Hijack post

Hi everyone. This is Julie and I’m hijacking Dad’s blog for a minute. With Father’s Day just two days away, I wanted to come here and post how very proud his family is of him and what he has accomplished. I can’t think of two more inspirational people to us than our Mom and Dad.

Dad, I know you’re anxious to get home and see Mom. We took good care of her while you were gone. I know David and Michelle enjoyed some evenings and meals with her. And I’ll speak on behalf of Dan and Ethan, Nick and myself, and all the kiddos and say that we loved every minute that she was in Philly with us and our weekend in NYC.

So, congratulations again, Dad, on completing this amazing feat. From the bottom of my heart, and I know from the hearts of our enormous family, we thank you for all you’ve done to raise awareness as well as donations for the Alzheimer’s Association. I’m sure Grandma and Grandpa T., Aunt Marylyn, Uncle Jack, and Grandma and Grandpa V. were watching over you, guiding you, and smiling down upon you as you walked The Way.

Forty Days, Five Hundred Miles, and over One Million Steps….

On Top of The World

Click the link above for a my own little video montage of your journey. (Be patient, I don’t have a ton of bandwidth on my webhost and it takes a little while to load).  😉

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Arrived!

June 18, 2015, Santiago de Compostelo

Today was full of emotions.  Quite frankly, I was so excited last night that I didn’t sleep well.  I found myself playing solitare on my tablet at 2:00 AM.  But I guess I got enough sleep to make today’s journey.  A group of us, Martin, Collin, Colleen and Julia had arranged to meet in the morning so we could walk into Santiago together.  Our goal was to make Santiago in time for the Noon Mass at the Cathedral.  Well Julia was having an ankle problem and had to make other arrangements though we hoped to meet up with her just as we were to enter the city.  Martin and I left Rua at 6:00 AM and connected with Collin and his wife Colleen in just a 10 minutes in the next town.  The first hour was before the sun rose so the path was pretty dark when it took us through the woods.  We stopped for breakfast along the way, and also picked up another Pilgrim named Collin and made it to the city, with some stops for important pictures, by 11:00 AM.

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As you may have noticed from my first post today, I was happy to be here!  We all hugged and high-fived as you would expect.  I did get a chance to just stand still, away from the rest, and appreciate what was happening.  I wasn’t in the Cathedral yet, but in that moment I tried to recall all the prayer promises I had made, all the support I’d received from everyone, all the other pilgrims I’d met along the Way.  Of course my pilgrimage was made easier because I had the constant love of my life, the love of my wife, to bolster me whenever I was tired or a little sore.  So many others don’t have that on which to rely.

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After the congratulations and the quiet moments, we entered the Cathedral with standing-room-only crowds for the Noon Mass.  The ceremony was beautiful and, to my delight, was capped with the swinging of the Botafumerio buy the hold dozen tiraboleiros.  Again, I found the grandure of the ceremony and the size of the crowds just overwhelming.  After receiving communion, in those few minutes of quiet, I did need a tissue.

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After Mass we all got some beers and food.  Why not!  And then headed down the street, armed with our well stamped credentials and regular pasport, to complete the paperwork and get our Compostela, the official document that says you made it.  I also got another document that recognizes that I started in Saint Jean, France and walked a total of 775 Km.  You can be sure that those documents will be framed and displayed in our house.

Tomorrow I’ll be a tourists.  Tonight is more celebration yet knowing that I have one, very, very important leg of my pilgrimage to complete – to get home on Saturday and hug my Bride.

Buen Camino!

Tom

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Santiago

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The Day is done. Tomorrow is The Day!

June 17, 2015, Rua, Spain

There is real excitement in the air.  The picture below is of two of my fellow American pilgrims letting you know how it feels to be only 20 Km from Santiago. The path today was again beautiful as it went up and down small hills through the woods of eucalyptus and other trees.  The groups of pilgrims continues to grow and everyone is just excited and anxious for what lies ahead.  Five of us have been walking together for a number of days now and are arranging to walk into Santiago as a group.  I am sure that there will be hugs and high-fives to go around. I’m also excited to see some of the other pilgrims I’ve had the pleasure of meeting along The Way.

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Tomorrow I will reach Santiago and walk into the the great Cathedral.  Over the last six weeks I’ve passed hundreds of chapels, churches and cathedrals and been drawn into many. Taking a moment for a simple prayer, lighting a candle or just trying to be absorbed in the art and atmosphere has been so peaceful.  I hope you get a chance to be drawn into a church or even take a moment in your home or by a favorite tree to find a little more peace in your life.  I’ve also had to chance to think about those close to me who are no longer on this earth.  Mom and Dad are always first on that list.  But I think about my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law too and the terrible disease that took their lives before they died.  When you find that moment of peace, remember them in your prayers too.  And if you can find a way to include the Alzheimer’s organization among your charities, know that your donation will help the families who all fall victim to this disease.

You will be in my prayers and thoughts as I enter the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Buen Camino!

Tom

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The Joy of the Camino

June 16, 2015, Arzua

Today was long, over 27 Km, about 18 miles.  The path included many invigorating hill climbs and a lot of meandering through woods on gravel trails.  There were a number of small hamlets with the ever present bar so it was easy to get a cup of coffee or a bannana.  I learned a new term today from a most delightful fellow pilgrim, “touregrino”, to refer to the tourists/pilgrims that start in Sarria.  Well the “touregrinos” are now in their third day and seem to be slowing down.  It was pretty easy to pass the crowds on the hill climbs.

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I did also pass what I would describe as a cow albergue.  All but one of the cows was laying down and I even heard one or more snooring – just like in an albergue.  In one little town I came across a small chapel which had a most interesting crucifix.  Jesus’ right hand is reaching down as if to help someone.  It’s always a surprise to walk into a little chapel along the way and see what’s inside.  Today I crossed over many rivers and streams nd that meant so many beautiful bridges.

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So today marked a milestone.  I needed 24,638 steps to have gone 1,000,000 steps since I started my pilgirmage.  Today at about 12:45 PM I hit that mark.  I got a kind pilgrim to take my picture to mark the occasion.  A few hundred yards later, I celebrated with a beer at a bar/rest stop.  Within a couple minutes, several very delightful pilgrims I’ve come to know stopped in to join my table and celebrate with me.  It was really nice to be with pilgrims and celebrate this point of my pilgrimage.

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The weather today could not have been more perfect.  Temperatures were in the upper 60s and low 70s all day and the sun was bright.  I hope my pictures capture a little sense of the day.  No really deep conversations today.  I think everyone is ready to celebrate their accomplishment so the mood is one of joy and happiness. Thanks for following along.

Buen Camino!

Tom

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The Excitement Builds

June 15, 2015, Palas de Rei

With just three more days to walk the excitement is really building.  Everyone is making plans for their entry into Santiago, getting the Compostela and going to Mass(es) there.   I hope that all the folks I’m currently walking will enter Santiago together.

Today’s walk was up and down some moderate hills and mostly through the woods.  Like yesterday, the path was just beautiful most of the way, especially when the crowds of tourists thinned a bit.  The tourists all have new shoes and brightly colored bags and even have busses transport them for large segments of the daily walk.  We’ve even seen one bring tea to the travelers.  Quite frankly, a drink of water and a banana taken from the breakfast table at a trail side table is just delightful for me.  The weather today was again just perfect with temperatures in the 60s and a fair amount of sunshine.  The weather forecast for the rest of the week is very good as well so again thank you all for praying for good weather for my pilgrimage.

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I think I will hit the 1,000,000 steps mark tomorrow.  I have a note on my FitBit and will try to capture a picture of that milestone!

Buen Camino!

Tom

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Monumental

June 14, 2015, Portomarin

This morning I passed the “official” 100 Km marker.  In this stretch there are markers every ½ Km so your really see your progress.  I pass one about every 5 to 10 minutes.  The path today was through mostly woods of oak and chestnut.  There is one rather old tree that provided a photo opportunity.  When I got to the top of one of the hills I did get a good view of the morning mist in the valley.20150614_100208 20150614_083916 20150614_081825

It’s nice that there are so many people that can use a camera phone!

The feel of the Camino changed today.  Many, many pilgrims join the Camino in Sarria.  There are groups being dropped off in busses and there is a bit of a party atmosphere among groups of 6 to 10 people.  There are many rest stops and they are all crowed with pilgrims.  Previously, it was rare to see pilgrims grouped like that.  Fortunately there are still moments of quiet conversation which is more the way I like the Comino.  I am trying to make sure that I don’t get the mood of the workers in the vineyard who worked all day and got the same pay as those that only worked the last few hours.  Rather, I need to make sure I welcome the new pilgrims to the Camino.  I did that a few times today and in all cases I was treated as the “Camino Expert” (even though I’m not) so I felt good.  Most get looks of astonishment when they asked where I started and I tell them.  I did talk with a group of Germans who said that they take a week every year to do the last 100 Km of the Camino.  That is certainly a commendable way to be a pilgrim.

Here’s a picture of Portomarin.  What a nice way to end my day of walking!

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Four more walking days.  Only about 90 Km to go.  I’m ready for it to be over and excited for the end.

By the way, the weather has been perfect for walking.  Keep it up you weather prayers!

Buen Camino!

Tom

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Nice day on the Camino

June 13, 2015, Sarria

Today was simple and nice.  The walk from Triacastela to Sarria was a short 12 miles so it only took about four hours.  The path was mostly through woods and had just enough hills and little villages to make it interesting.  I walked all day with a young man from Germany who spoke very good English.  Our conversation, like most Camino conversations, varied from pretty light to pretty heavy.  A nice day.

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Sarria is the starting place for those pilgrims who want to walk the last 100 Km. That’s what is needed to get the Compostela in Santiago.  I expect pilgrim traffic to pick up quite a bit tomorrow.  That also means that I have five more walking days, about 70 miles to go, to complete my pilgrimage.  It’s getting so close!  This also marks the last Saturday I will be away from home.  It seems like forever since I left and I am getting very anxious to be home again with the most important person in my life.

Buen Camino!

Tom

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Crowded on the Camino

June 12, 2015

Today’s walk was supposed to be mostly down hill but there were a number of ascents that were fairly difficult.  But I am in the mountains so I guess that’s to be expected.  There is a big pilgrim statue and a lone cross that were notable and of course beautiful mountains – too many pictures to show.

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Again I passed through several small villages and the path got a little crowded, not with pilgrims but with farm animals.  It’s not at all unusual to see someone and a dog herding 10 to 20 cows through the main street of town.  We pilgrims need to clear the way and watch where you step!

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I made my way from O’Cebreiro to Triacastela.  The early morning was dominated by fog but later in the day the sun came out though the temperatures just made it to 60 degrees.  According to my guide book, I only have 83 miles to go in six more walking days.  According to my FitBit, I’ve now taken 884,985 steps!  Yikes!

Buen Camino,

Tom

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Reflections

June 11, 2015, O’Cebreiro  (No WiFi yesterday in O’Cebreiro so this is Thursday’s post)

Today started out like most.  I left Villafranco at about 7:45 to begin my 18 mile trek to O’Cebreiro.  The first 13 miles were along a beautiful river on one side and a road on the other.  The traffic, if you can call it that, was very light – maybe a car every four minutes.  The sounds were dominated by the river waters working their way through the rocks.  I went through a half dozen or so small villages and stopped at one for coffee at about 10:00.  A little later, I came across a small chapel, not much bigger than a single car garage, that caught my eye by the way it seemed so well cared for among other buildings that were in need of some attention.  I noticed a back pack and trekking poles laying on a wall outside and was curious to take a look.  The chapel was simple but beautiful.  On a little table I noticed the stamp for my credential so I took off my pack to reach my credential and apply the stamp.  The owner of the back pack and poles was sitting in the thrid pew, left side.  He groaned a little as he got up.  I asked if he was doing OK and he assured me he was.  As we talked I recalled the image of Clarence, the angle in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  He had a very gentle way about him.  He had a small booklet of reflections that his wife had put together for the Camino.  He was kind enough to share with me a few of his favorites.  The first one he showed me resonated with me and I read it a few times hoping to remember it.  We then wished each other well as he doned his back pack and I head out.  After I had gone just a couple hundred yards or so I realized that I couldn’t remenber the reflection I liked so I turned around and went back.   The gentleman had just finished adjusting his pack when I asked if I could take a picture of the page he had shared.  Below is that picture.  Click on it to make it bigger.  I sure hope you can read the words!

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The mountain scenery could not have been more picturesque – a lady proudly attending to her courtyard, a stream cutting through a grassy field among the trees, sheep headed somewhere important to at least one of them.

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By about 12:30 with lunch in me and 13 miles behind me, I started a rather cardio testing ascent from Herrerias to O’Cebreiro.  The distance is only about 5 miles but the climb is at seven to nine percent incline.  It turns out that some choose to take advantage of an enterprising person who offers horse back rides to the top.  I didn’t take a horse so it took me two and a half hours to make this distance.  The vistas were inspiring but I was also mindful that I had just walked that far.

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At the top of the mountain, I entered Galicia and left Castilla y Leon behind. Galicia is the Western most province of Spain and is the province of Santiago.  I am now less than 100 miles to Santiago.  You can begin to feel the excitement and anticipation as pilgrims calculate just when each will arrive, when they will first see the Cathedral, will we get to see the Botafumeiro, will some continue on to Finisterre.  Oh, and I met the gentleman from the chapel again.  His name is Bob and we had dinner together.  He and his wife had walked the Camino several times before but this was his last day this time.  He wanted to end this pilgrimage in O’Cebreiro with his wife.  At sunrise, at the little church in O’Cebreito at the top of the mountains in Galicia, he was going to spread her ashes.  His wife of 42 years had died of cancer a few months ago.

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Tomorrow, my pilgrimage continues.  Don’t stop praying.  I won’t.

Buen Camino!

Tom

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