Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Washer Woman


In the beginning

In the beginning

May 31, 2014

” This is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes”

And so begins the story of how Shawna pissed off the French landlady, whose bed we rented from for our first night on the Camino in St. Jean Pied de Port.
We arrived along with the masses of other pilgrims to the starting point around 6 pm walking in the rain ( we had yet to buy our ponchos). My first thought was to secure a bed for the night, which was a good thought as ALL the rooms in the village- so to speak- were filled up. Ahhhh…there is no airport to sleep in here. And it is raining. But right next door to the Compostella office was a place, that we were standing by, when the door opened and this nice French lady asked us if we needed a bed. We said yes. We asked the price, she said 13€. She shooed out this other couple and told them that the beds were taken now by us.

That should have ringed bells in our heads for a warning sign, but no, we took it as mercy from the Camino angels shinning down on us.
Well, placed our stuff in the room and headed out across the street to obtain our ponchos from the pilgrim store. Then we went to look for food. Oh my gosh…too expensive. But we did find a hole in the wall place selling box pilgrim lunch style food for 7€, which was fine by us. So we spilt the box sandwich and contents.

Back to our lodgings as the lady told us that she would close up at 10 and showers were to be done by this time too.

Abby ate while I showered outside on the top porch and washed my clothes in the bag- after 3 days of wearing the same clothes, this was our next priority. Trust me, this pack, wear one set, wash one set in order to save on pack weight, can be a smelly pain.

Anyway, Abby came up to shower and I washed her clothes as she was taking care of herself due to the time running out. I had laid the clothes out on the drying rack that had others rain clothes drying on, when in comes landlady who goes ballistic on me. Screaming in French, gesturing away and gives me a tongue lashing that left me crying ( I don’t cry, but I will chalk this up to being sleep deprived and humiliated) which just increased her hysteria even more. Abby came out of the shower looking at me in horror.

This is what I understand from her outbursts, little bit of French I know and her gestures. I was NOT to have washed my clothes and hang them to dry, even though she had confirmed earlier that I could wash them in the shower, but not in the sink.
The water draining from the clothes was dripping onto a table below, which I had not seen from above at the angle I had checked out first. And my clothes should have been draped over the chair pulled to the sides of the stairs and exposed to the rain. She found the water on the floor to be a pain to mop up even though I offered to do it. She chased me away yelling how I had no respect and that I was a fat cow who made too much noise walking in the hallway. I think she said I plodded like a cow in the cobble street and everyone can hear through the whole town when it is coming. Might not be the exact wording, but her gestures certainly left no doubt of the meaning of, fat, cow, plod and rude.

She spent another hour yelling about me to her husband, three floors down. The one man who was sharing the room with us told me not to pay any attention to her and not worry.

Well this morning she came up the stairs yelling and shaking us all awake. Then she saw Abby’s IPhone charging and she ripped it from the wall and threw it on the floor. And this is the way we started at 6 am. Welcome to the Camino.

At breakfast ( hard crusty slice of bread and jam) when I told her no thanks to cafe con leche due to religious restriction. She went off on us about costing her money since she already had prepared this. And then she again made gestures and sounds about how fat I was to walk the mountain and showed all seated that I had a big belly that would get smaller the longer I walked.

We packed up our soggy wet clothes and went next door to the pilgrim office. The contrast within the office and her place was welcoming. The true Camino Angels shinned on us there. The man took me to the dryer where we could dry our clothes. He helped me figure out a plan to spend two additional nights here in SJPP. He helped me with making arrangement to have my backpack taken to the next two stops and even though he was blunt, he was nice. I could have cried with joy.

On a side note, those of you traveling over here need to bring Euros in coin form in order to pay for your train and bus tickets when paying for them at the machine. They will not accept our chip less credit cards.

On ward we go…no more banshee French woman



Sleep..kinda..Between a Rock and a Hard Spot

Abby the airport sleeper

Abby the airport sleeper

May 30, 2014

“Money Can’t Buy You Love…but it can buy you a warm bed”

To update, plane leaving LAX was delayed by 4 hrs. They ended up replacing the original plane we were supposed to go out on due to some mechanical part that they were unable to fix. Due to this delay, our connecting flight to Bilbao was bumped to a different time and thus we found ourselves in Bilbao airport at 11:00 pm or 23:00.

We had made arrangements to stay with a couple who were hosting us via Couchsurfing network, BUT, it was sooo late, and they hadn’t received our original message sent from LAX and the wifi at the Madrid airport only allows you 15 min free AND when those 15 min are up and you are traveling within the same day to another airport in Spain, the wifi system is connected all the way around the country and therefore you can’t access the wifi for 24 hrs.

Basically, we had no way of getting in touch with our hosts. Though the nice woman at the information center kept calling them, but there phone was busy ( turns out they were trying to find us a hostel to stay in).

So we have a choice, ride the bus to Bilbao where we no nothing and it is raining and it is the last bus as it quits at 12 am OR stay at the airport for the night. Ahhh, yes, there was an option of taking a chance to stay at a hotel, but we didn’t know if they had rooms and the cost was like 60€. That is a lot of money!

We opted to stay in the car rental hallway. One long concrete walkway, connecting the parking lot to the airport with a glass ceiling. And the benches are of the industrial style…metal…with hard plastic cushions. But, it was FREE and even though the rain pounded away on the ceiling, we were safe and warm. The car rental lady had to stay way late too due to airplanes being delayed and she had to remain until the last reservation showed up. So she was nice enough to plug in my IPad to charge. Yeah Hertz!

Apparently, we were not the only ones stranded, as around 2 am about 20 people straggled in to occupy the benches. We kinda slept. We had a bathroom. We had our sleep sacks and what else could we have wanted?

We left the comfy benches at 5:30 am and went up to the main airport to seek some information. Well…long story short, we took the bus into the city ( free wifi on the bus) and pulled up the Couchsurfing people and discovered their messages. We called them at 7:20 am, but making a call from a pay phone to a cell phone costs a whole lot and I ran out of coins to feed the phone. We thought we would take a bus out to their place, drop off the English teaching games I brought for her to use in her class and hope that they would let us crawl into bed. But no…the bus never showed up to take us. It is raining BIG TIME and we have yet to buy our ponchos. We are frustrated. Abby is puking. Yes…on top of all the adventure, her body has decided it has had enough.

And so…we sit. At the bus terminal. Watching people come and go. And no art museum tours. No meeting Couchsurfer people. We booked our tickets to Bayonne on the bus and from there we will catch a train or bus to SJPP where we hope to crash for two days before climbing the Pyrenees.

So we sit. From 7 am- 1 pm. Watching the world go by. Money can’t buy me love, but it has bought us a coke and some good Spanish kinda sandwiches, even though Abby puked hers up.

Stay tune…we are having a fun time. Really.



Final Countdown

Time has ran out!

Time has ran out!

May 28, 2014

Oh my goodness. What can, will go wrong.

The debit/ credit card that was supposed to have come yesterday, showed up at 10:30 am today
I am a failure with keeping my pack light. Hindsight is 20/20.
We packed what we thought we needed. We weighed the packs and went crazy.
Time was running out. How do we ditch the weight?
We halved things. We are sharing soap, the hair stuff. We condensed and took out items from their containers and re packed them into lighter weight ones.
We did this and we did that and I was getting upset. So frustrating trying to pack it all and make the weight we wanted.

I am off by 8 lbs. I don’t care. But I do, because I have failed to meet the mark. My bag weighs 22 lbs and Abby’s is at 14lbs. We will just equalize the contents when we make it to the airport or wherever we can in order to redistribute the 36 lbs of weight so we both will carry 18lbs. BUT…this doesn’t include water nor the ponchos. But, to assure everyone, 4lbs and 3 lbs are our packs weight empty. However, that is STILL weight!
Next year, I will do better. I will be smarter. In the meantime, I’m resigned to hire the guy to carry my pack over the mountain…I will spend money doing that instead of breaking myself early on.

There was no time to reconfigure anymore. The plane was leaving at 6:pm it is 2:pm and it takes an hour to drive from our home to LAX if traffic is good.
I dump the organized packets of stuff into our bags. I dump the compressed sacks of clothes into the bags. I’m sweating like a horse in the Kentucky Derby. I have to take a shower and change into the Camino clothes. I have to write down info for my husband. The time has ran out. I am now freaking out! I have lost it.

We get to LAX only to find out that our plane has been delayed for 3 1/2 hrs. It will leave at 9:45 tonight. We won’t get to Bilbao until 11 pm Thursday night. We have made arrangements through Couchsurfer to have a couple host us and instead of showing up on their doorstep at 6 pm we don’t even know if we can catch the public bus into the city and find our way to their place let alone if they want us at 12 am!
We just might sleep in the airport.

They won’t let us carry on our bags…even though this other woman with a 70L and a 30L backpack is allowed to carry her bags on! But we didn’t see her until we were through security check and saw her with her backpacks. She is flying Quntas.

So we reconfigure on the floor of the airport. Take out the important stuff to pack in my spare lightweight pack ( bought it along for “just in case”) in case the checked in items get lost all of our main important equipment won’t be gone.

And now we sit and wait and watch others with much more carry on items than what we had, walk around.

And so begins the Camino. Let things go and just go with it.


Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk

Just take the bare essentials

Just take the bare essentials

May 25, 2014

“Walk this Way; Talk this Way” (Aerosmith)

No…no, walking the Camino is not about losing one’s virginity, like the lyrics in this Aerosmith song…well…I guess I could stretch it to be an allegory…a pilgrimage of 500 miles consists of losing the fear of being a control freak and planning every little thing out to the oomph degree. Ya…that could be a stretch…but in reality for anal, organized, over achievers, with the need to control one’s environment and be the Super Ultimate Boy Scout who is prepared for all things at all times with the “expect the unexpected” mentality…this is very real!

And yet, you have to carry all your stuff on your back as you are the donkey…or in my case, the Jenny. I guess I could refer to another lyric from the Rolling Stones…” A beast of burden.”

So seeing as how I’m the one who likes things organized (some things, some of the times) and I have been known to go overboard with planning for “expect the worse, hope for the best” scenarios (the first item on my check list for buying traveler’s insurance included repatriation-shipping home my carcass- NOT that I’m planning on getting hurt, let alone dying…but one needs to cover their ASSets just in case) I’m making sure that some items…ok…most items will do double duty.

As you look at the pictures of stuff piled in the staging area, aka, The Couch, you can see that ALL of this stuff that has been collected, will NOT fit into a backpack. And what is up with sanitary pads? Well, since you asked, the first thought is obvious. Like…no duh…we are women who will be gone for 50 days, but that is way to obvious. Double duty. You can insert the pads into your shoe to absorb the sweat from your feet that causes blisters to form! Yay-Way! And ya…guys wear them too…in their shoes. And since we are on the topic of female sanitary products, tampons are great for plugging your nose with when you get a nose bleed.
It makes for way awesome, “Hey-mom-look-at-me” summer camp pictures. Abby has a few of these pictures taken of her with these nose plug accessories.

And who can leave home without a copy of a Zombie book? My friend, Don Teague has instilled in me over the years, that one HAS to be prepared at ALL TIMES, in ALL PLACES for the Zombie Apocalypse. Might seem like dead (pun intended) weight to serious, fanatic backpacker minimalists, but THEY are going to want to be on MY team when the apocalypse happens!

Stay tune. We leave in 3 days. With posts like this before we even make it out onto the trail, you know this blog is going to document an epic adventure.

And please, feel free to go to my site to donate towards my pilgrimage. After all, those funds will be used to cover my bribe to transport Abby and I to safety when the Zombies attack!





Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Smelling good!

Smelling good!

May 22, 2014

Well…off to Lush I went tonight. It is right down the street from me, across from Disneyland. My goodness, but does that place smell great. And it is expensive. $47/lb for soap. Not that I’m buying it by the pound!

I bought the coconut creme shampoo ($8) as it has been highly recommended on a variety of sites. And I bought the Jungle conditioner ($9) Abby and I will each have our own tin ($4–and I just discovered that I prefer the round locking tin as the oval tin will need a hair band to keep the lid on) to carry and use.

The toothpaste tabs are intriguing. Chew to activate with your spit, insert brush and scrub. $5 for 40 tabs ( sounds like an acid buy). I will pack them in a plastic bag to keep water out of them.

I will play around with dehydrating toothpaste to make my own tabs…but that will be when I come back.

The deodorant crystal is cool! Works great. I’m going to stab it with my ice pick to split with Abby and the chunks will be placed in a plastic bag too.


“Prepare Ye! Prepare Ye!”

Busy as a bee

Busy as a bee

May 21, 2014

“School’s Out for Summer!” (Alice Cooper)

And that is the song that has been going through my head today as I packed my classroom up. 180 days with 24 students equals an accumulation of a lot of stuff. All that stuff has to packed up, put away or purged. I did all of those things today. I also reorganized some of my materials in order to have my stuff ready for when I return the last week of July.

I just finished school and I’m already preparing for the coming year. I reflect upon what projects worked and which ones didn’t. I scribble in potential dates to hold parent nights. I jot down ideas about teacher trainings, report card and assessment revisions. I do this every year on the last day of school while the ideas are fresh.
The ending is a new beginning.

I have 7 days to pull my stuff together for the Camino. My pack lays empty at the end of my bed. Items bought specifically for the pilgrimage are stored in the brown paper sacks lined up in my hallway. Amazon boxes containing Camino items are stacked awaiting unpacking only to be re-packed and organized into the empty backpacks. But not before they are weighed, itemized, sorted into categories and scrutinized for multiple usages.

I have read several books describing the Camino. Have poured over the routes. Tagged my Spanish language book written with specific phrases for pilgrims. I have religiously followed the threads being posted in the American Pilgrims on the Camino forum. I have trained ( until I caught a chest cold and hurt my knee a couple of weeks ago) and have been toughening up my feet. Breaking in my sandals and trail runners.
And yet, I’m not really fully prepared.

I can have all the right materials in place. I can have the knowledge stored in my noggin to draw upon, but just like teaching, every year is a new year. You don’t really know what is in store for you until you just jump in and do it.

I’m jumping in with both feet on this pilgrimage, unsure what will occur even though I have read the advice. But just like teaching, reading all about teaching is very different from being in the thick of it. I’m following the same advice that I offer brand new teachers,”plan and then have a backup plan and then be willing to accommodate and adjust when things don’t go as planned!”

And this brings me to a line in John Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy” ” Life is just what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” Can I really plan for every little thing for the pilgrimage? Should you really plan? Isn’t it a little too controlling and anal to have a detailed map outlining the entire 500 miles? I believe that this goes counter to what a pilgrimage is all about. In other words, just let go and GO!

Follow along as this adventure unfolds. It is going to be epic. And if you enjoy reading the blog, looking at the pictures and watching the videos (oh…there will be videos!) please feel free to donate to my journey. Visit my site

Buena Camino




I’m so excited (anxious) I could puke!”

"Gotta wear my LOVE shades"

“Gotta wear my LOVE shades”

May, 18, 2014

“In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don’t worry, be happy” (Bobby McFerrin)

And that is the state of mind I am in. Somewhere between anxiety and excitement. We leave in 9 days. 9 days! Ahhh…so much to do in so little time.

I am a little anxious due to hearing about a woman on her Camino, fell on the Napoleon route and broke her femur. She had to be airlifted off the trail. What a way to begin and end a pilgrimage. My thoughts and prayers go out to her. Which is why I have been reviewing the beginning of the route more in depth, as the first part is steep and the descent in certain areas quite treacherous.

But, I keep reminding myself that thousands have walked this way, both the very old, the very young and all the ages in between with no problems. I just want to make sure that I do not forget which way to turn when I come upon the fork in the road and mistakenly take the route that I will regret. Steep descents cause more harm on the knees as well as one could stumble or slip and fall. Not the way to begin.

The good news is that due to Couchsurfing, I have made contact with a couple in Bilbao, Spain who will be hosting us for our first two nights. They sound like a fantastic couple who are interesting and they seek out adventurous, open- minded people to host. I believe Abby and I fit that description.

I have yet to figure out how we are going to travel from there to our starting point of Saint Jean Pied de Port. We will take a bus either to France or we will take a bus to Pamplona and then take another bus to SJPP. Either way, we will get there. It will all work out.

And that is the exciting part. Not knowing. No set plans in stone, except our reservations up at Orisson on the Great Pyrenees. We will just meander happily along singing joyful tunes to keep the anxious level at bay. “Ooh oo-ooh ooh ooh oo-ooh…don’t worry, be happy. Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style…”

Speaking of which, please check out