Saturday, August 31, 2013

On El Camino de Bobiago

Yesterday proved to be such a challenge.  I had a great walk out of Los Arcos yesterday.  I love the morning lithe fee, and I was walking through beautiful countryside.  Before I get too far along, let me tell you that I brought the wrong eye glasses with me...not the ones I ca use for reading.  I know I make lots of typos and everything might not make sense..but I can barely see the print - an olld blind man wandering around Spain!

So, I learned a lot yesterday...don't push too hard!  Do this s,ow enough that it is possible to enjoy it-plus work hard!  There is no reason to PSUH to Santiago.  Just walk and enjoy.  Tomorrow the choices Re 16 k or 25k.  I will take it as it ,comes and listen to my body as well as the Camino.  So, aim now doing El Camino de Bobiago! No one knows where that will lead.  Today my toe was screaming at me...nature why, but i am sure that stopping was a good idea..  When I finish with this writing, I will go for toe therapy.

Today's route was confusing.  Several times I found myself staring at arrows pointing different directions!  So, I would either just wait until someone else came along, or plunge ahead.  Near the end, I was staining there wondering what to do, and a woman from New Zealand, Shelly, came p.  we decided to go left - great move.  Shortly we were at a cafe having lunch!

One of my biggest challenges has been food.  When we leave in the morning, nothing is open, and there is really on guarantee that we will come to a market or cafe.  The most popular lunch is a bocadillo - a baguette with what is called ham ( but is actually fat with a thin strip of meat!), not too appetizing.  And, in he evening - well let's just say it is a challenge.  Bottom. Line is thatiam not eating well.  Today I asked the Camino for food and was blessed with a bocadillo with an omelet on it. And then at. Inch ith what seems like a quiche with eggs and potatoes....yummy.  There isn't grocery ibis town and only a little shop so tomorrow might be slim!

Finally, I have become very famous as the man who lost his passport.  Thursday I was sitting on a bench with a woman from Germany when she asked ifI waste an who lost his passport. That has happened several times - the most recent a few minutes ago when I introduced myself as the man...."oh   i have heard of you!" Was the chorus from many.

This afternoon I mentioned too woman seated me t to me in he kitchen how healthy her food looked.  This was followed ya great conversation...she is from Ireland, a pharmacist who also spent some years in San Francisco.  She is planning tostada mental Healy so we had just a great conversation land connection.  She is walking 30 k per day so tomorrow she will walk out of my life, leaving a great memory!

So Buen Camino to all!  More adventures to come!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bob Moves and Grooves through Navarra!! Since the speed bump when I thought I had lost my passport, I have gotten organized ( I can just about pack my pack min the dark and know where everything is. That takes a lot of the pressure off when the room is full of people eager to leave. (As you can tell I am struggling to figure out how this blogger app works).. Gstarting early matters a lot as by noon it is very hot, and if you arrive too late at the next town, there may beno place to stay. One morning when I headed out the door, I stumbled over someone who had gotten inside but had no choice other than sleeping on the floor. I am sure I do not know how to adequately describe this experience. There are abundant, wonderfully,ind people all around. One day I walked all morning and never e heard a word of English. I have learned that I love having the time alone so I can just be me and enjoy without feeling any pressure to make sure someone else is ok. Not only are there people from many countries, but. There are also such characters who startle. When I first passed ghetto elderlyJapanese women hauling what looked like their grocery carts containing their gear, I thought I had surely had some sort of dream. But, there they are, so happy tone on El Camino, bowing and smiling to all. And the is the Korean man - maybe a bunt younger than me, witha huge Nikon around his neck, waving his walking sticks and snapping photos at every thing we pass. So many people, so many different reasons for being here - already with. A smile or offer of prayer for you. Don't be fooled into thinking talking the Caminoisjust fun. It is hard work, sweating, hoping the Ned of the days walk is near - very challenging. But I still am glad I am here even though my hips and shoulders ache. When I fainted at the clothesline the other day, there was much concern and assistance. When I lost my passport and thought ihad to leave, there was genuine joy on people's faces when they saw I was still here. So many people came up and said they had been praying for me. So, for now, I will keep on walking!. Tomorrow is another's 18mimle day. Maybe I will last to the end, but its ok if I don't. I'm listening to my body and to El Camino.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Camino Ups and Downs!

Most of my life I have been very organized!  But on this trip....OH ME!

I cannot seem to get my backpack in order.  I never know where anything is, and on the first two nights, West and Brooke a heard far too much "now, where did I put that?"  This moring we got up in the dark -just so you know, the bathroom in the albergue had NO toilet paper, and there were about 50 people trying to figure out what to do.  What to do was -walk on!

Getting up in the dark and trying to pack up when there is no light in the room, and I did not have a clue where my flashlight was.  I managed to get everything stuffed into the bag.....and because most of it really had no place, it did not matter where it went!

And we walked off.  There are few places open at 6am, but I had a banana and some nuts....voila breakfast with a side of cold water!

Eventually it became day, and we were walking up a steep hill that went on forever.  After the first two days walking over the Pyrenees, this was a pie e if cake!  Ewe walk with a "credential", a booklet where we get e stamps to prove where we had been. They are colorful and fun.  At this particular town a stamp was left out so peregrines could get their credentialed tended to.  That's when I could not find my passport case that had the passport and credential in it.  No panic!  It must be in there somewhere.  But at 1:30 when we walked into Estella, I could not find either.  And without both, one is not allowed to stay in the albergue.  So, off to the Police Station where there was a fair exchange f my Spanish and his to last night's albergue - no it is not there.  When I checked into a hote, for Plan D, of course, there they were, tucked safely into a zipper compartment of mt sleeping baf!  Go figure!

So I have a grat place to stay tonight.  Spent time working on the pack.  I hope this will be better!  At the end of the day I am so tired, I don't remember just about anything I do.  We'll see.

On the other hand, I am meeting some really amazing people who are so kind.  Just about everything pushes us out if our custom zones so there is a lot of support.

I'm not sure I can finish El Camino, bout know that I am giving it my best shot.  It s hot, staying hydrated is a challenge, and most everything feels new.i hope I am close to being in the groove.

In the meantime....buen Camino!  What an adventure.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Update from the Front!

Just so you all know....walking now.  Had a great day!  More later!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bob Stumbles on El Camino

This has been such a great trip..full of meeting new people and seeing new things - some of the. Spectacular!

However, I have hit a bit of a speed bump!  The first two days were challenging - from very very steep inclines to even more difficult very very steep declines.  This combines with not such good planning about food, and sleepless nights to knock me over.  I believe that with sleep I will. Be ok.  Without it, I cannot continue.

Wrests wife is even more challenged.  She has IBS and is both lactose and gluten intolerant.  She decided this morning that she could not continue so we developed Plan B.  we took a bus to Pamplona, and I am sleeping here tonight - or, hopefully sleeping.  Last night sleeping sleeping I tried to make sense of what was going on.  They sayEl Camino provides.....and, maybe the message is that this is not an experience for me...that my Camino is different from this one.  But, I am not sure.  If I get rest tonight, I will continue tomorrow.  If not,  I will.regroup and see what feels best.  I. Am close to Bilbao and have wanted to see the museum there.  And, I have wanted to return to Barcelona and visit La Sacrada Familia to see what progress has been made.  I hope the message is to continue on the Camino.

This has been such a surprise to me, as I have trained well, but also know the importance of listening tommy body.  When we got to Roncevalles yesterday I was done.  We got our needs for the night, but I was too tired to even go reserve our dinner.  When, Don, a fellow pilgrim tried to tell me where to go, he knew when he finished with his instructions that nothing had gotten through!  And, he said, "let me go do it for you."  Ay the Pilgrim Mass I was far too tired to be standing in the church!

So, after another sleepless night, and after Brooke could go no further, we hopped on a bus to Pamplona to stay in a hotel and regroup!

I wish I had more exciting news to. Share.  Success on this pilgrimage has always been to take the first step.  I may hang around here for a fee days, or I may head back home.  No need to decide right now.  Thanks for the many many supportive messages.  I feel your energy behind me.  We'll see what happens.

Buen Camino

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bobby Starts to Walk

My mom took this photo when I must have been about a year old - maybe in October 1941?  I love that she wrote "Watch out" on it!  Maybe she was urging caution, but I prefer to think the message is to the world - "Watch out!  Here he comes!"

Actually I start to walk on Saturday, August 25th, but I leave home on Thursday, flying  direct to Dublin (who knew there was a direct flight from Charlotte to Dublin?) and then to Biarritz France where we (me, my grandson and his wife) take a taxi to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port.  We will spend one night there, and on Saturday will walk the Napoleon Route over the Pyrenees. Charlemagne also marched his army through but chose the easier route where they did not have to trek over such steep inclines.  On his retreat, his main army was lured into a trap near Roncesvalles , and his main man, Roland (Remember The Song of Roland from high school lit courses?) was killed.  The Napoleon Route is said to be the most demanding day of the entire camino because of the steep climbs.  But, it also is reputed to offer the most beautiful scenery.  I'm hoping the weather is nice so we can go that way.

There are several caminos to Santiago, but the one from St. Jean is the most popular.  As a matter of fact, the first travel guide ever written, The Codex Calixtinus, written about 1135 or so with a forged "blessing" from Pope Callixus II who had died in 1124.  This manuscript contains tips for pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela, and it remains in the archives of the cathedral there.  If you are curious, google the can read translations and gain an X rated glimpse into the lives of the terrible scamps who made much mischief for the peregrinos.

I figure I have walked over 800 miles since I started training in March.  My favorite and best trail shoes have been worn out, but a few weeks ago I started on new ones.  I've got plenty of apprehensions about going on such a long walk, and I definitely have a melt down every now and then.  But, it was unconscious urging that got me to set this goal, and when I think of that, I relax.  Maybe that more intuitive side of me knows best!

This will be my last entry before I leave.  This morning I tried working from my ipad mini, and, after a lot of struggle, I discovered there is a blogspot blog.  It is not as easy to use as a real computer, and I'm hoping it will work out.  If you don't hear from me you will know that it didn't!

I read somewhere that having a focus for reflection on a pilgrimage can be useful.  I've decided to make my walk as an expression of gratitude for the many many wonderful things in my life.  If you are reading this, you can be certain that you are part of my gre-atitudes!  I will be feeling so grateful for your presence in my great adventure!

Over the past several months so many people have encouraged me to take this walk.  Thanks to all of you!  I look foward to sharing my trip with you along the way and when I return.

Buen Camino!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bob Tells Why He is Walking El Camino (or at least part of it)

Today my cousin asked me some questions about why I am going to walk El Camino.  Let me share with you what I wrote to her.

Nosy?  Hardly.  Let me see what I can write about this decision.  I've not done this so far - but I've talked about it with some friends but have not really tried to put it altogether.

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela has been whispering in my ears for years.  I'm not sure when I first heard it, but each time it would come up, I would pretty quickly dismiss it as curiously interesting but not for me - too late for me and not really consistent with my untraditional beliefs.  Still, it would whisper from time to time.  I spoke with some people who had done it, and I let it go.

About the time I retired, I was hosting a grooms party for a friend of mine who was getting married.  At this event, I ran into two men I had known from a distance while I was teaching at UNCC.  We had a very animated conversation, energized by learning that each of us was retiring.  I suggested we meet for coffee in a few weeks, and that started a conversation that has happened monthly for the past seven years!  Jeff and Denny are both quakers, and Jeff had taught in the Religious Studies Department.  As one who pretty constantly reflects on spiritual experience, I was stimulated especially when our discussion turned to spiritual life.  Absent a community of others who share my spiritual questions, I began to think about some sort of pilgrimage where I might grow in my understanding of my own spiritual experience.  Both of them have made some pilgrimages over the years but mostly of shorter distance than El Camino.

The Camino continued to whisper.  Only it began to ask me to walk it alone.

Alone is one of the things that is really scary to me.  It is one of my BIG FEARS!  How could I possibly take those fears with me on such a demanding task?  Why would I want to do that (Besides the fact that I do not know anyone who would be silly enough to put up with my grumbling for over a month).  

All the while, I have also been reflecting on my own experience of aging.  I miss the possibility of youth - even that of being 50 or 60.  Somehow at 70, the possibilities do not seem so compelling.  "Is that part of my life over?" I wondered.  As I experience some physical decline, "Am I on the slope that just goes down until I die?"  My brother, Ed, said to me, "Boo, after you turn 70, it is all downhill."  Did I believe that, or even accept it?  I think I began to act as if that was my trajectory, and I sort of began rocking into my old age, not happy about what was happening, but feeling like it is inevitable.  Glaucoma had taken some of my vision, lack of exercise had added some weight, and fatigue was abundant.  For a while I tried to return to running, but as much as I tried, I felt like I was shuffling along (ruffling I called it), and I wondered when I would go fast enough to really call it running.  I felt so foolish going so slow and eventually just started walking.

The whispers of the Camino seemed even more silly then.  It was TOO LATE I would yell back.  I am TOO OLD.  Why do you want me to do this ALONE!  I do not know anyone else who would attempt something as foolish as this!

Last winter, I mentioned my curiosity about El Camino to my friend Mary.  She encouraged me to get in touch with her friend Kevin  who had walked it last September when he retired.  I had met Kevin a few times, mostly when I was thinking about buying his house, across the street from Mary and her husband, Phil.  So Kevin and I had coffee.  And do you know what he did?

He kicked me right out of my rocking chair!  He said something like, "The Camino is obviously not going to leave you alone.  You'd best go and do it so it will get quiet!"  And, he said "OLD?  You are NOT too old to do this."  

"Well, maybe not?"  "Why not?"

I began to think about it and to walk a bit.  I even mentioned it to my college buddy with whom I had shared many preposterous adventures over the years.  Bill Davidson said "Doggone it!  I have waited until I am too old to do this.  Good for you!  I am so jealous!"  Hmmmmm

The whisper got louder and began to direct me towards action.  I met with Kevin again, and he had the nerve to bring me walking sticks, as if I were actually going to do this!  Through our conversations, I gradually began to meet others who were wondering about the same thing.  And we started meeting monthly.  The group grew....some who had done it, some who were planning, and some who were wondering (I was now in the planning group).  I began to see this as both a spiritual and physical event.  Another good friend said, "Just tell people you are a spiritual being doing a physical task."  That sounds pretty right on target for me, even though my spiritual life is certainly not in the mainstream, and not really well developed, mostly just "felt" off and on.

As I started walking around Charlotte, I was really mortified.  I felt like I looked like some sort of nut case or terrorist with my big red backpack and walking sticks.  Surely people thought I was escaping from some sort of institution.  But, you know what happened?  People started stopping and asking me what I was up to (maybe a sanity check?).  And they listened when I would talk a bit about it.  One woman ran out of the auto inspection store on South Boulevard shouting "Sir!  Sir!  Would you stop for a minute?  I see you walking all of town and just want to know what you are doing!"  Another young man stopped me as I was walking into Freedom Park and asked the same thing.  As we chatted, he told me that he was going hiking in the Grand Canyon soon.  Weeks later as I was pilgriming earnestly along Willow Oak Dr, a car came up, slowed down, and the window went down, and there he was, wanting to know how I was doing and eager to tell me about his trip to the Canyon!  All these people - always encouraging, always interested, also supportive and curious - never acting like I am some sort of nut case!  And the others who were now meeting monthly at a nearby REI store?  EXACTLY the same.  I had stumbled into a community I did not know existed - one that is real and local, and another that is virtual (American Pilgrims on the Camino - APOC).  Astonishing!

I've walked well over 700 miles since the end of August.  Sometimes my feet hurt, and sometimes I kick over my camino worry box and freak out!  I have learned that I am most anxious when I am trying to control and experience that cannot be controlled.  I have learned that I do best when I get prepared but leave my expectations unformed.  I have learned that many believe the Camino will provide whatever is needed, and that some things are going to challenge me.  However, other things are going to excite me beyond measure.  I will be walking along with the millions who have walked before me over the past 1000 years.  How often does one have a chance to do that?  To experience (in a different form of course) something that they also experienced?  I have learned that people along the camino tend to be very kind (one writers suggests they are so kind because everyone's feet hurt - i.e. that our suffering is similar so kindness is understood and expressed more directly).

My life feels renewed - energized - connected.  While I still wonder how it will be to walk away from my grandson and his wife in Pamplona, I know that I will not really be alone.  There will be other pilgrims all around me.  And there will be five from the Charlotte Pilgrim group behind me.  And my friend, Bill Davidson?  He has organized a group from Memphis that will walk the last 100 K - not too far ahead of me - and may also come back and meet me as I near Santiago!  I guess he is too old to do the whole thing (he is only four months older than me), but not too old to celebrate with me.  I will be surrounded by this new community, people I am connected with in a very unique way.

So, there you go.  An attempt to express some of the experience of El Camino.  I used to think the camino would begin when I get to France.  Now I know that it began years ago, more intensely in the past few months, and that it stretches out in front of me, still beckoning but no longer whispering.