One week left! It's just seven days until, after a victorious six months that have included sixteen glorious countries, and Liechtenstein, I can finally climb off the saddle for winter. That's if the saddle doesn't come off before then. It's falling apart. So are my handlebar grips, held together as they are with duct tape. And so are most of my clothes. Falling apart, that is, not held together with duct tape. Though that's an idea.
These last few weeks have been a lot harder than any that came before. For a start, there has been the heat, but I've already whinged about that and so I'll shut up about it. But to avoid the worst of the heat, I've been setting off at first light every day to grab at least an hour or two of cool morning air. It's been a bit like having a job. What am I talking about? Has it bollocks! This has been fun. Hard, but fun. It's nothing like having a job.
But the biggest difficult has been the lack of rest days. Because I need to get back to somewhere near Malaga airport for a flight to Majorca for the Open University's astronomy residential that kicks off in a week and a half, I need to be done by the 7th. And to finish by then, and to complete the rest of the route, it means I'll only have managed to have had two days off the bike since the 24th July. That's not enough. My legs are tired, my face is burnt and, worst of all, my trainers absolutely stink.
The Spanish road system hasn't helped, leading to extra, totally unnecessary miles. Spain has upgraded a lot of its A-roads to motorways, meaning that there is no longer a bicycle-friendly A-road between some major towns, just a motorway. I'm not supposed to go on motorways. I've sneaked on a couple when there really was no other option, ignoring the blaring horns of trucks warning me of my indiscretion. Although I've yet to be stopped, I was once beeped by the rozzers coming in the opposite direction. I'm not sure what they would have done if they'd been on my side of the road. Lucky for me, Spain abolished the death sentence in 2009.
Portugal is even more annoying. It didn't even bother to upgrade its A-roads to motorways. It just designated some bits of them with an IP number and that means faster traffic, minimal to zero hard shoulders and definitely no bikes. I tried one of those but I nearly cacked myself, and that really wouldn't have helped the trainers. I got off at the next turnoff and had a lie down.
But back to Spain. Between now and the 7th I need to get to and from Gibraltar to tick off my last capital for the year and, looking at the map, I'm really not sure how I'm going to manage that. Even the best one I can find only shows motorway access to Gibraltar. It looks like I'll be sneaking on another. Or does it still count if I arrive by hot air balloon?
So, one week from today, I will be sat drinking a large, icy beer on a deserted beach somewhere on the Costa del Sol. But, I hear you cry, there are no deserted beaches on the Costa del Sol. There will be when my trainers arrive.