Monologue of La Mancha

Well, the timing for that certainly worked out well. Did it? I don’t know. On the one hand, if we had to get sick, I’m sure glad it was while were in a comfortable hotel with a private bathroom and not out in the woods camping. Yeah, but to pedal all the way to Madrid — cycling Spain in the heat — and not leave the hotel for two days? That’s not true though, Doug, and you know it. We did go tour the bullring — what a waste of money that was! Hey, look, an empty stadium! Ole! Okay, that sucked, but Kristin thought it would be fun. We did get to see Picasso’s Guernica — damn that was a huge painting — and you did track down a new Garmin. Yeah, that’s right, we didn’t stay in the hotel the entire time. But we didn’t go out for tapas or go to one of the chocolaterias the city is famous for. So what. Oh, good, here comes Kristin.

“How was the climb?

“Awful. I don’t know what’s wrong, I have no energy. I’m still tired from being sick. How long were you waiting?”

“Five minutes or so, not sure. I’m tired too. Just try and hang in there, it’s not that far today.”

Morning descent on a rough road in Andalusia.
Morning descent on a rough road in Andalusia.

That’s a lie and you know it, Doug. She knows it too. We’ve only gone thirty five miles and have already done over three thousand feet of climbing. And this heat is unrelenting. I think these rocks are trying to cook us. And every day in Spain has been the hardest in months. She’s tired and she’s getting demoralized. She said this morning that she’s hit a plateau athletically and is starting to get frustrated that you keep getting stronger. You were waiting a lot longer than five minutes atop that climb, too. Yeah, but it’s best to not tell her that. That was good. Don’t rub it in. She’s right though, I am getting stronger. But there’s no comparison between us athletically. I’m in the best shape of my life. No you’re not. Okay, no I’m not. I was pretty fast in my running days. Yeah, you were. Too bad you didn’t have the mental strength you have now. That was always my weakness. Damn, I feel I can handle anything now. But back then I sucked. I wasn’t strong enough between the ears to handle the pain without pulling the plug. Remember that time you just walked off the track in Boston? Yeah, that was messed up. What a loser. Man, imagine if you could combine your head now with the speed you had when you were 19 or 20? Damn! You still wouldn’t have been elite. No, of course not. You wouldn’t have sniffed a sub-4 mile. No, but maybe a 1:49 in the half? Or a low 14-minute 5k? Yeah, that might have been possible. But a sub-4 mile? No way. Not a chance.

The calm before the storm.
The calm before the Flamenco storm.

Oh great, another hill.

Maybe Kristin is right and we should just go work on a farm for a month or two in Greece this winter. I dunno. I think I’d rather just go back to Pamplona. There was that apartment you saw near Plaza del Castillo. Fully furnished and only five hundred euros a month. Yeah, but what about Turkey? Yeah, Turkey. And the Silk Road cities. Do you even care about that anymore? All you and Kristin talk about is taking time off to live in Spain or work on a farm or taking a cruise ship from Istanbul to Bangkok. What about biking around the world?

There were some steep side-streets in Cazalla de la Sierra, our first white village.
There were some steep side-streets in Cazalla de la Sierra, our first white village.

Sigh.

I don’t know. I’m tired, man. That’s what it is. We’re just tired. We’ve been going for 3 months since getting to Europe and we need some time off. Physically I’m in the best shape ever. No, we’ve already been through that. Not ever. Fine. Best shape since my early twenties. But this whole life on the road thing gets exhausting. People think it’s a damn vacation. Shit, this is harder than any day of our old lives. Yeah it is. But nobody would ever believe it. No, that’s fine. They don’t need to. I don’t care. It’s true though. Get yourself a house and a job and the easiest thing to do is to just wake up every day in that same bed and go to that same office. Yeah, but that’s no fun. No, I guess it isn’t.

Are those oranges? Where have you ever seen cacti growing next to oranges? And olives too? Spain is nuts. Olives and oranges growing in harmony. That’s some serious cats and dogs shit right there. That’s just nonsense.

Seville's Plaza de Espana, also known as the city of Theed on the planet Naboo in those Star Wars prequels.
Seville’s Plaza de Espana, also known as the city of Theed on the planet Naboo in those Star Wars prequels. So I’m told. I know nothing about Star Wars.

Nonsense. All you do is think nonsense all day. Okay, think about Morocco. You’re going to be in Morocco in a few days. That’s insane! Morocco! You guys rode your bike to Morocco! But what about the oceans? Ugh. What is it with people who always ask about the ocean? You tell them you just rode here from Seattle and it’s always the same thing: ‘Must have had to pedal really fast to stay atop the water.’ Flipping derps. Derps. That’s a funny word.

The tomb of Christopher Columbus, the famed Spanish explorer who looked for India and ended up in the Bahamas.
The tomb of Christopher Columbus, the famed Spanish explorer who looked for India and ended up in the Bahamas.

But seriously, what are we going to do? Winter’s coming. We’re going to head to Tangier for a week and do nothing, that’s what we’re going to do. God, I hope we don’t even leave the apartment. I’m just going to play Hearthstone. Yeah, that will be good. And catch up on your journaling. And get some notes down for that book you’re going to write, don’t forget about that. Yeah, that will be good. A week off the bikes, just chilling out will be fun. And it will be good for you, too! Maybe then you’ll stop talking about renting an apartment in Spain. But I want to do that! Yeah, well, you’re not going to die when this trip is over. You’ve got your whole lives. But what about winter? Who cares about winter. It’s the Mediterranean! How cold can it be? You crossed the Cascades in March and eastern Montana in April! Yeah, that was cold. Did it even get above freezing that week? No, but let’s not think about that. That was damn cold. Italy isn’t going to be that cold. No, and if it is, you’ll hold up someplace and rent an apartment. Or go work on a farm. Or come back to Spain. Shut up about Spain!

“Hey!”

“Hey to you too! Nice job on the climb.”

“Thanks. Were you waiting long?”

“Not at all.”

You’re a filthy liar. Yeah, but a good husband.

Seville, as seen from atop the cathedral's massive once-Muslim tower.
The lovely Seville, as seen from atop the cathedral’s massive once-Muslim tower.

Special Thanks: Want to issue a special thanks to Barbara, a loyal reader we met on the Queen Mary 2, who was kind enough to contribute to our tapas fund. Thank you so much for your contribution! And thank you all to everyone who continues to read, like, and comment on our blog and on our Facebook page. Be sure to send us any questions you might have or suggestions.

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Doug Walsh

Writer, Traveler

Doug Walsh is a writer, traveler, cyclist, and gamer who spent two years traveling from Seattle to Singapore, the long way around, by bicycle and sea. He's the author of the upcoming novel "Tailwinds Past Florence."

18 Comments
  1. Hey, stopping in for a quick read while i put off choosing my healthcare:)

    Loved your post, found it quite entertaining. Would enjoy reading about biking OR work on a farm in Spain…. Thinking about Italy and Spain for future travels so nice to hear about highlights you are encountering. Still loving Denver, hiked Thursday, tele skied Friday, mountain biked Sunday. I think of you often and am glad to hear that you are happy and safe and enjoying your travels.

  2. Having read all of your Posts, this one was really different, but entertaining. Thanks for the confirmation of what I was reading in your reply to Jonathan. The adventure that you two are undertaking always had the Wow factor in that no one I know has ever nor WILL ever undertake. It’s not a race, nor is the finish line defined. It’s all up to you. You are loved, and missed, and that won’t change whether you’re on the other side of the globe or right here at home. Safe travels!

    1. Thanks Dad! That was really nice to hear. We’re certainly enjoying ourselves and this is definitely an experience we wouldn’t trade for anything. This post was more of a playful take on a lot of the thoughts/conversations that have cropped up the past two weeks. Really, just since getting to Spain. We can tell we’re just ready for some time off. Recharge the batteries. I compare it to those baseball players who always talk about retirement in October, after the long season and all the nights on the road, but then can’t wait to play another season once spring rolls around. I think after a week off in Tangier and then another week of in Fes (probably), we’ll be really ready to go again. Thanks for reading. Miss and love you all too!

  3. Hi Kristin & Doug,

    I just love following your adventure. This last post reminded me of the importance to take time off your bike. During our 2 year trip around the world, we also took some time off. It’s normal. Like you said, it’s no vacation to travel by bicycle. Don’t feel guilty about stopping for a month, you’ll know when it’s time to get back on the saddle.
    Enjoy your too short of a time in Morocco. We’ve spent 10 weeks there, with 10 days off during x-mas. We were down south, it was warm and we had a fantastic hotel near the big sand dune, Erg Chebbi.
    Tailwind to you.
    Lysanne

    1. Thanks Lysanne. We’ve always planned on taking a few weeks off every 3 months or so. We did take a lot of time off each week throughout our time in Europe and I think that actually played into our need to just “do nothing” for a few weeks. Constant travel can bee exhausting at times, as we’re realizing. The plan is to spend a month in Morocco. We’ll take a week off in Tangier, then maybe another week off in Fez before heading to the dunes. We have a Dec 9th ferry to Livorno, Ferry to catch. 🙂 I suspect we’ll be well rested by then!

      1. Hi again!

        If you are planning in going into the desert, I will suggest you another place than Zagora. Which we found way too touristy for us, we even caught a ride to get out of that place faster! So, if you want to have a sense of the desert, I would suggest that you head down to Merzouga and stay at the Nasser Palace. In front of the hotel is the big sand dune Erg Chebbi, which is 22km long and 5km in width. We have stayed at the Nasser palace for ten days and everyday we want walking in the Erg. It is one of our fondest memory of the trip. The price per night was 30$ for both of us, breakfast, dinner, with private traditionnal music concert from the staff, and an overnight camel ride in the dunes. Priceless.
        Enjoy your stay in Morocco…
        Lysanne

        1. Thanks for the tip! Merzouga was actually where we were headed but we hadn’t done much research yet into where we would stay. Perhaps we’ll spend a week at this Nasser Palace instead of another week in Fes. Thanks so much for the tip!!!!

          1. No, if I were you, I would spend less time in Tangier and more in Fes. Did you know that the Tangier port was, if I remember well, 30 km west of the city?

        2. Week off in Tangier is to do nothing. Not to play tourist and sightsee. A few days in Fes will be enough, then a few days in Merzouga for the dunes. Can’t wait to go “snowboarding” on the dunes.

          1. PS: Tangier Med is 30km from Tangier. But Tangier Port is right in the medina. It was just a 10 minute walk from the ferry to our host’s house in the medina.

  4. Hi Guys Just read your Monolouge Of La Mancha pretty intense . I wanted to tell you that I follow your adventures- ups and downs – turmoils and triumphs and I think that the adventure you have taken on is remarkable. In life we all make decesions based on the facts – emotion and goals and sometimes just stopping and regrouping is the only intelligent thing you can do . Look at the pros and the cons. It’s easy for me sitting here in my apartment feeling secure and at peace but it’s not exciting . Maybe just maybe “Live each day – one at a time- because that’s all you have . You are suffering from ALT – Angry Lonely and Tired – You need to just take the next 24 hrs. and use every minute to decompress . You guys are smart – use your intuition and your intelligence to make your decsions. This is not a race Stop and smell the roses- and when you are ready – you will move forward and you will accomplish what you set out to do . Beast of luck !

  5. Good post, and best of luck to both of you! I hope you get a chance to just crash for a few days and play some Hearthstone to pass the time 🙂

    I’ll be the first to agree that having a job, living in a house, and having a normal life has to be way easier than what the two of you are doing. I get to wake up in a heated home, hop in the car or onto my bike and head to work. Put in 8 hours, and head home to spend the evening with my wife and kids.

    That’s not nearly as adventurous, but it’s super comfortable and an easy life. Of course, I am also staring out at the grey skies and leafless trees of mid Michigan from my blandly colored cubicle that I have another 4 hours to be in. I do not have the best October/November tan of my life, and I am not anywhere close to the best shape of my life.

    Thanks for sharing your adventures with the rest of us! I eagerly await each new post both here and on DQ. I’ve also started skimming your equipment list and preparing for my first winter commuting via bike to work. I figure if you could stay warm in your winter clothes for weeks at a time, I’ll have no problem in the cold for an hour at a time.

    1. Hey thanks for the comment Jonathan. I hope it was obvious enough that this was meant to be a stream-of-consciousness post, filled with inanity and the knee-jerk thoughts and emotions that pop into one’s head, and not necessarily concrete opinions that encompass an entire thought on a given topic.

      Michigan in the winter? That’s super hard-core! I don’t think our gear would be appropriate for that. Maybe with some pogies, but I doubt it.

      Good luck!

      1. Yes, it definitely came across as a stream of conscious post. You did well indicating that via both the title and the way this was written. Plus, your head sound a lot like my head often does.

        It was definitely an entertaining read!

        I’ll see how long into the fall/winter some of the gear I’m copying from you gets me and then adjust after that. I’m sure that Being able to warm up both before and after the ride, rather than camping out in a tent, makes a huge difference.

        1. Jonathan

          If you need information on winter cycling, you might be interested to read some posts from ShaneCycles.com http://www.shanecycles.com/category/winter-cycle-touring/. As I live in Quebec, Canada, I know much about winter and this guy is a pro!

          Doug,

          My husband found your blog via Travelling Two, and I started reading it. I love the way you write (even if english is a second language for me), so I plan to read it from the beginning. We want to go on our own big trip soon…and David will have to wait for me on top of hills! 😉

          Bon voyage!

          1. Thanks for the kind words. Kristin and I alternated blog posts for quite a while but she’s recently confessed to it feeling like “homework” and “a chore” so I’ll be handling most blog posts going forward. I’m sure Kristin will take the keyboard every now and then when something really hits home, like her post about Maine.

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About Us

We're Doug & Kristin Walsh, a couple of Washingtonians who love to travel, both abroad and in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. We set off to travel the world in 2014, primarily by bicycle. We're back home now, but the travel bug continues to be fed every chance we get.

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