found a good restaurant under the arcades where we shared a roast suckling pig. I was hoping heâd forget our evening plans, and in fact after the third course he began reminiscing about our old friendship in the United States and what each of us had been doing since college days when we had lost track of one another. He thought my expedition a mad lark and began grilling me on its purpose.
âYou mean to say youâve got some idea youâre going to find the essence of the sun on this trip?â he asked.
âItâs just a pilgrimage. You know all about pilgrimage here in Spain, Santiago de Compostela, the romerÃas , the gypsy pilgrimage to Roccio and all that.â
âYes, but whereâs your center? Pilgrims are always going to some actual place.â
âWell, Iâll find it. Itâs somewhere north of here, at the end of the rainbow.â
âBy God, Iâd like to do that. Throw it all over, hit the road, as they say, ride all day, quench oneâs thirst by night, free at last.â
I was dreading what was to come next.
âIâve got an idea,â he said, pensively. âWhat if I were to come with you?â
âYouâd hate it,â I said. âUp every morning, ride roads with dangerous trucks, sleep in cold meadows.â
âNo. Rain. Days of rain. Broken equipment. Flat tires. Look at me, Iâve lost weight. Iâm gaunt with hunger.â
âWell, maybe just a jaunt. A week or two. Iâve a bike somewhere.â
I nodded. I couldnât say no to my old friend, but I figured heâd forget by the next day.
He went off to work in the morning, and I began scouring the city for a derailleur, which by late afternoon I had found and installed. I went back to the apartment and had coffee with Griggsâs wife, Desdemona. She was a pleasant woman with a wide circle of women friends, who seemed much amused by her American husband. At home in their third-floor apartment, she and Griggs played very well the role of the quiet bourgeois couple, setting out a fine table and offering me sherries in cut glass. But I could tell it was only another act in the theater of Mr. Timothy Griggs and for all I knew, the life of Desdemona as wellâshe had darting black eyes and a worldly air. He brought up the idea of joining me again at dinner and Desdemona seemed to like the idea very much, possibly to be rid of him for a few weeks.
âIâll join you at Burgos,â Griggs said. âWeâll ride out to Santiago in the pilgrim style. Fix our hats with cockle shells like true mendicants and ride through winds and rain,â he announced.
âIt will indeed be rainy, probably windy too, but really, Iâm not going that way.â I said. âItâs too far west. I want to get up into France by April.â
âWell then weâll meet at Hendaya, go up to Biarritz along the coast and stroll the promenades in the old style. I shall wear white flannels.â
âNot what I had in mind, Griggs, I was going to follow the old Santiago pilgrim route north.â
âThereâs a great beach there, though. Sun. Itâs one of the old-fashioned sun spots of decadent Europe.â
âI know, but I want to keep moving. I want to get to Scotland by June.â
âScotland?â he shouted. âWhy in Godâs name would one want to go to Scotland? But never mind. I shall meet you in France, in Bordeaux. Weâll ride up through the MÃ©doc and drink at the vineyards.â
There was no dissuading him, so I arranged to call him in a week to see if he still wanted to come, and promised to meet him in Hendaya and ride up along the coast for a bit.
Early the next morning, a gray day with lowering clouds in the north, I set out once more, dodging trucks and buses to get to the narrow road heading toward the old university city of Salamanca. I was thinking of Gil Blas, the picaresque