Leavin’ on a Jet Plane…

“There is no mile as long the final one that leads back home.”–Katherine Marsh, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

Madrid. Thirty minutes to boarding. Fifteen hours to home.

I’m told my dog Buddy has been missing me.

What do you think?

Can’t wait to see him come running up to me!

Hope someone else does the same…cause I know I sure will!


Man of La Mancha Going Home

Grandfather of the Camino

On my last note from Espania…


Homeward Bound Thoughts…

“Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.”

–Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road

I was going to fly from Santiago to Madrid today but the airline changed the schedule from early afternoon to the evening. Since it would have been the last flight, I didn’t want to chance any problem–weather, mechanical/-that might keep it from going and which would have put my flight from Madrid to Dallas in jeopardy, so I decided to catch the train instead.

Glad I did. Took 5 hours and went through great country. It was an early morning departure. The sky was brooding, the air chilled, a good day to travel by train. I was like Henry when he was a kid traveling in the car: my eyes were fixated out the window, glued to the passing landscape. The soft rocking of the train on its rails lulled me into a hypnotic trance. I could see myself walking the Camino on the paths the train crisscrossd through my reflection in the glass…and from the Camino I could see myself sitting in the comfort of the train looking out the window at me as it zoomed by. I was both and at the same time in two places: the luxury of a seated train and the laboring of putting one foot in front of the other with a full backpack, walking the Camino. Two places at the same time. Something I’ve longed to do all my life!

I’ve now had the luxury of seeing Spain from two perspectives: the close-up slow plodding on my feet and out the window of a zooming train. 

In many ways, the sweeping vistas reminded me of the landscape of northern New Mexico.

Of course, Madrid changed all that!

My hotel is near the airport. And right next to the hotel is a McDonald’s!

But not like any McDonald’s I’ve been in: outdoor seating with misters, and electronic ordering–you don’t go up to the counter to order. It’s all by a visual touch screen! After you place your order you get a number and they bring your order to you. McAmazing.

Ah, yes, you can tell by now: I caved in and had a hamburger. But it was the mango smoothie that called to me…

Spain is high tech.


Change of subject…

Here’s a few nice emails I received from folks I don’t know–they must have come to my blog from a note I put on the Camino Forum:

“Don Qui Joe-te, as an aspirational pilgrim waiting to start my journey of discovery in September may I sincerely thank you for your communications. I have waited with anticipation your latest incisive message from the Camino – i have never once been disappointed. My daughter is worried about me doing the Camino alone (even though she finished University and has gone to China to teach – and I’m worried about her she’s my precious child aged just 24) and I have reassured her I’ll not be alone as a mere 53 year old man on a pilgrimage. She has said to me your posts tell her that I’ll never be the same again. Thank you for your inspiration.”


And this one:

 “I enjoyed reading your blog each day. It was the most accurate account of what it is like to do SJPP to Santiago in September. We are preparing for the worst and expecting the best. Well done!”

—--And this:

“Very much enjoyed following your blog; I cannot imagine someone else getting more out of their Camino than you did. Thanks!”


People are so nice…

 While in Santiago I reconnected with Rod and Deborah–two of my great traveling companions–for a farewell lunch. It was nice reliving Camino memories. And they brought me a real shell from Finisterre!

I also had dinner one evening with Richard and Monica from Australia who I met early on in Zubiri–or as Richard says, we were Stage 1 friends. Along withSuzanne  from England, Nadia from Australia, Palo from Italy and Marie from Barcelona. Kinda international, huh?

And I ran into several others throughout the day. But I missed many others–people who had leaped-frogged ahead or who stopped for extra rest days and who were behind me: the Korean priest; the three Japanese grandfathers (my pals from way back in Orisson); Claudia from Germany; Kirsty the vagabond street singer from Scotland; Don from Seattle; Chloie from France; and Elena, my adopted “granddaughter” from Chicago, who I met walking out of Pamplona. And so many others. But that is the way of the Camino. I think of them often.

All told, I met people from 27 countries and 17 US states:

  • Korea
  • Japan
  • Denmark
  • Switzerland 
  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Holland
  • Hungary 
  • Australia 
  • Ireland
  • England
  • Scotland
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Columbia
  • Venezuela 
  • Canada 
  • Italy
  • France
  • Sweden
  • Poland
  • Belgium
  • Hong Kong
  • Netherlands
  • South Africa

And from the USA:

  • Texas
  • Louisiana 
  • Colorado
  • New Hampshire
  • Washington
  • California
  • Ohio
  • Minnesota
  • Georgia 
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Montana
  • Illinois 
  • Massachusetts 
  • Arkansas
  • Alaska 

I’m sure I’m leaving a few out…

The Camino is truly a melting pot of nations.


Tomorrow I catch a flight home.

It’s time. I’ve been gone longer than I ever have–except in the Army. 

I don’t want to be away this long again.

From home. My land.

From my family: my kids and grandkids.

From my dog.

From Barbara.

Without their love, support, prayers and understanding this Camino would not have been possible. My family and so many friends were with me every step of the Way…

There is more I want to reflect on and write about, so stayed tuned. The Camino may be over, but there is more to say…


Man of La Mancha Memories

Grandfather of the Camino

A Pilgrim’s Blessing…

The pilgrims continue to come. Only God knows what each one of us brings, and with what kind of heart. We come mystically…We know the mess we bring and the often distracted heart that brings it. But this is all we have–all we are. One stretches out his arms to receive.

M. Basil Pennington, Journey in a Holy Land: A Spiritual Journal


I depart Santiago tomorrow via train to Madrid, then the next morning a flight home.

I took a long walk around Santiago this evening as a way of saying goodbye.  I spent time again in the Cathedral in a couple of the chapels in quiet reflection. I walked up behind the gilded high altar and placed my brow on the back of Santiago’s (St. James) head. It’s a ritual for peregrinos.

I am moved by the oddest things on this journey.

The other night after Mass the priest asked the peregrinos to gather to the side for a pilgrim blessing. They passed out little booklets and gave each of us a 2×2 inch square black piece of construction paper. Hmm. What is this for I asked the womAn next to me. 

“I think it’s to mark your page in the book,” she sId.


There were about 30 or so pilgrims there and only about five of us spoke English. It didn’t look like any of them, or very few at least, had walked very far on the Camino. They looked way too fresh. Being Judgmental. There I go again…

The priest was a jolly sort. He welcomed us, said some things inSpanish and then led us in singing from the little booklet. Most of the others were from Spain and all of a sudden folks stood up, left the pews, and still singing, went in procession around the back of the Cathedral and into the cloister. Ok, I’m with ’em.

In the cloister there’s a small canister. We all gather around it in a circle and the priest gestures for us to come in closer, shoulder to shoulder. They light a fire in the canister and the priest talks a bit and then says the black pieces of paper represent something we need to let go and for for us to place it in the fire and the smoke will carry it away.

And here I thought we were just going to get a regular blessing. We burned our Letting his” and then he sprinkled us with Holy Water…twice for good measure, I’m sure.

He started singing again and we processed back in the church and into a part that is being renovated by artisans. He took great care and time to tell us about the history of the Cathedral, about St. James and the renovation project. It was great that an Irush woman who volunteers in the peregrino office helped interpret for the handful of us who couldn’t speak Spainish.

That was nice, I thought we’d wrap up and that would be it. Hardly. We started singing again following the little brochure, and we went up on the altar! Not just the first part, but all the way up under the statute if Santiago and the Angels themselves! Right under all that gold!

We sat where the priests sit and he then asked us if we’d like to share with the group tell why we did the Camino. About six of us spoke–including me–and they translated from English to Spanish. (afterwards several people came up to me and thanked me for sharing my story.)

So here I am, grandfather of the Camino, a kid from Oklahona, standing on the altar of this massive Cathedral built in 1060, under the statue of St, James, and just above where his remains are interred, holding a microphone and talking about why I did the Camino. Very humbling.

We then went down into the “catacombs” and had a chance to kneel before Santiago’s tomb, the Apostle of Christ, the one Jesus called “Son of Thunder.” I’m four feet away from the remains of the Apostle of Christ, the first Apostle to be martyrdom, the Patton Saint of Spain.

It was a surreal feeling.

Afterwards the priest blessed us and sent us on our ways.

It was 10:00 pm before we left the Cathedral! 

Thus was absolutely amazing experience. In other churches along the Camino the priest has given pilgrims blessings, but nothing like this…

Below is the  outside of the Cathedral. It is undergoing needed restoration and it will take years before the scaffolding comes down.

So tomorrow I leave Santiago. 

Tomorrow I will reflect on that.

But now it is late and sleep calls.


Man of La Mancha Blessings

Grandfather of the Camino


“There is no destination to reach, because we are the destination.” — Joseph Rain

Throughout this journey I could always see the day’s destination once I got within a few miles of the village/city. It was the spires of the church that hovered above the landscape, that called me to it with hope that the end of the day was near.

When I approached the final landmark–Santiago de Compostela–it was nothing like that, just urban sprawl. I briefly saw the Cathedral, but it disappeared, never to be seen again until I turned a corner and the plaza opened before me. It’s strange when what you expect doesn’t turn out to be what happens. On top of. that I wasn’t ready for the hordes of tourists and what the negative part of me calls the “pseudo-peregrinos”–those people (mainly groups of people) who only walked or biked the last 60 miles, the minimum to get a Compostela (certificate of completion).

So my arrival wasn’t the emotional, fall on your knees or whoup it up sort of thing I anticipated it would be. And that seems to be pretty much the same with other peregrinos. The only ones I see whoupping it up are those who didn’t walk as far as I did…the “pseudo-peregrinos.”

I arrived at noon Saturday, just as Mass was starting so I hurriedly checked my backpack at the tour office and went to church. It was standing room only and at very beautiful, even if it was in Spanush–like all the services here are–but the nun who was the cantor had a voice like an angel and the pipe organ really piped it out. At the end of the service they burned incense in a huge silver container called a Botafumiero.

The Botafumeiro is suspended from a pulley mechanism in the dome on the roof of the church. I read that the current pulley mechanism was installed in 1604.

It was originally done to fumigate the clothes of early-day pilgrims…and of course incense  is an oration to God.

It takes some 8 people to swing this thing from one end of the transept to the other, all while the organ is playing and the cantor singing. It is an amazing feeling to experience. So much so that I’ve since gone to three different masses to see it/-and I’m told they do not do it every Mass (only when a group pays to have  it done!).

This is the front of the Cathedral. As you can see it is undergoing restoration.
More tomorrow!

Hola Santiago!

“If ever you do go back, what is it you want of Evesham?”

“Do I know? […] The silence, it might be … or the stillness. To have no more running to do … to have arrived, and have no more need to run. The appetite changes. Now I think it would be a beautiful thing to be still.'”

Ellis Peters, A Rare Benedictine (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, prequel stories 0.1-0.3)


Well, it’s been a long road, but I walked into Santiago today–and just in the nick of time to go to the noon Mass in the Cathedral. Stunning. 

Late now. Too tired to write. Will write much more about today tomorrow! 

But here’s some background about St James I saved earlier…

There were two Apostles named James. James the Greater is the older of the two. He was also called “The Son of Thunder”. James, John and Peter were honored to be the only Apostles present at the Transfiguration. They were also present in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus prayed before His death.

Tradition tells us he evangelized in Spain after the crucifixion for nine years. St. James the Greater was the first Apostle to be martyred. In the year 44, King Herod Agrippa killed him with a sword during the early persecutions of the Church.

St. James the Greater is the patron saint of laborers and Spain.
And his remains are here.

But more tomorrow!


Man of La Mancha Made It to Santiago!

Grandfather of the Camino

This is The Way…

This is The Way…the last day on the road to Santiago.

Follow me and I will take you there…

Will it be the End?

Or the Beginning?


Man of La Mancha Moments

Grandfather of the Camino

(The above art was on a wall by the church in Sarria)