Day Seventy Nine: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

Way back when salt shakers only had one hole and it was only pepper pots that had multiple holes, I took it upon myself to cycle from one sleepy village in Spain to another sleepy village in Portugal. I can’t remember why, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time.

My wife and I had been forced to delay our departure.  A huge storm had decided to lash the Spanish coast.  Instead of setting off into torrential rain I sat on a sofa with a guy from Belgium and drank the best part of a bottle of whisky.  I don’t remember the storm at all. I don’t remember much at all to be honest.

I do remember setting off the next day under bright blue skies.  It was warm.  I cycled through my hangover, suffering quietly, not daring to complain about the pace being set by my wife, who was out for the kill.  At the top of a long climb, late in the day we came across a hotel.  It was a natural place to stop for the night. I was only too happy to hear my other half suggest we rest up. I was in a bit of a state. Dehydrated from the outset I had never made up any ground on the effects of the previous days drinking.  Day one of our trip, as far as I was concerned, was a day of silent, terrible suffering.  Never would I drink a bottle of whisky the day before a big cycle ride.  An easy rule to remember and one I have kept to this day.

Back to this hotel then.  It was quite nice.  Brightly lit, with a spacious foyer.  There was an air of newness about it.  I could hear someone wielding a power drill in a room nearby.  People busy were hammering things.  A chap with a cigarette bent in half, the lit end dangerously close to his proud moustache, was attaching a cured ham weighing at least 25KG to a thin metal railing above the front desk.  An accident waiting to happen I thought.  My wife enquired about a room at ‘Ham Hotel’.

Whilst my wife talked to the guy behind the reception desk I watched the man with the bent cigarette try to tie the huge ham with a piece of string to an impossibly frail pipe that ran along the length of the ceiling above the desk. It appeared that he was setting a booby trap for the night clerk.

It turned out that we could not stay in the new hotel as it was not completed and was not yet accepting guests.  This was not fantastic news.  We were both tired and had mentally switched out of cycling mode and were looking forward to a hot shower and a comfortable bed.  All was not lost however.  We were told to follow an old guy who would take us to the ‘old hotel’.  Hmmm….

We set off down an unlit, disused road that ran behind the new hotel.  It was the ‘old road’.  It turned out that the road we had been on was newly built and since traffic was no longer travelling down the old road, they built a new hotel nearby and had closed the old hotel.  It was this old, now empty hotel that we’d be staying in.

To say it looked a bit creepy would be a vast understatement.  It made the house at Amityville look positively welcoming.  My wife went a little bit quiet.  She asked the man who had shown us there is it was OK.  He sensed our trepidation and said “Oh yes, its safe, all the electricity is working and the showers have running water, you’ll be fine.”  Superb.  To me that was like saying we’d be staying with Freddie Kruger but that he’d already killed three other cycle tourists today and was a bit tired and would be having an early night, so we’d be fine and he wouldn’t bother us. Yeah right.

The man forced open a door into a dimly lit entrance hall.  The only light came from his car headlights; they cast strange shadows on the walls and made the stuffed animals mounted on the walls look even creepier than they would have been in broad daylight.  My wife was putting on a brave face.  So was I but my hands were sweating.

We climbed a flight of old stairs made from dark wood, I tried to make out the details carved into the banisters but could not.  We were led down a narrow corridor and shown the shower-room.  It was small and had just three showers inside.  No baths.  Two or three doors down was our tiny bedroom.  It smelt musty.  The man told us that there was no breakfast and that we could cycle down the road in the morning to a petrol station about ten kilometres away to eat.

He left us and walked off just a little bit too quickly for my liking. We heard him walk back down the stairs to the entrance hall.  We then heard him lock us in.  This of course did not go down too well.  I made a few light-hearted jokes to settle my wife’s nerves and decided to test out the showers.

After a shower that lasted about eleven seconds – I had visions of something coming into the shower and doing what always happens in horror movies – I returned to our bedroom.  Fortunately both of us were shattered and we quickly fell asleep.

During the night we heard doors banging and some truly weird sounds.  However the days cycling had taken its toll and we were too tired to react.  It did however serve as a catalyst for us to get out of the place quickly in the morning.  As we left, I looked back at the hotel and thought it looked just as creepy in broad daylight as during the night.

Breakfast was something we always looked forward to whilst cycle touring and that morning was no exception.  We found the petrol station as described to us the night before and sat down at a table to eat.  I ordered Spanish style ham with eggs.  The eggs were fresh, their yolks a lovely bright orange.

Sitting in the middle of the table was a metal tray holding a saltshaker, a peppershaker, a glass olive oil dispenser and a matching glass vinegar dispenser.  I went for the salt and discovered that instead of a single hole, as was the norm back then, it had the same number of holes in the top as the pepper pot.  How strange.

I have since figured out why in Spain this is the case.  You see the Spanish like to add all manner of condiments to their food.  If it is in a condiment tray it gets added.  So for this reason it makes little difference to them which is the salt and which is the pepper.  They always add both.  You could put a glass dispenser with a mixture of dried anchovies and fruit loops and they’d add it to their food.

So what on earth has this got to do with my road to fitness? As is often the case, it is of course Food.  I was thinking about how little in the way of carbohydrates they serve up at a big meal here in Catalunya.  Sure you can get a Paella but generally its lots of meat or lots of fish, or as is very common, both.  The same goes for breakfast, often all that the locals have is two or three cups of coffee, a whisky chaser, or some other firewater and off they go.  Muesli? Nope.  Cornflakes? Nope.  They might have a sandwich or a mini roll stuffed with cured sausage but on the whole they do not seem to eat too much in the morning.

For anyone that plans to sit on a bike for three or four hours, you have to have a decent meal at breakfast.  I know some folks that subscribe to the ‘Russian old school style training’ whereby you skip breakfast and hammer yourself silly on the bike for half the day eating nothing at all, but in general for longer rides that doesn’t work too well.  All is does is stress your system -in my experience that is. So the trick is to eat a decent breakfast and to make sure you are hydrated. Oh and of course, do not on any account drink a bottle of whisky the night before unless of course you plan to stay in a haunted hotel the next night.  In which case go straight ahead.  You’ll sleep through all the door banging without any problem!

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