More on Camino with Cullen

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My last post , I forgot one important item. There is a Fund set up for Bill’s son Cullen at FSU. Please donate in his memory at the Link below. Cmon, FSU is only the enemy when it comes to Football. 😀 I have ordered my Bracelet, will you?

http://cashforcullen.wordpress.com/live-strong-type-bracelets/

Sometime last night, I had a brain-far* . Sometimes very dangerous for me! Anyhow, I have decided to wear my bracelet until I reach Cruz de Ferro. (God Willing) I will leave it there along with all the other burdens I will be carrying. Trust me, if I leave all my burdens behind at Cruz de Ferro, I will float to Santiago. Then again , I may be struck dead when I reach the Iron Cross. Deservedly so, but I am ready now for what ever is waiting for me. That’s a good thing !

And so we continue with Dogtor bill as he meets up with his pretty wife Sharon……..XOXOXO

Sarria – 23rd day, 10 May 2013
by dogtorbill

When I left the Rural Casa (kind of a country “bed and breakfast,” not really an albergue) in Biduedo called San Xato, it was cold and raining. I sloshed through the often ankle-deep mud on the Camino trail that paralleled the asphalt highway, and the brilliant idea occurred to me that it wouldn’t really be cheating if I just slipped over and walked on the shoulder of the road. Yes it was hard on my feet, but I was still walking to my goal, and I decided that I didn’t really HAVE to punish myself on the rocky muddy choice, just because it was there. Even though my body had been destroyed over the past 3 weeks, my brain still seemed to function, and the logical choice was obvious. Besides, even if the scenery was typically “better” on the trails, it wasn’t going to be today, I reasoned, and I had yesterday seen the most magnificent views in my life. I arrived in Sarria about 2 hours sooner than the two Polish guys (Sebastian and Robert) that I had met about a week earlier, and walked with earlier today.

Reading the guidebook while hiking poses specific challenges, much like texting while walking (reference youtube: running into poles, trees and fountains), but I was attempting to find an albergue (read as cheap) that also had a private room or two (many do) that I can switch over to for tomorrow night after I get Sharon, who’s going to be jet lagged and want a good night’s sleep the first night. I decided on San Lazaro, very close to the bus stop for when we get back, and very close to where we’ll commence the last leg of Camino.

I was astonished to see that I had made it to Sarria, and it was only 10 after 2! I was almost out of Euro, so I asked the tourist office where the nearest bank was that has cambio (money exchange service), and was told just two doors down, but didn’t I know (apparently I’m the only person in Spain) that the banks all close at 2:00. OH NO!!! I’m gonna be out of money after I pay for tonight and the two bus fares. He assured me that at least one bank was open Saturday morning. Whew!

In just a few minutes, I arrived at San Lazzaro Albergue, which seems clean, is nice enough, only costs 8 Euro, and has one private room, which I have been assured was available for tomorrow night (the 11th) for 36 Euro. This is much more than I had wanted to spend, especially with such low cash on hand, but apparently all four hotels in town were completely full, and I had been warned that prices would increase the closer we drew to Santiago.

I did my laundry, but then it was too late to find a vodaphone shop to find out why my SIMM card was not downloading my MapMyHike data the past two days, and why my international minutes were all gone so soon. So I went to a nearby cafe for dinner, and returned early enough for a good night sleep, which I did get.

I realize that was all kind of boring, but the next morning I discovered that the one bank “open on Saturday morning” hadn’t been for over 2 years. Think this looks bad? It gets much better. Soon I was having a “discussion” at the Vodaphone store, where I was told by the helpful associate (who speaks “poco” En-glaze) that although I had paid for 30 Euro of talk time, and that it only costs .18 per minute after 8:00pm, the one call I made home had been disconnected (card was depleted) after 12 minutes because of “taxes.” I’m really sure thats what he told me, because like I said, I’m really fluent in Spanish now, and I understand everything that people say to me. Anyway, like I said earlier, I still have a (partially) functioning brain, and I realized I wasn’t going to resolve this issue to my satisfaction, so I was just wasting my time. I thanked the kind associate for his assistance, and headed back to the albergue to move my stuff to the private room, cause I had to catch the bus in just under an hour. Although this day was not at all looking good, I managed a smile – pleased at the “new and improved” version of me that could laugh at misfortune instead of exploding.

Things continued to deteriorate. The kind senora at San Lazaro Albergue that I had made the arrangements with yesterday was gone, and her mean replacement insisted that someone named Carlos Perez had the private room reserved, and had done so several days previously, as she remembered making that reservation herself.

This day was not going well. I searched on foot to discover that not only were all hotels full, none of the other listed albergues had private rooms available.

I had to be at the bus station now in 20 minutes, so I had resigned myself to stay in Lugo, where we’d need to change buses, at a hotel (I would surely find one there). Always have a plan “B.” So I had just enough time to get Sharon two trekking poles and get to the bus station. My pace quickened dramatically as I trotted to the hiking supply store I had spotted yesterday.

As I rifled through the display of poles looking for the cheapest ones to fulfill our one time use requirement, guess who walked up behind me, laughing… DIRK! Again, I was so glad to see him, and always funny that we would run into each other time after time after time after time in such a mass of pilgrims.

As I hugged him, I saw over his shoulder there was a fifth hotel, that wasn’t listed in the guidebook (had they refused to give Brierley a referral cut?) Great to see you Dirk, I love you, man, but I gotta go, gotta pay for these poles, run over there, see if they have a room, and get to the bus station. We’ll connect in Santiago, if not sooner…

No vacancy in the hotel, but, at last I really did get a break. The manager called a “pension” (kind of a cross between a private albergue and a hotel) nearby that he seemed to know had a private room available. I could only laugh at how things seem to run down to the last second. Apparently some things just will NOT change in my life, kind of cool though that I had just laughed, knowing I would work something out.

The “pension” was just down the street, over a bar/cafe, in the direction of the bus station. When I walked into the bar, he greeted me by name, grabbed my backpack, told me he’d put it on the bed to hold the room, and I could pay tonight. Great news, Shar had changed some money at the airport in Orlando. This was actually better than good, because I actually did not have enough Euro to pay for the return bus fare for us if I paid now. Haha, anyway, my doubly quickened pace placed me in the line, boarding the bus, about four minutes prior to departure.

I laughed out loud at my good fortune as we pulled out of the bus station. And I was so excited to be picking up Shar. I couldn’t wait to share “my Camino” with her.

Sorry, I couldn’t find any pictures of Sarria, Vodaphone, Bus ride on anything relevant to todays post.

Thought I’d share my family, who have done nothing but love and support each other. They lift each other, which lifts me. And my son, who will travel this camino with me forever.

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Bills family 3

Bill & Sharon Klein

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Camino with Sharon
by dogtorbill

My heart pounded as I waited in the sea of people waiting for their loved ones to, one at a time, come past airport customs, after baggage claim. Shar hadn’t checked a bag, only her backpack as carry-on, so she’d surely be one of the first through to join us. As you can imagine, she was not. So many things today had gone contrary to plan that I almost expected her flight to arrive without her. As each passenger greeted and hugged someone waiting for them, I grew a bit more anxious. I hadn’t actually been able to contact her since she told me that, like how I had began my trip three weeks earlier, her flight from Orlando to Miami had been so delayed that she was put on a different flight.

Did that flight arrive on time? Did she make her next flight from Miami to Madrid? If so, theye would be a five hour layover – had she been able to sleep on the flight, or did she unroll her sleeping bad and crash for a while during the layover… Did she sleep through the boarding, and miss this flight? Did she set an alarm on her phone? Did her phone battery die, so the alarm didn’t wake her? So many things that we just take for granted could always go wrong.

A dozen or more people had filed past, and many now had much larger bags with them that didn’t look like they could be allowed as carryons. I had resigned to the liklihood that she’d missed her flight. How would we contact? Especially if her phone was dead…

Sharon bounced through the doorway, and beamed with joy as our eyes met. I felt like I hadn’t seen her in months, or that we were still dating, I was so happy to see her.

She hadn’t been delayed at all. She actually was one of the first ones off the plane. I looked at the time; I had only been waiting six minutes. Felt like a long time.

As we rode the 3 hour bus ride back to Sarria, as you can imagine, I thought about lots of things. Many things would be different after this Camino, some would not. What would my thoughts, attitudes, and my life change after this. Will it be just remembered as a “big adventure?” Or will it be that mid-life, post-tragedy reset that everyone was hoping for…

How will I respond

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DogtorBill / Camino with Cullen

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For some time now, I have mentioned dogtorbill.wordpress.com caminowithcullen.wordpress.com (Dr. William Klein DVM). We first met when he contacted me about my post about solar chargers. I promptly started as a follower of his Blog and it soon became apparent that he was NOT the “What I did Last summer” perigrino. As I read his posts, I feel he is speaking to me. With his permission, I have decided to “Repost” some of his message. I hope it moves you as much as it did me……Thanks Doc. I soon figured it out , that he indeed was ‘Not Alone on the Camino’. To me, there can be no greater loss than to lose a child. I will be carrying a stone in my pocket for my youngest son with the names of two infant girls he lost that never knew the world we take for granted.

Please go to his Blog dogtorbill.wordpress.com . Each of these posts has wonderful pictures also.

Thanks Doc………..

Dr. William Klein

Dr. William Klein

Roncesvalles!!!
Posted on April 18, 2013 by dogtorbill

What an incredible first day! My calfs are so sore from the uphill, but much worse are the fronts of my thighs from very very steep downhill in snow and mud. Unfortunately most of the beauty was obscured by the fog and drizzle, but the glimpses I got were truly breathtaking. Walled with two Germans for a while, then one from Hingary and a Canadian. Everyone has a heartfelt story, life is do inspiring. And despite all the falling on this rocky toad, we are truly blessed.
Over 200 staving this Albergue, bunk beds…very interesting; when you suffer together its quite a connection. Mass tonight in Spanish was nonetheless moving and unforgetful, Fallen away catholic girl next to me was sobbing.
Lights out at 10, ip at 5:30.
More later, buen camino

Much too tired to write…

Posted on April 20, 2013 by dogtorbill

Staying in convent no wifi (weefee) exhausted, crawled in on my hands and knees!

No idea where I am

Posted on April 20, 2013 by dogtorbill

Feel a bit like Martin sheen dragging in with a headlight, too tired to care the difference between a bed and a room. The difference is, I just had to keep going because the albergue’s were all full; but I kept chuggin along until I got here. Kinda feel like I’m cheating though, because its a real hotel, not a hostel or Albergue. Oh well, I had Peregrino intentions, I think that’s what counts, so I’ll suffer through only having one bed in my room, my own toilet, and hot water coming out of the shower!
Ok, today’s camino lesson…
I really really enjoyed the hours spent the past two days with my new friends, the stories told and the years shed – I thought I was the most emotional man I knew, but now I know I’m very good company. There’s a certain anonymity about pilgrims walking together, also sharing the physical pain (serious pain, check out the mapmyhike link – it’s been brutal), that allows, even encourages exposing one’s inner stuff, without masks or pretense. Many thanks and much love to Derek from Belgium, Francis from Germany, Tom from Ireland, Laura from Canada, Maryanne from Ukraine (or wherever you said) , some dude from San Antonio…. If any of you ever find this, please know that knowing about your own journeys has enhanced mine, and is every bit as inspirational.
But the time I’ve enjoyed, grown, embraced the most is the few hours every afternoon, when everyone else has stopped for the day, and I continue “alone” for a while. I am not alone. And I’m not devastated with our loss.

I’m not alone on my camino.

No, really, and it sounds like it but it’s not a cliche. The load on my back is a piggyback ride, and we’re seeing the most beautiful scenery you can imagine. Pictures could never do justice. I’ll show a few, but most were just for us. Amazing experience this is. And this is just after two days.

Oh yeah, Derek (from Belgium) and I found “the street” in Pamplona…
Was mucho fun.

Villatuerta

Posted on April 21, 2013 by dogtorbill

No idea why mapmyhike app didnt work so well today. most of much shorter 6 hr day was alone, but very much enjoyed matt from san fran who lost his 17 year old little brother to a fall while hiking – 15 years ago – and his cousin john. we caught up with his parents a couple of hours later, and connected, as if we just understood each other. Without saying a word. Stopped way before i intended to. Because my knees said so. Villatuerta was having a basque separatist (or something) festival. With cervesa. That’s all I
needed! Good meal, good people, and did I mention some cervesa? Lots more to come.

Leaving Canas – Day 8

Posted on April 25, 2013 by dogtorbill

Afternoon cafe con leche in Granon

Posted on April 25, 2013 by dogtorbill

14 down, 4 more to go before Mass at 6! Quick break , meeting with friends I seem to keep running into from Belgium and Italy…

Anna’s place

Posted on April 25, 2013 by dogtorbill

Although I have no idea where the two German guys ended up, I found a magical “rural” (farmhouse) Albergue to stay tonight. Got here so late (see the mileage), that I got no clothes washed; expect to be walking alone tomorrow, everything I have really (REALLY!) stinks!! I think I have underwear, but no shirts, and definitely no socks!!! Yuck.

The Brierley pilgrim’s guide says AMA d la Cruz offers a warm welcome, and she did. Wonderful dinner, and since I stopped in a small town (villamayor del Rio) instead of Santa Domingo or Belorado, I have a small house, simple home cooked food, and two wonderful new friends from California. More tomorrow, gotta talk to my wonderful wife now! Much love.

Ages, Day 9

Posted on April 26, 2013 by dogtorbill

I will never again complain about my knees, now that I have met a man with no leg. I continue to slow in my pace, but realize how blessed my life has been. ( pix tomorrow, weefee sux)

Burgos Day 10

Posted on April 27, 2013 by dogtorbill

Awoke to a nice dusting of snow on the mountains and about -5C, whatever that means. I do know what it feels like! Three layers wasn’t enough, so I stopped and added a fourth! Sufficient until it started “snowing hail,” or something odd. Not sure if the pictures will show it; not sure also why some pictures upload, but most don’t seem to. Probably something about weefee data speed, and sharing often with a hundred other peregrinos at the end of the day. So I’ve discovered mid-day seems to work best, when I stop for my cafeconleche fix!
So I ran into the two German kids, who couldn’t find a place to sleep that night, so just unrolled their sleeping bags under a tree and crashed there.. Waking in the morning to snails on both of their faces!!! We got a good belly laugh over that one. I also (just five minutes ago) walled up upon one of the earliest families I had met. The guy who last his brother (Matt), with his cousin (John) and father (Todd, I think), who were simply amazed to see me again. This was their last day, were flying back tomorrow, perhaps doing more next year. They had bussed part of the route, and even biked one leg, so certainly didnt expect me to be anywhere near them… especially carrying “my load.” Believe me, he is carrying me, not vice versa. Much love to everyone holding us up in prayers.

Sunday night – day 11

Posted on April 29, 2013 by dogtorbill

The stamina, courage, pain tolerance, and life stories shared with us on our camino is such inspiration that I continue to be humbled. Witnessing others’ struggles and love for each other on this rocky road is also a metaphor for whatever itself should be. To top it off, this German speed skating champion (Franz, the guy who I referenced last night on FB), asked me if it would be OK if he wore one of Cullen’s bracelets when he competes in 2014 Olympics.

Caldaza, Wednesday, May 1st

Posted on May 7, 2013 by dogtorbill

For the first time on my camino, we walked with the same person all day, of course, it was my Belgian friend, Dirk. At the end of the day, we chose this albergue because the guidebook stated that the nominal donation included a shared meal with the other perigrinos (which I´ve always found most interesting), as well as a “pilgrim´s prayer service.” This proved most disappointing, amounting to passing around a bogus candle and stating whatever comments about the Camino you wanted to share, such as why you were doing it. Most others were in German, the rest in Spanish, and one in Italian. Clearly I learned nothing of the wisdom offered by the others, except one.

Peter, who was quite German chose to attempt to speak in broken English, a fact in itself I found a bit interesting. He also did so before me, so it was obviously not for my benefit. His story fascinated me. Distinct from pretty much everyone I´ve met (except the handfull I´ve mentioned), who seem to be doing the Camino as a kind of a “mid-life reset,” or (believe it or not) because it looks good on a European resume – something about stick-to-it-iveness.

So Peter simply said he was walking the Camino to thank Jesus “for saving his life,” then passed the candle. Well, you know me well enough to know that this was the hook to draw me in. So I left my Belgian counterpart, and sat next to Peter during the shared meal.

To make a short story long, which I´m inclined to do, Peter was a clinical psychologist in Berlin and came to the mid-life realization that he was just “going through the motions” of living. He felt he did a very good job of guiding people out of their own problems, but in his head and heart and soul, he was lost and felt like he was wasting his life. He served no real purpose. If he wasn´t there helping his patients, someone else would be, so he felt his life was pointless.

Peter resigned his partnership in the medical practice, cancelled his appointments, and quit. His wife left him because she wanted the luxury and prestige he would no longer be able to provide. He spiraled towards the bottom, couldn´t get out of bed, gained about 50kg, and contemplated suicide.

He was cleaning out drawers and closets, not even knowing why, and came across a small card with the picture of Jesus and the Sacred Heart image. Peter said he had no idea where the card had come from, because he was not Catholic, and neither he nor his (ex?)wife had ever been religious. He´d never even given much notice to religion or other “such stuff.” He remembered vividly of how he was drawn to the image. He felt warmth and comfort that he hadn´t felt for years, perhaps ever.

Peter searched on the internet and spoke to people he knew who were religious to find out more about the image, and this Jesus. He started attending Mass and found himself in a much different type of tears – ones of consolation, and love, and salvation.

No one seems to know where the Sacred Heart card came from, but Peter credits it for literally and figuratively saving his life. About a month into his “being saved” from himself, a good friend that he hadn´t seen for years stopped by and told him about the Camino. Peter was at a point that he quickly said¨, “Sure, let´s go!” But his friend told him that he´d need to prepare, both physically and spiritually. And he would need to do it alone.

Peter proceeded to walk every day, buy gear, and knew he was becoming spiritually prepared.

Peter was now walking the Camino as his form of thanksgiving for God having “saved his life.”

Much love to all.

Villarente, just past Mansilla, Thursday, May 2nd

Posted on May 7, 2013 by dogtorbill

IMG_4405Today´s weather was just miserable, cold, windy, rainy, but I just really felt good. It must have had something to do with the story Peter shared with me last night. The wonderful night´s sleep in a room with 15 others, 2 or 3 always snoring allowed me to consciously process what he had said. Wow, if he feels like he´s got so much to be thankful for, I REALLY do.

I am truly blessed with a wife that thinks I mean the world to her. I have loving, incredible kids. All of them. I got to walk 19 years with our dear Cullen. I have the utmost confidence that our loving God has him in His warm embrace in paradise. I have a great job, a do for a living what many dream of, what I´ve always wanted to do. I have a supportive family and a medical practice that allowed me to put everything on hold while I walked across Spain. And I have a loving savior that has carried me most of the past 12 months.

I was mucking through the mud, with what should have been a shiver with the chill, but as Í looked at the tracks someone left on the red earth, and was reminded of the famous poem.

So I said to the Lord,
”You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied,
”The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints,
is when I carried you

And then I realized why I wasn´t feeling the chill of the morning

La Virgen del Camino, 3 May 2013

Posted on May 8, 2013 by dogtorbill

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Yesterday just seemed to take forever, ending through the huge (by camino standards) city of Leon (pop 130,000), took over 2 hours simply walking through Leon, all paved, stop and go at pedestrian intersections, and simply exhausting. But I very much wanted to get the hustle and bustle of the city behind me, so I struggled past, to this quaint little village with a population of 3,300. In the morning I walked with Dirk for about an hour, then we seperated, under the auspices of his much faster walking pace. It is so important to spend most of the time alone, walking in silence. I often will play the podcast of the Divine Office to start the day´s “contempletive journey,” but after that generally walk in silence for most of the day. Sometimes at the very end, I´ll listen to Audrey Assad when I am totally shot, and can´t even lift my feet for another step, as her “singer-songwriter” style ballads have a perfect rhythm and beat for me. Her lyrics also speak to me in such a personal way I can´t even describe.

Tonight I am staying at a rather large albergue, but quite nice, and quite modern, with wifi (weefee!), and pay by the minute computers as well. Four of us cooked, and shared a bottle of local vino. While my clothes were on line drying, haha, someone decided they needed my bar of soap more than I did! Go figure… Do people not care where your soap´s been??? enjoy!

Tomorrow I should make it halfway to Astorga, perhaps Orbigo. Cheers!

La Virgen del Camino, 3 May 2013

Posted on May 8, 2013 by dogtorbill

IMG_4744

Yesterday just seemed to take forever, ending through the huge (by camino standards) city of Leon (pop 130,000), took over 2 hours simply walking through Leon, all paved, stop and go at pedestrian intersections, and simply exhausting. But I very much wanted to get the hustle and bustle of the city behind me, so I struggled past, to this quaint little village with a population of 3,300. In the morning I walked with Dirk for about an hour, then we seperated, under the auspices of his much faster walking pace. It is so important to spend most of the time alone, walking in silence. I often will play the podcast of the Divine Office to start the day´s “contempletive journey,” but after that generally walk in silence for most of the day. Sometimes at the very end, I´ll listen to Audrey Assad when I am totally shot, and can´t even lift my feet for another step, as her “singer-songwriter” style ballads have a perfect rhythm and beat for me. Her lyrics also speak to me in such a personal way I can´t even describe.

Tonight I am staying at a rather large albergue, but quite nice, and quite modern, with wifi (weefee!), and pay by the minute computers as well. Four of us cooked, and shared a bottle of local vino. While my clothes were on line drying, haha, someone decided they needed my bar of soap more than I did! Go figure… Do people not care where your soap´s been??? enjoy!

Tomorrow I should make it halfway to Astorga, perhaps Orbigo. Cheers!

Astorga Farewell – Day 18. 5 May 2013

Posted on May 17, 2013 by dogtorbill

As usual, all perigrinos seem to leave at slightly different times in the early morning. One of my biggest peeves has been fumbling around in the dark at 6:30 in a dark room with the other earlybirds, each with their own flashlight, hastily packing, zipping, unzipping, tripping on shoes, stuffing sleeping bags into plastic compression sacks, rolling ziplock baggiespretending to be quiet in consideration for the others, who are pretending to be asleep. This mad dash for the door seems to always result in leaving something behind. I´ve learned to thrpw on something quickly, slog to the cafe-con-leche bar, and toss a couple back, then return at 7ish when the “official” lights seem to get turned on. With caffeine on board, I can take care of other business as well, pack in the light, and leave only slightly after the others, except the Irish, who I still seem to beat out the door.

The Germanics, like the Belgians and Dutch were the first to go, so I don´t remember ever leaving with Dirk, except once when I realized I had left my trekking poles in the dark, so I actually left dead last that day! Lesson learned.

Some have a much faster hiking pace and generally out distance the others, except those with the desire to hike an hour or two after most others had stopped. I am in this category – most stop after 5 or 6 hours, but my schedule dictates that I pace another couple of hours, typically 7 or 8 hours – I have to average 17-20 miles each day to be in Sarria on the 10th, to catch the bus to bring back Shar, who would be flying in on the 11th.

There are many potential stops and diversions along the way, everyone has their own appetites and bladders, interests or not in churches, cathedrals, museums, as well as desires to take the paved more direct routes, the rocky, scenic road less traveled, and sometimes the uber-scenic poorly marked rout with much more altitude, but rewarding views. More on that later too.

This was Sunday, so I stopped as I hiked through Astorga, I decided it was good timing, passing an iglesia (church) right at 12:00 Mass-time. There was a band circling the town, loudly playing drums and brass, stopping in front of church right as the bells rang out to signify the start of Mass. Very interesting, and pretty impressive.

After Mass, I walked through Astorga and entered what every one of these small Spanish towns has, a town square. But this one was different. At a population of 12,000, it just felt like home, small townish and comfortable, but just big enough to be alive. The town square on this sunny day was full of life, not “old and cold” as I had grown accustomed to. Young families sat at the cafes lining the football field sized square. Dozens of children rollerskating and bicycling in the square, running, laughing, giggling, loving life. This place just felt really good.

And just like that, as I stood in the middle of the happiness, I heard, “William!” my proper name that Dirk always called me. Ha, and so another improbable, but expected reunion. He had just eaten lunch, but sat with a coke as I had mine. Today would be a bittersweet meeting. My new, good-friend dirk was way ahead of schedule and would be not only slowing the pace, but staying in Astorga. He expected to be in Santiago around the same day I would be, the 17th, but with tens of thousands of pilgrims in that city at any given time, it was unlikely we´d meet again. We exchanged email addresses, he promised to bring his wife for a visit in Florida next year, and just like that we hugged to say goodbye. But it wasn·t just a “three pat” guy-hug. He was clearly choking back tears, and it obviously takes very little to make me emotional. I cry watching SPCA commercials. His friends from Holland, Jeff and Annelies, were swept in as well.

So, I walked quickly from the Astorga town square with that image of Dirk. Why had we become such good friends so quickly? There´s that old saying about how long different types of friends are intended to stay in your lives. He had been a great guy to spend so much of this time with though. I wondered if his sons realize how fortunate they are.

I thumbed through the Camino guide book as I walked along, and targeted Santa Catalina as my destination for the night, just another 10 Km down the road.

Not 10 minutes after I left Dirk, the German speed skater Franz, and his friend Sebastian were walking out of a cafe just ahead of me. I hadn´t seen them in almost a week. (It´s the Camino). We visited for about an hour, the the coffee from lunch was screaming. So I stopped at the next banõ. Although I had come to expect it, I would not see them again.

I spent the night at El Caminate Albergue, in Santa Catalina.

Cruz de Ferro – 19th Day. 6 May 2013

Posted on May 17, 2013 by dogtorbill

Those who have also followed my on facebook realize I am posting on this blog a few days behind, because you saw Cruz de Ferro referenced last week.

This was an extremely heavy day for me. I approached the Cruz without really remembering it was only a few kilometers ahead. Something felt really strange. I was alone, and hadn´t seen any of my friends in a while, maybe that was it. No it jusrt really felt different. Maybe I was just getting weary, I checked the book for the next town. I had passed through Foncebadón, and saw that the Cruz fe Ferro was now less than a Km away. I placed my hand into my left pocket to feel the two stones I had intended to leave there, at the foot of the cross.

I won´t really say much more about today.

I spent quite a while there, place the two stones at the foot of the cross. My own, and one given to me by Father Tony when he gave me the pilgrim send-off blessing at Mass two weeks earlier. He had brought that stone back from the Holy Land and asked me to place it there, symbolically placing the burdens of members of our church community.

And I placed my own stone there as well.

A while later, as I climbed down from the mountain of stones left by earlier pilgrims, I finally looked up to see another friend named Edward, whom I had also met around the time I met Franz and Bastion. He also had tears running down his cheeks.

Lots of weary hearts on the Camino. Burdens to leave behind.

Realizing I should be in a relieved mood, less burdened mood, I pulled out the earbuds and played Chris Tomlin,”Our God is Greater.” Sarah Kroger had sung this at HNJ Adoration, hours before Cullen and I would watch “The Way.”

I lifted my hands in praise as I walked away, leaving the stone at the cross. I turned to see Edward smile.

Much Love on the Camino.

Molinaseca – 20th Day, 6 May 2013

Posted on May 19, 2013 by dogtorbill

After such a long, physically and emotionally draining day yesterday, I stayed in an albergue called San Roque, with 26 other bunk beds together in a single room. Haha, what a brilliant idea. This was a flashback from the albergue scene in “The Way.”

I had experienced such a wonderfully exhaustive cathartic day. I slipped into my sleeping bag and, anticipating some snoring, smashed in the ear plugs as far as they would go, only to be awoken an hour later by a cacophony, a veritable symphony of snoring. I almost got out of my bed to get the phone so I could record it. I kid you not, at one particular time there were 9 people snoring, in 7 distinct tones. This was pretty funny at first, but after I was awoken a second time, just a few minutes later, it wasn’t funny anymore. The problem was the earplugs – they would work themselves out “just enough” after an hour or so, and I’d startle out of my slumber with such a jerk that I’d sit up without thinking, and bonk myself in the head on the underside of the upper bunk. This in itself was also funny, but not so much at the time.

Anyway, so once again I used the emotion, this time of frustration, to think about “my stuff,” in a place where I over-analyze, and make metaphors out of things that now feel are ridiculous as I write them.

Snoring became “the real world.” My sleep that night, and the Camino itself was a magical place, but the peace and wonderment of it all was jostled from me by the “snoring.” Stolen by the reality of noise and distractions and unimportant things.

Have you ever been on a retreat, or to make things secular, even an industry or professional convention? You get all pumped up, full of new ideas, new knowledge, management incentives, motivational techniques, just excitement about life in general, cause you have new “stuff” to bring back to everyone else, or even to the “previous you.” But time, and time again, year after year, when you got back home, or to work, everything new and exciting was consumed by the “old grind.”

I’ve been in a pretty awesome place. Really. But I’ve been realistic enough to know it could all be consumed and lost as the airplane wheels screamed on the tarmac of the runway in Orlando. By the “real world.”

But, I pondered as I lay there, what exactly IS the “real world?” The place where jobs and responsibility, houses and “things” get the (vast) majority of our time and attention? Our spouses and children get the leftovers? And our “god” and our salvation, and the salvation of those we’re commisioned to steward are an afterthought, maybe given an hour or two on Sundays? Do we bring our “god” along for the ride?

In other words, does God (capital G) get placed with my other “gods” in my backpack, if there’s room and it doesn’t weigh exceed that 26# that I’ve decided was the most I should bring on this journey? No, I’m quite sure I have that exactly backwards. I consider myself a reasonably serious Christian. Didn’t Jesus say we were liars if we professed to love God, to follow him, to love one another, but didn’t live as a disciple, where our works were the same as our words?

So, as I tossed and turned and re-committed (although admittedly, I have commited to this on several other occasions), that being the Godly man I was sent here to be would be, it had to be, the focus of my “new life” after my Camino. I would stop trying to “bring God along for the ride.” This was His ride anyway, and I’m brough along by Him. My focus must continue to be on my Camino. The Way. The journey I was brought here for. My focus will be on this Camino (capital C). On this Camino, I realize I’m not driving. I never was. On this Camino I must stop worrying about things over which I have no control. The Guy who’s driving (capital G) gets to decide these things. I have to stop “pretending” to trust Him, and actually do it.

That’s pretty much the last thought I had. I must have drifted away into the peaceful rest of slumber, even with the snoring.

Today I walked almost 25 miles. I have no idea how I did it. I don’t really think I could have done it on my own. My body is a complete wreck. My knees are swollen and bruised, wrapped by two tight braces. But the walk continues, with strength from somewhere. I thank everyone for their prayers, I am certain that He hears them and carries me during these times. I splurged tonight and stayed at the Parador Hotel. Real food, real bath, real bed. Big day tomorrow.

Alternative Scenic Route (Dragonte Mountain) – 21st Day, 8 May 2013

Posted on May 19, 2013 by dogtorbill

In John Brierly, “A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago,” he on many occasions presents two or sometimes three alternative routes to reach the day’s suggested destination. The grey dotted route is mainly paved, typically the least strenuous, but often reportedly boring, less scenic, and asphalt hard on the feet. The gold dotted route is that suggested by Brierly, much more altitude, and as such, more strenuous and demanding. Unlike in snow-skiing, the green route is not the easiest. The green route is mentioned only for the benefit of the “experienced hiker,” who is in “excellent physical condition and who has the internal compass of a mountaineer,” as he is “likely to presented with many alternative roads and paths that are unmarked, and who will not become disheartened or frustrated if he becomes disoriented or lost for a period of time.”

Sounds like me, right? Guess which route I ALWAYS took when presented with the options…

Today being no different, I made the responsible decision that (apparently) no one else that I knew had made. Without hesitation, I chose the green route (a no-brainer) and headed up to Dragonte. I say without hesitation, not because I’m particularly athletic, or have a death-wish, or even some kind of daredevil. No, I always chose the highest, most demanding route because I’m pretty sure this is a once in a lifetime thing for me to do. So really do it.

And kind of personal. My last trip with my son, time together. That additional time we all wish we had spent with our kids when they (or we’re) gone. Lots of long conversations. Explanations of things I had done and not done – why and why not – and how I really thought I was being a good dad at the time. Apologies for those things that didn’t work out well or had resulted in misunderstandings, frustrations and disappointments. And appreciation for being such a really great son, a really great friend to so many, a really great human being. I continue to be in awe of that person. On so many levels.

So, and I share this with great hesitation, because it is so very personal. But if you’re still reading after three weeks, you are undoubtedly a pretty good friend, and have much love for me and my family. Many have no Idea why I’m doing this, other than to work through some grief. There are some reasons too personal to share – they are between me, my son, and our God.

But remember, I’ve said many times – I’m not doing the Camino for Cullen, I’m doing the Camino WITH Cullen, but for me, and those I love, who need me back. I’ve been gone for a while.

So, yes, at the risk of some mental health label, I am walking the Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James with my son Cullen. And yes, his ashes are in my backpack (no, I’m not spreading them), but even if they weren’t, he’d truly still be here with me. And I have genuinely felt his presence on many occasions. In the wind, in the warmth I feel on a frigid day, in the color and the fragrance of the lavender here on the mountains in the springtime. And although most people would look and say I was walking alone, in reading some of my prior posts, I noticed myself talking about things “we” did or saw.

Today, the green route was the most physically demanding, albeit exhilarating thing I’ve ever done. I did post a few pictures on FB. Here’s a few more. Today was the Camino in a nutshell. Time alone, lots of prayer, fascinating history, indescribable beauty. Anyone who denies the existence of our God has clearly never seen anything like this. And yes I was lost once for over an hour. Don’t believe in angels? I didn’t either. More to come regarding that. Much Love

Bienvenido a Galacia – 22nd day, 9 May 2013

Posted on May 22, 2013 by dogtorbill

Last night after hiking the three mountains, I dragged in at 8:30. Two would have been enough – it was past 5 as I descended the second peak, and I was ready to call it a day. I tried to take an asphalt road down to the regular gold route where I could find an albergue, but about 20 yards into my attempted exit, I was thwarted. A little old Spanish lady hobbled down the road after me and insisted I was NOT going where I thought I was. “No!” she insisted the road did not head back down.

Sometimes the locals really are quite helpful and redirect you to the correct path. But I was quite clear to her (because my Spanish is quite fluent now!) that I had no intention of staying on the Camino green path, but rather really wanted to call it a day, and use the shortcut road back down. She was adamant that the middle road would indeed take me to Vega de Valcarce, and not back up to Vilasinde to ascend the third peak.

Well, to quote Clint Eastwood, what we had was a “failure to communicate.”

Either that or she just plain didn’t like to see people cheating, and thought if I had commited to the green path, by golly I needed to stick to the plan. Anyway, within 15 minutes, I knew she had done me dirty. But by this time I was already committed, and it was pretty much just as close just to keep going, and see the view from the top of summit three.

I made friends with a cool dog up there. And did manage to find water. The the view had passed by at least an hour. It was foggy and getting dark soon, so I put it in high gear and kept going.

By the time I made it back down, it ws 8:30, and the alburgue that I stumbled into was the armpit of pilgrim sleeping facilities. Apparently everyone else knew this already. The municipal albergue was designed to hold 76 people, and by my count there were only 5 there when I arrived. None spoke English, but I gathered that although there (obviously) were plenty of available bunks, the warden (what the manager is called) had left for the evening, so I wouldn’t be able to register and have my credential stamped (the passport thing you get stamped everywhere you go on the Camino in order to prove you actually made the journey, so you would get your “diploma” document called a compostela in Santiago). I had plenty of stamps, as a matter of fact I was running out of room. (In fact, I found myself selectively stamping – including mainly cathedrals, museums, churches, and touristas, and pretty much not stamping in cafes and bars – didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think I’d been medicating every night!) So, I didn’t really think this was a problem. I used my best sign language to find out from my fellow pilgrims, where my accomodations for the evening would be found. Well the place had 5 dorm rooms, each with about a dozen beds. Two people were in one with the door shut, and two others had parked in a small room, only three bunks across. The old German guy was on the right side, and this Spanish girl was on the left, so I assumed I should be social and unroll my sleeping bag on the bottom bunk in the middle. Took a quick (VERY quick) shower, cause it was not only not a hot shower, this place didn’t even have any pretenses – there wasn’t even a hot handle. To my friends in Florida – you know the cold water I’m accustomed to – maybe 65-70 degrees, even in winter. Ha ha not here baby, it was about 40 degrees, and honestly took my breath away.

Anyway, after a brisk refreshing douche (that what we call a shower over here – that took some getting used to also), I darted out and hung up my wet towel to dry from the upper bunk. I did find it odd that the Spanish girl had two pairs of boots under her bed. I quickly hobbled (my current graceful stride) into town to get some dinner.

By the way, this place was filthy, and cold, and only one of the dorms had a door that closed.

The “perigrino menu” is perhaps one of the secular highlights of the Camino de Santiago (no kidding). It is offered by almost all restaurants, even the better ones, and consists of a first course: soupa (typically the local fare, and genuinely delicious) or a salad – amazingly a really, really good big salad, with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, asparagus, egg, peppers, etc; a second course – again kind of depending on the local fare, a choice of pollo (chicken), pesco (fish), and typically a third something or other, main course always served with other stuff, like potatoes, beans, veggies, etc (this is NOT France). After the first two courses is dessert – generally a choice of ice cream, flan, pudding, fruit, a tart, or a piece of Santiago cake (really good almond flavor). And a drink – aqua, cervesa, or vino. Typically you go for the vino, because unlike the cervesa, they generally keep refilling the glass. All this for 8 to 12 Euro (10 – 17 dollars). No idea how they can make money like this, but appanently they survive on it. Did I say they keep refilling the vino? I kid you not, some of the very best wine I have ever tasted has been served from (apparently) a backyard vinyard, because the bottle has no label, but is really, really good stuff. I’m no connoiseur, but I do like a pretty nice wine, and I was seldom disappointed in the regional vino of backyard Spain.

Having a medical background, I would certainly not recommend consuming alcohol with the quantity of NSAIDs (non-steroidal antiinflammatories) reguired by an old fart like me, but it does tend to keep the knees functioning. Whatever. “Senor! Uno mas vino, por favor!”

Anyway, so I get back to slip into tom quiet slumber, only to find the owner of the second pair of boots making out with her and preparing to share my neighbor’s sleeping bag.

CYA

I’m really not a prude. But I have kids older that this, and I had no intention of listening to … whatever all night. I was here for a spiritual pilgrimage, and even with a little vino for medication, this was not my idea of fun. So I excused myself, explaining that I was glad to give them a bit of privacy, expanding into another totally empty room. About an hour later the German guy joined me in my new choice of room. I didn’t ask why.

I was awoken at 5:15 by the Galacian weather. I remembered in the movie, “The Way,” it mentioned that Galcaia got alot of rain. They were not kidding. Rain. Lots of it.

Having the pilgrim spirit, I did not complain, but instead chose new attire for this wonderful day. I was certainly glad that I had not elected to leave behind my rain gear. I had carried around over 3# of rain pants and shell for three weeks, and it was now gonna pay off. In addition I had learned from previous days that waterproof pants do drip onto socks, that wick into eventually very wet shoes, so I invented home-made “gaiters.” I cut down a garbage bag and duct taped it to my calves under my pants, extending over my shoes. Brilliant idea – until the next evening. Ever take duct tape off a hairy leg?

I waited til after 8 and the warden never showed, so, CYA. Guess this fine facility was free. Can’t imagine why it was empty.

It rained for two solid days, then every single day until Santiago. Nope correct that. Every day until we leave, including Finestere. (yes, I’m still about a week behind in my posts, and I am home now). So I walked another 24 miles today, trudging in the rain, and stayed in a “rural casa.”

Casa Xato is a working farm, and just plain felt good. I had my own private room (36 Euro, instead of the albergue price of 5 – 8, but last night was free, so, whatever!), a hot shower, real bed, and the ambiance was just so cool. I opened the window, and saw sheep and horses grazing and the dairy cattle were being led in for the evening milking. The goats wore a bell, the rooster was crowing, and the village church bell rang out the hour. They make their own cheese, chorizo (sausage), and raise their own chicken and eggs. They recently won some award, mounted on the wall, from a chocolate association for excellence in desserts. (Can I just stay here for a while?)

The senora did my laundry (by now, pretty much everything in my pack) for 4 Euro, Made me the most incredible supper, insisted I have a second caraffe of vino, and gave me three chocolate crepes, drizzled with maple syrup for dessert, all for 10 Euro. (Can I just stay here for a while?)

Woke at 7:30 (easy to “sleep late” here!) and departed in the rain for Sarria. Woo Hoo!!! Shar will be start hiking with me there!!!

More to come

Training Resumes !!!!!!!!!!!

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Love Character

Preparing for the Camino de Santiago has many items on the checklist, one of which is getting a physical check-up. Bad Boy that I am, it’s been three years since my last Physical. So it’s off to get all the orifices probed! Hmmm, doc says Prostate is enlarged. Hmmm, blood work is perfect with one exception, my PSA was elevated. I get sent to a Urologist. He says, we need a Biopsy. Let the games begin! Need help here Lord! Rather uncomfortable !

Today, the results are in. Quite a few sleepless nights. I was fully prepared to hear about Radiation and worse things. Biopsy (all 6) were Cancer free. Talk about the weight of the world being lifted. Thank You Jesus. I will have a procedure in mid June to reduce the Prostate size. Called RF something. Not pleasant, but the alternatives are pretty gruesome.

Makes me wonder, if not for the Camino, it may have been another three years before I had a Physical. Did the Preparations save my life? Is this the first miracle of the Camino? Make no mistake, I am a happy Dude right now.

Bottom line, Doc says I will be good to go for September. WAHOOO !

So, Training resumes! My heart-felt thanks for the prayers from all my friends and Bloggers that knew of my situation. GOD IS GOOD

Your Favorite Trekker.

Finisterre

It’s what I do !!!!!

Theflycaster 1

Been struggling with my new Video/Audio software that I got from Snapfiles.com. It’s free, so there is no “Guidebook for Dummies”. One of my struggles was trying to figure out how to add music to a Photo Slideshow. Took a while, but I now know how to do it. My apologies to Leonard Cohen.

I was asked what I do when not training for the Camino de Santiago. Model building is a favorite hobby. I prefer to build models of Aircraft I have never seen built before. This model is loosely based on a Heinkle He-51 (Stand-off scale). It was a German fighter that was built illegally post WWI. It was too slow due to Germany no longer being allowed to build Aircraft engines. It did see combat in a Spanish war but was quickly relegated to the roll of a Ground attack bomber because it could not compete in air to air combat.

All plans were drawn by myself and the same for Fabrication. Toward the end of the show you will see a design change. The original design was not stabile in flight. The top wing was “stretched” for a more stabile flight.

Play Slideshow below…………

Some of my other “Creations” . The 1/3rd scale Fokker DVIII was my own design. Others were Kits etc.

My own design

My own design

Lot’s of work with the Fokker. Learned a lot about scale alterations. Mainly that when scaling something up, things are not Linear.

Pitts Special

A Classic Pitts Special. I won this plane at an R/C meet.

My all-time Favorite

My all-time Favorite

A Modified Stearman ! What a great Plane to Fly !!!! R.I.P. :=(