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Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Day I'll Never Forget

Saturday, June 02, 2012
2:26 PM Arizona, 11:26 PM Spain

A most wonderful day!  Today I was determined to get up and make sure I had a seat for the mass that the cathedral because it was the day the “Botafumeiro” will be used.   I’m very sad that Lisa will not be there with me and I’m really missing her presents beside me now.  After arriving at the cathedral, around 7:30 AM, it’s time to scope out the best seat and make it mine.  It is chilly in here but, that’s O.K. I’m not moving from this seat at least that’s what I thought.   Eight thirty rolls around, It’s cold and now have to pee but, I’m not moving.  So I’ll risk running to a local bar, yes they are open early on Sunday morning, buy a cup of coffee and relieve myself.  I’m back in the cathedral with only a few others were there with me not the throngs I’d expected.  The waiting gives me time to contemplate some of what has happened since we started the Camino.

From the start I became more aware of my surrounding and the people in them like watching a movie of us from above.  I see Lisa and me moving through the world and interacting with our surroundings.  There seems to be a guiding hand moving us along and toward certain people.  Riding the bike, then walking, then using the bus, then walking again all had some reason for happening when it did.  We are really very tolerant of each other, putting all judgments away, our spirits enjoying the presents of the other.   We are able to walk for miles either talking or not, taking pictures of the same things because we both find them interesting.   We are able to talk intimately about our lives, making observations with no need to get into an argument over every statement.  Feeling the same things at the same time and knowing by just looking at each other. I can’t count the number of time we just looked at each other and started laughing, just knowing.   It seems that each person met along the way had something to teach us together and individually.   Each had advice, or a story to share about their lives that would touch ours.

It is now around 11:30 AM mass will start in another half hour.  I sit on a wooden pew with tears in my eyes.  The mass would not start until Noon and this spot would be mine when the cathedral filled.  My camera us ready having been fully charged the night before.   From time to time I’d lift my head leaving a wet warm spot where my chin had rested on my chest.  There were dark spots on my shirt from tears that ran down my face.  I wiped at them with a hand that had already been dampened by those already shed.  Looking about this ancient fortress of God’s I though this is not the way it was supposed to end.   But, this was how it was ending no matter how many times I looked up to see if she was walking through the door across the transept from me.  Of course I knew that only happened in the movies.   There were no busses from Finisterre to get her here in time for Mass.  Then the miracle happened I look up to see Lisa coming down the aisle with a huge smile on her face.  I’m dumbfounded as we grab hold of each other with tears and smiles.  At that moment there was no one else in the church but us hanging on to each other.  She cared enough about me to put aside what she had planned.   She said it was just not right for us not to finish the trip together.  We watched Botafumeiro swing blessing all the pilgrims present enjoying this wonderful service together.  I believe we were both happy in our hearts and spirits that the Camion worked this out.

Posted: 10/19/2014

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Long Lonely Ride

Friday, June 1, 2012

After breakfast we are on the bus to Finisterre “the end of the world.”  Lisa has indeed decided that she will stay there tonight while I return to Compostela to attend mass tomorrow then head back to Leon.   I’m really disappointed that we will not be attending the mass together which to me is kind of like closure to the journey.  After reaching town we again follow the Camion to the Cape which has become kind of an official end of the Camino.  We get lost then find our way eventually reaching the rugged cost line which once marked the end of the known world.   Pilgrims have left shoes and other personal items they have worn here to signify they had made the journey safely and it is over.  Others will burn an item of clothing for the same reason.  We did not have anything to burn or leave so we had a glass of wine and headed back to town.

This would be our last dinner together which was quite rushed as we were unsure of when the bus would leave.  We are not saying much and I see a bus pull in so I go over to see if it will take me back to Compostela alone.  It is and I run back to where Lisa is sitting grab my stuff trying hard not to cry hug her and head to the bus.  The ride back to Compostela was one of the loneliest times of my life.  I cried most of the way back trying to hide my emotions from the rest of the passengers.   There was a bit of a laugh as I listened to a Mormon pilgrim telling some German fellow about his religion but that was short lived.

I cannot explain how lonely I was that night wandering the path Lisa and I had traveled to get back to the Albergue.  I stopped in at the corner café and listened again as the local fellows began to sign.  Tonight they seemed to sense and were singing sad songs not the gay ones of a night ago.  Back in the Albergue with enough wine in me to insure sleep I laid down to sleep knowing Lisa was not in a bunk near me for the first time in a month.   So very sad and so very lonely yet again.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Santiago de Compstela

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I find it funny to wake up and find Lisa hidden underneath a mountain of blankets.   There have been times I’ve looked really hard as I could not tell if she was in there, or had gotten up early and left.  But, as I begin to stir she pokes her head out and I’m assured she is still there.  We shower, dress and are on the road along with many other pilgrims.  We walk a narrow road that we share with cars carrying folks off to their destinations.  Some wave as they pass, others stare straight ahead deep in thoughts of their own.  We come upon a campground called Camping San Marcos with a small café.  We stop for some coffee along with a tostada watching pilgrims filing by.    We use the facilities before heading down the path.

We reach the top of Monte del Gozo which was once just a green hill and chapel.  But, because of the Pope’s visit in 1989 the top was leveled and a “Albergue” which can hold 3000 people army barrack like, there is a rather interesting sculpture which seem not to have a name but commemorates the Pope’s visit as well as St. Francis of Assisi’s and World Youth day.  From here we look down into Santiago de Compostela and see the spires of the cathedral.  I light a candle for us in the chapel before we had down to town.  We come to the Albergue Santo Santiago secure our beds then it is off to the Cathedral de Compostela de Santiago.   We are disappointed that there is a barrier about the pillar which holds the statue of St. James.  There are five deep indentations on the pillar where over the century’s pilgrims hands have touched at the end of their journey.

We go to the pilgrim office to get our certificate of completion.  We are hoping that the couple who picked up Lisa’s credential has dropped it off here.  Lisa is again disappointed that they have not and she will not get her certificate of completion.  I feel guilty that I have mine in hand and quickly put it away so as not to be a reminder.  We wander around town running into many of those lives have touched us.  Once more we run into Joseph and we are not like old friends joyous to see each other.  We have dinner together then again wander the town making plans for tomorrow.  We go to the bus station where I purchase a ticket to return to Leon and my bike.   Wander around the neighborhood then back to the Albergue.

Down the street on the corner is a café in the Hotel San Lazare where we stop in to have some wine.  There are a lot of locals there and the owner knows them all by name.  It is fun to watch as she banters with the locals.  Soon several of the gents there begin to sing Spanish songs for our entertainment as well as their own.  We are having a great time an then realize that we’ll soon be locked out of our Albergue.   This will soon be our local watering hole since it is close to the Albergue.  The owner is friendly enough but we never learn her name and I wonder if the locals know it?  We have purchased tickets to take a bus to Finisterre tomorrow.  Lisa tells me she is thinking about staying there and hiking back to Compostela before she heads home.  I was hoping we would attend mass together then head out.  Seems that’s not to be.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tomorrow Compostela

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

We get up early then after having homemade breakfast in the Albergue Monasterio de La Magdalena down we go to the bus terminal.  The decision has been made to take the bus to Lavacolla then walk to Compostela which is only 7.5 km away.  We head, yet again, to Logo where we will transfer to the bus that will take us to Lavacolla.   Today we spend most to the day bussing through the Spanish state of Galicia.  Most to the telephone poles, church steeples, chimneys we pass have a stork nest in them.  We travel beside and new highway under construction but it seems to have not much in the way of constructing going on.  Lisa is asleep in the seat ahead of me and after typing a bit I think I’ll dose off also.

I am half wake, half asleep looking out the window watching the country side slide by.  I’m trying to make sense of this adventure and smile dreamily as pictures of Lisa and I having fun slowly play in my mind’s eye.   A tear sneaks out as the thought of our journey ending soon comes to mind.  SillyI think to myself.  We work in the same office and will be hanging out together soon.  But, what comes to mind is that I’ve had her to myself for almost three weeks now.  She has been someone to share, laughter, sadness, life, and ideas with which I’ve not had in a very long time.  Several times we have walked down the road holding hands with no need to speak.  Just walking and enjoying the silence, scenery, fresh air, azure sky, and each other.  From the time we joined in Paris to now I have been content.  Not worried about the things in life that distract me from just enjoying being.   Not being caught up in the things of the past, or allowing the worry about what tomorrow will bring to distract from this time together.  I am happy.

The bus stops at a wide spot in the road and we, along with several other pilgrims, head toward the path the drive pointed to.  We are back on the Camino de Santiago now heading towards Compostela.  It is late, we are hungry and discuss that if we get into Compostela to late there may not be a bed to be had.  We come up on a motel kind of place called Casa de Amancio smile and walk in.  After paying for our room we relax in the court yard with a lady from Canada.  We all have wine and are enjoying the breeze, sun and conversation.  There is also a fellow from Germany who tells us more information about his sex life then we need to know.  Lisa and I will be sharing a room again for the last time.  I go for a walk while Lisa takes a nap before dinner.  I find, what looks like, a broken walking stick on the side of the road.  After playing with it for a few minutes it’s as good a new.  I find beautiful park with a brook running through it and sun lite filtering through the trees.  I sit on an old stone bench in this serene space again thinking on the journey.

I meet an old man whose mule is pulling a wagon filled with what looks like Kale.  He sits and I go over to talk with him.  We do not speak each other’s language but manage to have a short conversation.  This is the first time I wish I could speak Spanish.  He has live in this area for a long time and met a lot of pilgrims.  I’m talking to walking history, but cannot understand much of what is said.  We say “Buenos Noches” and I head in for dinner.  Lisa and I enjoy dinner over another of our conversation about our lives, and then decide we do not have to rush tomorrow.  We return to our room, she on the couch and I at the table doing some typing.  She falls asleep so I pack up, wake her and we head off to our respective beds.

Buen Camino

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
12:47 PM Arizona, 9:47 Spain

We are up early, order a breakfast of coffee and Tostada while chatting again with the woman who runs the Albergue.  We ask her about the winters here and what they do for business.  She tells us that there is not enough show for skiing and very few pilgrims, so they must make their money during the summer months.  We head down to the corner where the cemetery is to wait for the bus.  Two other pilgrims join us so we spend time talking about our lives.  As we talk a mother with a boy about 9 come by.  They are walking the Camino together and she tells us he is having a grand time.  Never complaining and out walks her on most days.  The bus showed up at 9:30 AM and we received a “Mad Hatter Ride” down the mountain to Ponferrada.  Upon reaching the drop off point which is not the bus terminal as promised, but the middle of town we follow the arrows to the information office.  We keep running into this guy who I find very annoying.  He has this very young oriental girl in tow and I had seen them several times during my wandering without Lisa.  It is quite obvious that he is quite proud of having this young lady to accompany him.   On the way to the information office I bring them to Lisa’s attention.  She gives me the look and I change my attitude, love it!  The information office is outside this enormous castle built by the Templers to protect the pilgrims and town.  We are told how to find the bus station but quickly lose our way.

As we walk Lisa stops an older woman and asks the way to the bus station.  This woman grabs hold of Lisa’s arm and leads us through the town to the bus station.  After she lets us go Lisa is rubbing her arm where the woman had hold of her during our trek.  We purchase our bus tickets, correctly this time, and run into a fellow traveler Joseph from Germany.   Together we travel to Sarria where we will spend the night and gather yet another stamp for our Credencial del Peregrino; “passport.”  The first Albergue we arrive at is not to Lisa’s liking, because it has no kitchen, so off we go in search of yet another.  Joseph has decided to say there so we say our good byes hoping to meet again.  As we follow the yellow arrows around a corner there is a garbage bin with a map of Sarria stuck in the handle.  “Thank you very much God.”  It lists all the Albergues in the area so we head to the nearest one but become lost yet again.  We are again adopted by fellow walking down the street.  He leads into a back ally and I’m thinking were going to get mugged.

He leads us up and up until at the very top of the “hill” is a monastery Albergue which has a kitchen.  After checking in it’s time to look for a market to get our evening meal.  Of course everything is downhill from where the Albergue is, and everything purchased needs to be carried back up the hill.  We get to the market and Lisa suggests that eat out because having to carry the food back up the hill and then cook it seems a bit much.  We purchase some fruit along with a few things for breakfast then go looking for a place to have dinner.  It’s “COCKTAIL TIME!”  We settle on a café, and a table outside, that has several fellows playing guitar and singing. The lady at the next table, who was on the bus with us, begins to talk to us.  Come to find out she is from Phoenix and her daughter works at REI in Paradise Valley store in Arizona.  She says her daughter told her to be on the lookout for us.  The only one I know at the REI Paradise Valley Store is a friend of my daughters.  Could it be?

It also turns out the she and I worked at Good Sam hospital in downtown Phoenix around the same time.  Also next to us are two young women from Maryland.  One just finished a contract position at the Smithsonian in DC, and the other a teaching position in France; were now walking the Camino contemplating what to do next with their lives.   The lady from Phoenix informs us that we need to have gotten two stamps a day as we walked in order to qualify for a certificate when we reach Santiago.   I have not read anything about needing to collect two stamps a day.  Lisa is not very sure she will get her certificate for completion of the Camino and is talking about changing plans yet again.  Once back at the Albergue I go on line and check this out whether the two stamp rule is true.  Low and behold there is some kind of requirement to get two stamps every day or at least from Sarria for the last 100 Km.  The rule seems to be very vague as many pilgrims write that they had received their certificate with only one stamp per day.  If this holds true I’ll not be able to get a certificate either.  So I guess we’ll see when we get to Santiago.

Before turning in Lisa and I talk about whether or not we should stick to the original plan of taking a bus to Lavacolla and walking the last 10 Km to Santiago.  Neither of us feel we will be able to walk the last 100 Km from Sarria to Compostela.  Lisa’s feet really hurt and my ankle is giving me a lot of pain also.  So tomorrow we will bus to Lavacolla then find a place for the night, walk into Compostela, find an Albergue, check about the certificate, get some bus information about getting to Finisterre, and back.  Lisa will leaves in a couple of days for Madrid via Ryan Air and I’ll take the bus back to Leon to get my bike.   Trying not to get too sad about our adventure coming to an end, but it is sneaking up on me.   I don’t want this experience to end.  I might have said this before, but I’ll say it again this is turning into one of the very best adventures I’ve ever had.  It is very easy to travel with Lisa.  She does not complain about the weather, the Albergues, or cities we end up in.  I’m also already thinking that I will do this pilgrimage again next year.  I’m already missing her traveling with me.

Redone 12/8/2012, posted  10/19/201

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cruz de Ferro and El Acebo

Monday, May 28, 2012
9:48 AM Arizona, 6:48 PM Spain

After a nice breakfast at the café next door we are on the road again this being the second day of walking the Camion with only the rutsack on my back.  We pass through Foncebadon which at one time had only one person living here who tended the church.  It is said that once many wild dogs were living here, but none were seen today.   We will climb to Cruz de Ferro at 1054m then down to El Acebo a distance of 17 km.  .  It was a fairly hard climb up but, well worth it.  There was an emotional moment especially when Lisa turned around and said you’re the only one up there.  Before she noticed the cairn was packed with people going up and down.  Almost all of the people brought a stone or memento from home to leave at the foot of the cross.  One person had ashes of a loved on to leave there.  When beginning the Camino in St Jean there was a stone from home in my possession but, it was left in St Jean due to not paying attention.  There was a second stone which was left in my bags in the monastery.  I believe that the things attached to those stones must have been taken care of long ago so it’s O.K.  There were two things I left behind at the cross which were part of some events best given to God rather than carry around.

We began a brutal steep descent down the mountain which was hard on the knees and the ankles.   The path was strewn with rocks, roots, loose soil, and pebbles making walking very hard and dangerous.  We switched to the road, which ran alongside the Camino, but the downhill grade was much too steep and hard on our legs so it was back to the trail.  After entering a narrow path we could see El Acebo ahead.  I need to stop to rest, but Lisa continues on hoping to find the couple that has her “passport.”  It is a very steep descent into the village of El Acedo and I stop at the first Albergue which was full already.  I find Lisa further on down the street and she has already secured us beds.  She is going to check out the other Albergue in town for here “passport.”  I put my stuff on the bunk, pull out my dirty clothes then head to the washing machines.  Lisa returns a bit later disheartened that she could not find the couple.  We have dinner along with another of our wonderful heart to heart talks. 

After dinner Lisa does wash and sits with some people she has met.  I wander around town then sit a bit to do some blogging.  There is not internet here so before bed we have a beer and talk with the owner of the Albergue.  It has been in the family for three generations and she seems quite happy to be in this very small town catering to pilgrims.  Everyone we talked to that evening found the trail very hard to negotiate and very tiring which caused them to walk less than planned.   While Lisa is looking for her “passport” I asked about a bus and was told we could be picked up at 9 AM in the morning.  “Would you like me to call?” She says.  “YES!” I say.  Then tell Lisa after the fact to which she readily agreed.   Her feet have not been kind to her on this short walk and again I’m concerned how she is going to make the rest of the walk, it was time for bed.

Buen Camino!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lisa's Camino "Passport" is lost = Sad Day

Sunday, May 27, 201
1:06 PM Arizona, 10:06 PM Spain

It was a long day and it hard to remember all of what happened.  We were out of the Albergue by 8 AM and I say to Lisa what will we do until 2:59 PM when our bus leaves.  She says we have to be at the bus station by 10:50 AM; I’m confused.  We check the tickets and sure enough it says 10:50 AM but then I look at the day.  The tickets are for Monday not Sunday!    We head to the bus station to find it locked up tight.  I suggest we get some breakfast then come back and see what we can do about the ticket.  We have breakfast in a small café where Lisa checks her Camino map book and we talk about what to do.  Two other pilgrim couples come in just as we finish eating; we both use the bathroom then head to the bus station.  We are worried about what will happen when we reach the bus station.  Lisa is concerned that she is running out of time and really does not what to spend another day here.

We arrive to find the station is still closed but not the gates the buses use to get in and out.  I think we can probably get one of the drivers to help us out if the station does not open.  Lisa asks around and finds out the station will open in about 10 minutes.  Once the station opens the same fellow we dealt with yesterday tells us that there is no bus to Sarria today at all!  Our options are now to wait until tomorrow or start walking.  We get a refund on our tickets and will begin to walk to Ponferrada where we will get the bus to Sarria; no problem.  Lisa looks for her map and cannot find it, nor can she find her Camino “Passport.”  She must have left it at the café and we hurry back there.  The waitress indicates she did not see anything on the table but the newspaper we were looking at.   I suggest that one of the other pilgrims must have picked it up and maybe took it to the Albergue we stayed at.  On the way to the Albergue I recognize one of the couples from the café.  They tell Lisa that the other couple picked up her “passport” and are taking it with them in hopes of catching up with her.  They had assumed we had left town after breakfast which of course we had not.   Lisa is very upset as this “passport” has memories attached to each stamp from every town we have stayed in.  Also without it she cannot get her certificate of completion when we reach Santiago, she must start a new one which will hopefully show she has completed at least 100 Km.

We begin our hike in hopes going at least 23Km, but the path is mostly up, and rough as we are in the mountains again.  Other pilgrims pass us like we are standing still which is very frustrating.  My ankle is giving me problems and Lisa’s feet are getting blisters and the surgery is hurting.  We are quite a pair for sure hobbling along like some old couple however; many much older pass us by.  We enter Ganso and come up on the Bar El Cowboy.  Here in the middle of northwest Spain is a cowboy bar decorated with Wild West paraphilia.   We do manage to make it to Rabanal del Camion and the Albergue La Senda.  We made it 17 Km then call it a day, but Lisa goes on a hunt for the couple who have her passport while I settle in.  She returns empty handed and despondent that the “passport” is gone forever.  While I’m cooking up some dinner Lisa chats with two German women.  The kitchen is upstairs along with the dining room, bathroom and a couple of bedrooms.  All the rooms are quite small and we are in a room downstairs.  My bed is right next to the door but once I’m asleep all is well.

I don’t believe that Lisa’s “passport” is gone, but that it will show up either along the trail, at the office in Santiago, or will be mailed to her.  My belief is that she was given a message to trust but cannot which I truly do understand.  I work very hard at getting out of the way and letting God take care to things.  At this point one is my daughter, which is really, really hard to turn over and trust all will be well.  It is really easy for me to tell Lisa to let go of the things she cannot control when I am still attempting to control things I cannot.

Buen Camino!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Day of Rest and Reflection

Saturday, May 26, 2012
12:11 PM Arizona, 9:15 PM Spain

Today we left Leon leaving my bike and panniers to the care of a group of nuns.  What could happen to them with God’s own watching over them?  At the Autobus station we had a little breakfast, jumped on the internet, talked to a Germen pilgrim on his way home and a Dutch pilgrim who was going to bus for a short while then walk again.  After boarding the bus I slept some on the tip which was only an hour in duration.  Arriving at Astorga around 11 AM we went to the ticket counter to purchase the tickets for the next leg of our journey.  After much discussion with the attend we had to decide whether to take the bus tomorrow at 2:59 arriving at Sarria at 7 pm and hopefully find a bed.  Or, wait until Monday and leave at 10:59 am which would get us to Sarria in time to get a bed.  However, Lisa did not want to spend two days here so I thought Lisa purchased our tickets and we decided to leave on Sunday at 14:59 PM.  This would mean taking a chance on finding an Albergue that was not full by the time we arrived.  After wandering around the town, stopping to eat some wonderful pastries, we found the Albergue de Peregrions San Javier and checked in.  Lisa needed to get her boarding passes printed so she would be ready to return home from Madrid.  The Hospitalero gave her directions to shop where she could do this.  The mission completed it was time of wine and lunch in the town square during which we had a very nice heart to heart talk about our lives.

We are truly a work in progress and have enjoyed each other’s company on the trip immensely.  We laugh and cry easily feeling comfortable with each other.  I am beginning to dread our arriving at Santiago and her leaving.  For dinner Lisa has a need for a good salad.  We head to the local market and purchase the makings along with a bottle of red wine to compliment the meal.  Lisa whips us up a wonderful salad which we share other Pilgrims.  We meet fellow pilgrims from Germany, Netherlands, Australia and Spain.  One person is a German whose name is Joseph who is quite a good cook.  After dinner we take a walk along what is left of the castle wall that still surrounds the city, from which we look out on some beautiful vistas.  Walking around town we find another Albergue, an archeology site of a Roman villa, and a wonderful sporting goods store where we buy some foot shave that is supposed to be the best around.  Back in the Albergue we spend a little time on the computer then it is off to bed.  In my room you can see between the floor planks to the room below.  They squeak and move as you walk on them.  Hope I don’t end up in the room below tonight.

Buen Camino! 10/19/2014

Friday, May 25, 2012

Together To The End and What Is A Pilgrim...

Friday, May 25, 2012
8:45 AM Arizona, 5:45 PM Spain

We woke with several decisions to make.  If we take the bus again where well we get off?  Should we take the train?  Is there some way to send my bike and panniers ahead and walk with Lisa?  Do we split up and Lisa will bus and walk to Santiago.  But first thing we decide is that we’ll spend another day here in Leon.  It’s time to get out of the Albergue and either find another or get a hotel; little did we know that it was possible to stay in the current Albergue.  Since it had not been possible in the past we took it for granted that it was not allowed.   However, we did ask the clerk if it was possible to leave my bike and panniers there for 11 days.  He stated it was not because they will be closing for good in five days, but the Albergue across town might allow it and he would call them for us.  They did not answer so he allowed me to leave my bike and panniers there while Lisa and I went in search of our next bed.  Along the way we stopped at the wonderful Café Agora for breakfast.

Lisa had tea, I coffee, a couple of breakfast sandwiches, and orange juice.  We got on the internet for a little while then I went to pay my bill.  The waitress told me it was 5.30 euro.  Lisa when to pay for hers and the waitress looked confused.  She then indicated that 5.30 was the total bill; what a deal.  After checking in at the next Albergue we asked one of the Hospitalero if it would be possible to leave my bike and panniers.  He would have to ask one of the Brothers, this was a monastery, later in the day and would let us know about 3 or 4 pm.  If the answer was “yes” Lisa and I would complete the Camion together, if the answer was “No…”   We acted like tourists visiting several sites in the town.  From time to time we would break out laughing about last night and wonder where our new friends were.  Well it was time to head back to the Albergue to see what the answer would be.

After a potty stop I found Carlos and asked him what the verdict was.  He gave me the answer; I tear up some then go in search of Lisa.  “SO!” she says.  “YES!” I say with tears in my eyes.  He said “YES!”  We hugged with tears in our eyes.  WE WOULD FINISH THE CAMINO TOGETHER!   Tomorrow I’ll put something’s in my rutsack, we’ll head for the bus station and travel to Astorga to spend another down day.  Then we’ll bus to Sarria and walk the last 120 Km to Santiago de Compostela.   Gary said that the Camino takes unexpected turns.  There is no way in my wildest imagination did I ever envision Lisa and I walking into Compostela, riding yes walking no way in hell!

The sacred Way: Being a pilgrim.

Stage One, Feeling what it means to be a pilgrim:  In reality we are all pilgrims as we travel though life.  My friend Mark and I call it the great experiment.  Our parents or caregivers are the first guides as we begin the walk.  Some of us will be filled with fear, others happiness, others with great expectations, then there are those with none.  Now toward the end of the road, life, one really begins to understand with it means to be a pilgrim and it is difficult to put into words.

Stage Two, Reading the signs as the Journey takes on a life of its own:  There are times the signs are there, but we chose not to read them because we are so caught up in what we think they should be.  This Journey certainly did take on a life of its own from the time Lisa got her foot operated on to today.   The trip was mean to happen even after two operations on her foot we went.  On the trail we lost each other and by grace of God came back together.  Now what started out as a bike ride across Spain will end walking like the pilgrims of old.  In the end stripped of all the worldly things we had dragged here being left with just us.

Stage Three, Awareness of companions along the way and why they are there:  Of course when riding there were only Lisa and I as companions.  Slowly others came into the picture but only after we independently made the decision to get rid of the baggage was there really time to become aware of our companions.  They were to be there when it was time for them to show up and I have no doubt that in the coming days there will be more.   I am now more aware then ever of the beautiful caring soul that Lisa keeps hidden so well and the personal cost of that.   We did not become friends by accident, but by our spirits calling out to each other.  Comfortable in each other’s presents when we’re at our worst and at our best.  Other companions are present even if not physically on the road with us.  For me there is a new perspective of our friendship and again spirits connecting.

Stage Four, History the story we witness = social, spiritual and political:  The deeper you go in Europe the deep you go in history.  You see it in the country side, the building and the people who have lived in the same towns and building for generations.  And, for generations have been helping pilgrims complete the journey just like they have done for Lisa and me since we began.  We are witness to the history of the Camino in each building we pass, each town we visit.

Stage Five, No longer an observer but becoming part of history: There is an awareness of the background that has shaped the people and land around you.   There is also a connection between us, pilgrims today, and those that have passed before and those that will come after.  We are part of this history now and forever.  Our names will be lost to time, but the energy we have put into this pilgrimage will go on and on.

Stage Six, Seeing where Heaven and Earth touch, seeing with the eyes of the spirit:  Heaven and earth, in my mind, most certainly touch on the Camino.  When you start looking with the eyes of your spirit it is so easy to see.  We who walk become one spirit and energy, touching each other’s lives.  The faith that pilgrims display in their caring for each other and those who care for the pilgrims as they walk is nothing short of being witness to a miracle.   This is what we humans can be to each other once we take off the filters that stop us from seeing each other’s beauty.

Stage Seven, Affirmation!  Opening to what is confronting and revealing:  Here is the hardest stage!  By the end you are confronted by truth’s that do not fit reality.  Things are revealed that show what humankind is capable of, what your life could be like should a different road be taken.  The Camino can be a very scary road as the familiar is left behind, and the trappings of the life are stripped. “You live a live not chose one”

 Buen Camion!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Taking a Short Cut

Thursday, May 24, 2012
2:28 PM Arizona, 11:28 PM Spain

I’m intoxicated!  How I got to this state I’ll explain in the following passages.  We were on the road at 8:00 AM looking for a bus station which Lisa had arrived at yesterday.  Lisa dumped her bike at Santo Domingo de la Calzada two days ago using the bus to get to Burgos yesterday.  We arrive at the bus station and find out that my bike can go on the bus but, the front wheel must be off along with the bags.  We can do this!  So after purchasing, a ticket there is an hour and half wait for our bus.  Off we go in search of some breakfast along with a place to get wireless.  We find this decadent Chocolate place that advertises it is a Wi-Fi hot spot.  We order a tea and chocolate cake covered with chocolate syrup for Lisa and Coffee and chocolate cake covered with chocolate syrup for me.  Oh my god the cake and syrup where to die for however, there was no Wi-Fi.

After breakfast it’s time to unload and take apart the bike.  Look at the bus ticket, which is in Spanish, and think I have found the number which indicates what platform the bus will pull into.  There are two other bike riders across the station from me and they pull out large plastic bags which they use for their front wheels and Panniers.  Well as luck would have it I've got some plastic bags of my own only they are not very large so I’ll need to duct tape them together in order to cover the wheel.  I certainly am not covering my panniers up as no one has plastic bags on their suitcases.  Busy at work secure in knowing our bus will pull in right in front of me I see Lisa waving at me from across the terminal and pointing at a bus there.  Grabbing a nearby hand truck I hurriedly throw all my stuff on and wheel it to the other side of the terminal.  Lisa later informs me the number I though was the bay number was my seat number. Duh!

We are off on a three hour ride to Leon.  No schlepping the bike and stuff over hill and dale, rocks and rivers or speeding trucks.  Lisa is feeling guilty but, I am loving it since we are not the only ones taking a short cut.  The bus is a new experience since I have never been on a bus with an attendant before.  The attendant strolls the aisle offering passengers drinks, snacks, and wet wipes.  After we arrive at Leon, we check on trains and busses to make yet another jump as Lisa is running out of time.  We are not sure where the Albergue is so we wander around town looking for it.  A fellow happens to be walking in the direction of the Albergue and shows us the way.  We settle in then decide to see what the city has to offer.  As we head down the stairs two ladies from the bus are coming up.  They are making arrangements to ship stuff ahead and we ask if they would join us for a drink to pick their minds.  The four of us walk around and finally settle in at a small café.  Our new friends are Barb and Mindy from Vancouver Canada.

Our one drink turned into six and with each drink a small bread sandwich is served.  No need for dinner at this point as we have each had six sandwiches and several friend eggs.  We have shared our life’s most intimate stories, have laughed our asses off, taken pictures, and even shared a tear.  Lisa and I have a curfew, much like teenagers, so we hug and kiss Barb and Mindy good-bye then head back to the Albergue not quite staggering but dam close laughing with abandon.  We make it back and all are in bed but us.  Snickering we change in the hall so as not to wake our roommates.  There is no way I’m going to be able to lay down so it is the common room for me.  There we find a seventy four year old man patching up his feet before going to bed.  Lisa is off to bed while I nod off on the couch for a short while.   Finally, I make it to our room for a short night’s sleep.  We share a quiet giggle before slipping off to sleep

Buen Camion!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Finding Lisa..

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
1:58 AM Arizona 10:53 AM Spain

It is almost 11 AM and I’m still in my little camping spot.  Breakfast of bananas and soymilk with coffee, then packed up the camp and deciding whether to take the road or not.  Well it is time to get going if I intend to make it to wherever.  I look at the highway and there on the other side is an arrow pointing to the Camino.  The Camino it is as the highway is buzzing with trucks.  The road flattens out as I ride through a forest some of which is just coming into bloom.  I stop at an overlook above a beautiful valley filled with the colors of spring.  I pass a farmer as he lazily moves his cow down the Camino path.  The weather has turned warm, the sky blue and my mood lighter.  Another biker and I get lost for a bit, but soon I’m on the way actually riding more than walking.  I’m having trouble finding a non-highway into Burgos and stop at a café for some wine.  Sitting in the sun, drinking vino Blanco along with some almonds I’ve brought with me from home.  I’m right with the world again, but where is Lisa!

Today with lots of sitting, some riding, not much walking, and a few missed turns I arrived in Burgos, find the Albergue Amigos del Camion de Santiago, check in, unload, and have lots of time to look around town.  There is a beautiful Cathedral in Burgos which I stop to take pictures of.  Not paying attention as I move to get a better picture I find myself pitching sideways as I fall off a step.  Quickly I jump up hoping that no one saw me.  How silly to be ashamed of a mishap, which if I had fallen to my left instead of my right, would have taken me down a set of stone stairs.  I finally find a store that has a wine bottle opener which I purchase, but no wine.  Arriving back at the Albergue I have dinner using the stuff I picked up earlier.  I am missing Lisa and wondering where she is hoping she is O.K.  After dinner it’s time to walk around town some more where I find a shop that sells beer, wine and shots for one euro sound good to me.  Than back to the Albergue to get my computer, then wander around looking for a bar that has internet.  Finding one, order a wine then settle in to see what has been going on for the last three days.  Several notes for Lisa, which seem to indicate she has been one day behind me, still riding and hitting the same towns.  The last message indicates she has sent her bike back and has taken a bus to Burgos and should be here today, but I wonder where.  I leave her a message as to where I’m staying hoping we can meet up somehow.  She also states that she will take a bus from Burgos to Leon the next day.  If I can’t find her tonight I’ll not see her again until we return home.  I’m disheartened, finding no reason to continue as I had hoped we would start and finish together.

Back at the Albergue its time to do a wash and after loading the washer I plan to sit down to type a bit.  I do a double take is that?  Yes it is there is Lisa at the computer station across the room, I’m ecstatic that I’ve found her all is well with the world!  She is surprised when I sit down beside her and we hug, kiss and share an emotional moment.  We share our tails for the past three day that we have been separated.  I’ve really missed, her along with being worried if she was O.K. riding the bike.  We find that we have stayed in the same towns either a day before or after each other.  She has been as worried about me as I of her.  We share some joyous laughter over our thoughts for the past three days.   It is so good to see her.  We head off to sleep with a plan of sorts for tomorrow, but any plan is O.K. with me if we are sharing the rest of the Camino together.

Buen Camino.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why The F.... Am I Doing This???

Tuesday, May 22, 2012
11:32 AM Arizona, 8:27 PM Spain

I am on the road by 8 AM today and hell bent on taking the highway.  Enough with the rocks, stones, mud, constant up the freaking mountains and short rides down.  The highway is flatter and I can make better time as I have a lot to make up.  I do?   I have been told by the inn keepers to say way from N-120 as it has a lot of trucks and cars going very fast.  I don’t care I want to get to Burgos and get a freaking train back to Paris.  Well I can’t find the entrance to the freaking highway so it’s back to the path I go.   More walking up the mountains, more rocks, gravel and more leap frog with the three young men from yesterday.  I now worry every time I shift gears the derailleur will break again, I’m worried I’ll get a flat, I’m worried that I will not find a place to stay for the night, and I’m worried about what has happened to Lisa.  This whole thing is for the birds.  What the fuck did I come here for?

The morning starts damp, cold and the sky is filled gray clouds.  Slowly it begins to clear so that by noon, the sun comes out and I can take off some of the layers of clothes I am wearing.  Riding is a little easier for a while then it’s time to do the mountain thing again.  Around 2 PM I begin riding the highway because it is easier than the path but the trucks wiz by very close to the shoulder, and most of the time there is little to know space for me to ride in.  I have no intention of going back on the Camino, which I’ve ridden for the past five days, so it’s the highway or bust.  Why am I riding the Camion; WHY?  No answer comes to me.  That’s just great my ass hurts, my feet hurt, my back hurts and I don’t know why I am here.  What’s up with that!  Things run through my head, which are dismiss, as reasons for doing this stupid break my ass “walk.”  “Buen Camion” they say when passing me by.  I’ll Buen Camion you right in the back of the head I think but, instead I smile and say “Thank you.”  Now I’m back on the path again because the highway closely follows it and I am less stressed.

Watching people limping along makes we wonder what is so important to them about doing this.  There is an older fellow, yes older than me, hobbling along can’t be walking more than 2 km it will take him months to get to the end.  On ward goes the trail more up then down when a group of us reach the highway again I’m riding it no matter how close the trucks come.  Riding!  There is a laugh I am freaking walking it more the riding again.  Up, up, up without end.  If I’d read the guide book I’d know that this is yet another high climb and should be stated early in the morning.  The summit is 1154 m finally I would be able to ride down.  I begin what seems to be the decent and see two things ahead of me.  One the decent is a short one before the road begins to climb yet again.  Next there is a broken down semi sticking out into the road which means riding around it into traffic.  Half way down the decent there is a Camino path which of course goes up hill.  My choice at this point is uphill or uphill.  I am done!  It is 5 PM, which means it is time to find a place to hide out for the night.  Oh what’s this a nice little roadside park with tables and running stream?  Yes it is, so here I’ll camp tonight.

The water is posted as Non Portable yet car after car stops fills up their drinking bottle and off they go.  Nope I don’t think so.  I set up camp, make dinner of Spaghetti, red pepper and onion with a little salt and pepper and half a bottle of wine from last night.  Truck traffic on the highway begins to lighten.  It is 9 PM and time for bed.

Buen Camino!

Monday, May 21, 2012

I've Had Better Days Then This..

Monday, May 21, 2012
11:51 AM Arizona, 7:51 Spain

My eyes open early and it is time to pack up and head toward Santo Domingo de la Calzada.  Actually I’m hoping to get further then that.  My bike is locked up with that of a couple of German riders who ask me how far I’m riding today to which I answer “Who Knows!”   I ask him the same question and he answers the same, then tells me he and his friend plan to ride 80 to 100 Km a day.  With the freaking mountains I’m lucky to get in 50, but what the hell.  It is cold as hell today and the wind is whistling down the street.  I spot at a bank to get some money and pray it works, which it does.  I follow the yellow arrows and of course head uphill and uphill.  Therefore, I thought I was out of the mountains but it appears that I am not nor will I be for another two days.  The wind is blowing like mad and I struggle against it.  I give up and walk as I can do that as fast as ride.  I’m passed by some of those who stayed at the Albergue last night.

The wind does not let up nor do the hills.  On the downhill runs, I pass walking pilgrims who later pass me on the uphill, and there are lots of them.  It seems to me that yet again I have been doing more walking then riding which is really getting old.  Again I wonder where Lisa is and how she is fairing.  The road goes on and so do the hills along with the wind.  I’m ready to quite this and head back to England.  The temperature surely is not above 50 or so, the wind blows without stop, and every so often the rain needs to remind me it is still there.  There are times that riding is possible and others, especially on the uphill grade, it is not.  A local fellow comes out from a side road and has the need of stop me for a little conversation.  Basically to tell me I have too much stuff on my bike and I’m too old to be doing this.  I smile and think to myself you got nothing better to do buddy.

I am having problems with one of my rear panniers, which keeps coming, lose and falling off the bike.  It has fallen off a couple of times but today it falls and hooks into the derailleur which breaks off from the bike.  This means that I can no longer ride and am in the middle of nowhere.  At this point I am ready to throw the bike and all to the side of the road walk to the nearest bus/train and head home.  Of course a little voice inside lets me know this will not happen.  I start to walk round a corner only to find the road flooded with water.  I trudge through the water my sandals and bike filing with rocks and mud.  Ahead is more mud which attempts to suck the sandals off my feet and bogs down the bike.  This little problem lasts for at least a mile until I can finally wash out my sandals in a puddle.  Of course this is all uphill with little respite from the wind.  In the middle of the mud walk it begins to rain during which I’m over taken by another cyclist.  He is telling me something in Spanish which I finally figure out me wants me to move off the not mud part of the road so is friend, who is pulling a trailer, can go by.  I swear that the next freaking train station I am out of these freaking mountains, rain, wind and mud.  My head is telling me that either Lisa has dumped her bike and is now on the way to Madrid or walking.  I have not had access to internet so I don’t know where she is or how she is.

I have been alone for most of the day with the occasional pilgrim passing me by.  There is a lot of time to think, but probably not in the best of moods to follow thru on any of the plans.  Three fellow pilgrims from Denmark walk with me until we reach the next town.  We find arrows pointing toward an Albergue which we all hope has room for us.  We are told that there is only one bed left.  The three from Denmark are willing to move on to the next stop but when the inn keeper finds out I have a bike we all move on.  There is a bed and breakfast for them to stay at and I opt to continue on to Santo Domingo de la Calzada.  I’m lucky in that I can coast most of the way down to the town.  The first Albergue is full so I try the next down the road.  Upon entering, I find that one of the volunteers is from Michigan and the other is from Minorca.  Looking around I see that this is one of the nicest Albergues I have stayed in so far.  I ask if there is a bike shop and the volunteer from Minorca takes me there to see if my bike is fixable.  The bike shop guy does all kinds of head shaking after which I’m told to come back at 7 PM.  The bike shop owner says that Specialized is not a common bike in Spain so he will have to try to get another part to fit.  Great this is going to cost me an arm and a leg I am thinking as we head back to the Albergue.

Back at the Albergue there is a fellow who tends people’s feet for free.  He is there daily in the morning before the pilgrims leave and in the afternoon when they arrive.  He is not a doctor or nurse but someone who has learned how to tend to blisters and the like.  My ankle has been giving me quite a problem today so I sit and ask him if he has something to wrap it with.  He makes me put my foot up which is full of he works on it a bit then tells to go clean up and come back.  I’m too embarrassed to go back so I wait until he leaves before I hobble down the stairs to find a market to buy dinner.  I find myself being a little boy again not wanting to face this person because I had dirty feet.  I’d rather be in pain then ask for help again.  How silly is that?  After shower, dinner and resting a bit it is time to see if my bike can be fixed.  The head shaking fellow has fixed the bike and charges me 78 euro for the work.  My derailleur broke in England and the person who fixed it only charged me 30 pounds but, the bike is fixed and I will be on my way tomorrow.  After studying the maps, it looks like two more days of mountains before I reach a town with a train station.  Behind me are 213 Km and head are 300 of which at least are 100 are still in the mountains.  My bike is getting beat up on the large stone, and rut filled trails of the Camion.  I have been warned to stay off the “highways” as they are quite busy.  Tomorrow I will return to riding the highways and when I reach Burgos I’ll decide whether or not to pack it in and return to England or at least France.

Buen Camino!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Losing Lisa

Sunday, May 20, 2012
9:25 AM Arizona, 5:20 PM Spain

Yesterday, May 19, 2012, we left ---- and headed down the Camino path yet again.  This was another rough trail of dirt, rocks, twists and turns along with lots of climbing.  I keep looking behind me to make sure Lisa is doing O.K.  I reach a top and can no longer see Lisa, but in the past she has shown up so I continue on to the town of Cirauqui.  While waiting I purchase an apple and some Pan.  I walk up a road, which overlooks the Camino path where I see peregrinosstretched out but no Lisa.  After walking around a bit I ask others that we talked with the night before, if they have seen Lisa and they report not seeing her.  I ride back down the Camino looking for my friend but she is nowhere to be found. My choice is to go on or turn back to where we started.  I’m thinking she has either turned back or has chosen to get off the trail and use the road.  So I switch to the road in hopes of running into her.  I get about five minutes down the road and the sky’s open up with loud thunder and a deluge of rain. 

I’m looking for a place to get out of this down pour and spy a gas station.  It is cold, wet, and rather uncomfortable however I’m out of the rain and still scanning the road for Lisa.  After about ten minutes the rain lets up so it is time to move on.  I keep hoping to see Lisa either ahead of me or behind me but no luck.  Upon reaching Estella the sun is out and a nice park presents itself for lunch.  During the ride my camera tells me that its memory is full so it refuses to take anymore pictures.  Sitting in the park offers an opportunity to load the pictures on to my computer.  However, the weather quickly changes as storm clouds begin to roll in again along with more thunder.  By the time I get my gear packed safely away it is pouring again.  It is time to hang out in the bus station while waiting for the storm to pass.  I keep hoping to hear Lisa calling my name as I ride on.  I reach a town outside of Estella called Ayegui when it starts to pour yet again.  I am cold, wet, tired and standing under an overhang looking at Hotel Irache across the street and it looks really looks good.

After spending time watching several pilgrims entering the establishment it is time to follow.  Three Frenchmen have just checked in and now it is my turn.  The clerk tells me 50 euro which causes me to cringe.  Shades of times gone by when I’ve spent more than that to get warm and dry along with a decent meal.  “Bike” I ask and the clerk points to a room where my bike will spend the night.  Despondently I agree to the price then he tries to sell me a dinner for 22 euro.  “No thank you!”  Pay tomorrow I’m told and given the key to my room.  After wheeling my bike in and unloading the two panniers that hold my clothes one of the Frenchmen approaches me.  He indicates that we have been charged too much and we all go back to the desk.  I haggle with the clerk and he agrees to 30 euro for the night.  Opening the door to my room gives me quite a shock as this is more like a suit then a room.  I’m in to a hot shower before the door closes.  Then I check Facebook and SKPYE to see if there is a message from Lisa but find none.

 After dinner it is time to check the internet to see if there is any word from Lisa as I am quite worried about her and mad at myself for not waiting for her to catch up.  After a while, there is a message that she is safe and somewhere in the same town, I am.  I leave a message on FB that I will be using the road tomorrow so we can get back together then I’m off to bed.  It has rained most of the day and the forecast for tomorrow is not much different.  But I hope to find Lisa so we can continue our journey together.  There is a fountain in town that I had wanted to see from which one-half of it you can get water, from the other half wine.  The wine half gets a new barrel daily from a local vineyard, but I have lost interest at this point.  All I want to do is fine Lisa!

May 20, 2012

After breakfast it is time to hit the road.  During breakfast I watched out the window as the Camino passes by the hotel.  I have also been checking the internet but have not seen or heard from her.  The country side is beautiful however it is still full of major ups with very few downs.  It seems I spend more time walking then riding.  I have given up hope of seeing Lisa anytime soon.  So I ride the highway which runs parallel to the Camion path.  The highway goes through the same small towns that the Camino does.  I cross paths with other pilgrim’s when the road meets the Camino.  At times they are familiar faces from previous Albergues, or stops along the road.  We wave in passing like old friends passing during a walk through town.  This seems to be wine country as there are vineyards every ware.  As you pass them some vineyards have marked the rows of grapes with the name of wine they will produce.  There seem to be more bike riders on the road today and all of them pass me.  Repeatedly I look around for Lisa, but there is no sigh of her.

The rain stops and starts sometimes heavy or just a few drips.  The road dry’s then turns wet again which always makes me nervous.  I keep waiting for the tire’s to slip out from under me.  I reach Logrono and wander the city for a bit, stop and listen to a band playing in the middle of town, then ride on following the Camino out into the countryside.  It is a paved route which meanders through some farm fields before beginning its climb yet again.  I seemed to be riding more of the “ups” that walking which at times surprises me.  But there are times when yet another “up” is too much and it is time to walk.  I reflect on the movie “The Way” and how easy Martin Sheen made the walk seem.  The movie shows no struggling as I have seen pilgrims do, no blistered feet which make we wince when I see them.  The movie seems like a set up for those who watch then head out without checking the reality.  I think back to Natasha, from our train ride to St Jean who had seen the move three weeks before and decided to make the walk, wondering how she is doing.

I wonder if Lisa has turned in her bike, sent her stuff ahead as she has been saying, and now is walking the Camino injuring her feet even more.  Upon reaching Navarrete my odometer shows that there are now 56 less Km to travel.  The Albergue De Peregrinos is in the middle of town and only 7 euro; however, I have to sequester my bike at the bar on the corner for another two.  There is another bar up the street which has all this wonderful looking food on display.  The mushrooms with garlic are to die for.  I am staved and eat much more the needed.  I am told the Peregrino dinner, or Meal of the Day, is at 7 PM and cost nine euros.  The fellow who runs the Albergue assures me I will not be disappointed in the meal; I was not.  While I am waiting for 7 PM to roll around I am sitting in the common room with several young people having a grand time.  There are two young women from New York City, along with a signing Frenchman, and drumming Spaniard, plus numerous others.  The girls are quite annoying and certainly give good reason for calling American obnoxious.  The man running the Albergue comes up with a bowl of batter and begins to make crapes for everyone.  They are wonderful and I indulge in several before heading over to get dinner.  I have eaten far too much today.  Tomorrow I have to get my bike from the bar no later the 7 AM, and be out of the Albergue by 8 AM then it appears there are more hills to be conquered before hitting the plains of Spain.  By the way the rains in Spain do not fall mainly on the plains


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Valcarlos, Ronsesvalles, and Beyone

Friday, May 18, 2012
8:28 AM Arizona, 5:28 PM Spain

I’ll start with struggling up the road from the river Nive on May 16th.   Upon reaching the town we scout around for an Albergue.  We meet a fellow, Jorge, from Germany who tells us where it is and that it will not open for a while.   I lock up my bike and after talking with our new friend head to the local shop that serves as a restaurant and market which is called Benta.  I order a nice cold beer to drink while basking in the afternoon sun while Lisa wanders around the town.  We purchase lunch stuff along with a bottle of local wine than head to an overlook in the middle of town for lunch.  While sitting there the German fellow, we met earlier, comes over to tell us he has the code to get into the Albergue.  All us sit for a while talking as Lisa and I finish lunch, then head to the Albergue finding it to be a wonderful place about two years old.  The Albergue Luzaideko has two rooms filled with enough bunk beds to sleep 24 people; both rooms have bathrooms attached with several showers, sinks, and toilets; however there are only three of us in the whole place.  We sit in the dining room/kitchen taking and have finished the wine purchased earlier so I head up to the store for another bottle.  It is local wine that sells for 1.59 euro you can’t go wrong there.

Jorge tells us of his family and offers to cook dinner for us.  We offer to split the cost of the food but he declines and heads to the store to buy the makings for dinner while we relax.  Jorge makes us a wonderful meal and we have polished off two bottles of local red wind.   After spending a good amount of time on the internet telling our tails with our bellies filled it is time for bed in hopes we’ll get up early start our second day on the Camino.  Tomorrow we will travel to Roncesvalles, hopefully find that Lisa’s bike is waiting for us, spend the night, and then start riding toward our destination.   It has been a long day filled with beautiful scenery, good wine and food, pleasant talk, and now it is time to shower and get some rest.  Lisa’s feet have not fared well on this first day out.  She has accumulated several blisters and the surgery foot is quite tender.  I am wearing Teva Sandals without any socks, which so far have not caused me to have any blisters or tenderness although my right ankle is treating to start acting up.  I have two leg issues that could cause me problems.  In high school, I played Soccer and received several kicks in the ankle that required me to tape up both feet.  Over the years, my right ankle acts up from time to time becoming quite painful when I walk.  The second problem is damage to my left knee from a car accident in the sixties.  Again, ever so often tenderness occurs and walking or riding become troublesome.  There is no rhyme or reason to this so when it happens I take it easy for a while.  Since I ride a bike on my travels in Europe neither of these have bothered me much over the years.  I felt twinges in my ankle today and being off it for the evening may hold off any problems.  There will be not taking it easy on this trek since we are on a tight schedule due to Lisa’s having to get back in 20 days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

 We wake up around 7 AM as Jorge wants to get off early, he tries to be quiet, but it does not exactly work.  We begin to eat breakfast and the owner of the Albergue Luzaideko comes in, puts out some breakfast food and coffee, collects 5 euro from each of us, the cost of staying there for the night and breakfast, and stamps our “passports.”  If all the Albergues are like this one, I am going to be one happy camper.  We get on the road around 8 AM and begin part two of our assent of the Pyrenees Mountains.  We have decided that it would be easier on Lisa’s feet if we stick to the N135 to Roncesvalles.  I’m walking my bike up the switch backs leading to the top at 1057 Meters or 3648’.  From time to time we look back at the Valcarlos which is in a valley now far below us.  Upon reaching Ibaneta, the top, it is time for a siesta as it has been a long hard walk and Lisa now has blisters on blisters.  My arms and chest hurt from pushing the bike all the way up from Valcarlos.  Where we are, the two routes from St. Jean merge then head down to Roncesvalles.  We watch as Pellegrinos who have traveled the Napoleon Route walk by.  Then a bus pulls up, drops off about 20 people who wander around the area before heading down to Roncesvalles via walking.  Well I guess there is more the one way to do the Camino.

From there it is downhill into Roncesvalles kind of, as we will only drop down around 100 m.  The road is kind of like a washboard, little ups and downs before we get to the “town.”  We arrive in Roncesvalles, which is consists of a couple of hotels, a monastery that also serves as an Albergue.  Roncesvalles is famous in history and legend for the defeat of Charlemagne and the death of Roland in 778, during the battle of Roncevaux Pass, when Charlemagne's rear guard was destroyed by Basque tribes. Looking around, we do a lot of that, we find Hostal La Posada de Roncesvalles where Lisa has made reservations and had her bike shipped to.  She also sent a package from Madrid with stuff for the bike she purchased in Flagstaff. Thankfully both the bike and package are waiting for her.  The clerk tells us that the bike is in the barn across the lane.  After putting our stuff in the room, we get a glass of wine then put the bike together mounding the items in the box.  After we finish both bikes are placed in the barn and locked up, now it is time for dinner.

We have paid 9 euro for a Peregrino (pilgrim) dinner, called The Meal of the Day which is common fare along the Camino, will be served a 7 PM.  The table gets a bowl of spaghetti to share, then we each get a plate with a fish surrounded by potatoes, finally salad, and desert.  Most restaurants in Spain open around 7 PM, I am not use to eating dinner so late, but will have to get used to it.  At the table are two non-talkative French men along with Mike and Jerome from Holland.  We have a pleasant conversation with Mike and Jerome over several bottles of wine during dinner.  Since there are other pilgrims waiting for their meal the server hurries us through dinner then out the door.  We say good night to Mike and Jerome, wishing them a wondrous journey.  I find out the Wi-Fi is only available in the bar or right outside in the courtyard.  Lisa chooses to sit outside, I opt for inside in the bar area.  After ordering, another glass of wine it is time for reading and writing emails, making notes on Facebook and logging the activities of the day before heading off to sleep.

Thursday, May 17, 2013

It’s time to mount up and head out.  Little did we know when we headed out just how much time we would spend mounted!  It is hard to ride the path as it is full of ups, downs, tree roots, rocks, and lose gravel.  We pass other Pilgrims who we talked to at the Albergue last night but are now climbing up again, thus walking the bikes, the pass us.  Nevertheless, we give it a go as best we can until we agree it is time to ride on the road.  This seems to be bothering Lisa as riding is doing the Camion the way it should be.  Lisa tells me we have three more days of this, which is not what my map shows.  We reach Burguete and then take to the path again doing more pushing of the bike’s then riding.  Somewhere between Erro and Zubiri we give up and take to the road again which is much easier going.  We reach Huarte, stop at a market then have to find our way back to the Camino as we are now far to west.  Upon entering Pamplona, we pass the bull-fighting arena then a wonderful statue of the Running of the Bulls.  After getting directions, we are back on the Camino ending up southwest of Pamplona in Cizur Menor.  I spy a Refugio, that I learn later was once Lepers hospital, however at this point who cares.  We are exhausted and hope there is room for us but, because we have bikes we are turned away.  Just around the corner is Albergue de Maribel en Zizurthat takes us in without any problem.

After checking in, paying five euro, and given a bed assignment, I receive a key to the room where our bikes will spend the night.  It takes us some time but slowly we figure out that we have traveled 56 Km or about 36 miles.  This is Lisa’s first long ride on a fully loaded bike through some really rough terrain, and busy highways.  She handled it without complaint, so I am proud of her accomplishment today.  It has taken an emotional toll on her, she is crying while talking on SKYPE, which I really understand.  The first year I came to England my first ride was so hard that I ended up sitting on the side of the road crying.  I just wanted to get rid of the bike put my bags on a plane and go home which seems to be where she is now.  I am thinking she needs some space so head to the local store for a few things for dinnerLisa, very much, wants to see Parque Eolico Del Perdon on top of Monte del Perdon so I ask the woman who runs the Albergue how to get to them.  She frowns as she tells me “no es possible,” something I’m going to hear many times, on a bike and we should go around the mountain.  Later she gives me a map showing me how to circumvent the mountain.  This is not going to happen because Lisa wants to experience the Camino, not ride on roads, and must see the Parque Eolico Del Perdon.  So, that is what we are going to freaking do!  Come hell or high water we are going to the top of the mountain tomorrow!

After dinner, we have a little talk about what we have accomplished and some decisions that she needs to make to accomplish getting to Santiago.  Since it has been a long hard day Lisa turns in early.  When I arrive sometime later I find we are in a room full of snorers.  Most of the occupants are still awake giggling at one snorer who does not take the hint when someone yells for quiet.  Sleep comes slowly tonight but it does come.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Today we are up, showered, breakfast eaten, and riding out of town heading toward the mountain.  We are on the Camion path again which is dirt, but not to rocky.  The path keeps crossing roads and each time Lisa pull out her map and asks if we should just ride the road.  Nope!  We are taking the Camion path to the top of the freaking mountain.  As we ride, which is getting more difficult now, we meet a man walking his dog.  He too tells us that it is very difficult to get to the top of the mountain by bike.  He shows us a road that will take us to the top of the mountain however; it is a much longer route.  We talk about it but decide to continue on the Camino path to reach the top.  From time to time we must walk the bikes as the climb is getting stepper and the path narrower.  Soon we are only pushing the bike up a narrow path on the side of the mountain.

In the move The Way the actors have reached the top of the mountain and are talking when the character “Host” spies two bike riders pop up from the trail we are now traveling.  He says, “What you can ride a bike, why are we walking?”  Well we were not going to be doing any popping as we pushed the bike up toward the top.  At one point, we had to walk the bikes down some stairs cut into the path that was dangerous due to lose pebbles and dirt.  It was push then stop and rest, then do it again.  Slowly I make it to the top then check to see how Lisa is doing struggling below.  She makes it to the top and begins to cry with happiness that she is at this spot, which she so wanted to see.  We hug, take pictures, nosh, and then begin the decent to our next stop Puente La Reina where we will spend the night.  The path is somewhat rideable, but again there are times we must walk.   Lisa rides on ahead as I am unwilling to bounce my bike along, at time, such a stony path.  After a while, I catch up to her and we ride into town.

Upon entering the Puente Le Reina we come to Albergue Jakue but I am looking for a campground that is supposed to be here.  Lisa and I ride around for a while trying to fine it.  Then I cannot find Lisa!   I stop and ask a man walking down the street if he knows where the campground is and he points to the top of a hill indicating it is up there.  The hell with that I am going back to the Albergue, but first I spend some time looking for Lisa.  Cannot find her so I think she has headed back to the Albergue because she is not camping out.  I arrive back at the Albergue the same time Lisa does and we check in, pay five euro, and unload the bike.  Her bunk is on top of mine, we get our stuff sorted out then I head to the bar for a beer, Lisa goes off to the balcony.  There is internet in the bar so after ordering a beer and a snack I settle in check emails, Facebook etc…

The place has a Buffet style Meal of the Day that costs 9 euros.  We have purchased a ticket to get the buffet, which opens a 7 PM so we wait.  We dine together talking about the adventure of the day among other things.  There is a bottle of wine at our table, which is not that great.  There are lots of salads, meats, fish, and deserts from which to choose.  The food is O.K. but nothing to write home about.  We have had better at some of the other Albergue’s so far. Lisa finishes before me and heads off to SKPYE her boyfriend.  After dinner, I am back in the bar to chat with Mark on SKYPE, and then it is off to bed.  Lisa has talked more and more about using the road rather than the path.  Let us just see what tomorrow brings.

Buen Camino!