2015 Preparations

1/3/15 2 miles 41 minutes 18 seconds. Started around 11:30. Haven’t walked in almost two weeks, primarily because we were visiting Claudie/JP and Chrissy/John in Dallas right after Christmas. We had a wonderful time, with the primary focus on just spending time together. As always happens when I am with these two families, I was continually struck by the power of love to help people become more whole. And how lucky I am to have these two sons-in-law. Back to the Pilgrimage. On January 1st it struck me: this is the year. Almost before we know it, God willing, we will be on our way. I am not sure whether my primary feeling is excitement or apprehension, probably both. I do know I pray every day for God’s help in supporting me in overcoming whatever stands in the way of our going. Finished reading “Steps out of Time, One Woman’s Journey on the Camino.” It is a wonderful book and gave me countless insights about making this pilgrimage. Some of my favorites: The Camino helps me exercise painful memories so the good ones can come front and center stage. The Camino helps me reconcile what I know with what I feel. When I am conscious of pain, I am truly present. Being, just being. One must embrace the hardships of life as well as the joys because it is the hardships that make us fully human. Both are integral parts fo life, but how we deal with adversity defines us. Accepting kindness is another way of letting go. The Camino is a way of contemplation. It is a journey of the Spirit. You must let go of the material world. A journey with a common goal creates a bond that encourages us all to reach out with kindness. What is astonishing about the Camino is the increasing sense of connectedness, wisdom and understanding. I pray every day for the grace to make this pilgrimage, the courage to open myself fully to the power of the Spirit, the perseverance to cleanse myself of everything that prevents the Lord from touching me more deeply, and sight to find God in everything I experience; all to help me increase my conscious contact with him.

1/13/15 2 miles 41 minutes 36 seconds. This morning I saw the therapist for my “problem” thumbs (both have multiple bone-on-bone joints, making holding trekking poles for any period of time quite painful). A surprisingly short visit because the only possible solution was a flexible brace that is almost like a funny looking glove. So, I am now the proud owner of two of them. Not only was the visit short and the answer obvious, but Medicare paid for everything.

1/17/15 2 miles 41 minutes 24 seconds. Walked around 10:00 AM. Last night we went to Le Bohème  to support my singing teacher, Janet Perez. Wonderful evening. Both Frannie and I loved the music. I am increasingly convinced music allows us to participate in the Divine in a way I can’t quite define. I think it has something to do transcending the time dimension in our lives, allowing us to experience again something that happened in the past or something that will happen in the future. The final scene of the opera involves the death of a loved one. As the music played, I could not understand the words but felt I was dealing with Frannie’s death. Wild.

1/21/15 2 miles 40 minutes 35 seconds. Walked after church, Dunkin’ Donuts prayer group, and Publix shopping for the meal I am preparing for a parishioner who was in a car accident. Beautiful sunny, low 70’s day.

2/16/15 2 miles 42 minutes 36 seconds. Long time with no walking. Partly due to cold weather, prolonged feeling of being under the weather, endless things of other things that needed to get done, and, perhaps most importantly, laziness. Need to get back going.

2/26/15 2 miles 41 minutes 50 seconds. Walked after taking Tim and Joanne to the airport. We had a wonderful visit with them. Warm overcast day. Feeling very blessed.

3/7/15 2 miles 43 minutes 24 seconds. Cooler overcast morning as I walked about 8:00 AM. Big day today: speaking at Nancy’s Haiti luncheon and then preaching with Fr. Art about financial giving.

3/14/15 2 miles 42 minutes 54 seconds. Warm morning. Caritas coming along fine. Michele, Liz, Kevin visit last week. Good fun.

3/23/15 2 miles Untimed. Warm humid day. Walked with John Penoyar and Frannie. Just finished Caritas V retreat. Great success overall. Today, we are just feeling good and trying to get some rest.

3/29/15 email to John McGrath: John, I hope you are doing well. I am just getting back to physical training, although the real work begins when I get back to Tamworth. I have been doing some research on two subjects: where we might decide to stay and how one goes about arranging the safe transfer of my back pack from one place to another. While I should have figured it out before now, I now think the two subjects are related. First, where we might decide to stay. The choice most people talk about are called either refugios or albergues. The advantages of these places are low cost (about 10 Euros a night apiece) and a more intensive pilgrimage experience. From my perspective, the main disadvantage is the need to carry a sleeping bag, towel, wash cloth and soap. Of course, the various by-products of sleeping with many other people is also a factor. The alternative (which Linda recommended) is to stay at low-end hotels (about 40 – 50 Euros a night apiece). The disadvantage is cost, but the freedom of traveling without sleeping bag, etc., plus the idea of a little more privacy, guaranteed hot water, showers, bath tubs when desired, etc. seem, at least to me, to make this alternative the one we should pursue. So my question to you is, are you willing to go along with this idea? Before answering, you can check it out in the following manner: Open your Pilgrim’s Guide to the CAMINO de SANTIAGO by John Brierley. Go to the end of each day and Google the name of the town we stop in (RONCESVALLES for the first day). You will get a list of recommended hotels. At least one of the choices that comes up will be listed in Brierley’s book. I checked the first three nights and came up with similar answers for each day. I also noticed what seems to be an added advantage, at least from my standpoint: all three hotels can be booked through BOOKING.com, a site I have had good experience with. While I am not sure, I think the answer to my second question is quite simple: if you stay at one of these hotels, they arrange (for a fee) to have your backpack shipped to the next hotel. Since the hotel’s reputation is tied to accomplishing this successfully, I am a lot more confident this may actually work. I hope this is enough information for you to mull over, check out, and then, when ready, get back to me with your thoughts. Love to all, Getting excited, Bill

3/30/15 2 miles 41 minutes 49 seconds. Beautiful morning. Walked after Mass and Dunkin Donuts prayer group. Practiced Exsultet. It is coming. Thanks to Janet, my terror is gone and has been replaced by the same nervousness I feel before an important homily. Response from John: Hi Bill Got your message I am gearing up prep and training as well. In general, I am supportive of the idea…we need to build in the easiest path for our strategy. I will have more time to check when return home, in NY now. Thanks and love, John My response to his response: Everything is on schedule and going according to plan And then, from him: Amen! Two hours later: Just spent the last hour and ½ trying to find a way to order the special raincoat (actually a poncho) I want to take on the trip. It is a lightweight, very large poncho that covers not only most of me but also my backpack. The problem is it is sold only at a specific store in Paris. Because of our cell phone and local phone plans, we have no way to call this store directly. As a result, Frannie and I spent almost an hour this morning trying to place an order through their website. We finally concluded they do not have the capability to calculate shipping costs to the United States and so our attempt to use the website failed. But Frannie then remembered a cousin of hers and his wife happen to be in Paris right now (and will be there for three more days), so we have just emailed them and asked them to go to the store and buy the poncho. Now we will see what happens next.

4/3/15 2 miles 42 minutes 20 seconds. Walked after Good Friday prayer service. Final tuning of Exsultet. About time to turn it over to God. Heard back from Frannie’s cousin. They were able to buy my poncho! God is good. They will mail it to us once they are back in the states. Did some checking on trains from Paris to St. Jean Pied de Port. Once leaves Paris at around 12:30 and gets to a town 25- 30 miles from our final destination around 5:30. We can either then rent a taxi and get to our hotel one hour later or take a train and a bus and get there two hours later. Guess which option I am going to vote for? Also, I am going to vote for first class train fare. My only remaining question is how best to get from the airport to the train station. Taxi probably best, but I may look at Metro. I guess I have one other question. DO we have time to stop and get palmiers on the way?

4/6/15 3 miles 105 minutes 19 seconds. Walked after early morning blood test, Mass and the better part of a cup of coffee. Felt good. I was finally pleased with my singing of the Exsultet Saturday night. Afterward, I felt a little let down because no one came up and congratulated me. But then it dawned on me. That’s the way it is suppose to be. People try to cheer you up when it is obvious you are struggling.

4/7/15 2 miles 40 minutes 57 seconds. Walked after Mass again. Warm, but with just enough breeze. Talked to John on Sunday. What fun we are having. Linda Luizza (walked the Camino this past spring) sent me a wonderful article on backpack transport. It answered my most pressing questions and was like a message from God confirming this is all going to work.

4/17/15 2 miles untimed. Walked after preaching at Jack Palace’s funeral. Tough assignment.

4/18/15 2 miles 43 minutes 28 seconds. Walked around 7:00 AM with Frannie. Nice way to start a day. My weight is going in the wrong direction! Must get on it. Ordered anther pair (hopefully better) of rain pants yesterday in the hopes I can find something that will work with my new Paris poncho.

4/23/15 2 miles 42 minutes. Walked after Mass. Warm, humid, overcast day. Returned last night around 1:30 AM from Denver where we attended an “Amazing Parish” conference. I feel like saying it was a life-changing experience but we will we see. It was extremely well done and extremely provocative.

5/11/15 2 miles 42 minutes 10 seconds. Very warm and muggy afternoon. Walked in late afternoon. We arrived home from our ten-day trip to attend Megan’s graduation and see various friends. Overall very worthwhile but it was exhausting. Most difficult moments came when in Brian’s company, but it all worked out. I miss him.

5/13/15 2 miles 42 minutes 53 seconds. Walked at 6:00 AM with Frannie. Legs felt slow. Very muggy but otherwise beautiful. As is obvious from the last few entries I am trying to move to a 2 miles twice a day routine for our last couple of weeks in Florida. The final push begins! 95 days (I think, based on my count) till we leave. I can feel the anxiety beginning to gnaw at my resolve. Remember, Bill, nothing is impossible for God. One of the most perplexing (if not time consuming) aspects of this trip has been trying to make sure I will a sufficient quantity of all my prescription meds to take with me. Eleven different items, split between five ointments and six pills.

5/15/15 PM 2 miles 42 minutes 49 seconds. Walked a little before 5:00 PM. Spent the afternoon with Ross Rowlinson editing footage we shot over a month ago. Ross is a master at taking my fumbling and turning it into something presentable.

5/18/15 PM 2 miles 43 minutes 50 seconds. Started quite warm but a nice easterly breeze by the time I finished. Stopped by my bank, Floridian Community Bank, this morning. Lauren was very helpful in raising what I can withdraw with my ATM Card to $500 in France and Spain from August 16th to October 2nd.

5/20/15 AM 2 miles 42 minutes 1 second. Good walk. Felt strength in my legs for the first time. Maybe it was the appointment I had yesterday with a foot specialist. What a thoughtful gift by Nick Ferrara. 88 days.

5/21/15 AM 2 miles 43 minutes 27 seconds. Felt sluggish again. Frannie came to the Choir party last night and ended up staying for rehearsal. Now she is excited about joining the choir.

5/23/15 2 miles 43 minutes 27 seconds. Walked around 8:00 AM. Very warm. Didn’t walk yesterday as the day got away from us, including an unplanned trip to the skin doctor to have some cancer cells removed from my ear. Wonderful dinner at a place called Relish with Scotty and Jim last evening. Think I ate over 3000 calories: burger, home made potato chips, fried onion straws, a Heath bar milk shake and fresh made donuts with caramel, chocolate and peanuts on them. WOW! Based on granddaughter Liz’s suggestion, I now own a fit bit. Of course, I promptly lost it, but fortunately found it this AM.

6/3/15 2 miles 53 minutes 48 seconds. Obviously, we are back in Tamworth! My walk this morning in low 60s sunshine went as well as I could hope for. My new Oboz “mid” boots (tops half way between a shoe and a full boot) worked well, especially the right hand one that is one size bigger than the left. Was not as winded as I thought I would be. Good way to start my last summer of training. 74 Days to go. Our trip from Juno Beach was busy with many visits.

6/4/15 AM 2 miles 51 minutes 56 seconds. Walked around 9:00 AM with Frannie. Legs felt a little sluggish after my walk yesterday. Slow but sure, I hope. Went to Eastern Mountain Sports yesterday. Purchased a bright red main backpack and a small daypack. I am pleased with both. In fact, I wore the daypack (with only my windbreaker in it) this morning and it felt fine, with the little weight evenly distributed across my shoulders (and not on my lower back). I hope this remains true as I increase what I carry in it. I also found what appear to be ideal pants: lightweight, zipper to detach leggings on warm days, comfortable pockets, a small amount of elastic give, and a cloth belt so I do not need suspenders if weight loss make the pants too loose. They even come in a “short” length that fits me perfectly.

6/4 – 8/15/15 On June 4th, I started my planned 10-week (actually almost 11) training program. I had two objectives: 1. See if anything would break, and 2. Prepare for the rigors of walking 15 miles or more almost every day for more than a month. I quickly learned there was a third reason: to prepare my self emotionally and spiritually. The training regimen went as follows: starting at 4 miles a day for five days a week (resting/recovering on Saturday and Sunday), I then moved to 6 miles a day for two weeks, 8 miles a day for two weeks, 10 miles a day for three weeks, 12 miles a day for two weeks, and 14 miles a day for the last two weeks, with at least one day at 16 miles. You can imagine how I felt finishing my last walk yesterday (Friday, August 14th). The basic pattern of what I experienced during those ten weeks mirrored what I have been experiencing for the last three years: extreme weariness whenever I moved to a longer distance followed by normal tiredness within five days; gradual quickening of pace, and strengthening of my feet, legs and back; until I hit a day  when everything seemed to go just fine.

This pattern reminds me of one of the themes in Seasons of the Heart, a book written by Fr. John Powell, S.J. His contention is most of us never use more than 10% of our God given potential, primarily because we have a very difficult time leaving our “comfort zone”, and seldom if ever make any effort to move beyond our predictable patterns of living. One way to change this is a process called “stretching”, which means to consciously do something that makes us uncomfortable (best if a relatively small change at any one time), but is something we somehow know will make us more complete. Repeated several timeswe gradually find that what first seemed a great stretch has become part of what we are now comfortable doing. In the process, we grow and learn to live life more fully, which I believe is what God wants us to do with our time here on earth.  And that has been the pattern of my walking, starting with 100 yards and now up to fourteen miles a day (oh yes, there was one at sixteen).

That is not to say every day goes swimmingly. There have still been days when I wondered if I would be able to even finish that day’s walk. When I experienced a poor day, It seemed as if I was trying to literally walk through three feet of water. Other than warmer, more humid days, there was no consistent pattern to these difficult days. They just happened.

The constant throughout this whole period continued to be Frannie. She walked the first two miles with me many days (making it a total of four by the time she got back home), always had a nice lunch prepared when I arrived back from my morning walk (regardless of when that might be), and had countless helpful suggestions on things I should or should not take. I know she made this whole training routine bearable and, at times, something approaching enjoyable.

I have been asked (as has Frannie) how I spent my time while walking (close to eight hours a day by the last week). Very early in the process, I just started saying short repetitive prayers as I walked, usually in rhythm to my walking pace. I am not sure where they came from, but here they are: Thank you, Jesus, thank you; Sacred heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner; Spirit come, transform me; Sacred heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you; and Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me, a sinner. I would usually change from one to another every one, or sometimes two, miles; sometimes I would just use the same prayer for the entire walk. Surprisingly (at least to me), I spent very little time thinking about the past or future. I tried to stay in the present. So I guess the answer to the question “How did I spend my time while walking?” was…just putting one foot in front of the other, doing my best to stay in the moment. Looking back, I am shocked I actually stuck to the plan.

There were many days I did not feel like walking, some days I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. I am not sure how I did. I do know I was never alone. What follows are a number of quotes from that ten week period that I thought you might find interesting.

Rainy…quite heavy by the time I stopped. Temperature about 60. Tried just my Chrissy shirt and Paris poncho plus my EMS pants.. . Plenty warm but quite wet by the time I got home. Today’s walk was drudgery. I felt like I was walking through water up to my knees. Right foot started hurting at 2 mile mark. Hope more training will solve both these problems. One thing I have noticed. It is hard to get the first mile done each day. First, there is the almost dread-like feeling getting ready, doing my core exercises, eating breakfast, bathroom, getting my socks and boots on snugly. I am not sure why. But then, once underway (actually started at 8:15 this morning), it takes awhile for the body to loosen up and get in a rhythm. About a mile. Maybe this is like life, whenever you are trying to move forward. Will have to think about this.

I think my times reflect the Friday “effect.” I am bushed. I pray this is doing some good in terms of strengthening my body. I am glad I have the next two days off. ONE week closer to “D” (departure) day. Wet really rainy day. Decided to do entire walk in one shot. I am now feeling triumphant and absolutely exhausted. Overcast, low 70’s. Great for walking. Lower legs and ankles getting stronger. I think my feet are too, but it is a slower process. Started using my new pair of hiking boots I ordered to use on the actual pilgrimage. I did so because hiking boots have a useful life of something around 500 miles, which the boots I bought last year will have by the time we leave. New boots a little lighter than what I am now wearing. They felt stiff but good. I will break them in slowly, using them for only about 70 miles before we leave.

I had a very successful trip to a dermatologist in Wolfeboro and the drive down and back gave me the opportunity to reflect on where I am in my preparations for the pilgrimage. First, the dermatologist. He took care of the wart or mole or whatever in an embarrassing place in no time flat. Just froze it right off. Didn’t even hurt that much. Then he gave me some excellent advice for dealing with the tendency for moisture to accumulate on the inner sides of my thighs. On the way down, I reflected on the fact my physical preparations are progressing, albeit at a much slower pace than I would like. Then the more important insight. Maybe my spiritual readiness is following the same track. Slowly changing for the better, but at a pace that makes it hard for me to notice any difference from one day to the next. Spending multiple hours walking, much of the time in some form of meditative prayer may be just what the Lord finds best. Even if I don’t. And, in the end, isn’t that the whole idea? On the way back, the following occurred to me. I just may really do this. And the Lord, in his own way, whether with cooler than normal weather to help me get acclimated to all this walking, or a dermatologist who does and says all the right things, is quietly nudging things along to provide to help make it all possible: both exciting and a little scary.

Email to John: John, This may be in the category of planning too far ahead but I have an idea. Once we reach Santiago de Compostela, the best option for getting back to Paris is a flight from an airport about 30 miles away in Coruña. There are a bunch of flights, almost all at uncomfortable times (leave very early or very late and arrive even later). My suggestion is to make reservations now on Saturday, September 26th for a decent time, with insurance in case something happens to us, and, if not too expensive, with the ability to change it by a day or so if we get delayed or want to leave a day earlier. I think the per person price will be about $350. The Saturday, September 26th date gives us 33 days for walking and another 5 for breakdowns or relaxing. If you agree, send me your name as it appears on your passport and I will look into it with a travel agent Frannie and I have used. Love, Bill

In what is known as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous there is a discussion of Spiritual Awakenings. Some are apparently almost instantaneous while others are more gradual. In either case, the result is a fundamental change in one’s outlook, behavior, etc. I mention all this because I think I may be going through one. This regimen of ever increasing time walking (now up to a little under five hours a day, five days a week), most of which is spent in prayer, may be having an effect on me. Maybe my pilgrimage has already begun. Thank goodness all things are possible with God. Right now I have no idea how I could walk another eight miles.

John, I have done some research on your question about splitting up the first day. There is an Albergue in Orrison, which is about 5+ miles from St. Jean Pied de Port. This is on the route over the Pyrenees. My thought was we could arrive in St. Jean on the 17th, get what we need (passport scallop shells, cheap cell phone if we want one on the morning of the 18th) and then leave with a packed lunch around noon, arriving at Orrison sometime around 4:00 – 5:00. If you look at the map, this would take care of some of the steepest walk, and leave a comfortable (?) 12 miles the next day.The problem is the only thing available are bunks requiring sleeping bags etc.

Felt good when I started so I decided to try doing the final two miles after a break and light lunch but without a nap. The good news is it worked, even though my light lunch break morphed into an hour+ thanks to good Wimbledon tennis. My feet felt better today. Significant pain in front right toe, right front foot and left side of left foot not really present. I think my feet are slowly adjusting, something like two (maybe 1 ½) steps forward and one back. I think the same thing can be said for my whole body. Another example of God’s timing versus mine. Actually kind of exciting. I feel I am never doing this on my own. Even when it is warmer and more humid (like today), I can reflect on how helpful the weather has been up until yesterday, and then thanks for the gentle cooling breeze that seems to come up just when I need it. Both ankles still sore by the end of the day. Wore my new boots again for the last two miles. Felt like I couldn’t walk another 10 feet by the time I finished. Of course, I now know I have felt this way before so I try to focus on the good news. My feet continue to slowly improve. No real pain until 8th mile, and then it wasn’t as bad as earlier walks.

The last two days I have experienced back pain on my right side. I think this is just my muscles learning how to support my body with all this walking. We are going to try and stay at the Orrison, which allows us to break the all day climb over the Pyrenees on our first day into two more digestible pieces.

25 pounds lost 5 to go.

Today was a one step back day. I didn’t feel like getting up, I definitely did NOT feel like walking, getting ready was almost physically painful (or so it seemed), and once I started I realized I was in for another “I’m walking through 3 feet of water” days. Left around 8:00, didn’t get back until almost 1:30, totally exhausted. My feet both hurt for a fair part of the walk, with my right front foot flaring up pretty badly in both the 4th and the 8th mile. Today was definitely a one step back day. But I finished. Sacred heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you.

Started around 7:30 and walked a 10 mile route. Felt much stronger than Friday, thank God. Right foot discomfort at 7th and 10th mile. Trying a new form (for me at least) of blister band aid. Yes, I finally have a blister and the band aid seemed to help. Not sure you really care, but I have seen a black bear, two foxes, a mother turkey with her seven to eight rapidly growing chicks, a ground hog, two ruffed grouse, eight Mallard ducks, a family of ravens (the two young ones have grown quite friendly) and a baby moose while walking these roads. I almost added…and a partridge in a pear tree.

Frannie and I were talking about the differences between the training I am doing now and what my experience will be like on the pilgrimage. We came up with four: 1. There are other things I need to deal with now; on the pilgrimage it will be my only focus; 2) I keep covering the same routes here; there will be something new every day on the pilgrimage; 3) I am eating sparsely to lose weight and I can feel the lack of energy during my walks, especially later in the week; on the pilgrimage I will able to eat a more energy giving mix of foods; 4) Bugs. Linda claims they are almost non-existent on the Camino, and the combination of noseeums, mosquitoes and deer flies that seem to fly in squadrons here makes me feel like I am running an obstacle course some days. Deerflies are the worst. I hope they disappear soon. I think all four will make a difference. I also think there will be days on the pilgrimage when I just won’t feel like walking.

10 miles 4 hours 38 minutes (a new record I think). I was worried about how I would feel walking this morning after walking late yesterday afternoon. Was I surprised. Felt so good I walked without needing a break. May have been helped by my new hiking boots and/or the Band-Aid blister bandages I was wearing on my big toe on my right foot, but the walk was the best I have had this season. God must be in favor of this pilgrimage. Too many things are just working out.

27 pounds lost, 3 to go.

Making a reservation at the Orrison for our first night on the Camino has been a fascinating challenge. When I received no response to my email request (using the special email reservation form on the website), I finally called. I was told that feature did not work and I should send an email to them using the address listed on the website. When I discovered this also did not work, I called back and was told to call a separate number. The gal who answered this time told me she could not take my reservation request for another two days and would I please call back then. The beat goes on….  Finally had success with the Orrison. After some discussion, John and I decided to make room reservations for the first nineteen days of our pilgrimage, with a day off after the ninth and nineteenth days. The process did not go as smoothly as I had originally told John. While I was able to use Booking.com for the majority of them, there were some interesting broken Spanish telephone conversations and email exchanges before all was settled. But the I think the effort will prove helpful as we make our way along the Camino.

12 miles 5 hours 56 minutes. First time in all my training I have walked a distance we will actually be walking on the Camino (12 miles). Tired but feel good.

14 (yes, that’s right: 14) miles 6 hours 25 minutes. Felt good when I started this AM. Fourteen miles is the longest I have ever walked! Warm, humid day to complicate things, starting around 10:00. Walking up hill getting easier. Still working on various foot discomforts, most often on one of my two big toes. Overall, I am so grateful my body is holding up. Thank you, Lord.

28 pounds lost, 2 to go

10 miles 4 hours 46 minutes. I think this was the most difficult day I have had in all my training. Not sure why. Weather not that hot or humid; there was actually a breeze from time to time. I got a good night’s sleep last night and felt pretty good when I started. But part way up the first incline I could tell I was without any energy. This was complicated by back pains (I assume from getting used to walking with the backpack, as light as it is), and eventually feelings of dizziness, that resulted in multiple rest stops. All this might have been caused by this being a Friday following a couple of days with 14-mile walks with high humidity and relatively little food, but I am not sure. Whatever it is, I hope it does not happen again soon. I will trust.

16 miles 7 hours 17 minutes. I can’t remember how long I first made walking 16 miles in a day my training goal. With the regimen I established for this summer, this was scheduled to happen next week. So today, I met one of my most important pre-pilgrimage goals, and I even did it a little early. I feel good. I think the miracle, or answered prayer, or grace, is that my body has held up and slowly gotten stronger. Not bad for someone with two fused feet, one bad knee, one knee replacement, a bad back and two bad hands. I’d like to throw in a heart that is too strong in the hopes someone will think strong is the same as big, but I don’t think that counts.

12 miles 5 hours 36 minutes. Joined by Chris Canfield for part of the morning walk and Fr. Dave Riley for the afternoon walk. Legs sluggish. Beautiful day.

8 miles 3 hours 17 minutes. Not that anyone is counting, but that’s less than 25 minutes a mile. One more week. I now know I will never be READY, but I know I can trust.

30 pounds lost. 0 to go. That’s a smile on my face.

John, Chrissy and family are here. Did not sleep well last night because I was so excited to be this close to our leaving. As a result our walk today was a little harder than it needed to be. One week from today we will be in France, on a train down to St. Jean.

John has done extremely well with the walking all week long. He moved from 10 miles to 12 miles to 14 miles to 16 miles in four days. It took me nine weeks to do the same. Of course, he is a bit sore and is sleeping the sleep of the dead.

A real joy to have all the McGraths here. John and I are having much fun going over the almost endless list of non-essential things we have accumulated to bring on our trip. Also much good food, laughter and good times with the whole family.

John and I have walked in rain, sun and everything in between. Now all we need to do is pack all the stuff we have accumulated over the last two years in to two back packs and…we will be ready to go.




It is good to have a dream.