Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Just Trudging Along

Puente La Reina to Estella
21.1 km/13.1 Miles
Time on the Camino today 5:43

Distance left to Santiago de Compostela
684.2 km/425.2 miles

Total Distance Walked 114.4 km./71.1 miles
Total Time Walking the Camino 35:08

New Camino Mates
Felipe from Columbia
Greta and Margret from Germany
Ste. Michelle from Germany

Let's finish up Monday night first. They sell Jai Alai balls in Puente La Reina. . . cool!

I had dinner with Hans and two new mates, Greta and Margret, great fun as always.

Before I forget for the third straight day, let me introduce Felipe from Columbia who now lives in New Jersey. He easily has the greatest beard on the Camino. He has not cut it in seven years ala Gary Bowman but bushier.

I met Michelle from Germany Monday night and she talked me into buying a wooden walking stick. Afterwards, she claimed that they take as much as 25% of the weight off your legs. I went back to buy three more.

They were closed.

6:51 a.m. tipoff today. It turned out that I was physically fine but mentally drained today. The kilometer signs on the Camino don't help. I saw a sign reading "Estella 15.2 km."

Forty minutes later there was the same sign again.


I'm getting more in line with my guide book's 33 day plan to finish about September 28th.

The walking stick was FABULOUS! Thus Michelle's instant elevation to sainthood.

We walked the last 10 km together today and checked into the albergue at the same time. She was assigned a lower bunk and I was assigned the upper. After explaining the bed slat disaster from two nights ago she gladly traded bunks with me for her own protection.

I owed it to her.

Our albergue has sweet smelling incense burning as we enter. I'm sure that it is to cover the aroma of the pilgrims, me very much included.

Let's talk about the albergues. They are pilgrims hostels. So far, five nights sleeping in these coed, bunk bed dorms has cost me only 27 Euros. Besides the bed, two albergues included breakfast and one gave us First Aid kits.


I continue to progress con animos, VAMOS BIEN!


Monday, August 30, 2010

Camino de Santiago, Stages 3 and 4

I need to first finish up talking about the events of Saturday night after I posted. At dinner I met George and his two female companions, all from Germany, and Murray from New Zealand. We shared a delightful peregrinos meal and I casually mentioned my toe blister. Murray said no problem, he would take care of me. . . and he did.

When we all got back to the albergue, it was dark as the upper dorm room where we stayed only had natural lighting. Murray, who is 69 and lost his wife to cancer three years ago, got out his medical kit and aided by German George, used my top bunk as an operating table. They fixed me up with no problems. I have now raised their status as follows: St. Murray, Patron Saint of New Zealand and Blessed George of Frankfort.

Cruelty on the Camino today. At the end of my trek Saturday I found a sign saying only 2 km to my final destination, Larrasoaña. I walked about 8 minutes and there was another sign stating "Larrasoaña 2 km." Ten minutes later a third sign boldly stated that I was now only "2 km from Larrasoaña." Damn Franco's memory!

I'm starting to lisp

Sunday, August 29th
Larrasoaña to Cizur Menor via Pamplona
21.2 km / 13.2 miles
6:45 hours walked

Another 7:00 a.m. start, good weather again today.

New mates today: Trine from Denmark, Hans from Holland and Ruth, Jillian and Jaime from Ramona, California from now on called the San Diego girls.

I walked part way with St. Murray today. He is on his last leg of a 38 day journey to Pamplona that started in northern France. He has a Ph.D. in chemistry specializing in medicine, no wonder that the blisterectomy was such a success.

Later I joined up with Trine through the town of Burlado where we got lost for only about two blocks before somehow a little old Spanish lady figured out that we were pilgrims and pointed us on the right path.

I've often relied on the kindness of strangers.

We parted company in Pamplona where I got lost again for about half a mile. As it would turn out later that night, many of my mates got lost today at the same point, apparently a sign is missing.

On the way to Pamplona, I thought a lot about my Dad and Grandfather and their shared love of bullfighting.

Let he who has not eaten a Big Mac cast the first stone.

As a youth we would drive down to Tijuana to watch the likes of Luis Procuna, Jose Ramon Tirado and Carlos Arruza (on horseback) battle the bulls. Remembering their names after 45 years is what the Camino does to you. I thought I'd stop in Pamplona for the night, 5.5 kilometers short of my goal city if a bullfight was going on but no such luck, on the Cizur Menor!

It was after getting back on track in Pamplona that I met the San Diego girls who were on their first day of the Camino. We walked together to the albergue run by the Order of Malta.

Our host was a great guy, German by birth, his name is Berthold. He asked us to call him Ambrosio, his nom-de-guerre.

We did.

Here we met Hans from Holland and we all went out to dinner together, five hungry pilgrims.

There are only two restaurants in Cizur Menor, population 700, and one of them was closed Sunday night. No one knew exactly how to get to the open restaurant even after asking for directions from the town's people. We eventually found it. The problem was that instead of the usual 7:00 p.m. dinner, nothing would be served until after the televised soccer game was over. We could not wait so we bought some cold cuts, cheeses, bread and drinks and shared our bounty.

Upon our return to the albergue, Sir Ambrosio worked on my blister thus his new title. Afterwards we met in the church next door and Ambrosio led us in a 20 minute sing-along. It was great fun and no, we did not hold hands or sing Kumbaya.

I broke through the slats of my bed.


At least I was not on the top bunk, someone would have been hurt I'm afraid.

Monday, August 30th
Cizur Menor to Puente la Reina
19.6 km / 12.2 miles
5:17 hours walked

Another 7:00 a.m. liftoff, I've found my rhythm and feel strong. I walked this stage mostly by myself.

Tremendous panoramas of Pamplona far behind me now. Is anything ever open in any of these small Spanish hilltowns?

Who is the idiot that put the letter S in lisp?

Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage
Total Distance Walked: 93.3 km/58.0 miles
Total Time Walked: 29:25
Distance to Santiago de Compostela
705.3 km/438.3 miles


Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Camino Begins

NOTE: Due to the low speed internet that was the norm on the Camino, I did not post any photos until after I returned to Sweden and the USA. The photos of my Camino start with my September 30, 2010, blogpost titled "So, Did You Take Any Pictures of the Camino?"

Thursday afternoon I landed in Biarritz, France without a hitch. While waiting for the bus to take me to the train station in Bayonne, I met my first fellow pilgrim, Zoltán Ménessy who was born in Transylvania, grew up in Budapest and now resides in Skåne, in Glumslöv. . . small world.

We arrived at St. Jean Pied-de-Port, population 1,600, too late to get a bed in an albergue, so we opted to share a room in a family run B&B for 25 Euros each. Our hostess was 74 year old Maria who was very upbeat but delusional when she told us at breakfast that it would only take us 5 hours to finish Stage 1. She also mentioned that her husband had worked for 7 years in California. I asked her in what city and her response was "Nevada."

Friday at breakfast we were joined by two girls, one from Spain and one from Iran who are friends and both work in Stockholm. Four people, four different countries, all now living and working in Sweden now sharing breakfast before starting the Camino.

The greatest journey starts with but a single step. At 7:05 in the morning I took my first Camino step.

Stage 1:
St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to Roncesvalles, Spain
24.9 kilometers/15.4 miles

Let me just say once and for all, you will never hear anyone in Basque country say "We need more cow bell!" Lots of sheep, horses and cows over this long stretch of upward climbing terrain.

Zoltán asked me why I'm walking the Camino. My response was simple, to honor the memory of my Grandfather Evaristo, my Grandmother Catalina and my Father Jorge. He was still not sure why he was doing it but he only has 22 days to finish it. After walking together for 12 km, I bid him farewell, he would never make it at my pace.

Just before we hit the Spanish border, a man had set up a drink and energy bar stand out of a van. AWESOME after walking for miles without refills. He only charged one Euro for an OJ and .50 Euros for an energy bar. It was the best five Euros I ever spent and I'm placing him on the fast track to sainthood.

After hours of climbing uphill and taxing my cardio fitness, I reached the summit of the Pyrenees, Col de Lepoeder at 1,450 meters. I was pumped!

Then the cruel joke of the downhill walk on the Spanish side began. For you skiers, think Black Diamond Run only replace the snow with dirt and lots of loose rocks. It killed my hips, knees and toes as they felt like they were being driven through the front of my shoes.

My plan was to walk 1 hour and then rest for 5-10 minutes and listen to my body which kept muttering ¨STUPID. . . STUPID. . .STUPID. . ."

My rebuttal mantra was "One step closer. . . one step closer. . ."

I won.

I got to my new number one city in Europe, Roncesvalles, Spain, population 30, in 8 hours and 55 minutes. I was greatly influenced by a bed, a shower and a hot meal.

Lance Armstrong in the mountain stages, I AM NOT!

I scored a lower bunk in the coed Albergue, took a shower, had a great fish dinner with pasta and washed my clothes. I was a new man!

At the Pilgrim's dinner I sat with Canadians, Italians, Germans and a guy from Alaska, a fun and interesting group indeed.

After dinner I attended a Pilgrim's Mass at the local church conducted by four priests straight out of "The Name of the Rose." It was a good feeling overall but four priests for a town with only 30 inhabitants?

Final tought on crossing the Pyrenees, it was the hardest thing I've done since giving birth to our two sons.

Maybe that was Laurie, I'm a bit tired.

Stage 2
Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña
27.7 kilometers/17.2 miles

Another early start at 7:03. My guide book's first comment on this stretch is "If you started in St. Jean you may be feeling stiff from your exertions over the Pyrenees yesterday."

I avoided the morning rush and was quite stiff last night.

This path was much flatter and forgiving but I still took my time, no sense rushing things. I finished in 8 hours and 28 minutes.

I hate to report that I developed a blister on the inside of my left index toe today from the downhill walking I'm sure.

Lots of random thoughts have run through my head for the past two days, all in all I'm a lucky guy to have such great friends!

I could only score a top bunk tonight, this should be interesting!

52.5 km/32.6 miles walked
On the Camino 17 hours and 23 minutes


Thursday, August 26, 2010

On the Road Again

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We woke up early to do some last minute packing and found it raining outside. This would make the half mile walk to the train station daunting. Then, out of the blue, Johan Hammarqvist sent me a text message offering to drive us to the station! TACK!!!

We only had to wait five minutes before the train left for Copenhagen's Kastrup Airport. Once there, there was no one in line at check-in, two minutes and we were done! Security was equally easy, only five minutes from start to finish.

The flight to London's Heathrow Airport was great and we felt good about Laurie making her connection only one hour after our touching down. Unfortunately, we had to board a bus that stayed parked on the tarmac for 20 minutes because a plane waiting to take off was in our path, PANIC TIME!

We sprinted through the airport and Laurie made her flight. She also accidently took my book which I was only 120 pages from finishing, DAMN!

I weighed in my backpack at 7.8 kilos, not bad for a 500 mile walk.

After checking into the Wardonia Hotel near St. Pancras Station, I bought a ticket to see William Shakespeare's "Henry IV - Part 1" at the Old Globe Theater. Great fun! I had a good seat but the Groundlings and the actors were getting wet due to the ongoing rain and the fact that The Globe is open roofed with only the people in the seats covered from the elements. There was a great Falstaff portrayl by the way.

It is now Thursday, August 26th as I write this in London's Stansted Airport awaiting my flight to Biarritz, France on Ryan Air.

Wish me luck. . . PLEASE!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Packing Day

Sven Tumba is Sweden's most legendary ice hockey player.

Packing Day

If you think this looks chaotic, you must remember that I had already made two trips to the local Salvation Army dropoff point with two full suitcases of donations!

We head out tomorrow morning for Copenhagen and adventure. From Denmark, we fly together to London. While Laurie continues on to Los Angeles after a short layover, I will spend the night in the U.K.'s capital before flying on to Biarritz, France on Thursday.

On Friday, God willing, I start my Camino.


Our local newspaper, NorreSkåne, published an article today about our camp yesterday with the Tekniska Skolan, we were on the FRONT PAGE!

It must be a very slow news day.

Even more on the inside pages

You want to know why I'm opting for the solitude of the Camino de Santiago? In a word . . . PAPARAZZI! When will they stop hounding me?

Just kidding of course, anything we can do to spread the word about the Hurricanes in particular and American football in general is a good thing. I really appreciate everything that Tomas Gustavsson and Johan Hammarqvist at NorraSkåne have done this season to help our team grow.

To read this article click on this link:

A small Hurricane season ending debriefing

Fika included but of course!

The God Father holding court

And so, the sun sets on another season of EuroBall

Meanwhile back to Örebro at Mjällby

I just found this picture of Ryan and I in our seats at The Great Wall for this Allsvenskan game a week ago on Lena Sandberg's blog. Do we look intense or what?

With my trusty Mac laptop computer staying in Icelandia while I trek through northern Spain for the next month or so, I do not know how often I will be able to get to an internet café to continue the blog.

I doubt that I will get any Camino pictures up until I return to Sweden but I will be describing the joys of walking 496.2 miles to you as often as is possible.


Monday, August 23, 2010

SAFF Division I Södra Final Recap

The well known Coca-Cola bottle was designed by a Swede.

The Kristianstadsbladet newspaper's account of our game with the C4 Lions last Saturday can be found at:

2010 Hässleholm Hurricanes
Final Results
3 Wins - 5 Losses
May 8, Limhamn - Lost 25-22
May 16, at Lugi - Lost 24-7
May 22, Ekeby - Won 12-7
May 30, at Ystad - Lost 21-6
June 5, Oskarshamn - Game Cancelled
June 13, at Carlshamn - Won 45-8
June 19, Kristianstad - Lost 49-6
August 8, at Oskarshamn - Game Cancelled
August 14, Carlshamn - Win 32-0
August 21, at Kristianstad - Lost 17-8

With the exception of the first Kristianstad game, we battled all year long in large part to a very solid defensive effort week after week.


SAFF Division I Södra

Kristianstad 17 - Hässleholm 8
Limhamn 24 - Lugi 18
Ystad 22 - Ekeby 0
BYE - Carlshamn

Kristianstad C4 Lions 8-0
Ystad Rockets 7-1-1
Limhamm Griffins 4-3-1
Lugi Vikings 4-5
Hässleholm Hurricanes 3-5
Ekeby Greys 1-5-2
Carlshamn Oakleaves 0-8

Sweden's Division I is broken down into four geographic regions. The top two teams in each region qualify for a soccer-like pool play affair, not a true playoff scenario.

The eight qualifying teams for the 2010 Division I pool play games are:

#1 Uppsala 86ers (7-0)
#2 Västerås Roedeers (5-2)

#1 Nyköping Baltic Beasts (8-0)
#2 Stockholm Mean Machine B (4-3-1)

#1 Örebro Black Knights (10-0)
#2 Göteborg Marvels (7-3)

#1 Kristianstad C4 Lions (8-0)
#2 Ystad Rockets (7-1-1)

Saturday, August 28
Group I
Ystad (7-1-1, Södra #2) at Uppsala (7-0, Norra #1)
Göteborg (7-3, Västra #2) at Nyköping (8-0, Östra #1)
Group II
Stockholm (4-3-1, Östra #2) at Örebro (10-0, Västra #1)
Västerås (5-2, Norra #2) at Kristiandstad (8-0, Södra #1)

Saturday, September 4
Group I
Nyköping at Ystad
Göteborg at Uppsala
Group II
Kristianstad at Stockholm
Västerås at Örebro

Saturday, September 11
Group I
Ystad at Göteborg
Uppsala at Nyköping
Group II
Stockholm at Västerås
Örebro at Kristianstad

Saturday, September 18
Winner of Group I at Djurgårdens (Super Series #6 team)
Winner of Group II at Arlanda or STU (Super Series #5 team)

The six team Super Series still has one more weekend of games to finish their regular season. Their last two teams face possible relegation vs. the two Division I Pool Play winners.

The #5 Super Series team will be the loser of this weekend's Arlanda Jets (4-5) at STU Northside Bulls (3-4-1) game.

Djurgårdens IF has sewn up the #6 spot in the Super Series with an 0-9 record. Their final defeat of the Super Series season will come at the hands of the Tyresö Royal Crowns (4-5).

Yes, Virginia, at the end of the season there will be
of Division I football in Sweden.

Tekniska Skolan American Football Camp

Christer Fuglesang was the first Swede to enter space.

Thanks to the persistence of Johan Hammarqvist, you can now follow this link to the NorreSkåne article that came out last Saturday on my stay in Skåne:

Today Ryan and I had our final run at introducing American football to a group of school children. We were asked to meet with two groups of 25 students each for approximately 90 minutes per group.

We showed them how to put on pads and then ran them through some basic agility, blocking, tackling, pass receiving and kicking drills.

Eva Tegård
Teacher at Tekniska Skolan

Eva informed us that at one time she had been Lucas Grip's teacher. . . how did she survive that school year???

This was all happening because Eva contacted Jonas Grip about our introducing the great American game to students in a school specializing in International Studies.

Of course, we looked at it as a great recruiting tool for the Hurricane's new Junior program since all of these students were 16 or 17 years old.

Team Picture of our first group

Hanna Lundström

She took to tackling like a Swede takes to lingonberry jam.

Hanna was a definite star in our first session.

Team Picture of our second group

After the two groups were finished, Ryan and I strolled to the nearby Heritage Park Café to discuss the players we had just worked out.

Suddenly, fika appeared like manna from heaven.

Imagine that!

We agreed that there were about eight good athletes that showed great promise and temperment for our game.

Now we need to get them back to a Junior practice.

It was then back to Icelandia to tend to my ailing wife, a touch of a stomach virus I believe. I also used our time together to gather one entire suitcase full of clothes and shoes that I ran over to the local Salvation Army Thrift Shop drop-off point at our ICA supermarket parking lot.

Laurie getting rid of clothes and shoes, she must really be sick.

In the evening, we invited some special people to join us for dinner at the Infinity Restaurang & Pizzeria in Hässleholm.

Although we have met so many wonderful people in the last six months in Skane, these people had gone way beyond what was necessary by inviting us into their homes several times to share their dinner table and their families. They all made us feel so welcome and at home.

Big Linus Nilsson and Jonas Grip

The Meat and Potatoes Twins
Frank Hilgers and Shawn Cordeiro

The Godfather had some
very nice things to say

I will always remember our drive to Göteborg to pick up all those boxes of football equipment.

The people of Table 1

Johan, Mariana, Christian, Elin, Uffe, Ulrica, Rasmus, Jonas, Linus, Helena and Mats

The people of Table 2

Johan, Thérése, Frank, Shawn, Katarina, Ryan, Laurie, Lucas and Sarah

Christian Boesgaard
International Man of Mystery

Uffe and Elin

Their "Taco Fridays" were the things of legend!

Johan Persson flashing
Tyringe gang signs at Ryan

Everybody seemed to have a good time

The food was excellent, but the friendships and fond memories were even better.

Tuesday will be a big packing day for us as we prepare to depart Hässleholm on Wednesday, Laurie for the flight home to Camarillo and me for the south of France and the start of my Camino on Friday.

TACK SA MYCKET my friends!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bjärnum's Museum of Regional History

The Husqvarna Company is one of the world's biggest names in lawn trimmers, chainsaws, leaf blowers and motorcycles.

A few notes leftover notes from yesterday. . .

Johan Hammarqvist's article in NorraSkåne on our Kristianstad C4 Lion game can be found at:

Molly Grip made this stool for me

She is so sweet!

NorraSkåne article on me in the
People section on Saturday

Sorry, there was no link to this article on the NorraSkåne website.

On Sunday, we met Ryan to board the yellow regional bus to the exotic village of Bjärnum. Our trip was two fold. The first order of business was to share lunch at the home of Frank and Thérése Hilgers and their daughters Anna and Sara. After that it was a tour of the Bjärnum Museum of Regional History.

Home Made Smörgåstårta

Smörgåstårta is Swedish for YUM!

Even though seven of us were sharing this delicious offering with shrimp and salmon on the top, it was still too much for us to finish.

To walk off a few calories, we then strolled to the museum.

The old Bjärnum Water Tower

A municipal landmark that can be seen from any vantage point in Bjärnum for easy orienteering.

Five minutes and we were in
these serene woods


A very cool slug

I don't see how the scenery on the
Camino de Santiago can possibly top this
beech wood forest

Finally, we arrived at the museum which houses over 100,000 artifacts from the everyday lives of the people who live in and around Bjärnum

Three eager students for the first day of class in the old Bjårnum school house

G is for George, G is for Gris

Hey, wait a second, gris is a pig in Swedish.

Type casting.

Every home should have a
stuffed moose head!

I know that Gomez Addams would agree with me.

Little Brown Jugs



Local woodcarver Alte Nilsson on display



Alte Nilsson also crafted cups and jars

Aderius Ståhl

This fun loving fellow was an usher in the local church, a field cutter on the farm and, as a former Hussar, was a member of a light cavalry outfit.

Tooled Rifle

Firemen's Helmets

A gramaphone but no dog was listening

A wooden shoemaker's tools at work

Farm Machinery

This engine is intended to run some kind of machine by turning a belt but what I liked about it was its ability to make perfect smoke rings by the dozens.

Another Farm Engine

No smoke rings.

Nice Farm House

I just liked the cut of his jib

A stone crushing machine

Better than a chain gang and really needed in boulder happy Skåne.

Ryan, put your game face away,

An old weaving loom

It was to be found in the last building we entered in the museum, a 300 year old, low ceilinged affair with even lower doorways.


"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

This last museum building is now aptly known as the "House of Pain."

Don't worry Jonas, I will be at the morning mini-camp for the 50 new kids trying out American football for the first time tomorrow.

Classic Car and Motorcycle Show

I tell you folks, this museum has EVERYTHING!

An English Javelin

A 100 year old motorcycle

A sweet blue Volvo

Koreen FitzGerald?

A Plymouth

Ryan's favorite, a '66 Mustang

A Dodge from the '30s

My favorite, a '57 Chevy

Yellow tree fungus

An interesting sight on the way back to the Hilgers' home.

Frank, Thérése, Sara and Anna Hilgers

Great hosts, greater times!