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Monday, February 14, 2011

Parking it in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Today we rode down from the clouds back to the busy hive of Las Palmas. The road was great. Flying down and whizzing around corners. The Sherpa holding true to its stable geometry. But, even 35 kilometres of downhill is tiring. I guess the bumper to bumper traffic didn't help. It's really too bad, but Gran Canaria is saturated with cars. You have three lane highways on an island where you could cycle around in one day. It really defies logic. Anyway, in Las Palmas, we hook up with our Couchsurfing contact. Within five minutes it's like we've known them for years. At their place we break out some drinks and their magic smoke basket filled with all sorts of tobacco products. Smells like a party to me. They even have a hundred gigs of cool music. In the many shared travel stories, they offer to help us find an apartment for a month. So, the next day we all head out looking for "Se Aquila" signs.

Michèle comments: "Se Aquila" means "For Rent" in Spanish. We spent days wandering the streets of Las Palmas looking for those signs and calling every number. The problem is that no-one wants to rent an apartment for only one month. Or, if there is one available for short term rental, it goes for a fortune. On the evening of January 5th, we gave our relentless apartment hunt a rest and went to watch the parade of the Kings. This is the lead-up to the big holiday on the 6th, the Fiesta de Reyes, a holiday that, in the Canaries, is bigger than Christmas. Everyone was crowded around the street waiting for gifts from the Kings, that were, for the purpose of the parade anyway, candies thrown from the floats.

We had only one wish... Please, three Kings, bring us a place that we can call home for a month. The basics would be fine, a fridge, stove, table, and a spot to store our bikes. Anything more would be icing on the cake. By chance, after the parade, we met a guy at the tourist kiosk whose mother had a fully furnished apartment for rent. She was willing to rent it for only one month and at a price that our budget would allow. Within one day, all was arranged and we moved into our new temporary home. We couldn't have done it without the help of our Couchsurfing friends. To say thanks, we had them over to make paella (well, they had to show us how!).

One morning, very early, I hear ruffling trough the bathroom garbage. Sounds like a mouse. I pop my head in to investigate and instantly get a chill down my spine. It's bigger than a mouse. A huge cockroach. Enormous. At least two and half inches long. I've never seen a live insect that big. Being a real macho guy, I go back into the bedroom to tell Michèle to go kill it. She says no, but tells me to use one of her flip flop to whack it.
- It's too small I tell her.
I look over and the cockroach is coming out of the bathroom. For a second, I thought it was giving chase. So, in a fit of panic, I grab one of our metal water bottles and whack it as hard as I can. The head goes flying and the body remains still. Both parts still moving after the blow. It's so disgusting that I feel like throwing up. I manage to get it in the garbage and head back to bed. It takes me hours to get back to sleep. A good ten hours later, I peek into the garbage. The head was still moving!

Michèle comments: It takes a lot to freak out Benoit, and that night he was freaked out. He was shaking when he returned to bed. I didn't even want to catch a glimpse of the monster cockroach. Otherwise, I would be shrieking in nightmares, for sure. The next day, Benoit thought the cockroach wings would make a good trophy on his bicycle. But, after pinning them on to his headset, he soon removed them, disappointed that the dark wings wouldn't show up against the black colour of the bicycle frame.

Bike nerds only! One major equipment glitch is my bike seat. Several years ago, I fell into the trap of the over hipsterized Brooks saddle. No other piece of equipment have I given this much time and patience. Letting me down at every new adjustment. The saddle feels comfortable for about an hour. As the day goes on, it slowly becomes an atrocious implement of torture. Chafing my rectum, ever so gently. I'll spare you the rest of the details. So, after 130 dollars for the saddle, thousands of kilometres of wear in and countless suggestions on how to adjust it properly, it's time for it to go. At the peak of my frustration, the idea came to me to make a little video. Casting my Brooks Flyer into a fire and filming the leather burn. Then, after cooling the remaining metal, I would put the saddle back on my bike and ride around with the leather gone. Unfortunately, no such video exists because this stupid saddle is still worth at least 90 bucks.

In conclusion, I want to send a warning to people looking for a comfortable touring saddle. These bike seats are NOT for everyone. I've decided to leave behind products that were designed in the eighteen hundreds and try something modern. Just for a change. Who knows, maybe it'll work. I am now using a regular road saddle that is completely cut out in the centre.

The only pressure points on this saddle is where my femur meets my hip bone. Whatever that's called. Not sure how comfortable it's going to be but this new saddle has done something unexpected. It has corrected my riding posture. Another thing my Brooks was screwing up. But only time will tell if this new set up will work better. Maybe, for some people, there is no comfortable saddle.

Michèle comments: It really is an intimate relationship that one has with one's saddle. Witnessing Benoit's daily struggles with his Brooks was a form of torture for me too. It was so disappointing to watch how much he tried to make that saddle work for him. But it never really got better. The result was that he wasn't looking forward to riding his bicycle. Not a good thing when on a world tour by bike. On the flip side, my Brooks is still treating me well and so I continue to ride with it. Time will tell if that relationship stays true or if it sours.

One of my pedals in wobbling. They're too new to be falling apart. So, I contacted Vélo Orange to explain the situation. They were extremely helpful and promptly sent me a new pair! This is the kind of support you wish you have for all your equipment. Anyway, I didn't get the pedals sent to Las Palmas, because we were warned about the Canarian postal service and how it can take months to receive a package. To make a long story short, I'm left trying to fix the ones I have now till I get to where the new ones are waiting. The problem is a defective bearing. I hit several hardware stores and a few bike shops. No such luck, but I get pointed to an industrial zone where I should be able to find the ball bearing. The place is filled with all sorts of stores catering to the hardcore industry. There's a welding shop. It has a multitude of oxyacetalene tanks, huge arch welding units and all the accessories you can think of. Another store has nothing but pumps. So, I get to the one that has nothing but ball bearings. It is a huge warehouse. There are technical drawings of ball bearings all over the walls. Sample ball bearings of all sizes on display. I figure my problem is solved. I show the guy my bunk ball bearing. He gets out his callipers. Measures every last dimension. Flips through several greasy technical catalogues. Punches some numbers in a computer and turns towards me.
- No, he says.
I felt like John Cleese in the cheese shop skit.

Michèle comments: Benoit mentioned that the island of Gran Canaria is saturated with cars. The city of Las Palmas is especially car-centric. It was strange because it should be the ideal place for the recreational or commuting cyclist: long stretches of flat terrain, ocean views, and an almost steady temperature outside of 23C. Though, there are some indications of change happening. 1) There is Las Palmas En Bici, an organization promoting cycling in the city. 2) There are day rentals of bicycles, a basic city bicycle, frame painted yellow, with a little basket out front. 3) There are a few bicycle paths, some looked brand new and awfully empty, but at least they exist.

So, this blog post isn't about a lot of cycling. We rented an apartment, and we rested. It was a great pleasure to park our butts for a while. It also gave us a chance to return some of the generosity that has been offered to us. Our Las Palmas apartment had a second bedroom that we could offer as a place to crash overnight to some fellow travellers.

We had a Russian couple staying with us. They had lots of interesting stories about life in Russia. We felt a bit clueless listening to them. Anyway, life in Russia doesn't sound as easy as some other parts of the world. Like, where we come from. Upon their departure, they gave us several gifts including some very cool coins from the Soviet Union.

Michèle comments: Another almost-daily adventure for us in Las Palmas was finding internet. One place we found with free WiFi was a cool little ecologically-minded place called "Cafe d'Espacio". Great space, friendly people. But it didn't seem to have consistent opening hours. So we would park our bikes outside and connect to the internet anyway.


  1. vous n'avez pas une photo du monstre ?


  2. LOL that cockroach made me laugh and freak out at the same time...brrr creepy just reading about it...

  3. Seb: Desole, pas de photo. C'etait trop degueulasse!

    Ryan: Thanks for the comment. That thing was disgusting! Glad you're reading the blog and hope things are going well in Notes land. Stay in touch.

  4. Hahaha, is amazng the trip, is my first time in this site, and i don´t think that the trip was so far!!!, Are ok the late nights in Gran Canaria???
    A pleasure to meet you, good traveld!!!.
    You have a friend in Las Palmas!.
    Gerardo Serrano Fontanillo.
    Sorry for my english!!! XD
    This is my sites!
    Portfolio --> http://vistalateral.wordpress.com/
    Blog --> http://homewebmaster.blogspot.com/

  5. Hola Gerardo, Que tal? How was Carnaval? Did you wear the penguin costume or the banana? Thank you for letting us stay in the apartment again before we left Gran Canaria. Everything was great. It really helped us a lot. You are a great guy. Stay in touch!