Friday, May 1, 2009

Me and the Germans, round 2

Day Four in Mallorca

I find my new group at Platz Sechs (6), and proceed to size up the competition. Hmm. A few older men and women, some my age, a few younger – I think I can take ‘em. I give them my flintiest gaze, and I think they’re suitably intimidated. Or at least that’s what I intuit, since they’re speaking amongst themselves in German, laughing uproariously at something. Nervous laughter, I’m sure.

Today’s ride leader is a chatty one, and as she goes on and on, I catch a few words here and there: coffeebreak, 600m hills, even more hills. What a surprise. I get on my bike – butt still hurts – and we set off, me behind red-shorted pedal-pedal-coast woman this time. Oh, for the love of god - enough of that happy horseshit – I pass her. This group seems a little more free form than the other one, where I got the feeling that if I disturbed the cycling pecking order, severe reprimands and shunning would follow.

I have no problem keeping up with this group, and in fact our pace seems a little slow. A mere 10k in, we pull over to stop at the side of the road, for what seems to be a water/bathroom break. Ride leader starts talking…..and talking….and talking. I think she’s telling us the history of Spain, or perhaps the history of Spain from the perspective of the Germans. We finally hit the road again, and soon get back to the usual pastime here in Spain: scaling mountains. Also as usual, I putz my way up them. Oh well, at least this way I get to enjoy more of the view, in between gasping for air.

After many many miles of this, and one last long climb that’s about 4 miles long, we wind up at……..a planetarium? Huh? I didn’t realize there was a field trip involved in this. Apparently this is in fact our destination, as explained to us by a young guy speaking English, who I latch onto like a bee on a hibiscus, pathetically grateful that at last (!) there’s someone I can understand. And once some of the Germans hear me speaking English, they get the fact that no, I’m not German, have just a rudimentary understanding of German, and oh, I wasn’t being rude or ignoring them during the ride when they said stuff – I just didn’t understand them. I feel like we’ve made a great breakthrough for German-American relations here. This doesn’t mean we’re suddenly all chatty, but it’s something.

Anyway, after paying our fee, we get shepherded into the main room for the planetary show. Which is….interesting. I guess I always thought planetariums actually showed you the stars, planets, etc., with their mega-power telescopes, but instead, we’re being shown images of these things projected onto the ceiling, with a German voiceover. I find the constellations particularly interesting. Instead of the ones I’m used to, like the Big Dipper and Sirius, we appear to have Goose, Aztec Warrior, Dung Beetle, Daffy Duck Doing the Hora, Big Rodent, and of course, Little Rodent. Afterwards, I go check out their exhibit of meteorites, which is actually quite cool, and the guy who works there is really excited about pointing them all out to us – these from Mars, those from the moon, etc.

Afterwards, we set off again, with our newfound camaraderie, which means that whenever we stop (which is still way too often), they jokingly tell me exactly how many hills are left and how high they are. Ha ha. It actually is kind of funny – and at least I get complimented by them on my wicked downhill riding skills, where I pass them all like they’re standing still. All in all, it’s a fun group, nice people, and I can tell we’re all getting tired by the last 10k of our 80k, especially since the wind has really picked up and we’re going straight into a headwind the entire way back. Thoughts in my head include:

  • Fucking hills. Fucking wind.
  • Why the hell does every town in Spain have to be at the top of a mountain, for god’s sake?
  • Why is this all uphill?
  • Cycling is a stupid sport –who the hell ever thought of this anyway? Who’s the idiot who invented bicycles?
  • These hills are mocking me.
  • Maybe I can blame the swine flu for my cycling inadequacies?
  • Fucking wind.

At least now Red Shorts, who was so extremely annoying earlier with her cycle-cycle-coast routine, is only screwing herself, since she has no one to draft off of since she’s left so much space between her and the next person up. Me, on the other hand, I tuck in behind her and wheel suck for all I’m worth, and the two people behind me do likewise. No fools us.

That evening, I discover that in our group from Switzerland, there’s dissension and discontent among the ranks, since Andre, the 77-year-old ride leader, has been dropping everyone, not looking back or slowing down to see if everyone’s still there. So half the group got lost in small towns and had to make their way back on their own. Meanwhile, Nikolai somehow got his wheel caught in a grate, did a header over his handlebars, and smashed up his face and needed 3 stitches above his lip. Hmm, seems like I had a better day than they did.

They do keep asking me if I’m enjoying myself, if I’m glad I came, etc. And I tell them, of course I am. Let’s see – I’m in Spain with nothing more pressing to do than ride a bike, which I can do as soon as I walk out my door, amidst the beautiful countryside, with the smell of lavender in the air, roads as smooth as butter, adorable towns that welcome cyclists, and warm-ish weather. What’s not to like?

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