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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Virtual Bike Ride

After I have everything ready and I step out the door, I face one of the biggest challenges in my bike ride for the day: carrying my bike down five flights of stairs to the lobby of my building. I could take the elevator, and I do on the return, but that just seems sissy to me. In front of my building I mount up and head down the little alley for a half a block and turn right. I cross one street and ride over to Aragon Avenue directly in front of the soccer stadium. This is where I get on the bike path and where I can now ride without interruption all the way, some 14 or so kilometers, to the beaches south of town.

I am never in a hurry picking my way along this part of the bike path. There is a lane marked for bikes that sometimes is and often isn’t respected by pedestrians. I don’t mind taking it easy along this particular corridor as I have two hours or more of riding ahead of me and there will be plenty of time for speed

Until I am out of town this is sort of the scenic route. I pedal past the Palau de la Música and then I skirt along the Turia Gardens Park. I don’t ride in the park because there are usually too many people and there is a bike path that runs along the top north rim of the park that I usually have all to myself. I have a fantastic view of the Ciudad de las Ciencias y las Artes along my ride and at the end I cross over to the other side of the park and pick up the bike path that leads out of town.

It takes me less than 15 minutes to get to this point and by now I am warmed up and ready to open up. This is a great stretch for an extended sprint as the path has no interruptions for a couple of kilometers. I only have to worry about the occasional gypsy pushing a shopping cart of chatarra, or scrap. This seems to be a major trail for the junk merchants and I have dubbed this bit of the bike path the Chatarra Route. I just let out a few whistles and they will either list to starboard or to port to allow me to get by.

This next part really needs a picture to explain. This crazy pedestrian bridge spans a set of railroad tracks and a highway to keep bikes out of harm’s way. After the bridge there is a brand new addition to the bike trail: a rather dreary couple of kilometers in the shadows of the huge cranes that service the port of Valencia which leads to another bridge across a canal. From here the trails follows the beach at Pinedo.

On weekends this section is too crowded for good biking so I take a backstreet through town. Yesterday was a nice enough day although it was a bit overcast and windy and there wasn’t a soul on this entire stretch of beautiful beach. The bike trail on this first part of Pinedo Beach isn’t too great but you can’t beat the view. After this is the recently-completed new section of Pinedo Beach which is fantastic. The bike trail goes along the refurbished sand dunes for a couple of miles until it used to end at the weird abandoned factory. I would have to dismount here and walk across the sand and then ride through the factory which is littered with broken glass—a flat waiting to happen.

They just built a new wood walkway so I can get around this hurdle without getting off my bike. A bit further along I just yesterday discovered a new expanse of the bike trail that links Pinedo with the sports complex adjacent to the beach at El Saler. This was the last link in the chain for the bike trail from Valencia all the way to the end of El Saler. El Saler is another fantastic bike trail winding around the dunes behind the beach.

It doesn’t end here. South of El Saler you can either follow a gravel road closed to automobiles for a half a kilometer and then meet up with a back road along the beach, or take a cool gravel road that runs through the dunes and sea pine forest a bit inland. I see lots of crazy birds back in this area and I chase a quail or two off the road almost every time I come through here. What I like most about this section of the trail are the smells. The sweet smell of pancake syrup from the wildflowers reminds me of my summers bike riding along the coast in Greece. On the south end of this road there is a chain across the road and this is one of the few places where I have to dismount to walk around it.

I ride on an access road for about a kilometer until I get to a road that has been closed to automobile traffic. I follow this until I have to cross a bridge over one of the spillways into the sea from the lake at La Albufera. On the other side of the bridge there is a brackish water lagoon with an island in the middle of it filled with nesting sea birds. This area is all back country of abandoned roads and narrow paths, some of which are accessible on a bike.

There is a lot of area for discovery back here and there are also a lot of great beaches. Actually, this is all one long, uninterrupted beach. It is finding access to the beach which is difficult. I have been stopping at one stretch of beach in the middle of nowhere that actually has a beach shower. I can get off my bike here and run along the beach for a bit. When I’m ready to get going again I can rinse off in the shower. They have also recently added a wooden path down to the beach so I can ride almost to the water’s edge.

From here I can either head back for home or take a side-trip over to the village of El Palmar which is sort of stranded out in the lake of La Albufera. El Palmar is know for its paella restaurants and is a favorite destination for Valencianos who want to have lunch outside of the city.

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