Barreling down the rutted, stony track, my heart in my mouth, another part of my anatomy bouncing up and down on a bicycle seat from the spring line of Torquemada Sporting Goods, I couldn’t help asking myself: Why, Michelle, why?
It had begun as such a modest proposal. Would I like to bicycle through vineyards in Rioja? Well, certainly, I would. Perhaps I could have remembered that I ride a bike about once a year, and then not very well, but one doesn’t want to be a wet blanket when visiting one of the world’s great wine regions. Besides, I had visions of spinning lazily along a quiet country lane on one of those bikes that look like La-Z-Boys on wheels.
As it turned out I was outfitted with something a tad more rugged. Naturally, the first thing I did was gouge my left calf on the pedal or gears or some sticky-outy thing,
“You’re bleeding,” pointed out another member of the group, and indeed I was which held us up a bit as our kindly leader found some gauze and antiseptic and mopped me up.
But what do a pint or two of blood amount to? Plenty more where that came from so off we pedaled through the narrow streets of the town of Haro — sunbaked sandstone buildings nestled into folds of green — and out into the countryside.
There was a slight hitch as I tried to figure out the gears which theoretically could be changed by pushing a lever with one’s thumb while pedaling. In practice, one’s thumb had to be a lot stronger than mine so I decided whatever gear the bike was in was the gear the cycling gods wanted me to be in.
Note to self: I don’t think the cycling gods like me all that much.
“It won’t be hilly will it?” I asked. No, there’s just one hill was the reply. Which was technically true, but only because the entire ride was ONE, LONG, DAMNED HILL.
Note to cycling gods: The feeling is mutual.
And that, friends, is how I ended up flying down the aforementioned track, mountain* biking for the first time at the ripe old age of … ripe.
Spanish words I learned: collina (hill), coche (car), peligro (danger), sangre (blood).
English words I taught: censored, censored, whoa, really censored,
How was it? A blast. I mostly walked up the hills and occasionally walked down them when my nerve gave out, but it was still a beautiful way to enjoy a beautiful area.
The scenery was fantastic, vines highlighted with bright green spring leaves and long vistas of darker green fields set against snowcapped mountains. And the stop at a picnic table loaded with salty, fatty snacks and chilled white and rosado Beronia wines (my host for the trip) was quite delightful.
So, if you happen to be in Haro, I would highly recommend checking out a bike tour. Just limber up that thumb and don’t omit the sunscreen.
Oh, and here’s a bonus vocabulary word that may come in handy post-ride: cojin. That would be Spanish for cushion.
*OK, if you want to be all literal about it, it was more like moderate slope biking, but why ruin a good story with facts?
Where: Linares Rivas 44, Haro, Es. Tel. 34 607449650 www.facebook.com/turismoactivojasport