Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Cheapest Hotel Room in Madrid

[describing Sunday night through Tuesday morning]

I should preface this story by saying that the end result is exactly what happened last year on my way home from Fuerteventura and exactly what I tried everything in my power to avoid this year on my way home from Fuertventura.

Murphy's Law calls BS.

The crux of the problem: the first flight out of Fuerte to Madrid each day is not early enough to catch each airline's daily flight from Madrid to the major East Coast of the United States.  The last flight out of Fuerte to Madrid the night before the daily flight to the East Coast means a considerable lay-over in Madrid, mostly during the wee hours of the night (or morning, depending on your definition).

Slumber party in Terminal 4.

Last year my lay-over was 13 - count 'em, 13 - hours.  11:00 pm to 12 noon.

Last year I had to claim my luggage during my Ironman race-length lay-over.  Passengers with lay-overs less than 12 hours are allowed to leave their luggage in the care of their airline.

Last year this is where I ended up spending a good portion of my "night" getting some "sleep" because it allowed me to lay flat, asleep, and still protect my belongings.


The view of Madrid was spectacular; the city lights are especially beautiful after midnight.



This year I cut my 13-hour lay-over in half by connecting to Paris from Madrid before turning left to cross the Atlantic.  My thought was less travel time sleeping on a conveyor belt and more travel time in the air, during which someone is providing me free drinks, a padded seat, and maybe a movie or three.  Go figure, each itinerary cost the same and meant the same number of hours between leaving Fuerte and falling into the arms of my parents on the other end.

However, this year I was told that despite having a less-than-12-hour lay-over, claiming my luggage was highly recommended.  Because this is Spain.  And despite being a major transportation hub, the Madrid airport does not guard luggage after midnight.  And the contents of my bike box could finance a down payment on a house in many American communities.  Great.

So this year, it's midnight in Madrid and this is where I am set up to nap before Air France opens for business at 4 am.  Fail safe alarm: the ticket agent turning on the conveyor belt.

I am as tired and out-of-it as I look

If you ever need a cheap and easy place to stay in Madrid, I highly recommend conveyor belt 431 in Aeropuerto de Madrid-Barajas.  It has a certain...je ne sais quoi.  Which I think I identified as an intoxicating mixture of fluorescent lighting hum and l'eau de floor cleaning fluid and conveyor belt grease.

28 hours and 4 flights later I am in Indiana.  But my luggage and bike are not, despite having claimed them at customs in Chicago and returned them to United myself for the last - and shortest - flight.  I can't leave to drive south until I have my belongings and am no longer wearing my mother's clothes.  I'll get to Texas...eventually.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lest I Forget
























And finally...


[Ed. Note: Please excuse me for a few days as I fly across an ocean and then drive across a country.]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Taking Out The Trash

Several people recently mentioned that they like my blog because of the pictures.  Others, that they look at my blog only because of the pictures.  So...pictures seem...popular.

It's true that I don't have babies, kittens, and unicorns as subjects - a serious oversight on my part and one that I will try very hard to rectify...eeerr, well, the last two of those anyway - in the future.  But I still manage to find plenty of reader-friendly things to point-and-shoot at anyway.

Today, by apparently popular vote, I'll shut up and let some of the literally thousands of pictures I have taken in Fuerte speak for themselves (with some captioning help by yours truly). 

The (Spanish) Hostess With The Mostest

"Why does she think it is so momentous that we made it up this climb?"

Some people come all the way to an island to ride camels

The view from my room: the Playitas golf course

Boys with their toys...heaven forbid we not know exactly how far we ran

Some bikes make mine look particularly small

Some people come all the way to a sport resort in paradise to run inside, on a treadmill, and watch TV

Some of my many admirers

One town has mid-20th century road signs; they remind me of PlaySkool

View from the very top of the Playitas resort and town

One scenic highway has 19th century road signs...I don't think that camera will fit in my jersey pocket

The outside of the bakery

A statue in Antigua

Flower by my apartment

Long (6 km) sloping descent with a view of the south end of the island

Auditioning for an R and B video (or wearing a camper's hat)

Keeping my day job

Love me some Haribo

Some mornings it is worth it to get up to swim

One of the resort pools I have never been in...can't do laps in it

They thought I was crazy to ask them to do this...I was looking for more "Rocky" and less "stick 'em up, this is a robbery"

Ladies, take your pick of inflexible endorphin junkie

Someone built terraces all over the island, but as to who, no one is giving up the ghost

Sometimes nature (and the terrace building people) does all the work for you

I would have more pictures of this cool road if I wasn't always going down it at 40 km/h

An unfortunate case of helmet hair

Sometimes I feel like I'm in the Triplets of Belleville

Here's what happens when your back is so sweaty during a climb that it fogs up your camera lens in your jersey pocket

Nearing the end...

And for future reference...

Friday, March 25, 2011

FOUND: World's Smallest Coffee

I admit that I was wrong to accuse the resort's coffee cups of being small.  Because I have located an even smaller coffee:

And this level of liquid is before I had any

But d*mn was it good.

Not to worry.  The resort still holds the record for the world's worst coffee.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Angry Is The Wind

Last year I spent the entire first week on Fuerteventura angry at the wind. 

Why was it punishing me?  
Making me ride slower than I knew I could?  
Whistling constantly, making me unable to hear my riding partners and leaving me in a personal high-pitched bubble, and forcing me to struggle fruitlessly up so many not-very-steep hills? 
It was being ruthless - TO ME - ON PURPOSE!

Every day I tried to beat the wind and in the process, I wasted nearly as much emotional energy as I did physical.

Then I realized I could never beat the wind, certainly not at it's own game.  A camper said it well: "With a hill, you can see the end.  With the wind, there is no end." 

So with nothing to beat outright, my goal became to beat myself (or more aptly, my emotions) at my (their) own game: get to a point where I didn't mind the wind, where I didn't let it get into my headspace and drive me completely bonkers as it drives my average speed completely into the ground.  Maybe even to where I didn't notice it at all.

That is how I beat the wind.  I rode steady in effort (a powermeter helps) and controlled in application of emotion.  And slowly, the wind bothered me less and less (because it sure never stopped blowing).  The wind became just another aspect of the landscape, like the mountains or the road surface or the cast of the sun, to take into account throughout the ride.  The hills rise.  The sun shines.  The pavement cracks.  And the wind blows.

Now the wind is the angry one.  It doesn't quite as much attention paid to it and fists shaken at it anymore.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Calima

And like that...[ppphheeww]...the Calima arrives.

Since we all know everything on the internet is true, I will simply direct you here (climate section) and here for better and more technical descriptions of this horrid and seemingly apocalyptic wind than what I can provide.

What I can provide is photographic evidence of the gloom, and the smattering of doom, the Calima brings.  When it really settles in, the island is affected and its inhabitants afflicted for a week.  The air has both a consistency and texture.  Lips and throats get crusty and faces sport streaks where sweat tracked through the dust.  The heat gets increasingly oppressive - just last Friday I wore a fleece and ski cap to morning swimming - and enthusiasm becomes harder to find.  I bet they even have divorce statistics about what the Calima does to marriages.  However, if the north winds come back strong enough to wage a successful war against the south/east wind and clear the air, this natural smog only sticks around for 24-36 hours.  Go Union Army!!

The Lighthouse, without the Calima...





The Lighthouse, with the Calima...



Looking across the plains in the middle of the southern part of the island, without the Calima...



Looking across the plains in the middle of the southern part of the island, with the Calima...



The resort's golf course, without the Calima...


The resort's golf course, with the Calima...the sun is actually in this picture: in the middle, about half an inch below the top edge...you'll have to believe me.


Now imagine SBR-ing - or simply taking a deep breath - in that.  Yummy.
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