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Monday, May 15, 2023

Travels 2023

 Day Six: Rained most of the night, getting the chill factor well below what my sleeping bag is rated. Woke up this morning to blustery winds and 40 degrees. No breakfast at the campground this morning. Currently at the King's Head yet again. Really nice day yesterday weather-wise. Reached all the way up to 69. A regular heat wave here. Was able to make breakfast at the campsite. First time since arriving. Had lunch in the park with a nice salad from Poundland. There is a small lake in the park, and the kids were having a grand time splashing around in it. My legs are protesting riding the bike to and fro the campground. I don't think they would be very happy about getting a fully loaded bike, about 80 pounds, not including me, up hills at abound here. Reminding me of the first year I can here and purchased my first bike in 2006. Almost packed in after a short, hilly ride. Funny how the brain tells you it's possible to do things without a problem done 30 or more years ago. Have to get over to the library and put my grades in. Still contemplating whether to do a long ride or not. Later!

  Day Nine: Weather has improved a bit; however, the nights are brutal. In my planning, I only carried with me a lightweight sleeping bag which is just about cutting it. By morning no body heat left. A friend here is going to lend me a heavier one for a bit. Hard to believe only ten more days here in Salisbury than off to Copenhagen. Had several rides in my head, but none were done. Mostly because I have had to get my grades in and need to get my online class ready by June 5th. So have spent a good deal of time at the King's Head or the Library where I am today again. Meeting my friends Paul and Sue for lunch, which I'm looking forward to. Sun is finally out kind of, as from time to time, it is a bit overcast, like this morning. The wind has been doing some heavy and light blowing. Was able to cook a couple of breakfasts at the campground and one dinner so far. Spent a good bit of yesterday afternoon hunting up a jacket potato. Could always get one at the King's Head, but they had an electrical problem and were closed down. Really became aware of how much I depend on the inexpensive food there. When into several other pubs and restaurants but passed them by due to the prices and lack of variety. Finally found a jacket potato at Reeves the Baker, which hit the spot. Oh, and today the public computers at the library are not working.
So have some decisions to make about what to do after Copenhagen. I'm sending all my camping stuff back to the U.S. with my daughter, so after that, it will be hostels and hiking only. Think I've got it figured out will have to look at bookings now. Just might work. Later 

Day Twelve: This morning was "house" cleaning and wash time. My bike lives here in England at Hayball Cyclesport, run by Graham Hayball, who has been taking care of my bike for Close to 10 years now. If you are in Salisbury and find yourself in need of a bike, any kind of bike, this is the place to go. I usually leave a set of panniers on the bike, and it is always a surprise to see what I left behind. This year I found two trousers which I had totally forgotten. So now I have five trousers to deal with. In addition, I have already dropped off a pair of trousers at a second-hand store. I really don't need five pairs of trousers! They add too much weight and take up to much room. Whatever shall I do with two extra pairs of trousers? All of the are less than a year old. Decisions, decisions!
The weather has gotten a bit warmer, not much rain in the past week. I've been able to cook both breakfast and lunch at the campground. There is a Carnival/Circus on the field at this point which appears to be the same one as last year. Not a very big affair with a big top and about five rides. No animals under the big top, just human performers doing normal Circus stuff. Does not seem to be a very big draw.
On Tuesday, I went to the movies and saw The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. My friend Gary had given me the book some time ago, which I enjoyed reading. I was quite surprised to see that a move had been made of it. I was also pleasantly surprised that the movie followed the book very closely. What possibly could be so great about a book of a 60+ taking a walk? It does, in fact, take you through relationships up's and Down's and the magic touch, that I have found on my trips, of strangers along the way. Well worth the read or watch or both.
On Wednesday, I met with Paul and Sue, my friends here in Salisbury, for lunch at one of the local museums. It is always a nice visit with great conversation, mostly solving the world's problems. Then on Friday, they picked me up, and we drove to Langford Lakes Nature Preserve for coffee and to do a bit of wandering around bird watching. Luckily we had just finished our walk and headed home when the rains came. I finished getting my grades in for the spring semester, and by Tuesday, I'll have my summer online class ready to go. I'm scheduled to teach two classes, but it looks like only one will bake. So far, I'm only scheduled for one class in the fall; however, it already has five students signed up, which is looking good.

So this year, I have not gone on any bike rides. Usually, by this time, I'm on my bike, riding the lanes of England. Not so this year. I did not have the same yearning as in past years. This has taken me by surprise as I have been visualizing several places I was going to travel to, including the Lake District and even Edinburgh. But, no such riding took place. It seems it all started when I picked up my bike, loaded on the panniers, and rode over to the campground. Now my fully packed bike weighs in at around 80 pounds without me on it. There is a slight, steep hill at the entrance to Hudson's Field that I have always managed to just cycle up no problem. This year I reached the hill and had to get off my bike to walk the hill. I was in disbelief that this just happened. It seemed to have daunted my confidence, and now could not picture wanting to attempt any rides. There are times on my rides I jump on a train to cover more territory. This time my mind wanted to know if I really wanted to drag my bike up into the train and back down again. So here I am, still in Salisbury, with only a few days left quite content to just be, before I'm off to meet my daughter in Copenhagen. What the hell happened. Now I'm wondering if my head is going to but walking in Spain in the crapper.

Day Fifteen: Warning up finally. Had a very nice trip down to Hengistbury Head Beach with my friends Paul and Sue. As always lots of good conversation during the trip. Did a six-mile hike around the head a bit blowy at times but very nice day. On the way, home drove through New Forest and stopped in for a pint. Really is a beautiful ride, along the way, we passed a field with wild horses hanging out. We will be heading down to Christchurch tomorrow for another day out. Four more days at the campground, then back to Sarum Colleg before heading to Stanstead for my flight to Copenhagen. Most people here still walking around with winter coats on. This has been one of the laziest trips to England I've ever allowed. Most of the time it's get up pack up and ride then do it all over again. Maybe spending a day or two in any one spot. The other campers have asked me when I'm going to get an eBike to which I answer "never." If I could find a 1500 pound eBike it would cost me $1800! I'll pass if push come to shove I'll just start doing a walk about. Time to get to work. Have a bit more to do to finish my online course coming up.

Day Nineteen: Here in the King's Head, again for breakfast. Tomorrow I'll move back to Sarum College and get ready to travel to Stanstead, then off to Copenhagen. Been a nice week traveling around with my friends Paul and Sue. Interesting visit to Christchurch and another peaceful ride through New Forest. I think I nodded off, sorry, Paul and Suem, during the ride as it was so serene. They sure do know this part of England as we kept popping into these out-of-the-way pubs with wonderful gardens. I can't believe I've spent nineteen days here just hanging out. No hard rides here and there. Down to one online class, which is O.K. puts a little money in the coffers. No earth-shattering revelations have come my way so far; still waiting. It always takes me aback watching people down beer after beer with breakfast or just beer. It's freaking 7 am, and they are chucking beer down like water. I've been here most mornings a 7 am, and this bloke sits across from me every morning with five Carlsberg pints in front of him. Always leaves one about a quarter full on his was out. Young, old, men or women don't matter. However, more men than women. I sit by the same widow and daily see the same people pass by with more walking than plopping their asses in cars for a five-minute trip. Five to ten buses pass by, mostly full or at least half full. I'll have to take a morning train to London, and it will be packed. One station I'll go through has 80 trains an hour in the morning. Today is market day, and I'm planning to get a haircut at a little tent. It appears that the water here is what is called soft, so my hair spends the day looking like I just put my finger in an electric socket. Going to see if I can shorten it up a bit. Later!

Day Twentytwo: Left Salisbury this morning at 10:30 am. Turned my bike into Hayballs and said good buy to all the staff at the college.
The train to London was packed most of the time, standing room only. Arrived at London Waterloo and headed for the Underground. Two changes later, I arrived at the rail station for the Stanstead Express. The station was packed, jammed full of people, mostly heading to the airport. The train arrived in a few, and it was packed, so I opted to wait for the next train. By the time it came, the platform was packed again standing room only. I basically stood all the way from Salisbury to Stanstead. Arrived at Stanstead Airport at 2:30 pm. Had to pay for the shuttle to get to Holiday Inn Express. I've had one bad experience with Holiday Inn Express, and that was in Phoenix. Well, this is number two. Fellow at the desk said he could not find my reservation. So I had to unpack my computer, get online to and show him the reservation. Other people were walking up to the desk being checked in with no problem. But Mr. Trainee just couldn't get it together. No food until 6 pm with a very limited menu. Ask him to print out my boarding pass, which took him over an hour to do. Later I when down for dinner and ordered a vegan burger with a glass of seltzer water, soda water, or whatever you call it. The waitress says that will be 9.75. I asked how much is the burger, which I knew, 8 pounds. What's the extra 1.75 for? The soda water, she says. Usually, I get soda water for nothing or, at the most, 25 pence. I say you are charging me 1.75 for a class of water with some fizz in it. She nods her head yes I shake my head no. Back to the guy at the front desk after dinner. I ask for a walk-up call. We don't do wake-up calls, he tells me. You can set the phone in the room to wake you up or the T.V. Of course, the phone in the room is not connected. So I set my phone and start looking for another place to stay when I arrive back in the U.K. I'm done with Holiday Inn Express. They are not cheap, and I expect better than this for what I'm paying. Huff and Puff. Later.

A Visit to Gilleleje, Denmark: A very pleasant seafront fishing village. Mostly known for helping Denmark Jews escape from the Nazies to Sweden. There is a church where the former pastor takes up into the attic, telling of how a group of Jews hid there, hoping to escape being transported to concentration camps. There are many places to indulge in fresh seafood. You will also find a most wonderful ice cream shop that has a very tasty Strawberry/Rhubarb ice cream. You must take the train from Copenhagen, a one-hour ride, not included on the Copenhagen Card. Download the DSB app to purchase tickets. Mush is easier than dealing with the machines in Copenhagen Central Station, your starting point for the journey. The book Numbering the Stars by Lous Lowry uses this village in her story of a Jewish family escaping to Sweden. By the way, the beach can be very smelly.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Spain 2021

 Wednesday, July 14, 2021


My son took me to the airport at 7:15 am for a 10:35 am flight.  I like to be in the airport just in case things go awry.  Carrying my backpack, I go through the PreCheck line, send it all through the scanner, and wait.  My bag gets pulled out so the TSA agent can go through it.  First, he pulls out a wine bottle opener that has crossed TSA oversite many times in the past. "Can't have that." Then he tells me I cannot have my walking stick in the bag.  O.K. screw this. I tell him I will check the bag. He has to escort me to the door so I don't make a run for the plane with my contraband.

Back downstairs to the counter very quickly, my bag is checked and on the way to Madrid.  Back upstairs, and the same TSA agent that checked my ticket and passport is still there.  He asks what happened?  I tell him about the walking stick, and he says, "I tell you a secret. Don't pack the walking stick instead, use it as if you need it, and we can't take it away from you." Does it make sense? You can not have it in your bag, but you can waltz onto the plane stick in hand.  I thank him for the information, whiz through the checkpoint, and off to the gate.

I should throw in a plug here for Delta Airlines, which is who I am flying.  I usually take American Airlines however they are canceling flights left and right.  In the past, I have used American a few times to get to Europe. Twice they left me stranded because the plane was late. Another time we had already on board and were seated, and we had to get off the plane. So nope, I'll take Delta, which had a great sale price this year, so I purchased my tickets.  Of course, if you ignore the small print, there is a rub, like a 53-minutes to change planes at JFK!  I keep telling myself, "Myself, we can do this." The aircraft is supposed to leave at 10:35 am, and we don't pull away from the gate until 11:00 am. So there goes my turnaround time. I don't get upset; I'll hope we make up the time in the air.

I paid a bit more for extra legroom on all my flights from Phoenix to Madrid and back.  On the flight from Phoenix to JKF, I have, an aisle seat with the only thing between me and the door was four rows.  Wow!  I got this all planned out, nothing to grab but my hat and computer pouch, and I'm out the door.  When the wheels touch down, my plan is to move the computer satchel to my lap and put my hat on my head. I'll sneakily undo my safety belt, so as soon as the plane comes to a stop, I'll drop the belt, pop up out of the seat and scoot down the aisle.  O.K I got this.

We are going to have an early landing at JFK, so I now have 60 minutes between planes which by the time we land is cut to 50-minutes.  Bam, the plane stops at the gate, the seat belt light goes off, and I'm down the aisle like a bat out of hell, only to be stopped dead because the door will not open.  Another 5 minutes are wasted as they fiddle with the door. Then, woosh, it's open, and I'm the first one out of the plane, for the very first time ever, and am speed walking down the concourse with no idea how far I am from the next gate.

Reaching the gate with only 15 minutes to spare, I wind through the crowds of people waiting in line because I have PRIORITY BOARDING!!  Slap my ticket on the reader, and I'm home free!!!!  As I Settle into my extra legroom seat, I'm feeling quite proud of myself.  I silently thank the TSA agent for causing me to check my backpack.  The plane leaves the gate on time, and I'm off to Madrid!  After dinner and one movie, it is sleep time looking forward to waking up in Madrid.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Madrid – Santiago de Compostela

After 13 hours in the air, we touch down in Madrid, and I have one more hurdle to get through.  I have one hour change time between my Delta flight and an Iberian Flight I booked to Santiago de Compostela.  If you can help it, do not fly Iberian Airlines, but that is another story.  Madrid or Spain decided that the terminal I needed to get to is nowhere near the main three terminals and one has to take a bus to get there.  Customs was a breeze, my bag is, thankfully, on the carousel, and I'm off to find the magic bus to take me to terminal four.

Bam, drop the mike I'm at the Iberian gate with 20 minutes to spare. We board the plane, ready for a one-hour flight to Santiago de Compostela.  Nope!  The plane sits at the gate for 55 minutes.  I have been on one plane or another for almost 20 hours. Now have to figure out how to get home—just a tiny detail.

I arrived in Santiago de Compostela at 2 pm and jumped on the bus from the airport to town.  I glance out the window just as the bus is coming to one of its stops.  Low and behold, I recognize the restaurant down the street from the Albergue I will be staying at, so I jump off the bus, which will save me having to walk back from the bus station. Time for dinner at the same restaurant Lisa and I enjoyed twelve years ago (another story). Then, after a visit to the supermarket, it is time for a shower and sleep.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Santiago de Compostela - Muxia

After a breakfast of toast, coffee, and fresh-squeezed orange juice, I am on the bus back to the airport.  It did not occur to me that I might need a covid test to return to Madrid. There is no one at the information counter in the airport, but there is an attendant at the Iberia counter, who is annoyed I asked him a question.  He indicates that I will need one or so, it seems at this point but not sure.  I will return to Santiago a day early to make sure one way or the other. 

I begin my walk to Muxia at 10:00 am.  Little later than I wanted to, but what the heck lets get the show on the road.  It is much hotter than I expected for sure.  Going to be 91 degrees today, and it seems like most of the week.  As I begin to walk, there are memories of some places and not of others.  I am heading to a town called Negreira, which is 13 miles from Santiago.  I am carrying my mochila(backpack), weighing in at 30 lbs.  My backpack is a Deuter 40 + 10 that I have not used to travel before.  I keep thinking, why is thing so heavy? What can I dump to lighten the load? Nope, I can't think of a thing.

I stop several times to rest as I am needing to get my walking legs and breathing working.  A couple of times, I fall asleep on with the mochila as my pillow.  I rest at a bus stop that has no busses.  There is cold drinking water here, and I remember stopping on a walk some years ago. It was from this bus stop that I called a cab to get me.  No cab this time, I keep walking.  As I am walking, a woman from Madrid catches up to me.  We talk a bit about the heat, and she is off down the road. It is reaching 6 pm, and I am running out of gas.  I come upon a bar where I stop for a Cerveza, rest, and ask the owner to call me a cab as I am done in.  As I get my Pilgrim Passport stamped, I knock over a glass and break it as I pick it up and cut my finger. 

The owner is extremely excited now and gives me a new mask. I'm guessing he did not like mine, along with a Band-Aid for my finger.  I go outside to drink my Cerveza and await my cab. As I finish my Cerveza, the owner comes out and says, "we go, no cab for an hour." He puts me in his car, and off we go, but first, he does a selfie of us to send to his wife before we leave. One has to wonder why? He chats in Spanish while speeding down the road.  It is incredible that we actually have a conversation with my broken Spanish and his non-English. Then, suddenly, he stops the car and motions for me to follow him into a bar.

Jose, his Nombre I have found out, tells me to sit.  After a bit, he comes out with a Cerveza and some tapes.  I have learned he is married, and his wife's name is Lili, has a small daughter, and has been married seven years.  He talks to other people at the bar, and they ask where I am from.  We have a laugh about my leaving my horse home. Then, we are off again, and he continues to chat away as if I understand everything he is saying; not!  Soon we reach an Albergue Alto da Pena in A Pena, and he goes in with me to make sure I'm in the correct place. I secure a bed and am set for the night. 

He has driven me about 8 miles from his home. I offer him 20.00 euro for his trouble, but he refuses. So we hug goodbye like old friends, and he is off. I have a four-bed room all to myself.  It is now 10:00 pm, and after a bit of Ensalada dinner with white wine, it is time for rest. Before bed, I had a friendly chat with the owner, who also owns an Albergue in Santiago, which I may stay at.  I am up most of the night fighting mosquitoes who constantly dived bombed me.  Must have killed at least six of them during the night. The owner may not be happy to find squashed mosquitoes on the wall.    

Saturday, July 17, 2021

A Pena - Olverioa

The second day of walking.  After a lite breakfast of toast, coffee, and Zumo de Naranja, it is off for another day of walking only without my backpack. There is this nifty service that will take your backpack to the next Albergue.  I am always hesitant to use this as I never know if I will make the next stop. However, I have a day pack that will hold a few things that I walk with. Also, I am running out of euros, so I need to find a banco soon.  If all goes well, the next stop will be Olveiroa which is 20 miles down the road.  It is another hot day with the sun beating down.  I am on the road to 8:00 am today and keep telling myself I need to be off by 6 am from now on.

I find it interesting the places I have found to sleep along the way—a patch of shade over a stone wall or just a patch of grass in the shade.  I carry water with me, and some energy bars as places to eat and drink are few and far between.  After nine miles, it is time to stop for a lunch break.  There are two women that I keep running into, kind of hopscotching down the road. I find them time and again sitting in streams that cross path, or they find me sleeping. Finally, we meet in Santa Maria where they will spend the night.  I have walked 13 miles, and it is time for a cab to pick me up for the last 7 miles to Olveiroa.  So I cheat beats heat stroke.  

I stay at the Albergue Horreo with many other Pilgrims. I run into a couple from yesterday's stop—Erik from Hawaii and Kat from Germany. It seems that they do a lot of traveling together.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The third day of walking: Olveiroa to Muxia. 

Again no 6 am start for me. So after breakfast, you guested it toast, coffee, and orange juice down the road I go. It is to be 91 degrees again today, which takes a toll on you. The heat is in the later part of the day, so if you were to stop and wait for it to get cooler, it would be 9 pm.  That does not work as soon you would be walking in the dark.  Walking past several places that I recognize from a prior walk on this route. When I reach Dumbria, I stop at the only and bustling restaurant.  I have a fantastic salad made from potatoes. Tuna and other stuff I could no identify. I ask the waiter if a bus comes to town, not on Sunday.

I head down the road with the sun on my back with no other pilgrims in sight. Finally, after 17 Km of walking, I stop in a bar to cool down.  There are only three people at this bar, all of whom seem local.  The owner had to keep what I'm guessing to be his mother and father from fighting.  The old man seems to be in the throes of dementia. He wanders around moving things into different places, mumbling something it seems only he understands. Finally, I ask the owner to call me a cab and order a beer.

He makes the call, and no sooner do I sit down to drink it than the cab pulls up. I shrug my shoulders and put the beer on the counter.  He motions not to worry and tells me to sit and drink.  The owner goes over to the cab driver for a quick chat, after which the driver comes into the bar, and they all have a chat away while I drink my beer.  After finishing my beer, it's off to Muxia, only a few kilometers down the road. I'm out of energy and unwilling to push myself.

I arrive at Albergue @ Muxia, pay the cab driver, and check-in.  The fellow behind the counter looks at me and seems to recognize me from the past.  I will be staying here for three days which was pretty much the purpose of this trip; to hang out in Muxia.  I have my choice of beds as we wander the Albergue.  My backpack has arrived ahead of me, and he has put it next to a nice bed.  However, after some time, we head down into the "basement," where I'll spend my time sleeping. There are six beds in this part of the basement.  A few steps down, there is a large room with curtained off "rooms," each with a bunk bed in it.  I am guessing that due to Covid, they created more space so the Albergue could still hold the same number of Pilgrims.  But today, I'm counting nine of us in an Albergue that can hold probably 30?

I begin talking to a young woman, Jasmine, from Belgium, traveling the Camino on her own. She will stay a few more days then head to Finisterre. So I head out for dinner and some wine.  Again it is too late for a big "Meal of the Day," so it's a salad for me. Almost all salad's come with tomatoes, lettuce, tuna fish, and vinegar and oil.  After my dinner, it is time for a short walk about town.  Since it is Sunday evening, things are pretty busy.  Restaurants are full, and there is a merry-go-round doing a booming business, lots of talking and laughing. Children are running about yelling, jumping, and having a grand time while parents enjoy good company and wine.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Happy Birthday to me!

Before breakfast, I talk with Jasmin about her plans and mine.  She will be leaving Spain back to school on the 29th also.  After returning from my walk-about, I met Ewa, who had just checked in with her bike. She had ridden from Pamplona and was riding Spain alone. The three of us talked for some time about riding bikes and traveling Europe. I then when down to the corner café for breakfast.  Yep, toast, coffee, and orange juice. My walk took me along the Costa da Morte where we find Santuario da Virxe da Barca standing on the edge of the sea.

This is a fantastic place to sit and meditate. The ocean slams into the rocks time and time again—liquid throwing itself at the rocks time and time again. In time the liquid will remain, and the rocks will disappear into memory until memory disappears also. As I climb to the top of Mount Carpino, I notice a woman removing stones from the top of a Camion waymarker.  I become angry at this sacrilege as these stones meant something to Pilgrims who placed them there. She carelessly tossed them aside so she could take a picture of the waymarker.  Pilgrims like to plie rocks at different sites and on things, and It has meaning to each Pilgrim. is a nice essay on stones, us, and Pilgrims.

On the way back to the Albergue, I stop to buy myself a birthday dinner. There are several restaurants in a row, so I pick on for no reason other than the name Street Food. I chose the Meal of the Day, which the waiter indicated there were not many selections left. That should have been a walk-up call, but I ordered. Unfortunately, the Tostada was dry and tasteless, the fish with potatoes was eatable, but only just, the wine was bitter, and the service was less the spectacular. So I sang Happy Birthday to myself and went on with my day.  After more wandering the city, I when back to the Albergue and was given a new bed.

The bed was next to the woman who had come in earlier with the bicycle.  Ewa and I talked about her bike and mine, where she was going after this, and her lot in life. She talked of being disenchanted with the several positions she had left and her degree in Psychology which she had not ever used.  We talked of her fear of what the future held for her and how she would end up. The more we talked, the more I hoped we would have many more conversations. She and Jasmine when off for dinner and to explore the town while I turned in for the night.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Breakfast at the corner café. Same breakfast, same café, only this time I didn’t have to order. The owner comes out and recites my order, then tells me to go sit.

Today I learned that my cousin Frank Zotter Jr has passed away.  This news saddens me immensely as he was kind of a hero of mine growing up.  My cousin Frank a.k.a Sunny was ten years older than I. I first met him when his family lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His dad was my grandfather's brother. He had Corvettes from the time they came out until he switched to Pontiac GTOs.  The switch was somewhat shrouded in mystery, but the story was his girlfriend was killed in one, and he never purchased another.  It seemed he had a new GTO every year, which was probably just a story I made up.

He and another cousin, Ronny, were great friends with my Mom and Dad. They were always having a great time together. But, then, as sometimes happens, people move, and the good times become memories. However, Sonny was always intertwined with me as his sister married my former wife's brother.  His younger brother and I were close friends during our teen years and have renewed that friendship in the past few years.

I roam the town with a heavy heart as I would be unable to attend the memorial.  As I was walking the rocks in a different part of town, I had a rather weird experience.  I am very careful as to where I put my feet and buy sandals that are supposed to have a lot of gription. I put my foot down, and slowly it slid out from under me. I had my right hand in my pocket and thought as I fell that I should pull it out but did not. I seemed to leave my body and watch myself fall in slow motion. I remember thinking there is nothing to hit my head on, so I'd be O.K.  I landed on my right side with my hand trapped beneath me, so I thought to myself, I better roll over so I can use my left hand to push myself up and at the same time free my right hand.

As I climb to my feet, grabbing my hat in the process, I become aware of people yelling from the sea wall.  I look up as see several people wanting to know if I am O.K.?  I wave to them and give them a thumbs up to indicate all is well.  I am pissed at my shoes for slipping and intend to find ones with more gription.  It comes to mind that maybe I was not paying as close attention as I should have. I purposely stay away from edges as my balance seems to have been reduced by what I’m unsure of.      

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Last day in Muxia, I will attempt to walk to Finisterre, which is again 20 miles away.  It has been overcast since arriving here.  My friend Gary and I talk a lot about how having expectations can ruin a trip. I bring this up because, along the way, my mind has shown me pictures of the last time I was here. Lovely sunny days with cool breezes leading to thoughts of me sitting in the sun enjoying a glass of wine.  So I have had the wine but not the sun which was great.  It was a relatively uneventful day other than Jasmin and Ewa leaving for Finisterre.  We talk about maybe seeing each other again in Finisterre or Santiago.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

I had a final breakfast in Muxia, the same café, and again didn’t have to order they just brought it out.

I popped over to the bus stop to head to Finisterre.  Oh, yeah, I decided not to walk and have more time in Finisterre.  Helps to read the freaking directions.  When the bus shows up, the driver says "no" to going to Finisterre.  I look at the timetable again and get it that the 10:30 am bus does not go to Finisterre. The next bus to Finisterre is at 12:45 pm.  So I settle in to wait.  The next bus pulls up and is not going to Finisterre but to Cee (pronounce SAY).  Fellow traveler and bus driver chat for a bit.  Finally, the fellow who was talking to the driver says to you can go to Cee and pick up the Finisterre bus there.  O.K., what the hell for a euro and a half I'm in.

We arrive in Cee, and I look around for landmarks I might recognize, which equal none. Looking at the timetable for busses, I see I have saved a whopping 15 minutes by taking the bus to Cee then on to Finistere.  Finally, the bus comes in, and I am off to Finisterre.        I arrive in Finisterre around noon, which gives me time to have lunch before checking into Albergue. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Praza do Obradoiro: Santiago de Compostela

It is 6 am; the sky is gunmetal gray trying to make up its mind whether to rain or not.  There is a slight chill in the air, but no breeze moves through the plaza. The square and building are mostly made of gray stone, which seems to match the sky today. The well-worn stones have been given a shiny wet sheen from last night’s rain along with puddles here and there. There are a few people wandering about careful not to step into puddles while others are seated on the damp stones looking up at the Cathedral seemly deep in thought. It is very quiet at this time of the day no birds, no loud voices, no sirens in the background, no bagpipes or toots from the stupid make-believe train that takes pilgrims and tourists on a short ride around the city.

It seems now as if the Praza is starting to wake up taking a deep inhaling breath of the morning air. The inhale seems to draw pilgrims into the Praza through the tunnel opening where the Camion de Santiago has led them.  This space has been the end of the Camion de Santiago for 100’s of years. I imagine that today Pilgrims act no different from the ones who have traveled to this place for centuries and looked upon the Cathedral.  As they enter and look up, many are overwhelmed with tears, others with joyous laughter. They look around for familiar faces of fellow pilgrims they have met on the walk. If found arms wide, they rush to each other hugging with tears streaming while huge smiles crease their faces.  Then it exhales, and the pilgrims are sent on their way. Some hold strong not wanting to leave just yet. 

Another inhale and new Pilgrim’s enter some forming groups hugging and laughing while reliving their travels.  Some drop their backpacks to the ground, falling to their knee’s tears streaming as they glaze at the Cathedral.  Many sit alone or lie down using backpacks as pillows deep staring at the Cathedral in contemplation.  Some stand with backpacks above their heads, their faces beam with wide smiles as pictures are taken. Those who have ridden bicycles raise them high over their heads yelling triumphally. There is no such thing as race, gender, or nationality in this place.  Yes, some wave their countries flags, but no offense is taken. Another exhale, and the process begins again over and over, hour after hour, day after day, year after year.  The Pilgrims arriving here today, as in the past, may feel a deep loss at the end. Their Camion is over, or so it feels.

It is time to return to their families, friends, and maybe jobs. Albergues with communal meals filled with laughter and new friends will only be memories. The ability to walk slowly in contemplation not having to rush hither and yond slowly fade as day to day life returns.  Sitting outside a café on the side of the road enjoying Café Con Leche while wishing those waking by Bueno Camino will bring a smile to your face and the thought of returning. As a Pilgrim, you may have traveled at least 500 miles on foot, bicycle, and sometimes other means with nothing but their backpack. Upon returning home, one may look around at all the accumulated stuff in their lives and wonder why?  Walking the Camino change some for a short time, others permanently. 

Bueno Camino

Friday, May 31, 2019

England - Part VII

England – Part VII

Friday, May 29, 2009
The Barge Inn to Newbury

Today I rode the canal in a new direction. Some are familiar because Mark and I rode it in the opposite direction only a week ago. Once I pass Wilcot, it is all new. However, the path gets old, really fast. It is becoming very narrow and at times crumbling into the canal with only inches of slanted dirt to ride on. The scenery, however, s quite beautiful dense forest filled with mystery. Miles of field slop up to meet the blue horizon with puffs of white clouds slowly appearing here and there. Each field seems to be a different color green, some are dark plowed earth, others a swaying yellow carpet of flowers. Canal boats decorated with multitudes of designs and colors are either docked or floating along. As each pass, we say “Good morning” with a smile and a wave.

I’m passing a boat that is just heading out and wave as I ride by. I stop to adjust something then catch up to them, we wave and laugh, this happens three more times, it is an unspoken joke between us now. A lock stops the fun as I ride on with no such inconvenience. Looking at the canal something is off, the water seems lower, and the sloping, muddy bottom is being revealed. Some had joked about me falling in, which he said: “would not be much of a problem since the canals are not deep.” Now I could see this was really true, and my fear of falling in and going 40ft straight down was something my mind had created with no bases. However, the slippery mud and slop of the sides could still be very dangerous.

A man approaches and tells me someone has left both locks open up ahead, causing this part of the canal to empty and the part below to flood. “Not good going for a push bike.” He tells me. Great I think, he tells me there is a road that goes around to the next lock, and all will be good from there. The trail actually takes me to one of two 1800s pumping stations that move the water back up to be used again. Each as two beam steam beam engines, still working, built in the 1800s. Two or three days a week the engines are powered up to pump water to the top of the canal, but not today. I ask one of the caretakers how far the next lock is to get me back on the towpath. He points down to where I’ll need to go and cross over the canal to get to the towpath. He fails to tell me that part of crossing over means walking across railroad tracks.

Now I had to do this once before, and it is a bit nerve-racking. When you reach the gate, there is a red and green light, no yellow, to tell you if it’s safe to pass. There is also a phone which you use to call someone somewhere who’ll let you know if a train is imminent. Now you have to quickly open a gate roll on to the tracks and while on them open another gate to get off. Trains doing anything for 80 to 100 miles an hour don’t give you a heck of a lot of time to do this. O.K. safely on the other side I find that the towpath has been blocked so now I have to go back across the tracks again. How much fun can one person have! Finally, back on the towpath and riding, there is a realization that I’m not going to make my goal, not even close. The ride, which is not over yet, has been draining emotionally and physically.

The towpath ends at a tunnel leaving me looking up a very steep hill with steps in it. There is no way I’m going to get my fully loaded bike up to the top I’ll have to unload my panniers carry each set up the hill then carry the bike up.  As I'm pondering this problem, an angel appears. From around the bend at the top of the hill comes a giant walking toward me, followed by his wife. We talk for a bit about an abandoned rail line he is looking for, and she says, “How you going to get up there?” After explaining my idea of dragging everything up the stairs, she turns to her husband and says, “Help him carry it up. NO?” He agrees. Now this fellow looks like he could carry me and the bike up the hill.  Up seventeen steps we go, I’ve got the light front end; he’s got the heavy rear. I thank him profusely he says, “Not to worry” and is gone.

Prior to this, I had picked up a hitchhiker that was a snail I later named Larry. Now Larry really didn’t have his thumb out for a ride. Stopping to allow some towpath walkers by I spotted Larry on a leaf, picked him up and put him on my handlebar bag. Nothing happened for a while, then he stuck his head out and started to explore. He was wandering about while I road down the path and for a while, it looked as if he were studying the map atop my handlebar bag. Then he made this really long stretch, there was more of him then I thought, and moved down the side of the bag. I stopped to take his picture, and he looks, obligingly, into the camera. I had forgotten about Larry pondering the hill but looked for him once the giant and I reached the top. He was gone probably brushed off by the plants on the narrow path up. So long, Larry, it was good to meet you.

On and on riding for 6 hours, Hungerford is finial reached. No campgrounds, no Pubs, no inns should I ride on to Newbury another hour away or? After 7 hours, I’ve ridden 52 Kilometers and have no place to stay. I have scoped out several places I could set up my tent alongside the canal. After picking up some food for the morning, I head back to a Lock where I’ll set up camp for the evening hoping I don’t get chased. It is really half a camp there is only room for the bare necessities. I'm set up on a small strip of land between the towpath and the water. My tent, rain fly, are not fully set up, and I'm only using my sleeping pad, and blanket. It is quite cool sleeping next to the canal, so I finally have to use my sleeping bag to get warmer.  My bike is locked to a tree on the other side of the towpath.

Saturday, May 30, 2009
Newbury to Oxford

I’m up and packed by 5am heading into town to see about getting some directions to Oxford. I'm thinking nothing’s going to be open until 7 or 9.  I pop into the information office and am told that the shops will not open until 10a. There is a town map which shows Oxford Road or A34 not far from where I am so I figure if it heads north, it will take me to Oxford. Since waiting until 10am is a waste of good riding time, I’m off to follow the Oxford Road. This is a really hilly country, with the hills, packed quite tightly together. The road manages to steer clear of a 4 lane highway which at times pretends it is going to connect to but does not. However, after time it does connect I am now bravely walking my bike along hoping the A34 will again return to a sedate country road.

After about a mile I figure this is not going to happen anytime soon. The whizzing by of Lories, cars, and buses very close to are getting a bit nervous, and I think if I stay on this road, I’ll have to walk to Oxford. As I'm walking/pushing I come across a “By Way” sign that points along a dirt road which seems much more appealing than the highway. Heading off on a dirt road between green fields, having no idea where I’ll end up. There are deep ruts in the road which make it almost impossible to ride, so it is a combination of riding and walking. The “By Way” is intersected by a “Walk Way” heading north and south. The rules are you can ride a bike on a “By Way,” but you cannot ride or walk a bike on a “Walk Way.”

I’m not quite sure who’ll catch me out here, but you never know so I continue on. The “By Way” comes to a road which is heading north, off I ride. It is now 9 am, and I’ve been riding for about three hours, and my odometer tells me I’ve ridden 21 kilometers. Oxford is supposed to be 19 Kilometers north of Newbury I'm thinking this is going to be a long day. The road which was heading north is now heading east and back toward the highway making me nervous. Being up higher on the hill I can see the path that took me west below, now I’m parallel to it and heading East, might as well have stayed on the highway. There is a wide spot in the road, so I stop to cook up some breakfast with my new cook set. I’m off again and do eventually ending up back at the highway which I have no intention of getting on again.

There is a road heading west which will take me to Wantage that I vaguely remember from a map as being south of Oxford so off I go heading north again. Outside of Farnborough, I ask a lady leading a beautiful horse the way to Oxford. “Go up to Farnborough, at the top of the hill, then down into Wantage.” Up and up and up I go when she said up she meant up. Up here is not necessarily really high, but it does mean steep as in 12 to 18-degree inclines. I finally reach Farnborough and follow the sign to Wantage. Now when she said down she meant down, I'm doing 28 to 38 kilometers an hour coming down this hill. Wahoo!!!  Not necessary a safe speed on a loaded bike. Upon reaching Wantage, I see a sign telling me that Oxford is only 17 kilometers away. Checking looking at my odometer I find I’ve already ridden 30 kilometers. I’m told to take the A338, which I’m on, straight into Oxford, but stay off the A420.

I do ride on the A420, well walk as close to the side as I can get because it is much shorter the using the A338. It is now 3 pm, and a sign shows me that I’m 4 kilometers from Oxford. Finally riding into Oxford 10 hours and 50 kilometers later at an average speed of 8 Kilometer per hour leaves me exhausted. I know where I am and recognize that the street I'm on will take me right to YHA where I'll stay. My butt is just a bit sore, and I have no reserves left for dilly-dallying around looking for a campground that I might be able to remember from two years ago.

Dinner will be at a restaurant called The Jam, which I hope was still in business from my last visit. They offer tasty meals, low prices, and allow you to use their free WiFi as long as you wish. I Skype Mark and chat for a while talking about the twists and turns in everyday life. I attempt to reach my daughter but have no luck, so send her and my son an email. Then check Facebook, answer some emails, then create a map of my travels for my blog. My body is slowly regaining its energy, and I’ve been wondering why I push myself to make such long, arduous ride. There will be no answer tonight unless some message comes to me in my dreams.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Today is a day of rest, no bike riding, nothing more strenuous then putting some food in my mouth. To that end, I buy a ticket on a city tour bus riding it enough times to be able to repeat the tour speech by heart. I did get off once to take a nap, then back on for a couple of more rides. The bus was a Double Decker, so I ride in the upper deck taking in the sights whiles listening to the guides point out things of interest. There is a cool breeze, warm sun, blue skies with puffs of white cloud floating by makes for a very lazy day. I do not quite understand why most of the cars have the windows closed to such a beautiful day. Yet the bikers abound pedaling briskly along seemingly oblivious to the cars and buses within inches of them. There are pole boat, and canoes on the river Thames, along with sunbathers on the green grassy slopes. The outdoor cafe tables are all full of people chatting, laughing, eating, and drinking in no rush to be anywhere.

Dinner is at The Jam again for yet another fresh lamb burger and some incredible crispy fries. Online again to answer emails, one of which is from Roy, who I met on the train last Sunday. He has tracked down my grandfather’s and grandmother’s birth records along with several other relatives. It looks as if he has gotten the date my grandfather died spot on but is off on my grandmothers. I’ll write to him tomorrow to see if he can dig up some more, how very nice of him to do this for a stranger. After dinner, I check in at the rail station to see about a ticket to my next destination, which will be Delamere.

At the Y, while doing laundry, I chat with Hanna, who works the front desk. She is from the Czech Republic working in the UK. We have a friendly chat about traveling and then needs to tell me she is well balance after I tell her I teach Psychology. Before turning in, I chat with a gentleman in the same dorm room as me. He is here from Buffalo NY and thinking of moving to the west coast. I’ve not decided if I’ll move on tomorrow so I’ll sleep on it.