Cycling Spain — Day 1 – Ronda to Olvera (42 km) – A Little Rain Won’t Stop Us

Early into the ride and we're already soaked.
Early into the ride and we’re already soaked.

“Unfortunately, tomorrow is supposed to be Biblical,” said Drew, the representative from Andalucian Cycling Experience after he’d finished adjusting our bicycle seats and collecting the necessary signatures and disclaimers.

Hoping not to be deterred by the threat of day-long heavy downpours, I couldn’t help but reminisce about last year’s self-supported cycle tour where we had the freedom to take a “rain day” to read and relax rather than riding in a raging rain storm. Our self-guided but supported six-day tour in Andalusia, Spain with a set itinerary and pre-booked lodging was going to take some getting used to. (Self-Guided means we follow the maps they give us. Supported means a van carries our luggage.)

The night before the ride, both Eric and I had fitful sleeps.

I woke often. I was excited to ride, like I used to get before the first day of skiing when I was young. Would I like the rental bike? Would we wake up to pouring rain and skip the ride? Did I remember warm enough clothes?

Eric had nightmares. He was dreaming about an oversized back wheel that his brother assured him would work just fine even though the back skewer was too long and the wheel wobbled on the axel.

I think the meaning of our dreams were clear: we missed cycling but also felt out of practice.

Sure enough we did wake to rain. It wasn’t as heavy as I’d imagined Noah’s boat having to survive, but it was definitely more than a gentle patter.

Stubborn as we are, neither of us had any intention of riding in the van to Olvera. We wore our cycling clothes and Eric clacked down the marble stairs to breakfast announcing our intent. I think we both knew that we could survive 45 mostly-uphill kilometers,  to keep us warm.

Within minutes of cycling we became soaked. The rain was steady, the roads were wet, and passing vehicles made sure to find the deepest puddles as they passed us.

Fenders could have helped a bit, but in the long run, there was no way to keep dry. We were only able to keep warm because we were cycling up hills… until….we came to….a…
 very, long, cold, wet downhill with rain pelting us like small pebbles.
We finally arrived at our lunch destination in Setenil de las Bodegas, cold, wet, and hungry. We stopped at La Tasca, a cute Bar Restaurant built into the side of a cliff which, aside from it’s unique architecture and excellent tapas, has an excellent wood-burning stove that was stoked and hot.

The wood-burning stove was perfect for our wet clothes and bodies.
The wood-burning stove was perfect for our wet clothes and bodies.

We slogged into the restaurant and peeled off our wets jackets, socks, gloves and hats. We circled the wood burning stove with tables and chairs laden with dripping cycling clothes. When we laid our  shoes  against the pot belly stove,  water poured from their heels. Our gloves were smoldering on the top.

At one point the bar tender came over with a mop to wipe away the large puddles forming at our feet and below the chairs. I couldn’t tell if he was disgusted with the mess or safety-conscious hoping we wouldn’t slip on the wet tiles.

Lots of roads and houses are built into these cliffs near Setenil.
Lots of roads and houses are built into these cliffs near Setenil.

As miserable as this might sound, we were exhilarated. We were back on bikes in a new-to-us place. Life was….life is… good.

We ate, drank, and let our clothes dry for over an hour. Then seeing a break in the weather – a tiny patch of blue sky and rain tapering down to a dribble – we put on our mostly-dry layers plus a down jacket sandwiched in between and headed back out.

The remaining 20 or so kilometers to the day’s final destination of Olvera were scenic, mostly dry and not too hilly.

Olvera, our stop for the night.
Olvera, our stop for the night.

We checked into our hotel. After showering neither of us felt the need to siesta so we walked to the town’s main attractions located at the top of a rocky outcropping: La Incarnation Church and the Arabic castle from where we got beautiful pictures of the village Olvera below.

The view of Olvera's church as fort from our hotel room.
The view of Olvera’s church as fort from our hotel room.
Yes, climbing the steps is worth it....
Yes, climbing the steps is worth it….
...because you get a great view from the fort.
…because you get a great view from the fort.

I mentioned not taking a siesta because this was our biggest mistake of the day.

This is the only snack/food we could find between 2:00 and 8:30 pm....oh, and a few bar nuts...
This is the only snack/food we could find between 2:00 and 8:30 pm….oh, and a few bar nuts…

Siesta time is sacred in the small villages of Spain and all the shops, bars, and restaurants have hours that seems so foreign to us – generally 8:30 – 2:00 pm, close for siesta, and open again 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Restaurants start serving again about 8:00 pm. Not taking a siesta was a huge problem because we were hungry at 3:00 pm but couldn’t find any food beside bar nuts and beer until 8:00 pm. The obvious solution was to drink too much and eat too many plates of nuts before dinner.

To summarize – the ride was fun, the rain was heavy but not “Biblical”, our hunger was epic.

Lessons learned: eat a bigger lunch and take a siesta.