by yourself, trying to dodge trucks, listening to loud music on the ipod, keeping your speed at 130km/hr with the truck is getting blown across the road in the wind while trying to get the perfect shot is always fun. I managed to get three out of the seven bulls that I saw, and a couple of cool shots in there as well. I will get the lot soon. It certainly makes the trip more fun when you see these targets in the distance and struggle to make the cut off. Ahh, things to keep you mind active when you have many miles to go.

Another classic Toro, southern Spain.

Well to cut a long trip short. On the way to Madrid it started snowing, bit of a change from the last time I was there with 30’c in the sun. The snow on the mountains was awesome to see falling, but the temperature had dropped back to 2.5’c, hey I thought it was supposed to be getting warmer in Spain? We continued on to the bottom of Spain, here I found the best coffee so far. It was good to see when I ordered in broken Spanish, three short espressos in a row, they were not looking at me funny like most other places in the world. Soon after hitting the traffic in Madrid, I was extolling the virtues of my GPS once again. There is no way anyone could have found the way through the mass of spaghetti they call roads here. I have, over time learnt to trust my GPS in the truck, when it tells me to do turns, take off ramps, etc, that otherwise goes against every instinct you have as far as the right direction to drive. I love her, her voice is so soothing when there is nine lanes of rush hour traffic, her words are so clear, ‘in 400m take the left hand lane, and in 1km turn left’, she’s like a guardian angel in your ear. Every now and again I change the language into something more pleasing, then it makes something as simple ‘take a left at the next intersection’, sound like she is whispering sweet nothings in your ear. Oops, might be giving a little too much information away here, but it sure makes a long trip more fun…and she has never been wrong yet, makes a change from some of the map readers I have had over the years.

Seeing the signs for Portugal was great, almost like seeing your house and fridge after a 150km road ride. The sun was up, the temperature was up, almost 17’c, things were looking good, now for a few hours off, then the girls will arrive, and the hard work will begin..

All lined up and ready for action.

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