Sep 11, 2010

One “Nasty Monday” in Barcelona, Spain

The sun beat down on my black Spin kit. The sweat crystallized on my jersey before I even had the chance to realize that I was sweating. The chosen route to Girona, the halfway point to Barcelona, was on incredibly hilly coastal roads. The road would climb out of each quiet Mediterranean beach village until it eventually started to descend into the next village. This repeated for hours. The climbs were steep and long, but each time the road reached the summit, I was greeted with one incredible view. I tried to fight the urge to get off my bike every 5 minutes to take another picture. Over one of the last climbs, I finally crossed into Spain. The smell of the Spanish countryside immediately hit me. Cow shit. Ugh. The temperatures rose even more, and I started to have trouble keeping myself hydrated. I had been riding pretty hard all morning. I didn’t like the idea of “touring,” so I had been riding like a normal training day (with 35lbs of gear). As I started to get closer to Girona, I realized that an 80 mile ride with bags was more like a 100+ mile ride. My bonk hit swiftly at 65 miles, just outside of Figueres, Spain. My head sank low for the last hour into Girona. After over 5 hours of riding in the sun, I needed some cool weather and some sleep. Instead, I received an uncomfortable bed in a shitty hostel with no windows and a night full of sweating. At one point, I woke up, ripped the sheets off the bed, walked to the shower, soaked them in cold water, made my bed, and went back to sleep. Even though I was wet, it worked and I got some much needed rest.

The next day ended up being the second most challenging day I’ve spent on a bicycle. **The other came a week later when I rode through the windiest region in France on my way to Beziers** I woke up early thinking that I needed to do another run, so I set out into the streets of Girona. I followed a nice river trail to the outskirts of the city. As morning came, the fog lifted off the river, and I was treated to a beautiful run in a fairly dirty Spanish city. Exhausted from a lack of sleep and my morning run, I took a quick nap before they finally kicked me out of the hostel. It was around 12 and it was already starting to get hot again.

The ride to Barcelona was one of the worst afternoons I had this entire month. The countryside was dull and infinite, the sun was hot as hell, and the wind pelted me head on for the duration of the ride. I couldn’t get any break from the wind, and I started to realize that I would probably have this headwind for the entire 80 miles. Luckily, I found a little entertainment to keep my mind preoccupied. As I slowly made my way through the Spanish countryside, I started to notice young women hanging out on the side of the road. When I passed the first woman, I assumed she was selling something on the side of the road (she pretty much was). In southern Arizona, there are plenty of people that sell food and crafts on the side of the highway. I assumed this was like that. I slowed down thinking that maybe I could buy some food. The girl stood up from under her umbrella, turned around, hiked up her skirt and flashed me her backside.

“Ahhhhh!” It was a shrill of shear shock and a little excitement.

 I couldn’t even believe it. I had never seen prostitutes outside of the city like this. Most of them were very young and somewhat attractive eastern European women. If anything was going to save this ride, it was going to be free nudity. The closer I got to Barcelona, the more naked women I saw (a precursor to what my stay in Barcelona was like). Around 20 miles out, I hit the seaside and the real headwind struck. Those last 20 miles took me around 2 hours. I tried to have patience, but there were no more prostitutes.

Rolling into Barcelona was a bit overwhelming. The city was large and I had no idea where my host, Luis, lived. Again, my GPS worked for shit and it took me an hour to find his apartment. As he opened the door to his centrally located apartment (he lived in the gothic area right between the beach and the city), I was hit with a blast of AC. I welcomed the icy apartment with open arms. Never mind the fact that my bed was a love seat, his apartment was freezing. I loved it.

After some much needed food and a few beers, I felt like Luis was an old friend. Luis is a very particular, laid back yet outgoing, homosexual from Argentina. It took me awhile to realize that he was gay, but his fairly flamboyant and weirdly gigantic French roommate should have been a slight give away. In any sense, I could have cared less about Luis’s sexual preference. I was just happy to have such a caring and hospitable host in Barcelona. Plus, we got along well and I had this feeling that my time in Barcelona would be unforgettable.

The next day was Monday. Nasty Monday to be exact… but I’ll get to that later. Exhausted from the last few days of travel, I slept until 1pm. Luis had just got back from work and we made plans to go to the pool later. Because of travel, I hadn’t been swimming much. Let’s just say, swim training in Barcelona was well worth the 10 Euros I paid for pool access. It was kind of like paying cover at a strip club and then getting to do a swim workout. Walking out onto the pool deck was like walking into a women’s locker room. Almost every woman was topless. I felt like I was overdressed in my tiny blue Speedo. I found an open lane and tried to start my workout. But to my surprise, the women don’t just tan topless, they train topless too! Two fairly attractive (and topless) Spanish women asked to share my lane. I quickly nodded my head in agreement. Both women wore bottoms, a swim cap and goggles, and both women were legitimately doing swim workouts. I tried to do my workout, but I ended up doing an impromptu kick set. I couldn’t help myself. Instead of trying to blend into the odd swimming environment, I used my go-to excuse for this trip… “It’s okay. I’m American.”

As we left the pool and headed towards the beach for some post workout relaxing, I saw a very odd site. Looking back now, it wasn’t so odd for Barcelona, but at the time it was quite shocking. A man walked down the city streets completely naked. With some sandals on his feet and a bag draped over his shoulder, he walked through the streets like it was no big deal. I couldn’t stop starring. This was NOT normal for me.

Later at the beach, **Luis actually took me to the gay beach without telling me** I saw way more nudity, male and female, and a few other things that I would rather not share here. Although, if you would like to know, just ask me. I have pictures too!

That night we met up with a few friends of Luis for what we will call “Nasty Monday.” It was already 10pm, which means I could finally get some dinner. In Spain, restaurants don’t even open until 9pm. This was a weird part of Spanish culture that I didn’t like too much. Anyways, after dinner and a few drinks, we headed out to this club in the heart of the city. It was a Monday night and I didn’t think that it was going to be too eventful. We arrived around midnight, grabbed a few gin and tonics and hung out in the empty club. Fast forward 20 minutes… the club is freaking packed! In literally 20 minutes, 500 people packed this club. I couldn’t even believe it. The music was bumping, my judgment was fairly slighted and I was ready for what Barcelona had to offer…

The clock clicked past 1:00pm before my body was somewhat functional again. With that retched hangover cloud floating over my head, I tried to engage in some touristy activities. I quickly decided the tourism is boring and it was too damn dehydrated to be roaming through the park, no matter how beautiful the landscape (Park Guell was quite stunning and I would absolutely recommend this tourist attraction, especially in the winter). I took retreat in an icy apartment.

Tired of feeling the effects of Barcelona, I convinced myself that I needed to run myself into some type normalcy. Being that Barcelona is quite polluted, I took the train to the outskirts of the city. Once out of the train station, I ran straight up… a pattern that frequented my runs in Spain and the south of France. The road twisted and turned as I climbed out of the city. Not accustom to the steep grade, my quads burned with that lovely feeling of lactic acid. My breathing was heavy and my hangover was quickly a feeling of the past. The grade evened out for a bit, but my effort continued to climb. Latching onto a struggling mountain biker, my climbing pace turned into a tempo as I followed him onto a dirt trail.

With a slight turn of the head, I whispered to myself, “You have got to me kidding me…”

I was greeted with the most beautiful view Barcelona had to offer. The narrow dirt trail, cut out of the side of the mountain, went for miles and miles. Over my right shoulder was all of Barcelona with the infinite sea in the farthest distance. I hammered along the oblique surface displaying a small smirk that barely revealed my euphoric state of mind… My mind was a clear slate… total blankness. I didn’t dare think about the long trip ahead. 


  1. Great post. "It took me awhile to realize that he was gay, but his fairly flamboyant and weirdly gigantic French roommate should have been a slight give away." LOL.

  2. that was my favorite post and favorite quote..hahahahahahahahaa...i am dying laughing!!!

  3. >The next day ended up being the second most challenging day I’ve spent on a bicycle. **The other came a week later when I rode through the windiest region in France on my way to Beziers**

    What about drunkenly riding up the mountain w/ a Sperm Whale on your handlebars?

  4. Hey AJ! Remember me from Carson's backyard BBQ? I came with my friend Svetlana (Russian girl ;) Just read your post! I'm a newbee blogger and just started a blog of my own and was looking for inspiration. Jim suggested I read yours and it rocks! You really are a great writer! It was so easy and interesting to read :) Sounds like you're in paradise!!!

  5. Thanks Marta!! I'll check yours out. I figure if I can write about stupid shit that would keep someone like Dahlberg entertained, then I could keep anyone entertained.

    And Jim, riding the fat girl home was not the toughest day... it was the toughest evening I've ever spent on a bike ;)