Here is the picture.
Not much left to report. We had to get up at 4:30 to catch a taxi at 5 to make our 7:30 AM flight. I will say that checking the bike box with KLM was a freaking dream compared to when we left Seattle and had to deal with Delta… We simply walked up to the counter, told them we needed to check our bike and they charged us 55 Euro. Compare that to the $500 we paid going the other way; doesn't it just make you sick? Why the airlines can't pull their collective heads out is a mystery to me.
This ride will forever be a part of me. Having ridden the route twice I am amazed at how much I remembered from the first time. Almost every day we would ride past some small feature and I would blurt out, "I remember this from the race!" You can't do something like this and not be changed forever. Judging by Shelley's lunch selection in the Schiphol airport on our way home that goes for her as well.
Bread, meat paste and beer. Sometimes it's the simple things.
If anyone reading this is considering doing this tour for the first time here is what I learned.
- Take a CamelBak. You will need it. Not just for the water bladder (don't get a cute little small one!) but also to carry some spare clothes and tools and food.
- Bring spare parts for everything. We brought along a spare tire, one chain, a complete set of chainrings and spare cycling shoes. It was not enough. I also needed a cassette and should have brought spare cleats and spokes and more tools. I also brought spare derailleur cables and a spare rear derailleur but luckily did not need them. Bring an extra derailleur hanger if your bike uses one.
- Disk brakes – you will need them. Any rim brake (cantilever or V-brake) will be inadequate and you will go through several sets of brake pads. Hydraulic is better but disk is required.
- In the NW tubeless tires with sealant are not so crucial. In Portugal they are. Each day you will ride through thistles, thorns and sharp stones not to mention all the glass and bits and pieces of crap and metal on the farm roads. The best (and messiest) sealant is Slime. Second best is Magik Seal. We used straight latex but were told it does not seal in extreme heat. Luckily it never got too hot.
- Pack lots of oil for your chain. And some rags to clean it with. Pouring on the lube will only accelerate the demise of your drivetrain as it collects dirt and sand.
- Bring a real pump. CO2 is fun and racy but what will you do when you need to just top off your tires? Or when you get your fourth flat because you did not bring tubeless tires with sealant?
- Two words: chamois cream. Bring enough.
- Get a real mount for your GPS and forget about the plastic one you can buy in cycling stores. Touratech is the only way to go. Then ask Antonio for the adaptor so you can attach this mount to your handlebars.
- Use rechargeable batteries and bring a charger – it's the green thing to do.
- A pre-paid SIM card that works in Portugal might be nice. All the staff carry mobile phones and if you are alone and have a problem what are you going to do? At least bring an international phone and be prepared to pay the long distance fees if you need to. Oh yeah, don't forget to put it in your CamelBak each day!
- Sun block – need I say more? I love the sun, had a base and was needing to coat myself in SPF 15 for the first several days.
- Bring a camera and put it in an easy to reach spot. Ours was in the back of my CamelBak and I wish it had been in the front. When you are tired it's amazing how difficult it is to just get your camera out. A water-resistant camera is also a huge bonus; when it rained we did not take any pictures…
- Do yourself and everyone around you a favor and bring along some Sport-Wash. We did and it really works. If you do laundry every night you can survive on two sets of cycling clothes. We still brought three just in case.
- Bring some of your favorite ride food. We did not thinking we could subsist purely on what we packed at breakfast and purchased at cafes and it would have been nice to have more for variety and emergencies.
- Leave your attitude and expectations at home. Long rides will usually mean that you encounter some sort of adversity along the way and if you can't deal with it you are done.
This was an amazing journey. Thanks to Shelley and CICLONATUR for making it possible.