Guerrero, Mexico

The girls taking the public transportation to the swimming pool with their cousins. (February 2015)

Tlaxcala, Mexico

Erika picking out pan dulce at our favorite panaderia. (January 2015)

Bend, Oregon, United States

Our family photo taken in Drake Park with all three of my daughters (October 2014)

San Francisco, California, United States

Enjoying the beautiful view from the top of Twin Peaks (July 2015)

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Exploring the ruins of Palenque during our Great Mexican Road Trip. (May 2014)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Start of a Fresh, New Year

I must ask your forgiveness with the neglect our poor blog has fallen into since our return. It's amazing how quickly one can get sucked back into the America Rat Race without even trying. It's unbelievable that we've been home for exactly 6 months now and it feels like we were just touring Germany for the holidays, not a year ago. This year is going to one of preparation for us once more as well as renewal.

As I mentioned on our Facebook page, I am going to be doing a surrogacy journey this year which means that I will have many restrictions upon my activities. I'm trying to not freak out about how tiny my circle is shrinking and instead use it as a time of focus and preparation, Similar to when we returned from Mexico and spent the next year planning for our move to Spain, I will spend this year planning for our Mega Roadtrip in 2018. I had originally planned to begin our travels on January 1, 2018 but reality has already pushed that date out a few more weeks. I will likely be giving birth in January and I'll need some recovery time before we hit the road. 

So with that, here's how I imagine our 2017:
January 2017: José and I celebrate 10 years together and success of a happy, healthy relationship. We have reservations for the Great Wolf Lodge in Washington for a little family getaway. You've probably noticed by now that our celebrations always include family.

Spring 2017: José gets to finally buy the Toyota Tacoma that he has been dreaming about for years. We are planning to pay cash for the majority of it using a combination of the trust check from Grandfather and our Federal/State tax refunds. This is the last year that we'll receive a nice fat refund so we might as well enjoy it while we can.

March 2017: Can Krystal sneak in a fast trip to Finland to visit Anika and Michael in their new home?? Only time and finances can tell.

April 2017: Embryo transfer on my mother's 64th birthday and hopefully the start of a long and healthy pregnancy. José submits his application for US Naturalization so we can put his immigration nightmare behind us and begin the process for his mom, sisters, and oldest son. It will be several months before he is scheduled for the exam in Portland. In the meantime, continue working on his English and learning the 100 questions on the civil exam that most Americans couldn't pass.

Summer 2017: We already ordered our free Canada National Parks pass and plan to explore/visit/camp in some of the parks located in British Columbia and Alberta (Jasper, Banff, Pacific Rim, Gwaii Haanas). If you've been, we'd love to hear your tips and experiences! We also plan on doing many upgrades around the house and finishing the outside remodel that we haven't gotten around to in the last few years.

September 2017: The girls are going to be homeschooled this year with Erika entering 9th grade and Mia going into 4th grade. Mia has the option to continue attending her bilingual international school until we head out on our roadtrip but she would prefer to learn at home. I still haven't found the right curriculum for them yet so we might do a combination of unschooling along with a math curriculum like Math-U-See. This timeframe also begins my restrictions to a 100 mile circle around my home. Since every single city falls just outside this perimeter, I won't be going anywhere for anything. Thus a slight touch of panic and one of the biggest differences between my own pregnancies and a surrogacy. It's all good though, I have something in mind to keep me busy.

Fall 2017: I had planned on purchasing a VW Campervan and refitting it as a home on the road for our Mega roadtrip. After doing a lot of research and reading about the trials and tribulations of ownership, I've decided that it's not the right vehicle for what I need. Instead I have decided to purchase a used R-Pod, most likely the 178 model, and make some modifications for it to suit our full time travel needs. I will receive some compensation for the surrogacy so I'd like to put it towards something for our family that we will remember forever. 

December 2017: If all goes well in April, I will be a very large mama this month and celebrating my 44th birthday. If the timing is right, the baby might be arriving before the new year and giving it's parents a tax break! S/he goes home with the IP's right away and I get to experience pumping exclusively for the baby for the first six weeks. Rumor has it that I might be receiving a sum of money from the closure of my grandfather's trust fund and it will be going straight towards our Mega Roadtrip. I also plan to express breastmilk and sell it to the Preemie Milk Bank which pays $1/oz. so that will fund our travels as well. I breastfed the girls for two years each so it's a possibility, just not sure if it's sustainable.

So 2017 is going to be a lot quieter than last year but it will not be any less by any means. My family needs time to remain in place and charge their batteries, especially before Mama drags them on the road for a few months. You can look forward to more frequent posts this year and I have hopes of posting weekly as we establish our routines. So many stories still to share of our past and future travels. I hope this new year brings many wonderful memories for you and your family. Life is precious, stop putting off for tomorrow what can be done today, and remember that tomorrow is never guaranteed for anyone. Take nothing for granted.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Camino Day 8: Heading home to Salamanca

Today's Schedule: (3/29/16)

9am Leisurely wake up
9:56am Jose and I walk up to the grocery store
10:40am Breakfast in the albergue
12:01pm Everyone walks up to the mall
3:12pm Head back to the albergue
3:29pm Walk to the bus station
4:14pm Bus departs Salamanca
5:41pm Stop in Vigo to load/unload passengers
7pm Bus stop in Ourense
9:05pm Half hour stop in Zanabria to grab a tapa and drink
11:58pm Arrive at the Salamanca bus station
12:00am Two taxis to get us all home
12:14am the next day, we're home

Distance Covered: 297 mi by bus in 6h 51m, 4.3 mi by taxi in 14m, and 2.1 mi on foot
1h 10m

While being a relaxed day, it was still exhausting. We slept in this morning since we had nowhere to be for several hours. The albergue folks told us that we were welcome to hang out in their community room and store our bags there until this afternoon. There is only one departure each day at 4:10pm and it's an 8 hour ride. José and I left the family chilling in the albergue playing games while we walked up the shopping center to buy breakfast items. There is a large Carrefour supermarket in the mall so I picked up fruit, yogurt, and pastries for everyone to choose from. We spent a couple hours hanging out at the table and playing games. Around noon, we all walked up to the mall to find something to eat for lunch and get enough food, snacks, and drink to last us for the bus ride home.

 Mom took the kids to eat at Burger Kid while José and I went in search of something a little more. We settled on Pans and Company where I found a delicious toasted style sub sandwich with three different cheeses melted inside. I love cheese and Spain has no shortage of cheese here. After the mall, we walked back to the albergue to collect up our backpacks and head off to the bus station. After hiking the Camino, a half mile walk isn't really anything thank goodness.

When we arrived at the bus station, I tried to use the automated machine to buy our tickets and it was giving me a headache. I asked the older lady at the window for assistance and she came out to show us how to use the machine. We finally ended up with six tickets in hand and only a 45 minute wait for the bus. Our seats were towards the back of the bus. The girls sat with José and I with Justin next to Mom. Overall, they behaved super well for having to sit so long in a bus. Mia was started to feel a little queasy from the swaying of the bus but we made it home without any major accidents.

We had a stop about half way through the journey were everyone had to get off the bus. The bus driver stopped at a café so everyone crowded inside to order a drink and use the bathroom while we waited. There were more people than chairs so people stood around sipping their drinks and lining up for the bathroom. Quite a few people moved outside to get their smoke on and the time went quickly.
 It was close to midnight when we finally reached Salamanca. Thankfully the taxis were lined up along the street outside so we divided into two groups and headed straight home to bed. Mission Complete.

16,10€ Carrefour
15,60€ Pans y pollo lunch KJ
17,44€ Lunch at Burger King JEJM
1,00€ Carrefour (Bollo chorizo)
13,87€ Carrefour
106,80€ Alsa Buslines 17,80 x 6
13,70€ Restaurant Perales (drinks on the way home)
20€ Taxi back to the piso
Total Daily Expenses: 204,51€

Monday, March 28, 2016

Camino Day 7: Arriving in Santiago de Compostela

Today's Schedule (3/28/16)

7am Wakeup call
7:30 Breakfast in the albergue
8:17am Back on the trail
8:37am Santiago de Compostela
9:32am We reach the Cathedral
10:01am Picking up our credentials
10:19am Exploring Santiago
10:37am José explores the Cathedral
11:27am Formal breakfast at Milonga's
3:45pm Lunch at the albergue
6pm Back to explore Santiago more
8:12pm Dinner in the mall
9:30pm Bedtime

Distance covered: 5.31km/3.3mi

Staying the night in a municipal albergue means a new set of rules. Everyone has to be out of here by 8:30am and no one is cleaning up after you. We stripped the paper sheets and pillowcases off the bunks and put them in the canister up front. I made breakfast in the kitchen, toast and chocolate milk. We cleaned up after ourselves and were back out on the trail fairly early. There was light enough to see and the skies were overcast but no rain. It didn't take us very long to reach the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela. We stopped for the token pictures in front of the sign and then pushed on. It took us another hour to cross town and reach the Cathedral where the Apostle James is said to be entombed.
Once we reached the main square, we took the obligatory "holding your backpack proudly above your head" photo. Then we walked around trying to find the pilgrim's office where you show your credential and pick up your certificate. We finally found it but there was very little signage indicating where it was. There was a guard at the front gate and he searched our backpacks before we could enter. Thankfully we were early enough so there were only a couple waiting ahead of us. When you register, the clerk asked you what was your motivation for walking the Camino. The options were religious, spiritual, or athletic. Everyone else chose spiritual except for me and I picked athletic. I felt nothing during this journey that I could relate to a higher power. It was about setting a goal and achieving it. José and I will return to walk it in its entirety sometime in the future, this I know.
After we completed the Camino, it was time to figure out our next move. We wandered around the streets for a little while. José went into the Cathedral while we did some souvenir shopping. You aren't allowed to enter with your packs so I had to carry his and mine. Then Mia decided to join him so I have my hands full with three of them! We walked the streets in search of food and finally found a restaurant that offered an "American" breakfast so in we went. On our way there, we ducked into a bookstore and Mia found a rubber ducky in a pilgrim outfit and Erika got a book that explained the Camino for kids. The American breakfast consisted of orange juice, coffee, bacon, toast, and two eggs. After breakfast, we went in search of an albergue. We made several phone calls and finally found one about 30 minutes from the center. It was called Acuario and it was decorated in a unique manner, lots of Zen and Buddhist designs. There were two bunk beds in each room if you could call it that. There were plywood walls dividing each area and curtains across the doorways. She gave us a deal since we fit into four beds so we took us. I think we were the only guests there.
We had entertained the idea of taking the bus out to Fisterra or Muxia but the bus schedules and wanting to return to Salamanca tomorrow did not fall into place. If we went, we'd end up getting there in the evening and having to take an 8am bus back into Santiago tomorrow morning.
There is a mall a couple blocks up the hill from us so José and I walked up there to do a little recon and pick up some groceries from the Carrefour. There is a food court so we checked out the options. We dropped our backpacks at the albergue and took the bus into town so we could do more exploring and souvenir shopping. I picked out a t-shirt with a VW Bus and the Camino on it, José got a Camino hoodie, Mia a Peppa Pilgrim tee, and Erika a Camino tee. We bought some random souvenirs like magnets, postcards, and José found a statue of some saint that he wants to take home for his abuela Marciana.
We took the whole family back up the mall in the evening to get dinner. Everyone else opted to eat at a Chinese buffet so we got them settled in and then José and I went next door to the Brazilian restaurant. They offered an all you can eat meal that sounded amazing and it was! After we got our drinks and sides, the server keeps bringing out the meat on a skewer and slicing off pieces for you. Then a few minutes later he returns with another meat selection. I think there were like eight different types and then he started the rotation over again. I started to get full but José was like bring it on and I started putting my meat on his plate. After this continued for some time, the server came out and gently advised us that the drink coaster could be flipped over to the red Stop on the back when we were finished. Ha ha ha, poor guy, he never saw us coming! Two hungry Americans after the Camino. When I asked, he said that they were too far away from the center so they never got any pilgrims up this way to take advantage of the buffet. After dinner, we waddled home and went to bed, fat and happy.

Daily Expenses:
27,30€ Brunch at Milonga's
12,70€ Carrefour
3.15€ pressed coins
9.50€ Erika t-shirt
4,65€ bus tickets (1,00 adult ,55 kid) x 2
46€ albergue Acuario
48,70€ Wok Dunhuan (dinner JEJM)
34,80€ Brasayleña (dinner JK)
20,40€ clothes
3,00€ souvenir (Fonseca)
19,98€ Claire's (ME personal)
16,50€ Camino Rubber Duckie/Camino storybook
3,75€ Souvenir
Total Daily Expenses:255,08€ 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Camino Day 6: Pedrouzo to Monte del Gozo

Today's Schedule: (3/27/16)

8am Morning Wakeup
8:57am Easter morning breakfast
9:39am Back on the trail
1:15pm Lunch break
2:09pm We reached Monte de Gozo
2:59pm Team JEJ reaches the albergue
3:32pm José takes a nap
5:58pm Snack at Cafe Bar A Chisca
7:27pm Spaghetti dinner in the albergue
10pm Lights Out
Distance covered: 16.69km/10.37mi
Mia's Pedometer: 60,819 for the last two days

Since we have less distance to cover today, we slept in until 8am. We packed up and walked back to the restaurant we ate at last night. They don't offer breakfast meals so it was toast again. José and I ordered a rosca for Easter. It is flavored with anise here which came as a surprise to me. It's not my favorite flavor at all. We ate half of it and put the rest in our packs for later. Our goal today was only 14km so a leisurely stroll. The markers aren't the new ones we're used to. They are older and placed with less frequency along the trail.

Our weather was the special kind so when it started to pour and I spied a restaurant, I called an early lunch stop. We had a little mishap and Mia didn't get her meal with our order. Good thing we had ordered popsicles so we ate them first. I got a bacon cheese sandwich while they ordered hamburgers. Mia got hers with a fried egg on top.
It was the perfect break because it was pouring rain outside and the wind was howling. It lightened up as we headed out. The plan was to reach Monte de Gozo and stay in a pension there. The only other albergue was a xunta. We came upon a huge statue dedicated to pilgrims. The wind was blowing hard and it was hilarious trying to take pictures without getting blown over. Two cyclists asked me to take their picture and I can only hope it wasn't too blurry. There was a sign to the left for the albergue and to the right for the pension so we went right. We went down this long hill and I needed to go pee so bad. As soon as we reached the bottom, the sign directed us to the left, back up the hill that we had just come down. At the top of the hill was the albergue. The older guy running the xunta didn't have a problem accepting the copies of their passports so yay for us! This is a huge albergue but during the low season, they only have one building running. We had to wait for Team JEJ to show up before we could check in but he showed us to our room to hang out until then. José was in a pissy mood because he wanted to push on and reach Santiago tonight and we outvoted him.
 There are four bunkbeds in our room and a heavy sliding door to close it off from the busy hallway. There are 30 different buildings and tons of rooms. There is a full kitchen so José and I walked to the café/store to get groceries. We got supplies to make spaghetti for dinner but we sat down at the café to have a bite first. When we got back to the albergue, I started to make the spaghetti in the kitchen. There were a couple other pilgrims using the kitchen so I had to work around them while trying to find all of the right utensils and pans. It was a pretty relaxed evening over all. Tomorrow we meander into Santiago and finish up this adventure.

20,80€ Breakfast at Che 4
16,50€ 2 7-Up, Hamburger, bocadillo, 2 Popsicles, special burger
12,10€ Lunch at Cafe Bar A Chisca
14,25€ Grocery supplies for dinner at Cafe Bar A Chisca
2€ for 2 trinkets
36€ Municipal Albergue (6€ each)
Total Daily Expenses: 101,65€

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Camino Day 5: Bebedeiro to Pedrouzo

Today's schedule: (3/26/16)
8am Alarm
8:51am downstairs for breakfast
9:45am Back on the trail
10:10am Horsemen pass by
10:46am Imagine discussion begins
12:03pm at Restaurante A Esquipa
12:28pm Back out into the rain
2pm Windy Eucalyptus groves
3:11pm Searching for an albergue in Pedrouzo
3:28pm Checking into our room
4pm Team JEJ catches up with us
6:15pm Walking the streets in flip flops
6:24pm Picking up dinner for JEJM
7:06pm Dinner for José and I
8:14pm Stop at Día market
10:22pm Lights out

Distance covered:17.37km/10.79mi

Another fun Spanish breakfast of hot drinks and toast with marmalade. It was roughly a loaf of white bread and a toaster. The backtrack to the trail this morning went faster than last night. The first hours of the day weren't too wet. A bunch of assholes went past us on horseback, one of them was running his horse so hard that it was foaming at the mouth. Someone had written the lyrics to the John Lennon song Imagine on the trash cans that are beside the trail. That prompted me to look up his story on my phone and discuss him with Mia.
We were making good time when we happened upon a restaurant for lunch. Mia tied up her horse "Marshmallow"and we went inside. It was quite busy but we squished into a table in the corner. More hamburgers for us. The café was getting crowded and then JEJ showed up right before the rain started to pour down. They managed to squish in the corner with us, more hamburgers and a tortilla for Mom.

Then it was back out into the rain and mud. The wind was blowing really hard through the eucalyptus grove. Most of the day was spent walking in the pouring rain blowing sideways in the wind. The shoes were soaking wet with cold toes sloshing around and gloves so wet I had to wring them out. When we reached Pedrouzo, we had a devil of a time in our search for an albergue. The albergues didn't have any private rooms so we kept looking. We had to walk around and go to many albergues trying to find a room for 6. Finally we returned to one that had a triple room for 65€. It was actually in a separate residential building. There were two other rooms sharing one bathroom so that was interesting later on. While we were waiting for JEJ, we went to explore and left Mia in the room. We went to find food for the evening meal. The office offers laundry service so we had to bag up everything and drop it off ASAP. We were returning from staking out a restaurant when JEJ arrived in town. They settled into the room and stayed put for the rest of the night. José and I dropped off two bags of clothes to be washed, 8€ each. We picked up some things up at the Día market. We saw the Canadians walk by, José told them where to head for food. We got snacks for the family and waited for everyone to get hungry. Mia found a channel playing Ella Enchanted  in English. José and I wandered around town in our flip flops and spare clothes.
The restaurant we found was also a bakery full of delicious looking pastries.We ordered meals to go for everyone else and took their dinner back to the room along with a variety of the pastries. José and I then returned to sit down and enjoy our meal at the restaurant. The Canadians were dining on the opposite side from us so I don't think they noticed us. We picked up our clean laundry after diner and headed back to the room. The other two rooms were now full with loud, smoking Spaniards. Justin walked into the shared bathroom and found a naked man sitting on the toilet. We all took showers except for Mom and Justin who haven't bathed so far this journey.

2,20€ x 6 (13€) Breakfast
28,80€ Lunch at Restaurante A Esquipa
1,30 Día cerveza for José
3,26€ Día
18,01€ Día
23,80€ Che 4 dinner for José and I
12,50€ Che 4 Team JEJM dinner
6,40€ Che 4 Pastries for them
65,00€ Pension Pedrouzo
300€ ATM Cash Withdrawal
Total Daily Expenses: 172,16€

Friday, March 25, 2016

Camino Day 4: Melide to Bebedeiro

Today's Schedule:
8:40am Out the door and ready to go
8:45am Breakfast at the café next door
9:13am Now we're ready to go
9:40am Erika and Justin pick up a hitchhiker
9:43am The rain begins
10:30am Fruit stand break
12:35pm Lunch break
1:30pm Team JEJ joins us for lunch
4:30pm We check into our albergue
5:42pm Team JEJ arrives for the night
8:00pm Dinner

Distance covered: 18.4km/11.43mi
Mia's pedometer: 35,242 steps

Breakfast today was an easy stop. As you step out of the albergue, there is a cafe directly to our left, the same one that José and I visited last night. Once again, it was orange juice, hot beverage, and toast except here we only had to pay 3,50€ each which is more reasonable in my opinion. It was still dry as we headed out of town and I wanted to get some distance in before the rain caught up with us. As we wandered our way out of town, I came across a food truck that was just gorgeous. It was a Citroën H or similar and it was done in a beautiful color palette. I wonder if I could import one of those back home. It would make a swell campervan. We were once again in our groups of three and three, JKM and JEJ. We are in A Coruña territory now. We happened upon a roadside stand selling fruit and cakes so I stopped for Mia. JEJ caught up with us along with an older gentleman from the Basque country. He has run into them a couple times before and even gave Justin some kind of patch the last time they met up. It's funny what happens out here considering the language barrier. The girls each picked out a pear to eat and got another stamp in their credential. 

We had some lovely hills again today. When we found a place to stop for lunch, I was sweating to death inside my hoodie and rain jacket. We had just come down a hill and crossed a valley when I spied the restaurant on the top of the other side. We ran across the highway and up across the lawn where we parked ourselves at a table outside on the veranda under an umbrella. Here we had a view of the whole valley and we could see all the pilgrims descending and then passing on the trail right below us. This way I could make sure that JEJ didn't pass us somehow. I did see the Canadians as they passed on their way.
We all ordered the menu special which was a drink, pork chops, French fries, egg over easy, and dessert for 9€. The sopa fideo was served in a large bowl and José served us individually. It was delicious but then again, everything is when you're hungry. We stayed and waited for JEJ to catch up with us. I pulled out Mia's monocular and we watched the tiny pilgrims across the valley and we could pick them out as they crested the top. We waited long enough to help them order and get their food before we headed out. They also ordered the same meal with the exception of Mom who got a whole tortilla de patata (8€). After this Camino, she'll probably never want to see one again!

The rest of the afternoon went by with no events. It was very windy with an almost constant rain so we were mostly focused on getting to our hostel for the night. I had picked out one that was about 19km even though Mom doesn't want to walk that much. We are dependent on how often the albergues come up. The one I picked on the list had a little note next to it (FR .7KM). We learned that this meant that we actually had to detour from the route and walk 700 meters to this albergue. We had been walking with no idea exactly how far we had gone or where we were. All of the markers have "complementario" written on it so we have no idea if there is another route that we missed somehow. We finally found the road leading to the left and a simple wooden sign with the name of the albergue on it. The albergue was sitting right beside the highway so it was easy to find once we walked down the side road. I had called ahead to make sure there were six beds available for us as it was several kilometers down the Camino before we might run into another one. 
The innkeeper assigned us a room and told us we could pay and sign in when everyone else showed up. They like to check our passports and copy our info with everyone present.We were dripping water so the goal was to get everyone out of their wet clothes and try to get everyone dry. Mom showed up with Erika and Justin just over an hour later so we got checked in. There is a washer and dryer here but there is already a line of dirty laundry bags so we added ours to the line. We went downstairs to the "cafeteria" for dinner. There was already a group of young adults in there talking and laughing but we managed to get enough chairs around a table for our group. There is a menu here but it is all prepackaged food that the owner heats up and serves. So that means we dined on pizza and pasta tonight. It wasn't actually that bad. The kids picked out cookies for their dessert. A girl poked her head into the room and told us that the washing machine had stopped so she took everything out of the washer and set it on top of the dryer. The kicker was when she told us all that she had put her clothes in the washer, even then we were all waiting in line with our own dirty clothes!! I was speechless and due to the hour, we just gathered up our clothes and decided to wear the same clothes tomorrow. I tried to take a shower tonight and the light in the upstairs bathroom flickered but it wouldn't stay on. I wasn't keen on bathing in the dark in a community bathroom.
Tonight's room is actually two rooms with a total of four bunkbeds. We kept turning on the heaters so our clothes would dry out and somehow the radiators kept going off? We have been putting plastic bags over the kids socks before we put them in their shoes. The bags slip around in their shoes but it is better than nothing. Erika's Keens do not dry out very fast and Mia and Justin are just wearing cheap tennis shoes. I wouldn't change my footwear personally. We survived our first day of rain and that is all the forecast holds for the end of our journey so we have to make the best of it.

Breakfast at A Fabrica Do Camiño 21,00€
Fruit cake stand 3€
Lunch  53€
Albergue Camino Das Ocas 60€
Dinner 43,90€ plus dessert cookies 3 €
Drinks 2,80€
Total Daily Expenses: 142,80€

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Camino Day 3: Eirexe to Melide

Image Credit:
Today's schedule:
7:30am Alarm
8:05am Everyone's out the door
9:19am Camino Lake
10:10am Arrive in Palas de Rei
10:20am Team JEJM arrives
12:30pm Lunch break
2:05pm Ice cream break
4:15pm Check into O Cruceiro Alberge
6pm Backtrack to help JEJ
8pm Eat dinner in the room
10pm Jose and I enjoy drinks while laundry is washing/drying

Distance covered: 23.23km/14.43mi
Mia's pedometer: 38,327 steps

Another early morning and quick packing so we can get back out on the trail. There was a very heavy fog blanketing the landscape today. It looks very cool and a little mysterious, like in a movie and you don't know what is going to emerge from the fog. We had to walk a little further to reach Palas de Rei for breakfast. Sometimes we don't have a lot of options, it all depends on how far it is to the next town with a restaurant or grocery store. Generally speaking, the grocery stores are only in the larger towns. Some of these places that we go through are only a few buildings gathered together and no commercial options. Mia decided to walk with the slower team this morning because Erika has been pressuring her to walk with them.
José and I chatted with an older German couple that we kept running into at large bodies of water. We came across one that resembled a small pond covering the trail. José started to pick his way around the water on the left hand side. I noticed a trail going up to the meadow on the right so I got the bright idea to just walk around, right? That lovely green grass was hiding another lake right below its surface and I now had the lake inside both of my shoes too. I was retracing my steps by walking along the stone wall when the German couple caught up with us again. I hate it when I have to admit that my husband is right...We stayed to wait for the rest of the group to show up so we could help them around the lake. We need not have done so because they managed to get around it just fine. Thankfully my shoes both dried out within a couple hours of walking. I'm wearing a wool blend sock from Costco that works great for keeping my foot warm but not hot and sweaty and they dry quickly.
Mia decided that she wanted to walk with us now so Erika and Justin are being pissy and giving her the cold shoulder now. The personalities on this trip are constantly clashing. In hindsight, I don't think it was the best idea to add additional people to our core group. We have been training as a family of four and doing about 3.5 miles an hour. Mom and Justin are doing about 2 miles an hour. I can't walk that slow, period. A form of road rage comes over me, similar to when slow people are walking ahead of me and blocking off the whole sidewalk so I have to step in the street and get around them. So it has caused a divide between the group, us and them, and Mia is caught in the middle because she walks with us just fine but they are pulling her to walk with them. The thing is that they are playing around and goofing off which inhibits their rate of speed as well. Mom is using to carrying a heavy pack when she's out hiking in the mountains but this is nothing like that. This is long distances with lighter packs.
We arrived in Palas de Rei after a two hour walk. We headed straight for the grocery store to stock up on provisions as we're growing a little weary of just toast for breakfast. The funny thing is that it's a normal breakfast in Spain. If you go to a restaurant in bigger towns, you'll see American breakfast and British breakfast options on the menu that are a little more substantial. Then we headed up the road towards the trail and stopped at a cafe so we could order hot drinks and eat our yogurt at their outdoor tables. Most places don't care if you bring your own food with you, they just prefer that you not do it inside. We got hot drinks, another stamp in our credencials, and used the bathroom facilities before heading out. We divided back into our two groups of three and headed out of Palas de Rei. Mia found a pilgrim who didn't mind getting his picture taken with her.
Every statue is an opportunity for Mia to express herself and there are lots of opportunities along the Camino. The weather has remained perfect for the most part with sunny skies and light breezes and not too hot. We were climbing a long hill when we hit the halfway mark today so we decided to wait until we reached the top before stopping for our lunch break. Nobody wants to start climbing with a full belly. Heck, who likes to walk at all on a full belly?! Mia picked out the perfect meadow covered in white daisies and we all plopped down for our lunch break. We pulled out the food from the grocery store and enjoyed another lunch of fruit, yogurt, nuts, bread and gouda, and cheese. Everyone lied down on their coats and wiggled their toes and soaked up the sunshine. We usually stop for about half an hour so our feet can rest and we can relax our stiff muscles. Mia and I slipped behind a tree in the middle of the meadow to take care of business after lunch. The only bathrooms along the Camino are located in cafes and you have to be a paying customer to use the majority of them. I carry two baggies in the top of my pack; one baggie contains a roll of toilet paper and the second baggie contains the used paper and I empty that out every evening. The new foods in our diets have been causing a little fun so we have to frequently stop and hunt for a bush and a break in the foot traffic to take care of business.
José has been helping Mia with her pack when she gets worn out. He throws it on top of his and snaps the chest strap so it's easy to get off and on. I'm not sure how he's doing it since I know his left shoulder is already bothering him. When he dislocated his shoulder a couple years ago, it caused premature arthritis in the joint that he's had to treat with cortisone shots. Lately he's been taking glucosamine/chrondroitin supplements to help it. Mia usually only lets him carry it for a kilometer or two and then she demands that he give it back to her. Mia hasn't really complained of anything so far. We try to let her set the pace as much as possible since she has the shorter legs but she just gallops all over on her invisible horse. She's been staying in great spirits and we take breaks when she says so.
Of course, she is also the first one to spy the ice cream signs as well. As long as we've already eaten lunch, then we stop. Today we ran into the group of four Spaniards that are drinking and singing their way along the Camino. They have a guitar and are very loud and outgoing. We got to enjoy their sounds while enjoying our popsicles. José isn't a huge fan of sweets so he had a beer instead. We are burning so many calories out there so I don't mind indulging in sweets every so often on this trip. I don't think I'm going to lose any weight on this trip since it's so short but at least I'm hoping to break even. After that break, we plugged along until we reached the town of Melide which is of fairly decent size. We walked to the middle of town and found an albergue that had private rooms. None of them will allow us to officially check in until everyone is present with ID's but they issue us a room and let us hang out there while we wait. Jose took the opportunity to jump into the shower and get cleaned up while we waited for JEJ to reach us.
 Mom texts me every so often with the number off the lastest kilometer marker so we have an idea how far back they are. I guess Mom got a lovely blister and stopped to pull out her first aid kit, Erika was feeling pretty despondent, and Justin was having a hard time. Mia and I decided to backtrack and meet up with them and help them make it into town. We walked back about a mile and found them as they were crossing the bridge on the outskirts of town. I put Justin on my shoulders with his pack on his back and Mia took Erika's backpack from her. We very slowly walked back to the albergue. Once we reached the room, all three of the kids just dropped to the floor and pretty much didn't move again for the rest of the night. Mom accompanied Jose and I to a pizza/pasta restaurant we had seen in town and we ordered our meals to go. Somehow our order got messed up and no meal was prepared for me. I didn't feel like waiting around so we headed back to feed the kids anyway. José went downstairs to the restaurant next door and ordered me a pasta dish. I later found out that he enjoyed a beer and his soccer game while waiting for my meal so he wasn't suffering too bad.
The food wasn't as good tonight but when you're tired and hungry, anything will do. Mom got a big salad and the kids got hamburgers again. The fries were not great so now I understand why he only had one order left when I had originally asked for three, they were what was leftover. There is only one market open in town today due to the holidays so we walked down there a couple times to buy different supplies and drinks. After dinner, we gathered all up all the dirty laundry and put it in the washer. It was 4€ to wash and another 4€ to dry, only it took two cycles to dry so it wasn't a cheap load of laundry.
José and I decided to slip down to the restaurant next door while the clothes were washing and drying so he could continue watching the game. I brought my journal down with me so I could try to catch up. It's been difficult to get any writing done in the evenings due to the lack of individual lights and Mia's little flashlight got left in the second albergue by José on accident. I'm also writing twice as much trying to capture as many details as possible. It feels perfectly normal to be sitting here writing while enjoying a glass of white wine. The clothes on the other hand are a pain. The washing was just fine but the dryer is another one of those kind where you have to empty the water tray but that doesn't seem to be functioning correctly because there is a huge puddle of water on the floor every time we go upstairs to check on them. By the time they were finished and folded, I was ready to crawl into bed with Mia again this time. José is occupying the bunk across from me, Erika and Justin are sharing again, and Mom gets a bunk to herself as well.

27,22€ Dia Mercado
4,30€ Cafe Castro for 3 teas & 1 Cola Cao
4,80€ for 2 popsicles and 1 beer (KJM)
3,90€ for 3 popsicles (JEJ)
29,40€ Dinner at Pizza Cafeteria Atenas
8,50€ Krystal dinner and Jose beer
3€ for 2 1.5L bottles of Acuarius drink
60€ Albergue O Cruceiro
12€ laundry
3€ for a beer and wine
**missing receipt for market purchase for 2 pack of microwave popcorn, 3 candies, 1.5L water, 1L chocolate milk ??
Total Daily Expenses: 156.12€
ATM Cash withdrawal 200€


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