Thursday, December 30, 2010

Barcelona, Bikers, and Windmills

Saturday, September 25th, Day 4 on the Camino – 13.5 miles to Puente La Reina

On our way out of Pamplona, we walked through the University of Navarre, which looks like a relatively new school. Weird though how the campus ends and country begins…kind of like the Lands End Inn in West Ashley.

But I digress…as we walked we struck up a conversation with a young man from Barcelona, whom I mentioned in that last post. He is a pilot, I think, but he looked like a 17-year old computer geek. He was just walking 100 miles on this trip and would eventually finish the whole camino in stages.

Not far out of town, we passed this scene – see the rainbow?

Now look at this – Kathie caught the actual end of the rainbow! The leprechauns must have heard us coming and hidden their pot of gold. Rats!

Several times we passed ridges lined with windmills. I was just fascinated by them. They didn’t seem noisy to me, but then I have hearing aids plugged into both ears so maybe you shouldn’t trust my opinion on this.

Here’s the wrought iron pilgrim monument at Alto del Perdon…

…with a close-up…

…and some bikers getting a repair done at a roadside van. Kathie’s a sucker for bikers and runners. I think it’s the shorts but I’m not sure. You’ll see further evidence of this later.

And here’s a lovely pic of the same windmills looking back from Uterga.

I forget, Kath – was this the day that a passing motorist almost caught us peeing alongside the road in a partially wooded area? OMG – that was a close one! I almost peed myself laughing. Kathleen was much better at finding secluded spots for “comfort breaks”.

When we arrived at the Hotel Jakue just inside Puente la Reina, the registration desk lady recommended we check out the running of the “cows”, to which she gave us directions. I’m serious – she really called it the running of the cows. We finally found the place and this is what we saw.

Every Saturday evening, the townspeople of Puente la Reina close off the ends of this street and harass the stuff out of young bulls to make them run up and down the street. You can see in the pic the kids up on the balcony – they’re throwing things at the bulls, making them crazy with fright. Perhaps this is how the bulls get toughened up for bullfights? I don’t know; I thought it was really inhumane. Then again, I don’t get the whole bullfighting thing either.

Here’s the town’s namesake, the Puente la Reina, a Romanesque bridge built by the wife of Sanchez III specifically for pilgrim traffic. We’ll cross over it on our way out of town tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Happy Hiker

I was getting tired by the end of that last post so I neglected to note that what I had mistakenly thought was an overwrought groin muscle was actually iliotibial (IT) band syndrome.

And how do I know this? When I finally swallowed my pride and told Kathie of the severity of my pain, she checked for lumps along the left side of my left thigh and knew right away what the problem was, having suffered with it herself in the past.

And the treatment? Rest, ibuprofen, awkward stretching exercises, and Kathie’s pointy little elbow digging into each lump to tenderize it. Really, I think Adolph’s meat tenderizer would’ve been less painful. You know that sudden sharp pain you get when you stub your little toe on the bed frame in the night – the one that would make you fly up and hit the ceiling if gravity wasn’t holding you down? It was a bit like that…except you don’t stub your toe repeatedly and intentionally, thinking that it’s eventually going to feel better.

All the lump gouging in the world wasn’t going to be enough to get me on the road Saturday morning, though. Bigger guns would be required. Kathie fished around in her first aid pack ‘til she found her Vicodin. On the one hand I wondered if it would be enough; on the other I wondered if it was going to leave me staggering along the trail, drooling, and generally looking like a drunken fool. She very wisely gave me just half a tab and we took off.

I tell you that Vicodin worked like a charm! That Saturday and the following two days, I took half a tab around 9 or 10 in the morning (when massaging the lumps while walking no longer worked) and then another half around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. And was I a happy hiker or what? I left the other girls in my dust…

…although uphill was still (and will always be, I’m afraid) a challenge.

We met other hikers suffering with similar problems. For several days, we tracked along with one young man whom Kathie aptly dubbed “Barcelona” – after all, he was from Barcelona. The last day we saw him, he was hobbling along, barely making any time at all. When he described his problem, Kathie – without any warning – reached down and palpated the side of his bum leg. (The look on his face was priceless.) Yup, she said, IT band, and she recommended he get some rest and take ibuprofen. Amazing – I had never even heard of IT band syndrome before.

OK, so the next post will be about the hike to Puenta la Reina. By now, my whining was (almost) over.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Achy Breaky Groin, A Heart for Joan, and Knocking the Horns Off Innocent Bulls

Friday, September 24th (day 3 on the Camino): 10.6 miles to Pamplona

This was a relatively short day…but for me, it was a killer nonetheless. The ol’ groin muscle was getting worse and worse. We crossed the Arga River 3 times, so we did a bit of up and down walking. Up a vertical 100 meters, down a vertical 100 meters. Up a vertical 100 meters, down a vertical 100 meters. What am I saying – that pretty much sums up our first eight days of walking.

Half way through the day we re-entered civilization, aka Pamplona suburbs – if you want to call them that. This doesn’t look much like an American suburb, does it?

Right about here, we met up with Alex from Charlotte again. He had picked up a walking buddy. He had also decided that it was time to ship some of his backpack’s contents home. Smart move, Alex.

Here is a heart sign just for Joan! The saying means (we were told) "Keep smiling!"

By now, walking was shear agony for me. Kathie told us to sit down in front of this door for a photo – I thought that sounded like heaven…

until I tried to stand back up.

Finally, we came to the old part of Pamplona. This is the Puente de la Magdalena.

On the other side is the old walled city.

Here’s the town hall. In front of this, we met some folks – from Argentina, weren’t they, Kath? Friendly pilgrims.

Sitting down again to rest the groin muscle – just blocks from our hotel this time – I took this photo of where the bulls run in to the square in which we were sitting.

Looks pretty tame without the little rascals stampeding through, eh?

Finally we found the Hotel Eslava, which was hiding from us in a construction area. While we were checking in, Kathie lay down her walking stick in the lobby. That was the last she saw of it. Weird – that lobby was not all that busy. The stick musta just walked off by itself.

By now, I was seriously considering taking a bus the next day to Puente la Reina because I didn’t think I could walk one more kilometer. (Just to give you an idea of the significance of this, I once walked to downtown Columbus from Kathie’s apartment on Michigan Avenue – only because I was too shy to ride the city bus by myself.) In her usual patient and caring way, Kathie had me lie down and take some ibuprofen while she and Kathleen went out to see a little of Pamplona and scout out a restaurant so I could do a minimum of walking to dinner.

A word of caution to pilgrims visiting Pamplona! Restaurants there do not serve dinner before 9 p.m., which is not good for starving pilgrims who need to be up and hiking early the next morning. Thank goodness for Kathie’s GPS…and Kathleen running up the stairs to a 2nd floor restaurant to see if they were serving yet. I think any one of us could’ve just knocked the horns off an innocent bull passerby.

Tomorrow, on to Puente la Reina with Count Vicodin.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

They Did Us Proud

On my way out the door to Charleston last weekend, I picked up best selling author Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower that had been sitting in my stack of Books to Read for the last two years, waiting for that opportunity when I would be captive on a cross country flight. We had heard family legends about ancestors on the Mayflower and several years ago Patty tracked down some family lines.

I was ill prepared for what a page turner this book would be. I mean, how many times can one listen to another story about the Pilgrims and our national origins? I thought this was a book I would have to drudge through, but I couldn't put this book down until the last page. And so, reader, hang in with me until the last line here.

The first half of the book tells us about the pilgrimage from England through Holland to America, settling at Plymouth out of necessity in the middle of December 1621 rather than the Hudson River area as planned. A central figure is a young man named William Bradford whose wife, Dorothy, very likely committed suicide by going over the edge of the Mayflower in Provimcetown Harbor just before the group landed at Plymouth. Only half of the passengers were Pilgrims and even before setting foot on land the group realized their survival depended on getting along with each other and thus was born the Mayflower Compact, acknowledged by John Adams as the forerunner of documents establishing American democracy.

Anyway, on to my story about William, now alone without any family in a strange land where half the passengers didn't survive the first winter, and William was elected to the job of leading this intrepid group. And lead them he did - through starvation, fortifying the town against hostile Indians, working with Captain Miles Standish and Squanto among others, and building peaceful relations with nearby Indians with whom they shared that first Thanksgiving, all these keeping the settlement from meeting the same fate as Jamestown. When the settlement was starving William changed the share and share alike method of farming to everyone will reap what they sow approach, the forerunner of American capitalism. He was re-elected as Governor of the colony thirty times. Two years after the Mayflower a young widow he had known in Holland came over on the Anne and they were married.

On the Mayflower was another Pilgrim, Richard Warren, who came to Plymouth alone, leaving behind his wife and and their five children. Elizabeth and the girls joined Richard in Plymouth two years later, also on the same boat as Alice, and their daughter had a son, Benjamin Church, who is the main character of the second half of the book. Benjamin was something of a maverick and when the Indian wars broke out in 1675, he broke ranks with the traditional way of English fighting to become the prototypal American frontiersman. You'll have to read the book to understand how this happened - it reads like a Rambo action thriller.

About Benjamin Church, Philbrick writes,

The great mystery of this story is how America emerged from the terrible darkness of King Philip's War to become the United States. A possible answer resides in the character of the man who has been called American's first Indian fighter, Benjamin Church...Out of the annealing flame of one of the most horrendous wars ever fought in North America, he forged an identity that was part Pilgrim, part mariner, part Indian, and altogether his own. That so many characters from American history and literature resemble him - from Daniel Boone to Davy Crockett to Rambo - does nothing to diminish the stunning originality of the persona he creates...What makes his story so special is that he shows us how the nightmare of wilderness warefare might one day give rise to a society that promises liberty and justice for all... There is the Church way. Instead of loathing the enemy, try to learn as much as possible from him; instead of killing him, try to bring him around to your way of thinking. First and foremost, treat him like a human being. For Church, success in war was about coercion rather than slaughter, and in this he anticipated the welcoming, transformative beast that eventually became - once the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were in place - the United States.

This book is a must read for offspring of Raymond and Alice Nute.

William Bradford is one of our great grandfathers, an eighth to be precise, and Benjamin Church a grand uncle.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wreaths Across America 2010

San Diego will continue to be the most powerful military town on the planet. There isn’t a country in the world that wants to get into a war with San Diego. . . . John Pike, defense analyst at

Yesterday I went with my Daughters of the American Revolution buddies to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to lay 2800 wreaths on our veterans' grave sites.

The second Saturday of December each year is Wreaths Across America, a project to lay a holiday wreath on veterans' graves across the country. The tradition started with one man in Maine, Morrill Worcester, who owns Worcester Wreaths and who set out to lay wreaths on all the Arlington cemetery graves in 1992. Since then the project has grown to 215,000 wreaths across the country this year and, being the military town we are, there was no lack of graves.

The morning began with one of those Pacific Ocean mists that can move in like a flash and as quickly clear to bright sunshine.

When it cleared, 700 volunteers were revealed from all over San Diego, Girl Scouts, Patriot Riders, corporate groups, individuals, college students, you name it, they were there.

We were joined by active duty military,

some with a lot of ribbons and metals on their chests and stripes on the sleeve.

The moving pre-wreath laying ceremony was hosted by our own DeAnza D.A.R. chapter Joanne Murphy (usually she has a lot of ribbons and metals on her chest herself),

and the wreath procession led by the Sons of the American Revolution, headed naturally by a bagpipe playing Scotsman.

They were followed by the presentation of a wreath for each branch of service, the Merchant Marines, and the MIA/POW's.

I couldn't help but think these were such young people, too young to be thinking about war, and so young I had to retouch this young's man's acne.

We were finally ready for the boxes of wreaths trucked all the way from Maine to be handed out by Mark Bauckman, coordinator for The Mission Continues, ex-Navy himself, and employee of Qualcomm, a huge supporter of the project. He was a dead ringer for Kevin Bacon.

We laid our wreaths, mine on Joseph Edgar Hayden from Pennsylvania, and wondered about their stories,

reflecting for a bit.

Jeffrey is a six foot two Afro-American I asked along in our group. I don't think he could pass for a D.A.R. but no questions were asked when he reached for our box out of the truck.

Some looked for special graves, Nancy was looking for Army Air but finally placed hers on one marked only US soldier. A Point Loma Nazarene student searched until he found one that had his same birthday, October 17.

I found an Irishman with a Celtic gravestone who died at Camp Kearny, a World War I Army camp in San Diego. He was just 7 days past his 30th birthday when he died in 1918. What was an Irishman doing in San Diego in World War I?

And a guy, Mason Carter, Medal of Honor from the Indian Campaigns. Not sure I'd want that on my headstone.

Nancy and I walked through the cemetery for a while after our wreaths were placed. There is no doubt Fort Rosecrans, a cemetery since 1847 before California was a state and overlooking the ocean and bay from both sides, is prime real estate.

What is also evident is these grave markers go on for what seems forever, 71,000 records in all, albeit some are spouses, and we had only 2800 wreaths.

I had that Shindler's List feeling - we could have done more. As good as it looks in these photos, most of the gravesites didn't get a wreath. Shall we propose to call a halt to wars until we can put a wreath on the graves we have now?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Izena duen guzia omen da

Patty is going to shortly pass us out of Basque country and I have to get my two cents in before that happens.

Who hasn’t wanted to visit Basque lands, and what is the fascination with these people and their territory, half in France and half in Spain? What about these peoples with their thick eyebrows and long straight noses has forged an identity and cohesion that’s lasted thousands of years, believed to be the most direct descendants of CroMagnons who lived in this area 40,000 years ago, so fierce that not even the Romans made many inroads into their culture.

Perhaps this notion of “first neighbor” -

"Every rural Basque house traditionally had at least one “first neighbor”. In some places, a house has as many as four. The relationship exists between houses, is permanent and fixed and can be changed only if a house is abandoned completely or if a new house is built. Then the order of “first neighbor” relationships shifts to accommodate these facts. Such neighbors are expected to assist each other without complaint, to help with agricultural tasks and at rites of passage (birth, baptism, marriage and death). “First neighbors” play their most vital roles during the process of death—by letting friends, relatives and the wider community know the sad news, by taking over all domestic and agricultural work so that the mourning family can grieve. The neighbors hold a wake for the deceased and offer food and drink to those who come to pay their respects. Neighbors carry the coffin and help with the burial, as well as with prayer that ensures the soul’s journey to Purgatory."

We were given a glimpse into the Basque pride and identity by our host at Hotel Akeretta who told us the Kingdom is here, and it’s Basque. Heaven on earth or not, the food and scenery are as close as you can get. Glad we got to experience a small bit of it.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

I Have Two Words for You, People – Flat Land

I often start out a day with a tune in my head that doesn’t leave me for hours. Sometimes it doesn’t leave me for days. What starts the particular tune is usually a mystery. I can try substituting another tune, but often this strategy is unsuccessful. For example, this week I’ve had Toto’s Africa stuck in my head. I’ve hummed it in the car. I’ve whistled it through my teeth at work. I tried substituting Bowie’s Major Tom, but that lasted for 5 minutes before the default kicked back in. It can be a little annoying.

Along the Camino, I had a saying stuck in my head. “I have two words for you, people…” and then I’d fill in the blank with whatever was appropriate at the time. During the first 100 miles, the blank was usually filled in with “flat land”.

Thursday, September 23rd, our second day on the Camino, was a 17-mile day. From the elevation drawing in the guidebook, this stretch looked like it would be mostly downhill with a couple nipples here and there. The nipples proved to be more like thirty degree (or steeper) inclines – that lasted for a kilometer or two. And one thing I know about myself is that I do NOT like walking uphill.

The day started out easy enough.

It was in a forest like this that I noticed crocuses blooming on the ground. How odd, I thought to myself…crocuses bloom back home in the late winter. When I commented on the little blossoms to Kathleen, she informed me that they were saffron. (I later read somewhere that saffron is a crocus species, 70% of which grows in Spain.) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it was so nice to have a horticulturist as a hiking buddy!

At the first village of the day, Burguete, I was enthralled with the red and pink flowered boxes on the white Navarese buildings.

Yup, I was so enthralled that I totally missed the sign marking the turn-off of the trail from the street. Half a mile later when we realized we were going the wrong way, a little old Basque gentleman told Kathie to just stay on the road and we’d get back on the trail in Espinal. (Kathie continued to amaze me with her Spanish comprehension throughout the trip!) Since we wanted to walk on the actual trail, Kathie asked some younger peeps hanging out the second story window of a rural health clinic for directions. They of course directed us back to Burguete, where we finally found the turn-off after much wandering around.

So now it was going to be an 18-mile day. And where was the guidebook that, had I consulted it, would have told me exactly where the turn-off was? Tucked neatly into my lumbar pack.

Some random photos from the day…

This looks like some sort of shrine. Notice the skeleton of a tent that was offered in sacrifice.

Here’s another example of how much better Kathie’s photography skills are than mine. Notice the nice composition...

And then the close-up...

Now here's mine. Obviously, timing is everything.

Honestly, that cat was just waiting for me to click the button so he could wash his little butt with his buddy looking on.

When you’re tired and hungry, you can eat lunch just about anywhere.

Walk, walk, walk…after a while, it all blurs together. Another village, another church, more trees, more sheep. When we hit Zubiri, however, suddenly we were crossing over land that belonged to some kind of industrial company. Was it a power plant? The path through included a set of wide and uneven steps down, down. By now my left groin muscle was feeling like a loose fan belt – the current was getting to it but the muscle just couldn’t seem to grab on, and the ups and downs were not helping one little iota. 'Twas my own fault for not adequately preparing for the trip. All I could think of was getting to our hotel so I picked up my pace.

Finally, we pulled into the Hotel Akerreta, a restored Basque house. The mom of the family who now owns the house is from California. The dad, who greeted us as we entered, was very nice and told us about the house. Here’s the lobby…

And the chimney of the bread ovens. This was on the landing right outside our 2nd story room. Looks kind of Native Americanish, don't you think? I'm glad they didn't rip it out when the house was restored.

The view outside Kathie’s window...

And we had a very nice dinner.

Outside the next morning – what is that vine-y white flower covered plant, anyway?

The Hotel Akerreta

Next...on to Pamplona.

P.S. I just looked up the lyrics for Toto's Africa, you know - just to make sure I got them right for this post. What do I find but that the lyrics stuck in my head are wrong. Oh well. "I miss the rain down in Africa..." It's gonna be really hard to change now.