A wing and a prayer on a folding bike in Spain. Day 4

A rollercoaster of a day – in more senses than one.
Yesterday, I had a message on Strava (a cycling app) from an old friend/past student encouraging me to “hit the nearby Picos”. When I suggested that, at nearly 72 y/o I might struggle to conquer the high passes, he replied that “age is just a number”. If you’re reading this, Marek, you are of course right. I’ll be talking about perception later. Self perception is a crucially important aspect; it’s deeply true that you’re only as old as you feel. Thank you, Marek
Unfortunately, the Picos he’s referring to are three days cycling to the West; with a plane to catch tomorrow I must go East. But I’ll definitely do the Picos another day.
It’s raining! The forecast suggests it won’t stop soon, so there’s no point in hanging about. Off I go! After 3 miles I smell a rat – I’m going the wrong way. Consequently, with half an hour gone, I’m back where I started. Oh well, onward and …….. upwards! I had naively thought that, being a coastal road, this might be relatively flat. No such luck – believe me, it’s a veritable rollercoaster (if you’ve got Strava, look at the elevation profile). Looking on the bright side, the rain is easing and the view back towards Laredo is worth a photo-stop


The road I’m on is the original main road to Bilbao. It’s almost deserted thanks to the new auto-route, which is often within earshot, occasionally within sight. Soon, it feels as though I’m back in the mountains.


I start thinking. My perception of the world is not an accurate “truth” but just a subjective illusion. Perhaps  there are as many “realities” as there are human beings in the world. Every brain contains unique biases and distortions. Have you seen the “bear playing basketball”? If not, look it up – you’ll be shocked. How could you miss it? It’s simple – the brain sees what it expects to see. What my brain expects to see is dependent on the accumulated  mindsets that its plasticity has absorbed over my lifetime. This is unique for each one of us. Another example is the infamous “dress”; is it black and blue, or white and gold? There’s some suggestion that our judgement on this depends on whether we’re a lark or an owl; whether our visual perceptions are adapted by the brain to morning light, or evening shade. Another example of distorted perception (which probably none of us have experienced??) is the hallucinatory drug, LSD. Schizophrenics, of course, suffer frequent distortions of “reality”
Our brains are very busy. Because of this, they operate what might me likened to a filing system – a bit similar to the one I operated with the mountains of post I received every day as a Headteacher (it seems a long time ago!) – two piles: “important” – must do now; “maybe later” – probably end up in the bin. How does our brain decide which? It draws on prior experience to make assumptions about what it perceives. This enables it to comprehend the world even when bombarded with an almost infinite number of signals. Survival! Perhaps this explains why each one of us has a particular ability to remember certain things …. but not others.
If you find this suggestion of predetermination  and limitation of free will rather depressing (as indeed I do) there is a silver lining to the cloud. Later!
Back to the journey. I encounter a large number of people walking, in groups, along the road. I soon discover why.


Perhaps one day Mary and I will do it.
I soon descend to Castro Urdiales. Hang on a minute – where’s my cycling cap? Taking advantage of the improving weather, I have taken off my waterproofs and cap (to feel the air whistling through my hair!) It was hanging on the handlebars. Back I go to look (uphill!). After 2 miles, “eureka!”


Why bother? I’m very attached to it.
I enjoy lunch (to “Hey Jude”) and explore the town. The first thing I discover is a blast from the past


I’m pleased to say its no longer in use.
Castro Urdiales is very popular – I can see why.


Continuing on the old main road, I reach S. Juan. A decision to be made: find an early pit-stop; or turn right, back up into the mountains. You’ve got it – up into the mountains it is. A good decision. After a few miles, the weather now almost sunny, I come across some locals sitting outside a bar. Enquiring about any nearby hotels (my Spanish is coming on) they shake my hand, consult their phones and eventually suggest a village called Mercadillo. A mile down the road I discover the perfect overnight stop – Casa Rural Encartada, in a beautiful village


The silver lining? The brain also has an ability to “enjoy” new challenges; to keep moving. To encounter, consider and evaluate other mindsets through interaction with different people and their opinions. We enjoy a good argument (First Friday?!) This does not, however short-circuit all the above – it sits on a throne.
It is perhaps the passage from knowledge to understanding to wisdom.

Distance travelled           39 miles
Elevation gain                      3638 ft         As I said, a rollercoaster
Average speed                      9 mph

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