136 – Damn, I’m good

I’m not, actually, and I am not particularly skilled in photography either. I am, however, rather pleased about how the following shots came out. I’ll keep it short and sweet. No ranting, I promise. If you are after righteous indignation, please refer to my previous posts. And the future ones, I’m sure.

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Sunset from Monte de el Pardo

Ever since the lockdown has been eased, the rules about who can go where and when  have been a little confusing. Cycling for exercise has been permitted between 8 and 11 pm (or between 6 and 10 am, but that is out of question for people who still have a job) and initially only within borders of Madrid. It is obviously better than nothing at all, even if it basically means urban cycling with traffic lights, at least there was no traffic. But since Madrid entered in the next phase of relenting, we can now move all over the Madrid autonomous region anytime for various reasons, such as shopping, going to a restaurant or visiting friends (groups up to 10). But cycling for exercise is still limited to the original time frame. The government’s official communication however does not specify appropriate means of travel within the permitted area. Therefore my understanding is (yeah, I am rather proud of becoming fluent in bureaucratic Spanish over the last few weeks): nothing stops me from arranging to meet a friend in, say, the lovely mountain village of Manzanares el Real (about 50 km from Madrid, but still within the region) at, say, 3 pm and use my bike to get there. Or go for a long solo ride whenever the hell I please, as long as I stop in a bar and have a coffee at some point.

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Sunset over Monte de el Pardo

I will test my legal interpretation of the rules this coming weekend. Let’s see how it goes. I got out of my last encounter with the police graciously, by flirting. I was where I wasn’t supposed to be – alone in a deserted park, imagine the outrageous level of disobedience – and I ran into a police patrol, and when the two fine representants of the law (rather politely) advised me that the park was closed and asked me to leave, I countered by inquiring if either of them was single and would care to give me their phone number, just in case I had any further doubts about what was and wasn’t allowed in future. Non v’ha bella che resista alla vista d’un cimiero*, or so they must have thought. Bottom line is I walked away. Without a phone number, but more importantly without a 600 euro fine. Some of you may object that had a man said something similar to a female police officer and blah, blah, blah… Well you know what? Suck it up. If appealing to the male ego ever stops working (every bloody time), we’ll stop abusing it. Besides, had either of them actually given me their number, it would have been all the better; after all, the quarantine has been long.

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Sunset over Monte de el Pardo

But if I actually want to stick to the rules for exercising, there is only one place that makes for a decent bike ride while staying within Madrid territory. The village of El Pardo, famous for hosting about a thousand military barracks and recently becoming Franco’s new final resting place, after his remains have been removed from the mausoleum of Valle de los Caidos in an expensive operation involving an extensive security and a helicopter. My national fencing competitive license makes me, at least on paper, a high performance athlete, therefore under the current rules I would be able to move all over the region for the purpose of training, but I must still abide to the time limit. And with the three hours at my disposition, there is nowhere much further I could cycle and be home before the curfew anyway. Therefore: El Pardo and back almost every day it is. It is actually quite pretty, you can complete a little circuit following the Manzanares river, the climb to the top of Monte de el Pardo towards the La Muñosa restaurant and descend back to town, maybe throwing in a couple of additional climbs (to Real Quinta and to Cristo de el Pardo). All in all, 30-40 km circuit. Easy. If you have an MTB or a gravel bike, there are numerous paths inside the forest park of Monte de el Pardo, just be careful not to get too close to the military area.

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landscape with flowers off M-612

I have been seeing several photo-worth places (I believe the word these days is “instagrammable”), so I have finally brought my camera with me. The meadows in and out of town are in full bloom with poppies and bluebells, everything is green after the early spring rains, and my hayfever is having a field day, literally. Only these days, sneezing in public is a risk to personal safety. I have even been able to make it to the top of the hill to catch a rather spectacular sunset.

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landscape with flowers off M-612

OK, one tiny little rant to finish. Why is it that men in lycra (especially the middle aged and mature) cannot stand if a female cyclist overtakes them? I am nowhere near my last-year’s shape, but almost no one is. But I am getting stronger with every ride. We’ve been locked at home for the best three months of the cycling season, when you finally can take the bike out, cannot you just enjoy yourself? It’s not a race. Why do some men have to risk a heart attack to hang at my back wheel, just to try to overtake me on the last few meters of the climb (which they won’t). And in case they actually suffer a heart failure, what will be carved on their headstone? “Killed by their own ego”?

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*) “No girl can resist the sight of a uniform” from “Come Paride vezzoso” from L’Elisir d’Amore

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