Well, this is a first. We’ve had some wonderful reviews for our guided bike tours in the past but never before in song format!
Carolyn and I had a great time in October on our most recent Border Castles tour. We were joined by a lovely bunch of riders and had a lot of fun sharing some of our favourite Alentejo roads, sights and flavours with them. But what we didn’t know was that we had our very own Bob Dylan along for the ride.
Mitch and his wife Stefanie were among the first to sign up for the trip – and persuaded four of their friends to join them.
Things nearly got off to a disastrous start. Mitch and Stefanie got a great deal on a cheap flight from Oregon to Portugal – but the downside was the flight delay that meant they didn’t make it to Évora until so late on the first day that the rest of us had just about finished dinner and were heading home to bed.
And it nearly got worse. The next morning – just before we were all about to set off at the very start of the tour – we discovered a courier had come in the night and taken away Mitch and Stefanie’s bikes rather than the two they were supposed to take!
Luckily our Oregonians were totally chilled out about it (or still completely jetlagged) and happily set off on completely different bikes from the ones they had ordered.
And by lunchtime the team from our friends at Cycling Rentals had driven out from their base near Lisbon and met us on the road with two replacement bikes.
After that, things got a lot smoother. Except for the terrain. As our pedalling troubador later said, the clue was in the name of the tour. Castles do tend to be on the top of a hill.
We also had a moment of worry later in the tour when Hurricane Leslie headed for Portugal. All 10 riders were from North America and when a couple mentioned a hurricane, I presumed they were talking about back home. After all, Portugal doesn’t have hurricanes. Does it?
Not often, no. Although only technically a storm by the time it made landfall, Leslie still hit the Portuguese coast with winds of 110kph – making it the biggest storm to hit the Iberian peninsula since 1842.
Thankfully, we were well out of its path. And while the next day’s ride was pretty gusty, we weren’t blown off course. Although, I don’t think our riders would have minded too much if we’d had to hunker down in the same place for an extra night – we were staying in a lovely rural guest house that, by pure chance, was also a winery.
The lyrics to Mitch’s song give his account of our tour. A huge thanks to him for sharing – and for his good humour and company on the trip.