5.5.09 Happy Cinqo de Mayo from Spain!

San Sebastian Travel Blog

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5.5.09    Happy Cinqo de Mayo from Spain!


It was a day of great luck and bad luck!  All is well though- Sugar is a tiny bit muddy but fine.  Jazy said it was the worst, most stressful driving situation *ever* this afternoon- I think it didn’t come close to the wet Dempster Highway heading south or the Copan Ruines ancient city experiences- although I do think it beat the backing down the sand mountain at high speed experience..  More on today’s driving adventure in a minute.


Last night, Cavignac’s small town aire was the most quiet ever!  I couldn’t get over it- right there in town and not a car, bird, nothing until about 7am when the church bells rang.  We enjoyed the little town this morning, buying chemicals at the hardware store, baguettes and croissants at the boulangerie, and RV magazines at la librarie (bookstore).  I thought friends like Lisa T. would enjoy seeing the magazine pictures of the inside of European motorhomes- I’ll be sure to take some of Sugar too.  Very cool!


Then, after finishing our stroll down the small main street of town, we headed up to a winery, since we are in the Bordeaux region.  We returned to one we saw last night which had a sign welcoming motorhomes.  As part of the “France Passion” they offer free overnighting to motorhomers in hopes that they will buy their products.  It is a great win-win for all.  So to support people who are kind to motorhomers, we chose them. 


Unfortunately, the owners were at work until 7pm and the kind adult daughter was not able to show us the winery or let us make purchases.  She did not know any English at all, as we found in Cavingnac, but kindly suffered my French attempt.  We were disappointed in missing the winery experience, but thought we’d see many more wineries as we headed south through Bordeaux.


Alas!  Once on the motorway, we saw no signs for wineries.  I did manage to find some Bordeaux wine today, but I had visions of taking the kids through a grand winery, letting them learn about the process, and of me choosing some special wines to remember the experience.  I need to do a better job seeking that out before we return.


We drove several hours south on our way to Madrid.  We’re not used to driving that much anymore and don’t like it at all. 


We took the wrong exit off a roundabout ��" missed the road to our aire.  Oops!  Surprise though- there was E.L’eclare’s!  We’ve been looking for them on our GPS because we really need propane.  Jazy even took a cold shower last night to save on it (but I was wimpy this morn and ran the water heater for my shower!). 


We couldn’t believe our luck!  We knew of no other E. L’eclare’s in southern France and to find it due to a wrong turn!  We bought a new propane tank for 5E (incredible deal) and then got it filled for 17E, then swapped out our E..L’eclare’s practically empty tank (17E). 


We put our Irish empty propane tank in the garage to save for the Behan’s, in case it helps them or we have trouble exchanging the French tanks for Irish ones when we get Sugar back to Dublin. 


Jazy and I went inside the E’Leclare’s store and our jaws dropped open from shock- the place was like a village with dry cleaners, hair cutters, etc.  It seemed to us to be much larger than a SuperWalmart!  I wish I’d had my camera with me.  Amazing!


Our Visa worked today!  I guess Block of America got it figured out.  But we used our Mastercard today for gas, propane, etc until it was declined at E’Leclare’s in the store.  Ah well- can’t expect them all to work every time. 


We managed to make it to the last aire listed in France before Spain, only to find it closed due to nearby construction.  What bad luck so late in the day!  And we know of no other place nearby.  Bummer!


Chris, a fellow motorhomer from Great Britain, was just happening by then too and we discussed other aire options for the night.  He just finished 3 months in Spain and was headed north.  He told us of a lovely aire in Spain, about 30 minutes away. 


Oddly, he asked if we had the Spain Aires book.  “No, but we’ve been looking for it,” I said, having searched two bookstores today for it.  He then sold us his copy for about half price.  Why?  “Because it’s used and it will be old by the time I return.”  Awesome!!  We couldn’t believe our luck.  Armed with a great book and recommendation, we set off to find the Aire.


Oddly, we crossed from France into Spain with barely a sign.  We crawled down the mountain and across a bridge and ta-da!  We were in Spain!  There are no border crossings between EU countries.  Whew!  I love it!  After the ordeals between Central American countries- shoot, even between some states in Mexico, this is a huge relief!  What luck!  We passed through a toll book and they said, “Hola” and “Gracias” and we knew we were in Spain.  Exciting!


The signs have a strange, almost Greek-typeface words on them.  A Belgium friend said it was a different language for people in this area who do not speak French.  I read about this before, but must refresh. 


It all feels similar to Chiapas, Mexico- their local fight for independence, the lush overgrown jungle-like growth along roadsides and hillsides, the mountains curving and twisting through gorgeous rugged land.  It’s all a little wild and thrilling and edgy. 


Here’s an example:  Just before our interstate exit in France, we had a toll plaza and some uniformed officers stood just beyond with eager anticipation of something- they were very intent and moved around like they were ready to pounce.  There were no guns, but it was a bit intimidating, like we were back south of the border.  I don’t know if they were searching for drugs or not, but we were fortunately accessed with a prolonged stare and released from a search (i.e.  not waved down).  Another:  we were passed by a small car on the highway and it came over in font of us, nearly hitting our fender.  No one was behind us- were they drunk or driving with ego?  French license plates.  Very odd.  Chris told us to beware thieves near Barcelona in particular, people trying to wave you down or throw things that pop near your tire to make you think the tire has blown.  Jazy notes later that on every continent, people have told us to beware of the country south of them!


So into this weirdness, we turn down a GPS inspired single-lane road to find the Aire that Chris recommended.  I think it’s the correct road, Jazy argues it’s not. 


We meet a dump truck on the road- it’ coming down the mountain and skids to a halt just in time and blinks for us to proceed.  We breathe out as we slip by in the only passing area. 


Less than a mile to go on this one lane road- we see on the GPS, but the lane starts to deteriorate and Jazy’s argument is making good sense.  We pick our way down the windy road to the bottom of a rut and start back up.  Okay, I’ll agree to turn around if we can find a place.  Jazy leaps out to assess if we can turn around on the flat barn driveway to our left- it’s at a tight angle, so I’ll need to pass it and then back in.  Looks good, Jazy says.  I start up the hill ahead - the wheels spin from the wet, muddy pothole that we’d just traversed!  


We rest, trying not to wig out- knowing we can back down to the bottom and try again if needed.  I try gently again with the clutch (our full water, gas and propane didn’t help the weight issue) and Sugar tenderly pulls up the slippery, steep hill.  I back into the driveway without sliding or running over Jazy or hitting anything- all is good so far.


But before we can celebrate victory, we still have to make a right turn onto this mountain road from a flat surface with not enough clearance.  There’s a cement post on the driveway and a fence covered in vines along the one-way road. 


It is a steep way down as we swing right onto the road.  We can’t make it yet.  I back Sugar up to turn the wheels…Made it! No slippage. 


We ease forward- Sugar again won’t clear! 


I try to back up again but wheels spin and we instead eek forward!  Agghh!  We are now just an inch from hitting and taking out the fence and sliding down the mountain.  Don’t really know what is on the other side of the fence off the broken asphalt.  Cannot see where the cement post is behind us. Can I hit the gas fast enough, going from the brake with the clutch, to the gas to get Sugar to back up this steep hill- or will we roll into the fence and go from there?  Will the wheels just spin again? 


We’re cocked at an angle.  This is a real pickle.  My legs shake from holding Sugar on the clutch and brake. The kids say I swore a little. Or maybe a lot. There’s just one second for this single reverse attempt to work before we need a tow truck or an ambulance.  We pray- very hard…summon up the courage to try our one shot …hold our breath…


It worked!  The plan worked!  Sugar backed up that very instant, we didn’t hit anything behind or beside us, we didn’t spin tires, we didn’t slide down the steep hill into the potholes!  We straightened the wheels and made the turn!  A miracle!


We didn’t meet any trucks as we tootled down the mountain; we didn’t lose our brakes even though our speed on the steep mountain couldn’t be held with gearing down alone.  Oh my GOSH!  Praise the Lord!


So, it all worked out.  Sometimes, we get a clear break and that was mine.  I should just be conservative for awhile.  And maybe next time I’ll listen to my Navigator.


We got to the Aire using a better road- Jazy had been correct.  It is part of a small park, along a road that seems seldom used except for race-car type drivers or motorcyclists at high speed.  We had very nice RV neighbors from Belgium, but they left to meet some local friends and I don’t know if they’ll return.  It is now 10:47 pm and we are here alone, which makes me uncomfortable.  There is no vigilante to tip to watch and keep us safe here. 


But our options tonight are limited and I have the FindMeSpot blinking in the window as a scary intimidator and we can use it for emergency help if needed.  Or I can drive away- let’s hope we don’t need it and our neighbors return.  This was considered a top Aire in the book and it is clearly marked with pictures of RV’s and has a service point (dump station), so hopefully it is also patrolled occasionally.  Let’s hope.  Now where are those neighbors…


Anyway, that’s it for a long day.  We did some laundry in a bucket, which is no fun, but sometimes necessary.  More to do, but priorities- maybe we’ll find a washer soon.  We’re thrilled to have propane, full water, empty tanks, and full gas.  We’re working on that Maslow’s chart near the bottom layer- Security, food, water, clean laundry…Life is good!





TerryKaren says:
Tessa, really love your travelogue....makes us feel like we are there with you. However your ability to write suspense and thriller is incredible. I had to stop reading after you wrote hold your breath because I had to catch mine. Wow
Posted on: May 08, 2009
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