Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cool Rewards

There are many opportunities to enjoy the simple things in life - most of us are guilty of journeying through our lives at a hectic pace.  For those who choose to march to the beat of a different drummer - or walk at a snail's pace - there is an entirely new world to discover. Walking the Camino gives one time to look closely at things most often taken for granted. The blue of the sky - the red of the gravel - the green of the crops growing in the field - the wonder of God's hand in all of creation.  Whenever anyone asks me to prove God's existence   - I simply tell them to open their eyes and look around.

To the casual observer the people walking the Camino above are two strangers - of no interest to them - and yet they are more than that. They are pilgrims - peregrinos - walking mile after mile in quiet solitude - reflecting not only on the path they walk - but the path they have been following in their individual lives. For some the Camino will bring about a change in the way they live - in the way they react to other people and the unorchestrated events in their lives. For others the Camino will bring completely  unexpected surprises. 

A road side monument complete with the shell that designates the Camino and a figure of an early day peregrino - a reminder that this is not a modern day invention - but one that is centuries old. Peregrinos passing by add small stones to the monument - an indication of perhaps a prayer answered or a recent prayer or intention seeking future blessings.


         Villages in the distance - like an unobtainable goal - so near and yet so far away. 


                    Grapes ready for picking - the product of attentive cultivation and care

                                               Marcie From Maryland Cooling Tired Feet

A sudden turn in the path and a dry and barren trail is suddenly filled with new life - running water - a magnificently clear stream that begs peregrinos to stop and cool their feet from a days long walk.

                                           Arlene Joins Marcie In A 50F Foot Bath

The quiet is broken by more peregrinos seeing the opportunity to relax - eat a snack - bathe their tired feet in the cool refreshing waters.

                                            A Modern Twist To Roadside Assistance
Adios peregrinos - the days walk is not quite over yet - heading another one or two kilometers into Najera - seeking an albergue where we can shower from the days walk and rest our sore feet.  Today we can use a washing machine and dryer - then a short stroll through town and a light dinner.  Tomorrow will come soon enough.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Friday, August 30, 2013

Eating On The Camino

In response to my oldest son - the food here is varied. For breakfast you are lucky to get a coffee from a vending machine at the albergues. This morning we were in the Logrono business area so we were able to find a place that was open and served desayuno - un grande cafe con zuma de naranja con tostada - i.e. American style coffee in place of cafe which is an espresso - with fresh orange juice and toasted bread. The bread is similar to what  we call French toast - nice and thick but airy with some marmalade. The fresh orange juice is the best orange juice we have ever tasted. We don't know what they do to oranges but the flavor is out of this world. A trip to Spain just for the orange juice would be worth it :)

Many pilgrims refer to a first and second breakfast - the first is coffee and toast - if lucky - mainly because there are no places open that early to serve breakfast - so the  vending machine option. A note here about the albergues - they open early afternoon to register pilgrims - check your international passport - just as any normal hotel would - a legal requirement in foreign countries - and check your credencial - the pilgrim passport to verify that you are a legitimate peregrino - then they enter you in their register and assign you to a bed. Today's albergue in Navarrette we are in habitacion #3 in beds 19b and 20 - Alene took the upper bunk - hope she doesn't fall out during the night. They turn off the lights and lock the doors about 10:00pm - then they go home. When you wake in the morning - you let yourself out. For lunch you have the option of eating at a "bar" where they serve sandwiches - bocadillos - drinks - beer/wine etc. or you sit on the stairs of a local church/building/park bench or any nearby rock big enough to accommodate your derrière and you eat the apples, bananas you bought earlier in the day from the super mercado. For dinner we have the choice of the "menu" or miscellaneous selections depending where you stopped for dinner. The menu is a pilgrims dinner which consists of 3 courses - the starter of salad/soup/pasta - the second course of meat/fish/chicken - the third course is dessert of heladas (ice cream)/flan/yogurt - included is bread (no butter) /water and wine. For all the above - the menu costs between 9 Euro to 12 Euro (so far). We have found that the menu is a lot more than either of us wants to eat so we have either ordered solomente una menu and shared or substituted a plate of assorted tapas with drinks - but always the ice cream.

The view we had for breakfast - yes believe it or not we are roughing it - sometimes we discover these little pearls hidden by God for us to discover.


My camino buddy smiling like she does everyday - that is one of the main reasons I look forward to a new day everyday.
                                    The Camino emblem in the sidewalk at Navarrete 
                                                  Restaurant next to the albergue

Navarrete albergue on Calle San Juan - you can see our brown socks drying in the upper window by the purple cloth.
This is the starting point for tomorrow's walk. Notice the blue camino sign with the yellow arrow pointing upwards - I did mention that this is a hilly place.

While killing time before dinner - they do not serve dinner until 7:00 or 7:30pm in Spain. 5:30pm is reserved for wine - tapas and  "happy hour". We wandered around and discovered an old church    Santa Maria de la Asuncion Sigio XVI - inside we found this beautiful altar. When we put in 1 Euro it turned on the lights on the altar - long enough to take some photos and pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy. We also offered prayers for all those back home and also did a litany of Saints to pray for us - including Saint Mary - Saint Faustina - Saint Gianna Molla - among others. Tomorrow we walk much more than we did today - praying for a complete healing of the foot.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Going With The Flow

There is no right or wrong way to walk the Camino - although many will be more than happy to tell you why you should or should not have done what you decided was best for you.  As in all things - there are always the critics. As we were preparing ourselves - one thing we promised both our sons - was that we would listen to our bodies and not push ourselves so hard that we would get into serious trouble.  That was an easy promise as we do not like the idea of any issue that could cause us concern.

This morning we tried to do the early pilgrim routine - wake up early - use your headlamp so you don't wake others still sleeping - try to be quiet while you re-pack your stuff - and leave undetected. It almost worked - but we learned a few things - this is not a race so why are we up so early - trying to see things in the dark with your red light is not fun - trying to be quiet translates into taking more time to complete the task at hand. All in all - a 6:30 wakeup still meant a 7:45 departure. We will not do that again.  

Our night at La Bodgen del Camino albergue was very pleasant. It was not our first choice but that first albergue only had 12 beds and had filled up by the time we got there. La Bodgen has about 40 beds - cost a bit more - but very nice and clean. The ladies were very helpful - showing Arlene the different rooms so she could be comfortable in mixed sleeping arrangements. As it was - only 3 of us shared a room designed for 10 and none of us had to take an upper bunk.


Our morning started out on a flat section but then turned into more hills.  Somehow the movie "The Way" never showed any of these hilly sections. The Camino is definitely not flat and when the guide book says you get to walk on natural path ways versus city sidewalks - they forgot to mention that a lot of the paths are uneven and lined with large stones. So walking slowly so you don't twist an ankle is important.  Needless to say - walking with a foot trying to produce a blister does not make for an enjoyable walk. After another hilly section - did we mention how slow you have to walk down hill - we hit another flat stretch that took us through a tunnel.


Not the light at the end of the tunnel - but it is flat. Following other pilgrims we made our way into Villatuerta Puente. Going through this village we found a place with a toilet and food. Here we had our second breakfast then moved on.

This next section was a  mixture of hills and flat stretches. We finally arrived at Estella. By this time Dale' foot was really starting to hurt so we took a break along the river and looked at our options. We did not want to stop for the day since it was only about noon so we looked at the guide book and decided we needed to go further without hurting Dale's foot - so we made the decision to hop a bus and head to Logorno. This is about 2 days of walking so we will spend tonight here - take a full day to rest the foot tomorrow - then get back on the trail. We are praying that staying off the foot for a full day will be the best answer.  We have plenty of time so that is not a concern. Time for sleep and foot rest. Goodnight and - guys - we are keeping our promise to you to walk smart.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One Good Hill Deserves Another

Woke up earlier this morning - left about 7:45 saying googbye to Uterga albergue - got coffee from a vending machine and headed out down a country gravel trail. Walk was mostly down hill to Muruzabal. Completed that just fine but outside the village almost missed the turn off to Obanos. Another steep ascent to the small village town - they had bronze metallic shells embeded in the sidewalks that led us through the town. Headed to Puente la Reina - no problems - then another steep hill to Maneru.

After we saw bikers walking their bikes up the hill - we decided that biking the Camino may not be as easy as one thinks. This was very difficult. On the way to Cirauqui we had to cross an old Roman trail and bridge. It was only after slowly climbing over these huge steps that we noticed an off trail track that would have been much easier. As we were looking back we saw a team of bikers getting ready to cope with those same stairs. Luckily - for them - we were able to get their attention and signal the alternate path - that earned us a hearty thank you from the guy and gal from California. The path continued to throw steep hills in our way as we moved on to Cirauqui and Lorca. We did manage to find a Farmacia that was open - talked with a young fellow who told us he had done training in Chicago and St Charles, Illinois for Arthur Anderson where our youngest son also had an early job. We spoke with the lady pharmacist - told her we were retired pharmacists - that earned us a professional discount on some vaseline and Compeed - for blisters. Foot still bothering Dale - so stopped in Lorca at the albergue. Talked with a young woman from Texas/California as we drank a Coke - needed some sugar - and ate dinner with two ladies and a fellow from Austria. Hot shower - clean dry clothes - shared a pilgrim's meal with Arlene and now ready for sleep. Trying for an earlier start Thursday.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What A Hill

Left Pamplona this morning - slept late recovering from yesterday's day of travel and losing a night of sleep. Found a breakfast bar for a croissant and cafe Continental - on "the Camino" at 9:30 - late if you travel by "pilgrim" time. Managed to find the way marks in the town

Shiny silver Camino shells embedded in the side walks - walked by the university and found more pilgrims ahead of us. Noticed one lady making good time in front of us. Finally caught up to her in the hills - she was taking a break and eating grapes - no English - solomente poco Ingles - We managed to learn that she is from here in the Muxia  area - walking from Roncevalles - so she is on her third day - left her sitting as we continued up the incline to Cizur Menor. On the way we crossed paths with numerous people - some threesomes - some singles - people walking the other way - are they on the return trip? - don't know - you offer a quick - hola or buen Camino and keep on walking. Stopped for a breather - met a young girl from Scotland - spoke English - has 2 weeks  to walk - going to Leon or Burgos - will return next year to do the last half. Finally  got to the Pilgrims Monument by the Wind Turbines - some 40 turbines slowly spinning to the rhythm of the winds on the hills - God's answer to clean energy production and mankind responded to the gift of wind by building these interesting machines. 

At the top were a group of perigrinos relaxing after the slow climb upwards. We helped out two fellows who asked us to take their photo and then they returned the favor or us. 

We wish we could say the trip down was easier than the one up - but we can't. Walking over stones the size of lemons and limes and small egos - would be more accurate. Not only were they NOT pea gravel - but they wanted to help you move faster - by slipping and rolling underfoot - not a lot of fun. We did finally get down to normal terrain - terra firma - asphalt - solid ground. Praise God for the blessings of engineering
                                    Looks interesting - a newer albergue 

Time for food and relaxing. After getting a Coke complete with ice and a lemon slice (?) por que? - and a bocadilla - an omlette in a sandwich - we decided o call it quits for the day and stay here - unfortunately - the inn is full - BUT - they do have private rooms - a little more expensive but who am I to argue with a pretty lady - my wife - and the owner (?) also very pretty. 7:00 pm a pilgrims dinner served by a very pretty and helpful waitress and now blog time. Over all - in good shape - left foot a little sore - trying to grow a blister - but we will survive. tomorrow another day.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene     

Monday, August 26, 2013

Getting There Is Half The Fun

After almost 20 hours of traveling we are at the Puerta del Camino hotel in Pamplona. Arlene is napping and I am working on logistics and figuring out what we need to get done before bedtime. The plan is to begin our Camino from Pamplona. We did meet three fellows on the train who are also walking the Camino - two older fellows - who only speak Spanish - heading to Roncevalles to start there and one younger fellow Evaldo - from Brazil - who also only peaks Spanish and will start tomorrow morning from Pamplona.

We have already had some opportunities to hand out our cards shown above.
So far the only glitch in our plans was getting lost trying to find our hotel. Other than being 
tired with no sleep from last night - we are doing well. 

More as we start trekking Tuesday.

Buen Camino
Dale & Arlene

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Today we depart for Spain and our venture on the Camino. Everything has been double checked - back packs all ready - verified weights - too heavy - what to remove - nothing! To our surprise our last minute essentials like medicines, towels, bar soap, clothes pins added a few pounds not previously accounted for. It is what it is - we will walk as it is.

Arlene's pack is about 6 Kg - Dale's a little over 7 Kg - still respectable.  As we walk we know that some of what is pictured above will diminish - like the bar of soap and the prayer cards we will be handing out. Boarding passes are printed - passports in hand - 7 hours from now we will be on our way to the airport.  Knowing that the home is secure with our house sitter and other friends taking care of little chores while we are gone gives us peace of mind. Earlier tonight we stopped by to say goodbye to a friend - John - who is in the midst of walking his final Camino to God.  We pray that his journey is smooth and brings him eternal peace. That is about all that any of us can ask - peace - not as the world gives - but as Jesus gives. Our next post will be from Pamplona.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Friday, August 23, 2013

One Day

One Day - that is all it takes to do almost anything. One day to start a new job - one day to cut the grass - one day to make a new friend - one day to fall in love. So many things happen in our lives in one day - great things and not so great.  It is almost midnight Friday and we have one day left before we leave for Spain. Eleven months of preparation - eleven months of research - eleven months of training - all comes together in one day. The training is done - the shopping is done - the testing is done. One day - final assembly of our stuff sacks - loading the backpack one last time.

One day and we will begin the adventure of a lifetime - walking the Camino. It is hard to believe that we are at the point of starting this. We are excited - we are open to whatever God has in store for us. All we can say is - One Day!

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to the Future

Four days to departure - checking our gear list making sure everything is in order. Sprayed the travel sacks (sleeping bags) and back pack with Permethrin today to protect us from bugs - especially bed bugs in the albergues.  Made a few last minute purchases - getting ready to pack our back packs - double checking reservations - getting excited. To really get us mentally prepared for our lengthy stay in Spain on the Camino we are relaxing and watching The Way - for the seventh time :)  watching the movie that started us on this road back in October 2012. Once more going back to that fateful day and our first viewing - looking to an awesome future in Spain.

Scene shot from The Way

When we pack our back packs we will take some photos of our gear and include a final list and the weight. For the casual observer - it will mean nothing - for other peregrinos - everything. For the past eleven months we have become a part of the Camino community - the Facebook groups - the Camino Forum - sharing information - asking questions - getting advice.  Now to take all this preparation and apply it - no longer a theoretical discussion - now it gets very real!

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Old McDonald Had Some Gear...

Like Old McDonald we feel that we have  - here a pig there a pig - or more accurately - here some gear there some gear - coming out of our ears.  Another day closer to departure and we are still adding to our list of equipment for our 500 mile walking adventure in Spain.  We pray that we will have everything we need by Wednesday.  Air tickets - all set. Train tickets to Pamplona - all set. Train tickets from Santiago back to Madrid - all set. Now to figure out where we will lay our heads the first night in Spain and the second and the third - only time will tell.


One final training walk on Wednesday - then we pack everything for an early Sunday morning departure to the airport.  Hoping you will follow this blog and look for us on Twitter @CaminoWalkers

Buen Camio
Dale and Arlene

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hill Training

Today we set out to do some specific training on hills.  Although we did some hill work while we were in the Galena territory in northern Illinois - we have not had a chance to do much hill training since. Today we finally found time to visit the Harris Forest Preserve in Yorkville. It was a very nice day - not very hot - mostly sunny.  Using a ap on my iPhone called Theodolite - I was able to determine the slope of the sledding hill to be anywhere from a 12 to 15 degree elevation.  

Hill training not only involved the basic trekking up and down the hill - but how to do that. It is not just learning how to walk - smaller strides - but also using your trekking poles.  On a small slope such as this we left our poles normal length - but for the downhills we lengthened the poles to help control our descent.  Different people have different ideas which way is best - the truth is - you go with what works best for you.  The most direct way is to walk straight up or down a hill. Others would walk on diagonals - going left and right - more steps involved but easier - especially on the down slope. We did this section - about 1 kilometer - both ways three times before heading out for some trail walking.  

Discovering some wooded trails for trekkers and horses - we decided to walk a lollipop loop - carefully avoiding tree roots - ground branches and road apples.  

 It was a nice walk - no mosquitoes - and finally came back to the sledding hill where we did one more walk up and down the hill to call it a day.  Pleasant surroundings for an afternoon trek - made for a fun and productive afternoon. 

Final distance today we estimate at maybe 8 kilometers or 5 miles.  Time is running short and our training days are coming to an end.  Eleven days to departure and the real thing!

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Will Nice Looking Calves Guarantee A Good Camino

I find it interesting that when we took a group of Trekkers both times we walked El Camino de Los Santos somebody in the group made the comment about how nice they thought my calves looked - that is what I get for leading the group - being in front of people opens a person to many comments behind their back.  Trying to set and maintain a steady pace that would be comfortable for everyone is not as easy as one would think - so I find it funny that while I was trying to find that stride - I was being checked out from those behind.


Although the calves may have looked nice - what they should have been concerned about was my feet - were they cool and comfortable - or was heat becoming an issue.  The first group camino that we led was only 8½ miles so everyone did well.  The second group camino of 17 miles was another story - so after walking approximately 120 miles training with no blisters - on this one single walk I finally developed my first blister!  Yes - I was disappointed that it happened - at the same time I am glad that it happened at home and with new knowledge - hope to avoid a reoccurrence in Spain.  Here is a hint - change into dry socks the minute your feet feel damp - if double socks cramp the toes then only wear one pair and take advantage of a generous toe box and do not fill it with wool.

Getting closer to departure - finally bought our plane tickets - before we know it we will be there!

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Monday, August 5, 2013

Another Long Day

This past Saturday - August 3rd - we took our longest training walk to date - El Camino de los Santos.  Following 8:00 am morning Mass - complete with a pilgrim's blessing at Saint Patrick Church by Father Michael Callea, MIC - we left for the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Plano, IL.  

Pilgrims on city streets

Accompanied by four peregrinas - we made our way  through the city streets of Yorkville - walking across a freshly harvested field of wheat - down country roads - stopping at the Brummel Farm to borrow bathroom facilities - finishing the trek on the city streets of Plano to arrive at Saint Mary Church where we met Deacon Doug Wells at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  
Deacon Dale - Barb - Lourdes - Donna - Sarah - Arlene - at Plano shrine

During the morning part of the trek we were met by our support person - Dee Taylor - who stamped our credencials at each of the four check points and carried spare drinking water. 

Dee applying sello on Barb's credencial

Receiving the fourth "sello" we found a shady piece of grass where we enjoyed a lunch break and were greeted by Father Matt Lamoureux, MIC - pastor of Saint Patrick Parish. Receiving a blessing from Father Matt - we headed out on the return trek back to Yorkville to visit the site of the future shrine of Saint Gianna Molla

Deacon Dale - Arlene - Donna - Barb - Sarah - Lourdes -  at site in Yorkville

Ending the day in very good spirits - everyone commented on being able to walk the complete trek.  As for Arlene and myself - we again picked up more information - about ourselves and where our comfort levels are - in regards to length of each segment - making final decisions on how far we wish to walk before we take a break and total distance to be covered in a single day.  

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Flying With Eagles

When anyone says they are flying with eagles - they mean that they have reached a lofty goal.  Today was the test that we have been looking forward to - spending all day walking - seeing how well we would do - how our gear would work - how prepared we were.  Of course - we wanted to be at this point - we wanted to do well - without any issues - and we did! 

As we were making our second trek of the day - we saw three eagles soaring overhead - thus the reason for the post title.  Our plan today was to walk three segments - each two hours in length - and we did just that. We came in just shy of the 6 hour mark but did manage to walk a total of 16 miles (26 km).  At this point we feel that we are ready for the Camino.  

Training is a constant with us now - heading to the Camino - we know we will be prepared.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene