Porto, Portugal — August 7, 2017

I’m starting this blog entry on August 7, but I may not get it finished before morning. It’s been a rough day, even though I spent part of it in a train.

Here’s what my bike looked like packed for the train ride.

I cycled to the train station in Lisbon this morning. When the train arrived, I knew which carriage to get on with my bike, but I didn’t know which end of the carriage had the bike storage, and I naturally picked the wrong end, so I ended up having to wheel the bike loaded with four panniers and a handlebar bag down the narrow corridor from one end of the carriage to the other.

A heavy touring bike loaded with gear is not easy to maneuver, even when it’s being pushed. However, thanks to the good will of all of the people my panniers bumped into, I made it to the other end of the carriage. Here’s what it looked like hung up in the bike compartment. The carriage could take two bikes, and my bike was later joined by another.

At a stop along the way, an elderly woman tried to get another, even more heavily-loaded bike up the thee steps onto the train. I lent a hand and pulled from the front. Then it took two of us to lift her bike onto the hook.

The woman was from France and had been on a bicycle tour through Portugal. She is leaving from Porto tomorrow on a bus back to Grenoble, France, which by coincidence is where I spent a year studying at the university.

When we got to Porto, we waited until the others got off before we helped each other unload our bikes. Then we wheeled them to the platform elevator, where there was a big crowd of people. I got impatient and decided to take my bike down the escalator. That worked pretty well, so after I rolled the bike through the tunnel under the tracks, I wheeled it onto the up escalator. I couldn’t hold it. The bike started rolling backwards, dragging me with it. We stopped when I fell down, bruising one hip.

Then the escalator stopped. Someone had pushed the panic button, so I had to carry the bike up the stairs. I couldn’t carry it up loaded, but two generous people helped me.

Outside the station, the French woman emerged. She was going part of the way to my destination, so we cycled together for a few miles. It went very slowly. The streets were narrow and choked with traffic. We said good-bye at her hotel, and I cycled on to the youth hostel. It took a long time to cover the few miles.

At the hostel, I realized that I had made a mistake in my reservation. I wasn’t supposed to arrive until tomorrow, and there were no free beds. I got online and checked some nearby hotels, and they were all booked full. Then a German family said that they had a room with three beds and fourth bed in another room. However, neither of their two kids wanted to sleep separated from the family. So they offered me the bed.

The hostel manager said, “No!” Then the German guy told me that the bed was going to be free in any case, so why didn’t I just take it. ,Well, the manager would know I was here, because my bike would be parked here. We were speaking German, so the desk clerk and manager had no idea what we were saying. (I hope!)

I mentioned to the manager that the bed would be free in any case so he might as well let me sleep in it, but he still refused. Then he added, “If you were friends and the family let you have the bed, there would be no problem.” I mentioned the bike, and he said, “Since you’re coming back tomorrow, you can leave the bike in our storage.”

That did it! He seemed to be saying that if we did something sneaky that he wasn’t aware of, he wouldn’t make it a point to check on us. So, I’m sitting in the youth hostel in a room where I’m not supposed to be and about to sleep in a bed where I’m not supposed to sleep. I am very grateful to the German family and plan to keep a low profile until the shift change at the front desk.

I’m in a four-person room with three Portuguese men, who cannot understand how we elected Donald Trump president. Two of them speak almost perfect English, and the third speak perfect French and Spanish, so I don’t have to resort to my broken Portuguese. Now, it’s time to close and get down to arguing politics with my roommates.

Incidentally, this blog should get more interesting from now on. I plan some sight-seeing in Porto the next few days, and then I will start to cycle the Camino to Santiago in Spain.