We never imagined we would be spending nearly five months in Spain. When we first crossed the Pyrenees Mountains and into the Catalonia region of northern Spain on March 9th, we were somewhat oblivious to the extend at which the Coronavirus was sweeping across the European continent. By March 14th, the Spanish government had activated a State of Alarm which granted exceptional powers to limit the free movement of people and vehicles. Our travels came to a dramatic, rear-wheel skidding, tire smoking stop.
We were fortunate to have found ourselves at an Airbnb in the countryside of southern Spain. Our hostess, Maria, and her three boys, were a wonderful blessing of friendship during the three-month travel lockdown. Once the State of Alarm ended on June 21st, we were sad to leave our new friends but extremely excited to continue traveling throughout Spain.
Now here we were, 56 days later, about to leave a country in which we had so many wonderful memories over the last 5 months.
Our reasons for leaving Spain were two-fold:
First: As Americans, we only have 90 days to travel in most of Europe. Since our tourist visa was automatically extended to 90 days starting on 21 Jun, we had to find an area outside of Schengen Europe before it expired on September 19th. If we wanted to continue traveling, our choices were to ride into the UK, Morocco, or the western Balkan countries.
Second: A new wave of COVID cases was already sweeping across Europe causing some countries to close their borders. It seemed extremely unlikely that travel between countries would be allowed once the summer season was over. We needed to find a place where we could continue traveling or risk leaving our motorcycles in Europe and flying back to the United States.
Fortunately, the western Balkans were allowing Americans to enter for tourism. It seemed like a good bet, so we set a goal of reaching Croatia before the end of August.
Our Final Day in Spain
Once we decided to leave Spain, we chose to do it quickly. Although we still had a lot of northern Spain to see, we thought it was best to move on before we were trapped again by another lockdown. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Our last day was a long day in the saddle. Typically we like to travel no more than about 160-240 km (100-150 miles) per day. We were going to more than double that! No stopping except for breaks, gas, meals, and a bathroom. Better yet, if we could combine all four into one stop, then all the better.
Just 40 minutes into riding and we’re already stopping! What is so important that we stopped so early in our ride? A billboard. Not just any billboard, mind you – an Osborne Bull billboard.
As we travelled around Spain, we would see these large bull billboards. We tried, on numerous attempts, to get close to one, but the access roads always seemed to be on fenced land.
It was pretty exciting to be able to see one of these billboards up-close and personal.
These Osborne Bull billboards were first built in 1956 as a roadside advertisement for a brandy sold by Osborne Sherry Company.
In 1994 a new Spanish law prohibited roadside advertisement of alcohol, so the bulls had to be removed. However, public response resulted in keeping the bulls but removing any reference to the original advertisement. There are still 91 of these Osborne Bulls located throughout Spain.
Since we still had a lot of distance to cover, we hopped back on our mules and enjoyed some easy riding on the autovia.
A Parting Gift
It was around 2 PM that we decided to find a place to eat some lunch. This proved to be difficult, however, since nearly all the restaurants and grocery stores were closed for Sunday. We set the GPS towards a Burger King but took the wrong exit off the Autovia. In order to get back on track, we found a dirt road that delivered us into…
…a wonderfully bright and beautiful field of sunflowers!
The white fluffy clouds and blue sky were the perfect backdrop for taking pictures of these wonderful flowers.
It’s hard to have a bad day when you surround yourself with these happy flowers.
It wasn’t much longer before we crossed the border into France. It was exciting to be in another country, however, we already missed the wonderful country of Spain. Hasta luego, España.
Next Blog Post
Join us as we ride along the south of France through the Lavender Fields of Provence (post season) and “ride the loop” at Gorges du Verdon.
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16 Aug 2021