After Porto, Amalia went back to Madrid. At the end of our first real week together, we both foolishly thought we could pretend that we weren't completely hooked on each other. She went back to Madrid, and we had no specific plans to meet again. I was meeting my ex-wife Connie in ten days for a week of hiking in the Picos de Europa mountain range in northern Spain, and I planned to ride the bike there. After that, I was planning to do an epic ride from Spain to Iran.
As things turned out, another friend of mine happened to be in Madrid and I decided to fly to Madrid to meet up with her instead of cycling to the Picos. After meeting with her, I figured I might as well drop in unannounced at Amalia's place so I did that and never quite left again; other than the week of hiking. Amalia was a little bit surprised when I showed up at her door unannounced, but she seems to have recovered.
By now, you've probably picked up on the subtle hints that I left Spain with one more wife than I entered it with. You probably want to know a few more of the details of our romance. You know I snuck back to Madrid after Porto, and I never quite left again. Amalia and I spent a year together in her little apartment. She started out thinking that cyclists were obviously crazy or stupid or both, but eventually became a recumbent cyclist herself. I had been planning to visit the Middle East with a friend from work for some time, so just a few months after I stopped by Amalia's apartment and never quite left, we decided to do the tour together. I'll give the details later, but suffice it to say we did a tour without the bikes through Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine (or Occupied Palestine, depending on who you ask), and then later we rode through North America... but that's another story..
Along about the time I went back to Madrid, I added a new section to this web page. I've been sending out emails to everyone on my mail list since the start of the trip. I added another page to show all the emails I sent out, so new readers could follow the whole cycle. If you've stumbled onto this story late, you can catch up with on my Notification Log, or you can read about what I sent out during the Middle East Trip.
One thing I may not have mentioned straightaway to my loyal readers is that we decided to get married while we were in Iran. In fact, we decided on this on Christmas Eve while sitting in a the little town of Bandar Abbas in Southern Iran on the Persian Gulf. I'm sitting here exactly one year later, married and happy as a clam.
I was originally going to go rather light on the details of our romance, but I eventually figured out that I could just ask Amalia to write it. She's a writer after all, so here's her version of the story:
But that late summer morning, the bell rang when I wasn’t expecting anyone: anyone to ring the bell, anyone to take over my emotions, anyone to populate my life. And it was Wade, who had come back to Madrid, bought a map of the city, looked up my street and made his way up there on his bike, just because in my house there was me.
From that very moment, my apartment wasn’t just mine anymore. Not that he – vowed to minimalism as every good cyclist should be - takes so much room: a computer, a few books, a couple of shirts, two pair of trousers and a couple of (very deteriorated) underwear, a pair of very big shoes. That was mostly all. But he – voice, movements, character, warmth - was there with me. From that very moment, my life wasn’t just mine any more.
I’ll spare you the dizziness of the moment, the kisses and the disbelief, and will just tell you that it was very difficult to keep our hands apart from each other, as if touching continuously a skin that wasn’t yours –already familiar and yet so strange - would lend some reality to the fact that there was indeed somebody there.
That afternoon, I had been planning to go to the hospital to visit my tiny little nice Sandra, who had been born just the day before. To my sister in law’s surprise, there I was, with this unknown big shaved-headed American who was able to handle a two days old baby as if he had been doing it all his life… so much better than me, anyway! But you have to understand this: just the image of Wade himself appearing at my door had been shocking enough for me for one day… so the image of him with a newborn baby in his arms was definitely too much! I tried all the time to look somewhere else…
I am sure I am going to miss those summer evenings in Madrid, when the heat has cooled off and people go out to walk, sit on the cafés with their friends, drink iced coffees and Fanta Limón and go to the movies. That was exactly my plan for that evening, and of course I brought Wade along. Once again, there were some startled faces around us: who the hell was this guy? And also: why exactly are Amalia and him smiling so stupidly and relentlessly and holding hands as if there was some superglue involved?
I don’t remember very much of the following days, other than a mixture of exhilaration and inner peace. Maybe it is that passion makes blood circulate quicker and stimulates your brain cells, but I wonder why it is so easy, when one is first in love, to feel wiser, deeper, more generous… finally able to understand yourself, others and even the whole world.
Wade had arranged to go do some hiking in Picos de Europa with his ex-wife Connie, and I had to go to Toronto to cover the Toronto International Film Festival for my newspaper, El Mundo. We said goodbye again, but this time we knew it wasn’t going to be forever anymore. Wade needed to work for a while and it was convenient for him to stop in Madrid for a couple of months, but even if that hadn’t been the case, not being together just wasn’t a possibility we could consider anymore.
I enjoyed my two weeks in Canada a lot. Attending a film festival –watching the movies, talking to the celebrities in the press conferences, going to the glamorous parties - is always very exciting, but apart from that, I have many friends in Toronto and I also had some other business to attend. So I had enough things to keep me excited and alert, but I was left with enough free time to be able to feel, perceive and think. And run every morning. The perfect situation for me.
A few days after I left Madrid, and after he had finished his hiking, Wade went back to my apartment and waited for me there. I used to call him every day from Toronto and we wrote a lot of long, wonderful, juicy emails… I am a writer and I respect the written word a lot, and as all of you know, Wade is able to go very far both with his legs and with his words.
I changed my ticket to go back to Madrid a couple of days before I had planned: as wonderful as Toronto was, no other place in the world could possibly now have the same attraction for me as my little apartment in Madrid. Wade came to pick me up to the airport, we took home a friend film director that had shown his movie in the Festival and had flown back with me, went for a big American breakfast in VIPS, and went home: I hadn’t slept in the plane and it was of the utmost importance that I immediately got to bed…
I thought it was going to be difficult to explain to my parents that I had an American cyclist living with me. Of course they know I am not crazy, but they have seen me doing a lot of crazy things. And I didn’t want them to take Wade as another of my experiments… now I was very serious about him and expected that everybody else around me should be. Indeed, my parents behaved with the intelligence that is characteristic to them: they made a couple of very sensible comments and just waited to see. And what they saw was Wade, so there could not be any problem. They liked him immediately and made a big effort to unearth their rusty English and communicate with him. As a matter of fact, my father has read Wade’s webpage for the beginning to the end… Wade and my father have something in common: they are non-conformists. Wade and my mother have something in common too: they care very much for good food (Wade’s definition of good food seems to approach very much now his mother in law’s cooking…)
My six brothers also liked Wade immediately. They all speak good English and communication was easy. My little nieces liked him even more: little Patricia was convinced that Wade was the Mr. Clean that she was used to seeing in kitchen-cleaning bottles, Irene started to chatter with him in Spanish, innocently convinced that Wade was understanding and agreeing with everything she said; and the twins Inés y Almudena just stared at him and at each other in sheer disbelief that someone could be so bald, so big and speak such an incomprehensible language.
With my friends things were a little bit more difficult: not everyone speaks English and conversation always ended up being kind of superficial or sliding to Spanish, so Wade got a bit bored, or I couldn’t pay enough attention to my friends or I would be translating back and forth. The almost inevitable happened: you get a new boyfriend and stop seeing your friends all that often. Anyway, everybody was very intrigued by Wade and his bicycle and by the fact that he could work from anywhere in the world. Some of my friends told me in confidence that they suspected Wade probably was a CIA agent…
Other than a business trip that I had to make to Sweden, it was difficult to drag us out of our apartment: there we had a luxurious bed and couch to lie around all day and night, we had our computers with high-speed internet, our kitchen to impress each other with our respective cooking abilities (I put on something like 3 kgs. in those first months of domestic bliss…), our DVD player to watch the complete 7 seasons of Star Trek the Next Generation and movies that we had already seen but wanted the other one to see as well, books, etc… We hardly even went to the movies or to restaurants or almost anywhere… we are such slugs.
After a couple of months of such lazy life, we went to the Middle East for another couple of months: an amazing adventure which I am sure Wade will write about in some other place. It was then, on Christmas eve, in the hotel room of a beach resort in a lousy little town in the Persian Gulf that Wade suggested that maybe we could get married… and a few weeks after, walking in East Jerusalem, we decided to get engaged.
And then, we started to make a lot of plans: we started to research about possible recumbent bikes for me in little internet cafés; we decided that we would leave our Madrid apartment in the spring so we could travel freely; I started planning how I could keep up with my work in the radio and the newspaper while we were traveling, etc…
Back in Madrid, we told everyone about our wedding plans and to my surprise, it wasn’t really a surprise for almost anyone: for some reason, it must have looked like we were ready for the big jump…
The two months between our coming back from the Middle East in February and our getting rid of the apartment in April were completely frantic. I had to find a destiny for all my stuff: sell everything I didn’t want to keep and find a foster home for everything I didn’t want to lose forever. I had to do a lot of extra radio and writing work. We also had to deal with the paperwork for the wedding, visa, etc… And I had to start practicing with my brand new recumbent bike, which we had bought in Amsterdam in our way back from Tel-Aviv.
The 1st of April we were ready to go. I had no home anymore and we were planning to come back to Madrid in June only to get married. We put our bikes in my little Renault car and started our life as a couple of homeless bums. First stop, Noelle and David’s home in France. Then, Rome where we left the car and started my first bike trip towards Sicily. We spent a wonderful two months in Italy, Austria and South of Germany. It was spring, we were free, we were cyclist, we were in love… but that is another story.
About a week after I returned to Madrid, it was time for a week-long hike. Connie and I had arranged long beforehand to meet in the Picos de Europa mountain range in northern Spain. Connie was out for a long holiday at Noelle's house which was just on the other side of the Pyrenees, and so this seemed to be a good place to hike. We did an organized hike with this group of people.
It was a pretty diverse group from all over the place all kinds of backgrounds.
I've done quite a few organized hikes and rides now, and quite a few on my own. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Organized tours are easier to get set up with because you don't really have to know exactly where you're going or what you're doing, and you don't have to plan your route or preparations as much as you do when alone. They also give you a built in social group for the duration of the trip, and sometimes you keep in touch with the people after the group. The built-in social group is a double-edged sword though. I've noticed that groups tend to pack together as a group, and this makes it harder to really get involved with the people that you're visiting. When you're alone, it makes it both easier and more likely that you'll interact with the people you meet along the way instead of your group, and in general this adds to the experience. Of course, if you're wandering out in the wilderness, there aren't all that many people to interact with anyway. I recommend either type of travel, depending on the situation. If you have never hiked or distance cycled before, start out with a group or at least with someone that's more experienced than you are. After you've done a group once or twice, then try something solo.
I haven't seen Connie in a couple of years, so it was nice to get together and catch up. The place we were hiking has some extreme mountains that would have been fun to cycle. They run la Vuelta Ciclista a Espana through there. It's the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France, and it's a tough, grueling race.
We hiked up for a few days into the mountains and stayed in shelters. The most interesting part of the hike to me was my newly acquired Miracle Wonder Shoes (my name). I bought some Timberland shoes in Figures, and took them on the hike instead of buying "proper" hiking footwear. I've always had a real problem with hiking because I have pansy-assed feet that blister horrendously, so hiking has always involved a lot of pain. I had these new shoes and due to my sloth and cheapness I didn't have any proper hiking boots, so I decided to just go with the shoes I had. The guides told me they would never work. Connie told me they'd never work. Most of the other hikers told me they wouldn't work, but they were the only shoes I had with me so I carried on anyway. In the end, it turned out that I had NO PROBLEMS with my feet with these shoes. I wore leather shoes without socks, and that turned out to be the ticket to pain-free hiking. I was so happy with the shoes, I've been wearing them ever since. Here are the infamous shoes a year later in Israel, although as you can probably tell those aren't my feet. Sitting here in my new living room (more about that later) yet another year later, I still wear them every day... good shoes.
Amalia and I started traveling together a few months after I went back to Madrid.
On the way back to Madrid from the Middle East, we stopped and bought Amalia a new recumbent bike in Amsterdam. She chose a Challenge Mistral, and there's an amusing story about its purchase on the notification page so I won't repeat it.
As I sit writing this paragraph much later, she has 5,000 km (3,100 Miles) on her recumbent bike in Italy, the United States and Canada. I may get to writing about those later. After we toured Italy for a month, we returned to Spain to prepare for our wedding. Amalia wrote a wedding invitation that tells our story much better than I actually can, so I'm going to cut-n-paste Amalia's wedding announcement exactly as she sent it out. She wrote it in Spanish, and translated it to English.
As all of you know, less than a year ago, on a hot late July afternoon, I met an American who was passing through Madrid on a trip around the world on a strange bike. His name was Wade and he had small and expressive blue eyes, a big body and a warm smile. The three following evenings we had coffees, horchatas and Fanta Limón, we had dinner, we walked, we talked and decided that we kind of liked each other, but that we were probably closed for new loves… So that was all. The fourth day, nevertheless, we went to see Spiderman, a movie that Wade had already seen and that was dubbed in Spanish, and in which I wasn't interested at all.
In any case, and maybe because he was bored, Wade kissed me. It's here that the versions start to differ. Wade says that he only wanted to give me a little kiss on my cheek, but I turned my head and "slapped a lip-lock on him"… and I say "not in the best of his dreams"…. that it was obvious that he had spent the last half hour trying to find a way to kiss me, and that when he finally got the nerve to do it, I just answered politely.
In any case, don't ask me about Spiderman's plot, because it was completely lost on me. And I say: why on earth would Wade want to see a movie again he had seen a couple of weeks ago, and dubbed in Spanish, if it wasn't because he wanted to follow the old strategy of taking the girl to the movies and taking advantage of the coolness and the darkness of the theatre…? But, man, he won't give way, because he is as strongheaded as a mule, and insists that it was me who kissed him.
There is no doubt that he is strongheaded as a mule. I have had ample opportunity to learn. Like yesterday, for example, when we were in a situation with our bikes where our only options were: either entering illegally and dangerously a motorway for 8 km (4 miles) to get to the regional road we wanted, or take a dubious road with a huge sign in front of it that said "Dead End". Wade said that he preferred to ride 50 km than to face 8 km of motorway. I said that that was great, but that in a dead end it's not possible to ride 50 meters, let alone 50 km, so we had to follow the motorway. Anyway, we entered the little road with the dead end, and it turned out to be a pretty nice country road which, as expected, got to a dead end, (and I thought "now is when it gets demonstrated that I was right and we have to turn around"), and gave way to a real cow-path, surrounded by high grass, full of stones, through the very fields. But, as the compass indicated that it was heading in the right direction, there we went, among puddles, bumps, poison ivy, lizards and other terrible threats to my new and pretty bike. The cow's path became a goat's path, but my Wade (in my humble opinion at that moment, as crazy as one of those animals the path was obviously made for) carried on fearless. Then we got to railroad tracks (and I thought "this is the end"), but he found a way to cross them and so we did, only to find ("Oh, thank you Gods of the Olympus, that you finally make me right…", the very same motorway that we were trying to avoid all this time. But, as it happened, there was another little road with half rotten pavement, along which we continued until we found a fence that a man was closing with a padlock that could have tied up a dragon. I was about to say, "Hey, handsome, enough is enough. Please, accept once and for all that the motorway is our only option..." But I didn't have the time to open my mouth and air my worthy opinion, because he turned around and found a way to cross over the motorway into the middle of the fields again... until we disembarked in our much wanted road to Siracusa, in the very precise spot in which the 8 km of motorway that we were trying to avoid, ended.
I had no option, other than to accept my moral defeat and acknowledge that my man is a genius of cross-country cycling. And that he can give lessons to mules, indeed.
But, going back to the point: Spiderman changed our lives and, even if the next day I was leaving on holidays with my friend Laura, and Wade was heading for Granada to climb 3500 meters up Pico Veleta with his bike, we met again in Porto three weeks after Madrid. And there, after a wonderful week in which I learned how terribly he sings, we said goodbye thinking it was forever, because he was going to Iran with his bike and I was going back to Madrid to do my work.
It was hard to get to work, because I could only think of him. But, after several days of wandering around the house, I was able to get some ambition and concentration. And I swear that, in the very same moment that I sat in front of my computer to face ideas and words, in that very same moment, the bell rang. And in the intercom there was his voice. And, with trembling legs, I went down to open the door for him. And there was Wade, with his huge and strange orange bike, who had come after me because he could not forget me.
And to make a long story short: we are in love, deep to our marrow and liver, with all our heads, with the whole of our noble parts, with our legs, hands, eyes and heart.
And as a consequence, or maybe disregarding the consequences, we are going to get married.
And we want to invite you to our wedding.
C'mon, come to our wedding….
It will take place the 13th of June at 7 pm in the Town Hall of Los Molinos, a small town about 30 km outside Madrid.
Afterwards, we will eat and drink something to celebrate... I guess. Because, even if all of you who used to come to my house and take a look at the fridge and those of you who used to invite me to dinner and saw how I licked my lips at the very sight of a simple soup (not to mention my mum, who has always been trying to teach me cooking), know that I have always had difficulties with the catering department… well, what do I know, I guess I'll come up with something.
At this wedding, we recommend you not dress for a wedding. But, if Monica insists in wearing her Pamela… what can we do. Wade is going to buy some new clothes because everything he has is completely ruined with bike lube. And me... to tell you the truth, I feel a bit lazy. But it is true that in the end….
It's my wedding…!!
Muchos besos and we hope to see you there, because part of the happiness of getting married is doing it in front of people that give meaning to your life and being able to feel, once again, their warmth.
Amalia and Wade
As you can clearly see, I'm not going to improve on that, so I'll quit for now. I'll simply point out that you can see the wedding photos in English here or in Español here.
I ended up with 3,500 km (2,170 Miles) in Spain to bring my total up to 14,000 km (8,680 Miles). Spain and France have by far the most bicycle friendly people I've encountered anywhere in my travels. Spain is a wonderful, friendly, open place that's an absolute joy to visit EVEN if you don't find your true love there. Naturally, if you're short on true loves you should pack up and go there immediately. If you have found your true love, then you can wait a month. In the end, I can summarize Spain as follows: Etienne was right. You must go there.
Spain Photo Gallery
Coming Soon (maybe) - The Middle East