#29 (Barcelona, Spain - Montpellier, France)

We pedal through Catalonia and it is awash in yellow ribbons. Small streamers tied to mailboxes an multi-story tapestries billowing off the side of buildings. Free our political prisoners.  In America citizens call for their politicians to be locked up. Here they hang yellow to bring their parliament home.

Because the parliament is, indeed, in exile. Those that weren't arrested and imprisoned for organizing a peaceful referendum fled to Belgium, and will surely be thrown in jail if they return. This isn't a fringe affair in Catalonia; this is the story. We pass through towns with the faces of the jailed painted on walls. Enormous ¡Si! flags (yes, for independence) hang from balconies. These people don't have a parliament. It's been stolen from them.  We find ourselves in the Occupied State of Catalonia, and it's a very strange place to be.

#28 (Valencia, Spain - Barcelona, Spain)

Instagram isn't good for very much. By and large it's a smarmy mosh pit of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement, and on its best days it's still not a very good use of time. But occasionally a little good can from it.

Yesterday I posted a photo of Lauren and our bikes in Valencia's main park. Someone following me on Instagram sent a message. You guys are in Valencia? I'm just a little ways up the coast. Will you be passing by?

#27 (Arquillos, Spain - Valencia, Spain)

It is snowing. But not the good, pretty kind.

We are soaked to the bone. We are trembling. We cannot feel our fingers.  

Lauren's tire is flat. Her wheel is not turning. Between the problem of the snow and the problem of the numb fingers, we cannot fix it. 

We are on an empty mountain road. It will be dark in a few hours. And then temperatures, already freezing, will plummet. 

We have tried to bail out. We have thrown in the towel. Bus, train, anything. But no one is picking up our towel. It is a holiday. The third in three weeks. We got lucky for the first two. Christmas. New Year's. It seems our luck has run out. It is Three Kings' Day, and we are all alone.  

#26 (Jaén, Spain - Arquillos, Spain)

We leave olive country. We ride through a strange, bald landscape of rolling hills and few trees. We use Google Maps for our route planning today, which is always something of a gamble. It takes us across goat trails and private access roads and train tracks and dead ends. It is unpredictable yet fun.

Ordinarily we wouldn't have time for Google Maps and its unreliable detours. But we don't have very far to go today. Just forty or fifty kilometers to Linares.

#24 (Algeciras, Spain - Campillos, Spain)

Lauren is asking a pair of police officers nearby if they know of any cheap hostels when Pablo approaches me. Our bikes and deer-in-headlights gaze have given away that we are not from here. Pablo asks where we're from. Are we lost?

A little. I tell him our sob story: from America, long bike trip, just arrived, looking for somewhere to camp, having great difficulty. He's friendly but doesn't know of any spots in the city. He hasn't lived here for a while. He's from Algeciras, and his whole family is still here, but he works up in Belgium. He's home for the holidays.

Let me go ask my brother, he says. In the meantime, come join the party. Can I get you some hot cocoa? Pastries? Here, take these.

#23 (Ceuta, Spain - Algeciras, Spain)

We have been in Spain about ten seconds.

And I am being run over. Intentionally. In slow motion.

I am banging on his hood, his windshield, his mirror. Lauren is screaming for him to please stop from across the street. I am shouting, too. I am shouting and flailing my right arm and smacking his car with my left one and also trying to heave my heavy loaded bicycle from between these two vehicles, partially submerged beneath one of them. All the while, he watches me blankly.

#22 (Douar Sidi Mohamed Chelh, Morocco - Ceuta, Spain)

You watch the news and you read the papers and you're led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. People are axe murderers and monsters and worse.

I don't buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we've invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own—it's easier to dismiss an opinion as abhorrent than strive to understand it. Badness exists, sure, but even that's quite rare. By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.