***Photographs for this section to come soon, check back in the next day or two***
The ride is moving along once again, and it feels really good to be riding, camping, listening to my iPod, and otherwise doing the things that are involved in moving from place to place. It is a cold, rainy night in Cordoba, Spain as I type this update from my hostel room, and the weather has been sort of drizzly, rainy, and chilly for the past week while riding from Seville to here, and while in Seville. Seville was wonderful. It was very fulfilling to take time to see one of the great cities here, and to meet some of the people who live there. The story of Seville will be told below through photographs that I took around the city – of the Cathedral, of the Archivo de las Indias, a building used to display documents, paintings, and artifacts relating to Spain’s history of empire in the East and West Indies, and of other things such as Seville’s public bicycle system. What is on my mind now, is the idea of the pace at which things move – this trip, other travelers, the peoples’ lives who I meet along the way. One thing that is nearly impossible to miss while traveling is scenery, but something that might be a bit more difficult to appreciate is pace. It has been very interesting to me to see the different speeds at which everything out here moves.
Cordoba is a three-day ride at my pace, or an hour and a half train ride, or a forty minute fast train ride, which is also an option, or perhaps an hour’s drive from Seville. It all depends on the way you travel. The fast train costs 29 Euros, the regular train costs 8 Euros (The receptionist at the hostel here wrote the departure times for each train down on a piece of scratch paper – “Rapido: 13:25. Lento: 13:45? “Slow: 1:25p.m. Fast: 1:45p.m.” I almost took one of the trains back to Seville to retrieve a video camera which, after various delays relating to stocking and customs issues, has finally arrived. Now, through the help of a family friend who will be arriving by train to Cordoba tomorrow, the camera will be in my hands tomorrow assuming all goes well.
The trains that move between Cordoba and Seville are trains that I saw passing me in both directions during the entire three days that I spent making it here from Seville, rolling along silently until they were almost upon me at which point they were anything but silent, sucking electrical power from overhead cables, making noise occasionally with horns. There were moments when I thought to myself, “Wow, I must be an idiot riding a bicycle right next to this beautiful electric train set . . .” There were other times when I had a smile on my face for long stretches, pedaling in the drops, as I rode through drizzling rain listening to The Shins, and I knew that there was nobody on the passing trains who was enjoying their experience as much as I was enjoying mine. I felt the sensation of speed much more, at 12,13,15,18,25Mph than they did at 140Mph or however fast the fast train goes. Although for me, the happiness that comes from pedaling hard is more from a sensation of moving, and getting somewhere than it is from speed. Although I will never be one to deny that it feels good to ride fast down a hill for its own sake.
All of these issues relating to pace are things that interest me and occupy my thoughts as I ride. The pace of travel. I sometimes find it interesting how quickly people can shift between different paces of life. I consider backpacking to be an example of a slower pace of life, whereas living in a downtown area and traveling regularly by car, bus, etc. to be a faster pace of life. On this tour, I find myself, generally, living at a slower pace, made necessary of course by the speed of the bicycle, which forces me to take in many of the things around me that I might miss – or simply choose to pass up – if I were in a car. It is also a personal choice to live at this speed, but even without the bike, this is about the pace at which I would choose to move, and very close to the amount of time I would choose to remain in each place. The bike also allows me to get away from a given place pretty fast if I want to. e.g. one could get through the entire state of Colorado in just a few days on a bike…or less. This usually winds up coming in handy on a smaller scale in situations where it is late in the day when I am in a city and in need of a place to stay – it is easy to just hop on the bike, get to the edge of town where there are trees, and pitch the tent. It has not yet come in handy for a place the size of the state of Colorado, fortunately. This pace feels very natural to me. The interesting part, however, is the changing nature of the pace of this tour.
Cars fly by, their occupants might notice me for a second, think, “oh, a bike,” and then move on to considering, fleetingly, all of the other things that rush by as they move along at 60Mph. Another interesting aspect of a bicycle tour that might distinguish it from other forms of travel is that the pace of movement is ever-changing. In Seville, I found myself in the back seats of cars looking at bicycles as we rushed by, and thinking, fleetingly, “oh, a bike…” In Lisbon, I was on a ferry, looking at the waves move by as we crossed the bay from Lisbon to Almada. In Charleston, SC, the pace changed from hard riding days on the bike to the speed of walking around in airports and sitting in airplanes that fly quite a bit faster than bikes roll. In this way, touring by bicycle along the Seize The World Route involves an ever-changing pace which is in many ways just as interesting as the ever-changing scenery. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of pace that I encounter regularly are varying paces of human life. I experience, even if for only a minute, or five, or a day, or a week, from each person that I meet, the pace at which they live their lives. During that minute, or five minutes, or day, or week, I allow myself to the extent that I can, to live at the pace of the person with whom I am interacting in order to see what it is like.
At the Richland Bar in Greensboro, Georgia, the pace is probably slower than I would choose to live myself, but that does not mean that what happens there is not amazing. People go there each day, talk for hours, move to start a fire, have a bowl of chili, and the conversation goes on. As the night goes on someone might play a game of pool. Then afterward, things move back to the fire, conversation goes on, and people know each other. As Patrick, one of the people who works there said, it is just, people growing together.
By contrast, the pace of life in a hostel – the one where I stayed in Cordoba, for example – might be a bit fast for my taste. I heard excited conversations about whether Seville is worth two days or three – or just one, and then a day trip to Cadiz perhaps? They reminded me so much about when I was reading my first Lonely Planet book – the guide to Chile – and about wanting to see every single place in the book.
Cordoba, and the Hospederia Duque San Martin, was an incredible place to spend the New Year. I made quick friends with neighbors who lived two floors below me – the Duque San Martin is a tall, windy, narrow hostel. Anna, Zion, You-Lee, and others. Together we saw a thoroughly satisfying celebration in the central plaza of Cordoba – Plaza de las Tendillas. We each ate twelve grapes, for good luck during each of the coming twelve months. We drank Champagne – too much champagne. Here it is called Cava. This New Year’s Eve I feel as though I had extreme good fortune in meeting the people whom I met in Cordoba. They were the perfect people with whom to spend New Year’s Eve on the road. Young, enthusiastic about travel, from all over the world, and practically bouncing off the walls with excitement about where their travels (mostly by train) would take them next.
Now I am typing with very cold fingers in the plaza of a tiny town called Fuencaliente, facing down the Plaza’s dominant piece of artwork: a bronze sculpture of an elk, a pig, what looks like a pronghorn (but surely is something else), and what looks like a gazelle (but again, is surely a different, Spanish animal). Hunting is a major part of life in the smaller towns out in this part of Spain – gunfire is common – in fact I can’t go for more than five minutes it seems without hearing gunshots in the hills. This statue commemorates that. Well, it is 7p.m. and time for me to go get dinner – I am to meet a contact who has lined up a place for me to stay at the local church and I don’t want to be late. Thanks for reading, and check back soon for the photo component of this update.