October 4, 2022, at Matasinhos, Portugal.

Dear Christine. Throughout the 2 Caminos that we have walked together, one in 2013, and one in 2018, we marveled at the frequent, unanticipated and unexplainable events that we came to call “Camino Moments“. Eddie, the pilgrim from Puerto Rico, once instructed me, “Peter, in life there are no coincidences.“ How right he was.

We begin our walk this morning on the Camino with a visit to the cathedral in order to get our credentials stamped at the start.

I walked up to the counter where the young women prepared to assist me. I immediately recognized her. It took her just a moment before her eyes grew wide and she spoke my name. Do you recall those two young women students who were so helpful to us in Porto in 2018? One was Mafalda, and the other was Rita. Here’s the picture of us with them from 2018. Rita is on the left.

The young lady at the counter this morning was Rita! Of all the people in this huge city that I would encounter on the first step of this Camino, how can one explain this intersection of lives renewed!

She quickly grabbed her cell phone and feverishly opened her Facebook app. She turned to her coworker and displayed to him our picture. She spoke excitedly to him in Portuguese but no doubt was explaining the context of this meeting. He was struck dumb as were so many people standing around us.

She came around to the front of the counter, we embraced, posed for a picture, and some further explanation was then shared with those around us, all to their further amazement. In life and on the Camino there are no coincidences.

We covered 16 km today, almost all along a lovely seashore. Tomorrow it will be up early to cover 22 km of the next stage.

Our hostel is clean and modern. Our four person dorm is a bit cramped very serviceable.

The room is shared with a man and a woman (not a couple) who are both from Germany. I am getting more practice with that language, all to my thorough joy.

I am going to leave off for now as I need to try and get this post loaded, shower, and get some SLEEP!! I will include more pictures at the end.

I love you, and by the way…HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Peter

September 11, 2022.

18 days and counting to my departure for Portugal. This will be my third hike to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, this time on the Portuguese coastal route. If all goes well I will hike from Porto, Portugal, to Santiago and then continue to the Atlantic coastal villages of Finisterre and Muxia before returning to Santiago. Over the course of 35 days I intend to cover about 300 miles on foot.

From Santiago I will travel to Barcelona to meet Christine in early November. Whether I transit Spain to meet her by train, plane, or bus is as yet undecided. From Barcelona we will travel aboard a Viking cruise ship to northern and western Africa, cross the Atlantic, and make ports-of-call in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.

 

Our homecoming in Kansas City is scheduled for early December.

What, if any of this, is an adventure? What is “an adventure”? These are questions that have been running through my mind recently.

The term “adventure” is often casually thrown around to describe any number of activities. These can include everything from cross-continent travel by bicycle to a weekend outing with the family; from blue-water ocean sailing to kayaking on a small placid lake. So what qualifies anything as “an adventure”?

First of all, there can be no adventure without the participation of the “adventurer”. Adventures are measured in the context of the participant.

Walking to the mailbox is hardly an adventure, unless the person is near 100 years old, with failing balance, and dependent upon the use of a walker. My now deceased father-in-law who very nearly made it to 102, embarked upon an adventure every time he stepped out of his home.

Adventures are things typically out of the ordinary. They present aspects of risk, challenge, and uncertainty.

So, is my forthcoming venture, an “adventure”?

First of all, my travel itinerary is not so unusual for me. What is unusual is that I am proceeding solo, Christine will not be at my side. With the exception of a few short camping trips and 4 Atlantic Ocean sailing passages, we have traveled nearly 50 years together and shared our “adventures” in lockstep.

Second. I’m 70 years old. While I enjoy good health and vigor for my age, I do suffer from some conditions that raise the specter of risk, challenge, and uncertainty. Of course there are the typical age related eye and hearing issues, the morning aches that work out quickly, and balance that is not what it once was. What conjures a measure of anxiety for me are two other conditions.

Since childhood I have exhibited tremors diagnosed as Familial Essential Tremors. “Familial” in that I inherited the condition from my mother, a life-long sufferer, “essential” in that it is idiopathic with no external cause, and “tremor” which describes the uncontrollable shaking that occurs when attempting a task. It is the most common motion disorder known to medicine, with about 10% of the population exhibiting symptoms to some extent. For most people it does not impact daily life. I am not most people.

Over the last decade my “shakes” have become progressively worse. I have difficulty writing. Putting a key in a lock requires two hands, as does holding a cup or glass without spilling. I am confronted hundreds of times each day by the impact ET has upon routine tasks. I have been fortunate that Christine always helps, but she won’t be there to bail me out when I have to carry a plate of food across the room or pass the bread and butter to others sharing my table. Her absence certainly makes the coming trip more “adventurous”.

Last year I tripped one night in the dark while camping. I recovered my balance without falling to the ground, but in the process severely strained my right knee. It has not been the same ever since.

Three weeks ago while doing a 5 mile training hike in Kansas City my knee briefly locked up. I had to call Christine to pick me up. Elevating the leg and applying ice with gentle range of motion exercises brought relief, but residual pain and swelling sent me to an orthopedist. An MRI was conducted with the results, “…a complex radial and horizontal tear… of the medial meniscus… displaced meniscal fragment…”. There was more, but you get the point. I am scheduled for surgery in mid-December.

I have continued my daily training walks of 5-7 miles without further incident, but that one experience three weeks ago gives me pause. Christine will not be a phone call away should I be unable to hike.

Risk, challenge, uncertainty. These things will all be present in ways that are unusual for me. Yes, this is an adventure and I face it by choice. I’ve been asked “Why” to which I reply, “Don’t put off until tomorrow the things you may then find you are unable to do.” I will soon find out if I am unable to do this.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. We each share in common the two greatest adventures. One begins with the first breath we take, and the second begins with the last.

August 6, 2022.

We are back on the road to Kansas City after spending 2 wonderful nights in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. We spent this time visiting our dear friends, Tom Shillington and Nanci Burns.

We first met them in 2018 while hiking the Camino in Portugal

and they then joined us piloting a canal boat in England in 2019.

Tom and I both turned 70 this last spring. In honor of our milestones Tom bought tickets for us to zip-line 1,200 feet across the Ottawa River, crossing the provincial line from Quebec to Ontario.

It was riotous good fun!! Please share the experience through the above pictures and this video!

Peace Everyone. Pete

July 31, 2022.

We arrived back in Nova Scotia early the morning of July 29th. The ferry deposited us and a shipload of passengers and vehicles on shore at 7:30 a.m.. Mira River Provincial Park was less than an hour away. We had our fingers crossed that the campsite we had reserved for that night would be unoccupied and we could prevail upon the park staff to let us set up early. Technically, check-in was not until 2 p.m. We hoped to catch up on the sleep that we had lost in the overnight passage.

Luck, or so we thought, was not with us. The campsite was still occupied and the campers had until 1 p.m. to vacate.

On the way to Mira River we had noticed a number of signs advertising Fortress Louisbourg, a Canada Parks Historic Site.

We had not intended to visit, but it was only 20 minutes down the road and we had previously purchased Parks Canada Annual Access Passes. What did we have to lose?

The year was 1713, and King Louis XIV, also known as the “Sun King“, was nearing the end of his reign. Louis XIV is the longest reigning monarch of a sovereign country in history, having held his throne for 72 years,110 days. England’s Queen Elizabeth II may yet eclipse that record.

The population of France was overwhelmingly Catholic.

Catholics were required to abstain from eating meat every Friday, every holy feast day, and throughout Lent. For over 1/3 of the year French people relied on fish as the approved substitute for meat in their diet. However, France’s offshore European fishery was in collapse due to overfishing.

Fishing stocks in the New World were already legendary, especially off the shores of what would later be named Nova Scotia, the Grand Banks, and what became Canada’s other Atlantic Provinces. As the result of the Treaty of Ultrecht, entered into that year with England, France was granted control over Ile-Royale (now Cape Bretton) and Ile-St. Jean (now Prince Edward Island). Louis turned his attention across the Atlantic and asked the question, could the fisheries of Cape Bretton provide a sufficient harvest, particularly of Codfish, to economical justify shipment to France? If so, what infrastructure and military presence would be required to secure the endeavor?

The answer to the first question was yes.

By 1731 New World French fishermen were exporting over 35 million pounds of Codfish and 1,600 barrels of cod-liver oil annually.

Over 400 local fishing vessels and 60-70 ocean going schooners were engaged in fishing the waters near and off-shore from Louisbourg.

The answer to the second question was to build Fortress Louisbourg. Note: A fort is military installation. A fortress is a fortified city.

The settlement was founded in 1713. Beginning around 1720 French engineers toiled for the next 20+ years to construct and expand Fortress Louisbourg and its harbor. At its zenith the town was enclosed by a wall 30 feet tall, 30 feet thick, and 2.5 miles long.

Additional security was provided by a broad surrounding ditch, ramparts, and fortifications with cannon that commanded the entrance to the deepwater harbor.

The original budget of 4 million French livres exploded under King Louis XV to 30 million. Fortress Louisbourg was named after Louis XIV, who died in 1715.

Within the walls over 2,000 people made their homes, with another 1,000 living outside the walls.

On any given day there were over 150 ships in the harbor, either unloading goods for Louisbourg or being loaded with preserved fish bound for France.

Properly dried and salted Cod have a shelf life of up to 2 years, and when soaked and reconstituted taste fresh caught, or so we were told.

A mercantile economy was imposed on the colony by Mother France. In other words, Louisbourg was not allowed to become self-sufficient. It could produce nothing for its own consumption, except fish.

Everything had to be exported to and imported from France. This ensured a stream of tax revenue for the Crown, and continued dependency upon France by the population.

What could possibly go wrong!?! Massive income to the King, a harbor with armed security second to none, a dependent population, one of the most extensive European fortification complexes in North America…

Plenty could go wrong, and did. Louisbourg was built on low ground. The high ground was located on the land-side of the fortress which provided an artillery advantage to attacking land based troops. Louisbourg also focused the majority of its defensive capacity on protecting the harbor. Finally, if put under siege it was too far from France or Quebec to count on timely reinforcements. In the eyes of England Louisbourg was a golden goose ripe to be plucked.

In 1745 British colonists captured the fortress after a lengthy siege. The fortress was restored to France in 1748 courtesy of the treaty ending the War of Austrian Succession. However, in 1758 it was again captured by British forces during the Seven Years War (aka The French and Indian War). This time the British resolved to permanently eliminate the threat of Fortress Louisbourg. British engineers systematically blew up the walls and many of the buildings within the walls.

Fast forward to the 20th Century. Interest was growing in the history of the derelict site which had been designated as a National Historic Site in 1920. The first building was reconstructed in 1930.

Beginning in 1960 the real efforts at reconstruction got underway. Using a remarkable trove of archive documents from France, archeological excavations (that continue to this day), and examples from other sites of that time, one-quarter of Louisbourg has been painstakingly and accurately reconstructed.

Today, Parks Canada operates the restored Fortress Louisbourg as a living museum.

It is staffed by scores of knowledgeable reenactors dressed in period garments.

Many are engaged in common activities of that time.

Such activities that we observed include baking (the bread is for sale to visitors), black smithing, lace making, animal husbandry, gardening (the vegetables are for consumption by the staff), music, and shop keeping.

There is even a tavern which we took advantage of.

For a price, one can fire a musket, and even a cannon. One can even apply to be a prisoner for the day.

The staff people often maintain the role of a particular historical person, answering questions “in character”.

We arrived at the Fortress at 9:45 a.m. and did not conclude our visit until 6 hours later. Our bad luck with the occupied campsite turned out to be our good fortune in visiting this amazing place, the largest historical reconstruction in North America.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. At virtually every turn in our travels there have been people who immediately became dear to us. Such was the case at Fortress Louisbourg.

I approached a staff person who was in period attire and I addressed a question. Within minutes we were engaged in a far ranging conversation. A connection had been made.

Frith, working their fifth season at the park, fairly burst with enthusiasm for the job, and life. They had just completed extensive study and coursework in advanced carpentry. Frith was looking forward to their forthcoming position in the trade at the close of the Louisbourg tourist season.

We talked about family, life, travel, future goals (ours and theirs), and Star Trek. Star Trek reignited our conversation when as we were preparing to part I raised my hand in a split finger gesture and wished Frith, “Live Long and Prosper!” Frith fairly shouted, “You’re a Trekkie! So am I!!”

I truly wish for Frith a long, happy, and prosperous life.

Frith, you have the tools and attitude to, in the words of Captain Jean Luc Picard, “Make it so!”

July 30, 2022.

Our original plan had been to spend only the nights of July 23rd and 24th at Dildo Run Provincial Park. We would then drive nearly 300 miles for a 2 night stay on the west coast at Blow Me Down Provincial Park, followed by some back-tracking and another long drive for a one night stay at Barachois Provincial Park. The plan deserved reexamination.

Up to this point, with the exception of Pippy Park in St. John’s, every stay had been 2 nights long. Cancelling Blow Me Down would allow us to add a third day to Dildo Run, eliminate one of two long drives that lay ahead, and add a day to Barachois Pond, from where we would have a 100 mile drive to the ferry on July 28th. That made enough sense, and so it is what we did.

As my prior posts detailed, the longer stay at Dildo Run was fortuitous, allowing us the explorations of Fogo Island and Twillingate.

Barachois is not particularly near anything noteworthy, but on-line pictures promised a scenic and relaxing 2 night stay.

We knew the park was large with 150 unserviced sites. Upon arrival we were surprised to see that most sites were occupied by large pull-behind trailers and equally large 5th wheel campers. These were typically over 25 feet long. Furthermore, it was mid-week when we would expect more vacancies. That was not a problem since we had a reservation.

Our assigned spot was beautiful.

We were lakeside with a 50 foot walk to the shore. There was a beach, a well maintained bathhouse with laundry, and limited wifi available in the park. After making camp we took a walk through the park.

It was a ghost town. Virtually no one was home at the campsites! Further examination revealed that many of the sites had stocked in large quantities of wood, had large on-site generators, tented storage sheds, and the site next to us even had a propane tank that was large enough to serve a home. This was a park largely dedicated to season-long campers occupying their sites mostly on weekends.

When evening arrived, so did a few of these “residents”. The park became illuminated by multi-colored “party lights”, and music played (too) loudly from a number of sites. The residents of the campsite behind us remained absent, but their solar powered party-lights came on automatically at dusk.

So it was with many of the sites with absentee residents. This was not our style of camping. Hopes for a real dark-sky experience were dampened, but since we faced lakeside I was able to take an after-midnight time exposure sky shot that turned out reasonably well.

Sunset also brought stunning illumination to imposing Mount Erin across the lake from our camp.

During our earlier walk I had noticed a trailhead and signboard that detailed a 5+ mile hike up the mountain. I added that to my mental check-list of things to do tomorrow.

Our evening rounded out with a tasty Dutch Oven Pot Pie, a few adult beverages, and a campfire. All was good, in spite of the fairyland of party lights that surrounded us on three sides.

The next morning we decided to do some pre-ferry grocery shopping before my afternoon hike. The large community of Stephenville was about 20 miles away with a couple of large grocery stores, and at least one coffee shop that had wifi superior to the anemic signal in the park. I didn’t figure there would be any photo opportunities so to my regret I didn’t bring my camera.

Driving through town we were struck by the array of huge warehouses. It struck me that they looked like converted airplane hangers. Furthermore, many of the cross-streets bore US placenames: Minnesota Drive, Carolina Avenue, Oregon Drive, Dakota Drive… It was time to consult with Mr. Google.

This town of only 6,600 residents has huge runways and an international airport! Why? Because from 1941 to 1966 this was the home of Ernest Harmon United States Air Force Base. The US airbase featured two runways, one nearly a mile long and the second nearly 2 miles long! This is how the airfields look today:

Until 1949 this was the independent country known as The Dominion of Newfoundland, established in 1907and consisting of both Newfoundland and Labrador.

It gave up its self-governing status in 1934 because of a crisis in public finances brought about during The Great Depression, allowing the United Kingdom to temporarily administer it through an appointed Commission of Government. This continued until Newfoundland and Labrador officially joined Canada after a hotly contested referendum that included options to remain a dominion of Great Britain, join with Canada, or join with the United States. The final election did not include a US option. Canada Confederation won by a slim 52% majority, Newfoundland and Labrador becoming Canada’s 10th Province in 1949.

The US Air Force Base was maintained until 1966, and was one of the United States’ largest airbases located outside of the US. It had a deepwater port, and serviced the largest transport aircraft in the US arsenal, fighters, and nuclear armed aircraft. This is how the airfield appeared in the the 1940’s and 50’s…

And some images of what is left today, courtesy of the internet:

We returned to camp and I “girded my loins” to tackle Mount Erin. A little over 5 miles and a steep climb of 1,150 feet, brought the reward of an amazing panorama that my lens does not do justice to.

The view took in Bay St. George, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Long Range Mountains which are the northernmost extension of the Appalachian Mountains.

I returned to camp two and a half hours later beat and in need of a beer revival. The hike stood as a caution to me. This trip has not provided me with the opportunities to hike and exercise as is my custom. Furthermore, we eat really well when we camp, too well by at least one measure.

On September 29th I leave Christine and fly out of Kansas City bound for Lisbon, Portugal. From there I will proceed to Porto Portugal and hike to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, continuing on to Muxia and Finisterra on the Atlantic coast, finally returning to Santiago. From there by transport as yet undecided I will meet Christine in Barcelona, Spain not later than November 6th. The portion of the journey I will pursue by foot will cover about 300 miles (500km).

In the past training for such and undertaking seemed prudent but not necessary. At 70 years old it has become both prudent AND necessary.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. We boarded the ferry late the night of July 28th, landing in Nova Scotia 7 hours later. We left behind wonderful sights, experiences, and fast friendships. We hold all of these as precious memories to be treasured.

We also left behind the Province’s odd slang, unique cuisine, the thick Irish/Scottish accents, and weird half-hour time zone. It took some time to adjust to the hourly news feeds from NPR, CBC, and BBC broadcasting on the half-hour. The rest was easy.