Salamanca – Madrid Tue March 27

The alarm went off and I put the piece of bread in my mouth and imagined that the energy from it made me get packed and showered faster than ever. When I came out it

The alarm went off and I put the piece of bread in my mouth and imagined that the energy from it made me get packed and showered faster than ever. When I came out it was still dark. Found a bakery with 50-cent baguettes. Found a bus stop and studied the map for a while and decided to take some kind of bus but couldn´t find it and walked all the way out of the city. For being a famous city it is very small.

At 9:25 I stood on a highway onramp; it was cloudy and depressing. After 1 hour 285 cars had passed and I started walking down the highway. The road was lined with garbage and after 45 minutes of unpleasant walk I came to another onramp. This one had much less traffic, but it came from an industrial area and I liked that. It is my experience that commercial drivers are overrepresented among those who pick up, not just truck drivers but also people in small cars that for some reason have to drive around all day.

At 11:10 I started exploring the area waving my thumb. One man stopped but he was going back to Salamanca. After 15 minutes car #10 stopped and it was a man who was going to a village further down the road. The highway passed through the village and he let me off at a construction site right after a traffic light. He put on a helmet and went inside to supervise his young Arab workers who were entertaining me as I was waiting by mixing concrete and hoisting it up and down. An economist, I love hitchhiking inside the economy.

It was a perfect hitchhiking spot. It was now half-cloudy and I stood between 11:29 and 11:40. Car #95 was a very old man with working clothes covered by paint. We couldn´t communicate and I repeatedly fell asleep while he took me to a city called Avila. There the highway onramp was no good so I had to stand on a narrow road leading towards it that carried cars in all directions. It was windy and sunny and I stood between 12:47 and 13:30 when a middle-aged male #174 who was talking in his cell phone the whole time picked me up and dropped me off outside a restaurant where I went in to shake my sleep brain with a tiny white cup of pitch-black content.

This sunny village was called Villacastina and there I stood for 5 minutes till car #26 stopped and a young man offered me a ride in the wrong direction and told me that I was standing right before a crossing. I thanked him and walked to the crossing and stood at the appropriate onramp for 5 minutes and 6 cars but found it unsuitable and thought “this looks like the kind of highway that passes through villages rather than outside them” and started walking along it. And I was right, I was soon in a village and stood on a wide space right after a traffic light. Sunny and windy, 12 minutes and 33 cars. A truck that took me to a gas station very close to Madrid.

I stood at the sunny exit of the gas station and waved at 16 cars for 21 minutes. A truck picked me up and said he could take me to a Madrid commuter train station. His name was Jorge and he had driven in Romania. “It´s coming up” he said. I got a bad feeling when he started touching my backpack asking me how much money I brought on my travels and if I was sleeping in hotels. “I sleep outside” I said and started looking for a good place to get out, although I think one has nothing to fear from a truck driver. Driving around with millions worth of goods, they have eyes on them, and with a relatively well-paid job they have too much to lose to care about the humble belongings of a dirty hitchhiker.

Nevertheless, the way in which we seemed to bypass Madrid in direction “Toledo” without finding that commuter train station got me uneasy and when I complained he suggested I get out at a traffic light. There was a bus from there towards the center and I found the metro and took it to “Tribunal” and entered board game café “El Laberinto” at 17:05.

I apologized for being 5 minutes late, but they didn´t mind. We played the Basic version 6 people and some of them kind of liked it. Then we played ” Age of Steam “, an out-of-print legendary railroad game. I borrowed as little money as possible and made a number of smart investments I think. My fellow players were very nice people, but I really wanted to kick their asses hard. During the night more and more people showed up in the café, many whom had come to look at my game. “Let me first win this railroad game” I said and the others laughed at my fanaticism. But they should have cried, it was unbelievably irrational to travel all the way to Spain and then turn down potential customers to instead play a stupid board game.

I didn´t even like the game; it was unnecessarily complicated. Every game has benefits – the fun, and costs – the trouble to learn them and think out a strategy. The more rules to keep in mind, the more “costly” the game is and the less the “profit” from playing it. So for every rule you have you should consider whether it´s really adding to the fun. In Seigo for example, I have cancelled rules about “secondary fire” (that would make cannon fights more realistic), and rules for limiting the number of kanji on the table (to prevent the kanji inflation that occurs when bad players are playing) and I claim that my game has simple rules considering that it is a linguistic Civilization-type strategy game. (However, if you have no interest in Japanese characters then the benefit is not worth the cost. But how people can be not interested in Japanese characters is a big mystery to me.)

This railroad game had many unnecessary rules. For one thing, winning conditions were “who gets the most points” and points were given for a number of things. So it was another spreadsheet game. Performing spreadsheet tasks are no fun; if it would then we wouldn´t have Excel in our computers. I want winning conditions to be clear-cut, such as “kill the others”, “build the spaceship”, “capture the flag” or “get all the hiragana”. If there was a god creating board games, then those would be games like Go.

Another thing I didn´t like with Age of Steam was that if you carried goods an unnecessarily long way then you got more money. No board game is a perfect illustration of reality of course; in fact there is often a trade-off between realism and play-value; make it more realistic and you lose pace. But getting more money for carrying a sack of potatoes from New York to Chicago the long way via Euroasia is the opposite of reality and it annoys me. I felt a strong urge to make my own railroad game. On the game box it would say “The Railroad Game to End all Railroad Games”. In the perfect railroad game, the mechanics behind the need for transport should be “real”. It should not be a bunch of passengers showing up every turn wanting to be transported anywhere like they were some kind of hitchhikers; “I was hoping for Paris, but Berlin could also be fun, (I´ve heard it´s cheaper, friendlier and full of young, creative people)”. And a player should not get paid according to a table full of figures that the most experienced player has learned by heart and therefore wins. The player should be paid by the other players; there should be a market for her transport services.

I finished second. When we were done, everyone else in El Laberinto were already engaged in other games. And when they were done, they had no time for my game. I cursed myself and promised myself to always make the customer king from now on. I did get to play with one guy whose girlfriend was Japanese. But it´s seldom fun playing two people, I have to stop doing that.

I won, he left and I was alone.

I sat surfing for a while. My plan ended here; I had nowhere to go after Madrid. I had thought that I would continue building the plan and make new appointments as I was travelling. But I hadn´t got that much internet time. I should have had a laptop with super-bluetooth so that I could surf and blog from the trucks.

I guess I ought to move up towards Czechia now. But first I have to rest somewhere, I´m exhausted. Somewhere where it´s cheap.

I found a cheap hostel on the internet and the friendly El Laberinto staff drew me a map. When I came out I was totally taken by surprise by the vibrant Madrid night. An ordinary Tuesday in its wee hours should be quiet and dull. But the streets were crowded with people who thought nothing about sleeping. I followed the directions on the map and enjoyed the atmosphere. I was also a little little bit anxious. There were beggars, hawkers, prostitutes, people who wanted to bring you to places, people who were just looking at you, and lots of happy people.

I found the hostel but it was full. He called other hostels for me but they were full. I walked up and down on Calle Gran Via and found a staircase with lots of hotels. In one of them they had a very small room for 25 €. The smallest I have seen, not more than a bed.

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