Cycling In Spain: Alcover to Solsona - 112kilometres

The last of the quiet roads for a while.
Nearing the end of our journey, Roz was more than satisfied with the number of Castillos and walled cities she’d visited along our planned route. A history enthusiast, she was no more in the moment than when exploring Roman ruins and Moorish architecture; a bit like my propensity for chasing climbs throughout different parts of the wider world.

Also one for making comparisons, for example the types and colours of the different houses in each of the Spanish regions, Roz became obsessed with, believe it or not, the garbage systems in some of the towns we travelled through. In her opinion, Catalonia should also be renowned for its waste disposal bins. While in Alcover, she remarked how impressed she was with the stainless steel bins that lined the streets beneath the terraced alleyways. ‘Compact, colour coded and not even an eye saw’, they were a much cleaner receptacle than the large open plastic bins in places further south, like Fortuna. A lasting impression though, all for the wrong reasons, some weren’t much more than a foul-smelling ‘home’ for plagues of emaciated cats.
While Roz would have bequeathed her ‘Tidy Town’ award to Alcover, I was hardly enamoured with its road system. Heading off down a quiet street from our hotel in the early morning, I had no idea of the chaos I was about to encounter. The C-14, a secondary road, seemed harmless enough on paper, but in just a few short moments I’d became part of a treadmill of cars and trucks that were scuttling down the highway. Streaming towards Montblanc  and the autovia, 15 kilometres up the road, motorists were either in a hurry to get to work or just annoyed with the fact that that was where they were heading.

Surrounded by mountains and a deep gorge below, the strong crosswind buffeted me from side to side. Unrelenting, it made me feel that at any moment I'd be thrust against the two metre-high steel barricades that were ironically there to stop you from disappearing over the edge. Straining every sinew just to remain steady within the one metre verge of road provided, it was like crossing a fast flowing river with only the narrowest of tree trunks to keep you from falling.

The road to another world.
Feeling every reverberation like it could be my last, I shrunk my head between my shoulders when one of the trucks went within a whisker of sideswiping me. The driver was obviously in a huge hurry as just seconds later he was blowing on his horn in an effort to force the motorist in front to either put his foot on the pedal or just get out of his way. How I survived it, and what felt like so many other close calls, I still wonder to this day. Either the Spanish truckies were better drivers than their impatience suggested or I was just plain lucky, most likely the latter.

As the bulk of the traffic hammered its way towards Montblanc and Lleida, the multi-ethnic ‘capital’ of Catalonia, a further 60 kilometres to the northeast, I finally reached an intersection that would take me in the direction I needed to go. As if in a time machine, I was instantly transported to another world, one of quiet roads and sweeping views I at last had a moment to look at. The rumbling dinosaurs were all but gone, replaced by the calm clickety-clack of wind turbines which like a ballerina’s arms, moved gracefully in the breeze.


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