Sat Jun 18 2022: Glorious First Day

Although it's an 8 hour time-zone difference from Pacific Standard Time, we're find ourselves wide awake so very early this morning. We're surprised that we're not suffering from any jet lag at all. Must be all that on-and-off snoozing we did on the long-ass flight over the entire Continental North America *and* the Atlantic Ocean. Flights to Europe were a lot shorter living on the Eastern Seaboard.

Then again, it might also be because we're giddy with the anticipation of picking up our sweet rides! YESSSS!!!

The moto rental place is only a couple of kms away, but since we're carting all our motorcycle gear with us, we hail a cab to get there much quicker.

Neda is drooling at all the choices available!

We're renting bikes from a company called Canary Ride. Javier greets us and guides us through the check-in process. Our bikes are prepped with luggage and he explains all the controls to us. Just a few years earlier, this walk-through would have gone super-quick: "This is the clutch, this is the brake, this is the throttle. Have fun and don't kill yourself!"

Now, there are a million buttons on the controls and just as many cryptic icons on the computer display screen. Although it's time-consuming to go through everything, we run through the most important ones necessary to operate the motorcycle properly.

We ask him for suggestions on the best routes to ride and he tells us: "Get lost!" No, seriously. He said the best way to experience the island is just to wander around without any set plan, and to stumble upon and discover new roads that way. Just ride around and get lost.


All the bikes are equipped with a cell phone holder mounted on the handlebars, which will make navigation a lot easier. My initial plan was to pull over frequently, then yank out my phone, which is preloaded with offline maps of the island, out of my pocket to figure out where we were and which way to turn next.

Normally, I'm a dedicated-GPS-unit kinda guy. I've never used Google Maps on my phone while riding before, so this should be an interesting learning curve while out in traffic. :)

These are the steel horses we've settled upon. Neda's chosen the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled and I'm going to pilot the Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES around the island. Two bikes with names longer than their suspension travel. The Africa Twin is a bike I've always been interested in. But then again, I'm interested in so many bikes. You could say I'm bike-curious...

Javier mentioned that they are taking delivery of the new Ducati Desert X in a couple of weeks. Damn! Now *THAT* is the bike I'm really interested in trying out!

I pull the Africa Twin off the side-stand and oof... there's a bit of weight to this little scoot! On paper, the ATAS is 15 lbs lighter than my GS, but the Adventure Sports model has a 25L fuel tank vs the 20L of my R1250GS, and all that extra weight is carried right up top. Plus the GS boxer engine's low-centre-of-gravity makes it big feel a lot lighter than it actually is, especially at slow speeds.

I ask Neda how the Scrambler feels. Over the communicator, I hear her exclaim, "It's so light! I love it!"

Okay, very different reactions here. Let's try to get these bikes out of the city, towards some twisty roads.

Leaving Las Palmas. Wasn't there a movie with that title...? Starring Antonio Banderas...?

And that's when I take Javier's advice to heart. Because we got lost. Over and over again... I really don't think he meant "get lost in downtown Las Palomas"...

I haven't got the hang of routing with the smartphone app yet, so that's on me. But the GPS chip on the phone is so weak and the streets are so narrow that even the relatively low buildings are blocking the GPS signal. ARGH!

Either I lose tracking entirely on my phone, or the positioning on the map is totally off. And to top it off, the smartphone touch screen doesn't work well with gloved hands. I specifically bought these gloves because the fingertips are supposedly lined with a material that works with touch screens. Yes, the smart phone detects the glove, but it's not precise at all - like trying to use a touch screen with a big sponge. I end up having to pull over often in a fit of rage, then rip off my glove and stab at the phone accusingly with my finger.

Ugh. Rant over.

This is what my office looks like. Not a fan of so many screens. This picture is taken much later when I calmed down a little bit

Good thing it's early morning on a weekend. I don't think I could handle stumbling around the city in mid-week, rush hour traffic. Neda patiently follows behind me, while I curse violently over the intercom. Even though she doesn't say much, I can tell she's just happy to be tooling around the city on that Scrambler.

After much frustration, I finally figure out the routing so I don't have to constantly mash the smart... er, dumb phone with my fat, spongy, gloved fingers and we manage to escape the city.

We reach one of the main highways out of the city, GC-2, heading westbound on the north shore of the island. The speed limits on the highway are 80 km/h within city limits, but climb up to 120 km/h once you're out beyond that. The morning air is still pretty cold, but the weather is slowly warming up nicely.

And once again, we're riding motorcycles in a foreign country! AAHHH! We're both so happy to feel like ourselves once again. Out on the open road, I get a chance to play with the controls on the Africa Twin. It has a touch-screen as well! But it's pressure sensitive and not capacitive, so works much better with gloves. So fancy! But a lot of that information on that display is also duplicated on the small LCD screen below which makes it seem like the large TFT screen was bolted on mid-way through the model run. Not fancy.

Neda patiently waits during one of my many "rage stops" on the main highway, with me, trying to figure out how to operate the smartphone GPS

Neda is still enjoying her Ducati but because she's so used to her fully-faired sport-touring R1250RS, the lack of a windscreen and the strong winds of the island are blowing her this way and that. Also, she's complaining that she keeps resetting the triptometer whenever she hits the cancel signal button. I have to laugh out loud at that, because the same thing happens on my Hypermotard. It's a weird Ducati thing...

I love these rentals, they're like an extended test ride. You really get to know the ins and outs of the bike, both the good and bad. So far, for both of us, it's been a net positive experience.

The bikes are shod with street rubber which gives amazing feel on the smooth tarmac below us. The rental place had the same models with knobbies, however we were informed that we weren't allowed to take these bikes off-road. Europe is pretty strict about restricting motorized vehicle access off-road, so sport-touring tires seemed to be the better option.

I found this map online which show how twisty the roads are. The labels are kinda funny. The roads marked "Dangerous" should actually be re-labelled "WOOOOT!!!", and the routes that are marked "Low difficulty" should be labelled "yaaaawn..."

If you are exploring the island, choose all red roads for maximum fun!

GC-2 ends at the port town of Agaete. For some reason, the main highway doesn't completely circumnavigate the island, the entire western coast doesn't have a high speed route through it.

This is not a problem, because one of the most famous routes on Gran Canaria starts at Agaete. We navigate to the start of the "Dangerous" red route:

GC-200: Amazing twisty coastal road

Neda says she feels very confident riding the Desert Sled. This reminds me of the the movie, The Matrix.

Neda-Neo: "I know Kung-Fu!"
Gene-ius: "Show me."

So I let her lead, and damn! She throws the bike into every corner con gusto! The road narrows and snakes along the narrow cliff face above the ocean. Aha! That's the reason why there's no highway here. The rock face is too steep and irregular to pave a high speed road through it.

But OMG, is this one ever fun, though!

You have the hug the guardrail on these left-handers, because you never know what's going to appear around the corner!

Our moto-reverie is put on pause whenever we encounter a large truck in front of us. The road is too twisty to pass the trucks safely, since the mountain-face obscures oncoming traffic, so we have to wait quite a while for the ribbon of tarmac to straighten out a little bit. Because there's not a lot of straightaways on this beautifully twisty road. Or on the island, in general!

The tiny town of El Risco shows up unexpectedly after one of the curves in the road

We stop here to grab a bebida (a little drink) and talk excitedly about the road we're on. More motorcyclists join us at the diner. Apparently this road is quite popular with the two-wheeled crowd. And for good reason!

Okay, back on the road!

We leave El Risco in our rear-view mirrors and get back to the business of throwing our bikes this way and that on GC-200.

There are *A LOT* of trucks on this road. And then we find out why. It turns out they *are* paving a highway on the west side. But they're building it THROUGH the mountain, not around the outside of it. Parts of it are already built, and GC-2 picks up again a few kms south of GC-200:

This is when you unnecessarily downshift a couple of gears, just to revel in the sound of your exhaust reverberating through the tunnel

It seems like they've stopped maintaining the old coastal road GC-200 to focus on building the tunnel instead, because parts of it are closed as it routes through the mountain. However, the other side of GC-200 is still open, so we double back northbound on that road which leads to the Mirador del Balcón, a glass platform where you can view the coastline from.

Brief stop at the Mirador del Balcón

Too many tourists here. We're here to ride, so we continue on to see where GC-200 ends. The road gets more patchy until:

This is where we have to turn around. I do hope they continue to maintain this road. But great views from here, regardless!!!

And also, no tourists, which we like better. We share this "mirador" with nobody, and just walk around and take in the views of the ocean below us, alone and at our own leisure.

I love this relaxed, unhurried pace we're setting around the island!

We're back on the GC-2/GC-200 southbound towards the beach-side town of La Aldea. From there, we take a roundabout to the next road I've scoped out beforehand: the GC-210. This super-twisty road is only 34 kms long, but it climbs rapidly and steadily over that distance until you're over 1,270m above sea level! Lots and lots of switchbacks!

GC-210 passes by two dams on it's way up to the summit of the island. We didn't stop for either, because we were too busy having fun on the road.

Riding above the green waters of the dam formed by Presa de Parralillo (Parralillo Dam)
On its way up to the sky, the road folds back on itself so many times we feel like we're going to be dizzy. The temperature is perfect as well, around 25°C - not too hot, not too cold and definitely not too wet (like where we just came from)!

This is absolutely pure-twisty-yummy-motorcycle paradise!

Although I've only spent a few hours with the Africa Twin, my bike is tuning into the rhythm of the road. I'm getting a sense of the optimum gear for each corner and gradient as it comes up, so I can throttle out of the turn with a huge grin on my face. It's the same pattern: downshift to 1st gear around the tight up-hill switchback, then quickly up to 2nd to blast out of the corner, then catch 3rd to make a dash to the next turn, and then bang down the gears again to pull our bikes around the next 180-200° curve.

Rinse and repeat. Over and over and over and over again.

SO. MUCH. FUN!!!!!

Halfway up, we pass a mirador (lookout) where we can pull over to see where we came from. Lots of other motorcycles (mostly sportbikes) have done the same. I get the feeling this is a very popular road for bikers.

Mirador del Molino

From here we can see one of the dams we just passed on the way up, as well as the reservoir of green water that it's pent up. The locals call this the Green Lake.

After a bit of landscape-gawking, we clamber back on the bikes and resume our journey through the mountains. Everything is just so picturesque here! I'm finding it next-to-impossible to keep my eyes on the road ahead and not have my gaze pulled away to the vistas of the valley just off my right handlebar. And then the guardrail disappears and that's when it becomes so much more important to pay attention to the thin, twisty ribbon of tarmac beneath our wheels and not at the eye-candy unfolding around us.

GC-210 ends at the very pretty town of Tejeda. Our internal clocks are still a bit jet-lagged, but it feels like it's time for a meal.


All of these white walled, clay-roofed buildings brought us back to when us when we rode through the White Villages of Andalucia. Of course. We're still in Spain after all...

We ride through the cobblestone streets of Tejeda, keeping our eyes peeled for a place to eat

Found a place for lunch: Casa del Caminero Restaurant

Since we were in the interior of the island, we decided to put the seafood diet on pause. We settled on the conejo (rabbit) with a side of papas fritas. And now we're on the See-Food Diet: See-Food, Eat-Food...

Church and State: Ayuntamiento is the "town hall"

After lunch, we took a short stroll around town. After properly digesting the bunnies in our bellies, we hopped back on the bikes and scampered over to the next town called Teror, just a few kms north of Tejeda.

Although all the distances on the island are short (it's only 38kms wide), our odometers have already registered 150 kms for the day, despite riding only half-way around the island. It's amazing how the kms add up when you're zig-zagging your way up and down the mountain!

Holy Teror

The town of Teror is considered to be a holy place, ever since 1481, when shepherds saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a pine tree up in the mountains of Gran Canaria. The "Lady of the Pine" is now the patron saint of Gran Canaria, and the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pino was constructed in 1760. Annual pilgrimages are made from Las Palmas all the way up to Teror every Sept 8th to observe the sighting of the Lady of the Pine.

Gargoyles stand guard over the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pino

Boasting a lot more colour than Tejeda, the town of Teror is much larger but less manicured. The entire centro historico (old town) is under monument protection, so very little has been touched or changed since the 15th century. The villages here are known for their ornately-carved Canarian wooden balconies.

It was getting late in the afternoon, and although there was still plenty of daylight left, our energy levels were starting to flag and we still had to make our way down the mountain, back to the big city.

Oh no! We have to ride yet another twisty road? Life is so very hard...! :)

What an amazing day! We had high expectations for our motorcycling experience in Gran Canaria and our first day of riding did not disappoint at all!

We arrive back to our apartment feeling utterly exhausted, yet totally exhilarated! We make plans to cap off our initial foray out in the island with another nice seafood dinner and some very adult beverages by the beach. But somewhere between the front door and the bedroom, the adrenaline of the day wore off and the jet lag that we thought we had dodged hit us like a bus and we fell fast, fast asleep with dreams of our bikes dancing atop smooth asphalt and twisty roads beneath the glorious sunshine.

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