Sure I had seen the signs, all afternoon: “Carretera cortada por obras.” But a little road consruction site has to be pretty drastic to stop a bicycle from getting past… I had decided, way back in Montejícar , to go for it.
It was nice for a while, zero traffic since the last “road closed” sign; the quiet rural hills of Olive Country Spain warming me up after another freezing cold morning camping. And I was due to arrive in Granada by mid day, where there’s a shower and a house and a bunch of people to meet! Oh luxury, oh what surprises await?
Construction site. Wow. They, uh… they really mean business…. There was no road, only a labyrinth of huge puddles and muddy tractor ruts, winding out of view where the road used to be. Certainly traversible, especially since it was deserted – I guess it was too wet to build a road out there – but very wet, and very expansive. Well, no choice but to carry on.
I was able to actually ride for a little ways, crawling along choosing the sturdiest-looking tracks, but then I got off and started pushing; the bike was taking a beating and navigation was getting treacherous. I picked my way along, the mud starting to cake onto my tires and brakes, binding up under the rack platforms. Then I was going around a huge murky water-hole, formed by an actual stream running through the construction site, crossing a raised-up little plot that seemed more sturdy that the rest, when the front end started sinking in the mud. Before I knew it it was six inches deep, and I realized I was facing what amounted to a raised-up little mud hole. Let´s call it quicksand, because that´s how it was – I stepped forward to extract the front wheel, and sank up to my ankle myself… trying to lift the front end, I sank up to my calf. Trying to remove my buried foot from the suction effect, my other leg sank up to the knee, gripped in this sticky thick slop. I had to push up off the bike just to get my own legs free of the stuff, which of course left her sunken even deeper, now up to the bottom of the panniers. It took a moment for me to fully realize the situation I was in… I was stuck. There would be no pulling the bike out like this… maybe if I had a boat or a big door to stand on or something, but when I tried to stack rocks(the only thing I really had to work with) next to the bike, as a sort of platform, the whole pile just sank into the mire. That’s when I noticed everything was continuing to sink, every minute I delayed. Slowly but persistently, the mud was swallowing my bike.
Critical mode… I gave up trying to keep things clean or dry, resigned to being covered in mud up to my knees and into my boots and splattered on my face, and set to saving my rig. I piled even more rocks into the mud, which were just enough to keep my own body from getting trapped while I removed all the bags and panniers. Several trips to dry land schlepping all the gear through the mud warmed me up, enough even to remove my jacket in the crisp January air. I finally freed the bike itself and looked it over with dismay – it’s just mud, but how can it be so pervasive?!? It started to dawn on me that having huge chunks of gritty wet mud, like glue, between the cogs on my cassette, smearing the braking surface of my rims, or smothering the pivots on my derailleur, could be pretty bad. I had to clean the bike, not for aesthetic reasons, but to prevent accelerated wear on the poor components. I actually was wishing for a car wash… but there was nothing out there but olive fields and more mud; no hose, no pressure washer, nada. Except, there was that murky stream, and I thought it could be pretty damaging even just to ride ten kilometers with all that mud, so I sat down and tried my best. But it was nasty stuff, this mud, sticking to my cleaning stick in comically large chunks, dense, so much like clay that the icy winter water I splashed around just moistened the surface…
It was a good hour and a half delay, all told, including a little nap afterwards on a dry spot in the middle of the endless construction site. A minivan arrived on the other side of the mud-trap and yelled across to me, asking if there was a way through; they had to turn around. Well, yeah, I made it through on a bike, but just barely!