The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Valencia, Spain

I rode Odysseus up the east side of Spain, riding through the mountains and along the Mediterranean Sea.

There are mile after mile of plastic greenhouses along this area. They stretch way up into the mountains.

They looked like snow when I first saw them. I found it hard to stop at a place where I could take of picture that showed how many acres they actually covered.

They went on, mile after mile. This is the vegetable growing area of Spain: cucumbers, lettuce, asparagus, all kinds of things for the table. Once I got away from the coast and turned into the mountains the acres of greenhouses gave way to acres of olive trees. With every meal here you get a bowl of olives to kind of start you off.

The mountainous interior of Spain is chopped up into canyons and chasms. Towns need many bridges to connect themselves across these steep walled gullies.I stayed at a hotel and could look out the window of my room to see one such bridge. By the time the sun came up the next morning it was foggy and there was a misty rain.

There are craggy ridges just beyond the bridge, but the weather was socked in enough that it was not possible to see them. I stayed two days, walking around and going over the bridges, waiting for the weather to clear up. I hate to ride in the rain.

Once the weather did clear up, I headed up along the coast to Valencia. I kind of had it in mind that I would like to camp, but once I got thee and looked at the caravans in the campground I decided I did not want to be the only tent in camper city. I went on into Valencia and got myself a room. Valencia is a very modern city, and there were lots of hotels to choose from.

As I was coming into the city I passed their rather new "Science City" museums.

As soon as I checked into my hotel and had Odysseus safely parked, I walked down to the science museum.

There is a unique Opera House there also. I am not too sure why it is not famous like the one in Sydney, Australia. Could it be because Valencia is not as well known as Sydney? I don't know.

I tried taking a "selfie" of myself with the futuristic building behind me. It didn't work out all that well.

I walked around for a while, and went into a park where kids where doing half-pipe moves on skateboards and bicycles, and where people were playing with dogs and having birthday parties. By that time, it was time to eat. I located a nice restaurant where I had a huge Greek salad. I love the cheese they put into those things.

Finally it was dark and the lights came on. I think the Opera House looks like a space ship.

The reflections of the Opera House in the water reminded me of the Starship Enterprise from the Star Trek movies.

I am liking Valencia so well that I think I will stay here several days and do some serious exploring. I will tell you what I find later.


Monday, April 25, 2016

From Antequera in Andalusia, Spain

After leaving Gibraltar I started riding the roads that twisted up through the mountains of Andalusia in the far south of Spain The roads are highlighted in green on the map, meaning they are scenic drives, and indeed they are absolutely beautiful.

There are numerous small villages hugging the cliffs.

The villages are a delight. I was riding on a Saturday, and people were out driving about and enjoying their weekend. There were many motorcycle riders on the road and in the towns, and when it came time to park for the evening I felt entirely safe leaving Odysseus in the motorcycle parking area out on the street.

I found myself a beautiful hotel for the evening. It had clean rooms and a friendly staff, and the price was less than I paid for the terrible hostel I stayed in at Gibraltar. The town I stayed in was Ronda. It was split in two by a deep gorge, and it had several bridges crossing the gorge, each older than the one immediately above it, and all built at the same place. So, in essence, there is actually only one bridge now, high up over the gorge that splits the town.

I joined the tourists in wandering to the bottom of the gorge, and all over the town.

The town was a photographers delight. There were nice things to see around each corner. Not being much of a photographer myself, I do not pretend to do justice to the scenery.

My hotel was just outside the Plaza de Toros; the bullfighting ring. The next day, as I was loading up, preparing to leave, there was a club displaying their antique cars in the Plaza.

I am in love with this old Aston Martin. I want one like it, but I guess that is something I will never own.

I left Ronda and headed toward the slightly larger town of Antequera, choosing it only because it was on a green road on the map.

As I was getting close to Antequera I passed a small sign that said there was a wolf sanctuary just off the road. I couldn't resist; the biologist in me just had to go visit the animals. This wolf is Alaskan, and there is a lot of hope that she is going to have a litter soon.

I didn't know this: there are around 2,000 wild wolves left in the Iberian Peninsula. Here is one of them, although I guess it is not truly wild living in a sanctuary.

Besides the wolves, there were some other animals there as well. Mostly, these other animals are pets. Here is a pig (yes, they have wild pigs in Spain, but this guy is actually a Vietnamese pig that some people had in an apartment somewhere in Spain. If you are like me, you think that a pig is not a very good pet for apartment people..

Look at this old goat. I love his beard.

It turns out the town I was headed to for the night was a fortunate choice. It has about 45,000 people, and lots of scenic places to see. This church is directly across from my hotel.

This fountain is in the square where my hotel is located.

High up over the town is a fortress. Back in 1410 a leader named Fernando, along with his army of course, laid siege to the fortress. At that time, the fortress was built and occupied my the Moors. Fernando, being Christian, was eager to take it away from the infidels.

Of course, I had to walk up to see the fortress. There are some beautiful views back over the town from up there.

Oops. I jumped into the picture and ruined it. You might like this next one better.

I  discovered this gateway on my way up to the fortress.

I really liked exploring the fortress. I found some old Roman baths there which were built about a thousand years before the fortress. The place had a nice garden as well.

Here is one final view of the town of Antequera.

I liked this town well enough that I have stayed here two days. That is kind of a record for me. Tomorrow I plan on following some more of those green-highlighted roads. I don't know for sure where I am going, but I guess I will be there when I finish for the day. Now though, it is coming on eight at night. They keep ringing the bells of the church across the courtyard. It is either a fire or time to eat. They do enjoy eating late here. In fact, cafes quit serving at 4 p.m. so that people can build their appetites, and the restaurants do not open until 8 p.m. So, time for this adventurer to go eat.

Adios, muchachos.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


I rode up from Casablanca to Tangier just a couple of days ago, riding along at about 70 miles per hour on a very nice four lane toll road. I arrived just in time to catch the ferry to  Spain, although going through Moroccan customs to leave the country was so slow I didn't know if I would actually make the boat in time. By comparison, Spanish customs was a breeze.  Once in Spain, I drove about 8 miles to a hostal I had booked the night before over the internet. It turned out to be a marvelous place. Ran and owned by a Canadian, it was clean and quiet and a delight to stay in.  The following day I rode 10 miles to Gibraltar where I planned to explore for a couple of days.

Gibraltar is British; all that's left of the once vast British Empire. There was a long line of traffic waiting to get into the city/state, but it moved along quickly with customs giving only a cursory glance at passports.

I like the city of Gibraltar, but the hostal I had booked was terrible, dirty and smelling of fish. I won't list all the things it has wrong about it, but I found myself wishing I could go somewhere else. I couldn't though, because I would have had to pay the entire amount of my room anyway. Such are the chances you take when booking on the Internet. At about $50.00 a night, the filthy place was one of the most expensive I've stayed at on this trip; far more expensive at the clean and exotic $8.00 per night riads I had enjoyed in Morocco.

The tourist area of Gibraltar is quite nice, although crowded with Australians, Canadians, Americans, and European tourists. The natives of Gibraltar speak English, mostly, although their English is a sort of pidgin spoken very rapidly with dropped vowels and mangled consonants. They understand each other, but I couldn't understand them. They did know how to slow down and talk distinctly when talking to tourists.

Once thing I very much wanted to do was climb to the top of the "Rock"

I walked it, and there were a lot of others doing the same thing, but I could have taken a taxi, a tour, or a cable car up as well. Still, I enjoyed the exercise. The path started up through a lovely garden.

There were several sections to the garden, and one of those sections was put together by children.

Looking way off, one can see Africa over the Strait of Gibraltar.

One of those mountains in Africa, no one is sure which one, and the Rock of Gibraltar make up the Pillars of Hercules and mark the end of the world back in those long ago days of Greek and Roman myths. Beyond here was the fabled kingdom of Atlantis, and somewhere near here was the entrance to the underworld of Hades.

My path up the Rock of Gibraltar took me to a cave. The Romans knew about the cave. It is very deep and they probably never descended all the way into it. Was it the entrance to Hades?  Today, it is brightly lighted.

Back during times of war the cave was used by the British as a sort of hospital. Now, the large entrance is used as a concert hall.

There are monkeys called Macaques all over the Rock of Gibraltar. Natives of Africa, they have lost their tails and so they are called Barbary Apes even though they are not apes at all. They are quite the tourist attraction.

Shortly after the War of American Independence, the British found themselves weak militarily, and the Spanish figured that would be a good time to wrest control of Gibraltar away from England. During the almost four year siege, the British took refuge on the Rock, honeycombing it with defensive tunnels.

The British cannons looked down on the Spanish forces and there were battles and sorties going on all the time. Eventually, the French joined the Spanish in trying to take Gibraltar, but they were never able to do so.

I had to laugh at this sign in the tunnels. The Brits have a different sort of way of expressing themselves. I mean, our heads often tell us to do the most goofy things, so minding them might get a person in trouble. Still, "mind your head" makes as much sense as the American order to "watch your head" which is an impossible thing to do as you walk along.

Look at the airport way down below. The road into the city/state of Gibraltar goes right across it. Once, the area where the airport is was a racetrack, but during World War II the racetrack was replaced by the airport which was used during the invasion of Africa. That invasion was commanded by General Eisenhower from Gibraltar and it was used as practice for the invasion of Europe. The British did not at all want to get rid of the racetrack, but there is no stopping progress.

I am glad I came to Gibraltar. Once, I mentioned to a Brit that I wanted to go visit Gibraltar and the response I got was "Why!!??" Maybe they don't think much of the place, but it was certainly worth a visit. Now, though, it is time for me to head back into Spain and up into the mountains. There are some quaint villages in southern Spain recommended to me as very good places to see. I am told the rides to them are spectacular.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Hello again from sunny, noisy Morocco.  I was in Marrakesh just two days ago. Now I am in Casablanca. Both are large and somewhat unkempt.  In Marrakesh, the best thing was the huge square deep in the old Medina.

It was a very interesting place to explore and people watch. There were snake charmers, magicians, bird trainers, men with monkeys to hug you for a fee, and musicians playing very fast music on instruments tuned in some sort of outrageous way.


Raucous as the square is during the day, at night it is packed with humanity. Better keep an eye on your wallet in there, and don't take a picture of anything or you will have to pay. Night is when the fake doctors come out, ready to heal anything from diabetes to flaccid male organs. For the women, there are henna painters ready to decorate arms, hands, feet or legs. And sundown is when all the food tents open up out on the square. Quite pushy, those men are who want you to eat at their stalls. One trip through there convinced me to not go through the food area again. I mean, how many meals do they think a man can eat?

Driving in the big cities of Marrakesh and Casablanca is exciting, to say the least. Traffic zips along, and carriages, scooters, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, walkers, and of course cars, require every bit of concentration a poor old man on a huge motorcycle can muster up.

I will say though that, despite all the horn honking, they do watch out for each other pretty carefully. And anything you do seems okay. Want to go the wrong way down a one way street? Want to make an illegal left hand turn across waves of incoming traffic? Want to make a U turn up and over the curb? Its okay man. No problem. And if you just can't handle it any more you can always get a ride in one of these contraptions-------

I left Marrakesh yesterday morning, and rode Odysseus north on a beautifully maintained, nearly traffic free toll road. I got into Casablanca in late afternoon and promptly got lost. I had made a beautifully hand drawn map of the route to my hotel, but since almost none of the streets have street signs, I could not at all figure out where I was. All I knew was that my map had no relationship to reality. I stopped several times to ask corner police and taxi drivers how to get to Hotel Washington where I am staying, and they were always helpful with their directions. One taxi driver said that I should follow him, and he twisted his way down narrow streets until he got me close to my hotel. I was within two or three blocks of it, but I still couldn't find it even though I rode around in the rushing traffic for quite a long time, getting more and more lost. Finally, I hired a taxi driver to lead me there. I didn't even mind that he stopped to pick up three more fares along the way.

So, here I am. I am kind of splurging on this room, but it is nice, and the motorcycle is secure down in the sandy underground parking area under the hotel.

I have been walking around Casablanca, and I have found that the guidebook was right:  there is pretty much nothing here to see or do. It is simply a loud and gritty city. However, it does have the third largest mosque in the world, after Medina and Mecca.

I decided to get fancy with this picture taken some distance away from the Hassan II Mosque. I hope you like it.

Here is another picture. I debated about putting this one on the blog after I realized it looked like a big phallus.

It was about noon when I got to the mosque, having walked through the Ancenne Medina on my way there. I couldn't go into the mosque until three in the afternoon. That left me time to go eat a pizza and settle in for some people watching and sneaky pictures.

There were people there from all over the world, and most of them were taking pictures of each other. The man here was trying to tell his friend how to adjust the camera. He was not aware that I was taking his picture from across the way.

I learned later that these giant doors are made of titanium. They used that expensive metal because it is not affected by salt from the ocean which is just behind the mosque. There has to be a lot of doors because on a holy day there are as many as 25,000 worshipers in the mosque, and as many as 80,000 out in the courtyard.

Once inside, the first thing a good Muslim must do is wash. Twenty-five thousand worshipers need a lot of ablution fountains. They are downstairs in the mosque. This picture shows a tiny fraction of the fonts. And there is an identical set, or so I a told, on the other side of a walled off area for women.

Up in the main hall, it is easy to see how 25,000 people could kneel, facing Mecca, in there.

I guess you have to bring your own kneeling mat if you want to worship there, but the floor is heated so I guess it is pretty comfortable. And look at the ceiling. On a warm summer day they can open it in three minutes to let out the heat and let in the cooling ocean air.

Look at the balcony. It is for women. They are walled off so that men will not be distracted by feminine beauty as they pray down on the main floor. Rather a misogynist group I think, but then to each his own.

So, as I say, there is just not much other than the mosque to attract somebody to Casablanca. I am going to hop on Odysseus and high tail it out of here for Tangier tomorrow. Once there I plan to catch a late ferry to Spain where I have a small room reserved for tomorrow night. I walked part of my route today, just enough to get me on the right road in the morning. I'll let you know how it works out. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Time now to go find some supper.