Unexpected travel disruption leads to Pre-Adventure

Pre-adventure is having to make changes on the fly before departure. Is this classed as part of the adventure? If you accept, as I do, that the planning is part of the journey then the answer is yes.

Planning – Revision 1

I previously wrote about the planning for the next trip to the Picos, Asturias, Galicia and Portugal. I had followed the process that I usually take. The route had been compared to some suggestions I had found on the RIDE magazine website and I’d fine tuned my selection of roads.

The accommodation had been selected and I was generally happy that my travelling companions would be pleased with my choices. There was no camping involved and the prices were very reasonable. When I plan journeys through Europe I find that triple rooms are incredibly common compared to the UK. I mean, if you are happy with sharing in a twin room then a triple is just one more, right? It can make a massive difference to the overall cost of a trip.

It was time to kick back and enjoy a nice cuppa while admiring the work on screen. I could do no more other than watch the days pass on the calendar.

The curse of the Covid cancellations

That was until the email dropped into my inbox like a casually tossed grenade. The mail from Brittany Ferries, in relation to my inbound ferry, got right down to business “I’m writing to you today to confirm your sailing on Connemara has been cancelled.”… BOOM!

I had spent so long considering the viral effects of Covid that I had not considered to be blindsided by the economic fallout. I suppose naively I had thought that the routes were viable and, like myself, other bikers had fallen over themselves to book when Europe opened up. In my mind the ferries were booked to capacity. This was definitely a pre-adventure obstacle.

On opening the mail I threw my head back in my chair. I stared at the ceiling my eyes darting side to side as if looking for an answer that would emerge from the white emulsion. I held this posture for a couple of minutes while I considered my options. Initially “right, it’s all off!” became “ok, let’s work with this”. I returned to my upright position and my eyes returned to the screen.

I took a further look at the email. It went on to explain that they would look to offer me an alternative sailing and I would be informed in due course. This was no good for me. The sequential nature of the trip meant there was no hotel I would be at that I could book out of a day early. We would be a days ride out of place. No, it would have to be an extension. I could work with that, and only that. Despite being told to sit put I called them.

Ships that sail in the night… and other stories

The line was initially engaged and then I ended up in a queue giving me the impression that there were quite a few seeking clarification. Eventually I was connected to a customer adviser and after the initial pleasantries she brought up the details of my booking. I explained that the email said to wait but I wanted to know if I could influence the selection at this stage. I explained my preference to a later sailing rather than one a day earlier. The line went momentarily quiet.

When she came back she had found another grenade and tossed this into the conversation. “It looks like your outbound ferry has also been cancelled”. Were we edging back to calling the whole thing off again?

She explained that I had not been informed as the alternative sailings were still in the process of being allocated. At least there were options, but first we had to look at the inbound query. This gave me some hope that my early approach meant I may get a first bite of the cherry.

There was indeed a later sailing. Sure it would extend our trip by a day but If I couldn’t find an enjoyable ride in Northern Spain to occupy the time then I shouldn’t be route planning in the first place.

Tour back on track

As it turned out it was a better sailing all together. Not only would we be upgraded from the economy class to a Cruise Ferry but the timings meant that we would spend most of our time on board in the afternoon and evening. This would allow us a nights sleep and to be off the boat the next day with time to ride home. Previously the late arrival forced us into an overnight stay in Portsmouth.

Putting aside thoughts of accommodation bookings I would have to revise, we moved onto the outbound sailing. I was given two options from my original Tuesday ferry. The first was to Santander on the Sunday and, while it was possible it could be moved to Monday, it was in the first instance too early. Additionally if I did book it and adjust hotels I was at risk of having to change everything again if it was moved to Monday. My other option was a boat on Wednesday. Ok, I lose a day but I’ve gained a day on the other end of the trip.

Does two Bilbaos make a Baggins?

This revised outbound sailing was now to Bilbao. It’s not far from Santander but far enough for me to realise that I had to accommodate a few additional miles. The main change was on the sailing times. As with the inbound revision much of the crossing would be on the previous day meaning we would be disembarking at Bilbao just after midday. We had previously been arriving late in Santander and losing the light meaning a mad dash to a local destination. Could this now really work to our advantage? This was the pre-adventure I had alluded to. Adapting travel plans with an element of fluidity and thinking on your feet.

I thanked the Brittany Ferry operative and finished the call. I have no complaints over their customer service. In this case the changes seem to have worked to my advantage. Better ships, better sailing times and no additional cost. Now I had to graft on the route and accommodation changes. The first change was easy, we would no longer be staying in Portsmouth.

Here comes Rev 2.0

The next change took a little more consideration. I had been looking forward to our first nights stay in Santillana del Mar. I had a nice spa hotel booked a short walk from the old town centre with its open street bars and cafe’s, and its Inquisicion Museum of Torture. When I booked I had never expected that, but as they say….

The cancellation of Santillana del Mar left us with the challenge of retaining the original route and getting to Gijón. This had now been promoted to our first night’s accommodation. The mileage was within our upper limits but our departure will be restricted to a start time dictated by ferry disembarkation. At around 1pm we would have lost a good five hours. It looks to be a challenging day with a potential late arrival at Gijón. I could look to simplify the route but this would be at the expense of an initial sighting lap of the Potes triangle. Why a sighting lap? I’ll get to that.

Unexpected change causes an improved route

The remainder of the route remains mostly unchanged. Where it now differs is that we now have an additional day to fill. Our previous last night of Spanish accommodation had us in sighting distance of Santander and our ferry home. We were still in a good place for a short ride to Bilbao so the challenge was to find a good days ride and a place to stay that offers a similar easy ride to catch the Bilbao departure.

You only had to open the map for the solution to present itself, or should I say, slap you in the face! Not far from Camasobres was the town of Potes. Yes, that’s why earlier I referred to the previous ride of the triangle as a sighting lap. The opportunity had presented itself to ride one of the jewels of the area again, finishing with a stay in Potes.

Things are certainly playing out in our favour although I never like to speak too soon under the circumstances. Much wood must be touched in addition to all the other superstitious rituals. Having said that, on the same day the self isolation restrictions were lifted on Portugal as they were placed on the exempt list. Although this wasn’t really going to help us if Spain remained off the list.

Would Covid-19 cause more problems?

I read the news with references to infection rates without any understanding of what criteria would need to be in place to remove the fourteen days isolation. We had just hoped that time would be on our side. With the trip rapidly approaching I though I should find out more. The criteria is based on the incidence of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the past seven days per 100,000 population. This number needs to be below 20. Portugal is on a downward trend and has 15 as of the 24th August. Spain is at 92 with no real sign of a downward trend.

Statistic: Incidence of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the past seven days in Europe as of August 24, 2020, by country (per 100,000 population) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

This isn’t as alarming as it might initially seem. The worst case scenarios are in areas well away from our route. We will be taking all the required social distancing precautions and have made sure that our selected accommodations have Covid policies in place.

So yes, the adventure is not constrained to the duration of the actual riding. The unexpected events that are thrown in your path that cause you to deviate from the plan and make you think on your feet can happen at any time. This is the pre-adventure.

Follow the journey

Finally, one new site I have stumbled upon is Polarsteps. If it delivers what it says then it will be an interesting way of not only recording the trip but allowing people to follow our route and position during the trip.

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