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Plan B


“Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.”

Mike Tyson

Decades ago Laurie and I moved from New Jersey back home to the Seattle area, driving west in a Saturn sedan with a grumpy cocker spaniel and a grumpier cat. From the first day we noticed a large number of motorcycles heading west as well. Their numbers swelled until on our third day of travel we pulled into a motel parking lot on the eastern border of South Dakota—a lot filled with motorcycles. The desk clerk told us that there were no rooms in the entire state. We had met the force of nature that is—Sturgis.

Up to then we had never heard of the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally that takes place annually in Sturgis, South Dakota. Half a million people typically gather each year and overrun campgrounds and any other potential living and sleeping facility. 
We wound up sleeping in the car, with our grumpy pets, and turning down the offer from the clerk to rent blankets or a shift in a shower. The cat, however, was adamant she wasn’t using anything other than a litter box and one in an open field was not cutting it. 
It wasn’t all bad. After a short night of sleeping we got up early and saw Wall Drug, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, and a few other landmarks in a whirlwind tour before grabbing the last room in Buffalo, Wyoming—a honeymoon suite. The cat, was probably the most relieved at that point.

On this Camino, we’ve encountered our own “Sturgis.”

It turns out that there is intense competition for beds on the camino route because many pilgrims are making their way south from Porto to Fatima for a special anniversary on 13 May celebrating the first of six Marian apparitions. On previous Caminos we’ve never needed to make room reservations more than a day or two ahead but in this case we’re finding options only far off the trail or that involve taxi rides. But, we did come up with Plan B.

Porto is the most common starting point for the Caminho Portuguese. We wanted to start in Lisbon to experience more of Portugal and did get some of that in our early weeks. But now we are taking the train north to Porto to bypass the flood of Fatiima pilgrims.After a few days in one of our favorite cities we expect to be fully recovered from food poisoning (which hit us both) and ready to begin again.

We spent a few days in Coimbra, a university town on the Caminho Portuguese where we had a chance to tour the nearby town of Conimbriga, a town founded by the Romans millennia ago. Excavations there reveal amazing mosaics and even a fountain that worked with minor repairs after being buried for hundreds of years. We also had a chance to catch a local performance of fado, a Portuguese form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics. We only understood a few of the words but the singing and playing were amazing. Coimbra fado is a bit unique in that it is traditionally done only by men. Supposedly that traces back to the fact that the university was male only for much of its history. 

A few days off in Porto—one of our favorite cities in the world. Then, we begin again.

4 thoughts on “Plan B”

  1. I’m glad the Camino has found a way … your way .. as it has determined. Wishing you minimal challenges in the steps ahead .

  2. Coimbra and Porto look fascinating, and y’all are amazing for your adaptability! Glad you both are recovering from illness.

    1. We are back in shape. The short break in Coimbra and longer one here in Porto have been helpful.

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