Medium sized roads were also good and presented no problem, whereas the minor mountain roads, zig-zagging up and down the mountains, had a mostly rough surface and required some concentration, particularly on gravelly hairpins! However, once negotiated, the scenery at elevation was a delight, the peacefulness, clean air and wildlife creating a beautiful and interesting environment. We stopped regularly to sample this "Elysian quiet" and "silent Nature's breathing life".
The only regret was that we had such limited time; there were so many beautiful places to see - and the scale of the country is so large - 5 weeks would have been preferable to the five days we had!
- The Return and Lessons Learned
All good things come to an end - finally the day for departure arrived and back to Santander we biked - the sky, reflecting our heavy hearts, was overcast, and intemittent drizzle/rain fell. The boarding, now knowing the ropes, was easier second time around and the trip home was very pleasant - Bay of Biscay flat calm again(!). We will be back as soon as circumstances allow.
Here is a summary of the key points learned on this first trip :-
the preliminary planning, and review of sites of interest to us, through a good quality travel book (we used an "Insight Guide to Northern Spain") was time and money well spent and allowed best use to be made of the limited holiday time;
when planning, don't attempt too much traveling, allow plenty of time for sitting and observing! If you spend 8 hours in the saddle your holiday is likely to become more of an endurance test - we planned for half a day actual biking time, which with stops to view scenery and sites and the inevitable detour to investigate, mostly stretched to 6 hours or more, quite sufficient for us;
the heavyweight British motorcycling jackets were too warm for the July weather - a very lightweight leather jacket with some supple protection would have been more comfortable (anyone know where these can be found?). Used jeans for lower body - but the lack of protection was a bit worrying - again some lightweight hot weather trouser with some protection would have given more peace of mind;
the simple NADY intercom was a really good investment (~ £60-70) -It really enhanced the enjoyment of the biking - being able to readily discuss the sites and scenery, when to stop for drinks or lunch, and what direction to take(!) was a major benefit. The batteries lasted the full holiday and the small control unit easily fitted into a top pocket with the volume control capable of being operated through the jacket - although once set at a comfortable level, there was never any real need to change it. The only problem was remembering to disconnect the pillion from the control unit before she jumped off!
Also, even though I used an open face helmet, there was never a problem with wind noise (although it must be remembered that this was a cruising/touring holiday - not a TT race!)- in fact the quality of communication was far better than I had expected. The intercom is now a permanent feature on any outing.