I feel I’ve been reinventing the wheel every time I pack my panniers, I distribute the stuff by usage, I make sure the stuff I really really really need goes on the right side just in case a stupid driver taps on my left side, and finally I balance the weight (using a scale I brought with me) and end up shifting everything around messing up the first and second step described above. Last night before going to bed I decided to create a better system to approach this daily situation I’ll face every day for the following two or three months.
Not that I miss work or feel unproductive by partying, meeting people, dancing, eating, drinking and getting to know new places. But a spreadsheet was necessary to not feel like an animal falling into the same problem again and again. So at 2:30 I opened Numbers (excel for apple) on my iPad, listed EVERYTHING I have and added four columns on the right indicating my left, right, front and rear panniers. I then packed and added a check mark for each item to the appropriate pannier… The first 10 minutes were fun, but by 3:30 I really wanted to go to bed. At 4 I was proud of my system in which I could search, by item or by pannier, what should go where.
I tried to wake up at 8:30 to get early to Gamesa but as I turned my head under the pillow a pleasant thought came to my mind, I no longer work there and there is no change in my performance whether I show up early or not. I finally woke up by 12, a combination of jet-lack and partying made me stay that long in bed. I rode to Gamesa and found what they call the Heineken building, a cylinder block of green glass and concrete with no company name. I parked salsa right next to the main entrance and asked reception for my friend and ex-work colleague Ana. She came down with some friends and had lunch together.
For €6 you can have a decent meal, not sure how old the canned tuna on my salad was, neither how many extra minutes the broccoli was overcooked for, nor how much extra oil was used on my rather flavorless fish. Any way, I really enjoyed the lunch conversation and then went up to say hi to people.
Have you ever found yourself in the embarrassing situation in which someone you meet knows your name, who you are and what you do (or did)? Well what about every second person you bump into out of many? The US organization is much smaller and the volume handled there is a fraction of what they do here in Spain. That translates into having one single person in the US doing multiple jobs for what many do here in Spain. Ok, that was my excuse for my mind not been able to record the names of the people that DO know my name.
It was great meeting my counterparts, people that I worked with, their boss, my exboss’s boss, his boss, and everyone else. That said, talking about work just reinforced in my mind how right, happy and lucky I am by doing what I’m doing. It was impressive though looking at the call center, this is a NASA type place where people receive calls from all over the world from wind farms that need something and they can drill down into detail through the almost IMAX screens before their eyes. Needless to say how helpful was everyone by advising what to do and where to go during the camino.
So to Miren and Iñaki’s happiness I rode salsa out of the office to the bus station WITHOUT electronic assistance. I asked people, looked at maps, and read signs. Bought my bus ticket to Roncesvalles, then went to the old city to buy my camino passport or credencial, got a sim card for my iPad, bought some nice pastry at a place I swear hasn’t changed over the last three centuries, and rode back to the bus station. I planned to make arrive early so that I could place my bike nicely away from the crowded baggage area but I just made it 4 minutes before departure time. As I was unloading salsa and carrying her to the baggage area I felt someone was watching me, I turn around and look at this girl with a face of ‘don’t you dare putting your bike on top of my Specialized mountain bike’. I made sure my panniers were down first to distribute salsa’s weight and then placed her on top.
I got into the bus and sat next to an Asian-American girl, feeling like a champion I finally relaxed as I managed to do everything I wanted during the day including buying some nice chocolate Magdalenas for the trip. She then tells me in perfect spanish she was a bit exhausted cause she just finished medicine school then hoped into a plane in Michigan to Ohio then to Chicago then to Madrid then to Pamplona, just made the bus to Roncesvalles, and was taking a taxi to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to start the camino tomorrow hiking on her own. She mentioned she was a bit nervous and I told her many people will be along the way in a similar situation so not to worry.
The feeling on the bus was new to me, it wasn’t the school bus, nor the family reunion, for a moment it resembled the triathlon busses taking all athletes to the starting point. This later one is described by a crowd of people ready to do a massive burning of fat and muscle in a very short period of time, giving support to each other, wishing to do better than their own previous triathlon -and why not also beating the person next to them-, and then knowing that the colossal dumping of calories would be compensated by a cold hydrating drink, nice shower, meal and hours or days of recovery. This was different. Indeed there was all kind of fabrics in bright colors clothing with people ready to ‘do something’ but it wasn’t competitive. Also, the average age was about 105, well maybe 50sh.
We arrived to Roncesvalles, I quickly took salsa out of the way of the people that had their belongings under her and followed the crowd heading to the albergue or hostel. Roncesvalles, right next to the French border, is a small town with a handful of buildings, the only income around the town is created by us, the peregrinos. This is the official starting point for the camino de Santiago, although some people argue to be Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port at the French side of the Pirineos. For a moment I thought throwing salsa into a taxi and continue my way to the French side to do the ‘whole thing’, that moment lasted about 4 seconds.
I got into the albergue and ended up next with Carolina, the Catalan owner of the Specialized mountain bike, and Lauren, her friend from Tasmania. We filled out some forms and under ‘what is the reason for your trip’: religious, spiritual, sportive, or cultural, I checked the last three. I also got my insignia (seashell) and placed it under salsa’s saddle.
We left the bikes on a room and then were invited to a pilgrim blessing which I wanted to attend. After that the three of us went for dinner and took the ‘pilgrim’s menu’ as there was no other choice. This was wine, vegetable soup, trout and French fries. The food was surprisingly good and we had a great time telling the stories as of why we were there. I have the impression this occasion will repeat itself very often.
Just before 10pm we made it to the beds area. This was like an IKEA sample room ‘welcome to my 35 square meter apartment’ but copied and pasted 20 times. Really clean, minimalistic but functional, spacey and with a big locker for each bed. As I started to write this post people around me started to snore, cough, make all kind of mouth, stomach, and digestive noises. I pulled out my pillow, bed sheets, and my bulky power adapters connected to a multi contact that ends in an American-European converter.