Disappointed in Alhambra but Energized by Olives

Saturday 2/18/17

I hate to be doom and gloom while I’m on vacation. But driving from Madrid to Malaga, which was our major activity for today, I was struck by the strange feel below the tires. It was the road without potholes.

More than that, I was struck by the abundance of wind turbines and solar collectors. No, they don’t match the beauty of the mountains in the distance, but neither do oil spills in rivers, my point of comparison.

Back home, we have the nuts in power who are more concerned about pretending that “cutting taxes” is an inherent social good rather than just another bonus for rich people, that it gives society more benefit than improving the infrastructure. They deny the science behind global warming to keep the oil and coal companies artificially afloat. Meanwhile, the rest of the world outpaces us with job-producing innovations in alternative energy.

I was reminded of a newspaper called Continuum that was published by a group of AIDS activists, back when AIDS was killing off the gay community, The editors, paranoid from living in a gay-unfriendly society, claimed that AIDS was a conspiracy unrelated to HIV. The paper folded when the editors all died of AIDS-related conditions.

No joke here. No humorous anecdote. Just the realization that the future never belongs to the ignorant neighborhood bully or the paranoid skeptic.

As long as I’m on a negative, I might as well give you our new definition of disappointment. One of our planned destinations for the week was Alhambra to see the palace. When we realized we would be passing it on our way from Madrid to Malaga, we decided, why not make the trip there today and avoid an unnecessary trip later?

We got there at 4 p.m., time, we figured, to spend an hour and a half inside the palace, see what we could, and still make it to Malaga before total darkness. Alas, tickets were sold out. Who knew they cut off sales after a certain number? The guide standing where the front of the ticket line would have been and turning away tourists said they start selling tickets at 8 a.m. and often sell out by 9. In the summer, tourists start lining up by 3 a.m.  I looked at the positive side: At least we didn’t have to go too far out of our way to find out we couldn’t get in. It would have been worse if we had passed it this time, then made the long trip back to find out they had sold out.

But the ride otherwise was stunning. Olive groves as far as the eye could see, growing on flat lands and mountainsides, like casinos in Las Vegas. In the rest stops, they sell olive oil-infused hand cream, lip gloss, shower gel, soap, perfume, night cream, and body lotion. Plus, of course, extra virgin olive oil for cooking and jars of olives in a diverse range of flavors. If I had seen a tube of olive oil-infused toothpaste, I think I would have taken a chance and bought it.

We saw patches of cacti as we approached Bailen. The sun shone the whole way, and the air was brisk and refreshing.

We saw almost no cop cars the entire journey. Think you can speed? We found out otherwise when we sped in Italy and received a ticket in the mail three weeks later, courtesy of their radar-controlled speed-check system. Spain uses the same system so we were cautious. Speed fluctuated between 120 km/h (72 mph) and 100 km at every curve in the road and 120 again as soon as the road straightened. We followed the signs as cars from the locals sped past us on our left.

We pulled into Elviera, just west of Malaga, in the dark and were aided by GPS to find our lodging, at Heritage Resorts Playa Camino Real.