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Camino Retrospective

My first story on the Camino was written three months ago while I was on the trail, this piece closes the story after reflecting on the meaning of this grand pilgrimage.  When I reached Santiago in western Spain on June 8th, people asked me “Would you do that again?”  My answer at the time was “No way!”  Now my answer is, “Maybe,” but I am definitely planning to return next May to a different section of the Camino, and walk from Porto in northern Portugal to Santiago, a mere 232 kilometers.

Austin’s Secret Swimming Pool

I have been swimming in Barton Springs, but not in a while, as it is so crowded.  Then I learned about Deep Eddy from a friend.

Crush

The Wine is Coming!  This photo shows grapes fermenting at William Chris Wines, good people who let me come take a lot of pictures.  I have a longer story on Texas wine coming in the fall edition of the Texas Hill Country Magazine, soon to be called Heart of Texas Magazine.

Catching Up

I have not posted all my stories on this blog lately, so here they are.  If you follow me on Facebook you may have already seen them.

I wrote this story about the Dark Sky Movement on the Camino as I had run out of time before leaving for Spain, dictating it into my iPhone and editing in an albergue.  Joe Houde (publisher) and Cliff Kaplan (Hill Country Alliance) came up with the photos. I had intended to write it before I left but ran out of time.

This story was fun to write because I tasted a goodly number of the distilled spirits while doing the interview.  I’ve known Todd for quite a while and find him to be highly creative.  There are distilleries popping up all over, but Elk Store is the first on Main Street.

Craft beer is a subject near and dear to my heart, and when the U S Open Beer Competition announced medals one of my very favorite beers got the Gold.

I started swimming regularly on the advice of the physical therapist who is trying to sort out the problem with pain in my shoulder while walking distances.  I had seen the City newsletter by my friend Julie earlier that day, and when I met this engaging young lifeguard I wanted to spread the word.

I had some free time in Austin and decided to give the Texas History Museum a try.  When I met Bob, a volunteer interpreter in the museum, I knew there was a good story.

It took me a while to figure out how to write this story about an escape room business owned by a long time friend and fellow Toastmaster; I started it before the Camino, but it took another visit before I knew how to tell it.  I’ve never been big on puzzles, but this business is growing on me.

Last but not least is this article for Texas Hill Country Magazine on the Wine Road 290.  I got lots of help from my friend Chris Brundrett, wine maker and part owner of William Chris Winery.  I sent him the draft for comments and he re-wrote a section with marvelous result. The story is near the end on page 42.

My blog editor Shannon Salas recently put a link to this blog at the end of my articles, which is exciting.  Some of my stories are barely read, while others get lots of attention.  I have the freedom to find and write my own stories; that plus the link are the real reasons I spend so much time on this.  I am also working on two stories for the next issue of the print magazine; collecting the information and getting the photos is also time consuming, but challenging.  My editor for the print magazine, Marcy Stellfox, has also improved my stories, although I thought my closing line for the wine story was better than hers (There are no wrong turns on Wine Road 290). The featured image are wine grapes just beginning fermentation for my next story.

Thanks for reading, and I love to hear comments.

Robert

 

 

 

Writing about the 290 Wine Road

I have an article in the summer issue of the “up and coming” Texas Hill Country Magazine (soon to be Heart of Texas Magazine).

What’s different from writing on-line stories?  One is that my print stories have the benefit of an editor, Marcy, who makes them better.  Another is that the magazine will lay around on people’s coffee tables for a long time, waiting for someone to pick it up and find my story.  The downside? I don’t get final control over the title, the closing sentence or the photos used.  This is my 5th story for them, and I am always eager to see how the final story came out.

Here’s a link to my on-line stories.  I’ve taken some time off, what with being in Spain for 5 weeks and all, but I’m back in the saddle and will start posting again this weekend. Thank you for following my stories!

 

A Day in the Life of a Camino Pilgrim

People start packing up an leaving the albergue by 5:00 AM.  I get up at 6:00 and am out the door by 6:30, about 30 minutes before sunrise.  This is usually what your bed looks like.  The bottom bunk is preferred.IMG_2604

Breakfast is at the first bar/restaurant down the trail, somewhere between one and two hours away.  The offerings are consistent, as is my choice: cafe con leche, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a slice of tortilla (potato and egg), about 5 Euro.

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You look like this all morning, walking a long, lonely trail to the horizon for 5 -6 hours.  Many people travel in groups and talk all the way.  I hang back from these groups or pass them.  Usually the conversation is in a language I don’t understand, but it gets aggravating, especially when I understand the language.

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The scenery can be anything from boring to incredible, depending on where you are on the Camino; here is a typical village.  They all have a large stone church in the center. Most of the time lately is on long paths beside a road.  Wheat and barley fields stretch to every horizon and most high ridges have wind turbines.  Today I saw an electric train – wow!  What a way to travel.

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Then you locate and check into a new albergue.  Often I stay at the Municipal (city owned) place as the internet usually works well there and they are only 5 Euro.  Sometimes I stay at a private albergue, they are smaller and usually have better spaces to hang out.  Tonight I am at this one in a town with few redeeming qualities, El Burgo Ranero, at La Laguna Albergue (9 Euro and spotty internet, no food offerings). At first we thought the owner was crazy.

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Then you shower, wash your clothes out in a sink and hang them on a clothesline, take a short nap, and find a place like this to drink beer and snack on tapas or rationes. This was yesterday in a nice place in Sagahun.  The owner loves pilgrims and treated us well.

Beer Drinking

Sometimes there is a pilgrim meal in the evening, sometimes you skip dinner as you’ve snacked enough.  The pilgrim menu is available at both albergues and restaurants, usually 10 Euro. There are usually two courses to choose from plus wine and bread.  Most are quite good.

Pilgrim Meal

Then you pack up your pack for the morning, climb into your bunk bed, and prepare to do it all over again in the morning.

What is hard to grasp up front is that you will do that same routine for 35 or more days; it becomes a way of life, the days and places run together, and it is full of surprises. After a few weeks you know a lot of pilgrims on the same track as you, and are greeting people by name all over the place – walking through a city you stop at a street side bar to say hi to an ‘old’ friend, in a village at a cafe you pull up a chair to have breakfast with another. I’ve generally been traveling with a group of Germans, but sometimes I lose track of them and am on my own.  No place is like another, and new people join the mix every day. Conversations often start with “where did you start the Camino?” or “where did you stay last night?”.

I started at St Jean Pied a Port in France on May 5, so this was my 18th day on the trail. Eventually this might beat me into submission. I know people who have walked this trail 6 or more times.  I’m still trying to convince myself I want to do another 18 days; it is a bit overwhelming.

 

Buen Camino: Pilgrimage or Pub Crawl?

http://texashillcountry.com/buen-camino-pilgrimage-pub-crawl/

This doesn’t do the story justice but writing on the road is complicated. Internet isn’t always available or is slow and I write after a day of hard walking. Then, there is the beer. I’ve just finished day 14 on the Camino, am in an auberge in CastroJeriz called Orion. It rained hard with a cold wind all morning on the trail. I am still warming up. I lost the Germans again but we seem to reconnect somewhere.  

I’ve had trouble with a muscle spasm in my upper back – in trying to figure that out I went to a physical therapist in Burgos plus bought a new pack. I’ve about decided the issue is walking too fast, so I slowed down to my natural pace, hence losing Michael and Erwin (aka the Germans). My natural pace is slower than most so people pass me all day but we seem to arrive about the same time. The PT did massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and gave me 4 exercises, all for €40. I did much better today or I’m used to the pain, one or the other.  Otherwise I’m holding up just fine. 

I turned 65 on Monday. There are people of all ages well higher – I met Mary Katherine, a 76 year old French woman, yesterday at the Hen Fountain At Hornillos yesterday on her umpteenth Camino. I also had a long conversation yesterday with Alessandro, Italian pastry chef, 28 years old. 

Erwin just sent a message in German via Facebook so I will see if I can locate the bar they are in.