A Spring Spin with Gabriela

After waking from her winter hibernation, which lasted from December to the middle of May, it was time to take Gabriela out for a spring spin to see how she was feeling, as well as to gauge her readiness for our upcoming summer of Van Life on the Run adventures around Finland. Prior to Gabi’s winter slumber, I had already sorted out some key upgrades, including replacing her water pump, oil pressure sensors, as well as a new starter battery. However, the main issue that was still somewhat unclear was whether she actually had some problem maintaining her oil pressure, even after the sensors had been replaced. At times she would flash her red low oil pressure light to announce that there might be a problem, and so it was important to give her a decent workout to see whether it was something to be truly worried about, or just some random artifact, perhaps due to some weird electrical wiring issue. She is an old girl after all!

Anyway, it was an atypically warm, in fact very warm, spring day in South-West Finland, so at least we were quickly going to get her engine nice and hot, which would also give me the opportunity to test the integrity and function of her cooling system. Sometimes hot, sometimes cold, just like a true, red blooded woman. With all the repairs and upgrades that she has demanded, I’m now quite certain Gabriela has been shit-testing me to see if I’m actually worthy of her trust and affections! I hope that she also appreciates the new set of 16” alloy legs and killa rubber pumps that she now struts around town in.

I dreamed of a girl,

with a spirit to roam free.

Our journey begins.

‘Gabriela’ by Jyri Manninen

We ended up mainly driving around the local neighbourhoods, located on both sides of the border between the cities of Turku and Kaarina. To be clear, Kaarina is hardly a big place, even though it’s barely 10km from the heart of Turku, the former capital city of Finland. We also popped by two city beaches, Hovirinta in Kaarina, and Ispoinen beach in Turku. All seemed to go well with Gabi, mechanically speaking that is, and she was rewarded with the basics of her summer ‘kit out’, a floor mat, couch-bed, and curtains.

After all our work was done, we finished the day off with some well earned coldies, that is, beers, cervejas, olutta … call them what you like. Well, as the saying goes, a beloved child has many names! Anyway, we’re now looking forward to an awesome summer of sunny skies, chill vibes, and the sweetness of solitude in nature’s many secluded hideaways that we are yet to discover. Bring it on!

Be blessed,

There and Back

The starting and finishing point for this cycling tour of Central Portugal was, once again, Caldas da Rainha, my second home town outside of Turku, Finland. This 9 day ride of 574km, including a solid 6000 metres of vertical climbing, would see Matilda and me ride as far as the majestic mountain top medieval town of Marvão, located very close to the border with Spain. On that outward leg, I would roll down the main street of Óbidos, also a famous medieval town that’s located just outside of Caldas da Rainha, before continuing on to do the long climb up to the summit of the majestic Serra de Montejunto. That same afternoon, I would cross the mighty Tagus River, via the historic Ponte Rainha Dona Amélia railway bridge, to reach my opening day’s destination of Escaroupim. Over the following few days, prior to my arrival at the farthest point from home, I would visit the Barragem de Montargil, Alter do Chão, as well as Portalegre, which is situated at the foothills of the Serra de São Mamede.

After enduring a very stormy night at the campground near Marvão, I began my homeward journey back to the Atlantic coast via Alagoa, and then Vila de Rei, where the geodesic midpoint of Portugal is located. It was quite an eerie, yet grounding feeling to visit this site, just as fog, induced by a relentless drizzle and high humidity, had settled in. In any case, it certainly cooled me off after a tough day in the saddle!

During the final three days, I had the great privilege of visiting the holy Christian pilgrimage cities of Tomar and Fátima, as well as the stunningly beautiful Alcobaça Monastery. After that, all that was left on the final morning was the final short, but quite challenging, push back home to Caldas da Rainha, where a beautiful sunny and warm day greeted my as I rolled into the centrally located, and superbly picturesque, Parque Dom Carlos I, which I consider my Santuário de Paz, one of only a handful of such places in the world where I always feel completely at home.

I had been ‘out there’ to the border, and I had come back home, and I felt completely at peace, and with eyes now even more open than they had ever been. To best describe that sensation, I think I will just leave you with the quote by T.S. Eliot. I can only hope that it elicits even an ounce of the profound and sweetly addictive wonderlust in you, as it does me.

We shall not cease from exploration; and the end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot (from ‘Little Gidding’)

I hope you enjoy this latest Life on the Run’s Best of Cycling Tours video, and that I’ve been able to capture even a little of the amazing natural landscapes and towns that Portugal has been endowed with; and, as with all my bike touring videos, I also hope that it inspires you yourself to get out there and explore this incredible world a little more.

Be blessed,

Beyond Chaos

Matilda and I commenced the 3 day long Santarém Circuit cycling tour from my home-away-from-home, Caldas da Rainha. On this ride, we experienced both freezing downpours and, in complete contrast, some superbly sunny weather, I dined with some German Camino Portuguese pilgrims, and we even spent the night sharing the doorway of a closed camping ground with a bunch of feral cats! Along with all those delightfully unexpected events, we also visited some very interesting out-of.the-way places, such as the salt desalination basin (Salinas de Rio Maior) on the outskirts of Rio Maior and the holiday destination of Olhos d’Agua (Eyes of the Water).

Our main destination was the major inland city of Santarém, which is located on the banks of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), the same one that flows out to the ocean beyond Lisbon. There we has the opportunity to do a walking tour to see some of the city’s major sites, such as the historic Santarém Cemetery, the Igreja de Santa Maria de Marvila and Santa Maria de Graça, Church of Our Lady, as well as the peacefully tranquil Jardim das Portas do Sol (Garden of the Gateway of the Sun).

With a longing heart,
into the unknown I ride.
My shadow falls long.

Beyond Chaos’ by Jyri Manninen

I hope that you’re able to capture some of the atmosphere of what it was like to not have the easiest of conditions to both cycle in, or to sleep, in the beginning, but then to enjoy, at the end, the complete opposite of riding in absolutely glorious, emotionally uplifting sunshine on the the final day of the tour.

Be blessed,