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Old 12-08-21, 09:11 AM
John N
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Tulsa, OK
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Bikes: Co-Motion Americano Pinion P18; Co-Motion Americano Rohloff (stolen), Thorn Nomad MkII, Robert Beckman Skakkit (FOR SALE), Santana Tandem, ICE Adventure FS

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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
I've toured in northern Spain, though not specifically the Camino, which doesn't interest me. Northern Spain has few flat roads, and that includes coastal areas. Also, northwestern Spain in particular, is much wetter and therefore much greener, than most other parts of Spain. One trip was in May, and if you're intending to camp, many campgrounds had not yet opened for the season. I had a fair bit of rain when I was on the north side of the small Picos de Europa range and around Santiago. South of the Picos, the climate is much drier. I did not find roads devoid of traffic, but outside of large towns, traffic was not a problem. Roads were busier further east near Santander, Bilbao, and San Sebastian.

Shop and eating hours in Spain are quite different from other European countries, including neighboring France and Portugal. For example, in France & Portugal, I'd typically stop in a bakery to pick up something for breakfast. In Spain, however, bakeries weren't open yet when I'd be ready to ride. Dinner in Spanish restaurants typically is around 10pm, which does not work for me at all. Lunch, however, is generally available in restaurants around 2-4pm, and restaurants always have inexpensive fixed-price specials for lunch. I'd often stop while riding for a mid-morning snack at a bakery after they had finally opened up. I'd often enjoy a leisurely sit-down lunch in the middle of the afternoon, often after I had finished that day's ride. If I was still hungry in the evening (I often wasn't if I'd finished lunch at 4pm), I might stop in a bar and have a glass of wine or a beer and a tapa. Or I'd stop in a bakery, since they were often open in the evening.

Some stretches of road that I recall as being especially nice are:

On the north side of the Picos de Europa, there is a lovely east-west road between Cangas de Oma in the west, and the village of Panes in the east.

I rode from near Leon (a nice town) through Riaņo, over the Puerto de San Glorio pass (1,602 m) down to Panes and the coast. The dry landscape south of the pass is very different from the north side. There was minimal traffic.

Along the northern border of Portugal next to Tui, Spain, I rode eastward along the border and along the Minno river (Minho in Portuguese). There was a bike path, I think on the Portuguese side. I continued along the river after it becomes entirely within Spain, to Ourense. That was a very pretty area with hardly any traffic. Part of it goes through a vineyard region.

The only coastal roads in northern Spain which hug the coast and appear to not be ridiculously hilly or even mountainous, are along the small peninsulas west and southwest of Santiago. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain so I got away from there, so I don't have first-hand experience on those roads.

If you can find a Michelin map #441, it's very useful for planning and seeing the big picture. Failing that, is a useful website for viewing maps.

Are you intending to ride at all in SW France? If so, I can give you many recommendations for that area.
We are currently planning to start around mid-May. When do the campgrounds typically open? I am debating taking the tent since it would suck not to have that option if all of the regular under $150 Euros a night places are gone for some reason. We hope to stay in the typical albergues for less than $50 but are fortunate enough that price is not a limiting factor.

I knew the restaurants/eating patterns were different that the USA but I didn't know they were off by that much. I have seen bars (restaurants) that, according to Google, open around 8:30am. Are the posted times typically accurate or are they more on "Mexican Time" as far as when they open/close? How often are their grocery stores or "convenience stores" where I can get some snacks if need be. I would prefer not to be fully loaded if possible.

I will look into your favorite stretches of roads. Thanks for the recommendations! Question: Did you ride many gravel/unpaved roads? When they get wet, are they passable or is there some type of mineral in the soil that, when wet, causes the soil really gum up and try to clog everything, a la the Dempster Highway, so the road becomes unrideable? Are their ATMs in small towns or just the larger towns? While I speak limited Spanish (Latin American), is there an issue in the Basque region communicating? I can always use Google Translate .

Many thanks, John
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