Vuelta al País Vasco: Stage 05
Anecdotal evidence suggests that at any given moment between the hours of 11:00 and 15:00, on every Alto in Basque Country, there are at least 23 male cycling fans between the ages 20-30 smoking Phat Blunt$.
I A Chronology of Events
10:06: Oh my God, this morning is the worst experience of my life so far. Raoul and I are sleeping in the same room and in the same bed again, though technically we’re in two different beds because technically our beds are separated by a narrow gap up the middle, but two things:
- Collectively, like if you were to measure their combined width, they equal one normal non-gap-having 54 inch double bed, this because (#duh) each half is 27 inches wide, which is, side note, more than 11 inches narrower than a typical single, which is 39 inches wide, which means that whatever it is we’re sleeping on is sub-optimal at best according to math, the International Hotel Standards & Guidelines Project and the greater global Polysomnography community,
- Our room is sooooo narrow—how narrow is it?—it’s so narrow that manually separating the beds by say even something as modest as a 12 inches or so is impossible, and in fact, because we have luggage and because the room is furnished with two lovely night stands positioned between either side of the bed(s) and a wall(s), separating the beds by any distance at all, really, is functionally impossible beyond performing a hand-jammer or two just to prove to yourself that the crack separating the beds is in fact a bona fide separation and not some form of optical illusion present for the benefit of the clinophobically-inclined,
- Which effectively means we’re sleeping on docked cots,
- Which is fine because four nights ago we experienced the same experience, only instead of two beds it was three beds, #upgradedbeds.
Anyway, our room is back to back with Emiliano’s room, the walls are thin, really thin, our only window and his only window are less than 12 inches apart, and this morning I #literally woke up to a manic Emiliano leaning from the shoulders up into our window from his room and singing the #SELFIE song on #fullblast. At the same time, from the bathroom like a high-powered rifle I hear the blast of aerosol being released, then, less than .0000089 seconds later I get #colognated by Raoul and Raoul is not fucking around today he’s running AXE Black Chill. For perspective, the Emiliano Window Event is happening less than five feet from my head to the right, and the Raoul AXE Black Chill Event is happening less than seven feet from my head to the left, this is life in #stereo. ☹
11:36: Emiliano Pavlovian-packed, but I remembered we had not-one-but-two nights at this, the #worsthotelyet, so I didn’t pack baaaaaut, last night I did forget to plug a number of battery-operated devices in last which basically means—bear with me here if this gets a bit technical—I wont be able to power them on.
11:42: Has anyone seen my puffy camouflage jacket because I think (?!) my credentials are in it along with that torn 10 Euro note I’ve been meaning to launder. And, I hope, my #heritage sunglasses too. Also, I’m in shorts but what are you guys wearing? Why are you both wearing pants? Did you check the weather? I’m cold, are you cold?
12:04: On the way to the start. Listen, Emiliano, Raoul, guys, I don’t care if we go to the start or not because it’s probably going to look like the start of a bike race, these things just don’t have that much range when it comes right down to it.
12:35: At the start in Eibar. We are lost and looking for parking, nobody knows where to go, Emiliano finds his #chillers The Police Motorcycle Gang and they let us park in front of the Mavic support vehicles just beyond the start area. At the start line Raoul runs and slides sideways Board Sport-style on the wet, greasy cobbles—several times. With very little effort and in less than ideal conditions—even wet cobbles present friction and resistance related to uneven heights, porous rock, etc., also he is wearing trainers with new tread—Raoul is easily able to slide 7-9 feet before coming to a stop.
12:48: On the way to sign-in, less than 45 yards from his destination, Alessandro Vanotti (riding for Astana Pro Team) crashes on the cobbles. (See gallery below.)
13:15: While speeding (on Alto de Muniketagane) ahead of the caravan, as is legal and customary, we are first passed then pulled over by a Police Officer, who reprimands us for “speeding up” instead of slowing down and/or showing deference by yielding when being passed. The Officer says this was the second time, as the same thing apparently, happened yesterday. He says, while kinda bent over and leaning into the car for effect, “There won’t be a third time!” Raoul points out that he is a dick. Emiliano and I are happy to agree and leave it at that, but Raoul goes on to say that typically when speeding ahead of the Peloton and you see lights in your rear view mirror, you speed up because at that point you’re worried that the Peloton is about to catch you. Which, of course, is absolutely true. Plus, Raoul continues, I didn’t speed up, I just didn’t slow down.
13:31: Shortly after pulling back onto the course from #fartingpostcards on the side of the road, now well behind the caravan, we are simultaneously beeped/flashed at by yet another Police Officer, this one complaining, over the PA system in distorted listhpafied Castellano—“¡Vamos! ¡Vamos! ¡Vamos!”—that we were going too slow and that we needed to be more aggressive about passing the walking spectators and civilian vehicles, like, guys, you’re holding up the line here let’s move along. Please keep in mind during this one sided car-to-car conversation we were speeding through the mountains at 70k an hour.
13:33: Now a Moto Police is pointing and pushing (from the back of his moto) and directing us to pull ahead of the Broom Wagon and into the thick of the Caravan, a place we’re not supposed to be, and a place we don’t even wanna be in the first place because like, it’s a hassle in there, plus we brake for #cafésconleche.
14:05: Standing on the side of the road in a nondescript corner near a cluster of tile-roofed buildings is a young girl. She’s with four or five adults, a family probably. They are watching cars go by. In her arms is the cutest puppy ever, it’s big and blonde and hairy and healthy looking. Only wait, it’s not an actual dog. And but it’s not a stuffed animal either, it’s not a caricature, it’s realistic. So. It’s either a counterfeit dog made with all-natural humanely-harvested 100% canine materials (like a pre-animated Frankenstein dog), or it’s simply a six month old taxidermic Labrador; either way, it’s curious.
15:35: Everyday for the last five days in every village we pass through, the course is literally lined with hundreds and hundreds of adorable children. Where do they come from?
16:35: In Lekeitio we come to a stop on the edge of the course to ask a Police where, if anywhere, we could find a café. He says (in Spanish; this story is cool but it’s not that cool), without pause, “First of all if it’s coffee you’re looking for you want a bar, we have many bars, there is bar here (points across the street) there is bar there (points a little further up the street in the direction from which we just arrived) and there (points behind him) and there (points down the street, thirty feet max, in the direction we’re headed) and there (point behind him to the left). Would you like more options? We have more options.”
16:42: Still in the town of Lekeitio—every time I pass an old dude (roughly 23 per minute) I hear the English word Germany said, whispered, repeated, etc.
16:48: We get lost and confused on the way out of Lekeitio due maybe to our TomTom getting drunk, and because the one way streets here are aggressive and possibly interactive. After several minutes of driving back and forth around the bottom of a hill, Raoul elects to 50/50 grind (half on the sidewalk, half on the road) our way down a one way street in the wrong direction ALL the way out of town. See Bad Girls by MIA.
17:12: Food Related Low Point #1 Because I missed breakfast because #hotelsucks, I feel forced to eat the off-brand Sour Spaghetti I find under some trash in the backseat footwell of the FTC while speeding up a mountain switchback, doubled-up and leaning over with my face pressed into the clear plastic packet feedbag-style because it’s a mess and the eating process otherwise gets sugar everywhere.
17:35: Anecdotal evidence suggests that at any given moment between the hours of 11:00 and 15:00, on every Alto in Basque Country, there are at least 23 male cycling fans between the ages 20-30 smoking Phat Blunt$.
17:42: We pass a dude following the race in a moving van; like basically parking, chasing, bossing, charging, etc., in an 18-foot (solid royal blue) cube truck.
18:01: Food Related Low Point #2 We’re all hungry in Markina-Xemein. We go to one place but it’s just sweets. We go to another place but it’s too crowded. We go back to the sweets place. We get a chocolate croissant and eat it but it’s disgusting because it’s made with Nutella. We walk across the street and find a stall making hamburguesas, we order three hamburguesa and eat them. They are undercooked and raw. We may have contracted something, #yolo.
22:23: Today’s Retractions, Amendments & Further Explanations #1 Ted’s real name is John. Dear John, if you read yesterday’s post and found yourself offended because we forgot your name and didn’t bother to track it down, please accept our apologies. We like you. You made this race better, no lie, #attheraces.
22:23: Today’s Retractions, Amendments & Further Explanations #2 Regarding Basque Walking Sticks—”The makila can be swung by the handle for fast, light strikes or used the opposite way to strike with the pommel as an effective bludgeon. The concealed spike can be used to deadly effect either as a thrusting weapon, or thrown as a last resort.”
22:23: Today’s Retractions, Amendments & Further Explanations #3 Regarding yesterday’s #evenmorewatershed—Ben King’s soigneur is playing the bass, not the guitar, on Ben King’s leg.
22:23: Today’s Retractions, Amendments & Further Explanations #4 Tomorrow we’re blowing off Etapa 06 of the 2014 Euskal Herriko Itzulia and instead driving to France, for Sunday’s Paris–Roubaix one-day bicycle tournament of champions. Hope that’s okay with you!