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Home Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018

Head In The Clouds

Day 10 1st June 2018

By Sharon Parker

CL 626 to Boñar 
LE 331
LE 333
CL 635
CL 625
CL 621 Potes

I can not say I had a particularly comfortable night in the caravan. So it had a small heater but it also had dodgy electrics to concern me as the power supply kept tripping and plunging us into darkness. Once in bed I could not get the idea out of my head that as we were the first inhabitants of the season would any lurking bugs and pests be right now emerging from their winter famine to feast on our flesh? 

Once morning came I felt a bit groggy but I'm happy to see my skin is left unmarked and intact so today is a good day. We are alive we have not been eaten or gone up in flames. Today we will be travelling back to Potes and the beautiful campsite of Camping La Viorna. Sometimes knowing what is ahead is as pleasurable as the unknown. Especially when one is as frazzled as I am at the moment.

But what better way could there be to sooth a disturbed mind than riding a motorcycle through beautiful lands. With this in mind I load the bike up with a smile on my face. Time to ride, it's therapy time. 

Once back on the road it is soon apparent that we are to be blessed with more fantastic riding today. The super CL 626 with its far reaching views lead to the super twisty LE 331. We stop about 10 kilometres after Boñar to marvel at yet another huge damn. The construction of the damn in 1968, although controversial, has regulated the flow of rivers in Leon and therefore helped to reduce flooding. The Porma reservoir, also known as Vegamian stores more than 300 million cubic metres of water. 

We're looking down the steep side of a concrete dam and out to a beautiful green valley

Porma reservior

We continue along the delightful LE 331 until the plentiful twists and turns begin to straighten out near Puebla de Lillo. The road here stretches far into the horizon with mountains beckoning in the distance. It reminds me of what I would expect a remote American highway to look like. Long and straight and traffic free. Traffic free being the theme once again on these roads. I love the freedom of setting my own pace, I love the feeling of space. I love it all. 

Large hills made mostly of white rocks with some greenery to be seen from the road in Spain
In a small Spanish town the straight road heads out into the white rocky hills in the distance
Rocky Mountains Spanish style 

We leave the  LE 331 after Puebla de Lillo and turn off onto the even more super twisty LE 333. The LE 333 is not for the faint hearted, not only has it some very tight bends but the tarmac now becomes broken and rutted. There are some sizeable potholes, cowpats and gravel that I have to avoid. All this while trying to keep the bike on the narrow twisty road up the mountain and away from the sheer drops. My heart is thumping and it jumps into my throat a fair few times. 

I am sure Ren ahead is finding it a breeze on his chunky tyres and semi off road bike.  Me I am on a road bike with - errr - no road!  Oh well I have to remember my claim that any bike is an adventure bike. The little Kawasaki Z250SL seems happy enough sliding on gravel and popping up and down into holes so it is fine, I think, I hope. 

I am nervous, this is not easy riding but I am equally exhilarated and thrilled that I am actually doing this and seemingly capable. Who would have believed that the terrified learner I was is now tackling this road and actually enjoying it. 

The road climbs ever higher and my ears begin to pop. The narrow track suddenly widens and my endeavour up here is rewarded as a breathtaking vista opens up before my eyes. The open area gives us the opportunity to park up the bikes and stop to stand and stare. The tops of the mountains are decorated with snow and snowflakes fall from the sky onto my outstretched hands. How delightful. 

A handy map tells me exactly where I am, Puerto De Las Señales. Puerto de las Señales is one of the highest mountain passes of the Cantabrian Mountain range at an elevation of 1.625m (5,331ft) above the sea level. It is even on the Dangerous Roads website, ha go me and I will agree it is a spectacular road. As I drink in the scenic beauty we are joined by another motorcycle. The British couple are friendly and we chat about how amazing this area is. We bid farewell and go our separate ways wishing each other safe travels.

The 2 bikes loaded with camping gear on top of a mountain with some snow in the background
The map on the public information board at the top of the pass

Puerto de Las Señales 

Smoother tarmac is found again once I am on the CL 635.   Smooth does not denote boring. The road twists and turns, rises up, comes down. I get a bit giddy as my confidence rises but a slip of the front tyre reminds me to not get too carried away with my speed. Steady now Sharon one needs to keep sunny side up. Talking of sun it is warmer today and it is near perfect biking weather. 

Bushes trees and angular craggy mountains fading into the distance all seen from the road
View from the CL635 smooth is not boring.

We continue onwards on the CL 625 and finally take the CL 621 which will lead us back to Potes. As we ride along the CL 621 we come to the border that separates Cantabria from Castille and Leon and stop for a break and a bite to eat and drink. 

Suddenly some dense clouds roll across the road, we can barely see our hands in front of our face. I am glad we have parked up. I begin to worry how we will fare riding on in these conditions when just as suddenly the clouds and mist rolls away again and perfect visibility is restored. Well I guess at a height of 1609 metres one should expect to find your head in the clouds now and then. 

The border sign in the misty Picos mountains at Puerto de San Glorio
On the edge
The 2 bikes on the mountain pass with some hazy mist fading nearby
Check out the sign, plenty of bends and up and downs ahead wahoo!!
2 images, one misty and one not misty taken only a few minutes between
Now you don't see now you do.

Once on the bike it seems I have spoken to soon about the sunshine as the skies darken and the drizzle begins. Even though the tarmac in now wet I am happy and comfortable on my bike as we twist and turn. We pass the deer statue once again. I feel quite a different rider from the one that passed this same spot only a week ago. All that practise on the mountain roads, the twisty bends, the ups and downs, the steep sides and overhanging rock faces have all built up my confidence. I feel good, I feel fantastic, I love these roads, I adore Spain. 

It has been a truly fabulous day and I cannot stop smiling as we finally come back to the highly recommended La Viorna Campsite in Potes. The rain has stopped so we even get to pitch up in the dry. We treat ourselves to food in the restaurant on-site, the perfect end to a most splendid of days.

Once in the tent I see a message on my phone from a friend of mine asking advice on bends. She believes she is too slow in bends and she is in the wrong gear when cornering. Having so much practice on the super winding roads of Spain I feel I actually might have something constructive to say so I will share my reply here. 

Take your time and enjoy the learning process. Remember no corner is taken too slow if you come out of it successfully. That said if you need to go up a gear to accelerate out of the corner then you could have probably done it in a higher gear and with experience a faster pace. 

If you brake in a corner you have gone in too fast. 

Ideally unless it is an extreme hairpin you should not be on the clutch. Every corner is different and each individual corner can require a different approach depending on weather conditions etc so there is no set rule for which gear to be in for this or that corner. 

I found this extremely frustrating when I was learning. When I asked the boyfriend what gear should I be in this for this corner and his reply was... the right one. I was like Arghhh!! But now I get it. It depends on so many variables. The corner itself yes but also the weather,  the road surface, the rider's experience, the bike they are on etc. 

The best way to practice is find a twisty road you can ride regularly. That way you can get the feel for the bends on it and then begin to play around with them. Increasing or decreasing speeds, trying a different gear. Does it makes things harder or easier? That way you get to learn your bike and what works best for it and you. I have been riding longer than you but I am still very much a learner when it comes to bends as I learn something new all the time with each different twisty road I ride. X

As I snuggle down to sleep I think of all the winding undulating roads I have ridden here. I am so grateful to be here in this place, this biker's paradise, and thrilled by all these roads have taught me. 

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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.

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