Bicycling is marvelous journey, a “pinch me” kind of way to experience a place intimately, until that pinch becomes a pinch in the knee. The mild twinge on the first day of pedaling, was still present on day two and growing stronger. The rolling hills dotted with pines, junipers, and roadside hazelnut trees took my mind off the knee, until the midday sun intensified everything. I reached a boiling point 3 or 4 kilometers outside of Las Navas, a small village 35 k outside of our destination for the night. After a water break, the push on the pedal and a shooting pain went from knee to belly. It shot again, and again, and again. Every revolution of the pedal was a hot flash of pain igniting fear.
Slowly I pedaled looking for different muscles to use until eventually the best solution seemed to be letting my left leg do all the work. The right leg went around and a pinch of pain with each deep bend. Eventually I pedaled to Willie where he waited at a cross roads, and I imagine it was just a look on my face that told him the story.
On every journey, something goes wrong. Someone gets sick, a back seizes up, knees give out. These are not our proudest times, but integral to the story of real life on the road. When things go wrong are perhaps the most emotionally challenging times. But for things to go wrong on day two!!
It was clear after a rest and ibuprofen that continuing to Avila, our destination for the night, would risk much more serious injury. As luck would have it, we were near a gas station, which was near the small village. Our minds went into overdrive as we explored our options until each one hit a dead end. The dam inside holding back tears that the trip might be over just as it begins, crumbles just a little and I step outside the gas station for a moment alone. Sensing the need for help, the station attendant mentions we could take “el tren”. Really? Could I take my bicycle? Was the station far? Yes, yes, and 2 kilometers down hill. We coasted to a small station, found only the bar open but, yes indeed the train comes in half an hour, you can take your bicycles, so now enjoy a refreshing beer. Smile a little to ease the worried eyes.
The train was a three-car commuter train from Madrid to Avila and points beyond. Fortunate for us, we were there in the middle of the afternoon. We hurriedly boarded our bicycles followed by the 7 bags of luggage. Smoothly sailing as the conductor came by to issue our ticket for 2 people, 2 bikes and a mountain of baggage for 5euro. A half an hour in air-conditioned bliss we watched the scenery pass by. The land of spaghetti-westerns– barren, dry, beautiful in it’s starkness. And just like that, we arrived in Avila. An historic town with a world-heritage center and just one room left at the only hostal we could afford.
Deposited on the bed to rest, Willie went in search of a magic cure. He came home with a topical tube of ibuprofen gel, ice, and Johnnie Walker. The first two did wonders in relieving the pain, the third did wonders in lifting the spirits as we sat on our balcony watching life go by.
That evening we strolled through 12th century streets and embraced our good fortune for all we can do.
Today, I continue with the ice and ointment and the pain of bending the knee this morning has all but disappeared by dinner time. We stroll the walled city and lively town, refresh our provisions, and fingers-crossed, we pedal out of town in the morning on the next stage of our trip.