Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Day for Goodbyes and a Day of Travel


I will finally be able to post Camino pictures up on the blog now that I'm back in Sweden. I will continue to post pictures of my odyssey over the next few days.

What a great night's sleep, no body else in the room snoring, unzipping and zipping their backpacks. A remote control TV and a private bathroom. . . EXCELLENT!

It was great to not get up at the crack of dawn and it was plain wonderful not to put on my backpack for a day.

It should be noted that after returning to my room Tuesday night, I made a shocking discovery. There is "Camino Clean" and there is "Real World Clean." Simply put, my three sets of clothes that I have been hand washing to perfection daily actually smell to high heaven now that the Camino is done. YIPES!

I threw away the biggest offenders in a trash can on the street, I had to get them out of the room, ASAP!

Wednesday was a day to relax and recover from 33 days on the Camino, sightsee and unfortunately a day to say goodbye to a lot of friends.

The Cross of Santiago Matamoros

One of the three Camino icons along with yellow arrows and clam shells, today was my last chance to explore the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Not sure who this is but it's a nice statue

The University of Santiago de Compostela's
Philisophy Department

HUELGA TODAY!!!

The various Workers Parties of Spain called for a General Strike in the entire country Wednesday. As a result, about 90% of the stores were closed as well as about 50% of the restaurants, cafés and bars.

Most of the stores that were open specialized in Camino souvenirs.

You walked 500 miles to see me?

You must be crazy!

St. Michael the Archangel

Wednesday was the feast day of the three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Rafael. I kind of like the devil that St. Michael is about to terminate.

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

I decided to go back inside to see Wednesday's Pilgrim's Mass at noon. This time I planned to better position myself to see the flying incense burner in action at the end of the Mass.

Fortunately, they had a singing nun, not the Singing Nun, lead the congregation at today's Mass. It was a fantastic improvement over yesterday's tone deaf priest.

It was different today as you could instantly recognize the peregrinos who had just finished their Caminos today by their limps, walking sticks, bandages on their feet and general washed out look. Strange, but I definitely felt that I was no longer part of them, my Camino days were definitely over.

LIGHT THE INCENSE!

A delicious fragrance to hide
the aroma of the pilgrim's

Swing high one way and. . .

Then swing it back our way
THE FLYING THURBER ROCKS!!!

Is this guy Politically Correct?

Huelga Rally outside of the Cathedral

I was a little surprised by this after the Mass because the big strike rally was scheduled at a nearby park at 12:30.

These protesters were singing songs loudly in support of their cause.

I started to walk down the narrow street between the Cathedral and our hotel when I heard a bullhorn in the distance. It was the people from the other rally marching to join the Cathedral's rally.

At the sound of the bullhorn, shop owners who were open on this street started to panic. They forced customers to leave their stores immediately, locked the doors and turned out the lights inside their stores as fast as possible in belated support of the Huelga.

Santiago was calm during the strike from what I could tell but things did get out of hand in Barcelona yesterday.

March On!

Spanish Bagpipes fired up the strikers

Soon after the marchers passed, I met up with some fellow Peregrinos for lunch in a great little restaurant on an even smaller side street to start saying our goodbyes.

Ste. Julie from Canada, Ste. Trine from Denmark, me, Ste. Jillian from Ramona, California, Felipe from Columbia, Ste. Jaime from San Diego and
Ste. Michelle from Germany

We were saying goodbye here to Felipe who just got back from walking three more days to Finisterre, the "End of the Earth." He will now tour the south of Spain, Morrocco and then walk in India if all goes well.

Ste. Michelle was returning to Germany.

A few tears were shed soon after this photo was taken.

A Great Candy Store

In case you are not fluent in Spanish, "Pecados de Santiago," the store's name, means "Sins of Santiago."

After a little more shopping and a short break back at the hotel, we were to meet one last time for dinner as Team North America.

Dessert first is ALWAYS a good option!

The choices and rich aromas were fantastic!

Remember, if you walk 15 miles a day, you can eat just about anything you want and not worry about it.

Now it was time to consider our dining possibilities.

Octopus, a huge delicacy here in Galicia

Who doesn't love a good leg of ham?

That reminds me,
I'll be with Laurie again on Monday

YAHOO!!!

TEAM NORTH AMERICA

I know that Trine hales from Denmark which is not in North America but I'm sure they are part of NATO or at least in the UN with us.

Lunch had some sad moments, but this evening was one of charged emotions forged by 33 days of intense Camino bonding. We shared a lot of pain, laughter, anger, frustration and caring. I could not have made it without the love and support of these four wonderful ladies.

They are my Camino.

Bright and early at the Santiago Airport

It is time to return to Hässleholm to gather my belongings and start my return to Camarillo on Sunday. I'm really ready to come home after seven months abroad.

First flight from Santiago to Madrid

Surprisingly after yesterday's strike, the airport was very empty. After the one hour flight to Madrid and a one hour layover, it was on to Copenhagen. This second flight would take three hours.

Once in Denmark, it was another 90 minutes by train to the Subway sandwich shop next to the Hässleholm train station where Shawn Cordeiro picked me up to whisk me away to Junior/PeeWee football practice.

Uffe Palmbrink helping U-13 kids get
into to gear for their first time

Their have been as many as 45 kids at practice for the Hurricanes first ever attempt at having U-15 and U-13 teams. AWESOME!

Shawn Cordeiro about to get
launched into orbit

They are so darn cute at this age

So, it is good to be back in Hässleholm even if it is only for a two days and it is great to see the Hurricanes develop as a program, the future is bright!

To sum up my Camino experience, lets just say that people, landscapes, culture, food and drink of northern Spain are just AWESOME!

It was the adventure of a lifetime!

TEAM NORTH AMERICA. . .
ON THREE!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Camino Provides


Final thoughts from a Monday night in Arca do Pino. . .


I could not fall asleep last night for two reasons, one was obviously the anticipation of reaching the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela today and the other was a thought that kept attacking my consciousness from earlier in the day.

When I started to research the Camino de Santiago and the trials, tribulations and hardships it presents you, I remember reading somewhere not to worry, "The Camino Provides."

After I discovered this weird blister on our 32nd day of walking, I went across the street to a Spanish Red Cross First Aid station. I had only seen two of these in the last three weeks of walking, but when I needed it, "The Camino Provides."

When I got my first blister weeks ago, there were fellow pilgrims who stepped up and helped me then too, "The Caminio Provides."

When I got irritated at boorish, selfish or negative pilgrims, Ste. Jaime was there with infinite patience, goodness and oozing with positology, "The Camino Provides."

When I got tired walking at a brisk pace, Ste. Jillian would be there to spur me on to our next destination, "The Camino Provides."

When I was down in the dumps and lonesome for family and friends, Ste. Julie would be there with a smile in her ever so warm heart to bolster my spirits, "The Camino Provides."

When I felt weirded out, Ste. Trine would start talking about equally far out things and make me feel normal again, "The Camino Provides."

When I thought about my 63 years and how little relatively time is left, I met three girls from Oregon, Keeley, Anna and Evan who just graduated from college, have their whole lives ahead of them and live each day to the fullest. They reminded me to do the same with each day I have left, "The Camino Provides."

Today when we entered Santiago and reached the Cathedral I definitely needed some one to share the joy, Team North America, Ste. Julie and Ste. Jillian were there for me, "The Camino Provides."

STAGE 33
Arca do Pino to Santiago de Compostela
20.6 km/12.8 miles
Time Walked, 4:31

Total Distance Walked, 798.6 km/496.2 miles
Total Time Walked, 192:31
32 Nights in Albergues, 192 Euros
2 Nights in the 4 Star Hotel Compostela, 216.50 Euros

IT IS WORTH IT, I'VE EARNED IT!

Out the door at 5:54, we wanted to reach Santiago in time for the noon Pilgrim's Mass. We made it in plenty of time to get our Compostela before the Mass, take pictures and celebrate.

The Mass was highlighted by a priest's singing that was the worst ever! Better yet was the gigantic swinging incense thurber that was hoisted and swung so high that we couldn't see the end of its arc from our seats, quite impressive!

All in all the Camino was a great experience that I will carry with me the rest of my life, now it is time to go home, but not until we celebrarte!

FUE UN BUEN CAMINO!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

American Football Updates


Scores of interest to me over the past weekend. . .


Friday night High School results,
San Marcos JV 21 - Hueneme JV 0
Michael Contreras' J.V. team dropped to 1-3 but he felt they played much better this week. Hang in there Vikings.

Rio Mesa 48 - Santa Barbara 29
The Spartans are now 2-1.

Saturday's College results,
Washington (1-2) had a much needed bye as they prepare for the PAC-10 opener this Saturday at U.S.C.

Jason Johnson's Pacific Lutheran (2-0) squad also had a bye as they get ready to take on their cross town rivals, the University of Puget Sound Loggers for bragging rights in Tacoma.

¿Does anybody really want to have bragging rights in Tacoma?

Sunday's NFL result,
Scott Fujita's snakebit Cleveland Browns (0-3) lost another close one, this time to the Baltimore Ravens, 24-17. The Browns have now lost all three of their 2010 games by a grand total of 12 points. Hang in there Browns.

¿A Blister, on Day 32?


STAGE 32

Ribadiso to Arca do Pino
22.2 km/13.8 miles
Time Walked, 5:20

Total Distance Walked, 778.0 km/483.4 miles
Total Time Walked, 188:00
32 Nights in Alberques, 192 Euros

Distance to Santiago de Compostela
20.6 km/12.8 miles

ONE MORE DAY!!!

After a very cold night, Ste. Jillian and I shoved off at 7:06 a.m. for our daily stroll, this time to the exotic village of Arca do Pino, population again known only by the U.N.'s peace keeping forces.

It was really cold for the first three hours of our walk, so much so that when we took our mandatory Cafe con Leche break my fingers were absolutely numb and non-functioning.

At our stop, I saw a Spanish newspaper and found out many interesting bits of information. First, the weather in Los Angeles today should reach 35ºC which is well over 100ºF! Ouch!!!

Next, Briget Bardot turns 76 tomorrow. Damn! ¿How is that possible?

Finally, we missed a great opportunity as a group of about 100 men dressed in Roman Legion outfits led 200 cerebral palsy victims into Santiago de Compostela yesterday. Now that would have been a sight to see.

Irritating Things about España:

No. 1, "Casi" During the last four or five days on the Camino, this word is now seen painted next to the traditional Camino yellow arrows that guide our path. Casi means almost, as in you are almost there, as in you are ten minutes away in my mind. No, it means more like you only have 15 km to go today. I don't like it at all.

No. 2, ¨Bar 50 meters this way." In España, they have no clue about the metric system or how it is supposed to work. Any sign saying that you are only "X" meters away from something is not to be believed. For example, today's alberque was "only 100 meters" from the Camino. Ronnie Jenkins would have run out of gas long before he got to our albergue's front door. You could look it up.

No. 3, "Opens at 16:00" Nothing EVER opens on time in España! The other day I waited until after 16:25 for a church to open at 16:00 after the siesta. I left and it still wasn't open. Show up three seconds tardy from lunch at St. Phillip the Apostle School in Pasadena, California and Sister Mary Thomas Sadistic would have beaten my knuckles raw with an oak ruler!

We noted interesting blue arrows today on the Camino meant for pilgrims who are now walking back from Santiago de Compostela to St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France.

NOT ON YOUR LIFE!

Today's gorgeous Galician walk was through a series of eucalyptus groves reminescent of the grove on U.S. 101 as you drive north near Salinas. Ste. Jillian and I got on the home food talk earlier than normal, it started at about the ten km mark. The subject today was apples, cold and crisp but of course. The unanimous winner was steaming hot French apple pie with a huge scoop of French vanilla ice cream melting deliciously and ever so slowly.

Better than BBQ pig's head if you ask me.

Upon arriving at the albergue about 40 minutes before their posted 1:00 p.m. opening, two things became apparent.

First, upon taking off my wonderful Timberland walking shoes, I discovered a brand spanking new blister on the outside of my right "ring finger" toe. AFTER 32 DAYS OF WALKING, NOW I GET A BLISTER!!! Fortunately, it is like the one I got on Day 2, not where I push off and non-painful. The Red Cross First Aid lady took care of me for free and I WILL hoof it into Santiago de Compostela tomorrow come what may, I've come too far not to!

Secondly, a Spaniard instantly took over the job of "Queue Franco" as we all waited for the albergue to open. God bless the new arrival that dared to greet friends who arrived earlier than they did. NO MERCY! Now remember, the albergue has 120 beds and the line had at the most 40 people in it. No one was stressed, we are in España after all and were chillin' to say the least with ONLY ONE DAY TO GO!

Idioto!

At lunch, we were all giddy at the prospect of having only one more short day to reach our goal, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in time for the noon Pilgrim's Mass. It promises to be an emotional moment. I started this walk 32 days ago as a lone pilgrim but have bonded closely with my new family of Camino Saints and loosely with many people along the way with very diverse lifestyles, cultures and nationalities. I could not have made it without their help, encouragement, laughter and mostly animos. The best things in life are definitely not things!

Speaking of today's lunch, we had a great waitress who served us an unbelievably good coffee, whiskey, cinnamon, milk and whipped cream drink that is the best Camino energy adult beverage that we have encountered period.

When I asked our waitress about the local dialect that I have had some difficulty with, she corrected me. It is not the Basque dialect at all, it is Gallego.

A week from today I land in Los Angeles, I can't wait to see Laurie again. YAHOO!!!!

Vamos Muy Bien y Con Muchos Animos!

BUEN CAMINO!!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pig's Heads?



Final thoughts from a Saturday evening in Palas de Rei, population 4,500. . .

Every morning, Ste. Jillian, Ste. Julie and I venture into the brisk Galician morning in total darkness for about 45 minutes. My only aid is my blue Maglite that was a gift at one of the Parsons Company Golf Tournaments when Mike D'Antuono was their glorious leader. Those were the days. . .

The 23 Koreans all hand washed their clothes tonight but decided to dry them all together in the albergue's only dryer at the same time! After two hours, they were still wondering why all of their clothes were still wet and everybody else was staring at them with daggers.

Spaniards are short people by nature so all of their doorways are shorter as well. My head is a series of bumps and bruises from banging my head into doorways constantly. I hit my head all three times I used the servicios during the night.

A correction, I believe that Galicia is actually a region and we have been walking in the Province of Lugo or vice versa perhaps.

STAGE 31
Palas de Rei to Ribadiso
26.4 km/16.4 miles
Time Walked, 6:24

Total Distance Walked, 755.8 km/469.6 miles
Total Time Walked, 182:40
31 Nights in Albergues, 187 Euros

Distance to Santiago de Compostela
42.8 km/26.6 miles

A bit of a late start today as Team North America did not embark until 7:13 a.m. Our goal today was Ribadiso, population a highly guarded military secret!

On the way we left the region or province of Lugo and entered A Coruña. We crossed six river valleys along the way, mostly on stunning wooded pathways. Can Galicia get any better than today?

At about the halfway point, we entered the relatively large city of Melide. It is a Sunday which usually means that everything is closed but, no, quite the contrary here. Not only are all the stores open, they are having a massive street fair/farmer's market. The reason was simple really, this weekend is a FESTA and the city is alive!

Do you know how good cream filled, chocolate covered Galician churros are? We do.

At one of the farmer's market stalls, a butcher had set up shop selling one thing only, pig. ALL the pig including their heads. I asked an elderly couple, o.k. they were my age, about how you prepare a pig's heads for eating.

Their answer was fairly simple, marinate the pig's head for two days in salt water and then cook it any way your heart desires. . . YUM!

All of this positive energy in Melide almost made us abandon our plan to walk 11 more kms and get an albergue in Melide. Instead we opted to push on, get to Ribadiso, check into our albergue and then take a taxi back to Melide for the evenings festivities.

As I write this, we are fat and sassy after a good lunch and too tired to even get into a taxi. We may rally but I doubt it greatly.

Our albergue's setting is the best we've had on the entire Camino. A gentling moving stream goes under a Roman bridge right outside our window. The albergue is surrounded by rolling farmland, very relaxing indeed!

We will arrive in Santiago de Compostela in just two more days, AMAZING!

VAMOS BIEN!

BUEN CAMINO!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pulpo


Final thoughts from Portomarín. . .


We had a really good paella for dinner but a pre-packaged flan was way below Galician standards. We did share some excellent croquetas as an appetizer, the quest continues.

STAGE 30
Portomarín to Palas de Rei
26.1 km/16.2 miles
Time Walked, 5:47

Total Distance Walked, 729.4 km/453.2 miles
Total Time Walked, 176:16
30 Nights in Albergues, 182 Euros

Distance to Santiago de Compostela
69.2 km/43.0 miles

After a poor night's sleep due mostly to unrest and moaning by the newbies, we shoved off at 7:03 full of energy and good spirits since we only had four more days of walking the Camino. I did have a small scare when I thought someone had taken my walking shoes but I found that somehow they had ended up on the other side of a very large room.

A big concern for us is a scheduled General Strike, HUELGA!, scheduled for next Wednesday, the day after we enter Santiago de Compostela. It may or may not paralyze the city's transportation systems. If worse comes to worse, I'll just walk the mere seven miles to the airport to fly back to Copenhagen. We'll see. . .

We had nice cloud cover, low temperatures and no rain today for our walk to Palas de Rei, population 4,500. We did get to enjoy more tree canopied paths and farm landscapes to make the stroll interesting.

I walked most of the day with Ste. Jillian. She is tough and can walk at a very brisk pace for long distances. She is funny and light hearted thus a good walking companion. As usual, at the 12 km mark, we started talking about the food we miss from home. Today's topic "Mexican Chain Restaurants." Ste. Jillian opted for Chipotles while I countered with Baja Fresh. What do you think?

Today on the Camino, the newbies did their best impression of "Night of the Living Dead." My alberque room has ten beds and smells like an Atomic Balm factory. Hee, hee, hee. . .

In Spanish, the United States translates into Estados Unidos. Instead of abbreviating it to E.U., in Spanish it is shortened to EE.UU. Why?

We went out for a light lunch and shared raciones that included a Galician favorite, pulpo. That is octopus to you and in an excellent garlic sauce really hit the spot!

Overall, I sense an overwhelming feeling of inner peace and strength as the Camino winds down. I love my new friends, miss my old ones but mostly can't wait to get home to be with my family again.

Home soon!

Vamos Bien y Con Animos!!

BUEN CAMINO!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

KOREA INVADES GALICIA, film at 11:00



Final thoughts from a Thursday in Sarria, population 13,000. . .

O.K., truth be told about yesterday's wonderful walk, we wanted to take the 6.5 km shortcut but missed it walking in the dark. Destiny took a hand and guided us on the "true" path.

Anna from Portland, Oregon jogs a couple of miles every evening, I guess she just isn't getting enough exercise on the Camino each day.

STAGE 29
Sarria to Portomarín
22.9 km/14.2 miles
Time Walked, 5:38

Total Distance Walked, 703.3 km/437.0 miles
Total Time Walked, 170:29
29 Nights in Albergues, 172 Euros

Distance to Santiago de Compostela
95.3 km/59.2 miles

Yet another great night of sleep, for the second straight morning I slept through my alarm.

Everyone walked today but in small groups. I walked all day with Ste. Julie and Ste. Jillian and we scooted out the door at 7:11 a.m. for what was to be a relatively easy day for us.

Our only drawback was a light drizzle the first two hours which was bothersome but not devastating except for the moment we were walking in the dark under another canopy of trees by a railroad track. A runaway freight highballed it past us, shaking every drop of water out of the trees in it's wake creating a ten second downpour of biblical proportions! You had to laugh.

I saw my first donkey on the Camino today. It was very stoic until Ste. Jillian yelled "ON TO SANTIAGO!" The donkey then brayed as loud as possible for about 15 seconds. Again, we were able to laugh at life on the Camino.

Big doings today at the 100 km to Santiago de Compostela marker on the Camino. Lots of posing for pictures as we entered the homestretch.

This marker is also a sore spot for us. You see, the rules of the Camino state that you can earn your Compostela, the certificate of completion of the Camino, if you can prove through the sellos, stamps, on your pilgrim's credential that you walked/biked/rode a horse these last 100 kms. It doesn't seem quite fair but those are the rules.

Thus we are seeing all sorts of new faces on the Camino. The newbies are easy to spot, they are taking photos of everything, have new shoes and are fresh and peppy. A bus load of 23 Koreans started their Camino today in Sarria and I'm happy to report that about a third of them look like death warmed over after just one day.

YAHOO!!!

Now we have to get a minimum of two sellos per day these last 100 kms to further prove somehow that we are actually not cheating to get a Compostela. Also, albergue prices are going up due to simple supply and demand economics.

DAMN!

Still, we are comfortably esconced in Portomarín, population 2,000. I feel really strong and upbeat mostly because I'm traveling with great people indeed.

Remember, you are who you hang with.

The Gallego dialect that is so prevalent in Galicia only allows me to understand about 2/3rds of what is being said but that is still enough to communicate with the Gallegos.

I am continuing my search in Galicia for the perfect croqueta. Portomarín has given me a strong contender at lunch but further research is, of course, a must.

Vamos Bien y Con Muchos Animos!!!

BUEN CAMINO!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Galicia Rocks!


Final thoughts from Triacastela, population 900. . .


I keep forgetting to mention Jean Claude, an old guy from France who can really walk fast. A really good guy who speaks no English but just continues to talk to me in French every day, we seem to communicate some how.

After a light dinner for once, I had a great night's sleep!

STAGE 28
Triacastela to Sarria
25.0 km/15.5 miles
Time Walked, 6:38

Total Distance Walked, 680.4 km/422.8 miles
Total Time Walked, 164:51
28 Nights in Albergues, 162 Euros

Distance to Santiago de Compostela
118.2 km/73.4 miles

At 7:08 a.m., a small contingent of Team North America left the albergue for the stroll through the Galician countryside. Trine and Jaime are still battling illness and decide to take the taxi to our next stop, Sarria, population 13,000. Greg, Kim and Ruth stayed a different albergue, so we didn't know when they were leaving. Thus Julie, Jillian and I embarked with a big decision to make.

At Triacastela, the Camino offers two options, Route 1 is the long one while Route 2 is a 6.5 km shortcut. After much discussion in the wee hours of the Galician morning, we reached a unanimous decision. It would be the long route for our brave group today!

Our courageous decision was rewarded with glorious Galician landscapes full of cows, horses, dogs, cats, sheep and goats. We were enlightened by streams teeming with fish and treated to pathways canopied by trees beginning to drop their autumn leaves. It was, in a word, INCREDIBLE!

Also at about the halfway point, in the town of Samos, we had not one but two great experiences. First we caught sight of their excellent Benedictine monastery, one of the oldest in Spain. Then we enjoyed one of the best Cafe con Leches on all of the Camino, life is oh so good!

As we continued our journey, there were lots of yellow arrows to guide us but no clam shell signs, the Camino's icon. We had been warned that in this area is it easy to get lost/sidetracked by one of the local walking paths known as Senderismos. We finally found a sign with several cities posted on it but none of them were on our maps. We trudged on until we reached the hamlet of Sivil, population two.

Suddenly the entire town's population was walking towards us armed with an axe and a sickle, we might be in deep trouble. Instead, this great couple, she sported the axe, informed us that we were still on the Camino and that Sarria was only about 90 minutes away!

Angels are everywhere on the Camino!!!

Lately it seems that when I walk with the girls, the first 12 km or so are filled with random chit chat and moments of enlightened insights. After that it is all about what we miss from home, mostly the food choices. Today for me it was Bobbi's Mexican Restaurant's large quesadilla dripping with butter. DAMN!!!

We found a good albergue and all of Team North America is now in residence at the Albergue Los Blasones. After the usual shower, laundry, Cafe con Leche, croqueta and caña routine, I did a little sightseeing of this nice city

It is hard for me to believe that I just finished my fourth week of walking the Camino. I've covered 422.8 miles, probably three times the distance I've walked in the last 40 years combined! We only have five more days until we reach Santiago de Compostela. What were the odds in Vegas?

Vamos Bien y con Animos!

VIVA GALICIA!!
BUEN CAMINO!!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jose Antonio Garcia


Some more thoughts from Tuesday night in O'Cebreiro, population 50. . .

Before I forget yet again, four days ago we passed through the hamlet of Manjarin, population ONE!

Lots of cow bells surround us as we are back in farming country.

On the way up the steepest part of the mountain today, when I was dripping with sweat and dead tired, I looked up to the top of the path and saw the Blessed Virgin Mary's outline urging me to the top. When I got there it was actually a woman names Isabel, a native of Madrid who has lived the past 25 years in Miami, Florida thus making her a Cuban. She is walking the Camino with her daughter Lucia. Still. . .

I should mention David and Michael from Canada who are traveling the Camino, and life I think, together. Both are good hearted guys who add a lot to our group's dinners and shared Camino experiences.

O'Cebreiro is the top of the world in these parts and treated us to an incredible sunset tonight.

STAGE 227
O'Cebreiro to Triacastela
20.7 km/12.9 miles
Time Walked, 5:35

Total Distance Walked, 655.4 km/407.3 miles
Total Time Walked, 158:13
27 Nights in Albergues, 153 Euros

Distance to Santiago de Compostela
143.2 km/89.0 miles

Team North America was out the door at 7:00 a.m. sharp minus Greg, Kim and Ruth who all decided to stop yesterday in La Faba, five very rugged kilometers behind us. We should all meet up again today at our destination city, Triacastela, population 900. Also in Triacastela we were reunited with Ste. Trine from Denmark who has been ill for a few days now since we left Astorga and rode on a bus to catch up with us.

It was easy to identify the new walkers in the morning who are just now joining the Camino. They are the ones who reek of BenGay and walk funny.

Lots of cow manure on the path today accompanied by fly colonies. I'm getting used to the aroma again.

We walked through beautiful mountain side farms today where I half expected to spot Julie Andrews spinning around singing "The hills are alive. . ."

Along the way in a random medieval village, a woman was giving out crepes to peregrinos sprinkled with sugar for any donation you were willing to give her. Best investment I've made to date on the Camino!!!

We passed a guy walking the Camino in the opposite direction this morning wearing a lycra Halloween skeleton outfit. I thought it was death coming to get me but no, it was just another goofy Spaniard having fun.

I need to mention two more of our Camino mates, Keeley and Anna from Portland, Oregon. Two fun loving girls with a passion for life. Today Keeley passed me going downhill running!

I had lunch today with Julie in another of these truly ancient Spanish bars. I can't get enough of their food or ambiance, just wonderful places to hang out with friends.

We now have added Homer and Avital to our entourage. They are from Israel and started their Camino in León. Speaking of Israel. . .

That brings us to one Jose Antinio Garcia. In Villoval today, on my juice break, we met this incredible peregrino. He started this latest pilgrimage in JERUSALEM! He walked all the way to Finisterre which is three days past Santiago de Compostela and is now retracing his steps and needs to walk into Rome by December 24th when the Pope will receive him!

Jose Antonio showed me a copy of the newspaper "La Voz de Asturias" from earlier this month that did a front page story on him claiming that the several pilgrimages he has taken in his life have taken him over 9,800 kilometers!!! Jose Antonio is from Andalucia in southern Spain and definitely made me feel humble at our now relatively meager accomplishments.

That being said, WE BROKE THE 400 MILE BARRIER TODAY!!! Only six days and 89 miles to go.

Vamos Bien!

VIVA ESPAÑA!!
BUEN CAMINO!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

American Football Scores From Around the Globe


Last weekend's key reults:


The Hueneme H.S. Vikings J.V. team dropped to 1-2 with a 54-20 loss to Nordhoff. Michael Contreras comented that you play like you practice, so true.

Rio Mesa is now 1-1 after an Italian Football League game broke out in El Rio last Friday. Despite Taner Wrout's 4 TD effort, Ventura was able to outlast the Spartans by a final score of 55-41.

The Washington Huskies are now 1-2 after being manhandled by Nebraska 56-21.

Jason Johnson's Pacific Lutheran University Lutes got a big win against Cal Lutheran by a score of 35-21. PLU is now 2-0.

In NFL action, Scott Fujita's Cleveland Browns dropped to 0-2 after losing another close one, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs 16-14.

Meanwhile, in SAFF relegation games, the two Superseries teams were both triumphant. Djurgården (1-10) beat Ystad (10-2-1) 7-0 and Arlanda (5-6) beat Örebro (13-1) 28-6. There is definitely a BIG difference between Superseries and Division I, as there should be I guess.

Is That All You've Got?



STAGE 26
Villafranca del Bierzo to O'Cebreiro
30.9 km/19.2 miles
Time Walked, 7:07

Total Distance Walked, 634.7 km/394.4 miles
Total Time Walked, 152:38
26 Nights in Albergues, 14 Euros

Distance to Santiago de Compostela
163.9 km/101.8 miles

Team North America left the albergue at 7:08 a.m. for what promised to be our third straight difficult day, we were not disappointed in the least!

I was able to reach O'Cebreiro, population 50, by 2:15 p.m. and was pleased with my effort. The problem today was elevation, we would go up a mountainside 600 meters, almost 2,000 feet, during the last 8.2 km of our stroll today, grueling!!!

It was tough but WE WON! Is that all you've got Spain? Is that your best shot Camino? It was a great day for the triumph of the human spirit. My Abuela gave me massive amounts of energy today during the last two hours.

Only seven more days left on the Camino.

Today was like walking through the Pacific Northwest or Vermont perhaps, gorgeous scenery to ease the pain.

There were Spanish bagpipes playing in the distance today, very traditional in these parts. Also, the local Gallegos do not like the fact that all the road signs are in Spanish so they paint over them with the Gallego spelling of towns, confusing.

I saw my first Peregrino doing the Camino on horseback today as well.

We have entered the province of Galicia now and people here are very proud of their province from what I can tell.

Upon further review of Ste. Jillian's desire to name her first born son after a Nestle's ice cream bar, if she does, and he keeps his mother's maiden name, he would be Maxibon Rambow. . . how cool a name would that be!!!

Vamos Bien!

BUEN CAMINO!!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another Long Day


Final thoughts from a Sunday in Molinaseca. . .


They had a very nice, hilltop church in town with very colorful ornamentation inside.

We opted for eating al fresco and had a delicious chorizo al vino with cheese bocadillo with another ice cold beer, good choices indeed.

As expected after the grind of the day, I had my best night of sleep yet on the Camino!

STAGE 25
Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo
30.7 km/19.1 miles
Time Walked, 8:13

Total Distance Walked, 603.8 km/375.2 miles
Total Time Walked, 145:31
25 Nights in Albergues, 139 Euros

Distance to Santiago de Compostela
194.8 km/121.0 miles

Out the door at 6:57, I would walk most of the day with Ste. Julie and Ste. Jillian. We took our time and stopped for Cafe con Leche and an apple pastry in Ponferrada across from the awesome Castle of the Knights Templar. It was here that Ste. Jaime rejoined our troop with two new members of Team North America, Greg and Kim, friends of Ste. Jaime also from San Diego.

We went through a lot of corn fields again today but other than a few kernels in salads, we never see corn on the menus.

Many of the villages that we walk through are so small that they don't have a lot of services. So, to take up the slack, butchers, fruit venders and bakers drive their wares into these hamlets and sell the locals what they need out of their trucks. I especially like the bakers who drive around in the morning honking their horns for people to come out and buy pan. It reminds me of the old Helms Bakery trucks in southern California back in the 1950's.

I'll land in Los Angeles two weeks from today at 12:55 p.m. . . YAHOO!!!! It's time and I'm ready, almost, only eight more days to go on the Camino.

At Cacabelos we stopped for a great lunch in a bar called Pulpera Compostela. Serrano ham is awfully good with cheese in a bocadillo.

Our two food stops would come back to haunt us as we had to walk two hours in the heat of the day and it got up into the high 90º's F today! Lesson learned, tomorrow we strato-streak!

We started talking about what we would eat first when we got back to our home towns. Ste. Julie wants Canadian bacon and an iced cappucino at Tim Horton's. Ste. Jillian's choice was hot carrots (?). Ste. Jamie wants a huge breakfast at the Original Pancake House. As for me, double-double with grilled onions please.

The last two hours today in the heat were offset by some incredible scenery as we marched through forests and beautiful vineyards that were being harvested as we passed. By the end, I felt like a paparazzi spying on the Spanish wine industry.

Ste. Julie, the ice cream addict, has now turned Ste. Jillian to the dark side as well. So much so that Ste. Jillian swears that she will name her first born son Maxibon. That is the Nestle's ice cream that is at the top of their Spanish helado hit parade. I can still quit ice cream anytime I want, it's just that I don't want to right now.

At dinner tonight we were joined by two sisters, Lise, originally from Quebec, Canada but now living in Tours, France and her sister, Madeline, who still resides in Quebec. Nice ladies who added a lot to the ambiance at another great Peregrino meal.

Vamos Bien!

VIVA ESPAÑA!!

BUEN CAMINO!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

HARD, HARD DAY!


Final thoughts from a Saturday night in Rabanal del Camino, population 50. . .


Today was my 200th consecutive day living in Europe.

In the afternoon, it was great to share a bottle of red wine with Jaime, Jillian and our new English friend from a couple of days ago, Tiggy. Julie, who does not drink alcohol, and another new friend, Charles from Quebec also shared our afternoon table, great fun indeed!

We are up in the mountains and it is definitly getting colder.

Strange phenomenom again today. As you walk, you just suddenly appear in a city that pops up out of nowhere. Except for your goal city, it always appears in the distance but like a mirage never seems to get any closer. It is the same every day!

We had butter served with our bread at dinner tonight, a very strange occurence in Spain but did it ever taste good with our typically incredible bread!

Trine was sick all day today and never left the albergue after checking in at about noon. Jaime looked quite ill as well at dinner, not good!

At 8:30 p.m., three girls riding mountain bikes tried to check into the albergue. They got the last three overflow matresses that were thrown on the floor. Nice planning on their part.

STAGE 24
Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca
26.5 km/16.4 miles
Time Walked, 6:50

Total Distance Walked, 573.1 km/356.1 miles
Total Time Walked, 137:18
24 Nights in Albergues, 134 Euros

Distance to Santiago de Compostela
225.5 km/140.1 miles

I started my ordeal at 7:00 a.m. but it was strange. Normally, when I leave, only a few people are still in bed but today, almost everybody was still in the sack.

We thought that today would be a moderate day before two straight Stages of 30+ km days, WERE WE EVER WRONG! This would turn into the hardest day physically since we crossed the Pyrenees Mountains back on Stage 1!

It started out with a 300 meter climb to the highest point on the entire Camino, the 1,505 meter La Cruz de Ferro. It was a good start with the joy of doing the traditional dropping of rocks at this Cruz, in my case to honor Abuelo, Abuela and Dad. We are in the mountains now and the scenery is delightful!

Although the panoramic vistas coming down from La Cruz de Ferro were spectacular, the walk was very, very hard. We would experience a drop in altitude of over 900 meters in the last 18 km of our walk. This would take place entirely on paths that were rock infested and quite treacherous. I slipped once but fortunately fell on my butt. Charles from Quebec took a header onto his shoulder and cut his lip, it could have been much worse.

Because of the care you have to take to survive these final 18 km, it took a long time to get to Molinaseca but we all made it in one piece except for Jaime and Trine who took a taxi to the next big town, Ponferrada. Hopefully, they will be healthy tomorrow.

Along the trail we met two sisters from the Seattle area, Federal Way to be exact. They both attended Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma. Jana just got her Masters degree in Spanish from the University of Washington while Katie just graduated from Western Washington University. They are spending the next two months touring Spain and just hopped on the Camino in Astorga. They look so fresh and seem so peppy. . .

Molinaseca, population 800, is a very cool little city with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. This is definitely NOT the Meseta anymore! The ice cold caña when we got into town might be the best thing I've ever tasted!

We got in really nice private albergue that is brand new. We will sleep well tonight!

Vamos Bien!

BUEN CAMINO!!!