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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

April 23rd: Rocacorba

As predicted, it rained all night and was still raining the next morning. That meant we could wait until 8:00am when the cafe opened to have breakfast. We walked over using umbrellas borrowed from the hotel, had a relaxed breakfast, and went back to the hotel to read, start the packing process, and wait for the rain to end.
By 11:00am, the rain had finished and we could ride out, and finally, on my last day of cycling in Girona, I had to repeat the route out to Banyoles! We took the direct, Garmin-directed route, and found ourselves in Banyoles by 12:00pm, too early for any of the restaurants along the lake to serve lunch, so we stopped at the Aldi supermarket to buy lunch. You know you've picked the right supermarket when a swarm of tourists on European-style trekking bikes descend on it as well. A supermarket lunch (2 buns, chocolate, and fruit) cost about 3 Euros per person, and was just the ticket for climbing prep: not so heavy to weigh you down, but enough that you don't have to eat during the climb and on the way back to the hotel. I'd long since ran out of Clif bars and the like.
We knew we were on Rocacorba when a serious looking woman cyclist rode on the road, turned around, and not 15 minutes later passed me at high speed in her highest gear, deliberately mashing her pedals as if she was on some coach-specified power-training regiment. The road looked smooth and welcoming, but of course, the day was cloudy so I worked as hard as I could to try to get to the top fast in the case of pending rain.
Cyclists have a perverse need to brag about their local climbs as being challenging. Rocacorba is somewhere between a consistent 10-12% grade. It's steep, but nowhere close to Pragelpass or even the Bay Area's Bohlman-On-Orbit Bohlman. Knowing that today was a short ride anyway, I just stayed in my middle chainring and went up the climb, feeling small raindrops all the way to the top, which was a disappointing looking cell tower building.

At the top, I got a text from Mike that he'd encountered rain mysteriously on a ride where the pavement was never soaked, and had turned around and was headed to the hotel. I rode down, but  by the time I'd gotten to the bottom he was tired of waiting and had turned around and headed home. I explored the alternate route I'd seen on the map, but when I started on it, I realized that this was just the reverse of the route we'd taken on the Olot loop.
It was a pretty loop, however, so I didn't complain, though I became unhappy at the end when I realized that I'd routed myself onto the biggest highway into Girona. Fortunately, I only needed to be on it for 3 hair-raising exits before I recognized a signpost and bailed out, getting a scenic entry into Girona. Of course, being on a big highway had advantages --- the fear and shorter route got me back to the hotel before Mike!
Back at the hotel, we took a walk around after a shower (no laundry to slow us down this time!), and discovered that the streets were full of flower vendors and book sellers. Since we walked past the visitor's center, we stopped by and asked what it was about, and the lady explained to us that during the festival of Sant Jordi, men were supposed to give their women flowers, and the women were supposed to give their men-folk a book. What a great twist! The Wikipedia entry mentions that UNESCO has adopted that date as World Book Day, but of course in the USA you'd never hear about that!
Dinner was a L'Aglica, still to me the best restaurant in Girona, and we ate grandly, dessert and all. After dinner, the streets were still filled with flowers and book vendors. We spotted a cafe near the hotel that was opened early the next morning (it'd been close nearly the entire time we were in Girona because of the holiday, and this was the first day it was opened after the holidays), so we knew we could eat there for breakfast. We wanted an early departure to Girona, as we had to find the hotel and pack the bikes. I looked to see if this time we could sign up for any walking tours, but none of them were appropriately timed --- they were too early in the day and we wouldn't be done with packing the bikes until at least 12:00pm. We signed up for the e-Bike tour via TripAdvisor that started at 4:00pm instead. It would feel strange riding an e-bike in a place that didn't really need it (tour companies are unlikely to let you ride up and down major descents since foreign tourists would probably scare themselves silly), but the reviews were great so we took a leap of faith.

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