Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Adventure Begins

The Hagen's Camino Adventure began when our friend, Dwayne Hanon, picked us up to take us to the Milwaukee airport.  We had a smooth flight to Atlanta and enjoyed their sleek, modern new international terminal.  Our flight to Barcelona was about nine hours and uneventful - actually pretty comfortable as we had two seats by ourselves.  Since I like the window and Andy likes the aisle, we got along pretty well.  Movies and food were just fine.

Barcelona has a modern airport and a friendly employee at baggage claim to help us find the box we checked.  Another very kind and helpful woman served us at Enterprise and before long we were on the highway headed north, to Jon and Kathy Haley's wonderful home in the foothills of the Pyrennes north of Barcelona.  The views from their porch are beautiful and they have offered us great accommodations and hospitality from afar, as they are in Portland right now.  We made it all the way with no problem and found their street just fine...then couldn't find the house number.  We emailed their young friend David who came to meet us and show us The Way.  

We got settled in with David's help and made our way to the local grocery store for some supplies - then Andy rested and Nancy took a long walk to explore the hills above and the town below.  Great training as it is a long steep hill to their home from town.   We made our own supper and took a hike to find an old church named Sant Nicolau that dates back to 1699!   We were grateful for the friendly people we had to help us through the day, as well as the good night of sleep we enjoyed (9:00 pm to 7:45 am).  

Friday morning we had been invited to David's home by his parents so we had to really hussle to get there in time.  We had such good food and great conversation out on the patio overlooking not just their little town but all of Barcelona in the distance.  Amazing!  Paco is the Superintendent of all the Evangeical Free Church pastors in Spain.  We had some wonderful connecting points and shared a love for caring for pastors, so it was a friendship in the making right from the start.  Not only that but they shared some great tips for our day trip to Barcelona.

We were on the train to the city center by about 10:30.  I had scoped out the top sights to see and with the help of a young bus tour employee, we got our bearings and started off from the Catelonya Square down Las Rambles, a grand boulevard with dozens of little kiosk type shops and lots of outdoor could find just about anything you might need or desire...from plant seeds to souvenirs.  The boulevard was bustling with locals and tourists.  We stopped at one little church and at the HUGE indoor market called Le Boqueria with the best looking fruits, vegetables, plants, meats you could ever want....and that was just what we saw in the first aisle.

At the end Las Rambles you come to the tall and stately monument to Columbus and the marina/bay.  It was beautiful.  We walked along the water a little ways and then turned into the quaint shopping area of the city...narrow little streets...a shoppers delight.  We made our way to the Cathedral of Barcelona and the old Gothic Quarter.  I was hoping to take a walking tour there, but they only do it at 9:30 in the morning.

We had lunch on Las Rambles...I had pizza and Andy had a couple of tapas.  From there we made our way north on Bus #24 near the city square called Plaza de Espana to the amazing Parc Guell - created by Antonio Gaudi, a famous artist from the 1800's.  You could spend days there exploring, hiking, enjoying the 30 acres of Gardens. We had about one hour!  We saw the highlights and were delighted.  The views of the city were incredible!  The artwork was varied and creative.  I cannot even begin to describe it all!  

Bus #92 too us to another Gaudi wonder...the Sagrada Familia...a church in the making since 1882.  Gaudi designed it to be completed by the generations to come.  We spent at least two hours there, enjoying the audio tour.  It's a must in my book if you make it to Barcelona.  We waited about 50 minutes to take the elevator to the top of one of the towers.  It was well worth it.  The views of the city were magnificent, and the views of the building itself  were so impressive from that perspective.  They are in the midst of a massive renovation of the exterior of the church, but it was still a sight to behold.  We walked down the stairs to the main floor...the surprises along the way were great - views, windows, stair designs...I will leave the details for you to discover on your own visit!

We were ready to sit down and eat our bag lunch by 7:00 when we finished the tour.  McDonalds across the street called out to us.  It was chic and modern as McDonalds go.  We got drinks and ate our sandwiches, carrots, and apples...then just had to have a sundae/flurry while Andy read the news on the iPad and I posted pictures on Facebook and wrote some texts on the iPhone.

Our last treat of the day was the light, sound and water show at the Magic Fountain of Montjuic. Hundreds (maybe 10,000, Barb) gathered to see it from all angles.  We could only stay for the first set (we were told they did four sets between 9:00and 11:00) because we had to catch the last train north at 10:05.  But, it was fun to join the party and enjoy the show even for a short time.

We caught the right metro train going in the right direction and then made our way through the HUGE downtown train station and caught the Renfre back north.  I only say that because an Englsih speaking gal got on our train at a stop way north of Barcelona and within minutes realized she was on the wrong train heading in the wrong direction - with no more trains running until morning...she got off at the next stop with a local woman promising to get her a taxi back to Barcelona.  Yikes!!!

Well, that's it for tonight (make that morning).  I had better get to bed.  We're off to Montserrat and Zaragoza in a few hours.  Stay tuned....the El Camino starts on Tuesday if all goes well.

The beautiful view from Jon and Kathy's porch was amazing all times of the day and night!
We so enjoyed our visit with the Portillos and the views from their porch over breakfast as well!  What a treat to meet them and hear about their ministry to pastors of the Free Church in Spain.
Andy and I enjoying our time at Parc Guell overlooking all of Barcelona....

Just one of the fun and interesting buildings at the Parc...

Outside and inside views of the fascinating Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ride to the Barns

Today I rode in my second RIDE TO THE BARNS.  
It is a fund raiser for Tall Pines Land Conservancy here in our area.
It was a beautiful day, tho it got a little hot by the time we finished the 35 mile route.
There is also a 65 mile route.
Andy rode with me this year!  We have been riding bikes a lot in our training 
for the El Camino so he decided to give it a try.  

You ride about 8 miles and stop at a farm ~ the owners have  prepared wonderful snacks and drinks. 
There are three stops at the barns.
Each farm was unique and interesting.
The first one had a beautiful pond, wonderful gardens, and pretty white house on the hill.
At the second farm, the family has a collection of old tractors displayed in the large lawn by the farm house.
The third farm has fabulous gardens with lots of unusual garden art, a beautifully restored barn 
with stained glass windows and lots of farm animals scattered around the outbuildings.
It's great fun and a pretty ride.

It is quite hilly, however!
I am not sure I want to do it again next year...

Friday, August 23, 2013


I have been biking past this sign in the window of a storefront all summer.

I beg to differ...I am strong from all the training we have been doing, 
but I know I have limits.

Walking 500 miles on the El Camino is going to be great, no doubt about that.
But, walking 500 miles on the El Camino is going to be hard!

Three unknowns loom out there...
What will the weather be like?  
Can I really do it with a 15 pound pack?
Will my feet hold up?

We are hoping the temperatures will drop a bit in the next couple of weeks so it is not too hot.
Rain is a good possibility, especially in October.
I am a Swede...I sweat, a lot!  Like my Grandmother, Tekla, and my Mother, Verna.
My head and my back are dripping most days when we hike with the backpacks.
It's not pretty.
But I think the feet thing is my biggest concern.

I just read a book a friend sent me...SIX MONTHS WALKING THE WILDS: The Long Way to Santiago
by Steve Cooper

One chapter is called:
It's All About the Feet

He claims there is more conversation along the trail about FEET than about GOD.
Three big questions are asked as you meet people along the way...
Where are you from?
Where did you start walking?
How are your feet?

Training Continues with Less Than a Week Until We Leave

In less than a week we leave for Spain to Walk The Way.
We continue to train nearly every day ~ hiking with full packs or biking.
This week we made a quick trip to Iowa to see Andy's sister Jan and to
get our last chiropractic tune ups.  One day we took a 10 mile hike on the
Pioneer Trail right outside Grundy Center.  It was the first time in
months that I have walked without a backpack ~ felt like I could walk all day!

On the way out we made a quick stop in experience
the Fourth Street Elevator ~ a funicular railway. 
The original elevator was built in 1882 for the private use of a local banker and former state senator J.K. Graves ~ reportedly so he could get home for lunch without walking up the steep hill.
There was a great observation deck at the top ~ you can see Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin!
To be honest, it was kind of scary...the track and supports are very old and worn
and the cables were badly frayed.
I was glad to get back down safely.
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Andy's First Hang Gliding Adventure

I found a deal on Groupon for a
Hang Gliding Adventure this spring ~ so I got it for Andy for his birthday. 
We went out to
Gutzmers Twin Oaks Airport in Whitewater, WI in August. 
It was a beautiful day and the conditions were great.
The ride was with an instructor but it was still very fun
and exciting!
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Mail Boat Tour on Geneva Lake

Enjoyed a beautiful day in Lake Geneva with three great friends from high school/Free Church days in Rockford...Cheryl McKay, Ginny Brass, and Cindy Judge. 
The mail boat ride brought back lots of memories of time spent on Geneva my Grandma and Grandpa Severin's cottage and at several of the different camps on the lake.  Andy and I spent part of our honeymoon there, too.
The bottom right hand picture is the Wacker's getaway ~ as in Wacker Drive in Chicago.  The one next to it is where Grandma and Grandpa's cottage was back in the it is has been torn down and a huge home fills the property.
It's fun to watch the mail carrier jump off the front of the boat, hussle to put the mail in the box and jump back on the back of the boat...well, most of the time anyway.  He missed it once and ended up in the drink.  I noticed that he had his eye on the boat the entire time.
Mail delivery by boat is done on other lakes around the country, but here at Geneva Lake is the only tour boat that delivers the mail.  It was recently featured on national television and there are clips on YouTube as well.

We had lunch at a great little place on the water, enjoyed an arts fair on the library lawn, and of course some homemade ice cream to top it off.  It was a great day filled with remembering, laughter, sharing, and planning for another get together!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Training for The Way

Over the past few weeks we have switched to only walking dirt paths.  It has been easier on our feet and legs and has also provided new challenges and scenery.

Some of the time we have been on the Glacial Drumlin State Trail which runs from Milwaukee to Madison ~ about 52 miles.  It was developed on an old railroad line and is fairly flat.  The parts we have walked have been crushed rock and dirt.  They are well maintained but the bugs have been a problem and we have had to get some potent bug spray.

Some of the way has been through low ground with lots of sitting water, many filled with cattails.  Other parts there are miles and miles of huge fields of soy beans and corn which are quite pretty and quite healthy right now.  There are open spaces on the trail but much of it is under a canopy of trees.  

Today we walked twenty miles...a first for us.  There are 3-4 days when we will walk 18-19 miles on our trek across Spain, so we wanted to know by experience how that would feel.  We went from Sullivan to Jefferson on the Glacial Drumlin Trail ~ it took us a little over 7 hours to complete.  Even with ideal weather and conditions, it was challenging.  We took two nice stops for lunch ~ yes we ate two times! 

The other area we have enjoyed is Lapham Peak State Park which is just a few blocks (as the crow flies) from our home.  These trails give us a more realistic feel for what the Camino will be like ~ dirt, rock, and grass trails, up and down hills, sun and shade.  The Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail and cuts through the park ~ when it is finished it will be 1,000 miles long, following the edge of the last continental glacier in  Wisconsin.

So far we have seen a variety of different butterflies, frogs, snakes, and turtles, lots of rabbits and a few deer.  Today a a couple of Sandhill Cranes were playing on the path, but they flew off as we got closer to them.

The little brick building is the nicest, cleanest most modern outhouse I have ever used.
It is in a little park just outside the little town of Helenville, WI!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Walking Through Life

Aimee was born January 28, 1975 at Fort Hood, Texas. Six weeks later Andy left for 189 days in Germany on Brigade 75 with the US Army. It was hard to be alone with an infant first child. However, there were some advantages. 

 Like being able to put her in a stroller and take her for a long walk when she got fussy...which was almost every night around suppertime. I didn't have to fix dinner at any special time, so off we would go. She loved it, plus walking gave me some exercise and an excuse to get outside. 

 I have been walking an hour a day every day since then...over 37 years. Okay, not every day, but most days. Year round. In recent years, my standard has been: not walking in below zero temperatures. Other than that, I walk. In rain, sleet, or snow. 

 I have been in hiking clubs through the years, in Germany and in Colorado. We went all over the countryside, finding new trails and challenges. When we moved back to Colorado in 1999, I was in my fifties...we started hiking Fourteeners in the Rockies. I have climbed 12 of the 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado.

 I also got a new bike and started riding regularly. A few years ago I rode nearly 1200 miles preparing for a 100K ride to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. On a trip to Hawaii, we kayaked the NaPali Coast of Kauai.

 So, I have been active and exercising most of my adult life.

 Now, in less than a month, we are leaving for 7+ weeks in Spain to walk The Way of St. James ~ El Camino de Santiago. The distance from St Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, is about 800KM or 500 miles. The trail we are following is called The French Way. 

 It will be the biggest physical challenge I have face.
 Why am I doing it at age 65??? 
 I am not really sure... 

 We heard about the Camino 18-24 months ago. We thought it was pretty cool but it wasn't until months later that we decided to actually do it. Andy said one day, "I've been thinking about the Camino." I responded, "So have I." In January we got serious and started planning and purchasing equipment.
 Now, here it is. We look at this as a transitional Sabbatical of sorts...leaving full time ministry after over 40 yeas, and entering the world of volunteer ministry. 

 Join us! 
 Keep up with our adventure on my blog and through Facebook.
 Andy plans to start a blog, too. I'll keep you posted on that.
 I plan to post as often as I find WiFi.
 Spain is a first world country after all.

Faith's Adventure in Chicago

Faith and I spent another day in Chicago together using the Trolley to see even more ~ with stops at Chinatown, Little Italy, and Greektown.  We walked the streets and picked up samples of food along the way. 
We walked around downtown, poked around in the old city libaray (now a cultural center) and an underground subway stop.  I had wanted to show her a typical subway station underground but the one we chose was a very upscale completely remodeled station.  Was a nice place for a rest and a coke.
From there we spent the rest of the afternoon in Grant Park, exploring the many facets of the Park...the concert pavillion, The Bean, gardens, and of course, Buckingham Fountain.  She had her characture drawn by a street artist.
We met up with Carol, Margaret and Andy for Summer Dance in the Park and a picnic supper.  They have a huge dance floor set up and local studios provide teachers.  So everyone learns a dance and then has a couple of hours to practice and enjoy the evening.  Seemed like there were hundreds of people there.  It's done most weekends all summer.  Very fun. 
All week we had great weather...not even that hot.  On the way home it rained some, but we had another surprise stop with Chris, Tara and Jodi at Xtreme Trampolines in Buffalo Grove.  They had such fun jumping for nearly 2 hours before we headed home.

Most evenings we played games...Clue, Jenja, and Rack-O.  Faith loves to win but she is learning to be a happy looser as well!  She was patient, kind, helpful, flexible, grateful, and fun...growing into a sweet young lady.  We put her on a direct flight to Atlanta on Saturday and she made it home safely. 
Happy Birthday, Faith!

Double Digit Adventure with Oma and Opa

Faith came home with us from Colorado to celebrate a Double Digit Adventure for her 10th birthday this year.  It was fun to introduce her to some of our old haunts in Chicago and found some new places as well.  We enjoyed having her for 10 days...she is easy to be around and is a lot of fun.  Andy thinks she and I are two peas in a pod...loving to be active and on the go, ready for a new adventure with little need for a nap along the way.
Here in Wisconsin we visited the old stagecoach inn in Delafield ~ Hawks Inn ~, went miniature golfing, baked summer spritz, and went sailing on Lake Michigan with some friends.  Then we headed south to Six Flags for a great day with Chris, Tara, and Jodi Lawson.  Jodi turned 10 in May also, and those two girls really enjoyed the time together.  It was a surprise to Faith that we met up with them and she loved it.  We went on most all of the big rides in the park.  Faith wasn't sure about going with just Andy and me...she wasn't convinced we would be willing to go upside down that many times in one day!  We stayed from 11 to 11 and went home very satisfied!
In Chicago we stopped by Trinity, found our old apartment in Highwood, and checked out what they have done with Fort Sheridan along Lake Michigan.  We were very impressed.  Making our way down into the city we stopped to tour the beautiful Bahai House of Worship in Wilmette and the lighthouse in Evanston.  Lee, Carol, and Margaret Hutchins hosted us in their home for the week.
One day we drove downtown and stopped by Moody...just planting some seeds for the future.  Anita Lustrea from Midday Connection on Moody Radio gave us a tour of the studios.  We walked down the Magnificent Mile, walked around the Water Tower, and made our way to Willis Tower (the old Sears Tower) on one of the Chicago Trolleys.  It was an hour wait to get to the 103rd floor, but it was well worth it.  Faith didn't think twice about walking out on the The Ledge and we got some fun pictures of the city.
We continued on the tour of the city riding a double-decker bus down and around Grant Park on Michigan Aveue and back north on the Lake Shore.  We ended up at Navy Pier for the rest of the day ~ enjoying the ferris wheel ride, a fun game house, dinner, and fireworks before heading home.