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TDP2021: Day41 Castel Branco – Gredos

Today is the day of reckoning: Will I be able drive to Switzerland with my TWIKE or will TW560 travel on its own whilst I have to find another way?

Before beginning anything today, I want to savour my last Portuguese breakfast – and a blast of carbs!

Last breakfast in Portugal

Last breakfast in Portugal

 

Our strategy today is to be at the motorbike repair show as soon as the mechanics get there and insist on getting the problem solved before anything else catches their interest.

Whilst waiting: A TWIKE parked anywhere is always of interest.

Immediate interest

Immediate interest

 

We drink some coffees until the mechanics arrive and insist on them looking at my breaking system immediately…which works out and TW560 is the first vehicle they tend to this Monday morning.

TW560 is parked 10m from the entrance and as soon as the mechanic arrived, we approach him and make it clear that it’s important for me to get back on the road.

Armed with pictures from my last intervention duing TDST2020 I explain what is required – bleeding brakes, if required, replace brake pads for the front wheel and check the rear wheels, too.

The mechanic agrees to look at the TWIKE and stars working on it immediately.

Brake caliper dismantled

Brake caliper dismantled

 

Within a few minutes he confirms that the brakes needed bleeding and that it was difficult, as the brake line takes an unusual route promoting air to gather in the line itself.

When I’m back from TDP2021, I will create a page on how to bleed the TWIKE braking system.

Diagnosing the problem

Diagnosing the problem

 

The mechanic uses the usual negative pressure method to flush the air out of the system. Within 20 minutes, the brake is back to nominal braking.

Asking him to continue with the rear brakes yields a firm no as he has too much work waiting for him today.

TW560's brakes are nearly back to normal

TW560’s front brakes are nearly back to normal

 

We take the TWIKE for a spin and indeed, the front breaks are back to normal – snappy and aggressive, just how I like them.

My TWIKE is ready for my epic journey back home

My TWIKE is ready for my epic journey back home

 

I bid my farewell to Castelo Branco and start my epic 2800km journey home!

My first 50km take me eastwards across a landscape of rolling hills and ever more rural villages. Thanks to the breeze that originated from the Atlantic, temperatures are still bearable around 11am with the usual deep blue skies over Portugal.

Around 10km to the Spanish border, coasting down the seemingly last hill in Portugal, in the distance I get a glimpse of the Spanish lower-lying flats – the Extremadura. The sheer expanse of it is impressive.

Coasting down Portugal's last hill towards Spain - my next hills in the distance

Coasting down Portugal’s last hill towards Spain – my next hills in the distance

 

As everybody knows, I am not a fan of driving across flat stretches of land without any features, so I’m not necessarily happy about what I see.

On Portugal's last hill

On Portugal’s last hill

 

Whilst coasting down the hill on the last 2-3 km I descend around 150m onto the Spanish Extremadura plain and with this temperatures soar. Within a short few minutes the temperatures go from 29°C to around 40°C. The air entering the TWIKE suddenly feels like a dry-blower has been pointed at my face!

A few minutes later, there aren’t much options for me to take road-wise:

Eventually, there is only one option left...

Eventually, there is only one option left…

 

And with a heavy heart, it’s time to say goodbye to Portugal – the last 6 weeks have been a real treat! I’m certainly going to be back! … with a TWIKE!

Bye, bye Portugal!

Bye, bye Portugal!

 

Entering Spain, the roads get even better – It seems that the European Union has spent even more money on infrastructure here!

Welcome to the Extremadura

Welcome to the Extremadura

 

If anyone ever wondered how my nomad office looks like when I’m on the go – this is it:

En-route video calls

En-route video calls

 

Usually, for such a quick video call, I stop for a cold drink and stay at a bar or restaurant. Today, for an important 20 minute call that came up at the very last minute, I just stopped at the side of the road and opened my laptop. As I mentioned previously, my laptop has its own 4G modem and I’ve splurged on high-gain full-sized antennas that are embedded in the screen frame.

This came in handy today as the signal was super-faint and I needed video.

If I’m in the middle of nowhere and my mobile phone no longer picks up a 4G signal, my modem more often than not can still connect to one.

As always: there is no magic involved. If there is no signal, my modem can’t just make one appear out of nowhere. If the signal is just a few dB too weak for my mobile phone however, there is a good chance. Furthermore, with the modem in my Linux laptop, I have extensive control over the modem’s behaviour which the nannying (mobile) OS’s from the military-industrial complex don’t allow normal users to have. 😉

Flat and hot!

Flat and hot!

 

The further I drive into the Extremadura, the worse the temperatures get. The maximum the ambient temperature sensor showed today was 44°C – I am drinking an average of a 0.7 litres of water every hour and am not having to go to pee. That’s how hot it is.

44°C - pretty hot for AC-less TWIKEs

44°C – pretty hot for AC-less TWIKEs

 

Stopping at another air-conditioned petrol station to cool off a little, the guys there tell me to take an alternate road and not drive towards Madrid but rather slightly north via Sierra Gredo, a 700km mountain range that has a road going along the top of it at an average of ~900m ASL, allowing me to avoid the heat.

I’ve been to Madrid many times in the past and am OK driving past it without visiting. Sierra Gredo it is!

Leaving the Extremadura and entering Gredo valley

Leaving the Extremadura and entering Gredo valley

 

Gredo Valley is known across Spain for the large and sweet cherries and cherry-related products it produces. Many shops sell exclusively such products and many other shops are called something along the lines of ‘cherry-something’.

Slowly climbing Gredo valley

Slowly climbing Gredo valley

 

Climbing the Gredo pass finally brought me back to less extreme weather …and something I’ve not seen in a very long while: Clouds; and RAIN!

Wow, that's a lot of rain waiting for me up there

Wow, that’s a lot of rain waiting for me up there

 

Passing the 1000m ASL mark, temperatures are back to sub-30°C and the views are great – very happy to be back driving across hills and mountain passes.

Gredo valley

Gredo valley

 

Crossing the pass at 1275m ASL, I’ve just had a few drops of rain on my windscreen, not much more. Temperatures, however are great: no sun, a stiff breeze and 24°C – very comfortable for TWIKEing.

Rain & cooler temperatures

Rain & cooler temperatures

At the top of Gredo valley

At the top of Gredo valley

 

With this temperature and me wanting to sleep well, I decide to drive a little further than I anticipated for today and try to stay in a Refugio, a mountain hostel in Gredos … at 1590m ASL.

As the energy remaining in my battery will not take me there, I decide to attempt another commercial charge in a small town 30 km down the road before another 1000m climb towards Gredos.

Will it be a good experience? Or will it continue to fuel my general dislike for any commercial offering around the entities providing power for electric mobility?

Things start well, as the charging station asks me to present my RFID card.

Let's start, shall we?

Let’s start, shall we?

 

Then, the charging station left me waiting for around 10 seconds before coming back with…

AAARGGH!

AAARGGH!

 

And this…

ARRGH

ARRGH

 

As an IT person two things come to mind:

  1. there are two plugs – let’s try the other one
  2. this charging station is certainly managed somehow remotely. Doesn’t anyone check the error logs of this thing? If I’d set this up, an error would generate a field service ticket…but let’s just leave it at that. 🙁

Plug B, luckily, was functional and allowed me to charge.

Plug B works!

Plug B works!

 

And started to show even the smallest amount of energy consumed.

Energy is flowing

Energy is flowing

 

Time flies during this fast charge as there are people coming up to the TWIKE every 2-3 minutes and ask questions about it.

Finally charging...

Finally charging…

 

As the charge level of the battery was quite low, TW560’s additional chargers were able to push the maximum 7.1 kW into the batteries, allowing for it to charge faster than it can discharge them.

Still ramping up the charge

Still ramping up the charge

 

An hour later and with the evening slowly announcing itself, I start the climb towards Gredos.

Now I feel comfortable with my upcoming climb

Now I feel comfortable with my upcoming climb

 

Off we go!

This part is from 550-15900m ASL

This part is from 550-1590m ASL

 

The road itself is perfect – great surface, not too steep – just a gradual incline all the way: Nice!

Climbing towards the mountains

Climbing towards the mountains

 

And, hey, yes, it was me driving today 🙂

My 'I was there' pic of the day

My ‘I was there’ pic of the day

 

The views get better by the minute!

Sierra Gredo - stunningly beautiful

Sierra Gredo – stunningly beautiful

 

Not long after the last picture, I arrive at the Refugio and am greeted by the very friendly woman who owns the place.

We start chatting and I, wanting to start the charge ASAP, asked where I could plug my TWIKE in and if I could park the TWIKE in the garage for the night. (keep in mind that I’m paying €50 for the room with breakfast). The first answer was: no. No electricity, no plugs. And parking in the garage costs €50.

I kept on pressing and added large dollops of charm – acutely aware that my Spanish is ok but not as good as to be suave like I’m able to be, for example, in Italian . Then the owner said, well, you know, there is no way for me to know how much the energy you’re going to consume is going to cost me! It might be €100 and then I don’t earn anything!

Such situations are always difficult, as this is very true: a large part of the population has no idea or ability how to put electric consumption into any relation to cost at all! In such cases, as an EV driver, you need to either drive to the next commercial charging station that might be miles away or you do what I did: turn up your charm to 11.

Happy to report that being friendly and persuasive still works: within another 15 minutes, I was charging, with my trusted consumption meter counting the kWh consumed at a the rate of €.50 per kWh (which included me parking in their garage – secured)! YAY!

Protected Parking at the Refugio after negotiations

Protected Parking at the Refugio after negotiations

 

After this, I was in need of an ice-cold beer and some quiet.

After a long day... Tapas on their way

After a long day… Tapas on their way

 

And…some comfort food, calories and more beer!

Well deserved

Well deserved

 

The thing that drove me back to the Refugio was one that I’ve hadn’t had in quite a while: It got too cold and I had forgotten to take a jacket along! Wow.

The Refugio de Gredo - A Pièce de Résistance

The Refugio de Gredo – La Pièce de Résistance

 

Later that evening I was planning the next few days and looking at my options regarding how to cross Spain and France in the time left. I saw that it would be a marathon of 350-400km/day trips. Even with me crossing through Andorra by TWIKE and driving across the French Alps again, it would be pushing hard and I somehow felt like taking it a little easier and arriving in Switzerland relaxed and refreshed.

How can I reduce the distance to drive? Easy – by not driving! I had been pondering this idea for a few days now and had researched some options etc.

That very evening I booked the ferry from Barcelona to Genova and this time spent some money on luxury: the ability to sleep and some privacy! I definitely learned something from last time!

Not that costly at all...

Not that costly at all…

 

I got my ticket immediately – I’m ready! …or so I thought.

My ticket - ready to board...so I thought

My ticket – ready to board…so I thought

 

Taking a ferry means that new regulations come into force – and yet another passenger locator form needs to be filled-in.

Another happy document to fill in

Another happy document to fill in

 

Also, there is another news item: From 2020 onward, the greater Barcelona area has been designated as a low-emissions zone, banning all high-emissions vehicles. Any vehicle wanting to enter has to comply with the tight regulations in force.

There is an exception to the regulations with which foreign cars can request a day pass to enter the city and get a maximum of 10 days of circulation per year.

Wow, these guys are really serious about curbing emissions!

Wow, these guys are really serious about curbing emissions!

 

I researched, found the place to register and finalized my registration for Barcelona and paid my €3 registration fee for foreign vehicles meeting the ZBE requirements and was ready to drive to Barcelona…relaxed and without any stress.

Permit for Barcelona's zero-emission zone

Permit for Barcelona’s zero-emission zone

 

With this sorted, let’s go to the stats for today:

Today's stats

Today’s stats

Today's GPS track

Today’s GPS track