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J76 - Thursday, December 31: Madrid (Quartier de Carabanchel) – Olmeda de las Fuentes

64.93km  9H05’
Altitude 759m
And you, what are you doing on New Year’s Eve?
We are in Almeda de la Fuentes, in the Communidad de Madrid in Spain, it’s 8:49 PM and we have finished our dinner.  Joël and René are sleeping in the tent, Serge is already in bed in his bunk, and Philippe as usual has gone to his quarters in the back of his car.
This evening the Champagne flowed… and for some, at midnight there is a short « midnight race, » followed by a small treat: 12 grapes.  It’s the tradition in Spain and tonight at midnight on the Plaza Mayor, the people of Madrid will eat a grape on each strike of the clock while they wish each other Happy New Year.  We will try this some other time for according to David it takes a certain talent not to choke.  See you tomorrow….
To go back to the day before yesterday, i.e., December 30 of the year 2009,  I forgot to talk about Miguel, a 23 year old Spanish  walker who plans to take on challenges like Serge’s in a few years.  The two of them were able to do all the talking they wanted in English and I have to say that Serge was happy to have this visit on the road and even more so that it came from by a young person with such dreams.
Another meeting is with David Millet and Gilles, about whom I spoke yesterday.  At 5:50 both of them are here to take René and Joël on the reconnaissance for the exit from Madrid.
At 8:00 they are back and we have breakfast together.  It’s a fast one for Joël, who is hyper-stressed and even for René who is also stressed.  Philippe is in a state of nerves too because the pictures of Madrid are of utmost importance, as they were in Lisbon and will be in Rome in a few weeks time, and on and on.
Serge gets a late start because I say « Halt to stress » and let’s take our time for once, without keeping an eye on the clock, whose tick tock sets the rhythm of our days.  David and Gilles accompany Serge for 36 km, putting off their departure from hour to hour.  They leave us at Villela and I have to say that it’s strange to let them return to Madrid.  Serge is right, the ephemeral or the briefness of encounters give them an intensity which leaves an imperishable memory.  Already, we know this encounter with David and Gilles is one of those.  We thank both of them, as well as their wives, because on this New Year’s Eve, which is a holiday for families, it’s not easy to just “take off “for leisure and pleasure!!!!
Shortly before Villela, Federico joins the troop.  He lives in Loeches, some 40 km from Madrid and just by chance this “pueblo” is on our route.  Federico speaks perfect French; his wife and children are with him and surprise us at the finish with a bottle of Champagne to celebrate the year end.
Our 3 friends are like kids, all happy to have shared time on the race with our team. Serge, who is an eternal child is thrilled because on this race around Europe, unlike other races, he has learned to share his route and takes great pleasure in this.
Today there are no cents in the pig… it was a short stage of less than 70 km.  
Even though it rained, even though there was wind, even though the route was dangerous at times, even though the traffic was hellish and noisy at the roadside, it was a wonderful day and the last of the year 2009.  The whole team enjoyed crossing Madrid, without stress but with wet feet, naturally.  The village of Olmea, typical of Andalusia, with a line of white houses on the side of the mountain, couldn’t have been a better place for celebrating New Year’s Eve.  The morale of the troops is high after a day without “problems”
Happy New Year to all and Happy Birthday to my mother, Annie.

Town : Olmeda de las Fuentes (Communauté de Madrid)

GPS : N40.36777° W003.22122°