Saturday 22 March 2008

Girona Good Friday, Doggie Tales of "Turbo"

There's two prominent peaks viewable from the patio of our place. Yesterday we rode one. Chosing today's ride was therefore pretty simple.

We left for Mare de Deu del Mont after breakfast, and wound our way through about 30km of approach through half a dozen little towns. Eventually we got to the base of the 19km climb and started our way up. Lots of little boy scout looking kids were coming down, I imagine they did Easter week off school hiking trips. The road was steep and switchbacked, and took us across some magnificent cliffs and gave us great views of the valley to the west. I think the climb took a little over an hour, then I rode back down to Tori and did the last bit again. It was chilly descending, and I've really got to figure out what I can do to reduce front wheel braking chatter - I don't know if the fork isn't stiff enough or the cantilever brakes are goofy or what, but I can't brake over a certain threshold. I just have to go consistently slower, which isn't really like me. I found out by getting waay to close to the outside of the first hairpin for comfort.

At the top there's a restaurant built into a cathedral, and it was busy since it was Good Friday. We went to the cafe upstairs for some muffin type things, cafe con leche, olive oil flavoured chips, and water. We basically ordered 2 of every product he sold. We sat by a fireplace for a half an hour to dry out our sweaty backs to make the descent easier (it was probably 10C so not too bad, but since there was a fireplace there...).

The way down was memorable. After 5km or so, we look ahead and a little white dog is running up towards us. Unfortunately the sight of us and the sound of my brakes scares the bejesus out of him. He makes a millisecond u-turn and starts sprinting down the hill. He's a muscley little white terrier, and I'm amazed that he gets right up to 35kph. We think this is funny for a minute, and are laughing in amazement at how fast he is. We also notice he isn't slowing down, even if we ease up. It's superhuman to watch, but it's like he's doing record setting 100m dashes for several kilometers, even if we try to talk nice to him. Finally, he peels off into the bushes on a switchback and lies down. We stop and take a look, and it seems like he's pretty much run to exhaustion. I'm just speculating here, but I'd guess that was the performance of his life... he had it turned up to 11 for at least 2km.

We peek into the bushes and he looks stunned, won't move or bark, just panting uncontrollably for a long time. His legs and body are quivering really weird. So we wait, and of course the second his rear legs work, he gives himself a push forward that puts him over a bush covered ledge that he tumbles down. I climb a little ways forward to see what's up, and now he's hooped because there's thorny vines everywhere, and he's essentially got one wrapped around his neck and it's stuck on his collar, so he's now hanging himself, which I'm sure didn't feel good to have air cut off since he had still been panting.

So it's time for me to start navigating this 12 foot near vertical ledge, totally covered in thorny vines and other brush, and quickly at that. At this point I still haven't even been really that close to him, and I'm kind of wondering if he'll freak out and bite me since he's essentially "cornered" and was totally freaked.

After some climbing, and some slipping, and some cursing at thorns grabbing every sensitive spot on me (bike kit doesn't fend off pokes very well), I've got a lot of scratches, a little bit of bleeding, and I'm in position to unwrap his neck. After a few pets I figure we're good to go and start undoing the vines. He seems happy and just tries to dig his feet in to he doesn't slide further down.
So now we've got two creatures who don't do well with steep hillsides and vines, the surface sloughs off easily, going down doesn't look smart as it's just more/worse dense bush, and my mtn bike shoes don't seem to grippy (not sure I have any shoes that'd be much better). Turns out this guy is like 30lbs of muscle, and he's still not moving and just shaking. Ideally I'd have 2 free hands to climb with - one for support and one to push vines around, but that's not going to happen. I grab him like a football, he doesn't protest, and we're off to earn some more scratches.

Finally we get out of this, and Tori seemed happy and did some paparazi photos. We sat down and tried to figure out what was up. I had little scratches, nothing bad. His pads were fine, couple nails had a little blood, but nothing too bad, which was a relief. His fur had little blood marks from thorns, but nothing meaningful. So we sat, and he just shook. Didn't want power bar or water. Didn't say anything. And he didn't seem like he was capable of, or intended to, move under his own power. We decided he'd earned the name Turbo. No doubt the downhill helped, but I had no idea something that size could go so fast for so long. Finally we put him aside, and he started walking back into the bushes of death. We were emphatic that this was a bad idea, and he actually stopped. I pulled him back out from the 2 feet he went in, and we couldn't figure out what to do. We were 2k from a hotspring building that had people at it, so we decided to take him and put him there so he could drink or mooch some food when it suited him. Tori's bike had more reliable one hand braking so I used that, and man did my shoulders and biceps get a workout. Heavy to carry football style, plus the road was so steep I was a the max of what one brake could do. We got him there, and after a few minutes he walked around and tried to sniff where he was at. We told some lady there was a little lost dog and she said she'd pay attention if it looked like food or drink were warranted. As we chatted he started to walk back up hill, so maybe we ruined his day even more. At least he was showing some energy.

After that, we departed and made our way down. As we navigated back home, I rode with some racer kid for a bit, he went flying by when I was off to the side waiting for Tori at one point. He was skinny and looked like he was working really hard putting out force all around his pedal stroke, and I was surprised that he was easy to catch up to and easy to stay with, I wasn't even breathing much at all. If those are the Watts he can put out, he sure doesn't make it look easy at all.

We ate at Mimolet in Girona and had a tasting menu with more delicious courses than I can remember, but essentially soup, salad and other appetizers, then fish and pork dish, then cheese and fruit and chocolate desserts, all small enough that we weren't stuffed. There was a lot of Easter stuff going on in town so it was quite crowded, most traffic we'd seen so far.

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