The Rain in Spain

I researched our destination before we left. I like to be prepared.

Google told me that Mallorca has a sub-tropical-Mediterranean climate with an average daily temperature of 64.4 degrees. Palm trees are commonplace and, if you’re lucky, you might spot a wintering flock of flamingos. Visitors can expect an average of 7 hours per day of sun in March, although winds may be gusty, especially in higher elevations.

Based on my research, I packed shorts, and Tevas. I threw in a couple sweatshirts because it might get chilly after sunset, and also a couple pairs of pants because thighs, and airplanes.

We have been on the island for 29 days. Four days have been sunny in fits and starts. Mostly it’s been grey—the sky a turn-on-the-headlights-at-noon murk. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the bite in the air.

Last week a ferocious Mediterranean wind blew a Filipino sailor off the deck of a container ship sailing from Singapore to New York. Why was he on deck in a storm? He wasn’t he wearing a life-preserver. He wasn’t prepared.

Mallorca averages 300 days of sunshine and 53 rainy days each year. Wait! I hear my math friends protesting…300 sunny days plus 53 rainy days does not an Earthen year equal! Not even on a Leap Year! Not even during Daylight Savings! 

I suspect those extra two days are set aside for the atmospheric phenomenon “La Calima”, and its little friend, “mud rain”. La Calima occurs when teeny dust particles float from the African Sahara then hang over Europe. The dust mixes with rain and turns into mud on its way to the windshields below. 

View through the front windshield after some mud rain

We had a couple days of mud rain this month. Those days were all thwarted vistas, dirty cars, red runny eyes, and noisy, uncontrollable sneezing. 

We stayed inside a lot. We completed 2 ½ 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles and watched both seasons of “Love is Blind”. We also found a store that sells wine for 2 Euro a liter that they pour from wooden casks into plastic orange juice containers. If you bring your own container, you save .60 cents.

Guy rides his bike regardless of the cold, and by “riding his bike”, I mean 4 or 5 hours of ass-to-flat-seat, legs pumping 50+ miles with 4000 feet elevation gain that he says makes him happy.

One day, before I realized that Guy’s average pedaling speed was 30 kilometers an hour, Guy, Eric, and I set off on a naive little bike ride “to a cafe”. 

Turns out the cafe was on top of a mountain.

That’s fine. Eric and I had electric bikes with different levels of “assist” to use when the going gets tough. His was bright blue and mine had a little rubber holder on the handlebars that held my phone so I could check Facebook.

The first couple miles were on a serene two-lane road sashaying past fincas and villas and sheep with bells. It was lovely, although a bit rushed. Guy was riding like he was late for a plane. He got a couple leagues in front of us.

He pulled over, and looked at me, frowning

“Why don’t you go in front?” he said to me. “Then you can set the pace.”

“I don’t want to set the pace,” I said, imagining him seething behind me each time I paused my frantic pedaling to peer down a winding driveway. “Just ride slower.” 

“I AM riding slower,” he barked.

So we kept going, even though we were both irritated. Guy stopped to put his on sweatshirt. Aww He was cold because he wasn’t working hard enough.  

We reached the base of the mountain where the road narrowed and started climbing. I cranked up my assist, and with one pedal stroke passed Guy and his smug muscular thighs. Eric did the same.

And for a while, it was glorious. 

We climbed and climbed and climbed, revelling in the views and the emerging sunshine and the glorious lack of effort it took to achieve it all. The mountain unrolled before us. 

Not surprisingly, we passed a few German cyclists along the way.  You can’t swing a bratwurst on Mallorca without hitting a German cyclist.

“If I am on an electric bike, is it ethical to pass someone who is on a normal bike?” I asked Eric.

“Hey, we still have to pedal,” he pointed out. “Plus I’m here to see Spain, not get a damn workout.”

After about 20 minutes, he stopped.

“We should wait for Guy,” he said. “This isn’t fair.”

“Ha ha ha,” I chortled. “We’re smoking him.”

“We should wait for him,” said Eric, who has been Guy’s best and most loyal friend for 40 years.

I, Guy’s wife of almost 20 years, sighed and pulled over into the driveway to Mortitx, a local winery. 

“Ok,” I agreed. “We can check out the winery.”

We rode our bikes down the pitted road, over the cattle guard, past the goats and the olive trees until we were afraid we’d puncture a tire. Then we rode back to the road, where we straddled our electric bikes and waited for Guy to come panting up the mountain.

Except he didn’t.

A few Germans came by, none of them breathing as hard as they should have been. They noted our electric bikes and didn’t even make eye contact.

“Freaks,” I muttered. 

If you zoom in, you can see a German riding a bike in this photo

After 20 more minutes of Germans but not Guy, we tried finding him on the WAHOO fitness app on the link he’d told us to download.

No luck because the app didn’t work. We waited some more. We called him. We texted him.  Nothing.

We tried finding him on the “ride with gps” app that he’d told us to get. No luck because he hadn’t sent us the right info.

“Don’t you have him on Google maps?” Eric asked. “You should be able to track your friends and family on Google maps.” 

I made a half-hearted attempt, but I have never wanted to track my friends and family on Google maps. I know that Guy can find me when I drive the Tesla because one time he showed up at a bar where I went for pizza after tennis, but it wasn’t an experience either of us wants to repeat because I am an adult and I have my own life.

Then the sun disappeared and all the mountains went dark. It felt like rain and we didn’t know where we were or where we were going, or whether Guy was dead or alive.

“I bet he’s waiting for us at the crossroads,” Eric said, pointing at a map of the road on his phone that may or may not have been the route we were currently on. “I bet he’s expecting to meet us there.” 

We set off for the crossroads, which were about 10 more kilometers up the rock and goat strewn mountain. The air grew colder and the clouds were black and the wind kicked up. The steep slopes on each side of the narrow road were harsh and cold and lonely.

Danger everywhere

If I fell off this bike that I shouldn’t have been riding anyway, I would slip off the road and my body would tumble for miles. I would be like the poor Filipino sailor blown off the container ship–no one would know what happened to me and no one would understand why I’d put myself in this situation in the first place.

Then my phone rang. It wasn’t Guy. It was Clay, the college kid who is housesitting for us in Hood River.  I knew it had to be an emergency. He never calls.

I pulled over and answered. “Clay,” I said. “Isn’t it the middle of the night in Oregon?”

“Yes,” he said, politely panicked, “The fire alarm is going off and I can’t figure out how to make it stop.”

“Is the house burning down?” I asked. “Do you smell smoke?”

“No,” he answered.

“In that case,” I told him, “take the dog and go to your Mom and Dad’s house where you can get some sleep. Try to salvage the rest of the night.”

“Really?” he asked. “Just leave?”

“Well, before you go, stand on a chair and just rip that bastard right out of the ceiling,” I suggested. “That’s what I would do. You could try calling Guy to ask what he thinks you should do, but he wouldn’t answer.”

I hung up.

Eric and I pedaled to the crossroads. Guess what? Guy wasn’t there.

We stopped. Germans continued pedaling past; some went right and some went left but I hated them all equally.

The fun had stopped. My fingers were fat and unwieldy on the brakes, and my ears were freezing. Eric knew that I was about to turn on him.

Then Eric got a text from Guy: “I’m at the cafe with some Germans!” he typed. “Don’t get lost ha ha! See you soon!”

“WTF GUY,” I texted back, shaking with cold and fury. “Do we go left or right?”  

“Go left,” he said, even though he really meant go left twice and it was by the grace of God that we landed at that cafe on top of the mountain. 

Don’t be an ass

I maneuvered my heavy bike up to the line of sleek road bikes propped on the rack outside the cafe and propped it on its embarrassing  kickstand, then stood in my not-spandex and my tennis shoes and seethed.  Guy trotted out of the cafe, heady with the flush of  lunch and spandex and new friendship.

“Come meet my new German friends,” he said. 

He directed us to a table of supple young Germans sipping coffee and lounging cozily in front of a pellet stove. I heard one of the say “Ya Vol,” in an unironic way.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I murmured. 

There is no moral to this story except that while Eric and I were trying to find the winery, Guy pedaled right on past because he wasn’t that far behind us after all.

Ok, Ok that’s a moral: don’t underestimate Guy.

That evening we synced the apps and maps and I added Guy to my Google maps friends and family, and he promised to at least check in on us every ten kilometers or so, and the next day we managed a ride where I did not yell at anyone, not once. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get prepared.


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