Monday, February 27, 2012

Ocaña: a Race to the Cheese

Not really a race at all, but a very pleasant ride to Ocaña last Saturday morning. It was also my first time organizing a group ride (even though the word "group" has more letters in it than riders on the trip).
Since one of the riders who ended up not being able to go has a 125cc scooter I decided to take the old route I used to take on my 125cc and avoid highways all the way.
At JoseAngel's suggestion (who also couldn't make it but wanted to see us off anyway) we met in front of his apartment, a convenient location to get out of town.
Once the four of us (plus JA) were there, Oscar wondered who would be the alpha male and lead the group, so being the route maker, I took the lead even though my Royal Enfield Bullet has only 28 hp. Having Oscar behind on his BMW 1150 and Chulo on his amazingly orange Kawasaki was rather amusing. Luckily Luigi's Suzuki Marauder 250cc was in the same league as mine and Oscar and Chulo are patient and thoughtful companions on the road.
We actually made rather good time getting to our first stop: Aranjuez, where we had a cup of coffee outside. Across the street from the café I spotted a restored Vespa with a sidecar, beautifully kept up. The plates were from Seville and showed it to be at least 12 years old if not more. Love the color combination and the egg shaped sidecar. I'm trying to imagine the drive up from Seville on that.
We then went on to Ocaña, and after a ride in circles for a bit got our way to the Plaza Mayor. I parked the Balita Roja among the rest and soon had an admirer of classic bikes asking about it, its origins, compliments galore.
The Plaza Mayor of Ocaña is one of the 3 or 4 main plazas in Spain. In fairly sensible style but large enough for, o, say the Spanish Inquisition to host a little soiree. There were some tables out in the sun and we sat down for the traditional red vermouth on ice, twist of lemon. The waiter then brought out a large plate of sandwiches as the tapa, which didn't last long, suddenly followed by another plate, this time of slices of bright yellow Spanish tortilla de patata, surely made with local fresh eggs, on slices of nice baguette style bread. No picture of them since they flew off the plate before I could fish out my iPhone and say "cheese".
Speaking of cheese, I then called a cheese factory in town I had read about online and an old man answered and said we were welcome to come and buy some cheese. As it was getting late (almost 2:00 pm) and Oscar and Luigi had to get started back by the motorway; but Chulo wanted to get some cheese with me. We found the factory for "QUESOS ROMERO" on the edge of town. Chulo thought it was too late and already closed. But I rang the bell and after a bit an old man cam to the door, led us through a gorgeous Toledo-style courtyard and into a small cheese shop at the far side. He flipped on the lights, donned his apron and got us a huge wheel of sheep's milk cheese (a very sharp pungent cheese but not too hard, conserved in olive oil). We split it 50-50 and the old man managed to cut it exactly into two down to the cent.

Back outside Chulo and I bid farewell and I took off for the barbecue in Morata. This was the stretch of off-the-beaten-track roads I had never been on before and was looking forward to. From Ocaña to Noblejas, a fairly straightforward run, but there I couldn't find the way across the Tajo River to La Aldehuela, so I kept going to the next town, which did have a turnoff and bridge across and back into the Comunidad de Madrid.
Not a car in sight. A smoothly undulating ribbon of road curving through the Spanish countryside, vistas of olive trees and dry riverbeds and clusters of Mediterranean pines. The sun was high, the day bright and dry and warm, my Bullet humming and purring through this type of land as if it had been designed for it from the start.
It had been a long time since my last ride alone, and I recalled Angel from Andalus Choppers in Seville saying that there are rides where it's even better solo than accompanied. Sometimes this is true, and that was one of those times (although I really want others to see the route too).
The route took me to the old medieval Colmenar de Oreja, its massive stone church and red-tiled rooftops visible from amidst the olive fields, and out towards Chinchón. I took the turnoff for to Belmonte de Tajo and then toward Valdelaguna to avoid the traffic that inevitable comes up on the road between Chinchón and Morata. The Valdelaguna road is used only by locals, it is narrow and twists its way along, the pavement irregular and potholes abundant, but still the Royal Enfield seemed to recognize it, perhaps as being like an Indian road.

At the barbecue I arrived just in time for cheese (to which I added my recent acquisition from Ocaña), chorizos on the bbq, and a variety of ecological wines, a light little one from France brought by Richard and Paulien from Holland, a bottle of Fabio's red from his Vinos Ambiz, and a bottle of his orange wine, which is a real curiosity and fairly tasty to boot.
The bbq progressed with secret ibérico, slices of well marbled pork from a type of Iberian pigs, basmati rice, and a gorgeous salad.
The meal was wonderful, the company entertaining, the wine interesting. Coffee served with further conversation and the kids playing together in the courtyard.
So I 'd rate my first attempt at organizing a motorcycle ride a 10 for me, maybe a 6 for the others, who missed the best parts: the cheese factory, the roads through the olive fields, the barbecue.

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