Monday, March 31, 2014

Photograph: Buddha In Silhouette

"Buddha In Silhouette"
By Bruce H.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Camino 2013 Gear Lessons Learned: Backpack

When walking the Camino and hiking in the back country you will need a place for your stuff.  That place is a backpack for most people (on the Camino I have witnessed pilgrim suitcases).

Statue of pilgrim with suitcase in Astorga, Spain.
On my Caminos I used two different packs made by GoLite.  The first was a Litespeed.  It is no longer sold by GoLite as far as I can tell.  It was a 35+ liter pack and served me very well on my first Camino.  The only failure was the belt buckle.  Over time one of the two prongs warped enough that it would not engage properly.  The pack was about the right size for a Camino and lightweight.  It was fairly waterproof which was a plus - while in the rain, both with and without a pack cover, the inside of the bag stayed nice and dry.  The zipper opening at the top was large giving you good access to everything in the bag.  There was a small top pocket (the brain or lid of the pack) for small items you need to access often.  A deep pocket on the back of the pack was convenient for food and stuffing clothes into as you heated up and started to shed layers.

On my second Camino I switched to a GoLite Jam 35L.  It was slightly smaller than my Litespeed and quite a bit lighter.  Despite the smaller size I easily got all my gear in the bag. The reduced weight was achieved by replacing the zipper closure of the litespeed with a cinched/roll top bag.   The cinch closure did away with the pocket in the top.  They also replaced the large open pocket on the back with a smaller zippered pocket.

Both packs had side pockets for water bottles and small items.  The Jam had slightly deeper side pockets.  Both packs had a hydration bladder sleeve inside the main bag.

At first I was happy with the smaller, lighter pack.  I'd read a lot of reviews that were generally positive.  There had been one negative one that I chose to ignore since it was all by itself.  The reviewer said that when the pack was full, it did not ride well.  This was the review I should have listened to.  When I packed all my gear in the Jam it was full.  The gear weight, 17-18 lbs (7.7 - 8.2 kgs) was well below the maximum recommended carry weight of 30 lbs (14 kg).  Several times during my Camino I had to stop and repack my Jam moving things around since the pack was not riding correctly.  I never had to repack my Litespeed.  This was made worse with the single adjustment on the arm straps vs the two adjustment points on the Litespeed.  (Note: If you have a pack that doesn't feel quite right, go to your local outfitter and ask them to help you adjust your backpack.  I didn't do that and it might have helped if I did.)

The roll top opening of the Jam also made it hard to get into.  The Litespeed's big opening made it easy.  To be fair, though, many packs use the same cinched/roll top opening.  The zippered opening of the Litespeed is not as common.

The final downside I encountered was the water resistance of the Jam or, more correctly, the lack of water resistance.  I walked with my Litespeed in the rain and ended those wet days with a dry interior.  Even with a pack rain cover on, the Jam often was damp inside.  Fortunately, I was prepared for the eventuality.

Both Caminos I used a 35 liter dry sack (also known as a dry bag) inside of my packs.  Things I wanted to be kept dry such as clothes and electronics were kept in the dry sack.  Less water sensitive stuff could be kept outside.  Some items were also put in Ziplock baggies for triple protection.  This saved me on my second Camino by keeping my clothes dry even when the Jam failed the water resistance test.

One thing to consider with a dry sack.  They keep the water out but they also keep the water in.  There were a few times I think I put some slightly damp clothes in the dry sack.  The result was condensation settling in the bottom of the dry sack.  I had to empty my dry sack and turn it inside out to dry it out at least once near the end of my second Camino.  Next time I will be sure everything I put in the dry sack is thoroughly dry.

I took a single dry sack.  Another option is to carry several smaller dry sacks.  This allows you to sort your clothes into separate bags making it easier to find what you're looking for.  I have to admit there were times it took me a while to search through my 35 l bag looking for that one sock or whatever.  Having separate bags would have worked better.  The only downside would be some additional weight.  My one bag weighed 69 g (2.4 oz).  With, say, four or five smaller bags that would probably double at least.  It doesn't sound like much but ... you have to remember that you'll be carrying it hundreds of miles.

One other option is a pack liner which is similar to having a large dry sack like I carried.  Some people use large plastic bags or trash compactor bags as pack liners.  This would definitely be cheaper.

My next pack, the one I'll need for the Appalachian Trail, will be a bit larger and will have to be well thought out.  When you pack your backpack, heavier things should be placed on your upper back and as close to your back as possible.  This is why the heaviest thing you will probably carry, water, is often carried in an hydration bladder stored in a sleave that runs along the back of the pack between your shoulder blades.  Lighter items like clothes and sleeping bag would be packed in the bottom of the pack and around the heavier items.  Some packs are more versatile in that you can access the stuff in the bottom of the pack from a lower opening so, for example, you can remove your sleeping bag without pulling out everything in your pack.  There are lots of options to consider.

There is one rule that I've heard several times and I heard again last week at a Backpack Organization 101 workshop held at my local Backwoods store: The backpack should be your last purchase.  What gear you are carrying and the amount of gear determines the size of pack you will need so the pack should be purchased once you've bought all your other gear.  For this reason I haven't picked out my next pack and I probably won't buy it for a while.  I am leaning away from GoLite.  There are other manufacturers like Gossamer Gear, Granite Gear, and Osprey that I will have to explore over the next year or two.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Fading Allure Of Curling

Curling Stone.
This weekend was the fourth annual Sioux City Curling Classic.  The amateur tournament is organized by my brother in law.  The Wife and I have participated with other members of her family each one of these four years.

This year I was not as enthusiastic about it as I've been the prior years.  I was hoping to sit it out in the stands cheering on the Wife and her family this year but, due to a lack of family players, I once again participated.  I am not a bad curler ... but I'm not a good curler either and that makes sense since I only curl during these tournaments and that's it.  You can't become a good curler if you only practice once a year.

The prior years we came in very near dead last.  This year, with more participating teams, we managed to make it to third place in our first group of six or seven (There were thirty-four teams total).  We got this third place by winning one game and losing two others.  We were out of the running when we lost our first game against other third place qualifiers.  We scored three points in our one winning game though two of those points were made by the other team when they either knocked out their own stones or knocked one of ours into the house.

This tournament is just for fun.  All the teams are amateurs.  The equipment is loaned to the  tournament.  The ice ... is not up to par to the professional curling standards.  It shouldn't matter if you win or lose. It should only matter if you have fun or not.  The fun I had the first time three years ago has diminished each year little by little.  I'm just not much of a sports guy.  I think this will be my last.  Next year I think I'll insist on watching the Wife and her family from the stands.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book: Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "Antifragile"

It is a rare book that I do not finish.  I guess I'm always hopeful that it will get better.  You would think that by now I would learn.  My latest read, Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder" should have been one of those books that should have been tossed or, since it's an ebook, deleted.

To be fair, there are many concepts in the book I totally agree with.  The book discusses how some systems grow stronger after being subjected to stress - i.e. instead of breaking under stress like fragile things, antifragile things become stronger.  The author goes on to suggest that government, economic, medical, and other systems that our society relies on should be redesigned to be antifragile.  A can't disagree with that.  What I can disagree with is how the author expresses his ideas.

Taleb's writing style would best be described as conceited, condescending, smart ass.  He has no respect for nearly anyone other than himself and, I suspect, only people who agree with him.  He puts down politicians, economists, academics, scientists, engineers, and anyone who is referred to as an expert.   Frankly I agree that most of these people have know idea what they are talking about but I don't go around insulting every single one of them.  I don't paint everyone with the same brush.  Taleb  uses a paint sprayer.

Taleb also has an obsession with the classical.  He obviously is a bit of a luddite.  One thing he recommends is that the longer something has existed, the longer it will continue to exist.  That makes sense to me.  He then goes on to say that you should only read older works of literature.  He says that young works are not old enough to prove their worth.  This is absurd.  If this was taken to its logical conclusion and everyone followed his advice, no new books would be read.  If no one reads a new book, no matter how wise, accurate, insightful, the book is, it would die.  It would never even have a chance to become a long lasting classic.  The author seems to forget that all the great classical writings he loves were once new and untested.  If no one read them when they were first written they too would have vanished long ago.  Good literature does not make a classic, good readers make good literature classic.  Heck, if his recommendation were followed his books would all be sitting on a shelf somewhere unread and he would just be a frustrated ex-author.

\Every time I got frustrated by Taleb's disrespect or arrogance, a good idea would make an appearance.  This is why I kept reading.  I kept hoping his good ideas would supersede his insufferable condescension.  It turned out to be hopelessly futile.  I can not in good conscious recommend this book which is so sad because it has the potential of becoming a classic.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Camino 2013 Gear Lessons Learned: Clothing

Over the last two Caminos I have experimented with various types of gear - clothes, shoes, packs, etc.  I have learned some lessons but still have some unsolved mysteries.  I will be writing a few Gear Lessons Learned posts over the next month or so.  I'm  hoping to help clear up a few unknowns for myself and maybe help someone else who is planning on walking the Camino.  This first post will concentrate on clothing.

Pants. On both of my Caminos I wore convertible cargo pants - pants with zip off legs.  I liked my North Face convertible pants so much I didn't change them for the second Camino.  As a matter of fact one of the pairs I took on my second Camino were also worn on my first Camino because they held up so well.  They're fast drying, stain resistant, and comfortable.  They aren't everyone's favorite as they are a bit nerdy but I like their versatility.

I like the placement of the cargo pockets on the side of the leg.  When you have something in the cargo pocket, if the pocket is placed improperly, the object will bounce on your knee uncomfortably.  The North Face pants' pockets are placed far enough around the leg that they do not bounce on the knee.  The zipper pocket for your money was also a nice touch.  I think I left some money in albergues after laying in my bed and money fell out of my pants pocket.

People have asked me if I actually zip off the legs.  I have.  I zipped off the legs when I was going to the shower.  I zipped them off on hot days - usually after the end of the walking day.  On my first Camino when it was a bit warmer I walked without legs.  Again, love the versatility.  One note.  The legs from my newer pair of pants did not fit properly on my older pants (and vice versa).  Not sure why they were different but they were.

Shirts.  What I did change on my second Camino were my shirts.  Last time I wore long sleeve, button down, fishing shirts similar to this Cabela's shirt - not the most stylish but comfortable, versatile, and very quick drying.  They were warm when you needed it and vented when you didn't.  You could roll up the sleeves (there are tabs to secure your sleeves so they don't roll back down).  I wore them in Jordan when the temps were in the high 90s (above 32°C) and was quite comfortable.

On my second Camino I went with Icebreaker merino wool, short sleeve, t-shirts.  When I'm home, I live nearly exclusively in t-shirts.  They are what I'm most comfortable in.  I really like Icebreaker t-shirts.  They are very comfortable, light, and, in most conditions, are fast drying.  One remarkable thing about merino wool shirts is that they do not smell.  Even after I've soaked them in my sweat, once they are dry, they do not smell.  This has its advantages on long multi-day hikes when you can't wash your clothes very often.  I've heard reports of campers wearing them thirty days straight without any odor.  I have yet to try that.

Icebreaker t-shirts, though, have some drawbacks.  For one, you can not put merino wool in the dryer.  Normally this would be fine as you often hang dry clothes on the Camino but when it is raining and humid ... not being able to put them in a dryer is an inconvenience.  There were times on the Camino when it took two days for the shirts to completely dry.  There is also a question of durability.  My oldest Icebreaker t-shirt has developed small pinholes near the neckline.  I have heard about this happening before so it may be an issue with Icebreakers (they are made of very thin material).  The last issue is price.  Icebreakers are expensive.  I've bought most of mine on sale but they still topped $40.00 a piece.

Both types of shirts have their advantages and disadvantages.  I may go for a mix of the two types next time to provide me with more options.

Underwear.  I packed three pair of ExOfficio boxer briefs.  The only thing controversial about my underwear was the cost.  They are expensive but they are comfortable, fast drying, and are modest enough to be worn in an albergue sleeping area.  They are also durable.  The three pair I bought for my first Camino still look brand new.

Clothes for sleeping and just hanging around.  I packed two pieces of clothing that I was hesitant about.  The first was a set of base layer bottoms.  I brought them thinking I would wear them when I was sleeping in albergues that did not provide blankets.  When there are blankets sleeping in my underwear was enough and, since most albergues provide blankets, I figured the base layer bottoms would be dead weight.  I was wrong - not all albergues have blankets.  I used those base layers at least three times, maybe more, and they kept me nice and warm as I slept.

The second item was an Icebreaker merino wool half zip.  I brought it along in case it would get cold in October.  It wasn't very heavy and I figured I could wear it under my jacket if I was cold.  It turns out I wore that half-zip almost everyday as I walked around town and in the evenings.  It wasn't really cold but it did get chilly at times and the light half-zip was just enough.  I even slept in it with my base layer bottoms on a number of occasions.

The clothes I packed for my Caminos were the least controversial.  I did not over pack - two pairs of pants, three shirts (I packed four but lost one - three were enough), three pair of underwear, my base layer bottoms, and my half-zip.  Everything was worn ate least three times and I can't think of anything I'd wished I'd had.  The next few Gear Lessons Learned posts will dive into the more controversial subjects of footwear, rain gear, and backpacks.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy π Day!!!



Happy

              
       π ππππππ
π  π         π
  π         π
 π        π



Day!!!


P.S. Happy Birthday to Albert Einstein too!!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book: Rachel Joyce's "The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry"

My latest read caught my eye last spring when I was preparing for my 2013 Camino.  I dismissed it when I discovered it was a work of fiction ... I'd been looking for non-fiction pilgrimage literature.  Anyone who has done the Camino knows how, after successfully completing the walk, the word 'pilgrimage' tends to pop out more and attracts your attention.  That's what happened with this book.  Now that I've returned from the Camino I decided to give it try so I read Rachel Joyce's "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry".

The book follows the main character, Harold Fry, on an impromptu pilgrimage from his home in far southern England to visit a dying friend in far northern Scotland.  The descriptions of the issues he has with his feet and legs are a better representation of long pilgrimages than most non-fiction literature - the best write up that I've ever seen really.  Most pilgrimage books gloss over the physical issues.

While Harold is walking to help save his dying friend, Queenie, he in fact saves himself and his marriage.  While walking the back roads of England and Scotland he has time to think about, and come to terms with,  his relationship with his estranged son and wife.  At the same time, his wife, who stays home, has the same spiritual transformation.  The ordeal Harold imposes on himself is imposed on her as well and they both grow because of it.

This is not my type of literature.  I tend to be a Science Fiction/Fantasy/Tech type of guy and there is none of that in this book but I also like a good story.  "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" is a good story.  Highly Recommended.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

A Great Start To Spring Break

Spring break started officially for the Wife yesterday.  Saturday also coincided with the Poetry Out Loud Nebraska State competition.

The Poetry Out Loud competition consists of students reciting from memory three poems that they choose from a large list provided to them.  A three judge panel uses several factors to judge the contestants.

As we watched the contestants recite the Wife and I picked out our own favorites.  I thought that the Wife's student would be at least second place and she had a good chance to take the top spot.  The Wife agreed.

The judges began with the third place contestant.  She was not on either of our lists.  I began to worry.  The second place contestant was also a surprise - I'd placed her third or fourth.  At this point I was wondering what criteria were the judges using.  It definitely didn't match mine.  By the Wife's face it didn't match her's either.  We prepared ourselves for a let down.  It never came since the Wife's student WON!!!   They announce the winner, there was a pause, and the auditorium erupted in a roar as the Wife, the student's parents, one of her sisters, both sets of grandparents, and her godmother all jumped up and yelled at once.  So very cool.

As they were taking pictures the student was shaking.  The Wife was shaking at the same frequency.  This was an awesome start to Spring Break.

What now?  The National Poetry Out Loud competition is scheduled for the end of April in Washington D.C.  The student and one other person have an all expenses payed trip to D.C. to compete.  The Wife will probably be the second person.  The first day there is a tour of the city with a possible White House visit and a banquet for the 53 contestants (contestants from the fifty states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands) and their chaperons.  The second day is semi-finals where the contestants will compete in groups.  The third day are the finals where the final nine will compete for the number one slot.  The last Nebraska competitor, who won state two years in a row, competed on day three both times.  The Wife's student has some big shoes to fill but I think she can do it.

The only thing up in the air right now is if I'm going to D.C. with the Wife.  I would stay in the hotel with the Wife at no cost but I would have to buy a plane ticket and Iago would have to be boarded which would cost.  The Wife is currently investigating if I could participate in the tours on the first day.  If I could it would be worth the expense.  If not, and I expect the answer will be the tour is for contestants and chaperons only, it would probably not be worth it and I would stay behind.

Whatever the outcome, the Wife will be going to D.C. and she deserves it.  She's put in a lot of hours organizing the Poetry Out Loud school competition and preparing her student for regional and state competition.  It has meant some late nights at work and a lot of hand ringing and hair pulling.  I'm proud of her and I'm proud of her student, a freshman no less.  The student beat out over four hundred of her classmates as well as contestants from close to forty other Nebraska schools.  Now, out of the over 370,000 students who competed in Poetry Out Loud, she only has to beat fifty-two people to be number one.  How awesome is that!

Friday, March 07, 2014

"It Makes You Look Old"

I don't always follow the latest trends.  Well, I follow them but I don't always participate in them.  One of the latest trends is the growing of the beard.  You see all sorts of people with beards these days.  The most notable are athletes.

I decided a few months ago to let my beard grow.  I started the last weekend of 2013.  I didn't let it grow out of control.  I know from past experiments that my beard tends to poof out and I look more like a chaotic Brillo pad than ZZ Top so I kept it trimmed and under some control.

My beard, oh so many years ago, used to be blond with reds mixed in.  Now it's just several shades of gray (several being fewer than fifty).  Some of it is so light you can hardly see it which makes the whole thing look a bit patchy.  It wasn't the most impressive but, in the right lighting I appeared a bit professorial ...in my opinion ... and no one else's.  Frankly no one even commented on it.  I guess it was so ... stunning ... that no one knew what to say.

[UPDATE:  I apparently accidentally deleted the photo.  Sorry Folks!] 

I wasn't sure how long I would sport the beard until, last weekend, the Wife asked me "When are you going to shave?  It makes you look old."

The beard will be gone tomorrow.  Back to the ol' Van Dyke.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

No News Is ... A Better Mood?

I've felt a mood shift since I got back from the Camino.  I feel a bit more mellow.  Not bad mellow ... good mellow.  A little less stressed.  A bit more content.  I attribute this to not watching as much news.

Since I got back from the Camino I've avoided most polarized news - meaning no Fox News and no MSNBC.  I still have my ingrained need to feel informed so I watch the nightly network news, some CNN, and the Daily Show naturally, but I limit my exposure.  If politics is being discussed, I change the channel to some non-news option like Criminal Minds (yes ... depraved, sadistic torture and mutilation is better for my sanity than political news).  I also read news online where I can control what I read and how much I read.

The result is less stress.  More relaxed muscles ... especially between my shoulder blades where my stress usually rides.  Less gritting of the teeth.  All in all I feel better.  But I also know I'm only a political commercial away from knots in my stomach and, with the midterm elections coming up, it will be hard to avoid them all.

One thing that has been mystifying is my lack of desire to go walking.  Since I got back in late October I have gone walking a total of four times.  My desire to get out and walk just isn't there.  I have been riding bike ... mostly on a training stand since it's been too cold outside ... so I am getting exercise but I have been a homebody since the end of my Camino.  Usually by late January the cabin fever drives me out of the house no matter the temperature or the weather.  This time I have been quite content hunkering down in my home.  I'm not sure if it's related to my mood shift or not.  Maybe walking was a way for me to get away from the crappy news and now that I'm minimizing my exposure I don't have the need any more.  Maybe with my next big walking project some three years away the urgency to get out and walk isn't there.

Whatever it is, I hope it's temporary.  Being content is great and all but it can lead to stagnation which in not great ... not great at all.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Camino 2013: Epilogue

I ended my Camino posts back in 2011 with a review of the numbers.  I'm going to do that again but there are fewer numbers this time.  Not carrying a real GPS limits my data collection fetish ability.  Here we go:
  • Total distance was 991 kilometers (615.78 miles) walked in 42 days.  This does not include any miles walked in the cities and towns.
  • My average daily walking distance was 23.59 kilometers (14.66 miles).  This is slightly more than what I did in 2011.
  • The longest stage was 33 kilometers (20.51 miles) from Negreira to Olveiroa.
  • The shortest stage was 8.7 kilometers (14 miles) from Borce to Canfranc Estación.  This was a short stage since we bypassed a portion of the Arles Way due to landslides.
  • I have no real elevation data for the trip but it was generally the same as the Frances.
  • I stopped in 29 places that I hadn't stopped at last time including San Bol, La Faba, and Samos.
  • The food this time was awesome.  Last time I could count the good meals on one hand.  This time I could count the bad meals on one hand.  A complete reversal.  I credit the smaller towns and albergues for this.
  • We took a one day break along the Camino in León.
  • We took the bus or alternate transportation twice.  Once to skip the landslide area after Borce and once from Jaca to the San Juan de la Peña Monastery.
  • I ate four tubes of Principes and one tube of double stuff Principes - a significant drop from last time.
  • I ate an ice cream nearly everyday starting in Borce.  There were a few days where none was available but I still think I easily ate 42 ice cream servings this Camino.
  • I bought two rosaries and an earring/bracelet/necklace set for the Wife.  I bought a small statuette of a Santiago Pilgrim for myself.  I bought fifteen magnets to commemorate my trip.
My 2013 Camino route.
[Click on map for a larger version.]
The Camino had changed a lot since my first time.  It felt more crowded.  Parts of the Frances felt like a race to get to beds ... though Gv and I always got to our destinations earlier than the crowds.  Staying in smaller towns and smaller albergues often countered this racing feeling as most of the crowd went to the larger, Brierley stops.  Last time you could always see pilgrims in front or behind you as you walked but they were always at a distance.  This time around they were closer.  I guess you could say the pilgrim density or pilgrims per mile was higher.  The number of pilgrims doing the Camino has been increasing but the number has jumped since the movie "The Way" came out in late 2011.  I think the movie brought a lot more English speaking people to the Camino this time - mostly Canadian, Aussie, Kiwi, and American.  In 2011, when I walked my first time, 183,504 pilgrims received Compostela certificates of completion.  In 2013 the number increased to 215,929.  There was a rumor going around on the Camino ... I helped pass it along ... that Oprah Winfrey was thinking about walking the Camino.  If this is real, the Camino, as a pilgrimage of solitary contemplation and introspection, will come to an end.

The increasing numbers are also changing the attitudes of people.  There seemed to be more people unhappy with what they were doing.  Their attitude was one of "I can't wait til this is over."  I never thought this my first time.  I had tough days, no doubt, but I never wanted it to 'just be over'.  In 2011 when I met someone doing the Camino for a second ... or third ... time I always asked them what they could tell me to help with my Camino.  I looked at them with respect and a little reverence.  This time around I was the Pilgrim doing it for a second time.  When people found out they would look at me like I was nuts and ask with an incredulous tone "Why?!?"  As Nr said (she was a second time pilgrim as well) she felt she was often defending her decision to walk a second time.  This was a reflection of the attitudes of many pilgrims - they were not having a good time and couldn't understand why you would do it again.  I think a lot of people, especially the English speakers who had seen "The Way", had underestimated the difficulty of the Camino.  I think they thought it looked fun, easy, and thought it would be a cheap vacation - a walk in the park.  Combine the unexpected difficulty and the uncooperative weather and I think I know the source of the general bad attitudes I encountered this time on the Camino.

With the increasing number you would think there would be a lot of Camino Families forming but that isn't what I experienced.  Most groups walking together were groups of two to four people.  In 2011 my group was over a dozen strong at its peak.  We didn't walk together but we often coordinated where we would end the day.  This time around it seemed that people were walking at such disparate rates and distances that groups would merge and then separate continuously along the Camino making it hard for larger groups to form.  I lost track of all the time I would meet someone and then not see them at all for a week at a time before we came together once again.  Was my 2011 Camino Family an aberration or has the dynamic changed on the Camino?  Hard to say.

My attitude towards the Camino changed as well and it was to be expected.  It felt very "been there done that".  I really enjoyed the new parts along the Aragones and the alternate routes we took along the Frances.  The crowds took away somewhat from the experience adding a little bit of stress.  The attitudes of the pilgrims was draining and a bit demoralizing at times.  The weather - be it rain or dreary overcast - really affected my mood.  Most of all the fear of the unknown that was there last time ... the fear that turned my pilgrimage into an adventure ... was not there.  Despite stopping in different places, staying in different albergues, and meeting new people, the sense of adventure was greatly diminished.

Despite all of this, I still enjoyed my Camino.  Once I overcame the blister issues and my surprising lack of stamina early on, the Camino was quite enjoyable.  Walking with Gv meant I was never lonely - something that wore on me last time after I got separated from my Camino Family.  I saw new things and met new people.  While there were a lot of people who seemed not to 'get it' I met several who did.  These people were the ones I would say hi to when I saw them and who would share stories.  They were the ones who really appreciated what they were doing.  They were the ones who made my Camino worth while.

I was proud to complete the Camino without skipping ahead on a bus like last time.  This changed how I felt at the end of my Camino.  When I returned from the Camino last time I felt like I'd taken a test and had come up incomplete.  This time the feeling was quite different.  When I sat on the rocky cape overlooking the Atlantic ocean and watched the sun set over the waters I felt a wave of completion.  This was what I missed the last time.  It took a second Camino to walk the whole thing and to enjoy the sunset and the end in Fisterra.

My Camino experience lasted a little it past Fisterra.  There was the issue of the shells.  As I've mentioned before, I lost or destroyed three shells along the Camino.  The last one I'd left by accident at Hotel Larry in Cee.  On my last day in Spain I'd sent an email to the hotel asking if they'd found it.  A few days after I got home I got a reply.  I am happy to say that the necklace, with the shell from J-M and the yellow Bhutanese cord with its traveler's blessing, is now hanging from my desk lamp in my den.

One last thing.  When I left for France to start this Camino I knew this would be my last Camino.  When I saw the sun setting in Fisterra, I was absolutely sure that it would be the last time.  Then I sat in the bar listening to Nr talk about the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo.  The absoluteness began to waver a bit.  In hindsight Gv and I should have followed Nr to the Camino del Norte.  It would have changed our whole experience to the better I think.  And now I have a tiny hankering to do the Camino del Norte or the Primitivo.  It won't be any time soon though.  RAGBRAI and the Appalachian Trail will come first.  After that, after 2017, who knows.  I may return to the Camino.

You may leave the Camino but the Camino never leaves you ...

Saturday, March 01, 2014

A Good Week

This last week was a pretty good week for me.  Nothing spectacular, mind you, but there were a few ups.

The first was the receipt of my copy of the March/April 2014 issue of American Spirit magazine.  This is the publication that used my Laura plantation pictures (I posted about it here).  The article, "The Women of Laura Plantation", starts on page 28 with a two page spread of one of my pictures - a picture of an old oak tree.  By the end the article three more of my pictures grace the pages.  There is something about seeing the pictures on glossy magazine copy.  Frankly the pictures look better in print than on my screen.

The next good thing that happened is receiving my latest blood test result.  My numbers this time around are better than they've been in years.  I have been playing around with my diet a bit and riding my bike (on a training stand for now because of the whole winter thing going on outside).  I think both of these have helped get my numbers under better control.

Both of these things have put me in a good place.  The first pumped up my ego a bit and the later came as a relief.  My mood lately has been pretty mellow ... in a good way.  Content.  Relaxed.  There is another reason for my mellow mood but, as I promised a couple posts ago, I will talk about it in a future post (I don't want to build it up too much since it's nothing spectacular ... I just need things to post about).

Not everything was good.  Over the past few weeks I've had to reset my router multiple times.  This week it went from resetting once a day to resetting multiple times a day.  I went out on Friday and bought a new ... and better ... router.  Things appear to be running smooth again.  Heaven forbid we were without WiFi.  *shudder*

I have a couple more Camino posts to write.  The first of these will come out next week.  I'll be writing it between the snow shoveling this weekend.

So that's my rather ordinary week.  Hope you all had a good one as well.

Oh ... and a very Happy Birthday to the Mother-in-Law!