WRWR Day 17 – My Day 7 Gijon to Vinhais, Portugal
15th March 2019
So, after the drama yesterday I’m still not feeling the love for this relay.. I do however make my way to the meeting point arriving 20 minutes late not much caring if they are there or not.
They are gearing up as I arrive so no need to get off my bike, which is good as I’m not in the mood for false bonhomie.
A rather small woman comes out, says hello, jumps on her Harley Sportster and then we are off. The small woman is in the lead and the other girls wave me through so that I am behind the leader.
She takes us on to the Autovia and after about 20km we take a slip road off into a town and eventually pulling up outside an American Diner. I, of course, am hoping there is time for coffee so I dismount and go in. Inside are several plastic Elvis statues, stop it!!
Colette and Mar, who obviously have just finished breakfast, are both here. Mar immediately gets up and comes over apologising yet again, repeatedly… enough already.. gosh I’m in a foul mood. I tell her to stop apologising, I want to add its really getting on my nerves but I don’t.
So the plan, she says, is to ride now to Léon, about 50 minutes, then a short break.. ‘will that be alright for you, we can stop earlier if you need to’. Obviously Colette has told her about me and my hands, I say I’m fine, a break every 100km or so is good, afterall I rode yesterday with only 2 breaks, rubbing it in of course, told you am in an evil mood. Mar continues; then we are going into the mountains to ride one of my favourite roads, lots of twisties, which apparently I will love.. ‘promise’… I just look at her. We will then meet up with another woman, Maria followed by a visit to a cultural heritage site and then we will stop for lunch, after which we will ride to Vinhais in Portugal to meet the Portuguese Guardians and hand over the baton for the next leg of the relay.
Sounds like a plan, I just nod, I couldn’t care a less at this point, I’m still not sure I even want to be here, but whatever.
Colette is full of admiration for these girls and has told me more than once how they are great riders, apparently they were bombing along at 160kph yesterday and taking the bends very fast… yawn!
We soon set off and the route is very good, we don’t really use the fast roads and it’s mostly country roads all the way. After a while we pass Leon and come to our first stop. One of the other girls explains that if you order a drink you get free food.. oh really, ok. I order a coffee and we are all sitting outside in the sunshine, it is actually a lovely day, very warm in the sun. They then bring out huge platters of meats, chorizo, salami, etc., and hunks of bread.. very good.
Mar and Colette have obviously become firm friends
and I sit with them and a couple of the other women, it’s a very pleasant stop off… I’m still in a mood though, I’m finding it hard to shake it off so keep quiet mostly. Mar tells us about her favourite road and how they ride it in the snow every year with her bike club. One year the guy sitting opposite, hairy fat chap, rode it when one of the passes was closed and dumped his bike, only his panniers saved his bike…. yawn!! Sorry, evil….
Soon we are on the road again and climbing up into the mountains. The road starts to get twistier and I was expecting really difficult hairpins, but actually its pretty easy and I’m not having too much difficulty negotiating the bends, except I’ve got the small woman on the Sportster in front of me and she is pretty slow so I find myself in the wrong gear sometimes, which is annoying, I’m glad we’re not doing it in snow though I have to say.. that is pretty hardcore.
Eventually we pull in here and the views a pretty stunning… absolutely fantastic I must say.
After this we start to make our decent to meet up with Maria. I am now behind one of the other girls, Sandra, who is riding a small GS, (BMW), she constantly stands up, sits down, stretches both arms out, wiggles her head, sticks her feet out…. OMG sit still!! One thing though, she has a very long body but extremely short legs so the bike must be lowered.. mmm I’ll ask her later.
There are a couple of blokes in the group, but they are partners of the girls and they are very unobtrusive so I hardly notice them.
We meet Maria and it’s hugs all round and off we go again, this time with Maria in the lead. The roads are now becoming vertical, uneven and the corners tighter… my right footboard even scrapes the ground on a few right handers, until we pull into a large car park.. this must be the heritage site I think. I have to move my bike as the slope is too steep to put the side stand down and by the time I have parked safely and got my gear off the girls have started walking up a slope that rises above the car park.. Mar shouts down.. come on Pad… PAD!!!… no, no, no….
I start up the slope and now can see it’s a very steep, long road up the side of a mountain… grrrrrr….. If I’d known I wouldn’t have started up, but my pride won’t allow me to give up. At last I reach the top where there are some old ruins and a viewing platform… yep the views are fantastic, but no sooner have I arrived than they all want to go back down.. I do manage to get a few shots though.
Down to the bikes and I’m getting back on when everyone just roars off, including the sweeper!!… now this is one thing that has been happening all day, they don’t wait until everyone is ready, they just go and if everyone hasn’t caught up they might pull over and wait for them.. that’s just not done in my club, we wait until everyone, ie me, is ready so this doesn’t help my bad mood. I follow the road, but at one point there is a fork… oh which way?? There’s no marker ie a bike waiting to signal the correct fork, so I take a chance and turn left. At the bottom of the road the group is there, ah so they did wait for me… oh hang on, one of the other girls is fiddling with her bike so maybe it’s not me they have stopped for… nice.
We ride on some faster roads and here we are…
then stop for lunch… outside in the sun I sit with Mar and Colette again. I’m starting to come around now and realise that I do like Mar.. she is a drag racer so that’s pretty impressive I must say as she only looks about 21.. she’s 36 and rides several bikes, but the drag bike is her favorite. She is actually very likeable and I feel my black mood lifting. I take this opportunity to get all the girls to sign my helmet, which is looking pretty good I must say and is proving very popular for photos. I also advise Mar that she is not to call me Pad, it’s Padraigin or Pogs please, she is ok about it.
Back on the road heading now to Portugal, after about an hour we seem to be riding into a farm and stop again outside a house. I take a quick look at my floorboard, yep it’s scraped and my exhaust too… some appreciative noises from some of the girls too… it’s a biker thing!
The farm house turns out to be a small bar and we order coffee and some delicious patatas bravas… it is so good that we actually scoff several small tapas portions between four of us.
I grab the opportunity to ask Sandra about her bike… yes it has been lowered… mmm interesting…
Maria comes in and shouts Vamamous or something like that and everyone laughs… obviously a spanish in joke!
We come out of the farm and within 20 minutes are at the border with Portugal. There are at least 20 bikes waiting to meet us.. yep the Portuguese girls are right at the border and we take loads of photos of course. The local MC, (Motorcycle Club), is also here to greet us.
It is now dark as the whole group sets off for Vinhais… hang on why is there a bloke leading?? Mar, Sandra and Maria plus a few other women overtake him and he ends up in front of me. He is riding a Honda Maxi Scooter with a hugh red strip light on his top box that blinds me everytime he brakes.. and he can’t take a corner without braking.. oh great. I really want to pass him but the road is too curvy so I just have to get on with it.
We enter Vinhais and go into what I assume is the town hall where there are several people.. dignitaries I suppose.. waiting for us. This chap gets up and makes a speech in Spanish, I assume he’s the Mayor or something, so Colette and I sit and laugh at the terrible artwork.. you would have to be there to see what I mean.
Then he gives Mar and another Maria, a Portuguese Ambassador, a town shield and a few other bits and pieces and we are given brown paper bags with some Vinhais tourist leaflets, in Spanish, a pin badge and a cloth badge with the town logo and a small terracotta pot… that’s very kind of them.
One woman seems to have taken a bit of a shine to me… aye, aye… she asks if she can take a photo, sure, but not of me oh no she wants a photo with my back patch lol!!
I’m really tired and still not sure where I am supposed to be sleeping. I‘m not really bothered about eating, I actually just want to go to bed so I check booking.com for a room, but the nearest is about 10km away. Colette pursuades me to come for the meal so we all ride further into the town and enter a large restaurant where they have a very long table prepared for us.
The meal is pre-ordered, meat or fish so tough if you are veggie or vegan. The starter is huge lumps of chorizo and pigs head…. no thanks to the pig snout! The next course is pork slices, these are quite nice and we have some chips with it.
Mar acts as interpreter for Maria, (vamamous), who asks how old I am… this keeps happening, apparently I’m one of the oldest riders so far… when I tell her she says she admires me very much and wants to be still riding like me when she’s my age…. how sweet. So then Colette chimes in with how impressed they all are with how I handle the big bike in the corners… they should try it on the Tail of the Dragon, lol.
Now I really can’t stay awake so Colette asks about our accommodation. We are sharing some cabins in the woods, sounds basic, and they have a bed for me. It’s too late and I’m too tired to ride anymore so I say thank you.
We ride in the pitch black up a steep twisty road to arrive at the parc ecologic, mmm interesting. The cabin is huge with two bathrooms. Mar should have gone home, but decides to stay overnight so she gets the couch. I’m to share a twin room with Colette… I don’t like sharing, but needs must and Colette is a nice woman so all good.
Before crashing Colette shares a bombshell about the reception in Llanes. The relay was greeted by local bike clubs, including a Vespa club who proceeded to take control and lead the group. What is even worse is that when it came to signing the WRWR baton scroll the men of the Vespa club were signing too…. unbelievable, it’s lucky I wasn’t there I can tell you. Seriously, what part of WOMEN RIDERS WORLD RELAY don’t they understand…. oh they probably are just letting us think we are bikers, after all everyone knows a real biker has to have a large beard, enormous belly and a dangly appendage!!! I can’t believe this was allowed to happen, the scroll is meant to be signed by the baton Guardians… what a disappointment.