Camino de Santiago Day Two: Valcarlos to Espinal

1 04 2018

Photo by Suzy Cameleon

I cannot believe this intense feeling of exhilaration I feel right now.  We have crossed the Pyrenees and a waterfall!

While yesterday was about variable weather today was more about incredibly variable terrain.  The weather today was just stunning, bright sun and although it started out cold, around 35, warmed up in places to the mid 50s F.  We left Valcarlos a little late, 8:50, they suggested we try to leave on he early side as there would be some Easter celebration traffic and we soon found they were right.  The first part of the route went through Valcarlos and then soon deposited us onto the highway.  The traffic got more frequent as we walked but I cannot imagine what tourist season would be like with lots of traffic because there are no sidewalks and you’re basically walking right on the highway.  At one point we saw what looked like black slugs or maybe leeches in the grass, there’s been so much rain that there are little rivers flowing down the side of the road and it’s very wet.  The road is a challenging part because you must be ever vigilant to try to be on the side of the road with the most clearance and sometimes have to cross to prevent being behind a blind curve.  For many stretches you’re literally on the white line at the edge of the lane.  Up up up!  Around lots of switchbacks.

We were relieved when this stretch ended and the guideposts pointed left and we went down to the river and past a pretty house.  Then it was up a somewhat steep grade on terrain that was basically wet fractured slate and rock with vegetation and wet leaves all over it.  Getting a foothold was challenging and I was so grateful to have my poles.  The area is also narrow and a bit scary for me at least.  I did enjoy the lush scenery, it was very serene with mossy trees and the sound of the swift rushing water was musical rather than the whizzing of cars in our ears.  Little bridges cross the river in places and it seems like gnomes and fairies are watching from the mossy tree stumps.  And it was mostly uphill!


After another short stint on the road we were again on a hill with a steep drop off, it was a drier type of vegetation with lots of spiky vines and plants that it you’re not careful can get through your pants and scratch you.  Meanwhile the path is super narrow and scary and in one place had washed away so we had to climb past some of those spiky plants to get around.  Then there were patches of slippery mud.  And still up, up, up…

After awhile we turned a corner to hit another forest with more shade and less scrub and a beautiful wide leaf strewn path, still tons of mud but less stressful to navigate.  As we kept going up up up we started to see snow on the ground and large moss-covered trees knocked over by storms.  When looking up it appeared we were getting very close to the peak which was good because our hearts were pounding and our legs were burning.  We tried to sing a few spirituals from Oh Brother Where Art Though to get us to the top of the mountain both mentally and physically (sometimes singing helps me remember to breathe).


As we got to the top of the forest I could hear cars again and as we rounded the back of a tile roofed farmhouse to our astonishment we saw that it wasn’t the top of the mountain, not even close.  Just a little bit of road walking and there was a fountain and a stone bench to sit on.

We took a little rest and caught our breath. I think both of us were wondering how much further it could be. The next leg of the path looked inviting though and so we plodded onward, and up, up, up! We were it in what seemed like a conifer forest with snow on either side of the path, then eventually slush all over the path, then full snow, about 4 inches covered the path making a distinct squish squish squish noise as we rose even further over the valley. We could now see the house by the road was way below us. We soon heard the loud rushing water and saw a waterfall in front of us with a steep ravine to our left… no bridge here just determination and secure footing could get us across, I was unsure of myself since there had been so much snow and rain and I have an intense fear of falling and the water was really rushing but I made it.

Finally we came to the top, oh wait nope another hill but the end was in sight, at the top of the stairs.

We were finally at Ibaneta, a little snowy peak where kids were sledding. After an informal prayer with our own bread and wine we began our descent. A tour group who had no idea what we’d just been through had just been dropped to make the descent into Roncevalles with us and were navigating the slick and snowy muck. I was struck by their varying levels of abilities and a tear came to my eye as I watched them struggle, thinking how my fear almost got the best of me many times today, and they were experiencing their own fear on this stretch as well. They had made a commitment to walk the Camino in whatever was they could.

It was a relief to get to Roncevalles where we got our credentials stamped and stopped for lunch and wine, the pilgrim menu was delicious at Casa Sabina 10 Euro for two courses, coffee and wine. We said hi to some ponies and took the requisite photo with the sign… 790 km to go.

It was onwards towards Espinal our stop for the night. The next leg was thankfully though very muddy and the forest was full of holly trees. We learned that the Sorginaritz forest translates into Oakwood of Witches, it was where many covens were said to congregate. It leads to the town of Burgete where nine of these witches were burned in the square to persecute them for their. Non-Christian beliefs and pagan practices.

Past Burgete is farmland with grazing horses, sheep and cattle and a view from where we came. We took it slow enjoying the flat wide farm path and the various animals.

just when we thought we were home free another hill loomed and we chanted “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” to muster our strength up the last steep incline.

And we reached Espinal and walked to our Albergues Irugoiena just in the outskirts of town. What a day. The albergue has both dorms 10, 5 we opted to get a double room for 22,5 Euros. Everything was closed as it was Easter Sunday but we had a great dinner made by Luis who does everything at the albergue 6am to 9pm for six full months every single day! Then he has six months off to enjoy hiking the snowy peaks here. We slept comfortably and happily and this morning had a nice breakfast and now it’s off on another journey!





Camino de Santiago Day Thirty-Two: Melide to Santa Irene-Anticipation

1 05 2018

Suzy woke me at 7am. I’d been up a little during the night. I think it was too quiet honestly! For some reason it took me awhile to get sorted. It’s like Groundhog Day every day. Repacking everything in the pack exactly the same way to ensure that it’s weighted properly, but sometimes you forget to put something in a bag and you have to start over. The small ziplocs have given up, they’re getting tired and stretched out and refuse to seal sometimes.

We shared the room with some younger pilgrims that have become good friends on their journey. Their easy banter and flirting made me wonder how this trip would have been different for me 20-25 years ago. As we all stuffed our packs I mentioned that we wouldn’t have to do this too many more times, half with relief and half with regret.

After just a coffee and a juice it was off. Somehow we were leaving around 9, again. Why change now I suppose. On the way I had a pinch in my boot. How can I still have boot issues on Day 32? But it had to be fixed before we headed out. No reason to ruin my feet now.

There were a few points today where we were given options on our walk, we chose to cross this stream which seemed like a snap except for one narrow rock and one that wiggled, it would have been much more scary day one.

I didn’t need any more cow photos but realized these might be some of the last ones I see. I’ll miss this I thought…a beautiful day outside where my only job is to keep one foot in front of the other and keep going. I bought some chestnuts at an Oasis stand.

There were many bikes today so we had to be extra vigilant. I don’t listen to music and I can hear well but sometimes the noise of a streak or the road makes them hard to hear. Most of the time they don’t have bells and it’s impossible to look behind you with the huge pack on. You literally have to turn 180 degrees are you’ll tweak your neck or knee, so it’s hard. A girl on a bike hollered something in another language as Suzy and I walked side by side and I veered towards the right to let her pass but it turns out she was trying to pass in between the two of us in the center of this more narrow part of trail. She skidded to a stop and glared at us and sighed with a huff. Most of the other cyclists were more professional and polite but it’s still scary when they speed past you on the steep descents.

There was a lot of climbing. On and on today. And a lot of points where the trail brought you around a bend only to find you could have taken the stairs directly up. We stopped at a restaurant Cafe Milpes for lunch overlooking the valley and they thankfully had padron peppers. There’s a lovely fountain here with icy water where you can soak your feet but I’d only do that if I was done for the day. For me too risky to take off the shoes when they feel good and risk swelling and reinserting them in the boots. Crazy all these things I learned about my body. Our friend Richard walked by and we waved, funny to see him behind us again.

It was a lot of walking so two hours later we had another brief stop at a cafe to rest our bodies and watch a rooster strut around. Almost everyone from our room in Melide was also at the bar taking a break. Richard walked by again, we laughed we didn’t know we’d passed him again! Later in the day we passed him a third time and as we were trying to locate our Albergue in Santa Irene he passed us once more. I guess this is what happens daily with many groups as they stop and start but it was fun to see this leapfrogging.

As we passed another bar Sarah from back in Ages yelled to us from where she and her mother were resting for the night, it had been weeks since we saw her. She said she listens to my song a lot which made me happy.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect today for walking. It started of very cold but was sunny with mixed clouds. When you stopped to sit in the shade too long you’d get a chill but I was able to warm up quickly and enjoyed wearing a camp shirt over my tshirt to protect from the sun. We strolled through some eucalyptus groves enjoying the cool menthol smell that invigorated us. Another incentive was the continual mike markers that count down our distance. We are getting so close. My thoughts went to my ancestors and people lost to me over the years.

I also thought about all the people who helped me make this trip both with emotional and financial support. Now that I’m almost there how could I possibly remember to thank everyone, and not forget anyone? I made a conscious decision to wait a day to thank everyone individually. I will have time in Santiago to deliver the intentions I promised I would and to pray for all those that helped me and those I am thinking of but I must walk in alone. Even if Suzy is beside me we walk in alone.

We began to approach Santa Irene and ran into a friend and got distracted on our route losing our markers for a bit, finally we headed into the town and under the bridge my phone died, turns out despite all our confusion and some stress the Albergue Santa Irene privada was right there. It’s a beautiful very old house with a living room like grandma’s but more like a fancy grandma. The wood burning stove is super cozy and their kitchen is funky but with a very cool old stove in it. Although the sleeping area is a bit chilly there were plenty of blankets and it’s dark and cozy with the feel of an old stable.

With only five people here Suzy and I relished our last Albergue experience, tomorrow she gets a hotel and I get a private room. We shared a bottle of wine and talked about some of our dearly departed loved ones. Turns out she too was in that mindset during today’s walk. Tears were shed.

One of the guests opted to say not a word to us and go to bed but we enjoyed a delicious communal dinner with a couple from Italy. There was a piping hot soup with noodles and chorizo and hake (called Merluza) a whitefish. After dinner we had a digestif, the herbal orujo and retired to bed.

As we went to bed it felt a little like that excitement of Christmas Eve. You wonder what you’ll be gifted and what awaits you. I don’t know what to expect and I’m trying not to expect much. I don’t want to be disappointed and I want to remember Tomas’ words that it may not be an immediate eureka moment at the end of the Camino, it could be later.

I’m also kind of wondering what thoughts will be with me as I arrive. I have a friend who died, died just enough on the table to be brought back to life with the paddles. He told me that in those moments he saw the bright white light and saw every face of everyone he’d ever encountered. His dear mother and father who were deceased but also the faces of all the guests he’d hosted at his restaurant. He said it was incredible because it all happened simultaneously and without time. I wonder if I could be so lucky to believe that all these ideas and intentions I have for my loved ones past and present, for this universe and the world and the healing it needs, for those who I want to thank and pray for… could it all just be there with me as I enter, not written on any list but could all these thoughts come with me like balloons in a big bunch in my hand and be released into the air when I arrive. I hope so. I also hope to receive a sign that they’ve been heard. I hear it may rain today so a rainbow would be nice too.

I forgot to add that the Italian man looked up my ancestral name… Schiapapria…

He said it loosely translates to stone cutter or stone mason. I can’t help but wonder if there may be an ancient connection to the Knights Templar and the Masons. Maybe this is my mission to learn more about my past and my history to better understand my present.





Camino de Santiago Day Twenty-Two: Arcahueja to Valverde del Virgen-Hope

22 04 2018

It’s hard to believe we have walked so far, and it’s scary to think we have so much farther to go! Despite being up almost all night worrying about our next big jump, we realized in the morning that we would be best off having a reservation at our next stop. The further Albergue wasn’t answering the phone so we made A reservation at Casa de Camino in Valverde instead, and it was a good thing to do for many reasons. We were so thankful that we were steered in that direction.

The walk out of Arcahueja gave we the hill I’d been craving along with some industrial parts and eventually a woodsy entry into Leon. We entered the town early and found a Moneygram where we were hopeful Suzy might pick up some money from home, but the guy there said that they had no money. He said to come back later when maybe I guess he’d have sold enough of the wilted cilantro and brown spotted bananas to give her some money? So the saga continues.

As we walked we entered the city through the Moneda aka money gate, ah the irony! We’d thought we would just sip through Leon that it would be just another big city but we quickly realized that it had a lot more to offer. Luckily our walk was now not as ambitious so we had some time to hang out. We browsed the Saturday flea market checking out some old photos of Mexican Pancho Villa (when I was young my father Roman had restaurants in New York called Pancho Villa’s… these same reproduction photos were on the walls of the restaurant…my father is no longer living, maybe a funny message from him?) This seller also had old food ration tickets which were interesting to see, they were perforated and listed the items you’d be able to get… like una cebolla (one onion).

After a while browsing and musing about being unable to buy anything we headed on to find some lunch. We browsed around the historic sites and saw the outside of the Gaudi building but didn’t really have time to delve into historical tours. Leon would be a great spot to spend some significant time, a great place to start the Camino we thought.

We zipped into a few shops and even found a historic apothecary with gorgeous woodwork inside.

We ran into a pilgrim we’d met in Hontanas who was taking a rest day and then a pilgrim from the Camigas group came to say hello to us with her mother! Nina had been reading the blog in anticipation of her own walk that starts Sunday. It was great to meet a reader in the flesh and even better she told us that the farmers market was going on!

The market was amazing. Rows and rows of produce, plant starters and a row of cured meat and cheese trucks. How great it would be to have a chance to cook with all this great food. This area of town near the main cathedral also boasted a plethora of gourmet food stores. I wanted to take it all home. Our mouths watering we kept desperately looking for food.

We quickly realized that the tapas bars we were seeking were just starting to pull out their tables. There were plenty of really swanky restaurants already open but outside this oilgrim’s budget. I would have loved to do a gintonic tour of this city… We opted to stop walking for a moment and gather ourselves at a swanky bar and have a beer and we’re once again surprised to receive a free slice of tortilla. Basically this is the thing in this region and is so amazingly satisfying. So that was essentially breakfast for us. We waited until just about 1 and we went to be first tapas bar I’d read about on a blog called restlessfoodblog.com.

El Tizon was our first stop, when we got there just before 1 there was only one older guy there at the bar drinking rose. Suzy ordered a gluten free beer and a glass of Verdejo for me and we each got a tapa! She got two gambas and I got two boquerones and they were served with green olives and pickled garlic cloves. So delicious! We also got a plate of calamares fritos. The food there looked great they had a case of seafood and there were scallops in there but being on a budget and also wanting to try MA y things we decided to do tapas rather than raciones (entrees).

When we were done we went out to see the street teeming with people. The market must have ended at 1pm and now the bars were filing up. Almost all the outside seating was taken which was ok because we found a place where I could charge my phone and they had Manzanilla sherry! We ordered a plate of gambas and then they came over to tell us we got two additional small tapas for ordering the drinks!! I love this town! Suzy was in the restroom so I ordered a shrimp cake and the most amazing bunuelo of morcilla, like a beignet filled with a blood sausage gravy. Sadly we could not stay forever because when we exited that bar the Saturday scene was going full throttle. Absolute hoards of people were descending upon this district known as Barrio Humedo or “wet district” meaning place to get alcohol! This was clearly the place to be and be seen. Many groups were dressed in matching outfits which we learned were bachelor and bachelorette parties. We hated to leave but headed out of town, said hello to some chickens and roosters roaming a park and saw the famed statue of a pilgrim resting his feet. We really did not get our fill of Leon.

Onward through more industrial areas, lining the highway and it was a bit warm and humid but luckily not too sunny. Boring walk honestly. My feet were griping and that last sherry was probably not in retrospect the best idea, but man were we glad we didn’t go further today. We meandered around and around some fields and eventually were in Virgen de Camino and then a long slog to Valverde where thankfully at the very entrance to the town lay our adorable Albergue Casa de Camino. The place is so adorable and we were warmly welcomed by Carolina with a fun purple bob haircut, Sandra, and Juan Carlos the owners. They take turns helping check people in and cooking dinner in the open kitchen. The place is so great and has 20 pod like beds which really makes you feel much more comfortable and offers privacy and less noise.

The showers were awesome, big and roomy with huge rain shower heads. After our showers we were able to do laundry which was 7 Euros. I am so grateful for every piece of clothing I brought because I was able to wear my swim shorts, swimsuit top and purple long sleeve and wash everything else because literally everything else was filthy.

When we were settled we hung out in the comfy living room while their team prepped the dinner and checked in more guests and we were offered an aperitif for free, I had a white wine. Carolina spent some time chatting with us, she’s originally from Venezuela and we enjoyed hearing about her son and sharing photos of our pets. We ran into some pilgrims we had met before and heard that they’d opted to taxi through the last slog of the day because they had started in Mansilla de las Mulas that day! This is always an option, but I’d prefer to go the whole way on foot.

Dinner was incredible, we were served wine and bread and a huge hit plate of spaghetti more than I’d ever eat at home. This was the first course, and amazingly I found I myself eating the whole thing. Then we were served an amazing chicken, super tender and marinated in something giving it tons of flavor. Juan Carlos then offered us a choice of Orujo (Spanish grappa) plain, herbal or cream. The alcohol helped lubricate our language. I spoke to the men at the table in a combination of French, Spanish and English and sometimes they spoke to me in Italian. It was quite a jumble of language and very fun to switch back and forth. One had done the Camino before by bike. He said he arrived in Santiago in just four days but had sped through swing only highways and asphalt. He had gazed at the wonder in the walking pilgrims eyes as they saw the cathedral and wondered what he was missing, so this time he is on foot. We did our songs for the group and I had a request for Joan Baez so I muddled through Deportee. Suzy brought out her massager and gave the hardworking team neck and back massages.

I hope to feel the wonder, I hope that I will get there in time, I hope my feet hold up, I hope I’m doing the right thing following my path.

http://www.paypal.me/ChapaCamino





The Camino

2 04 2020

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Two years ago exactly NOW I was walking the Camino de Santiago across Spain. I walked more than 500 miles in 33 days. Today I am in the midst of this global pandemic and sheltering in place, and likely for at least 33 days if not more. I am using this time to remember how it felt on the path, how every step you take you must be present and not concerned about the future or harboring stress about the past.  (By the way this photo was from one of those, “YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME.” moments, sometimes the obstacles seem insurmountable.)

If you would like to go on this journey with me I will repost my blog post links daily OR you can read from the beginning here from the beginning as I have put them in order.  I had a few more posts upon returning, but they were REALLY boring and kind of had me feeling sorry for myself, so you can find those in there if you are dying to know how mundane life is OFF the Camino.

My heart goes out to anyone who’s journey was thwarted by this terrible pandemic and to all the people who keep up the infrastructure that allowed me to take this leap of faith.  We will walk again my friends, this is our Camino for now, so stay home, rest easy and have faith and we will get there.  Know that once you have made the commitment or even thought about walking that you are on the right path already.  Ultreia!

Buen Camino!

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Si Se Puede

3 04 2019

I meant to work on my blog post for Tuesday last night but I fell behind.

It’s been hard to do this daily! I do nott have the same luxury of hours spent walking clearing my head and the routine of the Camino de Santiago that comes with that.

It’s weird to me because every day on The Way was so different, the conditions so variable yet it seemed more predictable somehow than my daily life here on Nantucket with a daily job.

Maybe it’s because life at home is filled with so many distractions. My mounds of paperwork loom there on the kitchen table encouraging me to take for the couch and hide under the cozy blankets. I’m trying to get better at organizing and funneling through my things.

I’d like to streamline my life to enable myself to find more clarity like you do when you pack for the Camino, but the normal paradigm is so much harder to break when you have the luxury of space and you aren’t carrying your whole life on your back.

My pack turned out to be 18 pounds. That’s was a bit more than the recommended 10% of your body weight, but despite all the weighing and reweighing both literally and figuratively that’s where I ended up.

I think the packing for the Camino is a process that’s almost as important as the walk itself. You force yourself to define what you really need to survive. We are t talking about camping gear or food either, and there are an incredible amount of resources on the Camino, but then there are also things you absolutely cannot buy as well.

I think I did a really good job of estimating my needs. We ended up doing a lot of laundry which was a luxury many pilgrims didn’t partake of , but it gave us comfort and because my walking partner Suzy and I could put our things in one load together it was less costly.

There were only a few times where laundry day left my in my bathing suit and swim shorts huddled shivering under my Costco down blanket waiting for the wash to get done. I never went swimming but was happy to have the suit that day.

I would have left a few things behind, maybe the guide to the edible plants of the Camino, but I carried it there and back even though its owner had said it would be ok to ditch it.

I missed having my favorite shampoo and conditioner the most, and my bar soap became mushy and annoying. I’d lost the mini bottles way back in Espinal and now cannot remember what my replacement was…but it wasn’t adequate and comforts like those are important to have.

My silk liner was one of my favorite items… so warm yet lightweight, a barrier to the bedbugs or “chinches” that we luckily never encountered, probably due to the early timing in the season and cold weather of our trip. It just felt safe getting into my clean little cocoon.

My DKNY puffy jacket was also vital. It was warm and useful as a pillow or when the albergues were drafty and it’s softness was soothing like a favorite blanket. It also squished into a tiny pouch. I also had a Columbia puffy silver lined super warm thermal thin jacket that was a great outer layer. At times I wore double puffies with a Patagonia windbreaker on top.

I didn’t buy too many new items because of cost but I was lucky enough to receive some donations for new Prana hiking pants and a Smartwool wool long sleeve shirt/sweater which I couldn’t have lived without. The pants are really vital as they dry very easily and are light. There were times that my kegs would be drenched by rain. While uncomfortable when wet the pants would even dry on my body pretty quickly.

All the planning and replanning set me up with a pack that contained pretty much what I needed to survive my Camino. Maybe I got lucky with weather and circumstances but I felt like it was perfect. No doubt I obsessively packed and repacked after hours spent scouring chats for advice. Ultimately the choice was mine because only I know myself. Others can recommend what you need having more understanding of what you may encounter on your path but only you can pack your bag. I remember seeing an older woman along the way with a stuffed bear peering out the side of her pack and thought “What a waste of weight!” But who knows why she felt she had to take it. Maybe it gave her comfort, maybe a child asked her to take it along, when we had seen her last in Pamplona she’d been ready to call it quits, but she was still walking.

So back here in my real life culling through what isn’t necessary is not as dire a task. There is less urgency to clear through and discard what I don’t need, but I’ve got to get on it. The clutter on my table and in my mind need sorting and a lot of trashing. Systems that don’t work for me need to be reworked or discarded. Caustic people need to be sent along as possible or managed properly. If there are people in my life that bring me down I must handle them as if I’m in a hazmat suit, put on the mask and gloves and protect myself from their debilitating influence.

For example I could trash 90% of this post which is tedious and boring but I find it interesting to see how one thought leads to a small epiphany for me. One step leads to a goal.

I wanted to come home from my Camino and be immediately able to tackle these types of obstacles but found that this is an ongoing process. I’m better at it but I’ve still got a ways to go.

I have to remember not to let fear hold me hostage. Fear often keeps me clinging to what I don’t need. What if? Is the worst question to ask. What if it snows and I’m not warm enough. What if I get a blister and the farmacia is closed? What if my feet get wet? What if I run out of soap? And here at home, what if I could use that cord someday? What if that key is for something important? What if I find that other sock? What if I took the time to match the Tupperware lids? What if I need that paperwork? What if I want to read that book again?

It comes back to faith. At the end of the day do you believe that you should fear what life has in store? Do you want to live that way wondering what if? Or can you learn how to live from a different perspective, from a place where you know you can overcome any obstacle. Where you know you have abundance in all aspects of your life. This reminds me of a motto from the United Farm Workers Union, Si Se Puede. Yes You Can!

If you believe you walk for a higher purpose then you can and will overcome any obstacle in your path. What you need will be provided for you. Just don’t be afraid and have some faith. Just pause, look and listen closely and with faith in your heart what you need will be provided for you. The guidance you’re looking for will be delivered to you. I believe.

Blog posts from my 2018 Camino

https://rebeccachapa.com/?s=DAy+two&submit=Searc

https://rebeccachapa.com/2018/04/03/camino-de-santiago-day-three-espinal-to-larrasaona/





Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2018

7 10 2018

We are in San Francisco for what is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Due to the incredible generosity of Warren Hellman and his family this event continues to be free for the public even after his passing. Thank you Warren is always a message I send up to the heavens while soaking up incredible love and warmth of spirit from the crowd and bathing in the beautiful tones of the artists.

You may be thinking this is a small concert but it’s really massive in scale, three days, multiple stages, so many bands and lots of logistics. It runs annually without so much as a hiccup at least from the perspective of the guests, partly due to the organizational skill of my friend Bradley. We met while working on Eat Drink SF and it’s always great to see him each year.

We have a core group of Bluegrass goers who have done the festival yearly with us, it’s truly like a motley little family. The core are all people I’ve met at The Mint karaoke lounge, someone nearby we were chatting with called us a karaoke family. This group has grown quite a bit and includes people we went to college with, colleagues from the wine business, basically everyone is welcome.

Friday afternoon we usually keep simple with light snacks and not quite as much infrastructure. While some like to move around through the various acts, Daddy David holds down some real estate at the biggest “main” stage, the Banjo. There’s always room on the blankets for us. This year I was there to see Mavis Staples and my ultimate favorite Allison Krauss. From our spot slightly on the rise of the hill we have a perfect sight line.

Saturday and Sunday we go big. We take over a bigger footprint as my husband Mike bravely and tirelessly heads out during the overnight with tarps to secure our area. He returns in the morning with coolers, blankets,’chairs, cards and fake dog poop (to protect the perimeter of our area. He’s an expert… we usually have a space along the railing halfway between the stage and sound booth. From that base camp we can visit other stages and we welcome our friends who drop by.

Yesterday, day two, was truly special with bright sunshine followed by dappled shade and then bright sun again. I got into the park later than I wanted to but was happy to see our cheery group already munching on snacks. Hooray for the Riff Raff was first and gave a very passionate performance. The stage we chose was Star, a little easier to get in and out from… when we choose Banjo that’s always a big commitment and god forbid you have to go to the bathroom! That’s the one thing our camp doesn’t provide!

Star stage toggles with Towers if Gold which means when one act finishes they go directly to the next act and pipe that into the other stage that’s “dark”. Next was I’m With Her and then the highlight for me, the Wailin’ Jennys. Their harmonies were incredible, true siren song. I even bought a CD which they were kind enough to sign.

I took a walk, I like to be alone sometimes even though I really enjoy our crew sometimes it’s good to peel away, so I caught a little Rodney Crowell and then got back in time to hear Don Was and friends, including Bob Weir. After awhile we started to be swarmed with friends dancing among our piles of food and by the time Graham Nash played we’d gotten buzzed and teary-eyed. Just so much love felt here, the energy so uplifting in such a difficult time. Our friend Steph has three daughters who we’ve seen growing up at this festival and she was playing with our friend Katie’s two year old, throwing her up in the air to make her giggle. I was struck by the fact that the future for these girls is uncertain, and that for all the advances our mothers and grandmothers made, have we let these girls down? Or will we? Is it too late? Were we complacent and so comfortable we didn’t see what was slipping away? I don’t regret choosing to not have children. I’m grateful I had the choice to abstain from being a more traditional woman so to speak. I respect those that have kids but wow am I afraid of this world we are passing along to them.

Graham Nash closed with the perfect song, Teach Your Children.





Camino de Santiago Day One: St. Jean Pied de Port to Valcarlos 

31 03 2018

Phew, we arrived in Valcarlos after an intense hike from St. Jean Pied de Port, 3 hours and 20 minutes only stopping twice for some water. The route took us out the gate of SJPP and through lots of farmland and then forest. Most of it was backcountry roads but one short stretch was right on the muddy grassy shoulder of the main highway. When we began it was hailing and dumping rain and then it would clear up a bit before dumping on us again. We passed farms where sheep grazed and pigs made love, amazing magnolias and forsythia in bloom, wild violets and mountain peaks covered with snow.  The farms provided a soundtrack of braying cows and chattering chickens and we would get wafts of the smells of fertile soil, and the various manures of the animals, each one distinctly different, and not entirely unpleasant. Gotta say I was pretty excited to finally witness the male pig’s unique corkscrew anatomy that I’d been warned of by college roommates including Robin Hopwood and Deb Stull. As I took some racy porcine video footage Suzy, my walking companion, was worried I was at the gateway to producing animal porn, but it’s just nature folks.


 The Valcarlos route was pretty empty, no doubt because most pilgrims started early in order to make it to Roncevalles. It winds around the river and bounces back and forth along the border of France and Spain. We opted to go for a short route…  according to my iPhone approximately 8.5 miles, 56 flights of stairs.  We figured we’d rather take it easy on day one due to potential gear, weather and other  issues such as difficulty finding accommodation on Easter weekend in Roncevalles. 


 I’m glad we did, at the end of our journey we had to descend all the way to the river and then back up to the town of Valcarlos.  The slope was a ridged pavement covered in leaves.  It was incredibly slippery from the rain and wet leaves and steep! I was so grateful for my poles and even leaning all the way over into the grade found myself almost slip twice. Seconds after we reached Valcarlos and entered our apartment at Apartamentos Mendiola the ominous cloud that was behind us reached the town and from our spacious kitchenette we watched a ridiculous hailstorm. 


After it was done the sun came back now it’s outing again the fourth time in a crazy cycle. I ditched my boots and socks and put on some Crocs at the apartment and went for a bite at Ardanegia, a cafe with their own wine. I got some hot fried gambas and French fries. This place has a vibe like a Spanish Big Sur, the cute cafe is attached to a grocery store and teeming with locals and lots of tourists in Camino gear.  I was so glad we didn’t have a full breakfast this morning or stop for lunch in Arneguy, nothing looked open anyway…We would have gotten stuck, and thank goodness weren’t on the way to Roncebvales with each of the squalls rolling through it would Have been totally miserable. After a few naps helped by the patter of more rain we headed back up to Ardanegia as our host told us if a celebration that was to happen on the eve of Easter with dancing and some special food.  As we enjoyed beers and watching all the locals it became clear that the fete was cancelled due to weather but we got our Valcarlos stamps at the grocery and headed out into the town to see two men on horseback riding down the middle of the highway.  They implored us to stay for the festival the following day.  Around the comer from the church we saw the large gathering and joined in buying more beers and the local special food for the event which was a tortilla like wrap with bacon, chorizo sausage , cheese or Nutella.  Delicious and only 3 Euro or 3,5 for two items.

Back to the grocer for snacks for day two and back to our apartment with the luxury of gathering our clean clothing!

Day One in the books, and feeling strong for the next leg to Espinal since Roncevalles was booked solid.  Happy Easter!





Traveling again…

21 04 2021

2020 began innocently enough. I had a trip to San Francisco planned for some R&R. Just prior to that a friend suffered a dire accident and had to be medi-vacced to Boston from Nantucket. I happened to be going to the Boston University hockey game with a few of my college roommates from 301 Bryant. I was lucky enough to have some time to go and visit him in the hospital. I picked up some towels at Macy’s for his girlfriend who’d been stalwartly at his side for most of the week while he lay in a medically induced coma to get through his intense injuries. I also grabbed some dim sum in Chinatown and got some egg custard bites for her. Friends sent some cash for her to use and I got it and bought two cards with mushrooms on them at a shop near Mass General to wrap it in. When I arrived she warned me of his condition. Nothing like the cardiac ICU to bring up memories of past hospital bedside visits and departures, but I steadied myself and went in, bravely I might add.

She told me I could touch his hand and I did, thinking briefly of Covid, but it wasn’t even a thought to most back then. I came back the Monday after, and honestly can’t remember which visit it was, but I was there when he was waking up. He is a normally ornery guy but he was combative upon reassuming his body. No blame but he was fighting and confused as to his predicament. His girlfriend was frustrated and left me alone in the room with him. I said, “Hey man, you gotta be calm, because these nurses have got you so you gotta be nice to them… you’ve been out sedated for a while so it’s gonna take a bit to come back.” “Sedated?! SEDATED!” He growled. “Sedated for how long?” He probed incredulously. Not knowing whether I should tell him and with no one else in the room I told him, “10 days.” He seemed confused but also diffused. I was happy to see him alive and With the same brain function as ever.

But I headed out to SF on a frivolous journey, dim sum and wine and honey mead abounded, but just as I was scheduled to go home we got word that my husband’s father was dying. He hopped a plane to Phoenix and I drove down visiting Megan and Phoebe in Santa Barbara, and Greg in Palm Springs. I got the news that he passed as I was stopping at a crystal shop in Quartzsite.

So we spent some days cleaning his room from the nursing home, staying with family and regrouping and eventually made the trip back north to SF where we could then fly back to Nantucket. The generosity of our friends was great. Trupiano and his family welcomed us for happy hour and Treg and Shannon let us stay in Santa Barbara and get to know their amazing kids. We saw Raj and Nina on our way out of town. We hopped on the plane for Nantucket not realizing this would be our last journey for a while.

So the lockdown happened very soon after our return and a new normal began, masks, sanitizer, distancing all of it. I ran my business The Hungry Minnow the best I could in this different paradigm. And in the fall my traveling ache just could not be squelched and I headed to SF again and zipped down to Arizona to help the United Farm Workers Union turn Arizona blue. A week down there and then back to SF and back to Nantucket for the winter. Spring found me longing for sun and the other ocean and so I spent a lot of time out in SF regrouping mentally for the coming summer season. I got the vaccine (2 doses of Pfizer) and now I’m really to hit the road again. I’m heading back east but this time by car. My friend Ali today spoke of the magnetically charged road the cord that drove us during our magical walk in 2018 on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. She reminds me as much as our feet and bodies ached how driving the pull was. That’s what this journey is as well. I’m feeling the pull to step out of my comfort zone yet again and hit the road. My course is plotted but the coordinates are not firm, there’s always forks in the road. I’m guided by intuition and feel that I’ve discovered my purpose at least for the short term. I’m a writer. I’m a songwriter. I’m an artist. I’m a healer. I have been denying these truths but know I now must embrace them. It’s an unconventional lifestyle but I’m going to come to terms with the fact that I’m bicoastal. I have two anchors that are across the country from each other. It may seem crazy, but I’ve spent 7 or so years trying to come “choos” and I can’t. So the truth that I’m finding is that the coasts are my anchors or moorings and the country is my ocean. It’s my job to navigate and by taking on the task I am weaving a web of interconnection between the two.

I always said that my songs really speak about what I’m meant to do if I’d just listen to my own lyrics… almost every song I write riffs off this theme.

“Like driftwood I long to be weathered, but please keep me firmly tethered to your moors, like sea glass I need to be tumbled, to strengthen sometimes you must stumble, but oh, when I’m ready, moonlight on the jetty will guide me back safely, cuz to grow, you gotta go to sea.

So I set sail via car tomorrow. Would you join me?





Camino, Ready?

22 03 2018

IMG_3572IMG_2941My first Blog Post about the Camino de Santiago was almost to the day two months ago.  This seems like a lot of time when you plan it, but when you live it, not so much.  Real life of course gets in the way, and all the time slips through your fingers like sand.  Today is the one year anniversary that I got the ok to run my very own snack bar and gift shop on Nantucket, The Hungry Minnow!

Time through your fingers like sand?  Maybe I could (as a songwriter) think of a better metaphor BUT I DON’T HAVE TIME PEOPLE!  I leave in FIVE days basically!  To walk 500 miles by foot across Spain with a 14 lb backpack.  OMG!  I have taxes to do, things to clean, packing, things to wrap up, things to plan, things to discard and things to keep.  I am definitely overwhelmed, but knowing myself I think this is my own undoing or my own incredible intervention.  Create an issue and a deadline and get things done, or LET THEM GO.

I am suspicious that this may not be my last Camino de Santiago… (to learn more about the journey visit https://wordpress.com/post/rebeccachapa.com/1563).  That said, I am taking this journey to heart and using it to change my own paradigm.  Paradigm (Noun a worldview underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject)  When I was at Cornell although I thought myself somewhat erudite (ha! that kinda means smart…)  At first when the Hotel Ezra Cornell weekend, “Changing the Paradigm,” was revealed I was totally confused and pretended to know what it meant, but perhaps I am just not very good at this particular task.  THUS this journey is almost like a rebirth (apropos I would say) or a ripping of me out of my comfort zone.

The first time I discussed actually walking this journey I thought I could use my “adopted family” as a crutch.  With a group and with some older people then I would be able to join them in vehicles and walk a little, get our luggage moved, and relax and have some wine.  Soon I realized that was not “my” Camino.  For whatever reason I have been asked to purge. (Oh I hear you all saying there are plenty of reasons…)  Look folks I am not a purger…  I LOVE having a lot of friends, even on FB, I LOVE coming up with a craft idea and knowing that immediately (before the inspiration departs) I could try it out because I have the right glue, beads, fabric whatever…  I know this is not the normal, but it IS what I am.  I hoard ideas, so someone says something in a coffee shop line and I grab it and I hole it away and one day it becomes a song…  I know this attitude is not easy for those around me.  I understand that this is not what many people would find a comforting life, but I have to do it, I feel compelled to do it.

I was not born to have ONE job, and I wish my dad were around to talk about it, because he would totally “get me”.  My dad had at one point FOUR restaurants, but he still also (sometimes successfully, and sometimes not) tried his luck at an airline, the diamond and jewel business (that went ok actually), trying to sign a boy band (I told him they were terrible, and we kept that demo tape), he knew SO much about SO many things.  So maybe that was my inspiration to never pick ONE thing.  Yet, so funny at the end of the day, despite my declarations that I would NEVER own a restaurant, here I am, owner of The Hungry Minnow.  And in fact, despite my declarations, I could not be happier or proud to follow in his path.

So where do I sit at this moment?  Almost frozen in fear of leaving my computer, of letting all my piles of paper languish untouched, the literally thousands of UNIMPORTANT emails sitting there as if I may need them someday.  I am hoping to remove these things from my life so that the TINY snippets of conversations from coffee shops, and the little words of wisdom not oft remembered can surface once again.

This will not be an easy extraction my friends, I promise you, but I hope I can return a better, more organized, more balanced person.  I hope that by reducing the clutter in many ways that I will be able to have more insight and vision and share that with you.   Thank you for listening.  If you would like to support me or send an intention with me on my way please do.

To help support this journey paypal.me/ChapaCamino

JOIN ME?  Keep up with me at RebeccaChapa.com

I would be more than happy to send a message to the Cathedral of Saint James whether or not you make a donation, please let me know the intention you would like to send, I will carry it with me and leave it there.    Much love.

 

First Shot Selfie

Second Shot by Kimberly Charles Charles Communications Asscociates





Marfa to Katy, still in Texas

6 05 2021

Leaving Marfa wasn’t hard because I actually felt completely fulfilled by the experience. I got my act together, told Lil’ Pinky I would see her again soon and checked out. The gift shop is just so amazing and I could not resist getting the robe after all. I know it will always remind me of the great trip and the magical experience. Sort of like my very own technicolor dreamcoat.

I hit 90 east again and it was nice to drive through Alpine which was a super cute town I’d like to explore next time. Then I headed back north a bit and then onto the 10 and the long drive across. I decided it was time to make a big jump because my pause put me behind. I’d made a ferry reservation for May 2 to get the car from Hyannis to Nantucket and when I tried to amend it found that there weren’t any more reservations until May 5 and then it just gets slimmer and slimmer! And with Covid they will no longer let you leave the car for them to drive on for you.

It was long, and very dull, but I decided to make a stop in a town called Ozona for fuel. Justt before hitting the town I was surprised by the smell of petrichor, that ozonated smell of the air just before it rains. I remember Jenna had a little fountain gurgling in her room in Sedona and told me the ionization of water cleanses negative energy and anger. Suddenly one little cloud above a hilltop doused my car with big raindrops. Funny though, it ended almost instantly and there wasn’t enough rain to wash the Marfa dust off the car! Just big polka dots all over it. I found myself scribbling on my notepad. It happened just before the town. I took it as a confirmation that I should stop.

I pulled in and got some gas and then stopped at a little Mexican joint, what I figured would be a good stop. They had a funny drive through that went around the side of the building and if you call them from the first menu sign they’ll have your order ready by the time you pull up to the one window. I was excited to find what I call Frito chili pie but they called “Corn Chip Chili Pie”. I make a spicy version of this at my snack bar on Nantucket, The Hungry Minnow, I serve it right in the Fritos bag. This was next level. In a stalwart styrofoam cup (oh Texas, really?) it was a huge portion of chips slathered in a rich meaty chili with beans and lots of oily sauce. Every chip was saturated and it was so good. I ate the entire thing. I’m still dreaming about it.

I’d parked near the town square and hopped out to throw my trash in the waste bin, no recycling would be my only negative comment about the town. Very pretty and serene. A vintage shop across the street caught my eye and I waited to cross and opened Instagram as the trucks swept past me. I was stunned to find out that my dear friend Tomas Estes had passed away. His son Jesse had posted about it seemingly very recently. I couldn’t believe it. It struck me that life is so fleeting and we have to take advantage of every moment. It made me so happy I’d decided to take that extra day in Marfa. I found out later that Tomas had been in Marfa for an agave conference in 2019. I was also struck by the notes I had written as I was struck by the little rain spurt just before Ozona. I’d written, “Rain dappled the windshield at Ozona, is that why it’s called that? Not enough to rinse the Marfa dust off the car.” Then I’d written “spirit guides, spirits guide.” I was headed to New Orleans eventually and was kind of thinking about how many incredible spiritual experiences I’d had there as well as the fact that I’d been there surrounded by all my spirit professional friends at Tales of the Cocktail for example. How those spirits we imbibe can cure us, inspire us and allow us to dream big dreams untethered by logic.

Despite being saddened by the news I dropped by the little shop and had a nice time chatting with the owners who had me sign their guest book. took a U-turn near an old rundown hotel and was soon back on the highway. I got in a little traffic and got turned around in San Antonio and it wasn’t a fun drive due to a lot of construction. I hate having to pass trucks when you have those narrow lanes with two concrete barriers on each side and no shoulder.

Not much to see on this stretch but open highway. As darkness fell I hit Katy, Texas and was enticed by a billboard announcing crawfish. I stopped by one of the huge Buccey’s road stops with the cute buck toothed otter on their sign. There must’ve been 50 gas pumps it was nuts. And inside they had all sorts of food, brisket sandwiches, roasted sugared nuts and wine, souvenirs and huge spacious and spotlessly clean bathrooms. I wished I’d have made this a regular stop all through Texas.

So I pulled in front of a Hampton Inn and made a reservation and then zipped over to the crawfish place. I was astonished to see that there were no masks worn by basically anyone! It was crazy! Not even the servers. I took mine off because I didn’t want to draw attention! The bar was crowded no distancing or anything it was a little overwhelming. I was fully vaxed and two weeks since safe but it was still just really weird. I haven’t really been to bars or restaurants too much for an entire year plus!

The crawfish were worth it though and they were so sweet and spicy and tasty that I got another batch!

Overall a good day, but Texas is huge, don’t underestimate the time it takes to get through.