Brain Fart: Misadventure in Portugal

Recently, I experienced my first full fledge bike tour on a trip with A2Z Adventures ( in Portugal. The duration was eight days and covered about 370 miles, depending on how many turns were missed and how disoriented one became. A group of sixteen riders, including Gary Fisher, and growing to as many as 25 on the weekend undertook the challenge to traverse Portugal’s northeastern interior, about two hours from Lisbon and at times very near Spain’s border.


I don’t want to give up too much here, because there will be a full account coming soon, but here’s a highlight and some fun stuff that happened while cycling the sevenish hours everyday from sleeping point to sleeping point with some villages in between.

Everyone has heard the chuckle or fable, what do you call a cyclist without a tube or pump? A pedestrian! HaHa! And on a ride where you may not see another person for two hours, if you were dropped by one group and still quicker than those behind you, this could also be a disaster in the making. But I’ll give Gary Fisher credit, he kept a cool head after flatting on a rocky uphill (unknown to those of us in front of him) and walking off the route for 5K in the wrong direction until he found a road where he cycled another 5K on a flat tire (also in the wrong direction) until he discovered a village. Which also caused him to be missed by the slower group and sweeping rider. I’m not sure why the GPS unit was ignored, but…fisher.jpg

To complicate matters, Gary doesn’t speak Portuguese and most of the villagers have no need for English. These weren’t touristy areas and goats don’t care. The people were very friendly nonetheless and even looked beyond Gary’s white skinsuit with red and blue stripes and white stars down the sleeves (a skinny Captain America if you will) and patiently tried to make sense of this lost American in the middle of nowhere with five Euros tucked under his spandex. By the way, American cell phones don’t work over there. So what’s a man to do but convey a need through pictures and draw a taxicab on paper to bewildered eyes that finally grasped his need. Unfortunately the nearest cabby lived in the next village over, also in the wrong direction, but Gary was given a lift there, crippled bicycle and all.

And what luck to be taken to another man’s home that has no use for the English Language, but does have a beer and a daughter that works for the Portuguese national news whom the man calls up. Gary Fisher cycling in Portugal was big news and the daughter already knew he was in the country. But she didn’t believe the voice on the other end of the line claiming to be thee Gary Fisher, a bit lost and standing in her father’s home. After making a phone call to one of our guides she did get Gary returned to our group before dinner was completely finished. We even saved some wine for him.

It’s all fun though. Be on the lookout for a print version of cycling in Portugal with A2Z Adventures in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag Magazine and a web extra for whatever won’t fit or isn’t fit to print. For now keep spinning circles and carry a pump. –Shannon.


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