Cycling Europe Day 13: Everyday Stuff

Getting terribly lost a few days back evidently had its advantages. Today was the day I



was most apprehensive about before the trip. It was going to be the longest in terms of distance. But in the first few days I got lost once in the mountains and ended up cycling 156km and another time I got lost and ended up cycling 186km. Today’s 143km next to those seemed like peanuts. It’s strange how the mind works that way.

It’s all relative, though. I was thinking today that as I got on my bike this morning my friends were just starting to sit at their desks at work. And when I finished, my friends were just finishing their work and getting ready to head home. Now imagine sitting at your desk that whole time while cycling with different speeds and gradients. You do get toilet and snack breaks, but they need to be quick because every minute lost not working is added on to the end of the day. You also need to make sure your desk is within sight during your toilet and snack breaks lest someone thinks of stealing your valuable work.

I’ve been getting up just before 5am everyday. I try to sleep more but I never can. I get anxious in the mornings. I wake up, wash, start gathering all my stuff together in the panniers, and have breakfast as soon as the nearest restaurant opens. I haven’t been very happy with the breakfast portions here. Usually I’m given a croissant, some tea, and orange juice. When possible I’ll add bread or cereal or whatever I can find available. I then gear up my bike and try to be on the road around 8am. By then it’s light enough outside for me to feel safe.

When I’m cycling, I try to break down the journey to make it easier in my head. I ALWAYS need to pee a couple of times after breakfast so I tell myself to try to get to ten kilometers before stopping by the side of the road the first time. I’ll then think in increments of a certain number of kilometers depending on the overall length of the journey. Today was a long 143km ride. So I told myself I’d have a proper break at half point somewhere about 70km. That’s always a good goal to have. I then break up the first 70km. I tell myself no toilet break until I reach 30km no matter what. Or I’ll give myself a water break if I cycle ten more kilometers. Or I’ll stop at a gas station for soda pop after 20km. Or in another 25km I can stop for snacks. I carry dates, prunes, dried apricots, Oreo cookies, and usually a banana with me for that sort of break. It’s always easier in my head once I’ve passed the half point. I tell myself I’ve already done the hard part and try not to stop much in the second half of the ride.

I haven’t been terribly adventurous with food; not as I’d like to be. I can’t understand the menus most of the time but I have recently resorted to using Google Translate when I have an Internet connection and that has helped. Things I liked that I hadn’t tried before:
– Croquettas, which are fried balls of cheese and a meat like chicken or fish. I had those the day I got lost in the mountain and they lifted my spirit just that little bit.
– Aroz de cubana: this I had the day I got lost and cycled 186km. I was famished. It was a starter made of rice with lots of hot tomato sauce poured all over it and a fried egg in the middle. How anyone ever came up with that combination is beyond me. But it was the PERFECT grub for me after that long day.
– In Calatayud I had a fish soup for a starter that had pieces of fish in it, tons of chickpeas, and a boiled egg that was fried. Strange but wonderfully filling and tasty.
– and in Zaragoza yesterday I tried a tapas made of a pickled cucumber stuffed with tuna. Yummy!

I have camps and hotels chosen for each day but it doesn’t always work as planned. The camp I was supposed to stay at today simply does not exist, for example. I looked for it everywhere. The GPS said there were no camps nearby as well. When a campsite exists in or near a town, there are always signs pointing you in the right direction. There weren’t any. So I stopped at the first hotel I found. Whether I arrive at a camp or in a hotel room, my panniers almost immediately explode. Their contents are strewn everywhere in my room or tent and I rush to take a shower before I even consider anything else. I then search for food. I’ve had trouble with Spanish restaurant hours. They usually close at 3 or 4pm, about the time I arrive and reopen at 8 or 9pm for dinner. I’m wanting to sleep by then. Whenever I get the chance to have a big meal first thing when I arrive, I do. Otherwise I find a snack to hold me off till dinner.

I also make sure to charge my GPS, phone, and iPad and to wash some clothes if I know they have a chance of drying by morning. I’ve been using hotel soap and shampoo whenever I can for myself (to save my own) and for washing clothes. When I haven’t had any I’ve just washed the clothes with water.

I love it when I manage to get to my destination around 3pm. It gives me an afternoon free to eat, relax, and sometimes check out the town I’m in. I always try to be asleep by 10pm. I’m dead tired by then anyways.

I usually fiddle around on the Internet while I’m resting, blog, or read one of the books I have on my iPad. I speak to my husband on Skype almost every night and to my kids when they make themselves available to me (kids!).

About four months before the trip I trained for a half marathon. When I got home after I ran it, I noticed my right foot had the beginnings of athlete’s foot. I’ve been treating it every day since then but with all the cycling it has just spread to the other foot and rather than go away with the treatment it’s just getting worse. Yesterday I bought an alternative treatment so we’ll see how that goes. I’m also struggling with an uncomfortable rear end. I’ve finally figured out the source of the problem. I always wear underwear. On top of that I wear cycling pants/trousers that have padding for your behind. It turns out my underwear gets all wound up from my legs constantly moving and its causing a bit of irritation down there. I brought some zinc oxide with me for just this sort of problem – you know, the stuff we use to treat babies’ diaper rashes. It’s really good! I might have to resort to not wearing underwear if this keeps up, though. It’s really bothering me.

Last year when we cycled from London to Paris, I got a temporary paralysis of the little finger from pressing on the nerve all day with my hands on the handlebars. I’ve been taking care this year to change my grip as often as possible. I think my hands are fine so far. But my butt nerves are suffering from being in the saddle all day. I’ve been wondering what butt paralysis is like. You see, no amount of natural or added padding back there can protect you enough when you’re in that seat for hours everyday.

I can now proudly boast that I’ve peed on the side of every kind of road in Spain, including the motorway. I’ve decided it’s easier, quicker, and safer to do that than to wait till I find a gas station. When I pee at a gas station I have to “park” the bike then leave it out of my sight till I’m done. This is time-consuming and makes me worry about the bike. On the road, I look for the perfect spot below the road, rest the bike on the guardrail, jump over, do my business with my eyes on the bike at all times, and then jump back over. Easy, simple, safe. I’m very proud of my system as you can see.

This is probably the most boring read ever. I’m so sleepy and my brain isn’t working. I need to stay up to wait for the restaurants to open for dinner and to pray the nightly Muslim prayer.

Which reminds me, this trip is bringing me closer to God, I feel. I feel dependent on Him to keep me safe. And I talk to Him sometimes while I’m cycling. I talk to myself a lot too. And to my GPS. And to cows when I pass them by. Today I talked to sprinklers and asked them to send some spray my way. I’m always telling myself, “Watch out for that caterpillar! Don’t squish it! It just managed to cross that road with all the cars going by!” I talk to myself under normal circumstances as well when I’m at home. So I do not consider this odd behavior.





  1. I nearly choked on my supper at the prospect of ‘butt paralysis’ so must remember not to eat when reading your blog in future.

    Regarding your hands, do you wear padded track mitts? I always found that they helped. At the other end I always understood that pro racing cyclists go ‘commando’ under their bib-shorts.

    I understand your feeling about your God, I have no faith (still looking) but often feel a presence when solo walking.

    I’m really enjoying your blog and think that you are doing fantastically well, I looked at the map and saw how far you’ve got and WOW. keep going and good luck with your extremities.

    1. I do wear padded gloves. My husband told me about the commando thing but I couldn’t understand why. I do now. And thanks for the encouragement!

    2. Pro or amateur cyclist, you don’t ever wear underwear under bib shorts. That’s not what they made for. It will lead to pain, like Nadia discovered. Go to a bike shop and ask for “Crema Chamois” chamois cream against saddle sore, that’s what a pro would do 😉
      If you feel to uncomfortable without underwear, you should better wear just cycling underpants (they have the padding inside, called the Chamois) and then normal shorts over it. But going on with the underwear in bibs will make things worse.

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