Introduction - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze


Who We Are
We are a retired couple from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Although we love our island, we have been cycling Bike Fridays around North America and Europe for the past six years, trying to learn more about the world beyond our farm gate, not to mention stay in shape. You can find our more complete profile here,  which starts with a list of our past blogs.

A lot of people who have followed our blogs are wondering where we have been for the past eight months, since our last longish trip. The answer is that we have been at home, working on a major renovation. While we used to haunt the outdoor stores (notably MEC - the Mountain Equipment Coop), coming to know all the employees and squandering quantities of money buying the latest shiny baubles, we changed over to haunting the Home Depot, squandering even greater amounts. Our local Home Depot has about 50 employees, and we know them all - sometimes even their kids and spouses!

Dodie is handy with a saw as well as a bike.
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Not my usual profile!
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Wow - granite counters, glass top stove, dishwasher!
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The almost finished product - needs more stain, and flowers outside (needs snow removal first!).
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It has been fun, but there have been costs in more than dollars. Most notably, all the climbing and descending of ladders, the walking and stooping, has taken a toll on Dodie's already weak knees. Now she is walking with a noticeable limp, and spends time talking with other oldsters in the grocery checkout lines about their knee replacements.

So that is part of the reference to knees in the title of this blog. The other part is a little more spiritual.

Since we began with the Fridays, we have been cycling all over Western Europe. We have found it fascinating, and quite a revelation after full but admittedly protected lives in Canada.

In our travels we have been wowed by a long list of wonders, such as beautiful old buildings, historical sites, peoples and cultures, landscapes, all kinds of people, terrific train networks, and so on. Oh yes, and bakeries!

Of course, travelling by bike we have been very absorbed in what are the best bike routes to follow. We have delved into the Eurovelo system, the Knooppunt thing in Netherlands, and the many regional and national routes in Germany, France, UK, and Italy. However as we travelled along we kept stumbling on a routing system that was not to be found in standard bicycle listings. This system was designated by a stylized cockleshell, yellow on a blue background, like this:

This symbol is found all over Europe
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We quickly came to understand that this marked the way to Santiago de Compostella, a pilgrimage site in northwest Spain’s Galicia region. Unlike the signage for the bike routes we were usually following, the shells did not really guide you turn by turn, and they often "detoured" to a church or somesuch, only to meet up with our route somewhere further on. So while were curious, we basically ignored these trail markings.

The route to Santiago is generally known as the "Camino" or The Way. The thing is, there is not a single Camino but a huge network. The reason is that pilgrims (especially in the middle ages, but also before and also now) made their way from starting points all over Europe. As they progressed, they would funnel into increasingly well used routes, and through increasingly popular marshaling points. So what we were stumbling across was actually a network that looks like this:

The many "ways" to get to Santiago de Compostella
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There are major and minor routes, and major and minor marshaling points along the way, as can be seen from this map segment for southern France.

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Zooming in, one can see that there are churches, other sites, towns, etc. that are all part of it.

The wide blue roads are major pilgrimage ways, and the numbered points on the map are all way points or points of interest of various types.
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Here is a map that covers the routes and sites of the Camino. The Camino is a quite major phenomenon.
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Check the next page (coming soon) for more on the Camino and what it has to do with this blog.

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