Camino minus 21 – Feet, meet shoes. Shoes, meet feet.

Is it going to rain?

If it rains, 1) DH won’t want to ride his motorcycle, and 2) I won’t want to wear my new boots on my long practice walk for the Camino.

In the end, he bet that it would rain and took the car. I bet that it would stay dry and wore my new boots.

Fresh out of the box.

Fresh out of the box.

With such a short time left before I begin my Camino, I was anxious to learn whether my bet would pay off – had it been smart to buy new boots on-line so close to the Big Day? They had arrived in just a week but I hadn’t even taken them out of the box.

The answer appears to be yes.

They will never look this nice again.

They will never look this nice again.

Today was my regular long walk day so it could be perfect for breaking in new shoes, giving me much needed confidence in a decision well made. Or it could be an utter disaster, setting my training back weeks with lots of limping and more black toes. I had packed my backpack with about 20 pounds worth of things I wanted to take on today’s long walk, some I would also take on the Camino:

1. summer sleeping bag

2. rain jacket, still not waterproofed

3. checkbook, although I’m the only person in Europe still using a checkbook

4. glasses, since I’m wearing my sunglasses

5. peanut butter sandwich

6. i.d cards, cell phone, euros and dollar wallets

7. two Camino travel guides, in case of down time

8. hat and hiking poles

9. rosary

10. camera

I later packed my fleece jacket into the bag. And 2 liters of water in a Camelback. I figured that would give me a close estimate of the weight I will be carrying on the path so that I could give the new shoes a realistic try out. With two sets of socks on each foot, the shoes fit snugly and well. And they didn’t untie every ten steps, a persistent problem with my other boots.

So, I own shoes and socks and two pairs of pants. I’m working my way up.

The weather stayed cloudy but dry. Today, May 1, was a German holiday so the roads were empty, although the sidewalks were full of people walking, biking, hiking!

A beer wagon. They were probably ontheir way to the huge beer fest going on in Bad Cannstadt, "Freulingfest."

A beer wagon. They were probably on their way to the huge beer fest going on in Bad Cannstadt, “Freulingfest.”

I had a nice encounter with some young German men, waiting for the rest of their friends at the gas station that has become my WC stop halfway through my long walk. They had day packs and beer!

Heaven forbid there should be a German holiday without beer.

They were friendly and, since they saw me walking past them with my enormous pack (compared to their dinky little day packs), they gave a friendly “Hallo.”  I asked if they were going on a hike, they pointed in the direction they were headed, and asked where I was heading. When I told them they noted, correctly, that my “hike” was really just a walk because it would be all along roads.

They offered me a beer, I declined. I pointed out to them that I had water and they agreed that beer probably wasn’t needed.

I enjoy talking to German men even when they have a beer or two under their belts. The fact that I am old enough to be their mother has alot to do with it. They are like gentle giants, for the most part

I wished them a safe and fun trip, which I’m sure they had, and I continued on my walk. By then I had forgotten about my feet and my pack, which is the sweet spot when you’re trying out new shoes.

Spring in the City.

Bloom where you’re planted.

Feet, shoes, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship . . . .

but I’m taking moleskin and Compeed for blisters, anyway.


Camino minus 23 – Too Late

This is going to be quick. Several things have happened today and it’s just been busy.

1. Went to the doctor to get blood work and x-rays – no problems, just want to make sure everything is in good shape for the trip.

2. The shoes I wrote about a few posts ago came in. I barely had time to open the box, much less try them on. Tomorrow. I promise.

3. Found a new place to get really fine coffee. And I needed some this morning because I had to do the starvation thing before I got that blood work drawn (don’t eat for 12 hours, etc.), which I didn’t get done until about 1 p.m. No coffee until after lunch? Grrrrr. Found out too late that black coffee would have been fine.

4. IKEA didn’t have the stuff I was looking for.  BLAH   😛    (Are people still allowed to use manual emoticons?)

5. I learned that the library cannot keep track of the books I borrow (I knew that, of course; I was around for Bush II when librarians took the lead in standing up for privacy) but I can!!  Good news because I always borrow about 2,000 pages worth of books from the library each week, knowing that I can realistically read maybe 20 pages in that time. But I’m addicted to the “new non-fiction” book shelf at the library. Now I can keep track of the books I don’t get to finish.

6. I had the most delicious pasta shells caprese at a snack bar on base. A new addiction.

7. Writing is more fun sometimes than watching Star Trek re-runs.

Sorry. I had hoped to make this a tidy list of ten but I can only come up with seven. This may be God’s way of telling me to call it a night.

8. Discovered that emoticons are a fun way to drive your spell check crazy.And that spell check cannot handle an emoticon with a tongue sticking out.

Camino minus 26 – Now, with Pictures!

It’s promising to rain here so I have a “forced” non-walking day. Since today is the day I usually do all the laundry, it’s just as well, although the weather may impact on drying the clothes outside. Whatever. My DN uses her Friday to do all the household chores. I’m not as motivated as she is, unfortunately. I’m happy to just get laundry done.


Hiking socks, quilting materials, drying outside, waiting for rain.

The final reservation to be made in advance was made today. DH and I already had our train tickets to Paris, and his return to Germany, my one-way to Bayonne, France. I also already had my reservation for the first night of my trip in St Jean Pied de Port (SJPdP), on the French side of the Pyrenees in Basque country. Because  I expected that I would not be able to sleep the night before, I had decided a while ago to treat myself at a well-recommended albergue for that first night.

L'Esprit du Chemin-1

This is L’Espirit du Chemin in SJPdP, which will be my first stop and provide the first stamp for my credencial.

But it wasn’t until recently that I decided that I should make a reservation for the second night, also.

The entire route of the Camino Frances can be broken into “stages,” a very general break down of a day’s worth of walking. Using this measure, the 800 km  Camino Frances takes about 33 days (I’m giving myself 5 weeks).

The first stage is reputed to be the most challenging. It’s the beginning/end for pilgrim routes all over Europe and pilgrims converge, fresh off the trains, taxis, buses, airplanes, and by foot, at SJPdP. No matter what shape you’re in, no matter how tired or hungry you may be, no matter how prepared or unprepared you are, if this is where you begin, there’s nowhere to go but up and over the Pyrenees.

The nearest town is on the other side of the Pyrenees Mountains. And, although these aren’t the highest peaks of the Pyrenees – those  are to the east – the climb is formidable. The altitude goes from 200 meters above sea level to 1400m in about 20 km straight up. From that high point in the mountains, there is a steep descent of about 500 m in 5 km to the town at the end of stage one, Roncevalles, in Spain. This climb is done, of course, with a full backpack in unfamiliar territory and in unpredictable weather.


About a month ago, a pilgrim was tragically killed while making the hike on this first day over the mountain. Apparently, he simply took a wrong turn and walked off a cliff (in serious snow conditions, which I don’t expect to meet in May, so don’t worry). If you see the movie, “The Way,” you’ll know that this was the opening scenario which propels the entire story. When I saw the movie, I thought the pilgrim dying on the first day was a little over-dramatic. Now I know it was not.

There are no places to find food, shelter, or warmth in the mountains. There are only two places along the way for the weary to find a bed and a meal during that first stage and they are both closer to the starting point than to the mountain. I’ve decided I would stop  at the one about 7 km from SJPdP at the end of that first day’s walk, making it very short but a final place to prepare for the next 750 km.


This photo of the Refuge Orisson, where I plan to spend the second night, is for the benefit of my friends living in the South Pacific. That white stuff is not cotton but a cold, icy thing called snow.

My goal is not to get to Santiago de Campostella first, or fastest, but to get to Santiago de Campostella. Providing a bed, dinner and breakfast may well be a welcome relief and, if not, well, it will be a pleasant final kick-off point for me.  My poor, old bones will probably enjoy the day off to re-evaluate my packing and walking strategies, re-adjust socks and boots, do everything except re-consider walking in the first place. .

Of course, there’s always the possibility that my staying an extra day on the French side of the Pyrenees will mean I miss a beautiful hiking day and end up having to make the trek in wet, windy, miserable weather the following day. Ah, well, I’ve never had any luck trying to second guess God’s plans for me.

It still hasn’t rained.

Camino minus 30 Days – Am I Bigfoot?

I spent an hour and a half on the phone with my mother, catching up on news. It’s not surprising how much you miss when you’re 3,000 miles from home. She has heard about my Camino trip from the children. She doesn’t know much about it, but she has always been my most fervent supporter of any adventurous inclination I have displayed, justified or not. My Camino is no exception.

Tell me all about it, she asks enthusiastically. But how can I tell her about an adventure I haven’t been on yet? I struggle to describe what I’ve heard of other people’s experiences, but I know I’m being false and I quickly surrender.

Go to the library and get this movie, “The Way,” I tell her. We’ll talk about it next week.  That way, I commit myself to calling next week, which I want to do but too often get caught up in other things. Really, what’s more important than talking to your mother????

I ordered new boots last night. My old faithful ones, the ones I had planned on using for the Camino, had suddenly, inexplicably, given me the dreaded “black toe” last week while on a routine 11 km hike. I was totally dumbfounded. This was a walk I have done, same boots, same socks, same backpacks, numerous times in the past two months. Yet, this time, I found myself consciously pulling my right foot back at each footfall in order to not have the toe press against the front of the boot. What’s going on here?

I’ve had the Black Toe before from shoes that didn’t fit correctly and even from simple overuse in fairly well-fitting shoes, but I thought I had these boots well broken in. Now, with only 30 days to go, I have to hope and pray that the shoes I ordered would a) arrive on time, and b) fit.

For days before hitting the “submit order” button on the Zappos website, I had spent time in local sporting goods stores trying the shoes of my choice, based on internet recommendations – a pair of Merrell Moab Ventilators. My feet had perversely decided to change sizes on me at the last minute, just to mess with my mind, so I couldn’t just order shoes of the same size as I had worn for the past year. I never wear the same size twice.

I’m glad I did because it turns out that I don’t wear a size 41, the size I have been wearing – comfortably – until last week. Now, I need a size 43.


Until I tried on these new shoes and enjoyed the comfort, I had been feeling so good about my physical condition. Weight holding steady, blood pressure down dramatically, able to climb gentle hills without huffing and puffing, no longer dreading the uphill walk to the apartment and the accompanying three flights of stairs. But now, realizing the delight my toes are signalling to my brain in these new shoes at the store, I suspect that blood, bone, and excess fat had simply slithered down to my feet, providing a false sense of cushy, soft, marshmallowy security. Now, I realize where all the weight has shifted to – into my big, fat, magically-mutated-into-a-man’s foot.

Only one foot, though, the right one. The left one still feels feminine at a dainty size 41.

*Sigh* I’m so not ready for this trip. In so many ways.