Monday, January 26, 2015

500 Miles to Bilbao

Saturday, 24 January, 2015:

The long bus ride to our Cobras' first game of the 2015 Liga Nacional de Fúbol Americano Serie B season was to be played on Sunday, 500 miles north of Murcia in the Bilbao suburb of Santurtzi against the Coyotes (0-1).

Our team opted to leave Murcia at midnight on Friday for the ten hour bus ride thus "sleeping" on the way to save a night's hotel costs. We would thus arrive near midday on Saturday, check into our hotel and sightsee/eat our way through Bilbao.

After a good night's sleep, we would kick the season off at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. Following the game, it would be back on the bus for another ten hours back to the sunny south of España.

I liked this plan!

Let it be said here and now that if any of you back in the USA doubt the passion for the game of Cobra players, then this road trip should change your mind.

Think about it, leave by bus at midnight Friday and return at 1:15 a.m. on Monday. Oh and by the way, each player contributed to the cost of the bus and hotel plus providing their own money for all of their food and beverage needs.

This unconditional passion for the game is what I have loved the most about all of my coaching stops in EuroBall!

Friday Night Pre-Travel Meal

I joined Imma Belén and Roberto Dúran at this Murcian beer garden to properly nourish ourselves before boarding the bus.

Loading Up

Our band of 23 players and various supporters left the University of Murcia's parking lot at midnight, right on schedule. It was 7 degrees Celsius in Murcia as we left.

To make the trip both smoother and safer, we had two bus drivers aboard who alternated the driving duties every three hours or so when we made a stop to stretch our legs.

The players opted to watch the movie Rocky on the bus' video system to ensure that we did not get to sleep too early in the morning.

The first Stop at 2:30 a.m. was
at the Hostal Onaya in Honrubia

This truck stop was much needed after our evening in the beer garden to be sure!

The Hostal Onaya is located on the old Carretera Nacional Madrid-Valencia that has since been bypassed by the new Autovia. Still, professional truck and bus drivers know about this great dining place and are more than happy to sidetrack a few minutes for great food. 

The Honrubia area
is famous for these Miguelitos

But what are they?


Basically, these Miguelitos were simply a dozen slices of cream filled Heaven!

At 3:00 a.m., we were back on the road with a fresh driver.

At 6:30 a.m. we attempted another potty break but the designated spot in Tudanca (-4 degrees Celsius) was not open for business yet.

I found a bush and we were back on the road at 6:40 a.m.

8:00 a.m., DESAYUNO!

We were first introduced to the Autogrill chain when coaching in Catania, Sicily.

Always good food when on the road in Europe, just like today's breakfast.

A little chilly outside the Autogrill

How chilly?

-5 degrees Celsius chilly!

At 8:45 a.m., we were back aboard the bus for the final leg of the trip.

Next stop . . .

The Palacio Oriol Hotel

We arrived at 10:05 a.m. at our beautiful hotel that overlooked both the bay in Santurtzi and our game field.

Through our Junior team Offensive Coordinator Rafa Manzano's connections, we got a great price on this excellent hotel. It used to be the home of a very wealthy family back in the early 1900s.

Nice window guarding dragon

Sunday's Game Field as seen from
our hotel's balcony

It had rained all week in the Bilbao area which is the norm and the field showed it.

Artsy lobby sculptures

Weird looking at first . . .

Until you shine a light on top
of one to cast a shadow

Cobras Checking In

We were there too early for all of our rooms to be ready so we piled our bags into the three or four rooms that were and then stretched our legs in whatever fashion suited us.

The Game Field was a tad wet

They were lining the field for a Coyotes Junior game on Saturday and it was fun to see the boys using the liner just continue to drop chalk in the mini-lake in the middle of the goal line on the far right.

At 11:00 a.m. on Saturday
the field would host a Junior game

Just what this field needed.

Nice home team banner

Santurtzi Coyotes Juniors in white

They would go on to defeat the Cantabria Bisons 12-5.

I watched a few minutes of the game as they tore up the turf before opting to join some of the Cobras in walking along the malecon behind the stadium.

Mystery Man with a Cool Hat

Maritime Sculpture

Ah yes, the Basque language

We are in the heartland of Spain's extremely proud Basque country and culture including their interesting language known as Euskara.

Euskara is unlike almost any other language with its pre-Indo-European roots.

If you play Words With Friends in these parts, the letter J, K and X are only worth one point.

Seafood needing to be harvested

Bilbao is famous for the way it prepares its seafood!

Basque Crew Shell?

Ferry Bridge

What does that mean? On the right do you see a bus that looks like it is in mid-air?

It IS in mid-air!

Rather than building a normal height bridge that might obstruct boat traffic, Santurtzi opted for this suspended ferry that can handle one bus or five cars at a time.

Boats can easily work their way around the ferry while it is hauled across the bridge's span.

Interesting . . .

Pleasure Boats

Harbor Light

Tanke and Maria

A cute couple week after week.

Big Fishing Boat!

A museum dedicated to
professional fishing boats

Paul Petrich has to see this museum!!!


Many of us jumped onto the Metro for the ride into Bilbao's Casco Viejo or Old Town district.

Bilbao is on the Camino de Santiago's
Northern Route

This is not the route that I walked in 201o, I ambled along what is known as the French Route.

Cobras in Casco Viejo

Tapas time at the Askao berri!


Catalina, on the left, is one of our team photographers and the mother of our linebacker known simply as Casta. Alejandra is the novia of our QB Angel Clemente.

Bilbao knows tapas.


First it was the Chinos running Mom & Pop stores, then they took over the inexpensive mini-department stores and now, it looks like, FULL SCALE INVASION!!!

The Basque Flag on the right

Nice Fountain

No 0pen-air market today

In Bilbao, the new and the old
meet quite often

Reflections on the Ría de Bilbao 

Modern Bridge

The same architect, Santiago Calatrava, built a similar one in Murcia.

An old façade

Basque for "White Bridge"

White it is!

Crossing the Zubizuri led us to Bilbao's most famous sight . . .

The Frank Gehry designed
Guggenheim Museum

Guard Spider

The Guggenheim's long stairway

The Puppy

This flower covered puppy guards the Guggenheim Museum's entrance.

Angles to the entrance . . .

LOTS of angles

I decided not to go inside to see the modern art.

Instead, I would like to return to Bilbao with Laurie later this Spring to see it with her.

Café con Leche time

TE/DE Brady opted for the gelato

Two views of . . .

. . . an old building

Lots of interesting things in this park


Sit down exercise for us
old folk

Winged Fountain

Two Adoring Faces



San Mamés Stadium

Home of the Athletic Club Bilbao
Fútbol Team

Bilbao's Star Players

Nearby Bilbao Fútbol Souvenir Shop

Good name for a bar a block from
the stadium

Bilbao is a great city with lots to offer but we were all starting to look like zombies and as a group decided to return to the hotel to rest up before a team meal in Santurtzi.

Oh great, now their playing a soccer
game on Sunday's game field

Another one followed this one in the early evening.

And I thought Vichy water
was French only

I like Picadors and their horses

St. George, done for the day too

Sad Tree

It took a bit of walking but we finally found a place that had a table for 25 people.

The service was slow as the kitchen was not ready for a group our size but the food was worth the wait, especially the croquetas.

An Omen for Sunday?

We'll see.


Olivier R said...

Cool to know you plan to come back to basque country later this spring!! we 'll have i hope more time this time!!

George said...

Sounds good to me Olivier!

David said...

Minus-5 Celcius, or as we call it in Wisconsin, spring.