Survived the Carpet & Leather TimeShare Experience. Oh by the way, I’m in Morocco…

Held hostage for an hour or so by carpet baggers. Literally, they do bag carpets!

Becky let me know people wondered why no diary entries lately, like maybe I’d died in-transit to Morocco. No, not at all. The usual excuse would be that I’ve been too busy, and in fact I have had to devote a fair amount of time to getting some marketing stuff figured out and running while here in Morocco. But mostly it’s because I put a lot of stuff up on Facebook, which is easy to do on your phone, instead of the website, which is a paint in the butt from anything but a regular computer. And by the time we get back to the room after being out “touring” all day, there’s not much time or energy left!

But I’ll attach a bunch of photos here so you can see what we’ve (my wife and I) have been up to. In a nutshell-

Monday evening- Caught a train from Redwood City to SFO, then flew SFO-Munich, 2hrs on the ground, then Munich to Madrid.

Tuesday night- We arrived Madrid about 11pm so no time for much of anything but crash.

Wednesday morning- the plan (remember, there’s always a plan) was to head into Madrid and see… something… anything… since we were, of course, in… Madrid! Our flight didn’t leave until 2:30pm. But we first woke up too early, went back to sleep, and didn’t get up again until a bit past 8 and, well, we were still tired and had a lot more coming up, so we bailed on heading into town. Besides, we were flying Madrid to Rabat (Morocco) on Ryan Air, and I wasn’t absolutely convinced we wouldn’t suffer some “gotcha” that would cause us to have to pay a small fortune if we didn’t do everything just right.

The infamous Ryan Air visa stamp check office.

So we head to the airport just a bit over three hours ahead of our flight, because, well, that’s what they tell you to do, I’d never flown out of Madrid, and I’d never flown Ryan Air. Turned out two hours would have been fine. Almost nobody in line at the Ryan Air checkin counter. The main potential “gotcha” was that you had to get a visa stamp check, and there was nothing that looked like a visa stamp check place in the direction the lady kindly motioned.

Now here’s the important thing to know. If we hadn’t been checking bags, there would have been nobody telling us about this requirement, nor pointing in its direction. This is where Ryan Air newbies get tripped up. You cannot get on your flight if you don’t have this stamp (assuming you’re not from an EU country, I should point out). You will have to go back through security, miss your flight, pay a huge fee to get the next flight… fun!

The flight itself was fine. Weird flying an airline whose in-flight literature brags about their 94%+ seat fill rate, as if it’s something you, as a passenger, would appreciate.

Once in Rabat there was no issue clearing security, ATM right at the airport for getting the local currency (Dirham), and the cabs? What cabs. You’d normally have cabs in front of an airport, right? I’d already researched things and new about the government-fixed cab rate into town (150 Dirhams, about $18), but nothing mentioned any difficulty finding an actual cab. Instead you get this guy in an orange “Cab Service” vest who may or may not be an official cab person, who takes your bag(s) and walks you a very long distance to a far corner of the parking lot where there are maybe 15 white cabs of varying vintage (none newer than 10 years, most 2 or even 3 times that) and consistently bad shape. And of course the fare is 300 Dirhams, not 150.

Oh, and language is an issue. English is not universal in this part of the world, and for these cab drivers, Arabic was used instead of French (French is nearly as common as Arabic everywhere in Morocco…except these cabs at the airport). I tell him it should be 150 and he just says no. 150. No. I decide OK, 200 would be reasonable, we’ll go for 200. He keeps holding out for 300. I tell him no, we’ll go elsewhere. Eventually he settles for 200. And yes, I was using Google Maps the whole way to the hotel, making sure we weren’t heading the wrong way so we might be held hostage until we paid more to get to the right place.

We’re heading into Saturday night/Sunday morning right now, and a lot’s gone on (nothing bad) while we’ve been here, but don’t have the time right now to do all the updates. But I will post the same photos I’ve put up on FB, so  you can get some idea of what the place is like.  –Mike–

All aboard the train!

Beautiful day on Skyline!
Time for an “Ugly” ride! Kevin was off with his girlfriend, and there’s something special about doing something you don’t particularly enjoy. The challenge of fighting off the urge to avoid what’s really tough. This was that day. As much as the Old LaHonda/Pescadero/Tunitas loop has come to define the “norm” for the Sunday ride, this… south through the foothills, up Redwood Gulch & Highway 9, then north on Skyline… has become the go-to alternate when I’m riding solo.

Of course, I still have to ride past the location of our former store in Los Altos, and note that it’s still empty. It’s first & best purpose was clearly to be a bicycle shop, and for a quarter of a century (wow, that seems so long when you say it that way!), that’s what it was.

No coffee at Peets this time; in-ride fueling was a blueberry breakfast bar thingee, something kind of like a blueberry fig newton. Seemed to work OK, eating it 15 minutes prior to Redwood Gulch. I can generally do 100k without a food stop, although if I were doing the coast run, I’d have to be in a real hurry to pass on Pescadero Bakery! And the day was cool enough to not require extra water, dipping to just under 40 as I was climbing highway 9.

Oh, right, climbing highway 9. There’s that little thing called Redwood Gulch that gets to you first. I’ve been toying with different ways of attacking(?) that climb, lately trying not to get too gassed too soon. Doesn’t seem to matter. The last three times have all been within 20 seconds of each other, which is especially interesting because I don’t have any segment feedback from my computer as I’m riding it.

While there had been quite a few rabbits to chase down earlier in the ride, there were none on either Redwood Gulch or Highway 9. You’d think there’d be a feeling of being alone, but there really wasn’t. It’s about 35 minutes from the base of Redwood Gulch to the top, but definitely feels a lot longer than that, especially the highway 9 segment. But it’s not *that* long; as I was climbing, I was thinking how it feels a lot like the bottom third of the Galibier.

Once up on Skyline (still no Mr. Mustard, by the way) I picked up my first rabbit, a guy somewhere near my age that was moving pretty quickly. Think we were both pushing harder than we normally might have, which showed up on Strava. PR for the Saratoga Gap to Page Mill segment, by a whole minute! That surprises me but, like I said, we were both pushing and he was definitely into trading off to keep the pace up. Which meant I was out of breath and couldn’t talk so I never did get his name, but figured I’d see him on Strava. What? He’s not there? Everybody isn’t on Strava???!!! He headed back down Page while I pushed on north, and might have had a pretty good time for that segment too except for stopping to admire the view from the scenic overlook (as seen in the photo at the top).

Further on I spied another guy in front of me, and of course had to chase him down. Another stronger older guy (Valery, someone I come across pretty frequently in the area, recognizable as a tall guy who never wears a helmet), but I had enough left to bridge the gap. Nothing more though! Fortunately that was shortly before the descent back into Woodside.

And that was that. Last ride for two weeks, and looking like it’s going to be tough getting to 7000 miles this year. Sitting at 6,696 miles right now, and with just two weeks left, looks like I’ll probably end at about 6900. Last year I finished at 6898, which was actually my best since beginning Strava in 2008. I’ll do my best to get 6900 and beat it!

Why no riding for two weeks? Tonight my wife and I get on a train to Marrakesh! Well, we do get on a train, and we are heading to Marrakesh, but the first train goes to SFO. Sometime on Wednesday we’ll be in Morocco. Why Morocco? Never been, and it’s cheap. And everyone who has been says it’s amazing. This will be different than most trips, since we’ll be on a tour group (Gate1 Travel). At the end we do, in fact, take the Marrakesh Express from Casablanca to Marrakesh, where we catch a plane to Geneva, then Zurich then home.

The other day I was trying to figure out how I can afford to travel so much. Well for the most part, I travel very inexpensively. But some of it probably comes from saving money by not owning a car. My wife has a car, not me. What do I need one for? I can commute to work by bike, and if I have to have a car for something, I can borrow hers. I’m so used to this it’s strange for me to think that people have to have their own car, and it certainly does save a lot of money. Cars are expensive! Not just the car itself, but insurance plus upkeep. The flip side is that bicycle retail is a tough business and these days, a successful shop isn’t putting money in the bank. We’ll see how long I can keep doing the travel thing. May have to stop doing trips that I can’t rationalize by bringing my bike. 🙂