Welcome Family & Friends

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting ~ a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last year as I was contemplating my 40th year on this big blue planet, that I have not seen nearly enough of, I thought that it was time to set some firm goals for myself rather than constantly saying “Wouldn’t it be nice to one day…”. Instead of having another blowout birthday bash, I have decided to opt for something a little more introspective. So, that’s it. 2011 is the year I’m doing my Pilgrimage on The Camino De Santiago De Compostela.

Why have I waited so long? Well to be truthful, I really had not heard about it until recently. I actually happened upon the idea watching an episode of "Burt Wolf's Travels & Traditions" on PBS one weekend. Then there's also the finances associated with such a long journey rife with logistics. This endeavor isn’t going to be cheap when you add up plane fare, hiking equipment, 50 euros a day, and time off from work. But my plans are slowly materializing. It’s going to happen - I can see it! I've even asked my friends and family to keep me to my word on this one. I plan on starting my trek in late September during the less congested season. If all goes well, I should end my journey close to the end of October 2011!

I created this blog to keep you all informed on my progress in the months leading up to my trip. This blog will give me a forum to educate everyone about the Pilgrimage and its history...and even comment on the French and Spanish cultures. I also plan on doing a lot of fundraising to help me pay for things I will need, so check back often as I announce events and opportunities for you to help me reach my goals. Speaking of goals, I will also be doing a lot of physical training to ready my body for the long walk. I will be sure to post all my trials and tribulations here as well. I know a lot of you will get a kick out of hearing how I "get back into shape" over the next few months. Please don't hold back if you have any tips that will aid in my fitness.

I will also utilize this blog to diary and chronicle my days while on the Pilgrimage. It will be my main mode of communication since I will be all the way in Spain. I will try and post daily musings of my travels, send out pretty pictures of the contryside, and tell you about all the wonderful people I encounter along the way. My path will take me across 350+ miles of beautiful landscapes starting near the Pyrenees and traversing all the way out to the Galician coast. I’m figuring on 4-5 weeks to reach the Cathedral where the remains of Saint James The Greater rest - I know, can you believe it?!!!

So thanks for visiting my blog! Please come by and poke around as I send out future updates and please spread the word - I want to share this story with everyone and anyone that is willing to listen and learn!

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."


Love Always,
Richert Gordon

The Cathedral De Santiago De Compostela

The Cathedral De Santiago De Compostela
Click the above image to visit the Catedral de Santiago

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Modern Day Pilgrim - What I can expect on my trip to Spain.

WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW

Towards the end of the middle Ages the number of pilgrims traveling to Santiago began to decline but it never stopped, and these days it is definitely “back live”. During 2004, over 190,000 pilgrims walked or cycled some part of the road. However, it is no longer just the religious pilgrimage it once was.

The pilgrimage to Santiago is based on Catholic doctrine regarding sin, its remission and salvation. But today those religious elements share the stage with transcendental meditation, a physical stress test, a place to grieve, a journey of spiritual awakening, and a unique vacation.

Each day’s journey is like a field trip through a continuous museum. You cross two-thousand-year-old bridges that were built by the Romans. You sit down to lunch in the reconstruction of a five-thousand-year-old Iron Age hut. You are in constant contact with the great art and architecture of the Middle Ages.

For many people making the pilgrimage to Santiago is one of the most important undertakings of their lives. It gives them a sense of community in a society that goes back for thousands of years and includes everyone from Saint Francis of Assisi to Shirley MacLaine.

You may be alone when you start your trip but you will always be with someone at the end. Friendships are formed that cut across normal boundaries of age, class, and nationality. Becoming part of a larger community is an essential aspect of the pilgrimage. And working together to get through the challenges of the trip gives everyone a heightened sense of generosity.

The road is also unusual because it is so direct. Everything—the road, the setting sun, the stars—all appear to be going in the same direction. The pilgrim is literally “shown the way”.

Pilgrims experience a powerful feeling of being guided toward a goal, of having a sense of direction, and of knowing where one is going that is not so clear in daily life. Each day is an act of accomplishment toward a stated goal in which everything seems to be going the pilgrim’s way.

Most of the pilgrims are urban, well-educated members of the middle-class and they follow routes that are well marked with yellow arrows or scallop shells. In addition, there are signs that explain the importance of various historical sites.

Central to pilgrimage are the concepts of sin and the weight of one’s soul at death, eternal salvation and damnation. In order to save your soul from the tortures of hell, the Church suggested things that would lighten a soul weighed down by sin and making a pilgrimage was always on the list.

PASSPORT PLEASE

Pilgrims on the road to Santiago are easily recognized. Almost every pilgrim can be identified by the scallop shell around his or her neck or attached to their backpack. The pack itself is also a signal and so is their walking stick.

For some pilgrims the backpack is a symbol of the baggage one carries through life— the lighter your pack the more unnecessary mental and physical baggage you have been able to discard.

The scallop shell is associated with Saint James, but also with the legend of Venus and rebirth. It is meant to remind pilgrims of their spiritual reawakening.

On a gastronomic note, it appears that pilgrims returning from Santiago to France brought with them the inspiration for coquilles Saint- Jacques—a dish of scallops in a cream sauce that is served in a scallop shell.

Pilgrims also carry a credential—a passport that is stamped each day. The stamp indicates a pilgrim’s progress or in some cases the lack thereof.

As part of man’s desire to make life as annoying as possible travelers on the road have developed their own totally unofficial criteria for authenticity. To make the trip on foot is the most “authentic”—the real stuff.

To make it on a bike is “semi-authentic”. Spanish walkers call people who use bicycles “decaffeinated pilgrims”.

To walk but have a support vehicle is not “authentic” but might still be accepted—depending on the circumstances.

Make the trip in a bus or a car and you’re off the team. Many pilgrims also believe that “authenticity” requires at least a month on the road. Of course, none of these standards existed in the Middle Ages—you made the trip and that was it.


UP AT THE PASS

At 3,500 feet above sea level, the hill town of Cebreiro is the last great physical challenge for most pilgrims on their way to Santiago. For hundreds of years a Roman way station at the top guarded this mountain pass. And until the 16th century Cebreiro was one of the only passages into the Northwest of Spain.

In the year 836, a Benedictine monastery was established and it cared for pilgrims for over a thousand years. During the 11th century a rest stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago was set up here and it is still in use.

In the 12th century the church of Santa Maria was built nearby. It contains a sacred chalice that commemorates a 15th century Eucharistic miracle.

The legend states that the Holy Grail from which Christ drank wine during the Last Supper was hidden in Cerbreiro. A priest who had his doubts about the validity of the story was using the cup for the Eucharist.

A massive snowstorm had been raging outside and only a single peasant had climbed the mountain to hear the mass. The priest began to criticize the man for coming through the storm when suddenly the bread and wine turned to flesh and blood. The priest saw the error of his ways.

The remnants of the miracle were placed in a silver container that was donated by Queen Isabel—the same Isabel who had the foresight to put up the money for the voyages of Christopher Columbus.

Cebreiro also has a reconstructed palloza — a type of oval stone house with a thatched roof that was used by the Iron Age tribes who occupied the area before the Romans arrived.

Santiago is less than a hundred miles from Cebreiro—a distance that will be covered in less than a week. The end of the physical trip is near, but for many the spiritual journey is just about to
begin.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My walking distance log with a few observations along the way:

Please be sure to check out the newly posted walking routes I take on a regular basis. To find them, simply scroll down to the bottom portion of this blog to the "MapMyWalk" widgets. Once you pick a route, click on the "view full" button and then select "hybrid map" from the map type drop down menu - this allows you to see actual satellite images...Enjoy!!!

  • 03 June, 2009 ~ 10622 Steps ~ 5.02 Miles :: the weather outside for the past few days has been very "june gloom" - overcast and humid - it even rained a little yesterday, i walked to bel air first to mail some packages and was greeted with smiles from all the customer service clerk ladies who all know me - i stopped to show them my shiny new ipod shuffle...and they all marveled at it.
  • 31 May, 2009 ~ 9641 Steps ~ 4.56 Miles :: another walking expedition at denio's with my push cart at the ready, did a brisk run through first, then negotiated a few items down, ran into the nicest couple (clinton & becky) again - previously purchased some chairs from them several months ago and got 2 beautiful statues from them today: a stunning madonna and child icon and a chippy gold chalkware classical bust - thanks guys!, got to the auction at 8:30am and didn't leave until 1:30pm.
  • 24 May, 2009 ~ 11337 Steps ~ 5.36 Miles :: i got up at 9:00 and headed out to denio's and walked the entire market probably 3 times over, summer is definitely approaching - it totally worked up a good sweat today.
  • 23 May, 2009 ~ 13143 Steps ~ 6.22 Miles :: i decided to get up early and walk before it got too hot today and i was comfortable the whole time - nice breeze and no crowds, my feet ached a little today - maybe because i walked late last night and again early this morning, planning on adding more variety to my walking by trying a little jogging too - perhaps i'm inspired to do this because i had a funny dream that i was running last night - and when i reached the end i realized that i just completed a marathon - weird!...we'll see how that goes over.
  • 22 May, 2009 ~ 12763 Steps ~ 6.04 Miles :: all i have to say is: i was almost attacked by a large white dog at the park today!!! - good thing the owner had him on a leash because the beast lunged at me and almost bit me on the arm but i managed to swerve out of his way in time - whew!, i totally love my new 4GB ipod shuffle - this miniature wonder of technology is astounding - i just wish the ear buds fit a little more snugly into my ears, it is totally hot in california nowadays so i didn't finish my walk until nearly 8:30pm - the last 30 minutes cooled down, but i definitely got a good sweat on today - yes!!!
  • 17 May, 2009 ~ 7707 Steps ~ 3.64 Miles :: late evening walk with anne, bailey, & maya - it was way too hot to walk any earlier, an entire field was mowed down revealing a vast plain of golden hay - such a pretty sight against the verdant green foothills...i absolutely love living in california.
  • 14 May, 2009 ~ 9394 Steps ~ 4.44 Miles :: brisk morning walk at jill & julie's house, the 2 fields i usually cross are now overgrown with weeds so i cross the street to walk pavement, back to wearing my shoes - way better on my feet, the sunshine is blazing outside nowadays - i need to start using sunscreen!
  • 07 May, 2009 ~ 13394 Steps ~ 6.34 Miles :: spring showers have kept me from walking outside - along with other last minute duties, it was a splendid 72 degrees in petaluma today - still a little cautious about the recent 200 pound bear sighting in the hills last week, a ruby-throated hummingbird sat perched in a branch, chirping a song forever, until i approached within a foot of it when suddenly it darted off skyward toward another mate - the two shot off like missles and quickly disappeared into the deep blue yonder in courtship, i forgot my walking shoes in sacramento and had to walk in my slippers today - i now have the blisters to show for such regret.
  • 30 April, 2009 ~ 14104 Steps ~ 6.67 Miles :: a man and his daughter fly a really nice remote control plane in the sky above the park, a group of about 7 teenage boys gather around a picnic table after school and sip on cheap beers and puff on cancer sticks - they try to look cool everytime i pass by, but yet there are no girls to be seen anywhere in the near vicinity - omg...losers!, received a sad phone call from mom early this evening - uncle benji passed away after his long fight at the hospital - uncle...your happy face and funny stories will be sorely missed - my heartfelt condolences, prayers, and thoughts go out to the cabansag family in this time of loss and mourning.
  • 28 April, 2009 ~ 12030 Steps ~ 5.69 Miles :: the weather has cooled down significantly - might even rain this weekend, decided to walk in the late afternoon since earlier today was full of errands - post office, library, one thrift store, walmart, ebay, and cooking an early dinner.
  • 26 April, 2009 ~ 10485 Steps ~ 4.96 Miles :: the only walking i did today was at denio's flea market with dad, if the sunny weather keeps up my skin will - as canyon exclaims "richert, you are so dark you turned dark green!", mental note - buy sunscreen.
  • 24 April, 2009 ~ 16682 Steps ~ 7.89 Miles :: the temperature has cooled down significantly, back walking loops at blue oak park today - i was taken by surprise yesterday when a minivan appeared out of nowhere behind me - i need to lower the volume on the mp3 player when i cross roads in the neighborhood, i am toying with the idea of doing 20 miles on monday - we'll see how the weekend goes.
  • 23 April, 2009 ~ 12491 Steps ~ 5.91 Miles :: it has been a while since i walked last - lots of easter activities and busy working, the weather has gotten blazing hot - for a week now the temperature has climbed into the high 90's, by accident i walk into the women's restroom at the bank after my walk because i was totally rushing - even though there was a keypad code required to get into the bathroom i still managed to gain access to the wrong one - you would think the men's room would have a different code than the ladies - anyway, i found out when i was washing my hands and a black lady walked out of the stall next to me and squealed "you are in the women's bathroom!!!" and she proceeded to crack up hysterically - i thought it was a joke - the worst part was walking out out back into the bank lobby after my folly, everyone was staring because the lady was still laughing out loud - she even tried to give me a high five, but i scurried out in shame!
  • 14 April, 2009 ~ 12402 Steps ~ 5.87 Miles :: dad, bailey, maya and me walked to the park to play basketball, i did a late afternoon walk to the softball park by myself and the wind was crazy - felt like winter again.
  • 13 April, 2009 ~ 17777 Steps ~ 8.42 Miles :: dad, bailey, and maya drove to the golf driving range and i met them there - it is just a little more than 3 miles but it is a little dangerous with all the cars speeding by, taking it a little easy on my left foot - i twisted it on saturday when i walked into a crack in the sidewalk, i think i need to take pain pills after my walks instead of before - my lower legs seem to cramp up more when i do things in this order.
  • 11 April, 2009 ~ 15664 Steps ~ 7.41 Miles :: i walked the back route at the tiu house once by myself and another time with dad, bailey, and maya while they rode their bikes, totally windy outside and not many people on the trail - i guess everyone is getting ready to celebrate easter, i drank a little too much last night visiting with the fisher's at susan and tim's dinner - i could feel it in my legs and was a little lethargic!
  • 08 April, 2009 ~ 31815 Steps ~ 15.06 Miles :: i would not have been able to break the 15 mile mark on national start! walking day without madonna, the bee gees, and tracey ullman...their tunes kept me motivated!, totally broke a sweat today and got rained on simultaneously - that is definitely a weird feeling (hot & cold at the same time), i saw the most glorious John F. Kennedy rose bush in full bloom today - the perfume was intoxicating!
  • 07 April, 2009 ~ 12926 Steps ~ 6.12 Miles :: thank you so much mom for letting me borrow your mp3 player and sending me the "alive whole food energizer liquid" - you are my savior!, i listened to an intriguing podcast on "guerilla gardening" while on my walk and couldn't help but notice all the beautiful plant specimens people plant in their front yards...you just can't appreciate them speeding by in a car - check out the conversation between josh and chuck here: How Stuff Works, the rain is back - i made it home just in time before the downpour.
  • 03 April, 2009 ~ 11683 Steps ~ 5.53 Miles :: my pedometer broke today but walked the same exact route as yesterday, i didn't see a jackhammer operator repairing the road and the sound totally scared me!!! - i thought i was being shot at!, the dead squirrel i saw yesterday really is dead - he's not just sleeping, it was so windy that i didn't have a drop of sweat but my allergies sure are back.
  • 02 April, 2009 ~ 11683 Steps ~ 5.53 Miles :: switched up the route and walked along elverta - about 4800 steps from our door to walmart, today was the first time i've seen a dead squirrel, passed by the old acappella house - the neighborhood sure has changed, found a nickel on the sidewalk.
  • 31 March, 2009 ~ 12895 Steps ~ 6.10 Miles :: my first walk with roxanne, bailey, and maya (on her brand new bike!) through their neighborhood, we see rich coming back from renting his car, we get a little lost crossing picturesque bridges and find a beautiful softball park, nicely paved trails with pretty landscapes but it got chilly toward the end.
  • 30 March, 2009 ~ 10943 Steps ~ 5.18 Miles :: my first walk with julie through her neighborhood, we find the back trail and cross the creek where a little kid's bike is trashed and dumped in the water, i tell her she would love hiking at cherry creek and tell her she should come with us this summer.
  • 27 March, 2009 ~ 12763 Steps ~ 6.04 Miles :: little kids rollerblading with sweaty faces remind me of small kid time when i would bmx with my friends to the pink store in maile - we would buy a cold coke when we got there to refresh ourselves from the scorching summer heat in hawaii then we would sell the glass bottle back for the deposit and buy candy with the refund, a bazillion red ants swarm on a poor baby bird that fell from the eucalyptus above, at dusk 2 ladies ask me for directions on my last lap around - i notice that they are drinking king cobra 40's from paper bags.
  • 26 March, 2009 ~ 21961 Steps ~ 10.39 Miles :: i decide i like walking in a counter-clockwise direction around the park, i become perturbed when i overhear a fat soccer mom refer to her kids as "troops" as in "let's go troops" and then plead with her oldest daughter to drink more banana-orange juice so that she stays "hydrated" when all the little girl wanted to do was hang off the monkey bars, i witness 2 teeneage boys sell weed to 3 of their friends and not look concerned about being watched, 21961 steps = 24 laps around blue oak park = i finally break the 10 mile mark!!!
  • 25 March, 2009 ~ 18453 Steps ~ 8.74 Miles :: the park is filled with chirping birds heralding the return of spring, an old russian couple and their family cheer me on by keeping count of how many laps i do but leave before me, it's a BIG day - i broke the 8 mile mark.
  • 23 March, 2009 ~ 14231 Steps ~ 6.73 Miles :: teenagers eat at picnic tables and let their cheeseburger wrappers fly in the wind and litter the park - they pick them up after i give them dirty looks, looks like the oak trees are finally gaining the first sign of leaves - spring is here.
  • 21 March, 2009 ~ 12746 Steps ~ 6.03 Miles :: group of teeneage boys sing cool rendition of Run DMC & Aerosmith's "walk this way", a little pug/chihuahua puppy named Rocky chases me while his owner picks clover weeds - she claims that if you eat them after parboiling, they aid in curing diabetes.
  • 19 March, 2009 ~ 11450 Steps ~ 5.42 Miles :: 2 laps into my workout my legs start cramping up - i need to return new boots and get re-fitted at REI, i try to keep up with 2 black girls doing exercises but they whiz past me and kick my butt.
  • 18 March, 2009 ~ 10146 Steps ~ 4.80 Miles :: russian lady fills a grocery bag with dandelion flowers probably for tea, fat retired golfer uses park for his own personal driving range, i find one lonely freesia flower in bloom in the rocks.
  • 16 March, 2009 ~ 4995 Steps ~ 2.36 Miles :: dogs in obedience training, i make bailey and maya kick the ball while swinging in the park, bailey's basketball falls in the creek - we retrieve it with sticks.
  • 12 March, 2009 ~ 16073 Steps ~ 7.61 Miles :: almost pooped my pants - plan bm's accordingly, i find a sterling silver dragonfly pin with turquoise stones laying in the grass.
  • 11 March, 2009 ~ 14478 Steps ~ 6.85 Miles :: i am saddened by the flowers, pictures, and letters left tied to a tree where someone died in a car accident, the plum trees are in full bloom.
  • 10 March, 2009 ~ 12341 Steps ~ 5.84 Miles :: mysterious tied-up plastic bag in bushes - does it contain money or dog poop? i decide to leave it alone.
  • 09 March, 2009 ~ 12070 Steps ~ 5.71 Miles :: the walking path in jill & julie's new neighborhood is nicely paved, the smell of garlic and onions cooking at the amy's food factory nearby makes me hungry.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...

So I was on the phone with my mom last Sunday (she is currently semi-retired and resides in Hawaii.), and she suggested that I try and do some fitness walking at the local shopping mall. She had the foresight to check the weather report here in Northern California before she made the call (non-stop rain, FINALLY! We sure need it here in Sacramento), so as to deter me from coming up with any excuses to not exercise. I was then faced with the reality that I really needed to start walking to work my way back to fitness. Sitting idle in front of the computer is worse than being a couch potato watching TV all day, and I have been doing BOTH in the past few months following the holidays! So I took her advice to heart, and drove to the Roseville Galleria to get some much overdue walking in. The rain was relentless, so I was glad to be inside. I proceeded to start walking, and was immediately distracted by a wonderful scent emanating from L'Occitane, so I went in and the very helpful salesgirl told me it was a limited edition "Honey & Lemon Shimmering Eau de Toilette" that goes for $46.00 - go check it out, it is FABULOUS!


After my little diversion, I decided it was time to get to the task at hand. I walked half the length of the mall on the bottom level, and was stopped 4 times! I had enough of the hard sell skin care, 30 minute masseuses, & cell phone barkers, so I took flight to the upper level. Much better, and also carpeted. The immediate thought I had was "Gosh, this mall is empty!". There was no one shopping! This economy was being protrayed dismally on the 5 0'clock news, but it really didn't hit me until my stroll that day in the mall. I have worked in retail over 15 years and I don't think I have seen it that dead in a mall EVER - times have definitely changed!!!

I told myself I would walk non-stop for 2 hours. But I only could manage 1 hour and 40 minutes. Boy am I out of shape! Half way through the walk, my left hip started aching so I stopped. I left the mall a little deflated and pessimistic. In order for me to do the pilgrimage properly, I will need to walk at least 15 miles per day. I didn't even make 3 miles. But I remained positive and remembered that at least I wasn't sitting at home snacking mindlessly, or Facebooking, or Twittering!!! I actually had a smaller meal that evening, and I seemed to rest at night a little better.

The following day and still felt a few creaks in my leg, so I decided to wait a day before I gave it another try. The last thing I want to do is injure myself.

Today I woke up to sun-filled windows. The rain broke, and I could actually walk outside. I proceeded to get dressed and set my sights to Blue Oak Park that is just behind my house, not even a block away. The day was immediately optimistic with clear blue skies dotted with puffy white clouds and I was hoping for a little meditation while on my walk. I was so happy to see that the circumference of the park was paved in smooth cement walkways, and no one was there. I had the whole place to myself. Then I was taken by the blooming plum tree branches and wondered how great they would look in a huge vase on my kitchen counter, and that I needed to bring some pruning shears to collect a few later. Why did I not bring my iPod?! Then I noticed the grass was overgrown and wondered when the maintenance crew was coming by to trim the lawn. It was also a little nippy - why didn't I bring a sweatshirt! Then I noticed how my foot started to ache...why am I wearing these slippers again? I need to break in those new boots!!! So much for meditation. I was able, however, to do 5 laps around the park for about an hour and 15 minutes and my hip wasn't bothering me - yaaayyyyy!!!

So I figure I will continue to do my walks every other day and try to work my way up to 2 hours per day. Once I get my pedometer, I will know better the total distance I cover in a single workout. I am glad I have started and I am positive that I will gain endurance and hopefully drop some weight as my fitness regimen progresses. If any of you out there want to walk with me, let me know - I would love the company!!!

One Cup Of Coffee ~ $5.00

Buy Me A Hot Morning Cortado!

COFFEE MATES:
Yolanda Salondaka
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One Nourishing Meal ~ $10.00

Buy Me A Meal Along The Camino!

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One Night's Logding At A Refugio ~ $15.00

Buy Me A Night's Stay At A Refugio!

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One Glass Of Wine ~ $8.00

Buy Me A Glass Of Evening Vino Tinto!

Blue Oak Park - Antelope, California

Tesconi House - Santa Rosa, California

Tiu House - Petaluma, California