BEGINNING – Friday – September 14, 2018
Well, actually, I began yesterday with an afternoon flight from Denver to Newark, connecting to Porto, Portugal. The only complication came at the beginning, since I had carefully packed my walking sticks, collapsed and tipped, wrapped in saran wrap and carefully stuffed in my backpack, as I have done once in the past.
However, TSA, in its infinite wisdom (or because of some too-highly paid middle management person) decided to change the rules for walking sticks AGAIN, and forbid them in carry-on baggage, no matter how inaccessible they are with layers of plastic wrap all around them. So I was escorted out of the security area, walked back upstairs to United Premier again, and a very nice United agent found a hard mailing tube, just large enough to smash my sticks into it. She even waived the ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR extra charge!! And since I’m TSA PreCheck, I skated back through security quickly and on to my gate with two hours to spare.
The flight to Newark was barely tolerable in regular economy, but I had the foresight to upgrade myself to Economy plus for the flight over the water. Four extra inches of leg room feels like heaven, especially on long flights. As I always do, I waited until I got the free (and more terrible every time) dinner, this time breaded, tough chicken shreds with bland rice and a few token vegetables. The roll and butter were the highlight, actually, and after my “dinner”, I took my usual ½ Ambien, and guaranteed myself four hours of sleep before landing at my destination, seven hours ahead of Denver time. I didn’t even think about my upcoming adventure yet.
Customs line was quite simple, and as I exited the passport control area, many men in suits were holding the names of their limousine passengers. Among them was a woman, short full head of hair, red shirt, holding a large piece of paper with “Ms. Joannah” scrawled on it. She ran up to me and gave me a sound hug and double-cheeked kisses. My fellow Camino traveler, Ria Paulus, German friend for the past five years, and her hearty laugh was as familiar as if I had only heard it yesterday.
We quickly gathered my backpack and carry-on suitcase, headed for the taxi stand and on to this long-planned trip, beginning in Porto at the Moov Porto Centro hotel, a very nice surprise in itself. It was too early to check in, so we stashed our bags with the receptionist, grabbed a quick coffee, and walked down to the cathedral, where I picked up the required Peregrino Credençial, properly authenticated with its first stamp. I will present this credençial, along with my official US Passport, at every albergue, pensione, and hotel from Porto to Santiago de Compostela over the next 15 days.
When friends ask (over and over again) why anyone repeats or adds to their Camino experiences, I try to answer for myself alone. I say I want some solo time, want time to think without the thoughts constantly being the dredge of day-to-day procedures, decisions, and on and on.
On the flight over to Portugal, I began to wonder just how well I will be able to accomplish this task. Am I still free enough in my mind to let go of everything but the walk and the daydreams? If I remember correctly, on my first Camino, it took a full two weeks before I was able to fly free in my mind. This time, I ONLY have two weeks to walk. Perhaps I will take all of my Coastal Way steps ruminating on my home-thoughts, rather than be able to shove them out of the way in favor of new, purer ones. I won’t know until I experience these days.