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Jul. 4, 2009
Passport to Spain—Getting to Girona
Bags and bags...cases and cases...After negotiating with airport officials to get 10 bags and equipment cases on the airplane (between 2 people), and after almost missing our flight for undisclos’able reasons, we boarded our 747-700 ‘puddle jumper’ - bound for the great nation of ‘Europe.’ Eventually, after struggling with ‘what to do with my feet’ for a cool 11 hours (I had a seat support smack dab in front of me, requiring one foot to be squeezed in on either side of the divide), our SFO born flight ultimately touched down in Frankfurt, Germany. So far so smooth. Well, except the bags, almost missing the flight, the feet, the no sleep thing, and the curious aroma wafting over from what I (using basic triangulation) calculated to be seat 36-D.

During our layover we stumbled upon an airport kiosk willing to sell us two EU power converters and an SD media card for the low-low price of 120-Euro (that’s a deal—right?). After that we passed the time by pretending to read German newspapers (because they were free), breaking to shoot a little B-Roll here and there. It’s hard to shoot in an airport without coming off sketchy, so we kept it to a minimum. Eventually, Eric and I made our way to flight 2 of 2; a 2-hour jaunt to Barcelona. On this flight, however, the seat gods were with us and we landed emergency row seats with 4-feet of leg room! I almost shed a tear as I watched my left and right foot rekindle their partition free love affair.

Eric shooting the road to Girona. Rental car secured, we made our way to the parking lot, loaded our super trick 4-door, 5-speed hatchback, and Eric immediately began to assemble ‘Red;’ the legendary cam that was. Wanting to document all legs of the journey, Eric figured out how to fit the behemoth cam in the front seat ON a tripod. A feat in itself.

Exiting the airport we were doing about ¼ the speed of other cars zooming by, because heavy and expensive cams don’t like speed bumps. Once out of the airport we quickly accelerated to a whopping HALF the speed of everyone else, because we wanted to make sure that everything he was shooting—from signage to countryside—came out crystal clear. Anything for the shot…just short of actually getting shot for driving like an idiot, that is.

Alas, we were officially on the road to Girona, our ultimate destination (about an hour north of Barcelona—IF you get off at the right exit the first time and don’t have to double back through 3 toll booths).

Shooting from the front seat, we definitely got some looks, some smiles, even a couple thumbs up. Most notable were the looks we got from two men in a police car, just as they exited the highway. ‘Should we be worried?’ crossed the mind, but we kept on trucking, shooting, and commenting on how amazing the countryside was. This banter lasted all of 8 minutes before an unmarked police car pulled up beside us, then in front of us, then activated the digital ‘POLICE → Pull Over’ sign in its back window. Talk about stealth! We didn’t know whether to be frightened (for being pulled over in a foreign country for yet unknown reasons) or impressed with ourselves (being that it only took us 20 minutes on the road to get pulled over).

After following the police car for 2 miles—queuing off arm signals they were thrusting out their front window—we arrived at a highway-side police station, at which no less than 7 arms-crossed police officers waited for us to arrive and stop.

‘Uh oh,’ seemed to be our shared sentiment. Being that we had pretty nice accommodations waiting for us in Girona, it seemed a shame to think we might spend our first night in a Spanish police station. Though I’m sure the décor is lovely.

Through smiles, broken English, attempted Spanish (which didn’t work for the most part, being that Catalan rules the region), and the complete inability to negotiate in French, we soon came to understand that it was the camera causing all the commotion. Pointing to the camera, one of the police officers said simply, ‘Es Prohibido.’ Ahh—got it. Essentially all we had to do was remove the cam from the front seat, disassemble it (a 10-minute process), show them it was in the trunk and no longer a threat, and we would be allowed on our way.

Equipment up the steps, equipment down the steps...Beyond the smiles, the unabashed tucking of our tails, and other generalized gesticulating to suggest we weren't threatening people, I think it might have been the words ‘Tour de France’ that sealed our fait of freedom. We explained that the camera was part of a shoot we were doing with one of the teams from the Tour de France—‘Team Garmin-Slipstream.’ That got a big, ‘AHH! Tour de France!’ (though they said it with much more style than we did). At that, we were sent on our way. I of course thought to offer them a few Clif Bar products, but was reminded that we were in a winning situation and would probably do best to just get back on the road.


Police action survived, we assumed our greatest adventure for the day was behind us. Anything but.

Finally arriving in Girona, we were both taken by its amazing streets and architecture; one single seemingly continuous mass of flowing stone walls and corridors running along razor thin 11th century streets. Round-abouts, predominantly one-way streets, cars zooming in and out…and there we were…trying to read a map, communicate with team officials by phone, and somehow end up on ‘the back side of Girona Cathedral’, as that was where our hotel awaited.

‘Shouldn’t be too hard…I mean, look…there’s the cathedral right there…we’ll just use a little dead reckoning and we’ll be there in 10 minutes.’

Thirty minutes later, we were still playing phone tag with our party to-be, and trying to negotiate the very confusing, ULTRA skinny one-way streets. In the US, they would be considered walkways only…but not in Girona. If you can squeeze your car through the stones, it’s legal. We pulled some pretty amazing maneuvers (my favorite, a 100 degree turn into a 100 foot corridor wherein we cleared on each side by literally 1 inch). Ultimately, we made it. WOO!

swanner_griona3There, ‘behind the cathedral,’ we met up with Marya (Public Relations Director for Team Garmin-Slipstream) and the infamous Allen Lim (Team Physiologist, Psychologist, Nutritionist, Motor-pacer, and all around good-guy). Long story short, our initial meeting with the amazing Marya and Allen were just the tip of the iceberg regarding how down to earth and ultra cool all involved with Garmin-Slipstream proved to be.

It was a great start, we were in a beautiful city (just before dark), and our rental car had no scratches on it that were put there by us.

Welcome to Girona.

After settling in, continuing to deny our ongoing jetlagged’ness and an 11pm dinner, we eventually headed back to the hotel around 1am. First interview of the morning: Dave Zabriskie—7:00am (per Dave’s request).

Here we go…

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more stories from Swanner's time with Team Garmin-Slipstream, including features from interviews with the guys; videos and photos included. Wanna see more photos from this leg of the trip? Check out flickr.
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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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