Shortly after my daughter decided to do a semester abroad in Spain, she told me she wanted to do a program in Alicante.
I pulled up Google Maps. It was in southern Spain, right on the Mediterranean. It looked gorgeous.
I said, “you understand this is school and not a European vacation, right?” But I understood. Given a choice of location, who wouldn’t choose one that’s sunny most of the time and where every day you can see the blue waters of the Mediterranean? And secretly, I was happy that my spring riding trip — I mean “parent visit” — would be in a nice weather location.
And fortunate that it was right on the coast, because the water served as a point of orientation for me while riding. I love riding in new places — new and unfamiliar roads and sights. I pay more attention to what’s going on around me. The downside is that it can be stressful not knowing where you’re going.
So for the first few days in a new place I find myself stopping often and looking at maps. Or asking for directions.
In the US, where roads are most often laid out in a grid, it’s generally not that difficult to navigate. But in Europe it seems that roads most often go from one town to the next. And around Alicante, they weren’t always well-marked.
And then there were the roundabouts.
If I wanted to ride CV-800 from Alicante to Xixona, I needed to know that first it went to Mutxamel. I could see this when I looked at the map pre-ride, but then while riding there was no way I was going to remember all the little towns.
So I ended up drawing up my own little cheat-sheet, connecting one town to the next on the route that I had planned. Several times the first few days I still found myself a bit disoriented. But somehow I was able to tell which way the coast was. Often I could get a glimpse of it, as pretty much all of the roads went uphill from the coast.
What I wanted at times though was to have my (car) GPS giving me turn-by-turn instructions. One day that’s what I did. I had stuck the GPS in my back pocket, just in case. It had started to rain, I was a bit lost, and wasn’t in a mood to be just exploring. So I turned on the GPS, turned up the volume, and listened to it calling out the turns from my back pocket.
I didn’t mind getting wet at that point. It was warm, and I reminded myself that I was RIDING IN SPAIN!
The GPS speaking English from my pocket did draw a few strange looks from pedestrians.
Day 1: 45 minute spin after picking up the bike
Day 2: 4+ hrs, Alicante – Xixona – Busot – Alicante. ~4k feet of climbing.