You may wonder who Lilith is. That’s what I call my bike, obviously. OK, you may find the practice of naming a bicycle a bit cringey, which I won’t disagree with, but if nothing else, introducing your bike is a good ice-breaker. Imagine the conversation (pretending you are checking out the bike and not the rider): “Hey, cool bike!” – “Thanks, his name is Pace Maker”. On a second thought, maybe not a great ice breaker, just cringey. In Judaic mythology, Lilith is a female demon, or alternatively Adam’s first wife (an easy mistake, a lot of people confuse wives and demons to this day), created at the same moment as him, as mentioned in Genesis 1:27 (“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”), and therefore equal. Or so she thought. Adam didn’t seem to share her impression. Talk about the original sin. Original ego issues, more like. Lilith couldn’t be bothered to deal with Adam’s insecurities, grew a pair of wings and took off, never to come back. Understandably. Adam just could not chill out and do as he was told: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” So let me get this straight: a guy lives in the Garden of Eden with his fair companion (who, as a bonus, has no clue about where his manhood stands in the bigger picture, or how bad his bedroom manners are, she has no comparison) and he was ordered one thing: to have sex like it was going out of fashion. What is his problem? God’s image or not, it looks like they all come with a factory defect all the way from the prototype. Speaking of which, one interpretation of the original marital discord affirms that in the above-mentioned process of filling the earth, Lilith expressed a wish to be on top from time to time and Adam would not let her. I may have read this on Cosmopolitan or some similar glossy toilet paper, so not exactly a peer-reviewed journal of biblical studies, but still, to me that sounds like a perfectly legitimate reason to end a relationship. If he doesn’t let you be on top, he has issues you don’t want to be dealing with. Ditch him.
For further rant, scroll down beyond the cycling stuff.
Almost a decade of being more or less single, a year of travelling the world on my own, and numerous short solo holidays around Europe left me incapable of travelling with other people while simultaneously having a good time (with very few exceptions). How is it even a holiday if you have to constantly worry about other people having fun? Or worse, if you are expected to organise it? Or if your idea of holiday and relax involves activities that will bring you on the edge of physical exhaustion? Or most importantly, if inviting company to the holiday means that you need to deal with beings incapable of maintaining a schedule or God forbid honouring a commitment? About that later. So, this holiday, it was just Lilith and I. She never complains. She’s always ready to ride. And she lets me stay on top. So far.
I went back to Verdiago a year after spending most of the summer there in 2020. Alas, only two weeks this time, as distance working is no longer an option in my office. I have now been officially adopted by the locals and granted the status of “one of their own”. The first week, I did not manage to have dinner at my place once. The routine was like this: I would come back home with the bike around 8.30-9.00 pm, they would all be standing on the village square, and they’d start talking over each other: “Hello Katerina, where did you go today? What did you do? What did you see? Would you like a beer? Or do you prefer wine? Come have dinner with us, everyone is going to be there!” And of course, upon my departure, I had to promise that I was going to come back next summer. Which I have every intention to.
Cycling in this region is beyond fantastic and there is something for almost everybody. It is of course hilly, so be prepared to do at least some climbing. I already wrote about discovering León on two wheels in this post from 2020. I took it a level up this year and added some incline. I make it look like I like cycling uphill. I don’t particularly, and besides my bike is equipped with an 11-28 cassette, which is borderline uncomfortable for this much climbing, but at the end, it would not really matter what cassette I have, as I run out of gears 200 m into any climb anyway. And that’s where I question my love for cycling. Every time. Truth is I just like boys in lycra. And the feeling when you arrive to the top of a climb and you know you’ve made it (at a staggering speed that rarely exceeds 10 km/h, but, who cares). But it’s mostly perving over boys in lycra that does it for me.
Warning: “puerto” means two things in Spanish. A harbour or a mountain pass. It is bizarre, I know. So if you are nowhere near the sea and heading for a puerto, brace yourself for a little leg work (which pays off, by the way, I may have not seen my abdominals since roughly 1990s, but my legs are spectacular. If you ignore the dodgy tan line).
Puerto del Pontón (1280 m) : a mountain pass between the regions of León and Asturias, and it is a much more challenging climb from the northern versant, because you start almost at the sea level, a first category climb occasionally included in Vuelta a España,. Riaño is already at the elevation of 1000 m and except for the last few hundred metres, where the incline briefly picks up, we are basically talking 30 km of steady false flat. But what the ride lacks in steepness is abundantly made up for by practically constant headwind, so you’ll still get your workout. The entire ride is spectacular, as you follow the reservoir of Riaño for most of it. There is a viewpoint terrace at the top of the climb that offers views over the majestic mountain range of Cordillera Cantabrica. Refreshment points: there is a fresh water spring in Riaño, Vegacerneja, at the mountain pass and a couple more randomly along the road. Bars only in Riaño. Strava log here.
Puerto de el Pando (1422 m): The valley of Prioro is only two valleys to the east from Verdiago, but to get there you need to ride all the way around Peñacorada and out of the mountains, as there is no direct paved road. This first part, until you turn off to the local road LE-234 in Puente Almuhey is fairly busy, but nothing dramatic. From there you follow the river Cea upstream, and it is again a mild false flat until you reach the lovely village of Prioro, where the gradient picks up for the last 6 km until you reach the pass of El Pando. Although strava considers it a second category climb, it feels fairly moderate (I could have pushed it a bit harder, my main problem was strong headwind and rain, and I had no idea what to expect, but I can definitely do better than the 6 km/h I averaged). Once you climb over, you’ll be descending on a scarcely utilised road (most cars will be going through neighbouring Besande, that is mostly flat). After crossing a beautiful valley, you will have to climb part of Monteviejo pass – you can climb it all the way if you wish, I had enough for the day – the turn left on the T junction and descend to Boca de Huérgano, after which it’s a more or less flat ride (your perception of what’s flat will change after a few days of climbing) along the reservoir all the way to Riaño. Refreshment points: there are springs in literally every village, so there is no risk of running out of water. Bars in Puente Almuhey, Prioro, Boca de Huégano and Riaño. Strava log here.
Collada de Carmenes (1339 m) + túnel de Alceo (1485 m) + (half) puerto de Aralla (1536 m) + Alto de la Vid (1284 m): Last year during an after-work ride I met a fellow cyclist and we shared a chat and strava details. As you do. So when I saw that Robert was in the area again, I got in touch and suggested a ride together. We agreed on the alpine ride described in the next paragraph for the following day, because it was something I was itching to do, but probably would not have the courage to attempt it on my own. But Robert called me about half an hour later and said he was also about to go for a “short” ride to a really pretty area and asked if I wanted to join him. I am glad I did, because it is an absolute stunner of a ride and I probably would not have done so much climbing on a late ride on my own. We left the car in the hikers’ parking lot in Vegacervera, and followed the road north along the river Torío, the first 4 km go through the narrow canyon of Hoces de Vegacervera, and are stunning. If you have time and want to add one more climb, you can take a detour to the caves of Valporquero, then come back the same way and continue the false flat for a few more kilometres to the village of Cármenes, where the incline steepens until you reach the pass. You’ll then descend to Villamanín and cross the big state road to stay on a narrow country lane that follows the river Rodiezmo. A beautiful wide valley of Arbás will open in front of you, you’ll have reservoir of Casares on your left hand side, the road will lead you to the far end of the valley, where it climbs almost to the top and then crosses to the other side through a short tunnel. You’ll descend a couple of hairpins to join a bigger road that connects reservoir of Luna with Aralla mountain pass, you’ll turn left and start climbing again. From here it’s a beautiful long descend until you rejoin the state road you crossed previously a bit further north. You need to take this road for around 6 km (it’s the only bit with busy traffic, because it is the main connection with Asturias) until the village of La Vid, where you’ll tackle the final climb of the ride to el alto de la Vid on a pretty country road that will take you again to the valley of Torío, to the same parking lot where you left the car. Bars, not many. None between Villamanín until after you get to the other side of Aralla. There is a famous restaurant in Villamanín called Casa Ezequiel, but you may not be able to get back on the bike after paying a visit, so if you want to combine cycling with a culinary experience, shift the starting/finishing point to Villamanín. Strava log here.
Queen stage: Puerto de San Glorio (1610 m) + Collada de Llesba (1682 m) + Puerto de Pandetrave (1562 m) + Puerto de Panderrueda (1450 m): Robert is super nice and I will be eternally grateful that he maintained the plan to ride with me after the previous day’s pace that for him must have been excruciating. I guess he just thought that a man should honour a promise given (a rare quality, we’ll talk about this later) and braced himself for a long day. I ventured to Picos de Europa last year, but it was for hiking and climbing, but I had driven on the roads we were about to cycle on, so I had a rough idea of what laid ahead (and wasn’t really looking forward to it). We leave the car in Riaño and start on the road that leads to the mountain pass of San Glorio. It’s roughly 20 km of false flat until Portilla de la Reina and I am already struggling to keep up with Robert’s rhythm. But then I probably hate the false flats more than the actual climbs, because when I’m climbing I just get in the (granny) gear and (very) slowly and steadily get on with it. After the village the gradient picks up and the road leads you for about 8 km all the way to the pass at the border with Cantabria. At the top Robert asks me if I want to climb further 2 km to Collado de Llesba, where a beautiful panorama over the Picos de Europa can be admired – visibility permitting. Truth is, i don’t want to climb ever again in my life. I want to be left there and die in peace. But my ego steps in. My ego is clement enough when it comes to pushing it too hard on the climbs, but it doesn’t let me to abort the mission. So I hesitantly agree and we follow to the end of the road, to the viewpoint of Mirador del Oso, and it’s worth the effort. The view is unbelievable, as per photos. If you cannot decide if my expression in the pictures is a smile or a grimace, probably the latter. I was meditating upon rule no 5 and simultaneously trying to smile for the camera and I guess it did not really work. We descend back to Portilla de la Reina and stop for a coffee. If I was on my own, I would probably turn back to Riaño from here. Because we had two more passes ahead and I knew that once I climbed the first, I had to climb the second, and without Robert’s support I would have probably concluded that there was no shame in changing the plan. I suggest we stop in the next village (Posada de Valdeón, a beautiful town and Spain’s hiking capital) for some lunch, and this is where Robert’s idea of cycling clashes with mine. See, I cycle to sight-see, mainly. And to try the local cuisine (at least the dishes that don’t prevent me from getting back on the bike). Robert rides for challenge. “What do you mean lunch?”, he looks at me genuinely puzzled. “You know, food?” “But it’s just over the hill, 20 km away”. But…but…the “hill” is a second category climb!!! Followed by another one that is even worse! The climb to Pandetrave is actually quite ok from this side, it would be considerably harder, steeper and longer from Posada de Valdeón. When we reach the village, I negotiate at least a coffee break. I can give up lunch (although fuelling the ride with energy bars and cherry flavoured gels is not what I had in mind), but I need a moment to mentally prepare myself for the last – and hardest – climb. I mean, I was really on my best behaviour here, because I knew that Robert would have finished the ride about three hours faster if he wasn’t sticking around with me, but I cannot stress enough that depriving me of food is generally not a great idea. At least the ascend to Panderrueda starts straighaway after leaving Valdeón. Eventually (an hour later), we stand at the mountain pass, and from here it’s about 45 minutes back to Riaño. I am perfectly aware that by ride data are pitiful, but still, I am so proud of myself. Three 2 category climbs in one day is something I never though I would be capable of doing when I first started cycling. Bars: Portilla de la Reina, Posada de Valdeon, Riaño. Strava log here.
Puerto de Vegarada (1555 m) + Riopinos (1665 m): When I drove through this valley last year to go canyoning in the river Curueño, I was taken aback by its beauty and I promised I would climb it on the bike. So my plans for the last ride of the holidays was clear. As a bonus, new tarmac has been recently laid on the entire road all the way to Riopinos ski resort, which significantly improves riding conditions. I leave the car in Valdepiélago, and set off. The first 20 km are a mild steady flat-ish climb along the river Curueño, through a stunning canyon of Hoces de Valdeteja. The winding road is surrounded by steep peaks, green meadows, river beaches and there are many detours to waterfalls along the way – and you can swim in some, for example in El Saltón in the village of Redipuertas. Which is also the last village in the valley, and after you cross it, the incline picks up abruptly and you really start climbing. The views will distract you from the gradient, but not from the headwind. Puerto de Vegarada comes first, but you won’t be able to reach it on the road bike, as the tarmac ends a couple hundred metres before the pass, at what appears to be a mountain refuge and once, possibly, a pub, but there is no one around, except for two enormous mastínes, who look friendly enough, but still incite a fair amount of respect, especially when you realise how remote this place is and god knows how often someone comes to feed them. From here to the end of the road at Riopinos it’s further 5 km of a mild climb. There is no paved road to cross over to San Isidro (thank God, or I would have to climb it), you have to come back the same way. But hey – 30 km of descend. Bars in every village. Strava log here.
Now, big rant time. You had it coming. How can Homo Sapiens rule the world remains a mystery to me. Given the usefulness of an average example of the male of the species, we should have gone extinct by now. Honestly, I’m at my wits’ end here.
Disclaimer: Before someone starts with “but women do this or that”, I am very much aware that there are idiot women, too, but I am (unfortunately) straight and I don’t have to deal with women in sexual or emotional matters, so their appalling behaviour is of no consequence to me and irrelevant to this blog.
Disclaimer 2: there are exceptions to what follows; you know who you are, if you are reading this and reached this point, this is not about you.
Point 1: So, none of you wants a relationship. Fair enough, but what does it even mean? If “wanting a relationship” means wedding, children, exclusivity, I don’t want that either. For Heaven’s sake, I don’t even want to go on holiday with you (as explained above). Really, gentlemen, I cannot rely on you bunch of fuckwits to have regular sex, do you really think I’ll rush into trusting you with grown up stuff like commitment, loyalty, emotional support, or making any plans together? Yeah, think again. But that does not mean we cannot have civilised interaction. I mean, in your little brains it clearly means just that, but in an ideal world populated by critically thinking human beings, we can still have a chat, a dinner, or whatever people do between sex. If you don’t want any relationship at all, I suggest you seek services of a professional. To address both your physical urges and mental issues.
Point 2: I would not dream of asking you to have some decency, I know better than that, but would it be too outrageous to expect a tiny bit of coherence? I suppose (I cannot be sure, given who I’m dealing with, but common logic would suggest so) that “I don’t want a relationship” means that you want to keep your options open, or simply sleep around as the rest of us without the stress to explain where you’d been and who with. And you know what, I don’t care if you shag half of Madrid, as long as I am in the right half (and you use a condom, obviously). But don’t expect me to be monogamous. Because I have no intention to. You don’t want anything serious, you only want the relationship to be sexual, while expecting to be the only rose in my garden? And on top of that, you’d like me to be in love, to only desire you, I presume, to only concede myself because I’m hopelessly in love, while not asking you for any commitment? Good luck with that. You can either have the cake, or you can eat it. You cannot have both. Fucking grow up.
Point 3: Sexual relationships, or however you call it, friendships with benefits, are awesome. BUT – get it in your sorry little brains – THEY-WORK-BOTH-WAYS. The “friendship” is supposed to “benefit” both parties. When you want to have sex and call and I happen to be free and in the mood, we will most likely come to an agreement. But then I expect the same treatment. But no, when it’s the woman who asks for sex, in your mind she wants attention, she is too pressing, too suffocating, and probably wants a relationship. No, she doesn’t. She just wants to get laid as everybody else.
Point 4: OK, the R-word is off limits. Understood, I got it the first time. But, gentlemen, having sex more than once does not mean the two individuals are involved in a committed relationship. A committed relationship means both parties express an interest in sharing their lives, discovering each other’s personalities, worlds, finding out what makes the other person happy (other than climaxing) and maybe (most likely not) achieving a state where they can count on each other when hardships occur. I’m guessing, I never experienced the last point. But I have trust issues, and until proven wrong (unlikely) I fully intend to maintain them. In any other case, it’s just sex with hopefully interesting conversation in between. On that note, when I ask if you’d like to have dinner at mine, I haven’t been struck by a sudden urge to cook for you, nor am I trying to conquer your heart through your stomach. I am just trying to be elegant about the fact that the organ that interests me most is neither of the two just mentioned. I could say that it’s the brain, but then you’d interpret it like “she wants something more”, so worry none, I don’t care much about your brain either. I’m simply willing to share my food in exchange for a little of that human touch. This country collectively suffers from some sort of Don Juan syndrome. I struggle to see the fun in seducing and abandoning. Among adults approaching the middle age, we can agree that the first time two people sleep together is always a bit awkward. Even if the first sex is fantastic (and it does happen, with me for example, no point in false modesty), it will still be the worst all the times that will follow. So if you geniuses disappear after one fun night, you are not avoiding a relationship, you are depriving yourself of better experiences to come. No pun intended, honest. You are not following in the steps of Don Juan, you’re just being dicks and you are doing more harm to yourselves than to me. But you are also forcing me to hunt, and I find hunting mindblowingly boring. Also, if you must disappear without saying a word, at least do it properly. For example, stop spying on every shit I post on Instagram.
Point 5: Would you please do me a favour and kindly at least remember the bullshit you say? Or invent half-credible bullshit? Or, in an ideal case, abstain from proposing plans you have no intention to keep? I accept that I am not the only one, nor I want to be. Neither are you. But when I agree to make plans with one of you, I’ll honour it. I understand plans may change, but they cannot change every bloody time with less than one hour warning. I ask one simple thing: do not try to control me. Is that unreasonable? What I feel – not that anyone cares about what I feel – when you bail out at the latest possible moment is not sadness. Nor anger at cancelling on me as such. What makes me see red me is your total disregard for my time. You fuck up my weekend without giving me the possibility to come up with a plan B. And then come the excuses. Before I delight my audience here with the selection of “explanations”, let me point out one thing: if you decide to drop me, I don’t need to hear your reasons, especially if the reasons are utter bullshit. The fact alone that you do not want to spend time with me is a good enough reason not to. I doesn’t matter why. You are not my partner, you don’t owe me anything. Just do not lie to me, and if you must lie to me, make it convincing. Of course, some reasons may be legitimate, believe me, I am quite able to distinguish between bullshit and force majeure, but the latter is not a topic of this rant. So, ladies and gentlemen, the top of the pops:
- La Mamá. There is always la mamá and everybody comes second to her. Only death severs the umbilical cord of Homo Ibericus. We’ve had the magna parens calling in the dead of night to inquire why the middle-aged offspring is not home yet. We’ve had mysterious last minute family emergencies (either too frequent to be true, or that particular family is struck with some serious bad luck). We’ve had dinners cancelled and dates reshuffled at the last moment to accommodate the schedule of the old lady. Of course you don’t want a relationship. You already are in one.
- Same goes for children. Listen, I don’t mind dating men who have a past. And I appreciate that they spend time with their family. At our age, most men I date will most likely have a (hopefully ex) wife and children. I there is no significant ex, something is off (see the previous paragraph). It’s totally fine. If you make it clear that a given day or weekend is off limits because of shared custody, I can live with that. You are making my life easier, I can go on a big bike ride or entertain someone else without overbooking. But if you think that I will wait until friday evening to plan my weekend, because you are not sure if your children decide to grace you with their company, and when they don’t, you suddenly remember that you want to do something with me, don’t act hurt that I already have other plans. That bike ride, most likely. Again, I know the children are your priority. I have no problem with that. But they are not my priority and I don’t see any reason why my programme should depend on a bunch of moody teenagers I don’t even know.
- Covid of course provides a galore of more or less credible excuses, and at least adds some variety to the most deadly disease in circulation: the man-flu. I’d strongly suggest that if you chose to cancel an appointment on medical grounds, keep it simple. Good old diarrhoea. A classic that always works and it also deters the other person from offering to nurture you back to health, just on the odd chance you are not lying, because no one wants to deal with shit. OK, compassion is not my strongest quality, but still, if you get “a terrible fever” a month after getting your second jab, don’t blame your lack of imagination on the vaccine.
- Do not say things like: “I got startled by my alarm and got a headache.” You what? You got scared by the alarm clock and it incapacitated you for the rest of the day? I totally understand, I find the morning alarm petrifying, especially after too many albariños on the previous night, but then I get my act together, have a shower, pop a nurofen (or three if necessary) and go about my day. How have men ruled the world for such a long time if they are scared to wake up in the morning? This excuse is so lame that it could even be the truth, but … we all know it’s anything but.
- Then any excuse is possible when it comes to physical interaction during my monthly cycle. And they are all crap, because if you don’t want to have sex when I am on my period, you are no use to me. First of all because in those days I am always a bit edgy and cannot guarantee measured reactions to factors that may contribute to my general bad mood, and sex is about the only thing that makes me relax. Also, what the fuck is your problem? It’s just a bit of blood! Free lube! And it’s not like you’ll have to wash the sheets. And besides, you all try to go for the back door and then suddenly become squeamish when it comes to a little blood? How exactly is one thing better than the other? The idea of sailing the red sea instigates fear in the bravest of the brave. I’ve had a high ranking military officer declaring retreat when faced with the request to hunt for Red October. For real? One would expect that a little blood won’t unsettle someone who’s been through three missions in Afghanistan. I clearly thought wrong. I mean, Moses brought an entire nation into the Red Sea and came out unharmed…
Can you tell I am on my period right now and am clearly not getting any action? Well, I think the rant came out rather well. Over and out.