Tag Archives: Camino de Santiago

Change is in the air …


Changes – and that’s a real big knock on wood – are afoot. Ellen and Reid got a whiff of the possibilities in this letter; they also got some phone call updates this past weekend. If nothing else, it will give us plenty to talk about at Thanksgiving in St. Paul. And more fodder to write about, too.


November 13, 2017

Ellen/Reid: So it appears the plans for Thanksgiving are set. A 2 p.m. dinner with the girls, then dessert over at Liz’s parents. That sounds fun. Reid, tell Liz, Donna and Tom thank you for the dinner invite but that would make two big meals in the space of a few hours and it would have been too much good food even for my healthy appetite. Ellen, I’ll be baking a lot of the day Wednesday, so if there are any special requests, let’s hit the store Tuesday and early Wednesday. Anything Emma and Georgia would like, other than pancakes or waffles? What’s Tim’s holiday schedule at 3M? Is he taking the bulk of the week off? I know it sounds a little odd to be scooting out of town on Saturday afternoon but I thought you guys might deserve a somewhat quieter weekend after all the hustle around T-Day.

It’s turned cold here, perhaps not by your Midwestern standards, but cold nonetheless. I’m telling you, 30 degrees feels downright frigid. It must be our damp air that slices right through you. Golf this weekend was liking teeing it up in an icebox. But golf might be on hold for a bit; somehow I goofed up something just outside my right elbow. Not debilitating by any means, just very sore. So golf is out of the picture at least for a little while. That’s not entirely a bad thing. Some lettuce and spinach was planted last week as a winter experiment; nothing has popped up so far and the expectations for a good crop aren’t terribly high. But there were some surplus seeds were left over from the summer so into the pots they went. I’ve got to make a do-I-stay or do-I-go decision on the house. This three floor thing is killing me. Not literally, but the heat rises so it’s cold during the day when I’m downstairs and warmish upstairs when I try to sleep. Something has to be done. The real estate market is still reported to be fairly hot and the notion of putting the homestead on the market has crossed my mind once more. Now, where to live?

My friend Tom has tossed out the idea of a rigorous hike around Mont Blanc in the Alps. That would derail plans for the Camino in Portugal. His suggestion sounds of great interest and what it will likely do is shove Wyoming back another year since the plan now, as it is, is to make this trip in late July or August.

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Portugal may not look exactly like this scene along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, but the vistas can’t be that far different.

But I absolutely have to be back in time for the September wedding of Sondra’s daughter, Chianna. There’s still the notion of a rendezvous with Sondra and Jody in Paris toward the September but that might not be a fiscal possibility for me to both trips in such close proximity. But there’s a long time to go and planning to be done before this is a done deal. Still, Mont Blanc sounds fun. Tom says it’s a pretty tough route. You have to be adventuresome while you’re still able.

Reid, your countdown to Sri Lanka has started. I’ll make amends when we’re in the Twin Cities for Thanksgiving. Damn, kid, you really get around. It’ll be interesting to get your take on the island. The Tamil Tigers were active there for quite a while and I’ll admit to not having paid much attention to the turmoil in that part of the world. That’s gonna be one hell of a trip for you and Liz.

It is also good news, Ellen, about Georgia’s coloboma. She and her eye are going to be just fine. She really looked smashing in those perky little glasses. So stylish in her sweater and specs. Can’t wait to give you and the girls your trinkets from Spain. I hope they like them. There were lots of things to choose from but I couldn’t very well buy anything too heavy or bulky since there was not much room for extra stuff.

Alrighty, time to sign off for a Monday. I’ve subsisted on C+ chili for the past few days and it’s time to dream up some other recipe. There’s no telling what that will be but it will be something different. Gotta sharpen up the feeble cooking skills before we put it all on the line for Thanksgiving.

Love, Dad

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A guy can dream, can’t he? …


Of course, there are now cheaper plane fares to Spain. But those are only noticed once you get home. It figures. If only I had the nerve to pull up stakes and go back at a moment’s notice.

Still, now there’s something to look forward to next year – a return trip, this time a south-to-north Camino-esque hike in Portugal that may well end up in the interior of France. Ellen and Reid can only hope this is the last they read of it. But they know once their old man is unleashed on a topic they’ll get a steady diet of my plans.


October 30, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s been a bit of a slog to get back in the swing of things. There’s been just a little bit of jet lag but a lot of general fatigue. Having slept Sunday morning until 10:30 must be the indicator of such. The right ankle is still a bit sore and tender but it’s on the upswing. Didn’t bother me a lick at this morning’s Y workout. The workout bothered me, but not the ankle.

All the gear is unpacked and stowed and the trail clothes are clean at last. It’s kind of serendipitous to put everything away, wondering when and if those things will be used again. But the answer is of course they will. Since there are different Caminos all over Europe, and since I travel on a budget, the south to north route through Portugal has some appeal. That route, as they all do, ends in Santiago, Spain. So that’s what I’m gonna do next fall: the body willing, return for another hike that will mirror this just-concluded one. There’s another incentive. Sondra and Jody have tickets to the Ryder Cup golf event in Paris at the end of September and what I might do, what I could do, is time the walk so as to meet them in France for the tournament.

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I want to experience more of this …

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… and this …

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… and eat more of this.

There’s a lot of planning to do but mostly that will be the plane ticket and knowing the route since I already have the 16-17 lbs. of gear thing down pat. I did find octopus at Whole Foods and am primed to take a stab at preparing pulpo, a delicacy in northwestern Spain. You boil the octopus for about an hour, slice the tentacles into disks, then drizzle it with olive oil and paprika and course salt. It’s divine and way better than it sounds. I looked for it at every cafe on the trail and would eat it when I could.

I’ve been following the domestic events in Spain with some trepidation. I watched the demonstrations only yards away from the flag wavers and Civil Guard lines. The Catalans take independence very seriously but there are a lot of Spaniards who take keeping the nation together just as seriously. There were an estimated one million pro-Spanish marchers in Barcelona over the weekend and part of me wishes I’d still been around to witness that spectacle. My friend Franky, who lives in Alicante in southeastern Spain, has sent me a few messages about the goings on. He has family up in Catalonia and he’s worried about them but my sense is the Spanish are civil and genial enough to avoid any sort of protracted violence. It appears the majority of Catalans aren’t in favor of separation but the region is so wealthy it kind of bristles at having to share its wealth with the rest of Spain. Spain has only had independence since the facist Franco regime was upended in the 1970s. So in a way they still are undergoing some growing pains.

There have been two Airbnb guests here since Friday and they’ve been just fine. The couple was here for a wedding and are set to leave this morning. They brought their little dog with them and aside from some barking here and there she’s been a good girl. I was a little hesitant about their reservation since they made it while I was in Spain but it was hard to turn them down even though I really wanted the weekend to be one to relax alone rather than worry about having the place ship shape. But all in all it’s been good. I’m still on the fence about this Airbnb thing.

Looking forward to seeing you both, the girls and Tim for Thanksgiving in St. Paul. Ellen, I really do volunteer to do a lot of the cooking. Is Tim planning to smoke the turkey? That would be great. I can concentrate on the stuffing, fresh bread and other side dishes. The photos of the girls in their Halloween costumes have just been adorable. It reminds me of how I used to sneak the chocolate candy out of your bags when you were kids. Must be some sort of adult tradition. Heaven forbid you and Tim would do that.

The weather is cooling down here quite rapidly. Nice to see the change in seasons. Had to turn the heat on for the first time if only to keep my weekend guests comfortable. And their little dog, too.

Love, Dad

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All aboard the mundane train … and a 500th post


When you look at where my kids have traveled – especially Reid – I’m a relative neophyte compared to those globe hoppers. 

But travel isn’t the only thing going on these days. I’m trying to play catch-up in relating all the little mundane things before zooming – hopefully the post-Irma weather will cooperate – out of CLT. It’s not just about letters these days. A couple of phone calls and FaceTimes with the kids helped to fill in the information ‘How are you doing?’ gaps, too.

And today marks a milestone of sorts: It’s the 500th post for this blog. That’s a lot of letters over a lot of years. For those of you who’ve stuck with me (and Ellen and Reid) on this compulsive endeavor, thanks.


September 4, 2017

Ellen/Reid: This morning’s 11 mile practice slog with a full pack went well enough. It took a shade under four hours, which equated to about 20 minutes a mile and that wasn’t pushing it very hard. Most of the Camino days are in the 20 – 28 Km range which works out to about 13 – 16 miles which should, heaven forbid, be doable.

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Here’s the whole shebang – all 14.4 pounds of it. Enough for nearly seven weeks on the trail.

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And it all fits (with room to spare) in this 2,100 cu. in. Osprey pack.

Everything of consequence has been purchased; the final major item was a silk sleeping bag liner in the event the evenings are too warm in the hostels. My guess is the final pack weight will be in the 16 lb. range. Not really sure how that could be shaved down. It is what it is.

Celebrated Labor Day by rolling out the grill on the drive way and charbroiling a few burgers. Those were the first of the season and were washed down with a couple of cold ones. Read the Camino guidebook while the cooking was going on. Hard to believe in less than two weeks it’ll be boots on the trail.

Miss Emma is atop the car for a run to Charleston in the morning. I am really fatigued by the walk and the activities of the past few days but if fishing isn’t done tomorrow then there won’t be another excursion until mid-November at the earliest. It looks as if there will be a race against Hurricane Irma which I just saw has grown to Category 4. That’s a biggie. In a way, if it hits us in the next seven days that’s good for me in that it might otherwise delay my outbound flight to Barcelona. I did purchase a train ticket that gets me into Pamplona early in the evening of the 14th; I’ll find a place to bunk then meet Jane and Dave at the local aeropuerto. I’ve arranged for a taxi from Pamplona to St. Jean Pied de Port which is our jumping off point in France. We’ll walk five or so miles and stay at a B&B that Jane found. Reid, it is amazing how many nations – 19 or 20? – you’ve visited. That’s just one hell of a list. The offer of minor help to Sri Lanka is still on the table. You’re putting your old man to shame.

There wasn’t any more time to run the rings over to the jeweler for a final assessment as to their realness. They’re sitting in a little box awaiting for my return. It is amazing that the matching wedding band was a mere few feet away from where the ‘diamond’ engagement ring was found. How could I have missed the diamond-encrusted band, let alone it still being there a week later? Bizarre. No more true valuables have been discovered on any of my recent walks. After you’ve found gold and (faux) diamonds, anything less is a downer.

No more Airbnb guests, and it was a little bit puzzling as to why the dearth of visitors until I scoped out the competition. My place is a hovel compared to what the options are; above garage guest quarters, opulent baths, well appointed bedrooms, etc. And I don’t even offer a TV. Maybe that’s the downer that separates nicer places from mine. Perhaps I should promote my pad as ‘pet friendly’ if the dog is housebroken and behaved. That’s doable, too.

Went to the Panthers NFL preseason game and it was a complete yawner. I don’t know why they even bother having those games. Here’s what’s really stupid, however. I found myself watching virtually every play on the JumboTron screen rather than the real action down on the field in front of me. How insane is that?

Okay, I’m at the end of my rope. Time for shower and a bed. Gotta get up before the chickens in order to arrive at Charleston in the dark. The coffee maker is locked and loaded.

Love, Dad

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The old catch up routine … and turning a two cent opinion into a quarter’s worth


Last week’s letter played catch up on usual and sundry matters after a couple of writing-free weeks.

It’s the letter I’ll write in the next half hour that has me steeling myself.

Ellen and Reid are free to make up their own minds on issues of conscience but that doesn’t mean their old man can’t weigh in with his two cents worth. And this past weekend in Charlottesville – and the president’s lack of pointed condemnation of white supremacists – is a case in point. I’m boiling over it. 

It could be that the two cents will turn into a quarter’s worth.


August 7, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Really good to be home from the long jaunt to Wyoming. But as soon as I say that, sooner than later will come the itch to go back out the third full week in July ’18. Already planning on it. Tom was a good car guy; we split the driving and most of the expenses. He’s pretty low key on stuff like this but what I appreciated most was his attention to the planning details. He is just so organized whereas your old man is deficient in that category. The downer about this portion of the Bridger, the Elkhart Trailhead, was the volume of hikers. I’ve never seen so many people in the back country. People were everywhere, many of them armed, which left Tom, Vince and I to scratch our heads “Why?” At any rate, we didn’t do all the trails we planned on. One stream, Pole Creek, was really a wide, raging river and Tom was reluctant to navigate the 40 – 50 yard waist high ford since that kind of swift, icy cold water really isn’t for recovering heart patients. So we reverted to Plan B and hiked secondary trails which was fine enough. We saved about 20 miles in distance which was okay by me. The fishing was just awful. Not sure why (other than all the other anglers pressuring the fish); maybe it was high water and abundance of food. I suppose if we’d of gone higher/farther there might of been more fish.

But Tom and I got into some decent cutthroats on the Grey River which bisects the center of the Wyoming Range some 50 miles west of Pinedale along the Daniel-Alpine Cutoff which is really a long gravel road.

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Usually a Tenkara man, my friend Tom was uncanny with his casts on his first day with a real fly rod. He caught some nice fish in the Grey River, a largely unknown fishery in the Wyoming Range.

It is one hell of a lesser-known fishery, and Ellen, tell Tim it doesn’t see a ton of pressure and is every inch what the Hoback is. We pitched tents on a flat spot right next to the water and had a great time. But it is good to be home. (Reid, if you see Tom, ask about his run-in with the Wyoming Highway Patrol. It was a scream. I rode him hard about his ‘traffic violation.’)

Tom and Vince both schooled me on the Camino de Santiago and now the preparations for the walk are in full swing. In scarcely a month I’ll wing it to Barcelona, then catch a train to Pamplona where I’ll meet up with Jane and Dave. That will be so fun. A good way to get the thing started. Already, I’ve purchased new ultra-lightweight hiking shoes (as opposed to heavy boots), 50F sleeping bag, rain pants and rain jacket, a very lightweight umbrella, money belt, Osprey Stratos 36 pack, etc. Did a test pack last night and it looks like I’ll have plenty of room for everything. It should be about 12 – 14 lbs. when all is said and done. That’s really doable for 600 miles or whatever it is. I’ve made a pitch to some friends up in Berlin to crash for a few days but have yet to hear anything. I’ve made no plans for a return flight yet. I may bop up to France or dip down into Portugal. Not quite sure when I’ll return. I guess it depends on the Berlin response.

The PGA golf tournament is in Charlotte this week and I’ll have a houseful. My friends Christie and Doug will arrive tomorrow, and then a couple from Missouri will use me as an Airbnb for four nights beginning on Thursday. So I’ll make a few bucks in the deal. Actually, my last two Airbnb visitors have been great. But they comment about the lack of a TV so I suppose I’ll need to get AT&T Uverse cranked up (against my will). If there is a steady flow of guests, it will make it worthwhile. In some ways I feel like a cleaning service. I’ll be relegated to the couch while people are here. Plus, I’m smoking three pork shoulders for about 25-30 people on Friday night. It feels like I’m biting off more than I can chew but it occurred to me over the lonesome weekend that it feels better with people around than not.

I also got to watch over Marvel, a two year old Aussie, for my friends Andrea and Kurt. What a sweet dog.

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Marvel is on high alert for rogue squirrels in the greenbelt. He’s giving Marge a run for her money as the most obedient dog – ever.

There cannot be a more obedient dog in Charlotte. You say a command and he listens. Maybe better than you two did at a young age.

Love, Dad

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A slim month for letters … and severed bear heads


July was an odd month, letter-wise.

Only two single-pagers were mailed, owing to my trip to St. Paul to visit Ellen, Tim, Emma and Georgia followed by the annual trek to the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming. When I get a chance to see Ellen and/or Reid, there isn’t always a letter mailed that particular week. (Note to potential hikers: another six night/seven day backpacking and fly fishing excursion to the Wind Rivers is slated for July 13 – 21, 2018 so set that in stone on your calendar. Feel free to send me a note with any questions.).

But today marks a return to the weekly letter routine. The writing process really isn’t a grind; it’s cathartic and is a joy. A lot of ground will be covered in one page: a recap of the Wyoming adventure, a glut of Airbnb guests (no more trysts that I’m aware of), preparations for the Camino de Santiago in scarcely (yikes!) a month, watching over Marvel the Super Dog, et al.

So there’s no letter to reprint this morning. But one will be written and mailed momentarily. Watch for it next week.

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My hiking buddy Tom Bohr and I enjoyed a cold PBR at our traditional stopover en route from Jackson to Pinedale: the venerable cowboy bar The Elkhorn in Bondurant, WY. It’s the same joint where untold hundreds of visitors have written snarky notes on $1 bills that they pin to the pine walls and boxcar ceiling. It’s also where, if you shoot a bear in season, you plop the severed head on the bar – and earn yourself a free hat.

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Events gone by … and a record for 728 words


One of the drawbacks to posting letters after the kids receive them (rest assured that receiving a letter is not the same as reading it in a timely fashion) is that certain events will have already fallen by the wayside. This letter is chock full of several such examples. But that’s the price to be paid for giving Ellen and Reid first dibs on the letters.

If you notice more typos than usual, that can be pegged to the headlong rush to write and get last week’s letter in the mail before a dead sprint to the airport. And a record it was: 728 words in seven minutes, start to finish. So much for proofing and editing for errors.


July 5, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Reid, since it’s your birthday we won’t get in to how your mom and I gave you the nickname ‘Razzmatazz’ but trust me, you earned it. It really just seems like yesterday that you guys were running around 104th street and wolfing down the raspberries in the garden. It really does. But since this will find you a few days after the fact, I hope you had a good one, kid. And I’ll see you the week after next. You didn’t tell me what you wanted for your b-day so perhaps we can change something down in Chicago.

Ellen, I’m plopped on the couch waiting for a ride to the airport from my friends Andrea and Kurt. I’d really like both of you to meet them at some point since they are truly great people. Plus, they have fun attitudes and good kids. This letter has to be written faster than usual since they will be at the doorstep in short order. They had me over for a family dinner last night with Andrea’s sister and her family, and her parents. It was an honor to be there. But what a hoot that family is. Oh man, they know how to have fun – and how to poke each other in the ribs.

Got the ticket to Barcelona, one way, for $624. I paid an extra $40 for trip insurance, although I don’t know why there would be a reason to scrub the trip other than for something catastrophic. To be honest about it, I approach Spain with some trepidation, in part because I’ll be by myself and it’s wholly new ground to me to make such an adventure. But the guidebook guy strongly recommends that people make the trip solo although he approaches it from a more spiritualistic bend than the reasons I’m making the trip. But that could be a majority of the fun; finding out what you’re made of and if you have the gumption to see the mysterious and unknown through to the very end. It’s a great thing that Jane and Dave will join me on the first three critical days from St. Jean to Pamplona. That will get me off and running. Or at least off and walking. I’m not sure how the end of the trip will unfold so there is no return flight booked as of yet from Portugal. It may be that by that point I’ll be emboldened enough to head north into France or even up to England for a continued adventure. We’ll see. Since I pick up Tom in Chicago, Reid, for our trip to the Bridger, it will give me time to talk through the entire Camino scenario.

Spent a couple of fun days in the mountains with my friend Lynn and a new buddy, Bruce. Both are very good golfers and Bruce and I spared no expense in giving Lynn the needle, although our attempts at humor wore off toward the last day.

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Golf in the North Carolina mountains means lush courses – and temperatures 10 – 15 degrees cooler than hot, steamy Charlotte.

But Lynn has an incredible mountain house with a natural stream running alongside – and beneath portions – of the A-frame. It was just so cool to stay in his place. It reminded me that I have totally, completely squandered the North Carolina mountains. It’s been a lost opportunity.

I played golf for eight straight days and that was enough to cure me for a good long while. It’s just mentally exhausting to keep your head on straight on the course. Minnesota, and Wyoming, will be good for me in that regard. In fact, I can’t wait.

Reid, Jody bought an Orvis fly rod package and man, has he got the bug. He really does. He is chomping at the bit to give fly casting a chance, and we went over to a small lagoon where we caught some equally small brim on tiny flies. It was good for him to get that experience of real fish under his belt. He has a cabin in Canada on a river ( I would botch the name if I tried to spell it) where they have big Atlantic salmon. Now that would be a fish to catch (and release).

Okay. This is a record for a letter. Seven minutes from start to finish. Off to the printer, and then it goes into the mail. See you both very, very, very soon.

Love, Dad

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My pad as an Airbnb? Maybe, but is washing sheets and scrubbing a bathroom really for me? …


One of the chief reasons I bought a three bedroom townhouse was the potential to lure the kids to visit the South. That’s been somewhat unsuccessful and that owes to them living their own lives with a limited timeframe to trek to Charlotte.

That doesn’t mean others might not find my third bedroom palatable for short rentals. It might be farfetched, however, to consider myself a hotelier. I’ve asked Ellen and Reid for the advice. No counsel from them as yet.


June 19, 2017

Ellen/Reid: I’ve enjoyed from afar each of your travels these past few days. Reid, NYC sounds liked great fun, and Ellen, you and the girls seemed to have a great time in California (even though it was blistering hot). Both of you guys just seem to get around. I texted Tim a bit ago and he reported the fishing has been slow owing to strong winds. Those would play hell with a fly fisherman. But the winds will die down and he’ll land tarpon. I’ll head to Charleston early tomorrow. I’m suspicious about the fishing due to warmer water but I can’t go down for the count without swinging. Reid, Cap’n Tripp the kayak guide said they’ve been killing it. But how? He’s been using a bait fish called menhaden that he nets from a boat but I don’t have that facility on the kayak. Otherwise, I’ve been mystified about where the fish are and how to catch them.

There was a nice article about Air B&Bs (sic) in the Sunday New York Times, and it got me to thinking about renting out my spare upstairs bedrooms. How would you two counsel me on the prospect of my pad as an Air B&B?

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I’m mildly intrigued at the idea of my place as an Airbnb. There’s more homework to do, however, before I agree to the idea of washing sheets and scrubbing bathrooms for others.

It sounds like something of a lot of work in terms of changing sheets and buying a TV for the spare room, and maybe cooking breakfasts, etc. But it sounds marginally interesting, and possibly profitable. Of course, the Times wonderful reporting lists both the good and the not so good (rude and demanding guests, etc.). I would appreciate your thoughts.

I’m having a tough time shaking some of the holdover weight gained from before the operation. I mean it’s not critical but it would be nice to stay in the same size pants for a while. It would also make it easier to hike next month. The pint of ice cream I wolfed down last night and today won’t help matters much.

Ellen, in two weeks I’ll be in St. Paul. I’ll still plan to rent a car so you don’t have to haul me around all the time. One question I have for you is: what are people wearing to weddings these days? I’d like to wear a coat and tie but if that’s not the norm, then let me know what you’d suggest. My golf clubs won’t make the trip. There should be a lot of Des Moines people there and it will be fun to catch up. (I just saw an article that lavishly praised Des Moines as one of the top cultural spots in the country.)

And then scarcely 10 days later, Reid, I’ll be with you for a day in Chicago (and hopefully on the way back, too). My workouts have been bruising but the gym work has to be done. There’s no way I’ll head into the hills in as good a shape as last year when the hike was a relative breeze. The knee feels pretty good for a change.

The lettuce out back is kaput. I’ll pull it up later this week. But the container tomatoes are going gangbusters and just this night I had a couple of BLTs, along with a beer. It was too hot to sit out on the porch. It has really been steamy here but that’s what you expect in the South.

Had a pretty good Father’s Day, capped off by talking to the two of you (and the girls). Those two little lovies just sound so refreshing and energetic. I played golf and started out fairly strong but collapsed like a house of cards on the back nine. Just can’t seem to keep any sort of concentration. Maybe that’s an age thing. I cursed like a sailor at some shots.

Here’s some news; Jane and Dave H. may walk a few days of the Camino de Santiago with me. Due to their schedule it may push my departure back a couple of weeks to mid September to accommodate them but that is fine. We’ll probably iron things out at the Furstenau wedding in Minneapolis. I actually think it would be great fun for those two to join me for whatever length of time. One thing I do know, Barcelona will be the likely landing spot for me since it costs so much less than London. The other thing I know is it’s gonna be here before you know it.

Love, Dad

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