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Sunday, 24 October 2010

Cycling (and not) in La Rioja, Northern Spain - Page 2

Written by Dale Fehringer
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I had just started cycling up a hill after a break when I heard my wife ask me to come back for a photo. I turned around – too sharply – and tipped over. I hit the road with my left hand and left foot, rolled onto my back, and wound up on the road with sharp pain in my left ankle. My wife, Patty, picked up my bike, rolled it off the road, and helped me to my feet. I hobbled across the road and sat on a nearby bench.

The pain was so intense I was sure I’d sprained my ankle. When I lowered my sock, I found a golf ball-sized bruise on the outside of my foot, just below my anklebone. While I waited for the pain to subside, I held my water bottle on my ankle and thought about how we had gotten here.

After sitting for awhile, the pain subsided enough to allow me to take stock of my situation. I found I could bend my ankle and even put limited weight on my foot. Walking was painful, though, so Patty brought my bike to me and I gingerly climbed aboard. I was able to get my badly swollen left foot in the toe clip, and I could press on the left pedal with minimal pain. So I got on and started cycling – very slowly – up the hill. I could continue, but not quickly. Somehow I managed to finish the remaining six miles.

At the end of day’s ride I got ice from the hotel’s front desk, limped to our room, and elevated my foot. I called Jack, a member of our tour group who is also a physician, and asked him to come to our room and examine my foot. After a suitable amount of poking and prodding, he diagognized my injury as a partially torn ligament and prescribed ice, elevation, and rest.

After an uncomfortable night my foot was nearly twice its normal size. I stretched a cycling sock over it (which acted as a wrap), loosely tied my shoes, and stood up. I could put weight on my foot and could walk (with some pain), so I limped down to the lobby.

After breakfast, I climbed aboard my bike, expecting the worst. To my surprise, I found I could put pressure on the foot and pedal, although I definitely favored my right side. I started the day’s route with cell phone handy, in case I needed to have Ignacio rescue me. The foot limbered up so I kept riding, and finished the day’s route. I was glad, because it was one of our best days.

Poppies, Wildflowers, and Sweet Peas

It was spring and the countryside was in full bloom. We cycled past fields of red-orange poppies, yellow wildflowers, and sweet peas with tiny white blossoms. The villages had white stone houses and well-groomed vegetable gardens and we stopped to smell lilacs and roses, watch storks tend their nests, and listen to cuckoo birds along the river.

Cycling with “Lazy” Cuckoo Birds

The sound of cuckoo birds accompanied us each day as we cycled along the river. We listened for their “coo-coo” calls, which sound just like the birds in the clocks. Ignacio called them “lazy,” and described their habit of laying their eggs in the nests of other birds. This unusual characteristic means that many species of cuckoo rely on “host” birds to raise their young. Cuckoo egg shells are very thick, which prevents them from cracking when they are dropped in the host nest, and cuckoo eggs hatch earlier than the host's. The cuckoo chicks grow very fast, and often throw out eggs of the host species. The host feeds the cuckoo chick (thinking it is its own) until the cuckoo is old enough to leave the nest.

Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. Some of the locals didn’t speak English, but when we asked questions in our broken Spanish they tried to help, or they found someone who could.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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