Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018

Blink Of An Eye

By Sharon Parker

Day 8 30th May

After a warm comfortable night in the cabin we decide to book another night. After all at these prices it is not much more expensive than the cost of a pitch on a campsite.

The weather this morning is dry but grey and overcast with the threat of rain ever-present. It's warm though at about 19 degrees.
As I enjoy getting a shower and having the privacy of the cabin to do so Ren goes shopping. To my surprise I am ready to go out but Ren has yet to come back. I begin to worry a little. The little becomes a lot when time ticks by. I try to push any ideas of accidents away from my mind but when I eventually hear the sound of a bike and see him come into view I realise I can breath again. He didn't realise how long he was away, maybe Ren likes shopping after all. Haa.

As usual the mountains beckon so we head into the hills. We stop in a suburb, a village maybe, call it what you will, just to look and see. In many ways it is different than back home with the open drains, the old church still obviously in use, but it is also the same, the children's playpark, the school. 

People all the world over just try and live their lives I guess the best they can. I like seeing the ordinary places where ordinary people live. It gives you a better understanding of the place. A real feel of what a country and it's people are about. 

Like home it has it's affluent areas and it's poorer. My dream of equality is no nearer to reality here than at home. Sometimes travel makes us feel blessed, for we can feel privileged to have what we have when we see people with less. Other times we feel the stirring of envy as we  peer through bars into lush gardens where wealth and privilege shines out as brightly as the polish on the Ferrari enclosed inside. 

I can never quite comprehend why things have always been this way. The divide between rich and poor. Extreme poverty upsets me, extreme wealth offends me. I wonder if the people who live in this most ordinary place are happy and content? I wonder if anyone else dreams of a world where there is is equality, no super rich no desperate poor. People say I'm a dreamer, it can never be that way, it never has and it never will. But I like to dream regardless. 

A small spanish church with bells amidst ordinary spanish houses
A field with long grass, trees and hazy mountains in the far distance
Spanish suburbia different but the same

As usual the Spanish prove in this ordinary place to be friendly as an elderly gentlemen attempts to engage us in conversation. Ren manages his basic Spanish well enough to chat while I supply smiles. I wish I had a better ear for languages. I resolve I must try harder because I truly would love to be able to converse better. Maybe then I could ask the questions I would love to ask, like are you happy?  Hmm maybe it's best I can just smile and nod. I best get off my soap box and back onto my bike.

We ride on and I notice how the landscape here is different. The mountains are less dramatic but the mountain roads themselves are more challenging. The roads here tend to be narrower and the sharp bends more hazardous due to the recent heavy rain causing gravel washouts to spill across the roads. One needs to keep one's wits about them here, so no further musings enter my mind as I give full concentration to the twisty road ahead.

The 2 motorcycles on a road surrounded by thick green bushes, grasses, trees and scrub
A lane hugs the side of the tree covered hill, snaking it's way down
Mountains are smaller but the twists remain the same.

These twisting roads often lead into tiny mountain villages where the tarmac is replaced by extremely narrow potholed earth tracks. More suitable for donkeys than bikes but it's all part of the fun. Well it is once I successfully negotiate a safe passage through for that is when I can laugh about it.

This area's industrial past and present is evident.  Coal mines once thrived in the area but closed down here in the 80s. I wonder if the Spanish fought to keep them open like we did back in England. The closing of the mines has left some of the villages looking somewhat shabby and rather forlorn with no real purpose anymore.

There are plenty of houses, restaurants and other business along these roads. However most now stand empty and the abandonment tells a tale of a once thriving community who not so long ago lived and worked here. Whom within a blink of an eye suddenly had to move away to look for a living elsewhere once the mines closed. 

There is some hope however that new industry in the form of hydroelectric stations and tourism due to the Camino de Santiago routes will help to sustain the area in the future. The locals that remain are incredibly friendly. Happy to try and converse with you, give directions or just a smile and a simple Hola. 

Big hills and green surrounding, among it all are the towers and massive building of a power station
The hydroelectric plants although not picturesque may provide these parts with more than electricity, hopefully it brings employment too.

As we ride on I spy what I think is a florist in the middle of no where. I wonder why someone would put a shop in such a strange and isolated spot. Closer inspection reveals it is not a glass fronted widow of a florist but the glass fronted doors of family vaults and the flowers here have already been purchased and left as gifts to those whom have departed this world. 

Glass and marble fronts to small building are in fact mausoleums
The Z250SL and CB500X outside the walls of the very Spanish graveyard
We live, we die, best make the most of it while we are here 

As we ride back to the lodge I am feeling more confident on the twisty roads as I get more and more practice on them.

I settle onto the comfy bed ready for a relaxed night when I get a text message from my daughter. It says Kevin is dead. I re-read it several times. I even repeat the words slowly in my mind. Kevin is dead. It is like these words are suddenly in a foreign language. I can't seem to grasp the meaning although I understand what is said.  

I reply - which Kevin what do you mean? It is a stupid reply. I know only one Kevin but my brain still refuses to accept what it already knows. I cannot comprehend the reality that has suddenly been thrust so unexpectedly on me. 

The words Kevin is dead make no sense because Kevin simply cannot be dead because Kevin is my sister's husband. Because my sister and he are going off to live their dream tomorrow. They are leaving the UK to live in Bulgaria. Their mobile home is all packed, their house in the UK rented out. Kevin is 54 and he is not ill he is going to Bulgaria with my sister, it is all planned it's their dream so he can't be dead because it's just not possible.

But it is possible, it is true. Kevin is dead, gone in a blink of an eye.

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Building Up To España 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.

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
That must have been awful news Sharon and must have put a real damper on your trip.

With regard to your earlier point: "I wonder if anyone else dreams of a world where there is is equality, no super rich no desperate poor."

Yes yes yes. But the only way despite promises from the populists is to build genuine Socialist mass movements as we are trying to do with the Labour Party despite all the attempts of the right wing press, "New Labour" dinosaurs etc......
06/09/2018 11:03:25 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Absolutely terrible news for you Sharon, and very sad.

I counted the number of people I know who have died in their fifties recently, and then wished I hadn't because it came to 14. That's 14 people I knew personally, including a close friend and my first wife. :(

Once the grief has subsided, these things focus the mind onto the things that are important in life and to try and make every day count. This is the main reason I'm retiring in a couple of weeks, 11 years before I should, according to the government. I understand that I'm fortunate to be in a position to even consider this at my age, and I won't be enjoying a champagne lifestyle in retirement, but I'm not in the slightest materialistic and so that really doesn't bother me at all. I'll get do much more 'me' stuff and also be able to spend more time with my family including my two grand kids. A win, win situation.

My condolences to you and yours.

06/09/2018 01:00:07 UTC
GJ said :-
Very sad news regarding your sister's husband.
My condolences are with you at this time.
My previous next door neighbor died similarly quickly a couple of months back.
During process of moving house felt ill and died the next day in hospital.
Blood clot took him too soon.
He never set foot in new home.
08/09/2018 03:56:39 UTC
Tom McQ said :-
Sad news indeed Sharon. My condolences to your family and Kevin's family and friends. Further proof that life is short and we need to do everything we possibly can in order to make our life a happy one. No point waiting for someone else to act on your behalf - it's all down to you. Sounds like Kevin and your sister were doing whatever they could to make their life better and happier. So sad :-(

20/09/2018 09:04:49 UTC
Tom McQ said :-
Equality? It's never happened before and it's very unlikely to happen in the future.

We see people in the UK sleeping rough, looking unwell, hungry. We see families living off benefits. We see people abroad with nothing on their feet, holding out their hands begging for pennies from cash-rich tourists. We see videos of disabled people toiling away in terrible conditions doing the sort of manual labour that us lot are sure would kill us! It's routine for them.

I often (VERY OFTEN) look at less fortunate people and feel so bad for them and I thank an imaginary God that I was blessed with something that they weren't - OPPORTUNITIES!

Because that's what it comes down to ultimately. If you were born in The Sudan or Niger, for example, it wouldn't matter how bright or hard working you were, there would be virtually no opportunities for you to make changes to your life. Each and every day would be a struggle just to find enough food, to find enough clean water, to survive!!

I thank my imaginary God that I wasn't born in those places. I thank my imaginary God that I was born right here in Bolton, UK. I'm thankful that I had access to all the opportunities that our country offers to its residents. How shocking would it be to waste those opportunities that are denied to so many??

Needless to say, not everyone is ABLE to take advantage of the opportunities around them. Some people have mental and physical disabilities which prevent them from making the most of things. And some people are just not clever enough to be able to progress from basic living conditions to something more comfortable and enjoyable. It's a fact of life that for every Einstein born, there's also someone at the other end of the scale. They need our help and support. And I would happily pay more tax to help them.

But I would not pay a single penny (if I could help it) to those who want everything but who don't want to work for it.

I had a rough upbringing full of toil and trouble. My Dad died when he was 27, my step-father was a work-shy aggressive drunk who beat up my poor Mum every weekend, my Grandad abused me, I had a terrible diet, I was dirty, scared and I had ZERO confidence, I wagged school all the time because I was bullied due to having only part-uniform, I even attempted to take my life once.

But as I became an adult, I could see opportunities. Small opportunities at first, but I was determined to take advantage of them and improve my life. I worked hard all my life - put lots of hours in and always tried to move forwards towards something better for me and my family.

I was no brainbox - I was virtually uneducated! But I wanted more than the shit life I'd had so far, so I worked to improve my lot. And over the years life got better and better (with a few hiccups along the way).

Move on 40 years and I'm as happy as Larry! I am happy with my lot and I DO NOT resent anyone who has more than me. I know people who have nothing in their bank and I know people who have £24M in the bank. I judge them PURELY on their personality and their nature. They could very easily be equal as far as I'm concerned.

A friend of mine hasn't got two halfpennies to rub together - while my other friend has a Bentley GT. Does my rich friend offend me?? Hell no! Am I envious of his wealth? Hell no! He came from nothing and has worked his nuts off and created wealth and created jobs for people along the way. The rich guy and the poor guy were both born in Lancashire in the 50's, they were both poorly educated and they both had opportunities and choices to make.

Some people are SURROUNDED by opportunities to improve their life and that of their family, but choose to do nothing to take advantage of them. No use working 20 hours a week and whinging about being skint! Some people want to keep their simple, stress-free, enjoyable job with no responsibilities or decisions to make, whilst being on the same salary as the bloke who's the head of Amazon!!

Whenever I felt that I wasn't where I wanted to be in life, I looked at others around me and realised that I was relatively wealthy. I have always been rich in good health and mobility for a start! My work ethic has always been good. I've been rich in determination and I've always been a bit of a do-er instead of a talker.

If you are offended by wealth, then maybe you should consider the FACT that only wealthy countries are able to support the needy. They're able to provide housing, benefits, hospitals, schools, libraries, employment training, mobility to disabled people, public transport, defence, infrastructure, growth and investment in technology etc, etc, etc. Sure, the world recession has had an impact on these things, but for many countries NONE of these things even exist!

So, should the self-employed young man outside cleaning the windows be on the same money as me? Err no! Should he resent me or the fact that I've got a nice house, 2 cars and a motorbike? No! Hopefully, he'll continue to work hard and seize any opportunities that come his way. Or maybe he values TIME more than money and is happy and content being able to live a stress-free, laid back life as long as he's got food on the table, a roof over his head and some good friends.

The truly best way to help the poor, is not to become one of them.

20/09/2018 10:45:47 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Hi Tom. I agree with much of what you say. However, the problem it seems to me is not wealth itself but its distribution. When the richest 1% of people in the world "own" the same as the poorest 99% there's something wrong.

When the people who caused the crash of 2008 walk away with millions while the poorest in our society are savaged by "austerity" it's a scandal to my mind. Let alone the savage cuts to our NHS, local authorities, police etc etc. It's no good grumbling about potholes when some local authorities are actually going bankrupt and many more are only just able to meet their statutory requirements.

According to the standardised data of the OECD, the UK is Europe's most unequal country in terms of disposable income (apart from Estonia). Britain is also the most unequal English-speaking country within the OECD, except the United States. But in terms of absolute wealth per person the UK ranks 4th in the world after Switzerland, Australia and the United States.

This is not the "politics of envy". I am quite reasonably off having made lucky choices throughout my life and in fact would gladly pay more in tax. I don't want those fat cats' money - I want it to be used to take the more than 1 in 4 children in this country out of poverty.

Whatever your views of their parents - and most are in fact working and struggling to keep afloat - why should their children be penalised? Especially whilst public schools are exempt from VAT and are registered charities so receive many more benefits - all so that the children of the already wealthy can further consolidate their already privileged positions.

Anyway, this is all supposed to be about bikes and travels......
20/09/2018 02:05:35 UTC
David said :-
My absolute sincerest condolences, I shed a tear myself....
20/09/2018 03:40:54 UTC
Sharon said :-
Thank you all for your condolences.
20/09/2018 11:46:26 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Off topic Ian, as you say, but you may be surprised to hear that I really can't disagree with anything you say.
21/09/2018 07:49:06 UTC
Sharon said :-


I do not wish to make the site a political battleground. I agree with Ian (it appears we are often of the same mind set) but as he says this is about Bikes and Travels. I guess by the length of your post Tom this subject is something you are rather passionate about. Me too and you know I love a good debate. I don't want to write a lengthy reply because as I just said this is not the place. But I have to offer some response or it may appear I am unable to stand by my own beliefs.

I feel I have to point out that I said EXTREME wealth offends me. The kind of wealth the one person owns that could never be spent on a thousand lifetimes. The kind of wealth that didn't come through work but privilege. The kind of wealth that lives in a mansion with 10 spare empty bedrooms while homeless people sleep in streets. The kind of wealth that will spend more money on a bottle of champagne than it would cost to give a cancer patient the drugs they need to live. Yes this offends me. Not through envy but because of humanity.

Personally do I believe I should be paid more than the cleaners in my workplace? No I think we should be equal because they are at work doing their job just like am I. My job is a different one, not a better one. If the cleaners, be they window ones or any other type didn't clean then we would all be buried in shit.

Funny is it not how when the lowest paid workers demand a higher rate of pay the corporation they work for declare that the company would close down if it raised their pay. But somehow that same company does not close down when it increases the pay and bonuses of those at the very top.

The idea that wealthy countries support the needy in a fairytale. The idea that the wealth drips down to the poor is not only insulting but a complete lie. If this were true then how can the gap between rich and poor keep growing? The river of wealth does not flow to the parched dry lands, why because the rich build damns with their wealth to protect what they believe is theirs and theirs alone. Even though the truth was that river belonged once to all men equally but they privatised it and called it progress.

Wealthy people often justify their greater wealth by saying they work harder than the poor and that's why the have more. This is yet another untruth of the world today. Does anyone really believe that a fashion designer works harder then the kids in the sweatshops sewing their designs.

A land of opportunity is only a land of opportunity when those opportunities are available equally to all. Not when it is all down to happenstance and circumstances.
A more equal society is known to be a happier one with less crime and therefore less fear. Everyone could benefit from equality be they rich or poor, so why not strive for it.

Tom I have friends who are on the complete opposite end of my own beliefs. I have a dear friend who has worked for the very political party I despise. Having opposing beliefs does not makes us enemies. If anything people who oppose each others beliefs are the very people who should talk to one another. My friend Lou and I can have some very heated debates but we always part the best of friends. I don't need the comfort of agreement, I don't look to disagree but I will whole heartedly engage in debate. So if you wish to debate with me invite me round for tea and let the fun begin. We can then leave this platform clear for motorbikes...bharpppp.

29/09/2018 09:08:10 UTC
Shepherd said :-
Wow, I just came over all cold when I read that last part Sharon.
A little late I fear, but you have my condolences anyway, I hope the shock, pain and sorrow is easing.
I am glad you still published this days travels and travails, it shows that life can throw a curve ball at you when least expected. It's the way we deal with them that makes us who we are.
We all have a to grab life by the throat and squeeze what we can from it.

Big hugs from just another anonymous reader and recent discoverer of this blog.
11/03/2019 02:10:37 UTC

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