International travel and the scatological misfortunes and discoveries that come with it

Last week, I found myself in Girona, Spain, home of countless professional cyclists, and one guy who owes me upwards of five dollars. Sadly, during my time there I encountered neither professional cyclists, nor my five dollars. Instead I encountered brutally cold temperatures, and snow, which was so exciting to locals that at one point, the proprietor of the communist café where I was dinning left in the middle of serving me to go take pictures of the show that nature was putting on (which was little more than a few scattered flurries). So despite the fact that I saw nothing of interest in terms of cycling while in Girona, I should tell you that during the time I spent elsewhere in Spain, I did come upon information that is of great value to me, though I willingly admit that I don’t know what to do with it. 

Namely this: My body has set routines, and set schedules that it abides by very closely. Travelling across multiple time zones will upset these schedules, which in turn results in me not knowing when on earth I’ll get the sudden and frantic urge to visit a toilet to make the hardiest of deposits.

Like George Costanza, I find the “soothing pastoral images very conducive" to bathroom activities

Like Playing Russian Roulette
Normally, this issue of my bathroom schedule being out of whack is not too much of an issue when I travel. But for this trip, I decided to bring my bike along, and often found myself riding out at sunrise for several hours. Before heading out, I would sit on the toilet, begging the scatological gods to bring some relief my way, knowing that opportunities to do so while on the road would be few and far between. But no relief came my way, which left me as heartbroken as when I check the mailbox, only to realize it’s empty (and there will be no mail delivered that day) since it’s a holiday I’ve never heard of.

Try as I might, nothing came out, on account of the fact that my bodily functions were still clinging to Eastern Standard Time. This left me no choice but to head out on my bike, essentially playing a game of scatological Russian roulette. How many bullets were in there? Was there one in the chamber? When would they decide to come out? I had no idea, but I would soon find out as I rode high atop the mountains of Catalonia.

And as it turned out, there were countless bullets in there, including at least one in the chamber, which prompted a few unscheduled and very involved bathroom stops all over the Spanish countryside, something I’ve never succumbed to before.

Luckily, the scenery during my rides was well worth it (at least before I defiled it). Which in turn reminded me of just how pedestrian, but downright appropriate the things I see while riding my bike back home can be. For example, consider the homemade portable toilet below, which I saw only two weeks ago not too far from my house.

Notice the space below the seat, which is exactly sized to take a bucket that the user hauls away after use. Very inventive.

To those who still maintain that talented craftsmen only exist in other parts of the world, I ask them to look closely at the beautiful construction and attention to detail that went into building this fine portable latrine. That’s American ingenuity and craftsmanship at work my friends, and I can attest that during my emergency stops in Spain, I saw no such facilities, nor craftsmanship.

Be that as it may, my trip to Spain still provided me with several beautiful and awe-inspiring sights. Consider the image below, which I took during the first day of my trip. In my experience, when you travel to another country, there is always a moment when you tell yourself, "ahh, yes...I'm not home anymore". For me, during this trip, this man's posterior served as that reminder.

Yet another interesting sight, which I took in for miles upon miles during two of my rides was that of, uhmm, ladies of the night who were out during the early morning, sitting on plastic chairs on the side of the road, trying to lure customers in by opening up their overcoats as cars, trucks (and yes) bikes went by. While motorized vehicles went by quickly, limiting their sales pitch, a cyclist will go by rather slowly, particularly if said lady of the night has chosen to sit on an uphill portion of the road. This leads to somewhat protracted exchanges, compared to those they had with truckers going by at full speed.

I tried to take a picture from afar for posterity, only to have that lady of the night (rightfully) chuck a rock at me with speed and accuracy that would even make Orel Hershiser blush. But just so I'd have some proof of this, I did take a picture from really far away later on during the ride. See below.

Putting the "log" in "scatological"
Lastly, to round out the scatological theme of this post, I wanted to alert you all to the fact that at this time of year, families throughout Catalonia will go into the woods, not to make a log (as I did), but to find a log. They then bring it home, cover it with a blanket, and “feed it” fruits, nuts and other assorted goodies. Why you ask? Because this log, which they lovingly call Caga Tio (S*itting Log), will then produce countless sweets for the children in the home, once they beat it with sticks, and sing a song asking it to produce candies, and not sardines. Do you think I’m making this up? Watch the video below to hear the song for further proof, or read this thorough explanation of this tradition.

If you want to take this Catalan tradition on in your home, be my guest. But whatever you do, don’t make your Caga Tio travel across several time zones after you feed it, because if he’s anything like me, there’s no telling when you’ll find candies under his blanket.