Day 169. L’Ampolla – L’Ampolla, 0 km.

I slept late and had some breakfast at the hotel. Then I collected my bike from storage and setup workshop on a small square.

Figure 1. Map day 169-172
Figure 2. Workshop

I replaced the broken spoke and then made the wheel straight again. After this I spent about 1 hour slowly increasing the tension in the wheel. First I inflated the tyre to the max and then I went through the wheel spoke by spoke and increased tension by turning the spoke key 1/8 of a turn.

I repeated this many times and from time to time I pre-stressed the spokes so hard that my hands hurt. Once it got hard to turn the nipples more I let some air out to my normal 3.5-4 Bar and went for a testride. I went full speed over some bumps and even jumped a bit with the bike. The wheel seems solid. It’s strange that two spokes on the drive side broke.

But all in all I think the wheel was built to soft, Rohloff dictates that they need at least 1100 Nm tension and they claim (I believe them) that the wheel looses 30% tension when the tyre is inflated. I plan/hope to find a true Rohloff certified Meister in Germany that can rebuild the wheel with approved high quality Swiss spokes and massive perfectly distributed tension.

Spent some time on looking on the route through France and all my trains. But I had done my homework, I couldn’t find anything that could be improved on.

I did some repacking and moved my tools and spareparts to the front bags, the bike is more stable with some weight on the frontwheel.

Day 170. L’Ampolla – Cambrils, 48 km.

The morning was humid and strange, felt like there was thunder coming. I started to bike along the coast instead of the N-340.

Small road
Figure 3. Small road

The road along the coast was hard to bike, continuously up and down but anything beats the N-340.

Up and down
Figure 4. Up and down
Up and down
Figure 5. Up and down

I ride through coastal tourist ghettos, endless rows of houses that all look the same, the streets don’t have name but numbers. I am starting feel very done with this part of the world. Near the Central Nuclear Vandellòs there is a big clusterfuck and I have to bike the big road for a few meters before N-340 becomes a local access road again.

Figure 6. Clusterfuck

Just as I leave the small gravel roads and begin to bike the few meters on the A7/N-340 there is a service station and I decide to stop and have an ice cream. As I sit inside and enjoy my ice cream a man starts to talk to me, he is very interested in my tour and my bicycle. He tells me that there is another touring bike coming this way on the N-340, he just passed it 5 minutes ago. I decide to wait and see who the other biker is.

It seems like the man also has a touring bike with many similar components on, I bring my map out for some local advice. He tells me that the road to Barcelona and Barcelona is caca de la vaca. Tarragona and Girona is supposed to be much better.

I am already planning to take the train from Cambrils (before Tarragona) to Flaca (after Girona) but I promise to try to stop in one of the cities if I can.

I sit and wait in the shade for a few minutes and indeed there is a touring bike coming my way, it is Dan from England but he’s in a hurry so we don’t have time to talk much. 10-15 minutes later I overtake him in an uphill and I never see him again. I find a good menu del dia, it’s 14 Euros, so things are getting more and more expensive.

In Cambrils I find my hotel quickly and they have a good room at a decent price. I move in and then I rush down to the station to get tickets for the train. The station just closed but thanks to my mad skills in Renfe ticket machines I managed to get tickets for the two trains I planned to take.

Figure 7. Hotel

I stay at the station for a while, I observe two trains and they are really old and worn down compare to MD trains in Andalucia. There is a bike compartment in each train but it’s locations seems to be random. The crowd hanging out at the station really alerts me to fact that I am approaching a big city, no more friendly countryside.

The forecast for tomorrow is rain and thunder, I hope the weather is nice in Girona so I can stop there instead of Flaca.

Day 171. Cambrils – L’Escala, 30 km (Train 250 km).

Stormy, big dark skies out over the sea, really cold. I pack up and roll down to the station, the train is delayed. The train ride to Barcelona is uneventful, all I see from the train is beaches and industrial areas, probably didn’t miss much by going by train.

Main station in Cambrils
Figure 8. Main station in Cambrils
Old Media Distancia
Figure 9. Old Media Distancia

I have been told by two people that the station in Barcelona has all platforms on the same level and no stairs are required to change platform (like Malaga and Bilbao) but not to any great surprise stairs are required to change platforms.

I look at the monitors before leaving the arrival platform and see that there is another train going to Flaca on the same platform and it leaves in a few minutes. I ask the driver if my ticket is good for this train and it is, I load the bike and off we go. So I got on a train that was 90 minutes earlier than planned.

Unfortunately it rains in Girona so no stopping there for sightseeing. When I get of in Flaca the clouds are dispersing in the north but the wind is very, very strong. Of course it’s headwind and it takes more than 4 hours to go 30 km, if the wind is the same tomorrow I will bike back to the train and go by train all the way to France.

Headless wind
Figure 10. Headless wind

I find a small bakery/cafe/shop that serves lunch, so I stop there for a while and eat, but the wind will not stop.

Figure 11. Lunch

The nature is great, all green and there are snow capped peaks in the distance. I think it’s the Pic du Canigou I see.

Pic du Canigo
Figure 12. Pic du Canigo

In L’Escala I find a hostel and it’s only 23 Euros, the cheapest so far, slightly dated but everything was clean and in perfect working order. Fantastic!

Figure 13. Hotel

Day 172. L’Escala – Cerbere, 60 km.

Fantastic weather, just a light headwind. Views of snow capped mountains all day, really nice landscape. Unfortunately there is lots of traffic even on the smallest roads, the Andorran cars drive like crazy, the French also suck at driving, they have some fear of crossing the center line so they overtake really, really close to the bike. I have to ride more than 1 meter out from the line on the right side to make them stop doing careless takeovers. I’m really looking forward to France, by train.

I have breakfast in a small village, there are some locals there having a cooked breakfast with beer and booze, then they get in to their cars and drive. The N-260 was crazy busy, lot’s of tourists and mad-insane driving (I will not point fingers but they had French plates). After Llanca the road became very narrow and there were some tunnels (500 meter downhill in a tunnel) and then some insane downhills.

Figure 14. N-260

Nice biking except for all the other road users. In the middle of a big uphill I apparently cross the border to France, just on the border there is a service station and I stop to get an ice cream. I cant find any so I ask for helado and ice cream, the nice lady informs me that I am in France now and that French is spoken here.

I leave and just grab something from my stash instead, when I look down the hill I came up I see the border sign just 50 meters away. Imagine, just 50 meters and I find the first backwards unfriendly person in 6 months.

 ¡Hasta luego España!
Figure 15. Hasta luego España

Once down the long downhill to Cerbere I go to the station to get my tickets. I am in luck, I arrive 5 minutes after they have opened and there are only 2 people in front of me. Since I have prepared notes detailing the exact trains I want to go with on which dates the transaction takes less than 2 minutes. 93.70 Euro for 5 trains.

Figure 16. Preparations
Figure 17. Result

Next stop is the hotels down by the harbor and I get a small room for 52 Euros, at least 2 times more than a similar room would have cost in Spain. I have missed lunch so I do some quick shopping and the prices are traumatizing, even more expensive than shopping at a service station along the highway in Spain. Caca de la Vaca.

Figure 18. Hotel

Dinner is at 19, really early. I see that the people next to me get big juicy hamburgers but when I try to order I cant have any, the people on the table next to me are the adult children of the owner so she’s made special food for them. I settle for a steak, very nice, but very expensive.

Tomorrow I will take the train direction Germany, I just hope that all the trains will be new nice roll on trains that does not require any lifting.