In this cold, rainy weather of winter I thought now was a good time to bring you back to my last adventure of my 26-country European tour in Portugal.
Also, since it’s gift giving time, check out our store for great gifts like hats, socks, stickers and bracelets—great stocking stuffers.
Enjoy sunny Portugal!
Paradise in Portugal
5 Pages: You may want to copy and paste this into a small document and print it out on scrap paper in draft mode for some bedside or bathroom reading. It's more like a chapter of a book than an update ;)
The final leg of my 26-country European expedition in Portugal got off to a stellar start on a festive Friday evening that just happened to be Halloween. Although I was tired and virtually running on vapors energy-wise from over 11 months and 32 countries of constant travel, riding and filming, I fortunately had an epic morning riding with two American soul sisters Mackenzie and Aviva back in Spain. So I was filled with positive memories and riding on the high I love so much. I rolled into Faro, Portugal that evening excited as ever to meet my two Portuguese Couchsurfing hosts Ricardo and Marcio who promised an epic Halloween shindig starting first at their beach house just steps from the ocean.
In America we tend to go pretty huge with our Halloween celebrations and I was not holding back one bit with my outrageous “Love Angel” costume I had ready for the evening. I was warned in Spain that the Portuguese has only recently started to celebrate Halloween and that my costume, bright blue pajamas with red hearts and huge red fluffy angel wings, might be a bit over the top. But I was prepared to push the limits and show the Halloween spirit in true American style, glittered face and all.
I liked Ricardo and Marcio right away, and the feeling was clearly mutual. We got along like brothers from the first moment and I felt right at home at their stellar beach house in Faro where the waves were crashing, moonlight glimmering off the ocean and stars out in full force—all enjoyable directly in their back yard. Both Ricardo and Marcio are young yet successful architects who value the beach lifestyle and, like me, were geared up for a exciting night on the town this evening.
The night got off to an epic start with the unexpected arrival of yet another cycle touring character named Gregory who was escorted over to Ricardo’s pad by one of their friends who met him in Malaga, Spain. Ricardo and Marcio welcomed Gregory with open arms and before we knew it we had a wild pre-party going on at the beach house with food, music and wine. Spirits were high indeed. When I finally unveiled my costume I got a standing ovation and rave reviews from the crew. But we soon realized that these guys were planning to attend the party in plain street clothes and I was not going to accept this apathy sitting down.
In our happily buzzed state I went to work digging into the closets of the boys and before we knew it we had Marcio dressed up as a Bolivian farmer, Ricardo as some injured character with fake blood and a towel I called “Injured by Love” and Gregory was a tiger at the pre-party but ended up abandoning the costume since it was simply a spotted blanket that did not seem nearly as cool to wear once we thought about lugging it around all night. In American standards our crew was grossly underdressed, but in Portuguese standards quite a sight!
I was pleasantly surprised when we finally arrived at the shindig where hundreds of dressed up Portuguese party goers were bobbing up and down to live music at a huge outdoor street party. The band was rockin’, smiles were in every direction and the pleasant weather was the perfect start to an unforgettable evening. My costume was indeed way over the top and I had to retire the massive red angel wings early and the tight pajama outfit was eventually toned down with a few other layers. But it was a remarkable evening that none of us will soon forget as we enjoyed the people, music, drinks and giggles until about 4AM.
As Ricardo, Marcio and I were recovering from our crazy Halloween fun I heard some shuffling going on in the living room. Gregory, our Germany cycle touring companion, had decided to pack up his bike and hit the road north. Gregory had already spent 4 days in a row in Malaga in party mode so decided he should get out of town before he lost all his physical conditioning he worked so hard to attain. I knew how he was feeling so did not try to stop him. I usually can’t go over 3-4 days without needing to get out and ride.
After Gregory pedaled off I sat out on the beach solo filled with gratitude for bringing me to such a lovely place and with such fantastic people. The sun was out and the waves rolling in with lovely sets bringing happy surfers and body borders into shore I was dying for a surf but my hosts were down for the count and ended up sleeping until about 2PM so that Saturday ended up being all about chilling, bonding, sharing, napping and more chilling. The boys finally got up, Marcio cooked up a massive pot of Brazilian bean stew, and by early evening we all finally got our bearings back. We were in no hurry to have a repeat performance of the party and opted for a mellow Saturday night with a few friendly Portuguese ladies cooking up crapes and watching movies.
Ricardo is an avid boogie boarder and we were both eager to share some waves so the next morning we were both up early, rode down to the surf shop, found myself a board and wetsuit, and were chartered off by boat to the local surf break. Ricardo and I spent several hours in the warm sunshine catching dozens of glassy waves with the friendly locals, huge smiles filling our faces, until we were finally paddled out around lunchtime. Life was good indeed!
I felt completely at home with Ricardo and Marcio and by this time we all felt like family. None of us wanted the positive connection to end anytime soon. But the road was starting to call my name and it was time to get these boys in the saddle. I invited both of them to come out riding the next day and they were both more than excited to be part of the action. But the realities of work had to be dealt with and they made a deal with me I could not pass up—stay just one more day so they could manage their workload, get permission from their boss or create whatever imaginative excuses necessary to make an epic adventure a reality.
So I spent most of Monday morning catching up on newsletters, charging batteries, offloading video footage and dialing in the bike for the adventures ahead. That evening I decided to return the favor of all the amazing meals the boys set me up with by cooking up a huge Italian feast. Since Italy was my first country and Portugal my last it certainly seemed like the perfect choice. Ricardo and Marcio were more than stoked that finally a Couchsurfer prepared them a meal for a change and we ate a massive meal while making the plans for the next few days.
Since Marcio had only just started working at the firm a few months ago he was no able to get a full day off work and was only able to ride in the morning the following day. But Ricardo, with over two years under his belt, was able to get a full day off work on Wednesday so I was thrilled to have two days of guest riders lined up to take me out to Lagos and up the west coast towards Lisbon. We were all extremely excited and grateful as we toasted Portuguese wine and hit the sheets about midnight.
The next morning the sun was shining once again (a fact that made me smile considering all the rest of Europe was covered in clouds and rain). So we did a bit of filming before Marcio and I hopped on the bike for our short but sweet ride to his office. The temperature perfect and our spirits were high. Ricardo followed us for a while taking photos and we set up the cameras soon after our departure for our rolling interview where Marcio shared his heart with the world and we philosophized about all sorts of topics while riding our on a charming dirt path and through a quiet neighborhood to his office.
I dropped Marcio off at his office about an hour later, bid farewell to my Portuguese brother and was off on an 80km solo ride to Lagos. Although the sun was shining there was a consistent headwind to contend with. Luckily, I was so filled with positive energy after my ride with Marcio I was able to crank out the entire ride in about four hours. The ride was nothing to write home about since it followed a busy road ridden with cars and trucks. But I was excited to meet up with Ricardo later for a night of camping and a Wednesday morning ride up the west coast of the Portugal so my I was pumped upon arrival.
When I finally rolled into Lagos I was pretty exhausted and was quickly hailed down by a friendly British chap Jim who invited me to join him and his wife Terhi for a beer. Turns out that Jim had also done some big cycle touring adventures and was eager to chat. They were staying at the same campground so I joined them for a lovely dinner, met heaps of cool winter campers from around the world and life was good in Lagos. Ricardo had to work late that night so we made plans to ride the following morning instead of connecting that night.
After a perfect nights sleep in the tent I was up early to do a morning ride with Jim out to the lighthouse. Jim was so excited to get back on a bike and we rolled the cameras for a quick rolling interview out to the ocean. After sucking in the priceless views in Lagos we enjoyed a lovely breakfast with our new friends at a local café before Ricardo and I set off on our ride north.
Ricardo and I were so pumped for our adventure that day. The weather continued to bless us with tons of sunshine as we rolled out of town through cute Portuguese villages chatting away and sharing our dreams, plans and lives with each other. The riding terrain was perfectly challenging with plenty of hills to climb and descend as natural wonders of the Algarve passed by through colorful forests. We finally stopped for lunch in the sun at about the 40km mark in the picturesque village of Aljezur, where we ran some cameras and Ricardo shared the history of the town.
Ricardo and I were truly having the ride of our lives. The bonding magic of the tandem was in full force as we rolled into a charming beach Ricardo was dying to share with me called Praia de Odeceixe. When we finally hit the beach I could see why. There were huge cliffs, a beautiful beach and a bright white village perched on top of the cliffs. We did our final rolling interview on a curvy back road where Ricardo shared his heart for the cameras and gave inspirational messages to me and the world. But when we looked at our watch we realized we were running late to catch our busses to our next destinations so we had to start hauling some butt right away.
We packed up the cameras and began hammering the pedals to try to catch our bus up in the next town. Unfortunately, the road was virtually all uphill and even with our best efforts we missed our bus by just a few minutes. Ricardo was fortunately able to catch a bus soon after back to his car in Lagos and I found one up to the next town of Odemira where I landed a cheap hostel by the bus station. I had originally planned one more day of riding but when I checked the surf report up north it showed perfect conditions the next day so the magnet of the waves once again won me over.
After over 11 months of adventuring through 32 countries I was ready to finally be done and to give myself a nice reward of several days of enjoying my passion of surfing. As much as I love riding and the Peace Pedalers project, I realized that my motivation and excitement was far less than my desire to get back in the water for some serious surf. I caught a bus to Lisbon then onwards to Peniche where I would return to the surf mecca town of Baleal four years after my last visit when Stage 1 of the expedition finished in 2004.
The Peace Pedalers Rainbow was in full affect once again this day indeed. My first stop was a surf camp called Surf Castle that was run by a friend of the girlfriend of my bro Hugo from Benin, West Africa. Joao, one of the owners of the camp, welcomed me like family and set me up with an ocean view room, board and wetsuit to begin my 5-day surf holiday. I immediately hit up my favorite spot called Almagraden for a sunset session and was blessed with the most incredible rainbows I’ve ever seen that appeared directly over me and another Surf Castle owner Pedro as we sat in the water in total awe. I knew I was in the right place and settled into my new home in Baleal.
Over the next several days the surf only got better and better with perfect waves, offshore winds and unseasonably warm weather. I enjoyed session after session of unforgettable waves with new friends and I felt truly blessed to have such a perfect ending to the massive second stage of the Peace Pedalers project. Even better, I was visited by an old friend Charlie from Barcelona for a few days and my five days in Baleal were truly blissful.
Looking back on the entire project to date now sitting here in San Francisco, California I am truly filled with endless gratitude. Europe exceeded my expectations in almost every way—the riding, nature, culture, food, wine and ESPECIALLY the great people made this section of my ride totally unforgettable. If you want a great bike tour that is just right…hit up Europe! But do go in the spring or fall to avoid the crowds and get good deals.
Now 66 countries and over six years into the expedition I’m enjoying some much needed time with my family and friends. As much fun as it is traveling the world, it is certainly not an easy feat. And some time to recharge is just what this kid was after! I’m working my butt off, as always, trying to get everything dialed in for the adventures ahead, but it’s all good!
Till the next journal in Brazil…HAPPY HOLIDAYS…and Live Big, Give Big and Love Big!
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