Longest Day EVER!

camino-frances-24Day 3 continues…

After a quick lunch break at a cafe, we attempt to wind our way out of Ponferrada.  It is a busy city so we step lively as we cross streets to follow the Camino path.  Follow the sea shells, follow the arrows… and, if all else fails, ask someone.  It is obvious to the locals that we are walking the Camino de Santiago, so they are helpful if we appear lost.  Muchas gracias!

We walk and we walk and we walk…

Ponferrada is one of the larger cities we pass through on our walk with a population of  68,736 according to the GeoNames geographical database.

We walk and we walk and we walk…

We exit Ponferrada without getting lost.

We walk and we walk and we walk…

IMG_6595to ponferrada

This stage of the Camino is a good section to make up time due to the relatively flat terrain, but the rain does not help our cause.  It starts raining at the edge of Ponferrada and continues to rain thoughout the rest of the day.  (Which is also why I have very few photos today since the camera stayed dry inside my pouch).  Our rain ponchos keep us relatively dry, but water starts seeping into the boots.  The lotion/vaseline between my toes will only do so much to prevent blisters.  We can feel the hot spots on our feet as the blisters threaten to inflict their pain.

…and then we walk some more. 

It is 6:30 p.m. and we finally drag our wet, exhausted bodies and blistered feet into the town of Cacabelos, a city which dates back to the 10th century.

Am I dreaming? Do I really see a hotel?  We stop to inquire about hotel rooms and discover they do not have enough beds for us.  We must look quite sad and pathetic as the hotel clerk offers us free samples of wine and snacks.  She is such a wonderful person and recommends a hostal and even offers to call them for us.  They do have vacancies.  Hooray!  Away we go in search of Hostal La Gallega. Click on the link for more photos and info about our hostal tonight.


After close to 12 hours of walking our prayers are answered.  Hostal, restaurant and bar are all inside under one roof for 17 Euro each.   Hallelujah!!  Praise the Lord!  God sure knows what we need at the end of a tough day.  Now it’s time to start drying our boots and socks while we hydrate and refuel our bodies for another day.  The hostal even has a pulperia which means a small grocery store.

Spain-1030590dmvMeet our neighbors.  (Backyard view from our hostal balcony)

Oh, my sore feet and stiff legs! 

Time to say our prayers and go to bed after walking over 20 miles today.

Maybe it won’t rain tomorrow… z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z

Manjarin, Spain ~ Commerce on the Mountain

camino-frances-23_Rabanal to MolinasecaDay two continued…


A short walk of about 2.5 kilometers downhill from Cruz Ferro, we find the closest thing to a shopping mall for pilgrims in the deserted looking village of Manjarin.


There are signs of Roman mining activity in this area, but the city of Manjarin has its origins linked to the 9th century.  The Manjarin economy was based for centuries on the livestock, the benefits of trade due to road and subsistence agriculture. During the mid 20th century, like many other mountain villages, the city was depopulated, until in 1993 a hermit named Tomas Martinez, resumed the work of “hospitaleros” Camino de Santiago.  ~ Wikipedia


I’m assuming Tomas is in the photo above.  One of the Camino Forum posts said this, “It is said to be about the most basic albergue on the Camino. No showers, only cold water from the fountain outside, and you sleep on some boards which are more or less loosely just above the main room. There were some foam pieces, not really mattresses.”   Another post mentioned there was no plumbing so you use an outhouse, which would be quite inconvenient when you need to climb a ladder down from the upstairs of the shed.


We donate to the cause and pour a cup of hot coffee, look around to absorb the rustic ambiance. Randy does consider buying a shell but decides he doesn’t want to carry it and will wait until the end.

Spain-1030478dmvAnother customer (India) is contemplating his purchase.

Spain-1030475dmvcr Disappointed that it is too early in the day to find lodging, we finish our break and move on with only 222 kilometers to go…

Spain-1030490dmvWe leave Manjarin and find our path to be quite muddy going down the mountain.  (Note to self ~ waterproof spray the boots next time.)


The path may be muddy but the views are spectacular today!

Spain-1030492kpWe often find crosses in random places.  Did another unfortunate pilgrim die here?

Spain-1030498dmvGoing down the mountain proves to be treacherous as we carefully place each foot forward, trying not to cause an injury.  The above image shows our path as it snakes its way down and we get a glimpse of what is ahead. Our goal is still Molinaseca, but it is taking longer getting down the mountain than anticipated.  We soon find that the mountain descent threatens to claim a victim among the members of our group.

Camino de Santiago Day Two ~ We’re movin’ on up…

The elevation map below shows our climb so far since beginning our walk in Astorga.

It’s 6 a.m. and our hostel is dark and quiet except for the quiet buzz of a person snoring nearby. We think about getting an early start today but it may be rude to make noise and shine our flashlights while trying to locate our belongings. O.K., just lie here a little longer until someone else makes a move. Finally, the lights go on and it was all systems go as everyone starts bustling around to pack up.


Today’s hike will take us to the highest point of our journey so we fuel our bodies with a 3 Euro breakfast prepared by Isabella, our hostel mom this morning. She has a ready smile that speaks for itself in any language.


Our tostadas with jam and coffee/tea hit the spot.


All of us receive a hug and kiss before we leave and her departing words are, “Buen Camino!” to which we reply, “Muchas gracias!”  Isabella is a gem and one of those people you can’t help but love.

Spain-1030393dmvThe old stone walls continue to border our road until we reach the edge of Rabanal where we now can see the mountains in the distance.  Our terrain and vegetation will change as we leave the plains behind us.

Spain-1030408kppop50crIt was a beautiful day for walking and the temperatures are on the cool side. The terrain is more difficult, but the change of scenery today makes the views more interesting.

Spain-1030405popThe damp climate provides plenty of moisture for moss type growths on these trees.

Spain-1030411dmvcrWe discover part of our group taking a break at a rest area.  You can see the dirt path behind them.


We are still in the province of Leon. The village of Foncebadon flourished during the Middle Ages, offering shelter and hospitality to the pilgrims that passed through on their way to Santiago.  According to local tradition, the village was granted a tax exemption in return for planting 800 stakes in the ground to mark the path.   ~ Wikipedia

Spain-1030419dmvcrAs we walk into Foncebadon, Randy visits with a  friend we met yesterday who was also at the hostal last night. He is from India and is walking the Camino with a friend from Poland.  We tend to name people based on their country, so we refer to the couple as India and Poland.

Spain-1030422dmvRandy finds out that India is in the Air Force of India so they immediately have something in common.  They talk airplanes and bombers since India can speak English quite well and knows what Randy’s Air Force job involved as an air frame repair specialist. What a nice guy. People like this wander in and out of our lives during the walk and we never know if we’ll encounter them again.

Spain-1030424dmvFoncebadon is a rustic little village and I notice that the building in the background has quite colorful patches on its roof. The sign under the cross is telling us not to leave stones on this cross.  Save your rock, you’ll need it later.

Spain-1030427Even in the most remote village we find a tavern. As usual, Randy is patiently waiting for me to take a picture.  I often drop my poles to change camera angles.


Cocina casera means home cooking and I see that they also have the Pilgrim recommendation seal of approval.  The tavern was open and India and Poland went in and were joined later by the rest of our group who stopped there for coffee.  It is too early in the day for us, so we plod on by without stopping. Too bad it isn’t later in the day since I’m curious and would like to  try their home cooking… Oh, well.

Spain-1030431dmvcrRoad work ahead.  The man with the wheelbarrow is patching holes in the village street since summer will soon be here and the number of pilgrims will greatly increase.


We continue to climb in elevation toward Cruz de Ferro which means Iron Cross.


After leaving Foncebadon we look back and see this scenic view overlooking the town. We are now making our way to the highest point in elevation of our journey and our legs are feeling the strain. C’mon legs, keep walking.  I begin to feel like the train engine in the book by Watty Piper (which was a pen name of Arnold Munk), The Little Engine that Could which is used to teach optimism and hard work to young children.   I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can…

Astorga to Rabanal ~ Camino Day #1

The rain falls gently in a slow drizzle. This isn’t so bad and the March temps in the mid 40 degree F are mild by Minnesota standards since it isn’t snowing, there is very little wind and our constant movement means we aren’t shivering. We don’t stop for long, though, for then the chill begins.  We slowly climb in elevation from Astorga to Rabanal. With this stage we enter a  transitional area between the plains and the area of El Bierzo, with its reddish earth covered with trees and heather.

Spain-1030327dmvWe are still in the province of Leon during this leg of the hike and the tree lined streets of Murias de Rechivaldo are quiet except for the click, click, click, click from the walking sticks of the occasional Pilgrim passing through.

We had the opportunity to walk, for a while, with a group of Spanish doctors  that were walking around 30 kilometers per day for 8 days.  They walk different sections of the Camino de Santiago – French Way each year with the ultimate goal of eventually completing all of it.

Spain-1030429dmvHand painted, yellow arrows help guide us down the right path.  I’m glad some joker didn’t decide to play tricks on us and point us the wrong way.  (Note to self ~ carry a detailed map next time.)

Spain-1030399dmvRabanal del Camino  continues a centuries old tradition of caring for the pilgrims before they take the steep path up and over Monte Hago (Mount Rabanal).
Aymeric Picaud was a 12th century scholar, monk and pilgrim who wrote the first travel guidebook for the Way of St. James. This was the IXth stage of Aymeric Picaud’s classic itinerary and the Knights Templar are thought to have had a presence here as early as the 12th century ensuring the safe passage of pilgrims over this remote terrain – the Church of Santa Maria (steeple is visible in the above photo)  was possibly built by them.

After 21 kilometers and a day of walking in the rain while carrying backpacks that weigh around 16-18 pounds, we are relieved to arrive at our destination.  We are hoping to find an Albergue with a nice bed and shower.  Many hostels and albergues are closed this time of year so you take what you can get.  We see a promising view ahead…

Spain-1030390dmvAt this point we are just happy to be inside a dry building.  Our standards of what we consider luxury seem to be adjusting.  Hmmm…


Our house mother, Isabella, stamps our Pilgrim Passports and checks us in.  We need two Pilgrim stamps per day and they can be obtained at a cafe, bar, restaurant, albergue, hotel or hostel. We each pay 5 Euro for the night and settle into our home away from home called the Albergue del Pilar.

Spain-1030341dmvOur sleeping quarters include one room with 32 beds (29 of them filled this night).  The room was approximately 20 feet by 40 feet with two long rows of bunk beds leaving a narrow aisle in the middle.  A mixture of ages and genders will all sleep together in this cozy room including a father/son from Korea, a group of bicyclists from southern Spain (Malaga), a young man in his 20’s originally from Iowa but lives in New York now, a young couple from Poland and India along with our group of lovelies. (AKA ~ Randy and the Hot Cross Buns).  I told you we were friendly!!

We put our wet clothing on the heaters available, take showers, and look forward to finding beverages and food to medicate and fuel our sore and tired bodies. Little did we know that we would soon meet Spain’s most eligible bachelor.  To be continued…

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Around the world you’ll find pride in the results of laundry endeavors. Why go through all that work if the clothes aren’t sparkling, right?


Woman washing and scrubbing her clothes in the river near Villafranca del Bierzo in Northern Spain.


Below is a woman on the beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica utilizing a tree as a clothesline after washing her clothes in the ocean.  You use what you have.

Love…in the purest form.


A tender moment in time between a father and his newborn son.

It’s Photo Friday ~ A girl remembers Grandma’s place.

Photography is more than just documenting a time in one’s life.  It also captures the emotion of the subject and its background.

This young lady is a senior in high school and chose her grandmother’s childhood home as a location for some of her senior portraits.  The old farmyard is now beyond repair but still holds memories.  I’m sure we can all think of a time and place in our lives that we would like to go back and revisit.

Grandma's Place8x10

Grandma’s Place

Two images blended together. All available light

Background ~ 2.8 aperture ~  1/200 shutter  ~ ISO 400

Girl blended ~ 2.8 aperture ~ 1/1000 shutter ~ ISO 100

It’s Photo Friday ~ A creative quest or waste of time?

There is a fountain of youth; it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.  When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.  ~ Sophis Loren

In the process of exploring the recesses of my mind I find myself attempting to put together a creative result that is thought provoking yet has strong artistic elements. My final result sometimes seems like a waste of time.  Is it?

When teaching young children I found the value of the process often far outweighed the final product.  Why should adults be any different?  Every time we use our thinking skills in a unique way to accomplish a task we take risks at the sake of an end result.  Sometimes we may fall flat on our faces, while other times we may find a new way of looking at life and our capabilities.

Do cooks always follow a recipe perfectly or do they take risks from time to time and put their own unique twist on the dish? The culinary end result may sometimes be a flop but they probably learned something (Not to do?)  in the process.

Lack of funds is often an incentive for creative problem solving to produce a final result that is less expensive but will still be a good alternative to the expensive option. Hence, the popularity of Pinterest.

I cannot take credit for any creative thoughts that may have entered my head or knowledge that I may have acquired. When things just seem to appear and I experience an “ah-ha!” moment, I know it is because the Lord has allowed me to see.  It would be nice if He would help me see the way to enjoy and do bookwork on a regular basis… Hmmm… maybe He’s working on that right now!

final 19117_10151233688743441_1086345601_n[1]

I stumbled across the following tutorial referred to me by another blogger.
A lazy Sunday afternoon was spent experimenting with this process.

It’s not the same road…

We all have our own roads to travel, don’t we?

It's all the Same Road

It’s Not the Same Road

The good thing about starting a new year (at least in our minds)  is the opportunity to evaluate life and how we are living it.  Resolutions, lists of things you wish to accomplish or goals to attain may have occupied your thoughts the past 24 hours.  How long the effort to work on these items may waiver as the year goes on, but we still must live our life until the end.  We can make all the plans and goals we want but sometimes life can make the decisions for us and we just have to roll with it.  So here’s to the new year and may your path be easy and smooth.  Hopefully, we don’t trip on our own feet!

Yep, still here…

image001The Mayan Calendar appears to have been inaccurate as far as predicting the end of the world, so I guess it will be worth writing a Christmas letter after all.  The entire buzz about the end of the world seems to be kind of a downer.  Hmmm… what should I write about?

A word that does come to mind is bliss.  Is bliss attainable or just something we dream of? I’d like to think it is something most of us are able to experience if we allow ourselves.  So, here’s a list of things in our lives that we perceive as bliss.

  • Having a crop to harvest even though the drought caused lower yields
  • Sitting on the deck at the end of the day while sipping a glass of wine (Hey, It’s good for the heart!)
  • Preparing and eating a meal with most of the ingredients coming from my garden and locally grown meat (My kids grew up so I now I nurture my garden.)
  • Meeting new people in Jamaica last April
  • Planning and dreaming of future adventures
  • Seeing our 14 month old granddaughter smile and laugh
  • Feeling as though our kids are doing well even if one (Bryon, the chemistry major) lives in a house we envision to be like “Animal House” from the John Belushi era, another lives on the other side of the planet (Elizabeth teaches high school English in Thailand) and the other is discovering the joys and challenges of parenting (Julia and Vince are parents of little Rachel)
  • Having such wonderful care for Randy at the Sanford Heart Hospital
  • Our own cozy bed after being in the Sanford Heart Hospital for a week
  • Appreciating friends and family who have been so generous in their offers of help and assistance
  • Faith in Jesus who died for our sins, so that we may experience true bliss in heaven
  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  ~ John 3:16

We sincerely hope that you can find a little bliss in each day, too.

Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Randy & Joyce

More rambling about life may be found at:image004


Elizabeth’s blog about her life and travels: