This article originally appeared on radmonika.com
The alarm rang at 7:15am, and my goal was to be on the bike with the sunrise, at 8:15. Getting my stuff prepared took 5 minutes (an advantage of having barely any belongings!), then I had a coffee and bocadillo sandwich before I set off.
Today would be a long day, I had some serious miles to cover; but what I learned very quickly was that the adventure was only just about to start. I got caught on gravel roads, some of them rideable, some of them I would just have to hike-a-bike!
Most of the gravel was no problem thanks to my trusty DT Swiss wheels
Sometimes, I turned around to find a better road but sometimes I had no choice than to just take it. Because on such an adventure ride I never know what’s to come ahead, it’s better not to have any destination because then there’s also no pressure to reach anything. If road conditions, headwind or other things slow me down, then so be it, just adjust mentally and go with it. That´s the beauty of such a ride, especially for those who chase constantly deadlines... for me, this type of riding is an absolute bliss.
When I got away from the coast to head north towards Murcia, I reached the province of Almeria, an agricultural region of Spain; and I could see, feel and smell it immediately. The area was covered by fruit and vegetable plantations, some in questionable conditions. The road surface, although asphalted, was covered in potholes and dirt. People lived in small sheds surrounded by rotten garden furniture, which was a shocking view compared to the luxury hotels I could see from the Costa de Sol! I chose my route carefully and turned around multiple times when the road seemed a bit too shady. I knew I had to get out of this region before sunset, because it wouldn’t be the best idea to stay here.
As quickly I entered this ghetto-like area, as suddenly I left it behind and found myself in a beautiful remote surrounding. It was 4pm and I had two hours to find a hotel, but there wasn’t even a house around, far away from any other accommodation. I didn’t mind because I was mesmerised by this beautiful climb and felt safe in the knowledge that as soon as I would reach the top, it was all downhill to the next town where I was sure would find one.
Garcia Alto in the distance, on a road I would soon realise came to a dead end...
But the top did not come, and I kept climbing. The sun behind me was nearing the horizon. In the distance, I finally found that village that was marking the top of the climb, Garcia Alto. I passed the village on the last stretch of 16% gradient with the anticipation to reward myself with a beautiful descent… but it wasn’t to be. I turned the corner and in front of me was deep gravel, too deep to ride. And from past experiences, I was suspecting that the gravel would only get worse. By now, it was 5pm and I had 1.5 hours until sunset. If I take this questionable gravel road I might end up walking, and I didn’t have the time for that. I needed to get to this town on the other side of this mountain.
I made the decision to partly ride back down this climb to ride the other road that would be longer, but seemed to be asphalted. 1.5 hours to sunset… would I make it?
I entered the road which, although paved, was covered in deep potholes; some progress at least. I passed small little farm houses with dogs barking aggressively at me. I was immediately reminded of my time in the Midwest where dogs meant sprinting time until they give up on their chase!
I was arduously climbing that mountain which again, never seemed to end. Just when I thought I would reach the top, it kept going. The sun behind me was already touching the mountains behind me, and there wasn’t much much daylight left anymore. If I was stuck in the dark here, it would be very dark. No street lamps, no other lights around (I started to regret not having taken my front light with me, which was still on the kitchen counter). I only had a small lamp to be seen, but it was too weak to light up the road ahead.
”Monika, just ride, it makes no sense to regret, worry or think about the “what if” scenarios. I still have daylight and since we are not in the Pyrenees, this climb cant be THAT long”, I told myself.
And in one moment, after a corner, it opened up all of a sudden. I had an amazing view in front of me of the big valley towards the next mountain range.
The pic doesn't do this view justice!
I was struck by this sudden change of scenery. And I looked down, there was this descent I was hoping for over the last two hours. I saw the town, Turre, looked behind, and the sun was fading away. It would be getting close, but I could make it before sunset.
I descended the climb and promised myself that I have to come back here some day. Down in Turre, I stopped at a hotel I saw while passing. It was poorly maintained but I thought, “this might be my only option.” I walked inside, and was greeted by an older woman standing behind the bar serving shots to drunk men. The room smelled like smoke. I asked the price for the room: “50 Euros”. I looked around, contemplating: “Do I really want to keep looking or should I just take it?” It’s been a long day, 10 hours since I left the hotel this morning.
But I was not satisfied. I wanted to wake up and get excited for another long day on the bike. A good night sleep, a comfy bed and a great dinner were key. I looked at the map. The coast was only 8km from here. I would find there, in Mojacar, plenty of hotels. I jumped back on my bike and kept riding. It was 6:30pm and the sun has now completely vanished. I wasn’t concerned about the light anymore. It was a well-lit street, there was plenty of civilisation around and my lights were more than sufficient for this very short section. And when I saw the sea, I knew that watching the sunrise from above the water tomorrow morning would be the perfect start to the day. By the end of day 2, I have covered more than half of the distance. Tonight, I would sleep very well!
In part 3, I’ll discuss why I find riding solo meditative and give you my tips for your first adventure ride… for now, here’s a video summary of day 2!
Monika Sattler (AKA RAD Monika) is a record-breaking road and gravel endurance cyclist who loves pushing her limits. In 2018 she became the first female to ride the complete Vuelta a Espana route, completing each stage on the same day just hours before the professionals. She loves solo, unsupported, ultra-light adventure rides to distant destinations, such as her 1100km Mallorca to Munich trip. When she's not riding, she uses her cycling experience to inspire others to embrace change, be bold and push through mental and physical barriers as a TEDx speaker. You can follow Monika on Instagram, and find out more on her website radmonika.com.