France to Spain
It always amazes me that when you cross an imaginary line in the dirt, or ride through a gate, and arrive in the next country how things change…….and you only need travel about one inch (across a border line) to see dramatic changes. Such is the case with Spain.
Above & Below: Basque Country, in Northern Spain
Of course the language changes (which, when you think about it is amazing in itself)….but there are other dramatic changes too:
In France overweight people are a bit rare, and obese people are very rare….especially in central and northern France. Not so in Spain
In France people seem take more pride in how they look and dress than the people in Spain.
So far we have found that less people speak English in Spain than in France (This might be from the close proximity of France to the UK)
It is harder to find healthy food in Spain…like a health food store that you can easily find in America
In both countries there are a greater number of nearly abandoned small towns and villages than anywhere I have ever been, with Spain leading the toll by quite a margin, (Although France certainly has its share!) Some of them only have a few people living there and everything else is bordered up. One town in Spain had three very large motels that I estimate to have a 250—400+ room capacity that were closed and boarded up
Above & Below: Nearly Abandoned Town and Industrial Area
Spain has many, many thousands of wind powered electric generators. However of the thousands that we passed in the last few days there were only a very few turning….maybe about 50 of them. I don’t know if this is the “no wind” time of year or just a few calm days in a row. But it seems to have been a huge expense to just sit idle like that. Like with everything else….if it is not making money it is costing money.
There are also hundreds and hundreds of acres of solar panels. They seem pretty high tech…they rotate on a pedestal to keep facing the sun……at least the ones that were still working. (We saw some that were not working which, with that many in operation, is no surprise.) What did surprise us was the very small size of the power lines coming out of the “solar panel farms”. From the size of the power line they could not be producing much electricity at all.
Spain does not, in every practical sense, a functioning government, and has not had one (as far as I can find out) for well over a year. There was another election just held in November (the second election in a year) to try to establish a working government, however it only succeeded in forming a minority government. In other words, in Spain it is not a real operating government without a majority. So things are in a bit of disarray in many areas of what the government controls. Take customs for example. They took four days to clear Lana’s new panniers into the country and called to say that it will cost 300 Euros ($332.71 USD) to pick them up!!! I guess they needed a pay check at the customs office!!!
There has been wide spread, major corruption found on nearly every level of government, with a good number of bureaucrats being put in jail and many more having resigned to cover their butts. So, in essence, the people fired their government.
I would guess that eventually there will be more corruption found in the entire solar and wind energy program….this is starting to sound vaguely familiar isn’t it??
By all outward appearances, looking around the country, you could not tell that the government was shut down…until you start looking deeper. Then it becomes a little more obvious.
Where we are staying with my friend G, it is mainly tourist area, and the location of a good number of retirement communities. From the fourth floor of this building I counted 32 tower cranes (some of which are pictured below). That means that there are (or were in this case) at least 32 building projects that involve tall, multi story buildings within eye sight of this place. But here is the glitch…..I have only seen five of these tower cranes that are being used (there could be more working that I don’t notice)…..none of them are working steady….and not every day. All of the rest of them appear to be parked. There was a wind storm a few days ago and two of them started “weather veining” in the wind. In other, words they would swing around as the wind changed.
There are also a lot of half completed buildings where construction has stopped, and has been stopped for quite some time by the looks of it. There is also a lot of vacant commercial space.
We got into the olive growing area of Spain. That was an amazing sight to see. We drove up a narrow winding road into the mountains and there were lots of olive trees….some must be VERY old as they are 24” to 30” in diameter on the stump! Some were saplings that were only recently planted. Most of the mature trees had olives on them. They were growing in small areas of cultivated ground that was terraced into the steep hill sides. The bottom edge of the terraces were held in place by hand laid rock walls. The ground would have made a better gravel pit than farm land…..the cultivated fields were full of rocks. But the olive trees seemed to be doing fine……and have been for a very long time.
I copied and pasted this from Wikipedia, which I found interesting. It explains the soil condition:
Olive trees, Olea europaea, show a marked preference for calcareous soils, flourishing best on limestone slopes and crags, and coastal climate conditions. They grow in any light soil, even on clay if well drained, but in rich soils they are predisposed to disease and produce poorer oil than in poorer soil. (This was noted by Pliny the Elder.) Olives like hot weather and sunny positions without any shade while temperatures below −10 °C (14 °F) may injure even a mature tree. They tolerate drought well, thanks to their sturdy and extensive root system. Olive trees can
Olive trees--in the background--growing on the terraced hill sides
live for several centuries and can remain productive for as long if they are pruned correctly and regularly.
The weather in Southern Spain is, of course, warm and beautiful….especially after being everything from soaking wet to real damp, and mostly cold for about the last 30 days…. So being warm and dry is a very welcome change.
Thank you G. for your very gracious hospitality, your support, and your friendship of many years. Getting to see you again was one of the highlights of our trip. Lana and I appreciate you more than we can express!!! May GOD Bless you and yours indeed.
In Spain we put new tires on Lana’s bike. There are about 4—5,000 miles left on her Mitas tires. But we are crossing over 1,600 miles of the Sahara Desert so we want to start with new ones. Sure there is a road of sorts….a small potion is even paved. But the rest is not good…sharp rocks, soft sand, gravel, and etc. We put Heidenau tires on it this time and went from a 130 in the back up to a wider 140 so we can get some more flotation in the soft places. They are the same tires that I put on my KLR in PA when we discovered that the new stock tires (on a new 2016 bike) we very badly split in the casing (read rotted) after a couple thousand miles of riding. (You have to ask yourself……how could that happen??!!)
Lana's bike only had about 1,100 miles on it when we rode out of Alaska......but it is 16 years old and still had the original radiator hoses. So just in case, we installed new silicon radiator hoses on both bikes and kept the ones off my bike as spares.
Lana's bike was about to need new sprockets and chain...even though there was a few thousand miles left in the OEM that were on it. But it is far easier to replace them in Spain, than stuck in a sand dune in the Sahara Desert.
Reinstalling the 10 gallon (37.8 liter) IMS gas tank after changing out the radiator hoses.
We are also installing new panniers on Lana’s bike. She dropped it in the gravel at a very low speed (about 15 MPH or 24 km/h) and her Wolfman Panniers did not hold up well at all. Here is a copy of the email that I sent to Wolfman and photos of the damage:
I have attached five (5) photos of the end result to your Rocky Mountain Saddle Bags in a low speed (15 MPH) lay down in the gravel with a loaded KLR 650 in France.
They should have held up much better than this. It also ground a hole through two of your water bottle holsters and the water bottles that they held, one of which is shown in the attached photos.
Prior to this the stiff plastic that is around the bottom inside edge of the panniers (I believe that you refer to them as internal stiffeners in on your web site) had broken on both bags....and this was just from the normal use of loading and unloading them on a daily basis. They started breaking about 30 days into our trip…and not from dropping the bike.
To say that we are disappointed in your product would be an understatement indeed~!
I have several suggestions for your Rocky Mountain Saddle Bags and accessories that we hope you will employ in a redesign:
Build your Water Bottle Holsters (that attaches to the outside of the bags) large enough in diameter to hold a 32 oz. Nalgene water bottle. In the current size they are useless to carry enough water for an extended ride in dry desert country~! This is the one complaint that we have had with them since I installed four of them on one set of these bags in Alaska. It is ridiculous to make them that small in diameter
Make the plastic internal stiffeners in the bottom of the bags out of much better quality (read stronger) material. They do not last even under normal everyday use.
Use a materiel for the general construction of the bags that is MUCH, MUCH stronger and more abrasion resistant than the current ballistic nylon that you use. This material will never last on an around the world ADV Bike Ride~!!
Make the bags larger. This is the first complaint that we have had with them since I installed them in Alaska. They simply do NOT have enough capacity for a 3—5 year ride around the world.
I read on your web site that you make repairs to them, and I am also sure that we could get them patched here in Spain somewhere. However we are very soon going on to Morocco and points south. We simply do not have time to send them back and forth to you, nor do have any faith in them lasting to warrant doing that or having them patched here anyway.
The next thing that I hope that you are not saying or thinking is this: “Well, don’t drop your bike!”. Quoted from your web site about these panniers… “the result of years of R&D testing and refinement with a World Class R&D team”. If this is in fact true, then I hope that you would know better than such a thought~!!! If you are unfortunately thinking like that then you have extremely little or no experience in a true ADV Bike ride….you know…not just down to the coffee shop every day where people can admire your bike…. but off the pavement….on bad roads and trails for days and days at a time~!
Having said all of that....you have a good concept and I appreciate that they are made in Colorado---my wife's home state---rather than in China or elsewhere. However I strongly suggest that you find better material to make them out of if you want them used by around the world ADV riders.
In the blog on our web site we review everything that we use...and I regret that we will have to give you a bad review for the use of your Rocky Mountain Saddle Bags on extended around the world rides like we are doing. In that review we will use what I have typed here along with the photos. I would imagine that these bags might work well for someone that is only going on a several day ADV Bike ride a few times a year...but certainly not for an expedition like ours.
I have not heard back from Wolfman as of this posting. If I do--which at this point is unlikely---I will include it in another blog post.
So we ordered aluminum panniers from Happy Trail. Lana already has the racks on her bike for those panniers. They have arrived in Spain and we have been waiting for them to clear customs for the past three days. Then we will be on our way again……Africa bound.
Here are two motorcycle businesses that we used that we highly recommend:
Trail Experience. Jorge is the man that we dealt with. He went to great lengths to help us in any way he could. He sourced Heidenau Scout tires for us because he does not carry them. He made calls for us when we had difficulty finding someone that spoke English. He ordered a couple of things for us from Enduristan that he was out of. He is extremely helpful and does exactly what he says he will do----which seems to be a bit unusual in today’s world. And he speaks far better English than we do Spanish. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone +34-64 650 92 18 Web site: www.trail-experience.com
Motos Marin: Alfonso is the Service Manager. He is a great guy. We had his shop install the two new Heidenau Scout tires on Lana’s bike. While they had the rear tire off we had them install new sprockets and drive chain, (we furnished the sprockets, drive chain and tires). They were very busy and when I explained where we are from and where we are going, Alfonso said bring it in right way. He had Lana’s bike on their bike stand in less than 15 minutes after we arrived---after taking one off the stand that was not finished yet~!!. Then he gave us a substantial discount without even asking. Alfonso speaks fairly good English and is very good to do business with. We highly recommend this business….which is a Suzuki shop and dealership. Contact Web site: www.motosmarin.com Email: email@example.com Address: Avda de Alicante, 96 A 03203 ELCHE Alicante Spain Phone: +34- 96 610 75 12
We ride towards Morocco............................................
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