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Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mallorca - Major Fantastic-ness

A few months ago, Robert and I started talking about taking a cycling vacation.  We considered Backroads, a great company that we have traveled with a number of times before.  However, we ultimately decided to try something new this time: a do-it-yourself approach.  Actually, Robert did virtually all the planning, and he did an outstanding job.  He suggested we go to Mallorca, renowned for its cycling.  Between Airbnb and some mapping of cycling routes on Strava, we had a very affordable vacation that turned out to be one of our best ever.

In the weeks leading to our departure, work and other major responsibilities were particularly stressful.  Although I looked forward to our trip, I never felt relaxed enough simply to anticipate it with pleasure.  Even the weekend before we left on Monday, I kept feeling like our trip was this nebulous thing in the future as I furiously worked to tie up as many loose ends as possible.  Fortunately, I completed all necessary tasks and was finally able to relax when it was time to leave.

Major bonus on our Mallorca trip: our good friend Bill and his daughters Bryn and Sky went with us!  Bill is one of Robert’s and my Georgia Neurosurgical cycling teammates.  We had never met his daughters, but they were a total delight.

Monday – Tuesday

Bill, Bryn, and Sky weren’t able to get on the same flight as Robert and I.  Our departures were only about 15 minutes apart, however.  The five of us hung out together beforehand at the Atlanta airport and enjoyed some adult beverages.  We would repeat this scenario numerous times throughout the trip (sans airport).

The flight from Atlanta to Palma, Mallorca was long yet thankfully uneventful.  Robert and I had about a 1½-hour layover in Madrid while the others had about a 6-hour layover in Barcelona.  Therefore, following a taxi ride from Palma to Port de Pollença, our home for the week, Robert and I checked out our Airbnb accommodations and went shopping for a few basic items.  The apartment didn’t have any soap or washcloths.  (Curiously, Europeans, or at least Spaniards, don’t seem to use washcloths.)  Robert also wanted coffee so that he didn’t always have to run out to a café.

We found a grocery store readily enough.  Soap was rather elusive, however.  I couldn’t find any among the other toiletries.  Could it be among the household cleaning supplies?  No, but it was amusing to find the Spanish version of Mr. Clean:


Maybe soap was in the laundry section.  I couldn’t read the Spanish on the various products, but one package looked promising.  Then I realized that it had the Snuggle bear on it; it was laundry detergent rather than bath soap.  Marketing does have its advantages.  At last I found some Palmolive bar soap at the end of an aisle.  Washcloths were tricky to find, too, but some small microfiber towels would suffice.

We rented bicycles for the week, which were delivered to our apartment that afternoon.  Robert and I each got a Cervelo, and Bill got a Giant.  (Bryn and Sky aren’t cyclists, but they had no trouble entertaining themselves while the other three of us rode during the trip.)  The bicycles were very good quality, similar to what we ride at home.  In fact, Robert’s was exactly the same model and year.  We rented helmets, too, because they would have been quite bulky to carry in our luggage.  On the other hand, Robert and I brought our own crank arms and pedals so that we would have our power meters.  Ironically, I forgot to bring my trusty Adamo Prologue saddle, which is incredibly comfortable even on the longest brevet.  That would have been much more valuable to me than my crank arms and pedals, particularly because my power meter battery died early on, depriving me of all but a little power data.  At least I wasn’t too uncomfortable on the Fizik saddle that came on my rental bike.

We still had a few hours before the Causey faction was to arrive.  Robert and I previewed a portion of the ride planned for the next day.  We rode the first climb toward Cap de Formentor, a lighthouse at the northern end of the island.  It was less than four miles to Tuesday’s turnaround point, but we had a good little climb.  It whetted our appetite for the full ride to the lighthouse on Wednesday.


Bill, Bryn, and Sky arrived safely in a car they had rented at the Palma airport.  After they got settled, we all headed out to the promenade along the shoreline, which was practically next door to our apartment.  Hundreds of people were out enjoying the lovely Mediterranean evening.


Our off-bike kits
Bryn, Bill, and Sky
Someone had created this spectacular sandcastle.  It must have been sprayed with some kind of protective coating because the occasional rain that fell over the next few days never messed it up.


The five of us had the first of many delicious Mallorcan meals that evening.  I had a mental checklist of things I wanted to eat or drink while on our trip: paella, some really good fish, tapas, rioja, sangria, and gelato.  Some paella with several types of seafood set me on just the right track.

Wednesday

Robert awoke before everyone else and found one of the few cafes that opened early.  He retrieved the rest of us for breakfast.  After all the crowds the night before, it was odd to see so few people out and about the next morning.  Breakfast was delicious and quite European, including hearty Mallorcan bread topped with tomato spread, ham, and cheese; croissants; and of course coffee (tea for me – I’m one of those strange birds who doesn’t like coffee).  Bill was quite smitten with this café’s white coffee, a.k.a. latte – more on that later.

As we walked backed to the apartment, I took particular notice of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream store across from our door:

Me and Sky

One of my life rules is never to pass up a photo opp where you stick your face in something.  I’m not a huge ice cream fan, but I do like high quality varieties like Ben & Jerry’s.  However, besides the fact that it wasn’t open yet anyway, I decided to hold out for gelato later.  I can get Ben & Jerry’s anytime back in the States – gelato, not so much.

At last it was time for a real ride!  Bill, Robert, and I kitted up and headed for Cap de Formentor.  It was about 12.5 miles to get there and included some significant climbing.  The grades seemed comparable to Neal’s Gap in the North Georgia Mountains, but they weren’t as long.  We had spectacular views of the Mediterranean; towering limestone hills; and shady, wooded areas.

Only one road leads to Cap de Formentor.  Thus, we had to share it with a lot of cars.  Fortunately, the cars in Europe generally are much smaller than in the U.S.  Many of the models are unheard of back home: Clio, Leon, etc.  The mindset of drivers seemed so different on Mallorca.  They were always respectful of cyclists – not once during the trip did a car honk at us – and patiently waited to pass us when necessary.  This happened frequently on the narrow road leading to the lighthouse, which was quite a tourist attraction.  Even the occasional tour bus that passed us wasn’t a big deal; we all just made room for each other.

Several workers were stationed near the lighthouse, signaling cars to enter one at a time as a parking spot became available.  Bicycles were definitely the best way to get there; we were able to ride around the line of waiting cars.

The views were just beautiful from Cap de Formentor:




It’s understandable that the ancient Greeks and Romans came up with a god of the sea (Poseidon and Neptune, respectively).  I could practically see them frolicking with the sea nymphs beneath the waves.

As we waited for Bryn and Sky to drive to the lighthouse to meet us, we sat on the outdoor terrace enjoying the sunshine and having a snack.


There were a good many other people there, but it wasn’t crowded.  A number were cyclists, too.  We could determine the nationality of some from their kits, like a group in bright orange who were from Scotland.  (Of course, Bill, Robert, and I were pretty obvious in our Georgia Neuro kits, complete with small American flags on the upper left front of our jerseys.)  We had a nice chat with some Canadian cyclists who sat at the adjoining table on the terrace.

All of a sudden, a goat walked around the corner of the building and through the café area.


I also took a closer look at the rocks.  Mallorca is comprised mostly of limestone.  We saw lots of limestone throughout the week, but we also saw some other interesting types of rocks at the lighthouse.  The photo below shows some kind of metamorphic rock (left), which appears to be a type of sedimentary rock that was folded by heat and pressure.  To the right is conglomerate, which incorporates larger stones in a sand or silt matrix.


After a brief rendezvous with Bryn and Sky, we three cyclists headed back toward Port de Pollença.  Although it wasn’t as much climbing as before, we did have a significant amount on the return trip.  We had more beautiful views, too.  The shades of blue in the water were mesmerizing.


The last steep ascent occurred just before Robert’s and my turnaround point from the day before.  As I approached the top, I passed one of the Scottish cyclists in the orange kit.  She said heartily, “Well done!”  I just love the unique way with words our fellow English speakers seem to have.

Back in town, we stopped for lunch at Tolo’s, a restaurant with lots of cool cycling memorabilia.  The owner is a big cycling fan.  In fact, several pro cyclists, e.g. Bradley Wiggins, reportedly visit when they are in town.  (Mallorca is a popular winter training locale for the pros.)


Following lunch, Bill, Robert, and I were up for more riding.  Robert led us west of town on some roads that he had mapped.  Whoa!  It was like going to a whole other country!  We quickly transitioned from the beachy atmosphere of Port de Pollença to quiet, rural farm roads.  These roads were quite narrow, but the pavement was good.  Also, the occasional car that passed was just as courteous as the ones that we had encountered along the road to Cap de Formentor.  (I could get used to that…)

Most notable, however, were the rock walls lining practically every little road.


The workmanship was beautiful!  Why would the people of Mallorca go to such effort?  We quickly discerned that it was really a matter of practically.  The soil is incredibly rocky, as we could readily observe in the fields we passed.  (How are they able to farm at all?)  Since they have to move the rocks anyway for farming, they use them to build up roadbeds and construct walls along the roadways.  The walls also often contain the many sheep out in the Mallorcan countryside.

It was late afternoon and time to head back.  We intended to retrace our steps, but we missed a turn somewhere.  We weren’t really lost; we knew the direction we needed to go, and the roads interconnect pretty logically.  Actually, we got to see something interesting because of our wrong turn.  Can you imagine a roadside drainage system like this in the U.S.?!


At about two feet wide and three feet deep, this is a startling potential hazard to both bicycles and cars!

Here’s another, much less scary discovery we made thanks to our wrong turn: grapes growing right along the road.




After showering, our posse headed back out on the town for the evening.  This time we went to an Italian restaurant.  The pizza looked mighty tempting, but I opted for pasta because they had orecchiette (“little ears”), a delightful variety that I don’t often see in restaurants.  Also, I had to get it with seafood, my favorite.

Throughout the week, we had servers from all kinds of interesting places: Hungary, Poland, Romania, Uruguay, and a few native Mallorcans.  Wednesday evening’s waiter was a cute fellow from Sevilla, Spain.  That’s Seville in English, as in The Barber of Seville, a la Bugs Bunny.  Our waiter is too young to know about Looney Tunes, but I wrote “Bugs Bunny, Barber of Seville, Looney Tunes” on the back of one of my business cards.  I’d be impressed if he actually Googled it.


Afterwards, we stopped at a gelato stand – yea!  I got a double scoop in a cone, one of lemon and one I can’t remember now (maybe something with nuts – delicious, regardless).  Life is too short not to get a cone instead of a cup.

Thursday

The next morning we had a déjà vu breakfast at the same café as the previous morning, ordering the same food and, of course, white coffee.  It was raining.  We checked the forecast on our phones.  It looked like it would be clearing in a few hours.  Even so, we postponed the route we had planned until the following day because it involved serious descending and switchbacks, not something we wanted to deal with on wet roads.  Fortunately, we still got to do a fun ride, just a little later in the day.

While we waited for the weather to clear, we hung out in the apartment.  A few of us read.  Sky worked on a paper for nursing school that was due on Saturday.  I did a small work project.  I’ve never taken work on vacation before, but this wasn’t a big deal timewise and would save my employer a significant chunk of money.

Shortly before noon, we headed for Pollença, about six miles to the west.  (We were staying in Port de Pollença.  Several towns have corresponding ports.)  Bryn and Sky were to meet us there for lunch.  Robert assured us that the town would be worth seeing.  He was right.

The plan was to meet in the city center (or centre, as it was spelled there).  As we three cyclists approached our destination, it was so European feeling, almost medieval:


No wonder, as some of Pollença’s buildings, notably the clock tower, date to the 1200’s.


After winding through the super narrow streets, we popped out into the lovely plaza in the city centre, Plaça Major.  We found a café table right next to the most famous attraction of Pollença, 365 steps that lead to Calvary Church:


Every year in Pollença on Good Friday, there is a reenactment of the Stations of the Cross, a mock crucifixion of Jesus, and a solemn parading of the body of Christ down the steps and around the town.  The parade is done in total silence except for the beating of a single drum.  It must be quite something to behold.

Our lunch was decidedly less solemn.  Only two waitresses were covering quite a large crowd, and so we settled in for a long lunch, even by leisurely European standards.  We didn’t care, though.  We were perfectly content to savor the afternoon.  While we waited for Bryn and Sky to join us, Bill, Robert, and I enjoyed some adult beverages.  I got to cross Sangria off my list!  Even better, I got to have it with a side of Robert:


We struck up a friendly conversation with an older English couple sitting next to us.  They go to Mallorca regularly.  In fact, we started realizing that the majority of the tourists were either English or German.  It’s only a couple-hour flight for them, comparable to us flying from Georgia to South Florida or Texas.

After Bryn and Sky arrived, the five of us ordered food.  Robert and I shared the Iberian table for two, which included olives, bread, cheese, and several types of meat (charcuterie, if you’re fancy).  So deliciously Spanish!

Eventually, we finished lunch.  Time to climb the steps!  Bryn and Sky were game, but Bill and Robert didn’t want to bother, especially since we had forgotten to bring walking-around shoes.  That didn’t stop me.  Without a second thought, I started up the stairs, bicycle slung across my back and shoes and helmet in my other hand.  No way I would attempt to climb the stony steps in my slippery, clackety shoes, and so I went barefoot.


That turned out to be a highlight of my trip.  As I went up and down the 365 steps, I smiled as I heard various comments.  A couple of older Spanish men said, “Grande!  Grande!”  A German man started carrying on quite the conversation with me.  I said, “Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch,” which means “I speak only a little German.”  He didn’t seem to care and kept right on talking.  A woman took my photo right as I approached the top of the steps.  She smiled and showed it to me, a really nice black-and-white photo.  (I should have asked her to send it to me.)  My favorite comment, however, was from an English-speaking man, who simply said, “Penance.”




By the way, Robert later told me that as I headed up the steps, the English couple who had been sitting next to us made a comment, rather admiringly, to the effect of how typically American my foray was.

I got back to the bottom before Bryn and Sky.  Robert and Bill were nowhere in sight.  No problem – I used the Find My Friends app on my phone to locate Robert.  Not surprisingly, they were at the old Roman bridge at the edge of town, another point of interest that we wanted to see.  I navigated my way to them fairly easily.  Robert said that he had just gotten to see a Galga at the bridge!

I so wanted to see a Galgo (male) or Galga (female) during our trip.  Galgos are Spanish greyhounds.  In the last few years, I have learned of their terrible plight.  They are used for hunting in Spain.  What makes it so horrible is that tens of thousands of them are killed, usually very cruelly, annually at the end of hunting season.  Galgo adoption groups, including several in the U.S., are doing what they can to rescue as many Galgos as possible.  Besides adoptions and fundraising, the U.S. rescue groups have an easy way to help.  If you’re flying from Spain to the U.S., you can volunteer to be a flight guardian for a Galgo/Galga.  It simply involves attaching your name to a dog being transported; volunteers handle the details on both ends.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us to be Galgo flight guardians on this trip.  Most of the U.S. adoption groups have specific Spanish and U.S. cities that you have to travel between.  I did find one Galgo rescue group that might have worked with an Atlanta destination point, but it still didn’t work for this trip because of our layover.  That would have been so wonderful if we could have helped five Galgos find permanent homes.

I kept on the lookout for other Galgos…

Bill, Robert, and I continued our journey, heading toward Cala Sant Vincenç.  This coastal town on the northwest corner of the island provided a stunning display of the ocean’s power as waves crashed into the limestone shoreline.


Ever faithful Bryn and Sky met up with us briefly in Cala Sant Vincenç before we returned to Port de Pollença.  We cleaned up and headed out for another dinner adventure.  This time it was…tapas!  We had read about a Tapas Trail, held every Thursday evening among various local restaurants.  For 1 euro (or maybe 2 – we read varying accounts on the Internet), you could get a tapa and a glass of wine.  Several such stops along the Tapas Trail would make for quite a festive evening.  We started with the closest restaurants on the promenade by the shore.  When we asked about the Tapas Trail at one of them, they said that it involved restaurants a few blocks off the promenade, the intent being to draw tourists to the less obvious restaurants in town.  That sounded reasonable.  So, we checked out some restaurant areas we hadn’t visited yet.

We never could find the Tapas Trail, and so we returned to a particularly good looking tapas restaurant on the promenade.  Robert and I ordered 10 tapas for two people.  Bryn and Sky ordered the same.  Bill ordered a few extra tapas, correctly figuring that he could help Bryn and Sky with theirs.  Tiny edible cones filled with tuna mousse, mini lamb burgers, pumpkin ravioli – it was a feast for all the senses!


Oh yeah, lest you think I missed out on my rioja on the trip, I had it several times.  In fact, Robert and I shared a bottle that night with our tapas.  Typically Spanish wine with typically Spanish food – it doesn’t get much better.

Before we left the restaurant, I had to get my picture with the suit of armor:

It's just a flesh wound.
We were fuller after that meal than any other of the week – as well we should have been because it was almost bigger than our heads.  The rule is never to eat anything bigger than your head.

Naturally, we had to stop somewhere else for another round of gelato.  This time I had a scoop of white chocolate and a scoop of green apple – in a cone, of course.

Friday

We had a big day of riding planned.  Therefore, we definitely needed to fuel up with a good breakfast.  Robert and I woke up before the Causey faction and headed out to scout a different restaurant than the previous two mornings.  We didn’t have anything against the one we had been going to, but a little variety is nice.  It took some searching.  It was 7:40 AM, and hardly anything was open.  What’s the deal with these laid-back Europeans?  We found a café with a delicious looking breakfast menu board that included pancakes!  Perfect!  Except they didn’t open until ocho.  Not a big deal – we would fetch the others and come back.

As Robert and I walked back, he confided that Bill had sounded less than enamored with trying a different breakfast restaurant when Robert had brought it up the previous night.  Bill really liked the white coffee at the breakfast place we had been eating.  As if that were the only place that served latte.  Robert joked that that would be like being in Georgia and saying, “Let’s go to that place with the sweet tea!”

Alas, the white coffee wasn’t quite as good at the second place, but we enjoyed different breakfast foods.  I got French toast, which came with fresh fruit.  I found that it was rather difficult to find as many fruits and vegetables on vacation as I eat at home.  That made me feel pretty good about Robert’s and my regular diet.

We got a chuckle out of the menu at this breakfast restaurant.  They misspelled the name of a couple of U.S. states, and you can order “scrumbled” eggs.


Guess they forgot to have an English-speaking person proofread the menu.  We noticed funny typos on other restaurant menus during the week.  One offered “dead by chocolate.” Then there was the pizza place had a vegetarian pizza that included pepperoni.  Robert liked the particular combination of ingredients on that pizza but wasn’t sure it would actually come with pepperoni.  So, just to be safe, he ordered a different one that listed pepperoni.

It was time to ride.  The day promised significant climbing as we embarked on our most challenging ride of the week: Sa Calobra.

We passed Pollença and soon began an ascent.  It was quite long, even more like the North Georgia gaps than the climbs near Cap de Formentor had been.  Soon after we started the climb, we picked up a nice guy from Manchester, England.  Although we were going at slightly too fast a pace for much chatting, it was definitely companionable.  Additionally, we all laughed in amazement as some really pro looking guy zoomed passed us on the climb, encouraging us to hop on.  As if!

After several miles of climbing, we reached a small plateau.  Our Manchester friend turned left for a brief stop at a petrol store before heading back down, and the three of us turned right to go to the Lluc Monastery.  Cycling is like life.  Nice people join you for a while, and then you part ways.

Bryn and Sky planned to meet us at the monastery.  We got smart this time, asking them to bring walking-around shoes for us.  Only they didn’t get there until we had already been at the monastery for a while.  So, we walked around in our cycling shoes.

I checked out some of the cells on the outer portion of the monastery.  I’m not sure if monks actually live here today or if these are simple quarters for people who stay here on retreat.


Either way, I remembered something I hadn’t thought of in years.  I learned in ninth grade biology class that Robert Hooke discovered cells as he looked through a microscope.  He called them cells because they reminded him of the small rooms in a monastery.

The courtyard at the center of the monastery had a striking clock tower on one side:


I enjoyed hearing the organ music coming from the adjacent sanctuary.

The middle of the courtyard had a statue of what I assume is a pope.


I asked Robert if he knew which pope this is.  Robert said he looks pretty pious, and so it’s probably Pope Pius.  I told Robert that he wouldn’t make a very good Catholic.

It was interesting to learn that the monastery houses a school that bases the students’ education on music, calling it “the horizontal axis.”  Other important components are respect for nature and becoming thoughtful, productive adults.  Sounds like a pretty good school to me.

Bryn and Sky finally arrived after we finished walking around – ha ha!  Guess we were riding faster than they anticipated.  No big deal – we’d meet up in Sa Calobra.  The meat of our ride was just beginning…

We climbed some more.  We reached an amazing lookout point at the summit before the descent to Sa Calobra.  The summit offered a breathtaking panorama of the limestone formations of Serra de Tramuntana.  This mountain range was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.  You can tell just by looking around that this is a uniquely special region.


The karst topography was particularly notable at this vantage point.

Before our trip, Robert had shown me a photo of the amazing switchbacks leading to the coastal town of Sa Calobra (the snake!).  That photo must have been taken from the air because I wasn’t able to get a birdseye view of the whole thing.  In fact, it was a little tricky to stop at all for a photo.  This is the best I could do:


It was a challenge to descend.  I’m not the best descender anyway, and I certainly was going to play it safe in a foreign country with vehicles passing amid other cyclists.  Bill and Robert soon rode out of sight.  I descended relatively sedately, laughing at myself as I imagined Driving Miss Daisy.

You wouldn’t believe the hairpin turns (26 total, according to the Interwebs!).  They came one after the other, and I didn’t want to pick up too much speed between them.  I pumped my brakes as much as I could.  My hands were killing me.  I was pretty sure I could tough it out to the bottom, but it wasn’t easy.  At last, I made it!


I found Bill and Robert, and we headed to the cafeteria for lunch.  Bryn and Sky weren’t too far behind.

That day’s lunch was the only disappointing meal of the trip.  They know the tourists don’t have any choice on food, particularly cyclists who have to climb back out.  The food wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great.  I got a plate of bread, olives, and what I thought was cheese, plus a small grapefruit and a small bottle of wine.  The bread wasn’t nearly as good as what we had had up to then on the trip.  More scarily, the cheese turned out to be mayonnaise.  Actually, they call it aioli in Spain, but it’s essentially mayonnaise.  I had tried it with some of our previous meals, but it’s just not my thing.

One thing about this cafeteria’s food was that the portions were huge.  I couldn’t finish all my olives, but I hated to throw them away.  (They were actually good, as was the grapefruit.)  So, I wrapped them in napkins and put them in my jersey pocket.  I have carried a Stromboli and a torta in my jersey before – why not olives?  I didn’t finish my mini bottle of wine, either.  It wasn’t the greatest wine, but I gave it to Bryn and Sky to take back to the apartment.  I figured I could finish it before we went out that evening.

So, stuffed to the gills, Bill, Robert, and I faced the long ascent out of Sa Calobra.  This was going to take a while.  All we could do was put our heads down and go.  Bill and Robert soon pulled ahead of me.  This was the kind of riding where you simply have to go at your own pace, whatever it is.  At least my stomach felt better after a short while.

We had read cautions about not leaving Sa Calobra too late in the day because of the tour buses maneuvering the hairpin turns.  We pretty much missed our window of opportunity.  However, the buses really weren’t that bad.  The several that passed me were primarily soon after I began the ascent.  In most cases, I pulled off the road to a narrow safe space just to make life easier for everyone.

Pedal, pedal, pedal.  One way I kept myself going was by playing categories in my head.  I would pick a topic and then try to think of an item in that topic for every letter of the alphabet.  I started with makes/models of cars.  Then I did animals – too easy.  Next was meteorological terms, which was pretty cool.

Without undo pain, I made it to the top, where Bill and Robert were waiting for me.  They had already been there a few minutes and were ready to go.  Onward.

Most of the remaining steep terrain was descending with many fewer curves, and certainly not the hairpins like on the road to Sa Calobra.  Gravity loves Bill and Robert more than it loves me; they quickly got ahead of me again.

We did have a little climbing left.  In fact, I passed several twenty-something looking guys.  They gave me a rather surprised look as I rode by and greeted them with a cheery, “Hola!”  Heh heh – it’s always fun to chick guys.

Earlier I mentioned all the sheep in the Mallorcan countryside.  Sometimes we could hear one of the bells tied around their necks.  It was like a cheering section: Allez!  Allez!  I had been wanting to get a picture of one of these wonderful sheep.  Suddenly, I had my chance.  This sheep had escaped from behind one of the multitudinous rock walls:


The twenty-something guys passed me back as I was taking sheep pictures.  No worries: I passed them for the second time on a climb a short time later.  Chicked again – heh heh.

Bryn and Sky parked strategically on the side of the road and got photos and videos of Bill, Robert, and me as we passed.


video
  
Bill and Robert waited for me near the turn off to Lluc Monastery.  We stayed together the rest of the way.  The gradients of the descents were decreasing as we approached sea level.  Then, here came the 20-something guys!  We all hauled it during the last couple of miles on the flat section approaching Pollença.  I think the young pups were trying to drop us, but we foiled their plan.

As Bill, Robert, and I  got back to Port de Pollença, we stopped at the very cool Pro Cycle bicycle shop.  In addition to plenty of cycling equipment and gear, they have coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and beer.  We celebrated another excellent day of riding with a few brews:


I got to eat the leftover olives in my jersey pocket, too.

We rolled out to ride the remaining mile back to the apartment.  A block or two later, we had to make a stop for Bill.  It’s not often you see Foster’s on draft.  The guys had another beer, and I had a glass of sangria.

Saturday

The next morning Robert and I went back to Pro Cycle for the Saturday group ride.  (Bill wanted to spend some exclusive time with his daughters.)  I slept later than I anticipated, and so breakfast was a croissant and tea that I grabbed at the shop before we rolled out.

About a dozen riders gathered for the ride, led by shop owner Bruce.  Most of the riders were tourists like Robert and me, primarily from England.  Bruce is originally from Scotland.  Robert and I were curious to see how the group riding dynamics would play out.

I was quite pleased to find that it truly was a group ride.  No egos surged off the front, and we waited when one fellow got a flat (“puncture” in British).  Also, everyone was extremely courteous and conscious of traffic and the other riders.  That’s the beauty of cycling etiquette; it helps keep everyone safe and makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

We rode at a social pace for about 25 miles, when we stopped at another great little cycling/coffee shop in Alero.  After light refreshments, we continued our ride.  Two other women were with the group up to that point.  They turned off to take a shorter route back to the Pro Cycle shop.  After that, the group picked up the pace.  I never felt like I was about to get dropped, but our average speed definitely increased.  We rode a total of 100 km (62 miles), a nice day’s ride.

I’m used to chasing around a bunch of guys on my bicycle in Middle Georgia.  This was just like that, only with different accents and scenery.  Kind of like all those years of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner with Robert’s grandmother; only the dessert and the color of the congealed salad were different.

That afternoon, Robert and I got some sandwiches at a deli, met the bicycle rental company when they came to pick up our bikes, and then relocated to a restaurant on the promenade to sip on some drinks and read.  Later, as we were walking back to the apartment, we passed a beachside courtyard next to a hotel, where a wedding was about to take place.  The bride's appearance was imminent, and so we waited a few minutes along with a few dozen other tourists.  She looked beautiful as she emerged from the hotel with, presumably, her father.



I hope the newly married couple are very happy together!

On our last night in Port de Pollença, our group of five didn't know exactly what kind of food we wanted.  We wandered around.  Nothing particularly struck our fancy.  At last, we found an attractive looking restaurant with an appealing menu.  I was able to get some really good fish, the last thing on my mental checklist of foods/beverages to have in Spain.

Sunday

We were sad to leave Port de Pollença, but we had one more day in Mallorca in the capital city of Palma.  We planned to spend our last night there because we had an early flight out of the Palma airport on Monday morning.

Bill, Bryn, and Sky were gracious to let us ride to Palma with them in their rental car.  It was a rather tight squeeze with everyone's luggage, but it wasn't bad for the relatively short drive.  We stored our luggage at our hotels and set out to enjoy the day.

The one place we particularly wanted to visit was the Palma Cathedral, formally known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma.  This beautiful Gothic structure was begun in 1229, but construction wasn't complete until 1601.

Sky had done an excellent job driving, guided by the rental car's navigation system.  The system gave directions in a sultry British woman's voice.  What happened next is now part of Causey and Jordan family lore...

We followed the navigation system's directions.  Turning off of a busy city street, we quickly found ourselves on extremely narrow streets - even narrower than the ones in Pollença.  Seriously, there were only inches of clearance on either side of the car.  We couldn't back up; we just had to keep going forward and make seemingly impossible turns.  The navigation system assured us that we were getting closer to the cathedral.

Suddenly, we popped out in a plaza right next to the cathedral.  "Hey, y'all, we're here!"  It was surreal.  We saw only one other passageway out, and so we took it.  More crazy narrow roads.  The pedestrians truly looked sorry for us.  Silly Americans.

Sky did an amazing job maneuvering the car.  When her nerves were about shot, Bill took the wheel.  He got us through more super tight squeezes.  At last, we saw a regular city road ahead.  We were tens of feet from being home free, and the car accidentally scraped the side of a building.  Yikes.  I suppose that's what insurance is for.  But we made it out!

Just as we were emerging from the last narrow street, I saw two Galgos!  I couldn't get a physical picture in time, but I was glad to at least take a mental picture.  They looked like someone's happy pets.

We decided to get a closer look at the cathedral later in the afternoon because we had plans to meet Guido, a retired German pro cyclist, for lunch.  Guido is a friend of a friend.  It's nice to make those kinds of connections.  Guido recommended a restaurant on the southwest side of town.  It was several miles between the cathedral and the restaurant.  We parked in an underground parking lot and hoofed it the rest of the afternoon, glad for a respite from our harrowing cathedral driving caper.

The restaurant had a lovely view of the water (note the cathedral in the background, too):


Kind of looks like the opening credits of Gilligan's Island

All five of us plus Guido ordered the lunch special, which included gazpacho and paella.  The paella came in one large pan that was divided tableside among us.  Now that's some serious paella:



After lunch, we said goodbye to Guido and started the walk back across the city.


Although we didn't necessarily want to go inside the cathedral, we were glad to get a better view from the outside.  We had driven into the plaza just to the right of the tall section in the photo below.  D'oh!


After walking a few more miles to our parked car, we wrapped up our afternoon in Palma.


The Causey faction drove Robert and me to our hotel (we couldn't get rooms in the same one), and we said goodbye until the next morning at the airport.  At least we all were on the same return flight.

Robert and I rested in our room for a while and then headed out for a walk along the shore as the sun set.



The Return Home

Robert and I got up at 4:45 AM for our 7:00 flight.  The airport was only about five minutes from our hotel, but we wanted to be there in plenty of time.  We met the others at the gate, and the five of us said a fond farewell to Mallorca.

After a short flight (50 minutes!) to Barcelona, we transferred to another plane headed for Atlanta.  That flight was much longer, about 10 hours, but it went quite smoothly.  I spent much of the time writing this trip report on my laptop :)

Robert and I turned on the monitors in front of our seat to watch our flight progress.  Just as were were crossing from Virginia into North Carolina, we saw that our plan had taken a sharp turn and was heading toward Cincinnati!  Not 30 seconds later, the pilot came over the intercom and announced that, sure enough, we were being diverted from Atlanta due to Hurricane Irma (by then downgraded to a tropical storm, but still too severe for landing in Atlanta).  We all had been keeping a close eye on the weather due to Irma.  We weren't shocked that we got diverted to Cincinnati, but we had gotten so close to Atlanta that we thought we were going to swing it.

It was an exercise in patience.  I knew that many people were facing much more dire circumstances than a diverted flight, which helped me keep things in perspective.  I thought about the endurance required by all my ultra cycling; I could apply the same principle to this situation.

There was no telling when we might get another flight to Atlanta, and so we rented a car to drive back.  Road trip!

We were fortunate to get an upgrade to a Suburban.  In most cases I wouldn't be too fired up about such a big vehicle, but it certainly made for a more comfortable drive with five of us and our luggage.

Sky, Bill, and Robert split the driving duties.  We made a stop for pseudo-supper at a Love's travel plaza.  We laughed about scarfing down truck stop sandwiches and popcorn after all the good food we had eaten all week.

The rain picked up as we got into the outer bands of Irma in Tennessee.  Our drivers got us safely to the Atlanta airport.  Bill, Bryn, and Sky headed to Macon in Bill's truck, which he had parked at ATL.  Robert and I had taken Uber to the airport, and so we went home the same way.  We have only a little Uber experience and hoped we could find a driver willing to go to Monticello so late at night.  We were in luck.

A driver picked us up.  He looked like Garth from Wayne's World but better groomed.  His little economy car looked like it had been driving on cathedral roads (it was dented all along one side), but it got the job done. At about 2:30 AM, 27 1/2 hours after we had left our hotel in Palma, we arrived home.  Our dogs and chickens were well, and our power was on!  Robert and I simply had some inconveniences at the end of our trip; our hearts and prayers go out to the many with real storm related problems.

I'm grateful for so much: the opportunity to travel, the health and strength to be physically active, and spending wonderful time with Robert and our friends.  Ride on!