Spanish Fly - part 2

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig. “Home” is currently being defined as my parents’ house in Minnesota.

The last week or so in Spain was spent mostly climbing, with a little travel thrown in at the end. We tried some harder climbs, and I pretty much got shut down on everything. It was good to be challenged, though. It’s motivating to be faced with difficult climbing that’s also aesthetically pleasing. This area has a huge number very hard routes, and it would be a total playground for a strong climber. To give some perspective, the mountain that we were camped beside has more routes graded 8A (5.13b) or higher than in all of Wisconsin. And that’s just one mountain. There were cliffs across the road from that, another mountain that was a 20 minute drive away, and a number of other crags within an hour of our spot. The sheer amount of climbing that one could do here is staggering.

Multi-pitch sport climbing, about 400m from the parking lot.

We climbed this, too.

I could go on and on about the climbing (and I will, if you shoot me an email), but there’s more to Spain than the rocks.

Unheeded advice.

On Saturday, after running ourselves ragged climbing all morning and afternoon, we headed over to La Plaza for a festival. I was catching a bus the next morning back to Bilbao, where I would stay until I flew out on Tuesday, so it was sort of a “sending off” party as well. The festival was an absolute blast. There were bands playing (the first seemed to be a Flogging Molly cover band – hilarious; there was a duet that played acoustic covers of American hip hop; the headliner was legit Spanish ska), people slacklining, aerial dancing, food being grilled, sidre being poured, and dancing aplenty. We stayed out late, and had a great time.

The next morning arrived with a quickness. I woke up from my bed in the front seat of the Fiat Panda (not a result of the late night – I’ll explain below), packed all of my meager possessions, and we drove out to Oviedo, where I caught a bus back to Bilbao.

Now, a note on unpreparedness. I mentioned in my last post that I was woefully under-readied for this trip. Allow me to explain the full extent of my short-sighted planning (or lack thereof). This was a camping trip – a fact that I was aware of, at least at some level. However, I failed to bring along a tent. Or a sleeping mat. Or a sleeping bag. Or a blanket, sweatshirt, headlamp, rain coat, towel, soap, or hat. Fortunately, I have pretty amazing friends. Unfortunately, I had to lean pretty heavily on them. It was a bit embarrassing, and I can only hope that someday Rolf or Erin shows up outside of my van with nothing but the clothes on their backs, needing a place to stay for at least two weeks. The more that it would inconvenience me, the better.

But in all seriousness, the gift of grace from a friend is a great thing. It’s something that really cannot be repaid. I was incredibly fortunate to have a handful of people that gave me those gifts in Madison, and now I have a couple more. So I'm grateful for that.

(I don’t necessarily endorse blatant neediness and unpreparedness as a way of cementing meaningful relationships, but it’s worked out pretty well for me over the years.)

All of this is to explain why I woke up in the Panda. For the first week of the trip, I slept in the front seat of a Citroen. Once he left, I switched to the Panda. After my thorough comparison, I must say that the Panda has a much more comfortable front seat. More geometry to cram myself against. It helps to go to sleep completely exhausted.

In any case, I was pretty excited to find myself a bed in Bilbao. I eventually wound up at the BBK Bilbao Good Hostel (inviting name, no?), which felt like a 5 star hotel. Maybe I just happened to find a good one, and maybe it’s because I spent the last 12 days sleeping in the front seat of a passenger car, but the clean, comfortable beds, showers with warm water (a true luxury), towels, free wifi, and outlets aplenty felt like a spa getaway. I mean, I’ve never been to a spa, but I assume it’s basically the same as a Spanish hostel.

My tourist picture in Bilbao. The young lady that offered to take the photo (she was very sweet, Brazilian, cute, and showed me around the city for the better part of the evening - no big deal) thought that I was French. No idea how she came to that conclusion...

On Monday, I tooled around in Bilbao for a bit. I met some cool folks, had some adventures with credit card fraud protection, and experienced Spanish public transit. The architecture in the city is beautiful, and I can see why people go to European cities for vacation. Maybe I’ll try that someday…

An 80 cent glass of vino. I'll miss those heavy pours.

I flew back into Chicago, crashed with a good friend, and bussed it back to Minnesota the next day. I think I managed to avoid any jet lag once again. Currently trying to get everything in order to hit the road in the van sometime this weekend.


-Austin


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