The outside of a motorbike engine seen up close near the exhaust

Home Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018

Riding to Burgos

By Ren Withnell

The forecast is dire. Not just for today but for the next few days. In fact any long term forecast suggests good weather will only arrive once we have returned home. Sharon, the rain queen, is cursed. 

And yet this morning the sun is shining. It has rained in the night, heavily at times so this morning the mist is rising from the ground before our eyes. We quickly hang out washing. I like the idea we only have 100 miles to cover today. It means I don't need to rush. It means we have time to absorb getting lost or mechanical issues or even to stop often and enjoy the ride. 

Clothes on a line amidst trees and campervans at the campsite in Potes
Quick! Get as much as we can washed and dried while the sun is out.

We decamp and pay our bill. As we hit the road the weather is fine, in fact right now it's a tad too warm. I'm never blooming happy am I.

Damn these roads and the majestic beauty! I have the same dilemma as I have in Scotland. The scenery demands that I throttle off and gently waft along giving me time to see the nuances, the complete picture. The squirming road begs me to slice around its radii and power over its crests and dips. I raise then drop my speed to try and achieve both, you can do that on a road as empty as this is today.

tree filled valleys and rocky hilltops seen on the CL627 towards Cervera de Pisuerga
Damn what an awful problem! Slow and look or quick and play?

After over 100 miles of twisties on Thursday Sharon's pace is increasing, I'm not having to back off quite as often to allow her to catch up. She's never had an issue with high speed sweeping corners but these sharp third and second gear, even first gear corners trouble her. She can navigate them just fine, she's just not got her head around attacking them, throwing the bike in and heaving it around. She doesn't need to, I wonder though if she wants to.

I need to stop. The spectacle around us demands it once again because when the planet has made an effort to crumple its crust upwards and nature has used water to carve away deep valleys we ought to at least take a little time to appreciate it. 

green hills and snow capped rock tipped mountains in the distance. Excellent Spanish scenery
Sometimes when Mother Nature has made the effort I need to appreciate it.

After many more stupendous miles it is almost a relief to ride in to Cervera de Pisuerga. There's only so much wonder a man can absorb in one hit. 

Cervera de Pisuerga comes at around the right time for a break and the town feels small and manageable. I find a car park and then the town centre on foot. Sharon needs the toilet yet nothing seems to be presenting itself as an obvious solution. We wander a while until we come across some kind of tourist information. They'll know.

2 and 3 story building presumably quite old surround a small town square with the odd cafe
I much prefer this sort of town to that of the city.
A narrow street with the houses and shops almost overhanging into the lane
Kind of like a Spanish version of The Shambles in York.

I've been practising - "Esta ooona ban-yo a-kee?" I'm expecting the reply to be incomprehensible, I am delighted because I can understand "Si, si" and pointed fingers down a corridor. We partake of the facilities much to Sharon's relief.

The town is charming enough but there's no reason for us to remain. As we return to the bikes we feel the first drops of rain, waterproofs time. Back on the roads it seems Cervera de Pisuerga marks the edge of The Picos and the end of the amazing roads with gorgeous scenery. I'm saddened to leave The Picos. I'm even sadder to be in the rain, heavy rain now. I focus on getting to our next destination, Aguilar de Campoo.

The rain persists through Aguilar de Campoo. It changes from light to heavy, then eases for a while then hitting us at full blast for a few minutes. We are no longer in the hills so our road is fairly straight. The farmland all around is arable and due to the rain quite green. The grey sky drains the vibrancy from the colours.

As we eventually reach Burgos the worst of the rain has passed. It's a good job because Burgos presents itself to us as just another bustling busy city complete with apartment blocks, industrial estates, drivers in a rush and complex junctions. Nothing new, nothing beautiful and nothing positive. We seek peace and haven in a large shopping mall.

2 motorcycles in a very ordinary cap park of a shopping mall in Burgos
No mountains, no bends, no trees, no grass. Just a car park and 2 riders in search of tea.

I was hoping for a haven from the chaos of the road, all we find inside is chaos of the pedestrian kind. McDonalds seems the obvious choice for a brew and a rest. I think 60% of Burgos' population agree as the tiny fast food outlet is rammed jammed full and overflowing into the rest of the mall. It takes an age to order, an age to be served and an age to find seating. 

Back at the bikes I unhook a bungee to access my top box. There's a note, how odd. It reads "You shouldn't leave your staff like this. Be careful!" Well it looks like "staff" I suspect it was meant to be "stuff". This is creepy.

A hand written note
Blimey! Erm OK thank you.

In an ideal world we would not leave our "staff" like this. The world is not ideal though and I am not man enough to carry all this gear around with me when I go shopping. It is, I'm afraid, a downside to motorcycle travel. We keep our documents, our electronics, our money and our medicines with us at all times. Everything else has to stay with the bikes. 

I appreciate the sentiment of the note and the kindness of the concern. I also feel it a little disturbing to think that our bikes have been noticed. Maybe we ought to avoid cities and shop in the smaller villages? I'll keep this in mind.

This last couple of hours have been hard work, not horrible or stressful as such, just draining. I connect and set up my phone for navigation, I have no hope at all of finding the campsite otherwise. At least the rain has stopped, that's good. Oh no it's not. Now the sun reflects off the cheap handlebar mounted case so I can't see the phone and it's directions. Grrrrr!

With a long deep breath I calm myself as we leave the suburbs and feel the land open out before us. It is flat here but yonder on the horizon I can see hills and that is where we appear to be heading. 

Camping Puerta de la Demanda seems OK, unimpressive yet acceptable. It also looks quiet as we approach. Oh hell no tell me it's open, please! It is, sweet mercy it is. I'm ready to stop. I want to get the tent up and settle in, I want to ground myself and relax. 

A brick built building houses the reception and a bar at the campsite
Nothing spectacular but it's open and I'm ready for a rest.

The young lady speaks better English than my Spanish, she too is happy and enthusiastic to help me learn a few more words of her native tongue. Her youth catches my eye, I barely register in hers. I'm old enough to be her father and then some. To her I'm just another middle aged punter, the long hair shows I'm desperately clinging to my younger days like a shipwreck survivor hanging on to a piece of flotsam.

We're here, we're fine, the rain has abated and we have food from the shopping mall we visited. It's not been the best of days but it's not been a disaster either. 

When you see or read a travelogue like this, a video, a TV show or book you have to remember you are only being fed the highlights. It may seem these adventures are a constant stream of mind blowing scenery mixed with mechanical issues, engagement with the indigenous folk mixed with emotional disasters. It's not.

There's a lot of ordinary miles, dull conversations about what to have for tea, time spent looking at maps or weather forecasts, cooking, washing and just sitting around. It's a bit like football, if you only see the highlights it looks like an amazing sport. Watching a full match is quite another thing.

Sharon is inflating airbeds and there's washing on the line at a campsite in spain
There's a lot of quite ordinary things that need to be done on a trip.

If you'd like to publish your adventure, no matter how grand or small, contact

Building Up To EspaƱa In the prologue to their journey Ren can't help but feel that the forthcoming journey might be a costly disaster. Forever the optimist.
Getting Ready For Spain Sharon is determined to be ready, organised and prepared for her forthcoming trip to Spain. However life is even more determined to ruin her plans.
Bodging Daaan Saaaf Ren bears witness to an impossible event. Then there's some last minute bodging to be done.
Motorway Miles And Muses Sharon's derriere proves more than tough enough for the big ride across England. Can she manage to lose them emotional luggage while securing her physical luggage though?
To The Ferry What are the chances of Sharon getting out of bed very early twice in the same week. Well she'd better had otherwise the Muppet's will miss the ferry.
Ocean Blue Sharon's more excited than nervous but this is the first time the Kwakker has been aboard ship. That's if customs let her on board.
Lost Off The Ferry The great adventurer and motorcyclist Ren is proving that he is in fact a useless idiot. He can't ride and he can't find a campsite that is open. Oh what will become of the BAT muppets?
Campsite Conundrum Sharon is having way too much fun while Ren is trying to find a place to sleep. Well someone has to be happy when Ren's such a grump.
Discovering The Picos After a troublesome first day in Spain hopefully Sharon and Ren's luck will improve. Thing is they have a 187km detour to reach their destination. There have been worse detours though.
Heaven's Mirror Putting fear and doubt to bed for a while Sharon enjoys the wondrous ecstasy of nature and the joy of riding a motorcycle through it. Oh and a lot of sharp corners too.
Rain In The Picos Will the rain bring doom and gloom to the already grumpy Ren? Luckily there's enough scenery and interesting things to keep him going.
The Sound Of Silence In spite of a dire weather forecast Sharon's day in Spain is filled with the beauty of nature, fond memories and the creation of great new memories.
Riding to Burgos Is motorcycle touring a non stop stream of excitement, beauty, wonder and exploration? Erm, nope. It's a rather ordinary day on the road to Burgos.
Tin Tin It's both a good and bad day for Sharon as she travels from the delights of the mountains to the grim reality of the city and the rain. At least her hair is looking good.
Higher Than I've Ever Been In spite of the weather forecasts. In spite of no longer being in The Picos. In spite of Ren being a pessimist. In spite of all this it seems Northern Spain has more delights in store.
Magical Kingdom Sharon's having another amazing day riding around Northern Spain. She's on a high, metaphorically and literally.
Boots And Burgos Ren is suffering a footwear malfunction and it's time to go and do that city thing. Can Burgos convert Sharon and Ren into city lovers?
Burgos Bimble Sharon explores the city of Burgos, Spain. Architecture, stone masonry, pilgrims and tempting food. But can a city really endear itself to this country girl?
Lost In Luxury How to turn a fortuitous and splendid day into a nightmare. Just follow Ren and he'll sort the rest out. Still, it could be worse.
Dam Lost Fearing the weather Sharon is braced for a drenching. Thing is the weather isn't really the problem.
Gritty Northern El Bierzo There's time to explore a different part of Northern Spain today. It might not have the beauty of The Picos De Europa it is however a fascinating area.
Blink Of An Eye Sharon has an interesting day poking around north west Spain. There's a something of a shock in store for the evening.
Back To Beauty, Dodgy Caravan It's time for the dynamic muppets to saunter their way back towards the ferry and Ren is in reflective mood. Wonderful scenery, weird accommodation.
The Good, The Bad And The Musty It's a day of confusing emotions for Sharon, but life is for living. Will this evening's accommodation be as luxurious as the previous evening's?
Beautiful Potes While going to a now familiar town is hardly intrepid at least it means Ren is calm, chilled out and not lost. For once.
Head In The Clouds Sharon is calmed by the wonders of Northern Spain's wondrous scenery as she returns to the comforts of Potes.
Sun, Sand, Sea And Santander The weather has improved now it's time for the dynamic muppets to head back to the ferry. Ren is intrigued by stories or walking across Northern Spain, will we see "Walks And Travels" or W.A.T.?
Splish Splash Santander The beauty and grandeur of the The Picos means Sharon does not want to leave, ever. It's back to the city, ready to sail home. Fear not, there's still pleasures to be found.
The Ferry Home It's the dynamic muppet's last day in Spain so it's time to catch the ferry. A mixture of sadness and relief for Ren, but what about the other riders in the queue?
Final Thoughts On Spain Ren crosses the T's and dots the I's on the Spanish trip.

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