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    Portugal to the USA


DAY 132

Evora to Lisbon 

The ride to Lisbon was more of the same; rain, cork trees, and storks. Some people loved it, others called it boring. I went ‘off-route’, traveling to Lisbon by car. The opportunity just fell into my lap at dinner and I thought it too good to let pass. Older Anita is an expert at making off-route arrangements and she was the one who approached me. I thought it a good idea as we would get to Lisbon in the morning and have the afternoon free to go sightseeing. Our bikes traveled in a van accompanied by Lillian and myself while four others rode in a car. I hadn’t realized how tired I was until I sat in that van. I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the first hour of the trip. But after a stop for coffee I was awake and counting the storks and cork trees.

We didn’t follow the same route as the riders, but we saw zillions of cork trees and an astonishing number of storks. Portugal is one of the last places where storks thrive. In one stretch of light poles I counted 16 nests, one on every pole! The storks were there too of course. Sometimes there were two storks in a nest so perhaps both parents work to raise their young.

The traffic into Lisbon was slow, bottle-necked apparently by a very long bridge, which resembles the Golden Gate. It was noon, not normally a rush hour time, but traffic was backed up and creeping.

We were staying at the city’s municipal campground, which is very easy to access from the freeway. TK&A had rented bungalows for us to share, four to a bungalow. These bungalows were newer, cleaner, and altogether more attractive than the ones we had had in Barcelona. There were outlets everywhere, which we used to recharge camera and computer batteries. There was even a little color TV with a couple of English language channels. But we arrived before the rooms were ready so had to wait for keys. One thing led to another and I never did get to go sightseeing. Instead I spent the afternoon taking a nap, drying my tent and cleaning and reorganizing everything for the flight to Washington D.C.

Ciao! Alice  

DAY 133

Lisbon to Washington, D.C. 

We were pleased at the changes TK&A made in the original plan for getting to Washington, D.C. We would no longer be pedaling to and from the airports but we would be bussed both ways. This would eliminate riding in traffic, the hassle of dismantling our bikes at the airport, and of having to carry a change of clothes and shoes for the flight. In short, it simplified things immensely for us.

The night before the flight we prepared our bikes by turning the handlebars, removing the pedals, and letting some air out of the tires. We are always annoyed at having to deflate the tires because we know that the cargo area of the plane is pressurized and the tires will not expand and pop, but we have to do it anyway. All of the bikes were loaded into a very large truck at the campground that night. We would not have to deal with them again until Washington, D.C.

We also worked at getting our luggage ready. In the past we had removed our bags and other stuff from our lockers at the airport and then carried our bags to the check-in counter just as one normally does for a flight. That isn’t fun and we were glad to hear that we wouldn’t have to do it this time. But the downside was that we would not be unloading the lockers at the airport ourselves. We would not be able to do the last minute repacking that most of us need to do. Most of us have one big bag or two small bags in our lockers with a lot of other stuff stacked at the back or squeezed in somewhere. When we arrived at an airport we would remove everything from the lockers and quickly put the loose items into our bags before taking them to the check-in counter. Now with the new plan we couldn’t do that. This upset many of us because if we packed everything into our bags they would become too fat to fit into the locker. That meant there were two choices left, sort and throw away enough that the bags would fit, or carry all that extra stuff onto the plane as carry-ons. So I sorted and threw away but there was still way too much. I packed all the leftover stuff into my bike bags. They were very heavy but it would work. I’d be staggering under my load and as big as a blimp, I could just imagine trying to get on and off busses and down the narrow aisle of the plane. I’d have bags everywhere: fanny pack in the front, waterproof cape in its own stuff sack in the back, Kamelback on my back, helmet on my head, camera around my neck, a heavy bike bag dangling from each shoulder. Whew!

People were complaining to TK&A and at first no solution was forthcoming. Eventually though they found one. Any bag that couldn’t fit into the locker after being fully packed could be carried with us onto the bus, then checked at the ticket counter when we picked up our boarding passes. What a marvelous solution! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself. I was glad to repack.   

The morning of the flight everything went smoothly except for a snafu at breakfast. TK&A had changed the breakfast time to 7:00 from 7:30 to give us enough time to eat and still make the deadline for boarding the busses. The problem was that they forgot to inform the vendor! We were lined up and waiting before they even came to work. After that though everything went like clockwork. We were flying with a Canadian charter company, Skyservice, and they clearly knew what they were doing. Everything fit in the plane and departure was on time. We even were treated to two movies during the seven and a half hour flight and landed ahead of schedule in Washington, D.C.

There we claimed our bags and boarded busses. But instead of being taken to our lodgings at the Hostel the busses drove to a large parking lot and parked. We waited and waited there, not sure why. In the end we were there for three long hours. We were waiting for all the bikes to be unloaded from the plane and reloaded into a truck. The plane was in Cargo Area Six, a secure area, so the busses weren’t allowed inside, which had been the original plan. When all the bikes were finally on the truck it came to the parking lot where the bikes were unloaded again so that riders going off-route (not staying in Washington, D.C. at the Hostel) could claim their bikes and take them with them. (If we had been allowed into the cargo area they could have reclaimed their bikes as they were taken off the plane. No one had foreseen that we would not be allowed into the cargo area.) Once all the 30 or so off-route people had their bikes, the other bikes all had to be loaded back into the truck. When that was done we were driven to the Hostel to begin the check-in procedure. We were assigned to rooms, 4, 8, or 12 to a room. There were 8 in mine. Crowded. Dismal. Enroute to the Hostel we had passed the White House and a few beautiful hotels, watching for the Hostel and watching the neighborhood decline. I saw a decrepit building up ahead and called out, “There it is, on the corner!” thinking to make a joke. But it was no joke. The bus pulled over and came to a stop in front of that building. Actually I think that part with broken windows, etc. is not part of the hostel although it appears to be the same building.

Staying in the hostel is not all that bad once one gets used to it. That first night was the worst. There were too many of us, overwhelming the system as usual, it was about two o’clock in the morning according to our time, we were tired and hadn’t had dinner, it was hot in the rooms because the AC hadn’t been on, and we had to retrieve our bags and our bikes, and take them to our crowded rooms. The one little elevator became a joke, and even people assigned to a room on the eighth floor were giving up the wait and carrying their things up all those stairs. The stuff of nightmares.

I had congenial roommates and one, Margherita, even offered to trade her lower bunk for my upper bunk. I thought that was very thoughtful of her and accepted the offer. This is my first hostel experience so I do not know how this one compares. Sheets and towels are provided but you have to make your own bed. There is a small locker for each guest in the room that can be locked. The bathroom is down the hall and is shared with all the women on the floor. Men have a separate bathroom. The water is hot and toilet paper and paper towels are furnished. Refrigerators and shelves for food storage are provided in a lunchroom so that residents can store extra food and have their meals there. There is even a small laundromat in the basement. The people who work here are cheerful, friendly and helpful. The hostel is only 5 blocks from the White House, which is good, but the neighborhood is marginal. There are some unsavory characters on the streets. Nevertheless, considering the astronomical cost of a hotel room in this city, the hostel is a good alternative. The biggest drawback is that the rooms are all shared. You wouldn’t know your roommates.

When all is said and done, the hostel is better than a tent, and offers an affordable place to stay while visiting Washington, D.C. I am happy here.

Good-bye, Alice



Lisbon's Alfama District                         Praca do Comercio

  Italy                France


Favorite Scenes in Italy                                Day 110 - France (from campground)

    Odyssey Riders


Today's Music De Koven, Reginald (1859-1920); American

(From The Classical MIDI Archives)

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