Yesterday all was quiet until a group composed of no less than four families showed up. The bunkroom, occupied by a scant 5 pilgrims the night before, would be full up tonight. I was expecting a very dull day in this little town, but instead I woke up energized and inspired by a profound dream. No, I will not provide any details; it is enough to say that I ate about six 1 euro tapas and wrote for a good six hours, having been sucked down a rabbithole and wholly absorbed. The day flew by, and I didn’t even spend too much money!
I am still trying to write one short story a month, and I had an idea that morning, but all this writing ended up going into a letter to a friend, for I had some breakthroughs inspired but somewhat unrelated to the dream. After many hours, I could no longer look at a screen. I had encountered a pair of pilgrims in town earlier, an American and a German, and they wound up at the restaurant for dinner. Having had another glance at the bunkroom, I opted for red wine, and had a glass while chatting with the pilgrims, sort of taking over and derailing the conversation, to be honest. I forget how much I have to tell already, and how even a pilgrimage to Santiago pales in comparison to my journey. I say less and less about my final destination, I find. It is a weary thing to weather the surprise, some genuine, some forced, with reactions ranging from genuine excitement to thinly veiled self-consciousness, with a lot of tongue-tying involved either way.
The girls left and I moved to the bar to free up the table for the herd of pilgrims that were to be my roommates. I drank another glass of red and talked to Paco and a couple other locals about music and culture in general. They like Pearl Jam, Bush, Red hot Chili Peppers, punk in general- all the 90’s music that I grew up on! I decide to stop at two glasses and pay Paco, but he has other ideas. He pours me another glass on the house, followed by a shot of what I think was sherry… good man. I end up closing out the bar with these guys, at the ungodly hour of 10 pm. I creep up to the room, expecting to navigate a darkened room, but the light is on. 12 parents and children seem to be engaged by various types of screens. They are all quiet and well-mannered, essentially ignoring me, to my great comfort, and we all soon drift to sleep.
We are up early, and I am ready to go. My achilles tendons are no longer throbbing, to my relief. It seems like a long time since I have been on the bike, and although Paco asked me if I wanted to stay another night I declined and got ready to go. Paco chats with me as I get ready, checking my tires, greasing my saddle and lowering my seat, after sitting on the bike and back-pedalling on my heels, about 3/8ths of an inch. I am ready to go, but reluctant to leave. I ask Paco, who has done so much for me, for a picture. Here is the man:
I intend to visit him one day! He is my favorite encounter so far, and I told him so. His reaction is to zip into the bar and present me with a hand carved sandalwood cross. I am humbled and appreciative- it feels right to have one on the Camino de Santiago. It is an unusual shape, more of a “T” than a “t,” because when two are overlapped it makes the old cross of the Knights Templar. A lovely parting gift:
I also noticed that I have developed a tan on my face, with straps and visor accents from my helmet!
Now equipped with a fitting talisman, I set off, and I am nervous. Of course I have to climb a hill right off the bat, and I gently ease up it, hypersensitive to my lower legs, but everything seems to go alright. For the next hour or two I am cautious, but soon realize that there is virtually no strain on my tendons… 3/8’s of an inch. Incredible.
I also noticed that my legs feel incredibly strong: fatigued as they were, I was a little perplexed that after three weeks I was not feeling more powerful. Well, a day and a half’s rest really did the trick! Now just to be careful and let everything heal up before I hit the Pyrenees…
It was a beautiful day, mostly, and I am happy to be shooting with my little camera again:
Another castle on a hill
A stunning geological feature, of which there are many
I had a pretty good climb today- you know it will be a challenge when you are looking at the back of a windfarm on the way up… a lot of wind at the top, followed by a slow creep down an 8% grade! The wind howls here. Below is a view from near the top:
On the way into Pamplona I ride by a long section of graffitied barrier. There is a lot of very tasteful, quality graffiti in Spain. Today, I was so excited I had to turn around to get pictures of some of my favorite characters from… ADVENTURE TIME! It is fitting, for I am finally finished with the pilgrim path tomorrow and heading towards France and the Pyrenees…
This one made me laugh out loud.
A taste of home
Well, I am here and undamaged! It is amazing how frightening potential injuries are, if I develop a chronic injury I will be knocked out for at least a month… but so far I have been able to make adjustments. I definitely recommend getting professionally fitted if you find yourself interested in a long bike tour. I’m figuring it out though, and happy to be back on the road.