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Well, we did it. My brother and I arrived in Santiago de Compostela on Thursday, October 12. This was after hiking – and biking – the Camino de Santiago, as shown in the map above. Along the way I occasionally listened to my iPod Shuffle – to help pass the time – and one of my favorite songs was It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. Except in my mind I had to change the words to “It’s a long way to Santiago!”
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Just as an aside, Monday October 23 was the Feast day for St. James of Jerusalem. He was also known as James, the brother of Jesus, “James the Just,” and was said to be the first Bishop of Jerusalem.* He held that post until his death, by “martyrdom in 62 or 69 AD.”
And just in case you’re confused – about the number of “Jameses” in the Bible – there are at least three men named James in the New Testament, and possibly as many as eight. (See “BIO of Philip and James,” which attempts to sort them out.)
In that list, James the Just (“Brother of Jesus”) is listed third. James the Less – possibly the “son of Alphaeus” – is listed second. Listed first is St. James the Greater – “for whom the Camino de Santiago is named,” and who is in fact the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. Which is something I mentioned in my last post, On a pilgrimage in Spain. A link in that post added this, after first noting that in English the route is known as “the Way of St. James:”
The Way of Saint James … is a network of pilgrims’ ways serving pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth.
So on October 23 we remembered St. James of Jerusalem, also known as James, the brother of Jesus. But from September 13 to October 12 – you could say – I “remembered” St. James the Greater, by going for a long walk on his pilgrimage route. (Sore feet and all…)
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Getting back to the pilgrimage itself: On October 3, in Puente La Reina, in Spain – “about eight miles shy of León” – I wrote that – on reaching Leon – “we will have hiked 250 miles from Pamplona, in the 21 days since we left on September 13.*” Here’s another note:
The first 10 days after [Pamplona] – on the hike – were pretty miserable. My left foot constantly throbbed, until it blistered up and got tough. But the day off in Burgos helped a lot. And since then we’ve made good progress. Still, we had to implement a Plan B, which involves renting bikes in Leon and cycling the remaining 194 miles.
And speaking of Burgos, here’s a picture of the city’s famous cathedral. It shows my fellow traveller, and was taken on the morning of September 26, on the way out of town. (That took over an hour, hiking.)
To make a long story short, we covered the last 195 miles or so in seven days, riding mountain bikes, complete with panniers on the back. In other words, during the first two-thirds of the trip we averaged 12 miles a day, hiking. In the last seven days we averaged closer to 28 miles a day.
But in a way that turned out to be simply a variety of Dorothy Parker‘s “different kind of hell.*” (We just got way too sore again, but in different parts of the body.)
You can get a better idea from the map at the top of the page. It took ten days to hike from Pamplona to Burgos, where we too our first day off. It took another 10 days to reach Leon, where we took our second day off and picked up our pre-ordered bikes. Then that long section from Leon to Burgos – some 195 miles of the 450 – we covered in seven days.
But not without mishap. Neither of us had ridden a bike in 40 years or so, so it wasn’t real surprising when my right handlebar smashed the heck out of the side-view mirror of some poor slob’s nice new car.* In the second mishap I literally “ran my ass into a ditch…”
We were zooming downhill one afternoon. I tried to adjust my left pantleg, and the next thing I knew I was laying in a ditch, bleeding like a stuck pig. And not just any ditch. A nice deep ditch covered with thorns and brambles on the sides and bottom. The “stuck pig” part came when my Ray-Bans gashed the bridge of my nose, causing it to bleed profusely…
The third major mishap came a mere six kilometers from Santiago, when my rear tire when flat.
We finally got a new tube on and inflated, but then had a time getting the chain back on the derailleur. I finally flagged down a passing Spanish cyclist. He helped get that straight, but then – after he peddled his merry way – we found out there were no rear brakes, which posed a problem. We knew that much of the remaining six kilometers was downhill, and also that if applied too forcefully, using front-only brakes can cause a cyclist to go “ass over teakettle.”
So my brother had us switch bikes, and we both glided – carefully and gingerly – into Santiago.
I’ll be writing on more of these adventures, including the several times I – or we – got Lost in Spain. But after five weeks in Spain – the last part of which included a nine-hour bus ride from Santiago to Madrid, and a 10-hour flight from Madrid to Atlanta – I can only say, with feeling:
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There is indeed “no place like home” (especially after a long pilgrimage…)
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The “Tipperary” image is courtesy of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary – Wikipedia.
Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section. Thus as to Jesus’ brother being the “first,” see James the Just, First Bishop of Jerusalem, Jesus’ brother.
As to the asterisk next to the passage “the 21 days since we left on September 13:” We actually reached Leon on October 4.
Re: Fellow traveller. Here referring to a person who is “intellectually sympathetic” – in this case, to the crazy idea of spending thousands of dollars and five weeks to hike in a foreign country – as opposed to the term as used in U.S. politics in the 1940s and 1950s. At that time and place the term was a “pejorative term for a person who was philosophically sympathetic to Communism, yet was not a formal, ‘card-carrying member‘ of the American Communist Party.”
Re: “Different kind of hell.” The allusion is to Dorothy Parker‘s famously saying – whenever the door rang in her apartment – “What fresh hell is this?” That’s also the title of Parker’s 1989 biography by Amazon.com: Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?
Re: “Some poor slob’s nice new car.” City streets in Spain are generally very narrow and difficult to maneuver.
The “bicycle in a ditch” image is courtesy of Cyclist falls into ditch at opening of new safer bike path …telegraph.co.uk.
The lower image is courtesy http://f3nation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/no-place-like-home.jpg. See also No Place Like Home – Wikipedia, which noted that – aside from the famous line in the movie Wizard of Oz – the phrase may also refer to “the last line of the 1822 song ‘Home! Sweet Home!,’ words by John Howard Payne and music by Sir Henry Bishop; the source of inspiration for the other references here: ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home,’” and/or “‘(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,’ a 1954 Christmas song most famously sung by Perry Como.” For a “live” version, see also There’s No Place Like Home – YouTube.