At Camping Ciudad de Leon

Tuesday 30th August 

I’m now 150 or so miles east and in land from where I was this morning at Camping Rio Ulla in Galicia. H mentioned to me what the temperature was in London today – the same as where I was. I also checked the weather to see that rain was due here tomorrow and in fact all around the coast getting gradually more persistent through the day. Galicia is like Ireland I think, beautifully green, but green because it rains a lot. So, time to chase the good weather again. After looking at a spa hotel in Lugo for £100 a night I looked further east and found a shady campsite with a pool just on the edge of Leon. Good reviews, especially the shade. It was quite a ride and I turned off the motorway avoidance on the gps to get there more quickly. It was a hot and tiring ride in parts reaching up to 30 at times though never higher, thankfully. The diversions where the motorway was closed – or rather had not opened yet – were the most interesting bits and led me down roads full of walkers walking against my direction to St Iago de Compstella. I finally arrived here at 4 having left at shortly after 10. Really?! Did I ride for six hours?

This place, Camping Ciudad de Leon, is so different to the last busy noisy family site. There are no families here. In fact the nearest campers to me are lone men, one travelling by bicycle. There’s a pool but you have to have a lifeguard on duty and buy a hat. I rode down from here to a vast Carrefore supermarket for supper. All was good apart from a lack of ice (I tried a bag of frozen spinach instead). It’s warm here but not horribly hot. I’m fact I noticed how balmy it was just walking back down to my tent with the cicada singing at half past nine in the evening. The evenings were superb at this place. I will have to work out how to deal with the weather. The crucial day Saturday the day before I leave looks like rain all day by the coast. And I will have to see if there is any good riding around here. 

Hotel Miera looks ok and cheap is in a town that’s about 23 mins from Santander. Or I think this is a better plan:

Stay here Weds and Thursday. On Thursday go toward Picos and a town called Riaño and back. 

Friday head up to Laredo Rogation campsite. It’s just to the east of Santander and I’ve stayed there before when I had to catch an early ferry. Some light rain expected on Friday mid afternoon. Saturday seems mostly dry. The weather forecasts seem to change, usually for the better. 

Last night I slept ok but was right under a light which stayed on all night. So I picked up my tent and all my belongings and moved a couple of pitches up the slope away from the light. Let’s see what difference that makes. 

I must learn to relax. I’ve decided today will be a chilled day with just a ride down to the supermarket at lunchtime hoping they will have ice back in stock. I really have nothing to do. Aesthetically this place is not fantastic and has what I presume is a municipal feel to it. But the trees make it a nice setting so it seems to stay cool when the sun shines which it is just starting to do now at. 11.15. There are many very tame robins and a coupe of wild and scrawny cats with big ears. An English neighbour here tells me that there are Bee Eaters here who have a distinctive song. I didn’t see them.

Camping Ciudad de Leon
Before I moved up the hill
My one person city at Camping Ciudad de Leon
My one-man city
Camping Ciudad de Leon
My bike is stupidly trying to hide from me behind a tree
My tame robin friend at Camping Ciudad de Leon
My new friend
Cooking in my one person city outside Leon, Spain

Later on Wednesday. I caught up on my hotel reviews then got the news that our planning appeal was rejected. Shopping was successful including ice. I swam in the pool feeling out of practice. Then had dinner of smoked salmon heated up with some veg. It was disappointing though a local cat took an interest. Latest bike shop desires a new helmet to replace this falling apart and a dongle that enriches low end fuel mix. And to replace the lost bolt. Clutch seems ok. All in brief. 

Thursday at the hotel Estalagem in Braganca Portugal  Thursday 25th August

Time to catch up. 

In Braganca hotel

The ride through the tunnels from Santander heading south was enjoyable and I remembered them from previous trips. The temperature varied. At some moments I thought about stopping to get something warmer on then later to take something off. But the trend was that it was getting hotter. I stopped once at a Repsol station not to get fuel but some water and peanuts which I started eating standing next to the bike, a pattern for my travels, then headed off. But it was getting hotter and eventually the wind changed from being a cooling breeze to feeling like sitting in front of an open oven door. I don’t know why but I kept on riding when I should have stopped to drink water.

Burgos Spain
Burgos Spain
KTM parked in secret in Burgos Spain

I remember I stopped in a stone walled car park in Burgos a beautiful university city on the Camino it seemed by the pilgrims that I saw walking by the road. But I didn’t stop for any length of time. It was too hot. I headed for campsite one, Camping Riberduero Spain, Castilla Y Leon, and got there just after two. I had to phone the manager when I arrived. She said go ahead and pitch and gave directions to vacant spaces. I was impressed by the professionalism.

Camping Riberduero Spain, Castilla Y Leon

It was hot and there were flies and I was exhausted by the heat. A shower helped but it wasn’t till about 6 when I climbed back into my bike gear to visit the local supermarket and came away with Dinner and a beer all wrapped up with a bag of ice that I started to relax. So I determined to do the next day differently. I slept ok though realised my tent was next to a light so it was never dark. Dogs barked in the night reminding me of other nights in Spain. Breakfast and it always takes so long to pack up and leave. 

A better experience. I knew those first couple of cooler hours would be the ones to enjoy. A spell on a motorway then a stop for orange juice then N122 all the way over the big bridge on the Douro marking the border between Spain and Portugal noting the temperature was over 30. 

I arrived in the town too early to check in so parked up and had something to eat from my supplies.

At Braganca Portugal
Parked and feeling optimistic

There is a loud music venue and a happy dog below as I write this at 9.45pm at night at Hotel Estalagem. 

Once at Braganca and rather hot with time to kill I found the start of the ACT here – which is why I came – and tried the first bit of gravel road. The bike was hot it’s fans racing. I was hot and flustered, in turn willing to try it and definitely not willing. But I will try it and be prepared to exit onto the roads around here if needed. The next hotel further south has check in from 3pm so there will be a couple of hot hours tomorrow. I must keep my personal cool and let that ever present anxiety fall away. That’s another story. 

Dinner here. High point a huge g and t in a huge ice-filled glass with condensation on the outside. Low point waiters asking continually if all was good. 

G&T so welcome at Hotel Estalagem
Look how big this drink is! It needed both hands to lift it.

The room here is old fashioned with large old fashioned furniture and bathroom and I had to move a very large wardrobe into the middle of the room to get to the electric sockets to get everything charged up. So un-21st century.

Charging behind the wardrobe at Hotel Estalagem
Behind the huge wardrobe in the middle of the room.
Hotel Estalagem
My usual mess

KTM 790 Adv mods so far

Why do we spend so much time, money and thought on modifications for these machines? Maybe one reason is that we are aware that they are mass produced tangles of metal and plastic and we want them to feel more like our own unique thing. However, if beauty is in the beholder’s eye then our new bike might already arrive with that quality of gladdening the heart just by looking at it in the garage – until that feeling evaporates next to a newer more desirable model. After my first trip on the KTM I made a list – a long list – of things I wanted to change or add to the bike to improve the riding experience.

One or two items on this list were in the rational box but most were in a box with a more complicated label on it. At the risk of stating the obvious the label on the non-rational box includes something about enjoying identifying with a hardcore life without actually necessarily living it. ‘Aspirational’ would maybe be a simple way to think of it. Nearly everything on both lists is done now – along with some that were not on it at all.

The really practical things, honestly: cruise control and heated grips – the former an expensive dealership item, the second a do-it-at-home event.

Look no hands or cold hands

Then the possibly practical: One finger lighter action clutch: another home fitment. The stock was not awful but its the gentler biting point of this set up that makes the difference. A slightly longer lever is such a simple idea.

The main engineering challenge would have been the limited range of movement behind the fuel tanks.

Then in the appearance category is Barkbuster handguards. The existing ones were fine but these look better and add to visibility.

Look – they stand out

Some more items from the orangery: the high front fender I bought when I bought the bike (I’m not sure how practical it really will be), some lower wider footpegs from Rade Garage and some radiator protection at the front from R&G who did not reply to my query about fitting these guards. You have to bend the lower part to fit – though the instructions don’t mention this. Also down there but not too visible is a larger brake pedal from Touratech and a larger side stand foot also from the German company.

motorcycle with orange bits

Then there is the new exhaust from Italian company SC Project. I’d watched some Youtubers fit this and then remove the baffle to produce an amazing exhaust note. However, I’ve not yet been able to pull out that part and wonder if I’ve bought a new non-removable design. So apart from losing some weight, this did not quite deliver on expectations. I haven’t given up yet though…

2 and 1/2 Ks. Now how much did the original weigh?

I nearly forgot: the first things I did when I got the bike into my garage was to install my faithful PDM60 electrical unit that I’d used on two previous bikes and removed and then dismantle the front to make a kind of temporary mounting and connection for a new GPS Garmin unit. (Temporary until the Aurora rally kit)

KTM showing wiring under seat

There’s never enough room under the seat for this kind of addition

The other first thing was to fit a Perun luggage rack. This was a well made piece that fitted perfectly – and looks great. Fitting this enabled my first trip away on the bike.

Perun rack – nicely built. I took off the original grab handles to fit my soft luggage

Most recently I replaced the ugly and hard to adjust mirrors with Double Take mirrors from the US via Adventure Spec. These arrived quickly at a not too high price and were super easy to fit. Apart from wanting to join the club and their looks my main reason for fitting these was not the fear that I might break the originals on a fall on the trails but that they will be easier to adjust on the road.

Nice look but they seem eminently stealable.

Coming some time soon fromGreek company Aurora is their rally kit which will completely replace the slightly ugly front of this machine – once I have risen to the major challenge of installing it. Then I think I will call it a day, well apart from maybe a nicer seat…. and some…

A second staycation on the bike (2021)

There’s something about these trips at home that fail to ignite the flame of real excitement – the excitement of boarding the overnight ferry, of rolling off riding on another side of the road, of not saying much because you can’t speak the language, and usually, sunnier weather. But we are where we are and for this trip I have a new motorcycle, after a couple of years of wanting something less likely to land me in it when stuck or on an incline.

But its been hard to give full attention to preparing for the trip. I booked three campsites back in April – one in Derbyshire, one in Yorkshire, and the final in Cumbria ( I think) not far from Hadrian’s Wall. But over the last week I’ve been struggling with moving all my websites from the imminently closing Webfaction to another hosting company (I’ve never had to encounter A records before) as well as getting more and more frustrated with my insurer Carole Nash who have taken payment for a policy I cancelled – on my old bike – despite assurances that they would not. So these have been distractions. Also, with my bike now stored away from home, packing has been complicated. I have been scrabbling to kit out the bike for travel. I’ve installed a new GPS and recently have a new (small) tank bag from Mosko Moto but have to stuff my luggage into a rolltop bag strapped to the rear rack. I don’t even have a map holder for the tank bag (its on order along with a large rackless luggage kit) so have decided not to take any paper maps for the first time.

My sheepskin lives again
Even more minimal packing
Even fewer clothes

New stuff to try out – apart from the bike – drip feed coffee filter I saw on tshansen’s channel about camping with his KTM 790 Adv…

…and the less exciting proper footprint/groundsheet for my new-last-year tent. But last year the groundsheet I had was too big, my Thermarest roll was too long, and there was one too few tent pegs. This year these should go smoothly. I also have an adapter to try to recharge some of my electronics via a shaving point adapter…

What could possibly go wrong?