12/09/2011 to Sahagun


Javier and I set out this morning into a frozen mist. Frost quickly forms on our eyelashes and brows as we attempt to navigate the whiteout. Puddles of water are frozen on the trail. Our breath steams out in white plumes.

Javier and I stop in a bar and eat a traditional Spanish breakfast, a tostada. I have an idea what this should be, having enjoyed a lot of Mexican for, and so am surprised when the bartender sets a small bottle of olive oil, some salt, and a half of a toasted baguette in front of me. Javier returns from next door with two tomatoes. He cuts one in half and smears it all over my toast. Then he pours oil and sprinkles salt on my tomato toast. He looks at me and smiles, his satisfaction glowing. I take a bite. Not bad.

Javier and I meet and greet more pilgrims. Here are people from the US, Holland, Spain, Korea, and the Philippines.

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We see marvelous historic churches. This area was once Muslim and the church was probably built by Muslim workers due to it’s Muslim details. This one is in the Romantic style.

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Another view.

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Before he was a saint he was a hand model.

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Glad she’s not my mom. Really, somebody should dust her off.

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A donkey doing his thing. Griboulli approves.

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Huh? How did Lisa get that yellow arrow pilgrim’s pin? (The yellow arrows on roads and buildings direct pilgrims) Turns out that she and Javier are friends. She also had her picture taken a couple of times today, and the story told of how she was found by the road.

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11/08/2011 Cycling with Zavier


Last night in the hostel I met Zavier, who lives in Madrid. We decide to cycle together today.
I enjoy his company, he is very upbeat, speaks a little english, and loves to talk to locals. He is not used to cycling though and is pretty sore, so we ride slow and talk.

Zavier. We are about to descend into this village.

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What fun to wind through the hills and come across a village.

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This was a hospital and a church that spanned the pilgrims path in the 14th century.

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Zavier descending into another village.

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I took a picture then it toppled. Sorry.

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Zavier and I in front of Iglesia de San Martin dating from the 11th century that was done in the romantic style. Much simpler and more proportional.

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San Martin interior. Plain simple, clean. So many churches intimidate you with the scale and majesty, this one is warm and welcoming.

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San Martin details. There are over 300 of these individuals. They are believed to have been familiar to people of the time, and referred to commonly known stories or myths.

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We are checked into a church hostel in a very small rural town. We walk around town at night and come across the hot spot: A group of old men playing dominoes. Other than this there is no-one on the streets, no cars, hardly any lights. What a unique experience these days have been!

Thanks for riding with me,

Shawn

11/07/2011 Burgos


There are said to the three sections to this pilgrimage. The first part is physical. Today was a steady climb in elevation into a gusty headwind culminating in a 3km long 6% grade. I am tired.

The second section is mental. After today the terrain levels and becomes monotonous. To get through it you need mental stamina.

The final section is the reward, considered to be the most beautiful part of the trip.

Burgos

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Burgos

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The Cathedral in Burgos.

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Cathedral spires.

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A frozen pilgrim.

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12/06/2011 Santo Domingo de Calzada


Today it overwhelms me. The beauty, breathing in the fresh air, the pleasure of movement, watching the grapes go by and eating them when I want. I ask myself if it could get any better than this, and tears of happiness burst out. The only thing I want would be to take you with me. But you are there, and I am here, so I take you along with these words and pictures.

Pilgrim momentos.

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Griboulli and I take a break in the remains of the Hospital St Juan de Arc, circa 1185.

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Hey, a beehive hut! I saw these first in Ireland. Maybe it’s an old pilgrim shelter…

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Pilgrims have colored these faces on the rocks inside. I am enchanted.

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Face

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Face

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Face

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Previous pilgrims have left their momentos. I place a pebble at the base, it seems like the thing to do.

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There are some good climbs, made harder by riding in dirt.

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I love riding into towns.

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Street scene in Santo Domingo de Calzada. There was what looked like a medieval fair happening. My hostel is in the upper attics of the church on the left. It costs a 5 euro donation to spend the night, get a hot shower, and use the kitchen.

There is a warm friendship and acceptance here. We learn where everyone is from and how far they are walking. People give me advice about where to go. I get a sideways compliment: “When I get old, I want to be like you.”

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My 10 euro “plate of the day” dinner. I did a little better tonight, the wine was fun and there was even a pineapple slice for desert.

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Thanks for riding along!

12/05/2011, Logorno


There is much camaraderie around the dinner table. Petra, my kind and beautiful new friend from Hungary- who speaks four languages- helps me keep up with the topics discussed, and helps me get my 2cents in. Everyone here knows I am cycling around the world, and it is unusual to see an American on this pilgrimage, so when I talk, people look at me and listen, then turn to Petra for the skinny. I am very accepted, warmly invited in.

We cover these familiar themes:

A. For a traveler, it’s the journey. For a tourist, it’s the destination.

B. A full heart is better than a full wallet.

C. The most important thing is to be present every moment.

D. People think you are suffering because you are walking/riding. You view it as medicine.

E. The less you have, the more you appreciate. The more you have, the less you appreciate.

These brass shells mark the way through towns. The clam shell symbolizes the coming together of all paths in Santiago de Compostella.

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Now we know what this means.

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Street sign for pilgrims on foot.

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Street sign for pilgrims on bikes.

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This cathedral was locked. Not to worry, the tobacco store has a stamp.

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It’s a sign!

Another sign- A hawk flies with me for almost a quarter of a mile off my left shoulder. He then lands on a sign that simply reads “10″. I take this to mean that I’m doing good.

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Cycling into a small village. Oh boy, a cathedral!

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Overlooking the village from the cathedral.

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The Grapes of Path.

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Here’s an eight year old pilgrim. He is walking with his grandfather.

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The End.

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12/04/2011 Estella


I have never slept in a 350 year old church converted to a pilgrims hostel. Here is the view from my bunk bed.

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Michael and I standing outside the church ready to go. Michael is going to start me on the pilgrims trail, and then cycle home to San Sebastion.

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Just because it has an old town doesn’t mean there is no industry. Pamplona is bustling.

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I love the old with the new. So Don Quixoteish, knights and windmills. Incidentally, Don Quixote was the first novel ever published. It is Spanish- not Mexican as I once thought.

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This is a church with a cactus garden in Puente La Reina. I can’t find anyone here to stamp my pilgrims passport. It is Sunday and quiet. I ride a kilometer down the road but feel frustrated. The church bells begin to ring. It’s a sign! I ride back and ask the first old man I meet “Donde va para estampe” See, my spanish is getting a little better. (It means “Where am I going to stamp”.) He smiles and leads me into his office and stamps my passport with a flourish, then signs and dates it by hand.

Well, that was cool.

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The pilgrims enjoy creating mementos.

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The trail leading into a typical small town.

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I decide to spend the night in Estella. The book Micheal has lent me tells me there is a church albergue here. The Albergue is open and rents me a bunk, complete with a hot shower and a kitchen and lounge and laundry facilities for 5 euros. Wow. I meet people from Spain, Germany and Australia. The aubergue’s feel different than hostels, the people are not students.

The bridge over the river Estella, or, Three ducks and a bridge.

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Estella scene.

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It’s not tourist season. I was told that people run to get a bunk here in the summer.
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This pics for you Eric. The bar in which I have dinner has the Davis? match on, and fans are watching every swing.

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My dinner. Lots of carbs, but I need to learn my spanish foods better!

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Later back at the auburgue I am offered a shot of a local Anise liquor which I enjoy sipping while writing.

12/03/2011 Into Pamplona to start the Pilgrimage


I say goodbye to my two new friends Jose and Olga.

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Michael and I get ready to cycle to Pamplona.

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We cycle along a bicycle trail which runs through the forest. This was the original place in Europe where iron ore was first mined. From these forest hills came iron for swords and cannonballs. We cycled along a river path the first part.

Michael and the river.

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The area is rich with the remains of earlier uses, like this narrow stone bridge long abandoned.

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The builders of the trail followed the old train tracks. We rode through numerous reappropriated train tunnels. It was scary sometimes. The tunnels could be quite long, wet, cold, and dripping water. This tunnel was over three kilometers long and the water had created this flowstone.

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We are now in a church founded in 1783 that is now being used to house pilgrims. It costs 5.50 Euros for a very clean bunk, sheets, hot showers and a place to prepare food. I am very pleased and looking forward to the journey. Michael will ride with me tomorrow and get me on the path.

We went out to sightsee and for a nice meal. This is a street scene from the old town area of Pamplona.

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San Sebastian


12/3/2011 San Sebastian

Today I spend walking San Sebastian and talking with Jose. Despite his 10 words of English and my 10 words of Spanish, we communicate well. Jose is a very sweet and gentle man and I enjoy his company. San Sebastian had me wowed. Here are some pics:

Jose in the condos in which I stayed.

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A sculpture, “Combing the Wind”.

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Another part of the sculpture with a different view.

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Looking back into San Sebastian

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Playground on the beach.

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Man walking his dog on the beach.

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Part of the promenade.

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Harbor front homes.

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Down the promenade.

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The old fishing harbor.

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Beautiful color in the sunlight.

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More beautiful fishing boats.

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A walk through Old Town.

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Into Spain on December 1st.


12-01-2011 I ride into Spain today. I have the picture planned, me standing next to the border sign behind Griboulli, a big European grin on my Florida face.

There is only one problem with that plan. There is no sign or border that I can see. I realize I am in Spain because I pop into a supermarket to find a new and interesting treat and realize that people are speaking Spanish and the food is labeled in Spanish. Oh boy, I can understand more!

I waste no time trying out my rusty espanol. “Buenas dias senior, que ciudad es esta?” (What city is this?)

Huh?

I repeat my self. He just shakes his head. Ok, maybe he is French. Se habla espanol? I thought that meant, “Do you speak spanish?” It actually means “Spanish is spoken.”

He looks at me and waggles his head and then totally ignores me. OK, maybe I need a little brushing up. But I am in Spain- Yay!

My host for the evening Michael lives on the third floor in his condo. He has left me here to have dinner with his parents. I have the house to myself.

In the evening he returns and we use Google translate when we get stuck. Michael is energetic and a quick thinker. He works in the winter as a boiler repairman and in the summer he has a truck from which he sells hamburgers at fairs. His goal is to sell his condo, make a little money, and quit his boiler job. Then he will be free to travel half the year and not work so much. He says the payments aren’t worth it, he would rather have more time than more house. We talk about the cultural differences between living to work and working to live. We certainly have a meeting of the minds.

He sells me on the idea of the El Camino de Santiago religious pilgrimage, also called the way of Saint James. This pilgrimage runs along a high level plain about 70Km south of here west to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The length from Pamplona is about 700Km, or an easy 10 days ride. In 2010 over 270,000 people made this pilgrimage. There are lots of dormitory type places to stay for 5 -10 euros along the way.

I will have a Credencial or pilgrim’s passport. It will be stamped by dorms, resteraunts, cathedrals. In the end I will receive a certificate.

It moves me to undertake this 1000 year old Christian pilgrimage. Though I cannot follow it in belief I can follow it in form and honor this tradition.

Later Jose and his wife Olga drop by. Olga speaks English. She works with Moroccan immigrants. Jose is 34 and unemployed due to the economic crisis in Spain. He used to work as a Machinist. They encourage me to stay an extra night and have a traditional Basque dinner. Michael then offers to cycle with me to Pamplona on Saturday. I was planning on staying just one night but how could I refuse such kind hospitable friends?

The terrain has changed again. Ahhh, this is more like what Spain looked like in my imagination.

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Sitting in a park taking in the view.

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My room at Michaels. I’m studying a map of Spain and Portugal.

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I was in France 18 days. Statistics:

Accommodations cost: $78.00 (In US dollars)

Food Costs $12.26 a day average

Miles cycled: 686

Days rested: 3

Average mileage on days cycled: 45.7

Total of all costs in France including postage, sim card, admissions, etc: $315.57

Daily average: $17.53

11/30/2011 What a camping spot!!


I feel peaceful after a night in the pine forest

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I have lunch with this tree. I realize that the patterns of the branches are actually writing, a language. The subject matter is generalized in the trunk, expanded on in the branches, and is detailed in the leaves. The life work of the tree is to communicate this thought.

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This boat is suspended in Hossegor.

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I use the GPS to find a McDonalds so that I can upload a post to the journal. I manage to reach Leslie on Google voice. but it is getting late, I am in the middle of Bayonne, and have kilometers to ride before I camp. So I set out. But the terrain becomes much more hilly. The GPS leads me in silly directions. It is 4:00, time for me to be camped, and I am still in a very dense area.

I spot a car camping area and check it out. I could camp here, but there is no grass and no bushes-if you get my drift. So I move on, but it is a gamble. A couple miles down the road I turn down a path that leads to the beach. What do you think? Does this look good?

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I decide that despite the people and the openness, being on the ocean bluff with the crashing waves below makes it a thumbs up.

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And you can see that I am a happy camper. Geesh, it’s a million dollar view and I get it for a little audacity. And there are no taxes to pay and lawn to cut. Here I go again: “Things always work out.”

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